Tag Archives: M1917 enfield

Cowboy Guns as Brush Guns for Canadian Guerillas

As part of the general mass panic that came about all along the Pacific coast of North America after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which kicked into overdrive with the follow-on actions of Japanese submarines off Oregon and California and the seizure of windswept islands in the Aleutians within six months of that Infamy, a home guard force was formed in British Columbia.

Eventually christened the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, they eventually grew to some 15,000 members. With guns and training time for new types short, they were outfitted with old bolt-action rifles which dated to the previous World War– which grizzled old vets of the Rangers no doubt remembered– as well as almost 5,000 commercial rifles from Connecticut.

Lever action Marlins and Winchesters.

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Retired from a long career: M1903A3

While attending this year’s inaugural Shooting Sports Showcase, held at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s superb 500-acre Talladega Marksmanship Park, I was lucky enough to find the former Creedmoor shop open on-site. The gun store at the TMP is one of three retail sites that the CMP maintains to sell surplus military rifles to qualified members of the public, with the other two locations being the North Store at Camp Perry and the South Store in Anniston.

Besides a good collection of M1 Garands, they also had a rack of M1917 Enfields and another of M1903A3s on hand.

M1903s

M1917s

The bolt guns have been listed as “sold out” on the CMP’s website for years, as the Army had long ago transferred the final stocks of those rifles on hand to the program. In fact, I remember Shotgun News ads when I was in college for $349 M1903s from the newly-formed CMP, which must have been effective.

The CMP’s site has for years stated, “We do not expect to ever again receive large quantities of these models. Currently, M1903 and M1903A3 models are not available, and CMP is not accepting orders,” when it comes to these guns.

The few that they do get from time to time are typically returned ceremonial rifles loaned by the Army decades ago to Veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans, and others like National Cemetery and LE groups.

Sadly, there is a nationwide epidemic of Veteran halls closing both as the number of active WWII and Korean war-era vets are thinning and COVID restrictions are shutting down revenue-earning enterprises such as bars and bingo halls that were used to fund operations. Further, as the old bolt guns are replaced under the Army’s order to homogenize the program to just CMP-maintained M1s, these long-serving M1917s and M1903s are being handed in.

This brings me to the gun I picked up at Talledega.

The card shows the Remington M1903A3 I selected while at CMP was inspected by an armorer in Anniston on Feb. 17 of this year– just three weeks before I purchased it through the program. Classified as “Service Grade” it has a good bore and is virtually unshot as both the bore and muzzle read #1 when gauged. The serial number dates to February 1943 production as does the barrel.

It sure is pretty.

The Parkerizing is perfect and shows the tooling marks from rushed wartime production. Remember, February 1943 coincided with the disastrous Battle of the Kasserine Pass in North Africa and the green hell of the slog up the Solomons

For reference, CMP’s Service Grade is:

Service Grade Rifles show less wear and better appearance than Field or Rack Grades. Good to very good condition. Rifle wear will be exhibited by worn and mixed colors of the parkerized finish. May have pitting on the metal parts. Wood will be either Walnut, Birch, Beech, or other variety and will be basically sound but may have minor hairline cracks, dings, scratches, and gouges. Wood may not match in color or type of wood. Bores will be generally good with only minor imperfections. The barrel crown may be nicked, but the muzzle will gauge “3 or less” and the throat erosion will gauge less than 5.

It has a Remington Arms “RA” marked S-stock.

As well as an “RA” barrel.

While M1903A3s saw lots of use in WWII, they were mostly issued to second-line troops such as signals, bridging, and engineer units. 

1944- U.S. soldier and Frenchman from Cherbourg toast the liberation of Paris with a glass of rare old wine. Note La Presse, Cherbourg’s newspaper on the table prewar, and the M1903

Odds are that this particular rifle, since the bore is so bright and tight, and it has the correct dated barrel for the receiver and a Remington stock, that it never saw war service and was shipped shortly after the conflict to a Veteran’s hall. There, it was carefully and lovingly taken out of storage once a month for low-impact drill purposes, served on a firing party for interments as needed, and was carried in dozens of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Independence Day parades to escort the color guard.

That would explain the very rough buttplate, that has met the pavement on a regular basis.

As well as nicks and scratches in the stock and sight ears

Nonetheless, I gladly paid $770 for the rifle which was likely just stricken off the Army’s “books” in the past few months.

The cash will go to support marksmanship activities– for instance, the CMP has a scholarship program for qualified junior marksmen in addition to supporting rifle teams in JROTC, 4H, and others. Besides the initial instruction I received from my retired senior NCO grandfather, it was in JROTC that I was first introduced to marksmanship.

Further, as I have no plans to ever put more than a box or so of 150-grain ball through the rifle, this old vet can finally retire at age 78.

Siriuspatruljen at 70

Happy birthday to the toughest military patrol on Earth, the Danish Navy’s Siriuspatruljen, who were founded this day in 1950, reprising their earlier WWII service. They have been walking the beat uninterrupted for the past 70 years.

Made up of just 14 volunteers headquartered at the station Daneborg, located at 74 degrees north in the Northeast Greenland National Park with a substation at Ella Ø (72 degrees N), the patrol gets its name for the typical mission that sees it break up into two-man teams to dogsled around the isolated coastline, waving the Danish flag and checking for Russians and what not while dodging bitter sub-zero temperatures and the occasional polar bear. Just six teams patrol more than 2,000 nm of coastline.

After completing seven months of training, members of the patrol serve for 26 months on the world’s only military dog sled patrol, with just a Glock 10mm and a bolt-action M1917 .30-06 as backup.

For the nostalgic, here is a window back into the patrol, circa 1965, and little has changed:

The Literal Watch on the Rhine

“THE WATCH ON THE RHINE” Occupation Duty, 1919.

Signal Corps Photo 111-SC-45142 via the National Archives

Official caption: Sentry posed upon a rock at the river’s edge resting on his rifle and looking off across the water. In the background arm stacked arms of Infantry Organization and few men warming themselves about an open fire. Chief figure is Pvt. Chas. H. Purviance of 310th Radio Field Signal Battalion. Men in the background are members of 301st Engineers, Co. D. Moselle Valley, Germany, 18 January 1919.

Note the stacked M1917 Enfields complete with rarely-seen canvas breech covers. Pvt. Purviance is well kitted out with leather gloves, a wool greatcoat, M1917 Brodie helmet, and a 10-pouch belt that is apparently well-stuffed with .30-06 stripper clips at the ready.

For reference, the 301st was part of the 76th (Liberty Bell) Division, which arrived to France late in the Great War and was largely broken up and used as replacement troops for depleted units.

The Greenland Beat

The Danish Ministry of Defense lately has been showcasing its military sled patrol in Greenland, Slædepatruljen Sirius. The 14-man unit is made up of volunteers who agree to two+ years of uninterrupted service in the frozen monolith that is the world’s largest island. There are no holidays or days off, with their leave accruing for when they return to Denmark.

Each Winter, the Sirius patrol sets out in six “fuppere” teams to scout the uninhabited northern coastline from station to station while two men remain behind on post. One such patrol, consisting of two Danish sailors along with their 13 dogs, covered 1,430 miles over three months in minus 40-degree weather.

Yikes.

Their arms? Glock G20 10mm Autos and the Gevær M/53 rifle…the latter being the good old M1917 “American Enfield” in .30-06.

Boom

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