Book Reviews: An Illustrated Guide To The ’03 Springfield Service Rifle
By Lee Arten

An Illustrated Guide To The ’03 Springfield Service Rifle
by Bruce N. Canfield
Andrew Mobray Inc.
Publishers 2004
249 pages
ISBN: 1-931464-15-4
Library of Congress
Catalog Card No: 200411992
$49.95 plus $4.50 p&h

I’ve never owned a 1903 Springfield, although I’ve come close. I own the two bolt action U.S. rifles that bracket the 1903, the Krag, and the 1917 Enfield. Reading Bruce Canfield’s book, An Illustrated Guide to the ’03 Springfield Service Rifle, made me wish, again, that I’d acquired a 1903.

In the book’s preface Canfield says, “This book is intended to be an intermediate collector’s guide for anyone interested in M1903 Springfield rifles.” He goes on to say that with books like this the author has to strike a balance between offering too little information for some people and too much for others. I think Canfield walked that tightrope very well.

The book is divided into six main sections beginning with Historical Background and Prototypes. Other sections are First World War: 1917-1918, Post-WWI, World War II, Accessories, Accouterments and Appendages and Tables. A bibliography and index follow the main sections.

In reading An Illustrated Guide to the ’03 Springfield Service Rifle, one learns quite a bit about the rare 1903 “rod bayonet.” The production of the rifle began in November 1903 at Springfield Armory. The rod bayonet was supposed to reduce weight, cut down on noise from scabbarded bayonets, and the loss of bayonets. The new bayonet wasn’t without detractors. One prominent opponent was President Theodore Roosevelt who: “...succeeded in snapping a rod bayonet in two with a single well-placed blow from a Krag rifle, with attached knife bayonet.” Roosevelt’s disdain for the rod bayonet resulted in the development of a 16-inch long knife bayonet (M1905) for the 1903.

The conversion of rod bayonet rifles to take the M1905 bayonet is covered, along with the 1903 rifles that came after it. The book includes many photos of 1903s in use in World War I and in training camps from that era.

I thought that except for the Marines in the Pacific using the ’03 for sniping, and grenade launching, the 1903 and 1903A3 were rarely used in combat in World War II. An Illustrated Guide to the ’03 Springfield Service Rifle proves I was incorrect. Photos show U.S. combat troops with a 1903A3 and a 1903A4 firing from a hill top in Burma in 1945 with a Browning 1919 firing beside them. Another photo taken in Italy in 1944 shows the ’03 in use and other photos taken even later in Europe show many soldiers armed with the 1903s. The ’03 was also often used in training in World War II.

Canfield’s book also provides information on variations and modifications on the 1903. The most common of these is the 1903A3 - reworked to make production easier and less time consuming. The changes included stamped parts and new front and rear sights. The next most common version is the 1903A4, the U.S. sniper rifle for World War II. It was also used in Korea, and to some degree in Vietnam. Less common variants include a lightened 1903 with a 25-round magazine intended for use by pilots in World War I, and a 1903 with a shortened stock and barrel sometimes called The Bushmaster Carbine. It was used by troops stationed in Panama.

In Accessories, Accouterments and Appendages, Canfield discusses slings, bayonets, scabbards, cartridge belts, rifle grenades and launchers, sights, and other accessories.

I didn’t read the tables as closely as I could have, but did see that famous shooter and gun writer Elmer Keith’s acceptance stamp from Ogden Arsenal was listed.

In the foreword, Mark A. Keefe, IV, Editor In Chief of American Rifleman wrote: “He (Canfield) does an impressive job of weaving readable narrative together with original documents and reports...” I second that.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V9N1 (October 2005)
and was posted online on April 12, 2013


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