Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Date of Manufacture:1918
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 1060
Measurements:OL:109.8CM 43 1/4" BL: 60.9CM 24"

Object Description:

U.S. RIFLE MODEL 1903 AIR SERVICE .30 SN# 860924
Manufactured by Springfield Armory, Springfield, Ma. - Modified M1903 bolt-action rifle with 5-round internal box magazine feed mechanism. Special cut down stock and handguard, special rear sight. Smooth buttplate with well for cleaning rod, etc. There is a complete oiler/cleaning kit in the butt compartment. Magazine spring broken. Band on backwards.

Receiver: U.S./SPRINGFIELD ARMORY/MODEL 1903/860924. (Underside: Q, F, G, W (or M)).
Barrel: J70 SA/Ordnance bomb/5-18/A.
Band: U.
Stock: J.F.C. in rectangle. 50/P in circle.

Weapon transferred to the Museum on 22 January 1932. At that time weapon was appraised at $32.75.

Notes: "Magazine Extension - Another product of the trench warfare of World War I was the magazine extension that could be attached in place of the usual floorplate to provide the M1903 rifle with a magazine capacity of 25 rounds. This attachment, which was used in trials of the 'sitascope attachment' to enhance its sustained fire capability, was, according to Lt. Col. Bill Brophy, initially developed for use with that 'attachment.' It was, however, made up 'in fair number,' according General Hatcher's recollection, in response to requests from front-line infantrymen. And it was later applied to the 910 rifles made up at Springfield Armory 'for aircraft use.' It carried Stock No. 755-169 in Vol. 5, Ordnance Storage Catalog, 1919.
The magazine, spring, and follower weighed .897 lbs, and, when attached in lieu of the '03 floorplate, follower, and magazine spring, added .72 lbs. to the weight of the empty rifle and made it quite unwieldy. Since it made no such increase in rapidity of fire as to justify these inconveniences, it was quickly recognized as having been a poor idea and was quietly forgotten, just as the magazine extension for 25-round capacity that had been provided in WWI for some of their Mauser 98 rifles had been quietly forgotten by the Germans.
Air Service Rifle - Though unsuited for use on the Infantry rifle, the magazine extension did made sense in the context of a survival rifle to be used by downed airmen, who could not be wearing a cartridge belt to supplement the cartridges carried in the rifle's magazine. It was, presumably, for use as a survival rifle that Springfield Armory produced a batch of 910 rifles that, according to the Armory's 1918 Annual Report, were 'stripped for Air Service.' But it would appear that these rifles were never issued for use, as they appeared in the 1919 Ordnance Storage Catalogue, under Code 755-75 as 'Rifles, U.S., caliber .30 M1903 stripped for aircraft use.'
The 'Air Service' rifles used receivers from mid-April production (serial numbers 860xxx to 862xxx). They differed from the standard M1903 rifle in using the magazine extension in lieu of a floorplate, in having a short forestock with special lower band and no sling swivels, and in having a fixed-elevation open sight improvised from a cut-down M1905 sight leaf.
The rear sight was modified by cutting off the sight leaf at about the 500-yd. mark and rounding-off the resultant stubs, cutting off the 'field of view' portion of the drift slide and squaring-up the notch thereof, and securing the resulting drift slide at the 100-yd. mark by a fillister head machine screw threw the peephole.
The stock was specially made without inletting for the rear butt swivel and lower band retaining spring, and extended only 3/4" beyond the lower band, which was made solid and secured to the stock from below with a standard small buttplate screw. The handguard extended the same 3/4" beyond the lower band as did the stock, and was lightened by having the wood at the 'swell' cut away down to the bottom of the sight-line clearance groove and then well rounded. (As has been mentioned, the same stock, handguard, and lower band were used on the first rifles assembled for testing the 'Winchester' telescopic sight that was adopted as the M1918.)" - Campbell

"...there was a great deal of experimentation done to increase the M1903 rifle's utilitce" rifles were in the 857000 to 863000 serial number range, and barrels had early 1918 dates. The actual quantity of Air Service rifles assembled varies in published reports from between 825 to 916. In June of 1925, 139 of these rifles were converted to standard M1903 configuration at the Raritan Arsenal. The remaining Air Service rifles were either converted at another facility or were destroyed. The weapon is a rare and desirable variant of the '03 and an interesting relic of the 'Great War.'" - Canfield

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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