For Over 70 Years, The 1903 Springfield Rifle Fought For America Everywhere

For Over 70 Years, The 1903 Springfield Rifle Fought For America Everywhere

Warfare History Network


A storied weapon.

Key point: It served from World War I until the 1970s.

In 1896, the .30-40 “Model 1896 Krag Rifle” became the standard United States Army’s first bolt-action, magazine, smokeless-powder service rifle. The Danish design was popularly known as the Krag-Jorgensen, named for its creator, Colonel Ole Krag, director of Norway’s Kongsberg Arsenal, and Eric Jorgensen, one of the work’s engineers. Despite its design improvements, the Krag-Jorgensen experienced a short life as America’s primary infantry small arm.

The shortcomings of the Krag-Jorgensen became apparent during the Spanish-American War of 1898. Its cumbersome locking system, coupled with a low-powered cartridge, and its difficulty in adapting to clip-loading made it unfavorable compared to the Spaniards’ more effective charger-loaded German Model 1893 Mauser rifle, with its higher muzzle velocity, greater accuracy, and ability to be modified for clip-loading.

Springfield Armory Makes the 1900 Prototype

The result was that the United States Army Ordnance Board authorized the Springfield Armory, located in Springfield, Massachusetts, to manufacture an experimental magazine rifle based on the Mauser and Krag. They tested their prototype during October and November 1900; as a result of these trials, the Board recommended the new weapon be adopted by the Army. The design was stronger than the Krag-Jorgensen; with fewer parts it was cheaper to build and easier to operate; and it could be easily fitted with a Mauser-type magazine.

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