M1917 Enfield

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Should not be confused with the British Lee–Enfield
US Rifle, Model of 1917, Caliber 30
United States Rifle, cal .30, Model of 1917
M1917 Enfield rifle from the collections of Armémuseum, Stockholm, Sweden
Type Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1917–present
Used by See Users
Wars World War I
Banana Wars
World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War (limited)
Production history
Designed 1917
Number built 2,193,429 total
Weight 9 lb. 3 oz. (4.17 kg), 11 lb. 1 oz. (5.02 kg) (w/bayonet, sling, and oiler)
Length 3 ft. 10.25 in. (1175 mm)
Barrel length 26.0 in (660 mm)

Cartridge .30-06 Springfield (7.62×63mm)
Action Modified Mauser turn bolt
Muzzle velocity 2,800 ft/s (853 m/s) with Cartridge .30 M2 Ball
Effective firing range 600 yd (549 m)
Maximum firing range 5,500 yd (5,029 m) with .30 M1 Ball cartridge [1]
Feed system 6-round magazine, 5-round clip fed reloading

The M1917 Enfield, the "American Enfield", formally named "United States Rifle, cal .30, Model of 1917" was an American modification and production of the British .303-inch (7.7 mm) P14 rifle (listed in British Service as Rifle No. 3) developed and manufactured during the period 1917–1918. Numerically, it was the main rifle used by the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War I.

P 17 breech


Before World War I, the British had the Short Magazine Lee–Enfield (SMLE) as their main rifle. Compared to the German Mausers or U.S. 1903 Springfield, the SMLE's .303 rimmed cartridge, originally a black powder cartridge, was ill-suited for feeding in magazine or belt-fed weapons and the SMLE was thought to be less accurate than its competition at longer ranges. The long-range accuracy of German 7×57mm Model 1893 and 1895 Mausers in the hands of Boer marksmen during the Boer War (1899 -1902) made a big impression on the British Army, and a more powerful, modern rifle was desired. Thus, even though improved Lee–Enfield variants (the SMLE) and .303 ammunition with pointed (spitzer) projectiles entered service after the Boer War, a committee was formed to develop an entirely new design of rifle and cartridge. The starting point was to copy many of the features of the Mauser system. This development, named the Pattern 1913 or P13, included a front locking, dual lug bolt action with Mauser type claw extractor as well as a new, powerful rimless .276 Enfield cartridge. The design carried over a Lee–Enfield type safety at the rear of the action and a bolt that cocked on closing to ease unlocking of the bolt during rapid fire. An advanced design of aperture rearsight and a long sight radius were incorporated to maximize accuracy potential. Ease of manufacture was also an important criterion. However, the onset of World War I came too quickly for the UK to put it into production before the new cartridge could be perfected, as it suffered from overheating in rapid fire and bore fouling.

As it entered World War I, the UK had an urgent need for rifles, and contracts for the new rifle were placed with arms companies in the United States. They decided to ask these companies to produce the new rifle design in the old .303 caliber for convenience of ammunition logistics. The new rifle was termed the "Pattern 14". In the case of the P14 rifle, Winchester and Remington were selected. A third manufacturer, Eddystone Arsenal – a subsidiary of Remington – was tooled up at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Thus, three variations of the P14 and M1917 exist, labeled "Winchester," "Remington" and "Eddystone".

World War I[edit]

When the U.S. entered the war, it had a similar need for rifles. The Springfield Armory had delivered approximately 843,000 M1903 rifles, but due to the difficulties in production, rather than re-tool the Pattern 14 factories to produce the standard U.S. rifle, the M1903 Springfield, it was realized that it would be much quicker to adapt the British design for the U.S. .30-06 cartridge. The Enfield design was well-suited to the .30-06; it was a big, strong action and was originally intended to employ a long, powerful, rimless cartridge. Accordingly, Remington Arms Co. altered the design for caliber .30-06, under the close supervision of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, which was formally adopted as the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1917. In addition to Remington's production at Ilion, New York and Eddystone, Pennsylvania, Winchester produced the rifle at their New Haven, Connecticut plant, a combined total more than twice the 1903's production, and was the unofficial service rifle. Eddystone made 1,181,908 rifles – more than the production of Remington (545,541 rifles) and Winchester (465,980 rifles) combined.[2][3]

Design changes were few; the magazine, bolt face, chamber and rifling dimensions were altered to suit the .30-06 cartridge and the volley fire sights on the left side of the weapon were deleted. The markings were changed to reflect the model and caliber change. A 16.5-inch blade bayonet, the M1917 Bayonet was produced for use on the rifle. It would later be used on several other small arms like the Winchester M12 trench shotgun and early M1 Garands.

The new rifle was used alongside the M1903 Springfield rifle and quickly surpassed the Springfield design in numbers produced and units issued. By November 11, 1918 about 75% of the AEF in France were armed with M1917s.[4]

An M1917 Enfield rifle may have been used by Sergeant Alvin York on October 8, 1918, during the event that would see him awarded the Medal of Honor.[5] According to his diary, Sergeant York also used a .45 Colt semi-automatic pistol on that day.[6][7] (The film Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper in the title role, had York using an M1903 Springfield and a German Luger pistol.)

After the armistice, the M1917 rifles were placed in storage for the most part, although Chemical Mortar units continued to be issued them. During the 1920s and 1930s a large number of M1917 rifles were released for civilian use through the NRA or were sold as surplus. Many were sporterized, sometimes including rechambering to more powerful magnum hunting cartridges, such as .300 H&H Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. It was so popular as a sporting weapon that Remington manufactured about 30,000 new rifles as the Model 30 from 1921 to 1940.

World War II[edit]

At the time of the American entry into World War II, the U.S. Army was still issuing the M1917 to Chemical Mortarmen. Perhaps due to M1 Garand shortages at the start of the war, the M1917 was also issued to artillerymen early in the war and both mortarmen and artillerymen carried the M1917 in North Africa. Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Peterson (USAR, retired; 1920–2005), a Major in the 101st Airborne in the Normandy action, reported seeing some M1917 rifles issued to rear-echelon US troops in France during World War II. Other M1917 rifles were issued to the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary. After the fall of the Philippines, M1917 rifles were used by Japanese police forces as well as by U.S. and Filipino soldiers with the local guerrillas before the liberation of the Philippines.

Two British Local Defence Volunteers, later renamed Home Guard, receive instruction on the M1917 rifle in the summer of 1940.

Before and during World War II, stored rifles were reconditioned for use as reserve, training and Lend-Lease weapons; these rifles are identified by having refinished metal (sandblasted and Parkerized) and sometimes replacement wood (often birch). Some of these rifles were reconditioned with new bolts manufactured by the United Shoe Machinery Company and stamped USMC leading to the mistaken impression these were United States Marine Corps rifles.[8] Many were bought by the United Kingdom through the British Purchasing Commission for use by the Home Guard; 615,000 arrived in Britain in the summer of 1940, followed by a further 119,000 in 1941.[9] These were prominently marked with a red paint stripe around the stock to avoid confusion with the earlier P14 that used the British .303 round. Others were supplied to the Nationalist Chinese forces, to indigenous forces in the China-Burma-India theatre, to Filipino soldiers under the Philippine Army and Constabulary units and the local guerrilla forces and to the Free French Army, which can occasionally be seen in wartime photographs. The M1917 was also issued to the Local Defence Force of the Irish Army during World War II, these were part-time soldiers akin to the British Home Guard. In an ironic reversal of names, in Irish service the M1917 was often referred to as the "Springfield"; presumably since an "Enfield" rifle was assumed to be the standard Irish MkIII Short Magazine Lee–Enfield, while "Springfield" was known to be an American military arsenal.

The M1917 was supplied to both Denmark and Norway after WWII as an interim weapon prior to the arrival of the M1 Garand.

Korean War and after[edit]

After World War II, the M1917 went out of front-line duty. The rifle continued to serve as a sniper rifle during the Korean War, and limited numbers saw service at the early stages of the Vietnam War. This rifle was also used, unofficially, in small Middle-East and African conflicts as a military-assistance program supplied rifle.

Current use[edit]

The M1917 is used as a ceremonial and drilling rifle, as with the M1903, M1 Garand, and M14. For battle purposes, the Danish Slædepatruljen Sirius still use the M1917 as their service weapon, due to the high reliability of these bolt-action rifles in the harsh conditions of high Arctic Greenland.

Design details[edit]

P17 Mauser type bolt

Both P14 and M1917 rifles are noted for several design features. The rifle was designed with a rear receiver aperture sight, protected by sturdy "ears," a design that proved to be faster and more accurate than the typical mid-barrel sight offered by Mauser, Enfield or the Buffington battle sight of the 1903 Springfield. Future American rifles, such as the 1903-A3 Springfield, M1 and M1 Carbine would all use such receiver sights. The M1917 sight was situated on an elongated receiver bridge, which added weight to the action, as well as lengthening the bolt. The M1917 action weighs 58 oz (1,644 g) versus 45 oz (1,276 g) for the 1903 Springfield.

The rifle maintains the British cock-on-closing feature, in which the bolt's mainspring is loaded and the rifle cocked as part of the return stroke of the bolt, which aided rapid fire, especially as the action heated up. Most bolt action designs after the Mauser 98 cocked as part of the opening stroke. The rifle has a characteristic "belly" due to a deeper magazine, allowing the rifle to hold six rounds of the US .30-06 cartridge in the magazine, and one in the chamber. In a manufacturing change from the Mauser 98 and the derivative Springfield, the bolt is not equipped with a third 'safety' lug. Instead, as on the earlier Model 1895 (Chilean) Mauser, the bolt handle recesses into a notch in the receiver, which serves as an emergency locking lug in the event of failure of the frontal locking lugs. This change saved machine time needed on the rifle bolt, cutting costs and improving production rates, and this alteration has since been adopted by many commercial bolt-action rifle designs for the same reasons. The location of the safety on the right rear of the receiver has also been copied by most sporting bolt-action rifles since, as it falls easily under the firer's thumb. One notable design flaw was the leaf spring that powered the ejector, which could break off and render the ejector inoperable. A combat-expedient repair method was to slip a bit of rubber under the bolt stop spring.[10] A redesigned ejector, incorporating a small coil spring in place of the fragile leaf spring, was developed and can be fitted to the M1917 to remedy this issue.

The M1917 was well-suited to the powerful, rimless .30-06 round which was closer in overall length and ballistics to the original high-velocity round for which the rifle had been designed than the rimmed, less powerful .303 round of the P14. The M1917's barrel retained the 5-groove left hand twist Enfield-type rifling of the P14, in contrast to the 4-groove right hand twist rifling of the M1903 Springfield and other US designed arms.The M1917 had a long 26-inch heavyweight barrel compared to the lighter 24-inch barrel of the M1903 Springfield. With the longer sighting plane, the M1917 proved generally more accurate at long distances than the M1903, at the expense of greater weight. The M1917 weighed 9 lb. 3 oz. (4.17 kg) empty, and a rifle with sling, oiler, and fixed bayonet weighed over 11 pounds. The M1917's long barrel and issued 16.5-inch blade bayonet proved too lengthy and cumbersome for trench fighting, while its weight and overall length made the rifle difficult to use for some smaller-statured soldiers.

Many M1917 Enfield rifles were refurbished during World War II with newly manufactured High Standard barrels with 4-groove rifling and Johnson Automatics barrels which had 2-groove rifling.[11]

X Force shortened M1917[edit]

X Force was the name given to a portion of the Chinese Army equipped and trained by the US during World War II. One of the weapons given to X Force was the M1917 rifle. These rifles were too big for the small statured Chinese soldiers so the barrels and stocks were shortened from an overall length of 46 inches for the standard M1917 to a 41-inch rifle.[12]


While developed at the same arsenal, the M1917 is not a version of the .303 caliber rifle of c. 1890–1955, the Lee–Enfield (such as the SMLE version). Both were developed at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield (arsenal) in the United Kingdom. Like the 1903 Springfield, the M1917 actually used the basic Mauser 98 rifle design coupled with a few modifications. Due to the original P13 action being designed around a high-powered .276 round with a larger diameter case than the .30-06, the magazine capacity for the smaller diameter 30-06 was 6 rounds, although stripper clips held only five cartridges.

The M1917 action proved very strong, and was used as the basis for a variety of commercial and gunsmith-made sporting rifles in standard and magnum calibers between the world wars and after. Later, Remington Arms redesigned the M1917, removing the "ears" and changing it to cock-on-open, to become the Remington Model 30 series of rifles in the interwar period. Some (approximately 3000) M1917 rifles were produced in 7 mm and sold to Honduras around 1930. Additional surplus rifles were bought by European arms distributors and converted to 8×57mm Mauser, then sold for use in the civil war in Spain during the 1930s.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ SurplusRifle.com - United States Rifle Model 1917*FM 23-6 Basic Field Manual: U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, M1917, 20 October 1943
  2. ^ Schreier, Philip American Rifleman (January 2009) p.80
  3. ^ http://www.guns.com/2012/10/24/remington-m1917-enfield-rifle/ Guns.com The Remington M1917 Enfield Rifle: A forgotten veteran? by Chris Eger (10/24/2012)
  4. ^ Ferris, C.S. United States Rifle Model of 1917. p. 54. 
  5. ^ http://www.nramuseum.org/the-museum/the-galleries/america-ascending/case-57-world-war-i-allies-the-world-at-war,-1914-1918/us-winchester-model-1917-bolt-action-rifle.aspx | National Firearms Museum "U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin York carried an Enfield in 1917 when he won the Medal of Honor for capturing nearly the whole German army."
  6. ^ http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.Vignettes/The.Diary.of.Alvin.York.html
  7. ^ Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation: "Sgt. Alvin C. York's Diary: October 8, 1918", accessed September 25, 2010
  8. ^ Canfield, Bruce N. (2004). "Marine M1917? Not!". American Rifleman (National Rifle Association) 152 (5): 29. 
  9. ^ Stephen M Cullen, In Search of the Real Dad's Army, Pern & Sword Books Linmited 2011, ISBN 978-1-84884-269-4 (p.132)
  10. ^ Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 301
  11. ^ Culver, Dick (2003). The U.S. Rifle, caliber .30, M1917. http://www.odcmp.org/503/rifle.pdf: Civilian Marksmanship Program. p. 9. 
  12. ^ http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2015/01/16/m1917-carbine/#sthash.tG6NLybm.dpuf

External links[edit]