|US Service Rifle, Cal. 30, Model 1917|
When hostilities broke out between Germany and Great Britain, the Brits found themselves in a bit of a predicament. They were in the process of adopting the SMLE rifle but were facing some difficulties with production and the new .276 Enfield cartridge. As a contingency the Brits had been working on a back-up rifle design in case they couldn't get their SMLE project off the ground. That back-up rifle design was the Pattern 14 Enfield.
The P14 was based on the famous Mauser rifle design and chambered for the aging .303 Brit cartridge. When hostilities broke out, the Brits found themselves short on rifles. They couldn't produce rifles quickly enough, and their SMLE rifle wasn't ready for production. They were forced to reach out to the United States for assistance.
When the United States enter the war, we found that we also had a shortage of rifles. At the time of the outbreak of hostilities for the U.S. the official rifle of the U.S. Military was the Model 1903 Springfield. The U.S. Army Ordnance Department decided that to meet the demand for service rifles they would need to make modifications to the P14 design and push the rifle into service. Remington Arms set about to redesign the P14 by re-chambering it for the 30-06 cartridge and making a few other minor alterations to the basic design. The result was the U.S. Service Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917.
Remington, Winchester and Eddystone produced millions of rifles during the years of 1917 and 1918. It's estimated that around 75% of the rifles in use by American forces were M1917's by the end of the war.
Sgt. Alvin York used a M1917 Enfield during the action that earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Hollywood took creative liberty, as they often do, in their 1940 movie classic "Sergeant York" and armed Gary Cooper with a M1903 Springfield instead of the M1917 which Sgt. York actually used.
The M1917 wasn't particularly well suited for the trench warfare of WWI given it's 3'10" length and 9.3lbs weight. The rifle with it's 16.5" bayonet affixed was often times taller than the soldier that carried it!
After hostilities ended in November of 1918, production of the M1917 rifle ceased. A large number of rifles were released for civilian use through the NRA after the war. Many of these rifles were sporterized for hunting and target shooting. The sporterization of many M1917's put a big dent in the number of unmolested military configuration rifles on the surplus market.
The M1917 was once again called into service in limited numbers when WWII broke out. After WWII ended, the M1917 ceased being used as a front line rifle but did serve as a sniper rifle during the Korean War.
Stay tuned for a video review of the M1917 rifle on the Military Arms Channel.