Tag Archives: springfield 1903

TR’s SAA Goes for a Cool $1.3M


The above Colt Single Action Army revolver was ordered as a gift for President Theodore Roosevelt’s 54th birthday. Factory engraved and silver-plated, it was shipped four days before his birthday, just over a week prior to the election of 1912 where he ran on the Bull Moose ticket, and 10 days prior to his famous assassination attempt in Milwaukee. It was lost to history for years. 

Complete with Colt factory engraving by master Cuno Helfricht, this M1873 “Peacemaker” now ranks (at time of the auction) as the third-highest firearm ever offered by Rock Island Auction Company– and last week picked up $1.3 million smackers before the gavel ended a wild bidding war.

Sadly, I am sure it will disappear for a few years into a private collection, then resurface only to be sold for a higher bid, and this will be the closest that the public will ever get to it.

Gratefully, though, lots of TR’s hardware is well-preserved in various museum systems. For instance, I worked with Sagamore Hill National Historic Site and Springfield Armory last year to detail his specially-ordered M1903 (SN#0009), which is in their collection.

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.

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.

When President Theodore Rossevelt saw the proposed design for the pigsticker on the Springfield 1903 rifle, he wasn’t amused.

Hey, Mack, there is a screwdriver on the end of your Springer there...

Hey, Mack, there is a screwdriver on the end of your Springer there…

Roosevelt, a conservationist and big game hunter who settled for being president after stints as New York City police commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and an Army colonel in the Spanish American War knew a thing or three about firearms. Good guy Teddy even used one of the first suppressors built and marketed in the U.S. so that he could target practice at home without bugging the neighbors.

So when he saw what the Army ordnance guys at Springfield Armory came up with for the original design of the M1903 rifle, a flimsy screwdriver looking rod bayonet, he wasn’t impressed.

More in my column at Guns.com

Samoan and his Springfield


samoan sailor with 1903

The description in the  archives for this photo reads: A be-skirted seaman 2nd class stands guard. He is wearing an M.P. arm band, belt with bayonet, holding a rifle and standing next to a sign “OFFICE OF THE MILITARY GOVERNOR PROVOST MARSHAL OF AMERICAN SAMOA”.

Samoa was on the front lines of WWII after Pearl Harbor. A Marine Brigade would arrive January 20, 1942 to better defend the islands. These photos from the Springfield Armory National Historic Site archives show a number of the local recruits who joined the 5600-man Samoan Marine Brigade. Wearing the traditional “lavalava” cloth wrap, these men were trained to use Springfield Armory 1903 rifles to defend their homeland. American Samoa would be attacked only once during the war when a Japanese submarine shelled the island causing minimal damage.

According to the NPS, “On January 11, 1942, the Naval Station was shelled by a Japanese submarine. One shell, an odd stroke of irony, struck the home and store of one of the very few Japanese residents of the island. Another struck the Navy Dispensary, doing only minor damage, but most of the shells landed in the bay. At the time, of course, the incident must have seemed to be only the beginning. This was the only enemy attack in American Samoa.”

Guns of the Grunt: 1913

By 1913, the United States had become an imperial power with newly acquired obligations in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and China. This was in stark contrast to the divided country mired in a costly Civil War just fifty years before. In line with this newly acquired “global player” status, the average US GI of the time period was armed with some of the most groundbreaking firearm designs of the day, many so advanced, they would remain relevant for generations to come.

Read the rest in my column at GUNS.com

springfield 1903 in 1910