Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Date of Manufacture:1918
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 6204
Measurements:OL:110.4CM 43 1/2" BL: 60.9CM 24"

Object Description:

U.S. RIFLE MODEL 1903 AIR SERVICE .30 SN# 861079
Manufactured by Springfield Armory, Springfield, Ma. - Model 1903 bolt-action Air Service rifle not cut for lower swivel. Short forearm and special solid band without swivel. Smooth buttplate with well for cleaning rod, etc. Rear and front sight missing. Stock charred from museum fire. Weapon in fair condition.

Receiver: U.S./SPRINGFIELD/ARMORY/MODEL 1903/816079.
Barrel: SA/Ordnance bomb/4-18.
Bolt: C8.
Cutoff recess: N.
Stock: W.E.S. P in circle. W.E.S. = W.E. Strong.

Notes: "The 'Air Service' '03 was developled during the First World War. The rifle was a standard Springfield M1903 with a specially made shortened stock and handguard, a modified rear sight, and a non-detachable 25-round extension magazine. While there are other theories, the probable purpose for the rifle was as auxiliary armament for pilots forced down behind enemy lines. Since a pilot wouldn't be wearing a cartridge belt, the 25-round magazine provided a reasonable amount of ammunition 'self-contained' in the rifle and ready for immediate use. Such a rifle would have been much more effective than the typical sidearms carried by aviators.
Ordnance Department documents refer to the rifles as being '...stripped for Air Service,' and 910 were manufactured by Springfield Armory in early - to mid-1918. Serial numbers were in the 856,000 to 862,000 range. Most of the 'Air Service' rifles were sent to France late in the war, but none are believed to have been issued before the Armistice. After the conclusion of World War I, virtually all the rifles were either destroyed or converted to standard service rifle configuration. Surviving original examples are extremely rare and valuable." - Bruce Canfield, AMERICAN RIFLEMAN, March, 2004.

See, Campbell, pg. 43-44.

Brophy, William S. THE SPRINGFIELD 1903 RIFLES. Stackpole Books. Harrisburg, Pa. 1985.
Campbell, Clark S. THE '03 ERA: WHEN SMOKELESS REVOLUTIONIZED U.S. RIFLERY. Collector Grade Publications Inc. Cobourg, Ontario Canada. 1994.
Canfield, Bruce N. U.S. INFANTRY WEAPONS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR. Andrew Mowbray Incorporated. Lincoln, R.I. 1994.

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