The Springfield model 1903 variants and the M1 Garand

Article by: Nick Jacobellis

The bolt action Springfield Rifle Model 1903, the M1903 Modified, the M1903A3 and the

M1903A4 were chambered in 30.06 caliber and first saw combat during the Punitive Expedition into

Mexico, in World War 1, in the Banana Wars, as well as in World War II. The U.S. military service rifle

that became known as the ‘03 weighed 8.7 pounds and held a maximum of five rounds of 30.06

ammunition in a non-detachable internal magazine.  The Springfield 1903 had a wooden stock, a

24-inch barrel and was 43 inches long. 

            All variants of the ‘03 could be loaded one round at a time, or with the aid of a metal “stripper

clip,” that enabled the operator to quickly feed all five rounds into the internal magazine at one time. 

This loading procedure was executed by having the operator line up the stripper clip with the internal

magazine, before pushing down and pressing the five rounds of ammunition into the internal receiver.

When the bolt was moved forward a single round of ammunition was loaded into the chamber.  Doing

so, made the rifle ready for firing. If the operator needed to fire another round of ammunition, they

would retract the bolt to remove the empty or fired case from the chamber and repeat the loading

procedure.  (The process of “cycling” the bolt (moving it back and forth) removed the empty case from

the chamber and loaded a cartridge of ammunition into the chamber for firing.)  The ‘03 could also be

used with a bayonet, as well as with a grenade launching device.  The Peterson Device converted

‘03s to operate with magazine fed .30 caliber pistol caliber ammunition.

            Over the years other modifications were made to the ‘03 involving its ammunition, the front and

rear sights, the way the rifles were manufactured and the application of a parkerized finish.  The

M1903A3 variants that were produced during World War II were fitted with a rear sight that was

re-positioned to the rear of the receiver. The A3 rear sight assembly was made with “wartime

expedient” stamped parts and actually provided an improved sight picture. The M1903A4 was the

dedicated sniper version of this rifle. During World War II 1.4 million M1903 variants were produced. 

    The M-1 Garand

            The M1 Garand is a gas operated semi-automatic rifle that was issued with an oiled wooden

stock, a protective Parkerized finish on all metal parts, an adjustable leather sling, an adjustable rear

peep sight, a 24-inch barrel and the capability to accept an eight round clip “en bloc” clip of

30.06 caliber ammunition.  The M1 Garand weighed 9 ½ pounds, was 43.6 inches long and

accommodated a standard issue U.S. bayonet.  The safety device on the M1 Garand is in front

of the trigger guard for easy access by the operator.  In addition to a special sniper version, the M1

Garand could also be used to fire rifle grenades.  Over 4 million M1 Garand rifles were reportedly

manufactured during World War II. 

An injury called M1 Thumb occurred when the operator inserted an 8 round end bloc clip of

ammunition into the receiver, but they failed to remove their thumb fast enough, as the bolt

automatically closed to complete the loading procedure.  The “potential” for injuring a finger, if the

loader failed to properly execute the loading sequence, never prevented the M1 Garand from being

accepted, as a reliable semi-automatic main battle rifle.  Through training and the repeated process

of loading the M1 Garand rifle, troops learned to execute this reloading procedure without sustaining

an injury.

            The two main drawbacks to the M1 Garand were the inability to reload the rifle to maximum

capacity, once an 8-round metal en bloc clip was loaded into the non-detachable internal magazine of

the rifle’s receiver.  The M1 Garand also made a distinctive pinging noise when the empty 8 round en

bloc metal clip automatically ejected from the rifle, once the last shot was fired.  Fortunately, M1

Garand operators were usually so proficient with the reloading process, they spent very little time with

an unloaded rifle.  As a point of information, a “magazine” is enclosed like a box with the only opening

at the top or bottom where the ammunition is fed into the firearm or gun.  A “clip” of ammunition like

the kind used to load the M1 Garand is open and exposes more of the ammunition.

            Historians report that during the Battle of Guadalcanal some U.S. Marines “liberated” M1

Garand rifles and other weapons and supplies from U.S. Army stockpiles, that were landed on Kukum

Beach on Guadalcanal on October 13, of 1942.  U.S. Army issued M1 Garand rifles were “acquired”

by U.S. Marines, in time for a large scale combat operation on October 25, 1942, when thinly spread

members of A Company 1st Battalion 7th Marines (USMC) were reinforced by B Company 1st Pioneer

Battalion (USMC) and (untested) U.S. Army infantry soldiers from the 3rd Battalion 164th Regiment

(Americal Division).

The Americal Division Patch

While defending a 2500-yard front in Sector 3 on Guadalcanal, during the intense fighting that

took place in the early morning hours of October 25, 1942, some U.S. Marines used M1 Garand rifles

that were retrieved from wounded U.S. Army soldiers. In other fighting positions along the same

perimeter more experienced U.S. Marines took the lead in engaging the enemy, while using the new

U.S. Army issued M1 Garand rifles instead of their ‘03s. 

According to Colonel Puller’s biographer Mr. Burke Davis, Colonel Puller had no problem with

the antics of his resourceful Marines, even though the Colonel preferred the ‘03 over the M1 Garand.

This became clear when Chesty Puller was quoted as saying, “For sheer accuracy if you want to kill

men in battle, there has never been a rifle to equal the Springfield 1903.  Others may give us more

firepower, but in ability to hit a target nothing touches the old ’03.  In my opinion nothing ever will.  A

perfect weapon if ever there was one.” Fortunately, the untested U.S. Army soldiers from the 164th Regiment did well their first time in

battle, because their commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Robert J. Hall worked closely with and basically

under the command of the more experienced U.S. Marine Colonel Chesty Puller; for it was Puller’s

idea to position the untested U.S. Army soldiers into front line fighting positions along with his combat

tested U.S. Marines.  Clearly, by doing so, Colonel Puller, in agreement with Lt. Colonel Hall

strengthened Sector 3 on the “canal” enough to prevent the attacking Japanese force from breaking

through.

Despite Colonel Puller’s personal feelings about the famous Springfield 1903 rifle, the

widespread official adoption of the M1 Garand rifle for U.S. Marines took place after Guadalcanal,

when members of the 1st Marine Division were preparing for deployment before the invasion of Cape

Gloucester on New Britain. 

            Author and Retired U.S. Marine Lt. Colonel Kerry L. Lane wrote about the initial reluctance of

his fellow Marines to give up their Springfield 03s for the new M1 Garand Rifle. According to Colonel

Lane, his fellow Marines “eventually yielded” and accepted the newly issued M1 Garand Rifle, due to

the increased firepower that was provided by this firearm. While fighting on Cape Gloucester, then

Sergeant Lane preferred to carry a Winchester Model 97 pump action 12-gauge shotgun loaded with

brass cased 00 Buckshot ammunition.

  Closing Remarks:

            Variants of the Springfield M1903 and the M1 Garand served in all theaters during World War

II. Just like the M1 Carbine, the M1 Garand went on to serve in The Korean War, as well as in Vietnam,

where large numbers of WWII era firearms were issued to South Vietnamese Forces for some time.

Reference sources:

Military Small Arms of the 20th Century by Ian V. Hogg and John Weeks.

U.S. Infantry Weapons of World War II By Bruce N. Canfield.

Infantry Weapons of World War II By Jan Suermindt.

Guadalcanal Marine By Kerry L. Lang.

Bloody Ridge By Michael S. Smith.

About the Author: Nick Jacobellis is a Medically Retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former NY police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent. To date, the author has published over 205 magazine articles and nine action-packed nonfiction, historical fiction, and fiction books: Controlled Delivery Books One and Two, The Frontline Fugitives Books I, II, III, and IV, Buck Banderas U.S. Marshal Books One and Two and A Special Kind of Hero. These books have received 5 Star reviews and are available on Amazon.com (US), and (UK). He was born and raised in Flatbush section of Brooklyn NY and has an BS Degree in Police Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

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