Object Title

Model of 1903 Mark 1 Springfield rifle with Pedersen Device and M1905 bayonet

Model of 1903 Mark 1 Springfield rifle with Pedersen Device and M1905 bayonet


There were two standard issue American rifles during the First World War; the M1903 Springfield and the British-designed M1917, which was actually more common. The two rifles were similar in most respects and both owed much to the German Mauser. However, the M1903 was a closer derivative, being officially licenced by Mauser to the U.S. Government and built by Springfield Armory and Rock Island Armory. Like the British, the Americans had come up against the Mauser in combat, in their case during the Spanish-American War of 1898. In one incident, 750 Spanish soldiers with Mausers were able to hold off 6600 Americans with outdated rifles.

The main departure from the Mauser rifle was in the adoption of one short rifle in place of separate long rifles and short carbines, as per the British SMLE. Initially, an unusual rod bayonet was devised to be carried stowed on the rifle like a cleaning rod. This was found to be easily broken, and was replaced by a typical knife bayonet with scabbard. As America joined the First World War and experienced close-quarter trench fighting, a need for a more rapid fire weapon became apparent. Germany solved this by inventing a new class of weapon in the submachine gun, and specialised assault units to carry it.

The alternative US concept involved a conversion kit for the infantry rifle, named for inventor John D Pedersen. The soldier would load and fire his Springfield or Enfield as normal until closing with the enemy, at which point he would remove the manual bolt and install the Pedersen device. The device was classified secret until such time as enough could be produced to have a surprise effect as part of major offensive in 1919. The war ended before this could happen.

Use and effect

Early production Springfields suffered from poor heat treatment, making their receivers weak. Once solved, the rifle was very robust and offered an excellent balance of weight, size, power, and accuracy. After demobilisation, M1917 Enfields became surplus and the 1903 resumed status as the standard issue US rifle. It remained in use until the end of the Second World War alongside the M1 Garand.

The Remington-manufactured Pedersen device was not a success story however. It saw no use during the War, and post-war trials to determine its utility did not impress, partly because authorities did not anticipate another static, trench-based war in the future. Instead, the need was identified for a full-power, full-time semi-automatic rifle. Even by First World War standards, the concept was flawed. Installing the device took precious time, and although high in capacity, magazines were difficult to change by modern standards. Unlike the German MP 18,1 submachine gun it did not permit automatic fire, and fired an even less potent cartridge. It also required a modification to the receiver of the Springfield rifle, resulting in the 'Mark 1' rifle. Although preferable to the burden of carrying a rifle and a pistol-calibre carbine or submachine gun, the device and accessories nonetheless added weight. Each soldier would have to carry enough cartridges of different types for both rifle and device. A better solution was simply to issue a mixture of close and longer range weapons, or to seek a single, compromise design.

The Pedersen therefore represents a dead-end en route to universal adoption of semi-automatic rifles, submachine guns and later, assault rifles. Today, the device is extremely rare due to a destruction order by the U.S. government. It is a technically interesting reaction to the difficulties encountered by the world's militaries in the trenches of the First World War.


Action / Operating system Bolt / Blowback
Barrel length 61 cm (24 in)
Calibre / Bore 7.62x63mm (.30-06 Springfield / .308 in)
Capacity (rounds) 5 (rifle) 40 (device)
Country of manufacture USA
Date entered service 1903
Effective range 800 m (874 yd)
Feed Internal magazine (rifle) box magazine (device)
Manufacturer Eddystone
Manufacturer Remington
Manufacturer Springfield Armory
Manufacturer Winchester
Muzzle velocity 2700 fps (823 m/s)
Overall length 1.97 m (43 in)
Primary operator USA
Rate of fire (rounds per minute) about 15 (rifle) or 200 (device)
Weight 3.94 kg (8.7 lb)


Jonathan Ferguson