In the May edition of American Rifleman, Field Editor Bruce Canfield took a look at the Model 1917 U.S. Enfield rifle ...
Nigh Providential: The Model 1917 U.S. Enfield
With millions of “Doughboys” heading for the trenches of
France during WW I, the United States needed rifles for
them in short order.
The 1917 U.S. Enfield Rifle - Photo courtesy of American Rifleman
When the United States entered the woefully
misnamed “War to End All Wars” on April
6, 1917, the nation was immediately faced
with a serious shortage of service rifles. The
government had approximately 600,000 Model
1903 Springfields on hand along with some 160,000
obsolescent Krags, numbers totally insufficient to meet
the projected demand. Production of the standardized
Model 1903 rifle was ordered to be increased at both
Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal. The U.S.
Ordnance Dept. consulted with Springfield and Rock
Island engineers for ways to reduce production time
and cost for ’03 manufacture but, without a substantial
redesign, changes would only be cosmetic. It was
apparent that the combined output of these two national
arsenals could not meet demand, and large numbers of
additional service rifles would soon be needed.
The Ordnance Dept. had two options for procuring
additional rifles: Seek additional manufacturing sources
for the Model 1903 or adopt a second service rifle to
augment the ’03. The former was explored at length, but the
lag time required to find suitable firms capable and willing
to manufacture the ’03 rifle, negotiate contracts, procure the
necessary materials and machinery, then train workforces would
be too great to alleviate the potential crippling shortage of rifles
within a reasonable period of time. Thus, almost by default, the
Ordnance Dept. was left with looking at another rifle as the only
Sometimes, timing is
everything, and it was fortuitous
that at the time the United States
declared war, three American
plants were completing
production of large numbers of
the “Pattern 1914” rifles under
contract for Great Britain. The
.303 British Pattern 1914 rifle
was a slight modification of the
“Enfield .276-inch Magazine
Rifle,” also known as the “Pattern
1913,” which was a modified
Mauser design chambered for an advanced .276-cal. cartridge.
The workforces and production machinery used to manufacture
the Pattern 1914 were still in place, thus the firms could almost
immediately go into production for the U.S. government. The
manufacturers were: Winchester Repeating Arms Co., New Haven,
Conn.; Remington Arms Company, Ilion, N.Y.; and Eddystone Rifle
Plant, operated by Midvale Steel & Ordnance Co., an affiliate of
Remington located in Eddystone, Pa.
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