Action: manually operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 1097mm
Barrel length: 610 mm
Weight: 3.94 kg
Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
The story of the "US Rifle, .30 caliber, M1903", otherwise known as a Springfield M1903, began late in XIX century, when US troops, engaged in the Spanish – American war found their bolt-action, .30 caliber Krags and .45 caliber single-shot Springfield "trap-doors" far inferior to the bolt-action Mausers, used by Mexican troops. It was soon discovered that more powerful and fast-firing rifle is required. The Krag rifles were too weak for ammunition desired by US Army authorities, and lacked some vital features, such as clip-loading, so in 1900 the state-owned Springfield armory was set up to build a new rifle, based on the battle-proven Mauser design. Springfield entered into negotiations with Mauser company and finally acquired the rights for Mauser bolt action for amount of US $200 000. At the same time, new ammunition was designed for the new rifle. It was a powerful, rimless cartridge that fired round-nosed jacketed bullet of 220 grains (14.2 g) at muzzle velocity of approximately 2300 fps (670 m/s) – about 300 fps (100 m/s) faster, than older .30-40 (Krag) cartridge did, resulting in 13% increase in muzzle energy. Both new cartridge and a new rifle were initially adopted in 1903, as a "US Rifle, .30 caliber, M1903", and a "cartridge, ball, .30 caliber, M1903", or .30-'03. Initial design featured a spike bayonet, but it was disliked by the president Theodore Roosevelt personally, so rifle was sent back to factory for redesign. With this design, Americans also adopted an idea of the common "short" rifle, originally invented by British wit their SMLE in 1904. This "short" rifle was equally suitable for both infantry and mounted troops. In the meantime, Germans introduced their "spitzer" bullet design – a relatively light bullet with point-shaped nose and better long-range ballistics, so, following the trend, US designers redesigned their newest .30-'03 cartridge to accept new bullet, weighting 150 grains (9.7 g) with the muzzle velocity of of approx. 2900 fps (880 m/s). This round was adopted as a "cartridge, ball, .30 caliber, Model of 1906", or, simply, a ".30-06". New rifle was re-fitted with sights regraduated for new cartridge, and was issued to US troops, but with the outbreak of the First World war it was soon discovered that US has insufficient numbers of M1903s to arm their expeditionary corps in Europe. US Army quickly adopted a Model 1917 rifle – Enfield pattern 1914 rifle redesigned from .303 British to .30-06, but this is another story. The M1903 rifles were manufactured by the state-owned Springfield armory and a Rock Island armory. Some early made (prior to ca. 1918) M1903 rifles were known by fragile receivers due to improper heat treatment, but the problem was soon cured by the introduction of the new steel treatment process.
During the interwar period, there was little development in M1903. In 1929, US adopted a modified pattern M1903A1, which was no more than the basic design with different type of stock, with semi-pistol grip instead of the straight, English-style grip. Few M1903A1 were made, however. With the outbreak of the Second World War US army again found itself short of rifles, and while the standard US rifle was already a semi-automatic Garand M1, it was decided that it must be supplemented by simpler and cheaper bolt-action rifle. The Remington Arms company was set up to create a simplified for wartime production variant of the M1903. Adopted in 1942, the M1903A3 rifles featured a number of parts made by stamping instead of machining, receiver-mounted peep-hole sights instead of the leaf-type tangent sights, and, on some rifles, A1 type stocks with semi-pistol grips (so called C-stocks). Some M1903A3 rifles were also fitted with 2 groove barrels instead of the more common 4 groove barrels. M1903A3 rifles were manufactured by the Remington Arms and a Smith-Corona Typewriters. The M1903A4 sniper rifles, manufactured by the Remington Arms co, were no more than factory 'accurized' M1903A3s with open iron sights replaced by telescope optical sights. This was probably the longest living version of the M1903, being used by the US troops until 1960s as a sniper rifles.
There were also two more offsprings of the M1903 family. First was the M1903 Mark 1 rifle, developed during the Word War One by US engineer and designer Pedersen. This was not less than a conversion of the manually-operated rifle into the magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifle. Standard M1903s were altered to accept a so called Pedersen device, officially know as a "US pistol, semi-automatic, .30 caliber, M1918". This device was inserted into the modified M1903 action instead of the standard bolt, and featured a semi-automatic action with box magazine, that fired a specially-designed .30 caliber (7.62mm) straight-wall cartridges of relatively low power, allowing to every soldier equipped with modified M1903 to fire rapidly from the hip while advancing onto the enemy positions. The device was fed from 40 rounds magazines, and required an ejection port to be cut in the left wall of the receiver. The Pedersen device was later found ineffective and with numerous drawbacks, and in 1920s almost all "M1918 pistols" were scrapped and Mark 1 rifles converted to the standard pattern.
Second variation was the M1903A2, which was, basically, not a rifle, but a barreled action with mountings, intended to be inserted into and fired from the gun barrels for low-cost, short-range training. Initially intended for 3" (76mm) coast guns, this device was later adopted for numerous other large guns.
The M1903 rifle is a manually operated, rotating bolt,. magazine fed rifle. The action of the M1903 represents the modified Mauser action, with dual front lugs, that locked into the receiver, and an additional lug at the rear of the bolt, but unlike the Mauser design, on M1903 the rear lug was located horizontally on the bolt when bolt was closed, or in straight up position when bolt was unlocked. This required a split-bridge at the rear part of the receiver. The bolt handle was bent down and located at the rear of the bolt. The Mauser-type non-rotating extractor was used. On the left side of the receiver there was a magazine cut-off in the form of the bolt stop switch. This switch, when engaged, limited the bolt travel so the spent case still could be extracted but the new cartridge cannot be feed from the magazine, thus converting the rifle to the single shots. The safety was also of Mauser type, located at the rear of the bolt. The M1903 was a striker fired design, with cocking on the bolt open, and a firing pin knob protruding behind the bolt, so the action state could be easily checked manually or visually if it is cocked or not.
The box magazine was integral to the action and held 5 rounds in the staggered order. Magazine could be filled with single rounds or by using the 5-rounds stripper clips, which were inserted into the clip slots, machined into the receiver bridge.
The iron sights of the M1903 consisted of the blade front sight and a barrel-mounted tangent-type leaf rear sights. On the M1903A3 the rear sights were replaced by the peep-hole (diopter) sights, mounted on the receiver bridge, and M1903A4 sniper rifles had no open sights at all, instead these rifles were equipped with M73B1 2.5X telescopic sights (commercially known as a Weaver model 330).
The wooden one-piece stock with upper handguard has a distinctive shape. Most of the M1903 and some of the M1903A3 and M1903A4 rifles featured stocks with straight grips, while M1903A1 and some M1903A3 and M1903A4 were equipped with C-stocks with semi-pistol grips.