Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Glorious American Rifle of WWI

Recently, my dad unlocked his cedar-lined closet, and we were going through the guns that he inherited from his dad. I pulled out an old military rifle, and he told me it was a M1903 Springfield. I said, "Uh-uh." I could tell by the less-elegant shape of the receiver, for one thing.

And it took me another couple minutes to convince him that it was an M1917 Enfield. It helped that "M1917" was stamped on the receiver.

I listened to the last couple episodes of Guns of Hollywood podcast. I am impressed with Allie Howe and Sam Azner's podcast, especially since their up to only 3 episodes. But what has bugged me through "The Wild Bunch" and "Saving Private Ryan" episodes has been the glossing over of the Enfield in U.S. military service. I understand that the episodes are not all inclusive, that they focus primarily on the guns used in the movies, but the mention of the Springfield, especially as the primary U.S. rifle during WWI, got the paddlewheels of my historical memory churning.

As I recall, Remington was producing Enfields for the British military in .303 during WWI. The USA decided to enter the war, and instead of retooling Remington started producing Enfields chambered for .30-06. And as I recall, there were more Enfields fielded by the U.S. than Springfields in WWI. Also, there is some debate whether Sgt. York used a Springfield or an Enfield to captured the gobs of Germans he temporarily imprisoned.

Am I right?

Well, according to Wikipedia's article about the M1917 Enfield, Remington AND Winchester were producing Enfields for the Brits. And both manufacturers produced M1917s. And fascinatingly, by the time of the armistice, 75% of the Americans in France were armed with Enfields. So it is quite easy to say that the M1917 Enfield, of British design was America's primary fighting implement during WWI.

Yes, the M1903 Springfield continued on as America's bolt-action rifle through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam (along with the M40 Remington, by this point) - having been transitioned to sniper-rifle duty, but the Enfield WAS America's WWI battle rifle.

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