5 Sept 19
At the end of the American Civil War, it was painfully obvious to most that muzzle-loading rifles and muskets were obsolete.
The search for a breech-loading military rifle started with the idea of somehow “converting” the existing stock of 58-caliber muzzle-loading rifles, with which the Federal inventory was awash!
Erskine Allin at the Springfield Armory came-up with the idea of a conversion to a “trap-door” design that could be done while preserving the lockwork of existing rifles.
First “Allin-Conversions” were in a 58-caliber, rimed cartridge (so that existing barrels would not have to be changed), which was quickly abandoned in favor of of 50-caliber cartridge, and eventually the 45-70 cartridge (all black powder)
The Remington Rolling-Block Rifle would have been a good choice too, many thought a superior one, as it was in military service around the world by the 1870s and enjoyed an excellent reputation.
But, Allin’s Conversion garnered sufficient momentum to become the next US Army Rifle, officially adopted in 1873. It was in-service until 1892, when it was finally superceded by the Norwegian Krag-Jorgensen bolt-gun, and the 30-40 Krag smokeless-powder cartridge.
However, many Trap-Door Springfields saw service in Cuba and the Philippines during the Spanish-American War/Philippine Insurrection (1898-1902), and in the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900), still shooting the smokey 45-70 black-powder cartridge!
Some Trap-Doors were even in the hands of National Guard units at the beginning of WWI!
The Krag (obsolete the day it was issued) enjoyed a short and unhappy tenure, 1892-1903, superceded by the 1903 Springfield bolt-gun. Yet, a number of Krags stayed in the system long enough to see service with American units during WWI!
In 1899, the US Army, in a futile attempt to salvage the Krag’s reputation, increased the muzzle velocity of the 30-40 Krag round (called the “30 US”) by increasing its powder charge and, of course, chamber pressure.
That experiment was an complete failure! The new ammunition immediately started breaking the Krag’s single locking lug. The “new” ammunition was thus immediately withdrawn. Some was destroyed. The rest was dissembled and reloaded back to conventional pressures.
The 1903 Springfield Rifle was basically a copy of the excellent German-made Mauser Rifle that US Troops had unhappily encountered in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. The utter superiority of Mauser’s design was evident to everyone, even former Krag-lovers!
The cartridge that superceded the rimmed 30-40 Krag was the short-lived, rimless 30-03 (7.62×65). It featured a round-nose, 220gr bullet, and was an “overload,” by any standard! It’s tenure consumed barely three years!
It was mercifully superceded by the slightly shorter and less powerful 30-06 (7.62×63), which sported a ballistically-superior, pointed (“spitzer”) bullet that weighed 150gr.
America was technically “neutral” during most of WWI, as President Wilson’s personal aversion to armed conflict overrode the pressing need to stop German aggression on the Continent.
For all intents and purposes, America entered the War in 1915, with Germany’s U-Boat sinking of the RMS Lusitania, which witnessed Wilson performing an about-face! He was narrowly re-elected in 1916 with the slogan “He kept us out of war”.
However, Wilson didn’t keep his promise for long! America “officially” entered the War in April of 1917, but America’s “Army” at the time was small, insufficiently equipped, and what equipment there was was mostly obsolete. Again, Wilson (like most Democrats) never liked, nor appreciated, our military!
In fact, Wilson dubbed WWI “The War to end all Wars,” in order to rationalize his hypocrisy. All wars were bad, but this one was okay, because it would be the last one we would ever see, or so went the narrative.
Thus, first American troops did not arrive in France until the summer of 1918. The Great War ended in November of the same year.
Interestingly, the vast majority of American troopers who fought in Europe that year were issued the “1917 American Enfield,” not the 1903 Springfield!
Right up until America’s entry in the War, Remington’s and Winchester’s entire production capacity had been consumed producing and shipping to the UK copies of the “1914 British Enfield” bolt-gun, as the British could not produce them domestically fast enough.
When America finally entered the War, instead of retooling American factories to make 1903 Springfields, the decision was made to just keep producing the British rifle, albeit now chambered for 30-06, rather than 303 British, and re-designated the “1917 American Enfield.”
The 1903 Springfield Rifle, 1917 American Enfield, as well as the Garand Rifle (adopted in 1936), BAR, and various Browning machine guns, et al were all chambered for 30-06.
The 30-06 remained in US service until it was superceded by the 308 (7.62×51) in 1954