By Lars Dalseide | May 11 2012 17:33

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 viable alternative.

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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