Roaring Twenties: Springfield M1903s, still getting it done

While the Navy has generally used the M14 and, to a lesser extent, modified M500 shotguns and M16s, as line throwers, the Coast Guard remains old-school. Observe this photo from last month:

Chief Petty Officer Daniel Bonner, a boatswain’s mate aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro (WMSL 755), prepares to shoot a line-throwing gun to the crew aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Terrell Horne (WPC 1131) during a towing drill off the coast of Southern California as part of the underway portion of Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA), Feb. 19, 2020. The multi-week long TSTA consists of drills, inspections, and exercises, assessing and ensuring the cutter’s mission readiness. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ens. Brooke Harkrader.

Yup, that’s an M1903 Springfield .30-06 bucket gun.

Another shot from a recent exercise with the Cutter Kimble this month.


The USCG has been running these since the 1940s, replacing even older M1871 Springfield .45-70 line throwers, dubbed Coston Shoulder Guns after the company that converted them.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Brandon Kittrell inspects the bolt action and slide catch of an M1903 U.S. Springfield Rifle at the Coast Guard Armory in Port Clinton, Ohio, Feb. 18, 2015. The rifle has been modified to shoot a rope to a vessel in distress during an emergency where out boats are unable to get alongside them. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Laughlin)

Every one of these old bucket guns I’ve run across has a serial number that dates to the 1920s when the service picked up several truckloads of them direct from the Army during Prohibition. They were converted in the 1940s after the service picked up newer M1 Garands during WWII.

Talk about getting your money’s worth.

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