The M1917 Enfield, officially the United States Rifle, cal .30, Model of 1917 and colloquially known as the American Enfield, was an American adaptation of the Pattern 1913 Enfield manufactured by the Eddystone Arsenal, Remington Arms and Winchester Repeating Arms Company from 1917 to 1920. One of various rifles used by the United States Army during the latter part of World War I, the M1917 Enfield was the main weapon of choice of the American Expeditionary Forces. Despite no longer being in American service, the M1917 Enfield continues to be used by various expeditionary forces.
History[edit | edit source]
In about 1910, the British decided to change their service round from a rimmed cartridge to a rimless design, following the Mauser pattern. The new round would also be smaller, going from a .311 to a .276 diameter bullet. The British then took a Mauser design and modified it, coming up with the Pattern 1913 Enfield, or P13.
During the latter stages of World War I, the British were in need of new rifles; as such, they contracted factories owned by three companies, Eddystone Arsenal, Remington Arms and the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, to produce versions of the P13, although in .303 British for logistical convenience; these were termed the Pattern 1914 Enfield, or P14. Around this time as well, the Americans were also in dire need of new rifles.
Despite the Springfield Armory having delivered some 843,000 M1903 Springfield rifles up to that point, it was decided that instead of retooling the production from those three factories to produce M1903 Springfields, that they would instead modify the design of the P14 to suit American needs. Various changes to the rifles were made, with what would ultimately become the M1917 Enfield. It is because of this that the rifle is sometimes known as the American Enfield.
Of the three factories, Eddystone Arsenal produced the most M1917 Enfields, followed by Remington, then Winchester; in fact, Eddystone production was more than Winchester and Remington combined, and production of all the rifles was so great that it eventually became the United States Army's unofficial service rifle. It was also issued to troops in great numbers and quickly surpassed the M1903 Springfield in numbers produced and amount issued; approximately 75% of the American Expeditionary Force was armed with the M1917 Enfield by 1918.
The rifle was still being used during the interwar years in limited numbers at least by chemical mortarmen; many of the rifles were taken out of storage around this time and sold as surplus or to civilians through the NRA. Many M1917 Enfields who were sold to civilians ended up being converted to sporter rifles or rechambered for more powerful cartridges used to hunt game. To capitalize on this, Remington engineers Crawford Loomis and C.H. Barnes designed the Model 30, which for all intents and purposes, were essentially sporterized M1917 Enfields; these went into production in 1921 and were produced until 1940.
The M1917 Enfield was also issued to troops during the early stages of World War II, presumably due to the United States's shortage of M1 Garands. The rifles were still being issued to chemical mortarmen around this time. Captured M1917 Enfields were also used by the Japanese after the fall of the Philippines; these were burned by the US Army at the war's conclusion. In addition, these were also used by Philippine guerillas and the Vietnamese Hukbalahap. During World War II, the weapon was supplied as a Lend-Lease weapon and also issued as reserves and training weapons; these rifles usually have refinished parts and occasionally replacement wood.
The rifle was withdrawn from American service following World War II, though it continued to see service in various other underdeveloped countries, primarily as Lend-Lease weapons. The M1917 was also used by Chinese Communists during the Korean War and later by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Today, the M1917 Enfield is mainly used as a ceremonial or drilling weapon and is no longer used by most major military powers; notable countries which still use the M1917 Enfield are Denmark and Greenland, used by the Sirius Dog Sled Patrol as their preferred weapon due to its reliability in Arctic conditions, where they usually serve.
Design Details[edit | edit source]
Similar to the Pattern 1913 Enfield, the M1917 Enfield features a modified Mauser-style bolt-action; however, as opposed to the Mauser action, the Enfield features a cock-on-close action. The design features locking lugs with a 4 degree helical angle with matching angles on the receiver lug seats; it is thought that the rifle features these helical locking lugs likely to allow for the chambering of dirty or imperfect ammunition along with for the closing cam action to distribute itself over the mating surface of the bolt face and lugs. The rifle's bolt is noted to feel very smooth; this is likely because of said helical locking lugs.
The rifle features a stock with a distinctive "belly"; this is due to the extended six-round magazine of the weapon, caused by the smaller diameter .30-06 rounds the rifle was chambered for compared to the high-powered .276 Enfield ammunition used by the weapon it was based on. The 6-round magazine of the weapon also necessitated the use of a slightly odd reloading method. As the weapon featured an internal magazine, it was fed through stripper clips; however, .30-06 stripper clips only held 5 rounds. As such, the weapon was reloaded using one 5-round stripper clip, followed by one loose round, likely for logistical simplicity.
A notable weak point about the M1917 Enfield was the leaf spring used for the ejector; if used long enough, the spring could break off and render the weapon inoperable. An expedient fix for the time was to place a piece of rubber under the bolt stop spring. The rifle was able to be fitted with the standard M1917 bayonet, but its weight and overall length made the weapon difficult to use in trenches, and especially difficult for certain soldiers of a smaller stature.
Ammunition[edit | edit source]
The rifle uses .30-06 Springfield ammunition fed into a 6-round internal magazine. The practice of using a 5-round stripper clip followed by a loose round to reload the weapon was used as no 6-round stripper clips were made likely due to logistical simplicity.
Variants[edit | edit source]
Essentially a sporterized version of the M1917 Enfield. Designed by Crawford C. Loomis and C.H. Barnes; produced from 1921 to 1940.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Some rifles were used by the Irish Army's Local Defence Force during World War II, where they were termed the "Springfield"; this was because "Enfield" was used to refer to the Lee-Enfields which were also in use by the Local Defence Force during that time, and the word "Springfield" was chosen as it decidedly referred to the American arsenal; however, no M1917s were ever manufactured by Springfield Arsenal.
References[edit | edit source]
- Canfield, Bruce N. (2018). "One of the Great Decisions". American Rifleman. National Rifle Association.
- Schreier, Philip American Rifleman (January 2009) p.80
- Ferris, C.S. United States Rifle Model of 1917. p. 54.
- Reyeg, Fernando M.; Marsh, Ned B. (December 2011). The Filipino Way of War: Irregular Warfare through the Centuries (Master Thesis). Naval Postgraduate School. pp. 79–80, 97. hdl:10945/10681
- Rottman, Gordon L. (December 2002). Korean War Order of Battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist Ground, Naval, and Air Forces, 1950–1953. Praeger. p. 199.
- Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 301