General Crozier, as he had instantly become, had a very senior backer. This was President Teddy Roosevelt, who had succeeded President William McKinley after the latter’s assassination in September 1901. So on 7 April 1902 Crozier authorized the first production of the new Springfield 1901 rifles. By 16 February 1903 the work was finished and the rifles were ready for testing. In no time at all the rifles were tested and reported to have been successful, and the rifle became the Springfield Model M1903 rifle.
Once the rifle was issued, a few modifications were needed. The cartridge clip was faulty, and so a changed version was issued. The rod bayonet of the original was, at the president’s request, changed to a knife bayonet. The cartridge was also altered and the rifle rechambered to fire it. The new DuPont powder, a cooler-burning mix, was used as propellant in the cartridge, and, once altered to fire this cartridge, the weapon was regarded as nearly perfect. The .30- 06 round was to see service for a long time and eventually caused singular problems for weapons designers.
There were those at the time, however, who thought that the Springfield M1903 was very similar to the German Mauser design. On 15 March 1904 the first rumors surfaced that Springfield was in breach of a Mauser patent on the ammunition clip. Then other similarities began to surface, and in no time Crozier was forced into offering royalties to Mauser for two patent infringements on the clip and a further five on the rifle. Then came news that the U. S.-made Krag also infringed Mauser patents. The matter was one of utter embarrassment for the United States, which had no alternative but to pay Mauser what it was owed. This totaled some $200,000 by the time it was all over.
General Crozier was duly appointed by President Roosevelt to a second term, and as soon as this was done, another round of patent infringement talks had to take place. The injured party on this occasion was the Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabrik (DWM) firm in Berlin. It announced that its patent covered the U. S. .30-06 cartridge and sought recompense. This matter dragged on until 1920, when DWM brought suit for royalties owed. The U. S. government arrogantly told DWM it had no case, as the patent had been seized in 1917 as enemy alien property during World War I. The government failed to convince the judge and was ordered to pay DWM $300,000. It appealed but was finally required in December 1928 to pay the original sum plus interest, a total of over $412,000.
It is interesting to note that when the United States entered World War I, in 1917, there was a severe shortage of rifles for the American Expeditionary Force. A history of the 37th Division of the U. S. Army describes the problem in some detail:
The Springfield rifle had superseded in our army the Krag, which we had used in the Spanish American War. In that conflict, the Spanish Army had a rifle of German design, the Mauser. Our ordnance officers at that time considered the Krag to be a more accurate weapon than the Mauser. Still, we were not satisfied with the Krag, and after years of development in 1903 we brought out the Springfield, the most accurate and quickest firing rifle that had ever come from an arsenal. . . . But as war became inevitable for us and we began to have a realisation of the scale on which we must prosecute it, our ordnance officers studying the rifle problem became persuaded that our army could not hope to carry this magnificent weapon to Europe as its chief small-arms reliance. A brief examination of the industrial problem presented by the rifle situation in 1917 should make it clear even to a man unacquainted with machinery and manufacturing why it would be humanly impossible to equip our troops with the rifle in developing which our ordnance experts had spent so many years.
The Model 1903 rifle had been built in two factories and only two-the Springfield Armoury, Springfield, Mass., and the Rock Island Arsenal at Rock Island, Ill. Our Government for several years prior to 1917 had cut down its expenditures for the manufacture of small arms and ammunition. The result was that the Rock Island Arsenal had ceased its production of Springfields altogether, while the output of rifles from the Springfield Armoury had been greatly reduced.
This meant that the skilled artisans once employed in the manufacture of Springfield rifles had been scattered to the four winds. When in early 1917 it became necessary to speed up the production of rifles to the limit in these two establishments those in charge of the undertaking found that they could recover only a few of the old, trained employees. Yet even when we had restaffed these two factories with skilled men their combined production at top speed could not begin to supply the quantity of rifles which our impending army would need. Therefore, it was obviously necessary that we procure rifles from private factories.
Why, then, was not the manufacture of Springfields extended to the private plants? Some ante helium effort, indeed, had been made looking to the production of Springfields in commercial plants, but lack of funds had prevented more than the outlining of the scheme.
Any high-powered rifle is an intricate production. The 1917 Enfield is relatively simple in construction, yet the soldier can dismount his Enfield into 86 parts, and some of these parts are made up of several component pieces. Many of these parts must be made with great precision, gauged with microscopic nicety, and finished with unusual accuracy. To produce Springfields on a grand scale in private plants would imply the use of thousands of gauges, jigs, dies, and other small tools necessary for such a manufacture, as well as that of great quantities of special machines. None of this equipment for Springfield rifle manufacture had been provided, yet all of it must be supplied to the commercial plants before they could turn out rifles.
We should have had to spend preliminary months or even years in building up an adequate manufacturing equipment for Springfields, the while our boys in France were using what odds and ends of rifle equipment the Government might be able to purchase for them, except for a condition in our small-arms industry in early 1917 that now seems to have been well-nigh providential.
Among others, both the British and the Russian Governments in the emergency of 1914 and 1915 had turned to the United States to supplement their sources of rifle supply while they, particularly the British, were building up their home manufacturing capacity. There were five American concerns engaged in the production of rifles on these large foreign orders when we entered the war. Three of them were the Winchester Repeating Arms Co., of New Haven, Conn.; the Remington Arms-Union Metallic Cartridge Co., of Ilion, N. Y.; and the Remington Arms Co. of Delaware at its enormous war-contract factory at Eddystone, Pa., later a part of the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Co. These concerns had developed their manufacturing facilities on a huge scale to turn out rifles for the British Government. By the spring of 1917 England had built up her own manufacturing facilities at home, and the last of her American contracts were nearing completion.
Here, then, was at hand a huge capacity which, added to our government arsenals, could turn out every rifle the American Army would require, regardless of how many troops we were to put in the field.
As soon as war became a certainty for us, the Ordnance department sent its best rifle experts to study the British Enfield in detail. They returned to headquarters without enthusiasm for it; in fact, regarding it as a weapon not good enough for an American soldier. A glance at the history of the British Enfield will make clear some of our objections to it. Until the advent of the 1903 Springfield the German Mauser had occupied the summit of military rifle supremacy. From 1903 until the advent of the great war, these two rifles, the Mauser and the Springfield, were easily the two leaders. The British Army had been equipped with the Lee-Enfield for some years prior to the outbreak of the great war, hut the British ordnance authorities had been making vigourous efforts to improve this weapon. The Enfield was at a disadvantage principally in its ammunition. It fired a .303 calibre cartridge with a rimmed head. From a ballistic standpoint this cartridge was virtually obsolete.
In 1914, a new, improved Enfield, known as the Pattern 14 was brought out in England and the British government was on the point of adopting it when the great war broke out. This was to be a gun of .276 calibre and was to shoot rimless, or cannelured, cartridges similar to the standard United States ammunition. The war threw the whole British improved Enfield on the scrap heap. England was no more equipped to build the improved Enfields than we were to produce Springfields in our private plants. The British arsenals and industrial plants and her ammunition factories were equipped to turn out the old “short Enfield and its antiquated .303 rimmed cartridges. Now England was obliged to turn to outside sources for an additional rifle supply and in the United States she found the three firms . . . willing to undertake large rifle contracts. Having to build up factory equipment anew in the United States for this work, England found that she might as well have the American plants manufacture the improved Enfield. . . . Accordingly, the British selected the improved Enfield for the American manufacturer, but modified it to receive the .303 rimmed cartridges. This was the gun that we found being produced at New Haven, Ilion and Eddystone in the spring of 1917. The rifle had many of the characteristics of the 1903 Springfield but it was not so good as the Springfield in its proportions and its sights lacked some of the refinements to which Americans were accustomed. . . . The ammunition it fired was out of the question for us. Not only was it inferior but since we expected to continue to build the Springfields at the Government arsenals we should, if we adopted the Enfield as it was, be forced to produce two sizes of rifle ammunition
The rifle had been designed originally for rimless ammunition and later modified; so it could be modified readily back again to shoot our standard .30 calibre Springfield cartridges.
It may be seen that the Ordnance Department had before it three courses open, any one of which it might take. It could spend the time to equip private plants to manufacture Springfields, in which case the American rifle program would be hopelessly delayed. It could get guns immediately by contracting for the production of British .303 Enfields, in which case the American troops would carry inferior rifles with them to France. Or, it could take a relatively brief time, accept the criticism bound to come from any delay, however brief such delay might be and however justified by the practical conditions, and modify the Enfield to take our ammunition, in which case the American troops would be adequately equipped with a good weapon.
The decision to modify the Enfield was one of the great decisions of the executive prosecution of the war-all honour to the men who made it.
The three concerns which had been manufacturing the British weapons conceded that it should be changed to take the American ammunition.
The Eddystone plant finished its British contracts on June 1, Winchester produced its last British rifle on June 28, and Ilion on July 21, 1917. Winchester delivered the first modified Enfields to us on August 18, Eddystone on September 10 and Ilion about October 28.
The progress in the manufacture was thereafter steadily upward. During the week ending February 2, 1918, the daily production of military rifles in the United States was 9,247 of which 7,805 were modified Enfields produced in the three private plants and 1,442 were Springfields built in the two arsenals. The total production for that week was 50,873 guns of both types, or nearly enough for three army divisions. . . . All troops leaving the United States were armed with American weapons at the ports of embarkation.
Ten months after the U. S. declared war against Germany we were producing in a week four times as many rifles as Great Britain had turned out in a similar period after 10 months of war, and U. S. production was then twice as large in volume as Great Britain had attained in the war up to that time. By the middle of June, 1918, we had passed the million and one-half mark in the production of rifles of all sorts, this figure including over 250,000 rifles which had been built upon original contracts placed by the former Russian government.
The production of Enfields and Springfields during the war up to November 9, 1918, amounted to a total of 2,506,307 guns.
The Enfield thus became the dominant rifle of our military effort. With its modified firing mechanism it could use the superior Springfield cartridges with their great accuracy. The Enfield sights, by having the peep sight close to the eye of the firer, gave even greater quickness of aim than the Springfield sights afforded. In this respect the weapon was far superior to the Mauser, which was the main dependence of the German Army. All in all to a weapon that made scant appeal to our ordnance officers in a few weeks we added improvements and modifications that made the 1917 Enfield a gun that for the short-range fighting in Europe compared favourably with the Springfield and was to the allied cause a distinct contribution which America substantially could claim to be her own.