Tag Archives: m1903

Guns of the U.S. Army, 1775-2020

While you may know of today’s standard U.S. Army infantry rifles, and those of the 20th Century, how about those present at Lexington and Concord or the line of Springfield muskets from 1795 through 1865? What came after?

For all this and more, check out the easy 2,000-word primer I did for this last weekend at Guns.com.

Happy Birthday, Teddy

This week is the 161st birthday of the iconic sportsman, former assistant NAVSEC, short-term colonel and occasional statesman, Teddy Roosevelt. In honor of this event, I spent the past several months researching one of his guns, a custom M1903 Springfield that had been sporterized.

Roosevelt’s modified M1903, courtesy of the Sagamore Hill collection

However, it wasn’t some aftermarket bubba hack job on the rifle. This custom work was done at Springfield Armory during the M1903’s first year of production, under the close attention of the arsenal’s commanding colonel– with BG William Crozier acting as the go-between.

And TR took the rifle on several hunting trips ranging from Colorado to Africa.

“On the great bear hunt President Roosevelt after leaving Newcastle [Colorado] for the mountains 1905” — note the sporterized M1903, with its distinctive single barrel band and cut-down pistol grip stock.

More on the story of this interesting, and historical M1903, SN0009, in my column at Guns.com.

Men of action in coffee-stained crackerjacks, 104 years ago today

These are not the kind of guys you want to pick a fight with.

NHHC NH 100612

Ensign Schuyler F. Heim and other members of the landing party from the South Carolina-class battleship USS Michigan (BB-27) preparing to disembark, 22 April 1914, at Vera Cruz, Mexico.

Their white uniforms have been crudely dyed for camouflage purposes. Heim is wearing an M1912 pistol belt and magazine pocket, with a very newly issued M1911 automatic .45cal pistol in a swivel holster. The immense First Class Boatswain’s Mate beside him wears the M1910 dismounted cartridge belt for the Springfield M1903 rifle. Note additional ’03s in chests on deck.

BB-23’s career was cut short by the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922 and she was decommissioned in February 1923 and broken up for scrap the following year.

Heim went on to become a commodore and was in command of the Naval Air Station on Terminal Island in 1942, resulting in a bridge named in his honor crossing the Cerritos Channel at the Port of LA that remained in service until 2015.

No word on what became of the Hulk BM1.

Putting in guard time at Great Lakes

Here we see Seaman David J. Lohr, USN. Serving with the Seaman Guard at Great Lakes, Illinois, after Boot Camp, 1917. Note the M1905 bayonet and scabbard with M1903 Springfield rifle to go along with his flat cap and Cracker Jacks.

Copied from the collection of David J. Lohr, by Courtesy of RM1 Pamela J. Boyer, USN, 1986. NH 100998

Next, we have a crisp new Blue Jacket at Great Lakes in the 1960s guarding a stack of M1s and the platoon guidon, likely during chow. Even while the fleet, by and large, was using M14s at the time, M1s (along with M1917s and 1903s) remained in use as training rifles not only there but at Orlando and San Diego for some time.

Stack, Arms. RTC San Diego 1970s. note the SA03s

And M1903A3 drill rifles with M1 bayonets still clocking in to one degree or another in 2002 in the below image. I’ve seen lots of images since then of Great Lakes trainees with M1s but they have all been chromed rubber ducks I believe.

020208-N-5576W-005 Great Lakes, IL (Feb. 8, 2002) — The Honorable Gordon England, Secretary of the Navy, inspects the recruit rifle team during the Recruit Pass in Review Ceremony held at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, IL. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Michael Worner. (RELEASED)

I heard you like really nice 1903s…

Rock Island Auction’s upcoming December Premiere Firearms event, which is this upcoming weekend, has a bunch of really nice goodies– especally if you are a M1903 rares collector.

Among the nicest I’ve seen is this great Griffin & Howe “exhibition quality” National Match Springfield. From hand-stippling on receiver ring to rich engraving on the barrel bands, floor plate, trigger guard, and rear sight base, this rifle is a showcase piece before you mention the jeweling on the bolt and hand-checkered English walnut stock.

Even the companion 1911-dated M1905 bayonet has gotten attention.

Then there is this late WWI model (1918-marked barrel) Springfield Armory Model 1903 rifle comes complete with a very hard to find Cameron-Yaggi device, one of several “trench periscope” setups tested for use in that horrible “War to end all wars.”

This particular rifle comes from Bruce Canfield’s own collection (he literally wrote most of the noteworthy books on U.S. military small arms currently in circulation) and was featured in a number of books itself. Every time I talk to Mr. Canfield I come away enlightened.

More on the exhibition gun in my column at Guns.com here and the Yaggi here.

Also, if you have about two hours to kill, check out Mae and Othais from C&Rsenal on a 1903 deep dive in the below video. They cover everything from the .30-03 and early rod-type bayonets to oddball WWI spin-offs like the Air Service Model, the periscope-equipped trench guns like the Guiberson, the Pedersen semi-auto and Warner-Swasey sniper variants.

When it comes to captured enemy weapons, the Army never throws anything away

I recently had the chance to tour U.S. Army’s Museum Support Center at Anniston Army Depot, the keepers of the flame for military history in the country.

The 15,200-acre installation in North Alabama was established in World War II and overhauls both small arms and vehicles for the Army. A longstanding tenant on the sprawling base, based out of Building 201, is the Museum Support Center, operated by the Center of Military History. The CMH maintains an immense collection of 650,000 historic items across 228 sites including 57 large museums that are a part of the Army Museum Enterprise. Items not yet on display, waiting for a public home, or are excess to current museum needs are stored in the “Army’s attic” in Anniston.

In secured storage at the MSC are 13,000 live weapons of all sorts, ranging from 13th Century Ottoman gear to guns captured recently in Afghanistan…and they were gracious enough to roll out the red carpet for me:

More in my column at Guns.com

‘Tween war US Army’s Musketry Training

The footage above is from a US Army training film for officers and NCOs covering various stages of marksmanship training. The film discusses the make up of rifle squads and section and the deployment of their rifles and automatic rifles. It’s kind of dry (its an Army training film from 1935) but it’s good stuff if you are a fan of BARs (assault firing!) and M1903s (remember, the Garand was not adopted until 1936).

Ah, the McLean Muzzle Brake and the hard-serving officer who vetoed it

With the new-fangled Springfield M1903 rifle being issued to replace the mechanically interesting but wanting Krag rifle, late of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army was interested in looking at a host of accessories for the rifles including suppressors, lights, cutting edge bayonets and, as seen here, recoil reducers.

McLean Muzzle Brake 1903 1903 McLean Muzzle Brake

The design of Mr. Samuel N. McClean’s device, which looked something like a vase, was for a steel brake that screwed onto the threaded muzzle of a M1903 and, through a series of six rows of perforations, reduce felt recoil by channeling the gas of the muzzle blast outward. According to McLean:

“These grooves are inclined to planes through the axis of the bore, and in such a direction that the pressure of the gases due to this inclination is opposed to the tendency to rotate caused by the rifling. The recoil is controlled by the pressure of the gases against the forward face of the spiral groove and by the reaction of the gases upon the air in their escape to the rear through the vents. The effect of the device is also to gradually lessen and very much reduce the blast of the gun, as well as the report of the discharge”

Several were acquired from the by the McLean Arms Co.by the Army for testing.

Why wasn’t it accepted?

Here’s an excerpt of the 1904 report from W.C. Brown, Capt. 1st Cavalry, Commanding Camp, San Antonio Arsenal (Fort Clark)

The ear splitting report with the device on, is particularly noticeable and dangerous to the hearing, not only to men in the vicinity of the marksmen firing, but to that marksmen as well. The recoil device formerly tested was objectionable enough – this is worse. The puff or blast of escaping gases striking the face of the marksmen is particularly annoying.

The heavy recoil of the U.S. Magazine rifle is only a minor objection, and able bodied men can readily be taught to hold the piece so that it can be fired without discomfort or inconvenience. No amount of training, however, can accustom the soldier to the sharp report with accompanies the use of this recoil device. Its use in ranks would be practically impossible, as men with sensitive cars simply could not endure the shock.

Its use would be simply to remove a minor objection (recoil) by introducing a defect so grave as to condemn the arm.

Tell us how you really feel, Cap!

What worth was the good captain’s report? Well in 1903 the spry 50-year old had 26 years service already! Contrast this against the more typical 6-8 years for today’s Army O-3.

William Carey Brown (USMA 1877), he was an interesting individual who served a dozen hard years in the Plains Wars in which he helped chase down the Apache Kid and served in the last tragic campaign against the Sioux in 1890.

5th U.S. Cavalry, the Black HIlls, 1877, photo by 2Lt. WC Brown

5th U.S. Cavalry, the Black HIlls, 1877, photo by 2Lt. WC Brown. Yes, THAT WC Brown!

He wrote the Manual for the instruction of men of the Hospital Corps and Company Bearers in the 1880s that remained in service for a couple decades, served as the Adjutant of the U. S. Military Academy (1885-90), worked in the fledgling Bureau of Military Intelligence tasked with inspecting armaments in Europe, was on the board that designed the first Emergency Ration adopted by the U. S., invented a pipe shield for tent stoves, devised a method of folding tents to minimize wear that was adopted service-wide and helped the Army adopt the Barr & Stroud self-contained base range finder.

Then was back in the saddle, Commanding Troop E, 1st Cavalry, at battle of San Juan, July 1, 2 and 3, and participated in siege and surrender of Santiago de Cuba in the late war with Spain. Not content to sit aside, he turned in his horse in 1899 and sailed as commander (Bvt. Major) of the 1st Bn. and Cos. E and F, 42d Infantry (Volunteers) arriving Manila Bay, December 31, 1899. While in the PI he fought a number of what are termed “smart” engagements with rebels.

After the Philippines, he traveled more as an inspector for the Army (where he crossed paths with McLean’s brake) and continued his work with MI, being so well-versed in Latin American, Pacific and European jaunts that he wrote extensive tourist guides for Cook’s Travelers’ Gazette.

Once more into the breech, he was promoted to Colonel in 1914 and commanded the 10th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) at the Siege of Naco. Then he rode into Mexico in 1916 with Pershing on the chase for Villa, leading an independent column of horse soldiers.

With WWI on the horizon and the tired Colonel turned down for promotion to general due to his age, he asked to go to France in his current rank when war erupted.

“Colonel Brown then made request to the Chief of Staff that if he could not be appointed a Brigadier General in the National Army, that he be permitted to go to France with the 42d Division in any capacity, announcing that if this were done he would ‘make good,'” reads his file.

And he did, serving in the  Inspector Quartermaster Corps attached to the division he traveled 64,000 miles in 1917-18 and was everywhere behind the lines making sure the AEF was taken care of. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his WWI service in 1922.



Forced out at mandatory retirement age of 64 on 19 Dec. 1918, he was recommended for promotion the day before he processed out for brigadier general but was not named one on the retired list until 1927.

He died in 1939, no doubt chomping at the bit to go to Europe to fight once more as the specter of a Second World War loomed.

The parade field on Fort Huachuca’s Old Post is named for him.

His photographic collection is preserved in the Army’s archives. Further, his papers at the University of Colorado Library are invaluable to researchers.

He’d probably like that more than he liked the McLean Muzzle brake.