WTW: The American Enfield AKA the US Model 1917 Magazine Rifle

[This post about the American Enfield was made possible by JTF Awesome Team Member Raven Concealment]

Raven Concealment Systems logo

Weapon Trivia Wednesday: The American Enfield AKA the US Model 1917 Magazine Rifle

Mike the Mook

When the U.S entered the First World War in April 1917 we had a major problem: there weren’t enough rifles to go around. The US military had 600,000 Model 1903s and about 160,000 Krags that were obsolete. Although extra shifts were ordered at the Springfield armory and Rock Island, and production ramped up on 03s, realists at the War Department recognized the demand couldn’t be met.

Luckily someone in the Ordnance Department discovered that two private firearms manufacturers (Winchester and Remington) had been making service rifles for the British Military since 1914, and an inquiry showed this contract was coming to an end. Even better was that a third factory had been in full swing on this project: an affiliate of Remington, called the Eddystone Rifle Plant, operated by Midvale Steel & Ordnance Co. in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. They wisely recognized that retooling for M1903s would cause an unacceptable delay, and that leaving the rifles as speced out by the Brits in .303 British would cause a logistical nightmare.

Uncle Sam reached out to these manufacturers and asked them to change the tooling to produce the same rifle in .30-06 Springfield instead of .303 British.

799px-M1917enfield

It was designated the US Model 1917 Magazine Rifle and despite some criticism, a 1919 report issued by the War department stated: “The decision to modify the Enfield was one of the great decisions of the executive prosecution of the war—all honor to the men who made it.”

Eddystone made the most, with about 1.6 million rifles completed by the November 1918. Winchester and Remington made about 500,000 each. It was longer and heavier than the M1903, it lacked that rifle’s balance, and while it held six rounds the stripper clips only held five. Still, the action was stronger and it would prove to be more accurate than the Springfield 1903. Over 75% of US troops who landed in France took to the field with the Model 1917.

There were other problems from the start. In the early 20th century, most mass-produced firearms still required a significant amount of hand-fitting. Although it was the same design, early samples had parts that wouldn’t interchange from one plant to another. After a few small redesigns, the best that could be accomplished was an interchangeability rate of about 95%.

It’s not a rifle that most people think of as an “American Icon”. Sadly, most folks never think of the huge part it played in our history, although the rifle was famously used by a conscientious objector from rural Tennessee named Alvin York.

york

Corporal York was one of a squad of seventeen soldiers assigned to take out a German machine gun nest. After capturing a large number of Germans, six Americans were killed by small arms fire and three were wounded. York took charge and single-handedly attacked the machine gun position, dispatching six Germans with his M1917. The remaining six Germans charged him with bayonets, but as he was out of rifle ammunition he drew his M1911 and killed them all. York and his men marched back to their unit’s command post with more than 130 prisoners, and he was immediately promoted to sergeant. York was initially awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, but an investigation led to this award being upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

At the war’s end, many of these rifles were cleaned up, repaired and put into storage only to be called out again during World War II in order to fill the shortfall of rifles until the M1 Garand became available in reasonable quantities. We also shipped many of these to our allies like Great Britain and China to aid in their war efforts.

In the 1950s many of these rifles were sold to civilians by the government for about $10 each, and became the basis for for more customized and wildcat rifles than any other military issued rifle in US history. It had a cock-on-closing action and a bolt face that could be adapted easily for belted magnum cartridges. The long action allowed magnum cases to fit in the rifle’s magazine.

Still, the rifle serves in some quarters of the globe.

sirius2010s

In Greenland by way of Denmark, it is known as the as the Gevær M/53 (17). It is used by the Sirius Sledge Patrol, most commonly used to take down rogue polar bears and musk oxen. It started with fifty rifles given to them in 1945 by the US Coast Guard, and those fifty as well as others are still in use. We recommend a good reading of the following blog to gain a unique insight into this unit. They have made their own adaptations to the rifle as well.

Raven Concealment Systems 2

m1917

Our rifle is one that was “sporterized”. It is an Eddystone version that was made in early 1918. The stock has been modified but the rest of the rifle was left mostly intact and in its original .30-06 Springfield chambering. We were originally intent on restoring it, but the parts suddenly became too expensive. It functions fine as an iron sighted hunting rifle in .30-06 as-is, so we decided to leave the fastest bolt action rifle in the world in its post-war “Bubba” configuration.

Even Richard Bubba'ed his M1917
Even Richard Bubba’ed his M1917

These rifles are approaching 100 years of age and unlike the rifles that would replace them, one never hears of muzzle or throat erosion, Blue Sky barrels, improper headspace or bent operating rods. British design and American ingenuity built a platform that still sees service a century after it first saw combat.

-Mike



Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!

Comms Plan

Primary: Subscribe to our newsletter here, get the RSS feed and support us on Patreon right here.

Alternate: Join us on Facebook here or check us out on Instagram here.

Contingency: Exercise your inner perv with us on Tumblr here, follow us on Twitter here or connect on Google + here.

Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.

images_RCS Quick Mount Straps

More About Raven Concealment

Many of you are familiar with RCS and their outstanding quality and craftsmanship; for those of you late to the game, we’ll break it down Barney style so you can get up to speed: Out of the nearly 20 wretched, execrable minions we have slaving ceaseslessly writing for us, over 2/3 of them utilize RCS gear every day.  Frequently duplicated, often imitated, their modular holsters allow a whole series of different modes of carry. With practical inventions like the Vanguard, they even have helped popularize efficient means of appendix carry. For those that attend professional firearms training, its more common than not to see many of the best instructors running RCS rigs. In fact, many of their products are used throughout America’s elite SOF community, federal, state and small town law enforcement, competition shooters and plenty of regular Joe Sixpacks.

Mike Searson

Mike “the Mook” Searson is a veteran writer who began his career in firearms at the Camp Pendleton School for Destructive Boys at age 17. He has worked in the firearms industry his entire life, writing about guns and knives for numerous publications and consulting with the film industry on weapons while at the same time working as gunsmith and ballistician.Though seemingly a surly curmudgeon shy a few chromosomes at first meeting, Searson is actually far less of a dick and at least a little smarter than most of the Mad Duo’s minions. He is rightfully considered to be not just good company, but actually fit for polite company as well (though he has never forgotten his roots as a rifleman trained to kill people and break things, and if you look closely you’ll see his knuckles are still quite scabbed over from dragging the ground).You can learn more about him on his website or follow him on Twitter, @MikeSearson.


Mike Searson has 92 posts and counting. See all posts by Mike Searson

One thought on “WTW: The American Enfield AKA the US Model 1917 Magazine Rifle

  • March 23, 2017 at 6:31 am
    Permalink

    I do so love my M1917. Unaltered–or at least, if it was altered, someone prior to me altered it back.

    Probably even more fun to shoot at the range than the M1903A3….that I long ago split the cost with a buddy. The extra size and weight that make it a little less handy to carry and manipulate make it quite a bit more comfortable to shoot.

    Lovely weapon, and I was lucky to pick mine up for a relatively reasonable price, considering the historical significance of the type.

    IF you have the time, I’d recommend the “C&Rsenal” folks on YouTube; they have a video on the M1917 and its British cousin, the P14.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *