October 6, 2022 No Comments

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World War II saw new production of the Springfield at private manufacturers such as the Remington Arms and Smith-Corona Typewriter companies. Remington began production of the M1903 in September 1941, at serial number 3,000,000, using old tooling from the Rock Island Arsenal which had been in storage since 1919. The very early rifles are almost indistinguishable from 1919-made Rock Island rifles. As the already worn tooling began to wear beyond use Remington began seeking Army approval for a continuously increasing number of changes and simplifications to both speed up manufacture and improve performance. The milled parts on the Remington M1903 were gradually replaced with stamped parts until, at about serial number 3,330,000, the Army and Remington recognized that a new model name was appropriate. Other features of the M1903, such as high-grade walnut stocks with finger grooves, were replaced with less expensive but serviceable substitutes. Most milled parts made by Remington were marked with an “R”.

Production of the M1903 was discontinued in favor of the M1903A3. The most noticeable visual difference in the M1903A3 was the replacement of the barrel-mounted rear sight with a smaller, simpler aperture rear sight mounted on the rear of the receiver which was designed by Remington; it was primarily adopted in order to speed familiarization by soldiers already trained on the M1 Garand, which had a similar sighting system. However, the leaf spring providing tension to the elevation adjustment on the new aperture sight tended to weaken with continued use over time, causing the rifle to lose its preset range elevation setting.[22] Other modifications included a new stamped cartridge follower; the rounded edges of the new design largely alleviated the “fourth-round jam” complaints of the earlier machined part. All stock furniture was also redesigned in stamped metal.

In late 1942, Smith-Corona Typewriter Company began production of the M1903A3 at its plant in Syracuse, New York. Smith-Corona parts are mostly identified by the absence of markings, except for occasions when time permitting during manufacture, on early to mid-production rifles, and also only on certain parts.

To speed up production output, two-groove rifled barrels were adopted, and steel alloy specifications were relaxed under “war emergency steel” criteria for both rifle actions and barrels. All M1903A3 rifles with two-groove “war emergency” barrels were shipped with a printed notation stating that the reduction in rifling grooves did not affect accuracy. As the war progressed, various machining and finishing operations were eliminated on the M1903A3 in order to increase production levels.

Original production rifles at Remington and Smith-Corona had a dark gray-black finish similar to the bluing of late World War I. Beginning in late 1943 a lighter gray-green parkerizing finish was used. This later finish was also used on arsenal repaired weapons.

It is somewhat unusual to find a World War I or early World War II M1903 with its original dated barrel. Most, if not all, World War II .30-06 ammunition used a corrosive primer which left corrosive salts in the barrel. If not removed by frequent and proper barrel cleaning, these residues could cause pitting and excessive wear. In the jungle fighting on various Pacific islands cleaning was sometimes lax and the excessive moisture compounded the corrosive action of the residue.

The M1903 and the M1903A3 rifles were used in combat alongside the M1 Garand by the US military during World War II and saw extensive use and action in the hands of US troops in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific. The US Marines were initially armed with M1903 rifles in early battles in the Pacific, such as the Battle of Guadalcanal, but the jungle battle environment generally favored self-loading rifles; later Army units arriving to the island were armed with M1 Garands. The U.S. Army Rangers were also a major user of the M1903 and the M1903A3 during World War II with the Springfield being preferred over the M1 Garand for certain commando missions.

According to Bruce Canfield’s U.S. Infantry Weapons of WW II, final variants of the M1903 (the A3 and A4) were delivered in February 1944. By then, most American combat troops had been re-equipped with the M1 Garand. However, some front-line infantry units in both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps retained M1903s as infantry rifles beyond that date and continued to use them alongside the M1 Garand until the end of the war in 1945. The Springfield remained in service for snipers (using the M1903A4), grenadiers (using a spigot type rifle 22 mm with the M1 grenade launcher] grenade launcher until the M7 grenade launcher was available for the M1 rifle in late 1943), and Marine scout sniper units.

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Written by Pieter Winkelmolen ICT Dienstverlening