107 Years Ago Today: Winchester Goes ‘Over There’
24 November 1914: the draft document between Winchester and the British government is knocked out for 200,000 “Cal. 303 Enfield rifles with sword bayonet and scabbard” at a cost of $32.50 each, FOB to the docks in New York.
Winchester ultimately produced 250,000 Enfield Pattern Number 14 (P14) bolt-action rifles for the British Army in caliber .303 at roughly the same time its factories cranked out 300,000 Model 1895 Muskets in 7.62x54R for the Tsarist Imperial Russian Army.
By April 1917, Winchester was cranking out over 2,000 P14s a day without breaking a sweat, although the contract for the Brits was winding down. Keep in mind that at the same time, the entire U.S. production capacity of the M1903 model .30-06 rifle was just a maximum of 1,400 per day (1,000 at Springfield Armory and 400 at Rock Island Armory).
It was a no-brainer that Winchester was soon building the modified U.S. Rifle, caliber .30 M1917, essentially a P14 chambered in .30-06, dubbed by factory workers (incorrectly) as the P17. The first Winchester M1917 came off the assembly line in August 1917. Winchester finally ceased production in April of 1919, at which point they had produced 580,000 rifles for Uncle Sam. Even a century later, some of these rifles remain in the U.S. Army’s inventory, loaned out to assorted Veterans groups such as the VFW and American Legion where they are used for honor guard services.
Added together between the British and Russian contracts, without even mentioning the assorted contracts with Britian, France, Russia, and the U.S, for 3,400~ Winchester Model 1907 semi-autos in .351SL, and Winny produced an easy 1 million rifles for the push against the Kaiser.
The British kept the P-14 Rifles in their inventory until the end of WWII, although re-designated as the Rifle No. 3 Mark I* in 1926. The asterisk indicates a 1916 modification to the P-14s slightly lengthening the left locking lug.
The British utilized several models as sniper weapons throughout their service life due to their extreme accuracy compared to their SMLE Rifles.