Springfield Armoury Model 1901
The Model 1901 was the precursor to the better known Springfield M1903. Developed at the request of the Chief of Ordnance General Adelbert Rinaldo Buffington to replace the M1892 Krag-Jorgensen which had been found severely wanting during the Spanish-American War when the underpowered .30-40 Krag round proven to be outclassed by the modern high velocity ammunition used by the Spanish.
The Mausers used by the Spanish during the war proved to be fast actioned, accurate and reliable. In response the Ordnance Department began developing a Mauser actioned rifle abandoning the Krag and its rotary magazine which had to be loaded with cartridges individually.
Krag M1892 (source)
Captain William Crozier, who would eventually replace Buffinton as Chief of Ordnance, has been credited with the design of the rifle. The M1901 was never officially adopted by the US Army but was an experimental transitional rifle combining some of the characteristics of the Krag with the new Mauser action. The M1901 featured the Mauser’s stout bolt and internal box magazine which could be loaded with stripper clips. The rifle retained the length and similar dimensions to the Krag as well as the stock grooves which were also used in the M1903’s stock. It also adds the ramrod bayonet which would be used in the M1903. A small run of the experimental rifles was produced and following successful preliminary testing wider scale production of some parts was begun in the anticipation of it being adopted by the Ordnance Department.
Early Springfield M1903 chambered in .30-03 (source)
However, following a round of more extensive tests a number of changes were called for. The first of which was the reduction of the weapon’s overall length from 30 to 24 inches this made the rifle handier for mounted troops and removed the need for a separate carbine version. The rear sight was also moved rearward to the front of the receiver and the handguard was extended the full length of the barrel. The rod bayonet was retained as was the rifle’s basic bolt design although the surface area of the bolt locking ‘safety’ lug was increased.
Following these changes Crozier authorised production of the M1903 in June 1903, initially chambered in the new .30-03 round the first M1903s retained the Krag’s rear sight and the M1901’s ramrod bayonet. But within three years, the design was again revised a number of times with the replacement of the rear sight and the rod bayonet with a stouter sword bayonet and finally the rifle was re-chambered to fire the .30-06 Spitzer round. The Springfield M1903 in its final incarnation went on to arm US troops during the First and Second World Wars and the M1903A4 saw it repurposed as a sniper’s rifle.
Rifles: An Illustrated History of their Impact, D. Westwood, (2005)
The Springfield 1903 Rifles, W.S. Brophy, (1985)
Military Small Arms, I. Hogg & J. Weeks, (1985)
Brigadier General William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance 1901-1918
Since 1812 the United States Army Ordnance Corps has been responsible for the development, acquisition, production and deployment of the US Army’s small arms. At the head of the Ordnance Corps is the Chief of Ordnance, in 1901 Brigadier General William Crozier was appointed to this role and during his 18 year tenure the US Military was equipped with some of its most interesting and iconic small arms.
In 1899, Adelbert Rinaldo Buffington, an experienced ordnance corps officer and firearms expert was appointed as Chief of Ordnance however, he retired in 1901 and was replaced by William Crozier, an expert artillery officer, who had taught at West Point and seen action during Indian Wars, the Philippine-American War, and as the chief of ordnance for the China Relief Expedition in response to the Boxer Rebellion.
In November 1901, Crozier was chosen by President Theodore Roosevelt to replace the retiring Buffington. At the age of 46 he was promoted to Brigadier General and began his 18 year tenure eventually becoming the longest serving Chief of Ordnance. One of the first projects he oversaw was the adoption of a new service rifle to replace the M1892 Krag. The Mauser-actioned Springfield M1903 (see image #2) began development in 1900, with the first prototype tests made in late 1900. It entered full production in 1903, however, by 1905 further revisions to the rifle were made and by 1917, 844,000 rifles had been built.
In response to the state of the US Army’s arsenal of machine guns, which in 1900, ranged from everything from Gatling Guns to Colt-Browning M1895s. Crozier and the Ordnance Corps began a process of reform adopting a number of new machine guns and in 1911 striking the long obsolete Gatling Guns from ordnance lists. The first of the new machine guns adopted was the Maxim Model of 1904 (see image #3), based on improvements on the original Maxim design, 287 M1904s had entered service by 1909.
US troops training with the Benét-Mercié M1909 (source)
In 1909, the US Cavalry requested a lightweight machine gun which could be carried on horseback and brought into action quickly. In response the Ordnance Corps selected the Benét–Mercié Light Machine Gun produced by Hotchkiss as the 'Benét–Mercié Machine Rifle, Caliber .30 U. S. Model of 1909' (see image #4). With production of the start of Benét–Mercié productionfurther manufacture of the M1904 Maxim was suspended. The light M1909 Benét–Mercié would be found lacking in a number of aspects and it had become obvious that a belt-fed, sustained fire, watercooled machine gun would also be needed.
In 1913, seven competing designs were tested with the British Vickers 1912 Mk1 watercooled machine gun impressing the board with no parts breaking down and only 23 jams after sustained testing. The Vickers was adopted as the ‘Vickers Machine Gun Model of 1915, Caliber .30, Water-Cooled' and by 1917, 7,600 guns in the field. This made it the US Army’s most used machine gun of the First World War, with 13 US divisions of the American Expeditionary Force equipped with the Colt-Vickers M1915 (see image #6). The M1915 was produced in tandem with the newly adopted, and simpler to manufacture, Browning M1917 water cooled machine gun (see image #7) which would eventually supersede it.
In 1912, Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis offered his new light machine gun to the US Army however, the Ordnance Corps declined to adopt or test the new weapon. With the outbreak of World War One the British and Belgians quickly adopted the Lewis Gun and by 1916 there were also Russian orders for the gun. It is believed that personal differences between Colonel Lewis and General Crozier led to the Ordnance Corps’ refusal to test the weapon. In 1912, there were requests from the US Signal Corps for additional ammunition to test the Lewis Gun in the air, Crozier replied that he could not furnish the ammunition for a weapon not officially adopted by the US Army and instead offered:
“…to furnish the Signal Department with an auto-automatic rifle of the present service type (the Benét–Mercié), which weighs about 22 pounds; to fit it to an aeroplane, or to furnish the appliances for doing so, and to supply a suitable number of rounds of ammunition, without expense to the appropriations of the Signal Corps, for such test as you may desire to make with them.”(x)
Lewis Light Machine Gun (source)
Regardless of Crozier’s refusal the Signal Corps went ahead with their tests, which was one of the first documented firings of a machine gun from an aircraft. Despite this unofficial test the Lewis Gun would not officially be tested until 1913, when it was tested in the same trial that eventually adopted the Colt-Vickers M1915. The Lewis Gun suffered 206 jams and malfunctions and 35 parts breakages. As a result the Lewis Gun was rejected. The issue was that the Lewis Gun is of a different class to the Vickers, it was not intended for the same role -something which was not understood by the Ordnance Corps in 1913.
The US Army had been in search of a suitable sidearm for over a decade when John Browning’s semi-automatic pistol design was adopted in 1911. The M1911 (see image #5) was chambered in the stout .45 ACP cartridge and had a 7-round magazine. It replaced the variety of .45 and .38 revolvers which were then in service. (More on the pistol trials here & here)
In addition to the better known weapons adopted during World War One the US also adopted a number of other weapons in an effort to meet the demand for weapons. These included the M1917 Enfield bolt action rifle, a number of shotguns including the M1897 ‘trench gun’, the M1917 revolver, as well as a number of French weapons including the Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun and the dreadful French Automatic Rifle, Model 1915 (Chauchat).
As the US moved from a peace to a war footing in 1917, it became clear that manufacture of the M1911, M1903 and M1917 machine gun would not be fast enough to fulfil the enlarged US Army’s demand. As such the Ordnance Corps turned to several stopgap measures, the M1917 Revolver was selected as it could be easily brought into production by existing machinery at Colt and Smith & Wesson to supplement stocks of the M1911 and the M1909 Revolver.
M1917 Revolver (source)
Similarly the M1917 Enfield Rifle was adopted as the British Pattern 1914 had been in production at Winchester and Remington and as it would have taken valuable months to retool the factories the decision was made to adopt the same rifle but in chambered in .30-06. While Springfield and other factories continued production of the M1903, by 1918 more than 2/3s of the American Expeditionary Force in France was armed with the M1917 Enfield.
M1917 ‘Enfield’ (source)
Finally, when the first units of the American Expeditionary Force arrived in France they lacked a light machine gun, with the Ordnance Corps having refused to adopt the Lewis Gun, and were in need of more heavy machine guns. As a result the US Army adopted two French weapons. The atrociously designed and made Chauchat light machine gun, and the more reliable Hotchkiss M1914 air cooled heavy machine gun favoured by the French.
Automatic Rifle, Model 1915 (Chauchat), (source)
The Chauchat proved to be temperamental and poorly manufactured. The American Expeditionary Force was to receive Chauchat’s chambered in the American .30-06 round however, the weapons delivered with incorrect bore and chamber dimensions. The Chauchats issued in the native French 8mm Lebel cartridges also performed poorly, in general the weapon was more a hindrance than a help. As a result the US sought alternatives and John Browning’s Automatic Rifle (see image #8) was adopted in mid 1918, although it would only reach France in time to see limited action.
In October 1917, Crozier met with John Pedersen and approved the production of the Pedersen Device. An automatic action which could be fitted into the breach of a M1903, it chambered a .30-18 Automatic round and fed from a 40-round single stack magazine which projected up from the M1903's receiver. This allowed the rifle to fire both its original .30-06 round and the new smaller automatic round which was the same diameter. With Crozier suitably impressed 134,000 devices were ordered however, only 60,000 were completed and none had been shipped by November 1918. With the war over the completed Pedersen Devices were put in store before being deemed surplus and destroyed in the early 1930s.
M1903 with Pedersen Device and magazine installed. (source)
Crozier’s tenure as Chief of Ordnance came at a critical time as the United States’ entry into the war in April 1917, the Ordnance Office expanded rapidly from 11 to over 600 officers occupying some 13 sites and offices. By December 1917, Crozier reported to the US Senate that the Ordnance Department had placed contracts worth $1,500,000,000 for the manufacture of arms and ammunition.
He oversaw the adoption of some of the US Military’s most iconic small arms with many of them remaining in service for decades. During the First World War he visited many of the Western Front’s sectors assessing the situation and the needs of the troops. In July 1918, Crozier was promoted to Major General and placed in command of the Northeastern Department, an area command where he oversaw the region’s mobilisation and organisation. He retired six months later in January 1919, he died in 1942 at the age of 87, a hall in West Point’s Ordnance Compound was named in his honour.
United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903 (Springfield) (Image Source)
Maxim Model of 1904 (Image Source)
Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié Light Machine Gun (Image Source)
M1911 Colt-Browning (Image Source)
M1915 Colt-Vickers Machine Gun (Image Source)
M1917 Browning Machine Gun (Image Source)
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) (Image Source)
'Statement of Major General William Crozier, chief of ordnance, U.S.A. before the Senate Committee on military affairs, December 31, 1917' (source)
'Major General William Crozier', US Army Ordnance Corps, (source)
'William Crozier, 1876', West Point Memorial, (source)
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