Object Title

Model of 1917 'Enfield' rifle and bayonet

Model of 1917 'Enfield' rifle and bayonet


The entry of the United States into the war was one of the major contributions to Allied victory. Surprisingly however, more U.S. soldiers in the First World War carried British Enfield rifles than their own M1903 Springfield design. The latter, based on the German Mauser, was powerful, accurate, and robust. But the need to equip up to four million soldiers could not be met from existing stocks. It was for this reason that America turned to a British design; not the Lee-Enfield, but a new design originating from the same factory. Like the M1903, it too borrowed from the Mauser, and indeed early prototypes were converted M1903s. The final design, adopted as the Pattern 1913, had the best features of both, with the exception of a backwards step to a five round magazine instead of the ten of the SMLE.

The outbreak of war in 1914 stopped Britain's efforts to introduce this new .276 calibre high-velocity rifle. However, the design survived in the form of the Pattern 1914, in the standard British .303 calibre, manufacture of which was contracted to three American firms; Winchester, Remington, and Eddystone. It was for these reasons of convenience that the U.S. ordered large quantities of the M1917, an American-built, British-designed weapon from those same companies. Production rates needed for industrial-scale warfare outstripped factory capacity, however, and necessitated that civilian factories build military weapons. Many rifles were built at a train factory, the Baldwin Locomotive Works at Eddystone, Pennsylvania. The British Pattern 1913 bayonet was also copied for use with the U.S. version, differing only in its markings, which included the flaming bomb of the U.S Ordnance Department.

Use and effect

The M1917 fired the same powerful .30-06 cartridge as the M1903 Springfield. Due to the smaller diameter of the .30-06 cartridge, it is actually possible to load the rifle's magazine with an extra round, giving it a slight edge over the Mauser's five, though far short of the Enfield's ten. With a shared Mauser heritage, this 'U.S. Enfield' compared favourably with the M1903 Springfield. In the words of a U.S. firearms expert of the day, Major General Julian Hatcher;

"The rifle that was being produced for the British was of a highly advanced design, making it the best military rifle used during World War I. Though it was basically a typical Mauser, it was improved in several respects, and had a bolt and receiver of high grade nickel steel that gave it a superbly strong action. The well protected peep sight, mounted on the receiver, close to the shooter's eye, with a front sight likewise protected by strong steel ears, gave a sighting combination that was far superior to that on the Springfield, and by a considerable margin the best and most practical of any seen in that war."

Surplus M1917 rifles, along with their .303 Pattern 1914 counterparts, were both in service with the British Home Guard in the Second World War. The American rifles were painted with a red band to prevent the wrong ammunition being chambered (though contrary to myth, it was not possible to blow either rifle up in this way).


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Model of 1917 'Enfield' rifle being loaded and fired into ballistic soap target.


Action / Operating system Bolt
Barrel length 61 cm (24 in)
Calibre / Bore 7.62x63mm (.30-06 Springfield / .308 in)
Capacity (rounds) 6
Country of manufacture USA
Date entered service 1917
Effective range 800 m (874 yd)
Feed Internal magazine
Manufacturer Remington, Eddystone
Manufacturer Winchester
Muzzle velocity 823 m/s (2700 fps)
Overall length 1.176 m (46.3 in)
Primary operator USA
Rate of fire (rounds per minute) about 15
Weight 4.17 kg (9 lb 3 oz)


Jonathan Ferguson