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3d Infantry soldiers in field uniform with U.S. Springfield Rifles, Model 1903

Model 1903
Springfield Rifle

Serial Number 1

One of the most iconic weapons of the American Army is the 1903 Springfield rifle, carried by American soldiers in two world wars. This rifle was the first to come off the production line at the Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, on December 20, 1904. The rifle employed a bolt action and was chambered to fire a caliber .30-03 cartridge. It is also equipped with a rod bayonet that extends out ten inches from the muzzle. The "CN 1905" inspector's mark indicates that the rifle was inspected by Conrad Nelson, a veteran of the Battle of Wounded Knee and one of Rock Island Arsenal's toughest inspectors.

The Secretary of War approved the manufacture of the rifle in 1903 and it became standard issue for U.S. infantrymen. The rifle was originally designed and manufactured at Springfield Armory in Massachusetts.

In 1904, the War Department directed Rock Island to procure the necessary workforce and equipment to manufacture a hundred and twenty-five rifles a day, and seventy workers were transferred from Springfield. From 1904 to 1913, the rifles were produced at a cost of $13.96 each. The first officer in charge of rifle production at Rock Island was Captain John T. Thompson who was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Model 1903 Springfield rifle; he later gained fame as the developer of the Thompson submachine gun.

President Theodore Roosevelt expressed displeasure in the design of the rod bayonet and the rear sight. Production of these parts stopped on January 11, 1905 while redesigns were made. Only 1,600 original pattern "rod bayonet" Model 1903 rifles were produced before the rod bayonet was eliminated. Further design changes improved the rear site on the Model 1905, and saw an enhanced ammunition cartridge for the Model 1906.

Rock Island continued producing the Model 1903 Springfield until it was ordered to halt production on November 17, 1913. The United States entry into World War I saw production resume on September 17, 1916. The armory shops continued to produce rifles and rifle parts until the 1920s.

As the first example of American firearms manufacturing prowess, this historic weapon is truly a treasure of our Army museums.

Soldier with a M1903 rifle

Soldier with a M1903 rifle.

M1903 Springfield Rifle
Detail of M1903 Springfield Rifle
Soldier with a M1903 Springfield rifle in World War I

A Soldier with a M1903 Springfield rifle in World War I.