M1917 Enfield

M1917 Enfield
Not to be confused with the British Lee-Enfield
US Rifle, Model of 1917, Caliber 30
United States Rifle, cal .30, Model of 1917
M1917 rifle at Kalamazoo, Michigan Air Zoo Museum
Type Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin  United Kingdom
 United States
Service history
In service 1917-1953
Used by See Users
Wars World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War (limited)
Production history
Designed 1917
Number built 2,193,429 total
Weight 9 lb. 3 oz. (4.17 kg), 11 lb. 1 oz. (5.02 kg) (w/bayonet, sling, and oiler)
Length 3 ft. 10.25 in. (1175 mm)
Barrel length 26.0 in (660 mm)

Cartridge .30-06 Springfield (7.62x63mm)
Action Modified Mauser turn bolt
Muzzle velocity 2700 ft/s (823 m/s)
Feed system 6-round magazine, 5-round clip fed reloading

The M1917 Enfield, the "American Enfield" (frequently misidentified or mislabeled as the "P17", "P1917", or "Pattern 1917"), formally named "United States Rifle, cal .30, Model of 1917" was an American modification and production of the British .303 caliber P14 rifle developed and manufactured during the period 1917-1918.



Before World War I developed, the British had as its main rifle, the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE). Compared to the German Mausers or U.S. 1903 Springfield, the SMLE's .303 rimmed cartridge, originally a black powder cartridge, was ill-suited for feeding in magazine or belt-fed weapons and the SMLE was less accurate than its competition at longer ranges. Hand in hand with development of an improved cartridge for the SMLE. a committee was formed to develop another rifle just in case. This development of a new rifle and cartridge began by copying many of the features of the Mauser system. This development included a front locking, dual lug bolt action with Mauser type claw extractor as well as a new, powerful rimless .276 Enfield cartridge, ease of manufacture was also an important criteria. However, the onset of World War I came too quickly for the UK to put it into production before the new cartridge could be perfected.

As it entered World War I, the UK had an urgent need for rifles and contracts for the new rifle were placed with arms companies in the United States. They decided to ask these companies to produce the new rifle design in the old .303 caliber for logistic commonality. The new rifle was termed the "Pattern 14." In the case of the P14 rifle, Winchester and Remington were selected. A third plant, a subsidiary of Remington, was tooled up at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania. Thus, three variations of the P14 and M1917 exist, labeled "Winchester," "Remington" and "Eddystone."

World War I

When the U.S. entered the war, it had a similar extreme need for rifles. Rather than re-tool the factories to produce the standard U.S. rifle, the M1903 Springfield, it was realized that it would be much quicker to adapt the British design for the U.S. .30-06 cartridge, for which it was well-suited. Accordingly, Remington Arms Co. altered the design for caliber .30-06, under the close supervision of the U.S. Army Ordnance Department, which was formally adopted as the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1917. In addition to Remington's production at Ilion, New York and Eddystone, Pennsylvania, Winchester produced the rifle at their New Haven, Connecticut plant. A 16.5-inch blade bayonet, the M1917 Bayonet was produced for use on the rifle, and would later be used on several other small arms. Winchester produced 465,980 rifles; Remington 545,541 and Eddystone 1,181,908.[1]

Design changes were few; the magazine, bolt face, chamber and rifling dimensions were altered to suit the .30-06 cartridge, and the volley fire sights on the left side of the weapon were deleted. The markings were changed to reflect the model and calibre change.

The new rifle was used alongside the M1903 Springfield rifle and quickly surpassed the Springfield design in numbers produced and units issued. By November 11, 1918 about 75% of the AEF in France were armed with M1917s.[2]

The M1917 Enfield rifle used by Sergeant Alvin York on October 8, 1918, during the event that would see him awarded the Medal of Honor, is currently located at Middle Tennessee State University.[3] According to his diary, Sergeant York also used a .45 Colt automatic pistol on that day.[4][5] (The film Sergeant York starring Gary Cooper in the title role, had York using an M1903 Springfield rifle and a German Luger pistol.)

After the armistice, M1917 rifles were disposed of as surplus or placed in storage for the most part, although Chemical Mortar units continued to be issued the M1917. Some American soldiers disliked the greater weight of the M1917, and favored the 1903 Springfield.

After World War I, a large number of M1917 rifles were released for civilian use through the NRA. Many were sporterized, sometimes including rechambering to more powerful magnum hunting cartridges, such as .300 H&H Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum.

The bayonet for the M1917 was also used on all American trench shotguns.

World War II

At the time of the American entry in to World War II, the U.S. Army was still issuing the M1917 to Chemical Mortarmen. Perhaps due to rifle shortages at the start of the war, the M1917 was also issued to artillerymen early in the war, and both mortarmen and artillerymen carried the M1917 in North Africa. Lieutenant Colonel Charles E. Peterson (USAR, retired; 1920–2005), a Major in the 101st Airborne in the Normandy action, reported seeing some M1917 rifles issued to rear-echelon US troops in France during World War II. Other M1917 rifles were issued to the Philippine Commonwealth Army and Philippine Constabulary. After the fall of the Philippines, M1917 rifles were utilized by Japanese police forces as well as by U.S. and Filipino guerrillas.

Before and during World War II, stored rifles were reconditioned for use as reserve, training, and Lend-Lease weapons; these rifles are identified by having refinished metal (sandblasted and Parkerized) and sometimes replacement wood (often birch). Many were sent to Britain for use by the Home Guard. These were prominently marked with a red paint stripe around the stock to avoid confusion with the earlier P14 that used the British .303 round. Others were supplied to the Nationalist Chinese forces, to indigenous forces in the China-Burma-India theatre, to Filipino guerrilla forces, and to the Free French Army, which can occasionally be seen in wartime photographs. The M1917 was also issued to the Local Defence Force of the Irish Army during World War II, these were part time soldiers akin to the British Home Guard.

Korean War & After

After World War II, the M1917 went out of front-line duty. The rifle continued to serve as a sniper rifle during the Korean War, and limited numbers saw service at the early stages of the Vietnam War. This rifle was also used, unofficially, in small Middle-East and African conflicts as a military-assistance program supplied rifle.

Use Today

The M1917 is no longer in active service, but is still used as an ceremonial and drilling rifle, as with the M1903, M1 and M14. It is also used as a hunting rifle.

Design details

Both P14 and M1917 rifles are noted for several design features. The rifle was designed with a rear receiver aperture sight, protected by sturdy "ears," a design that proved to be faster and more accurate than the typical mid-barrel sight offered by Mauser, Enfield or the Buffington battle sight of the 1903 Springfield. Future American rifles, such as the 1903-A3 Springfield, M1 and M1 Carbine would all use such receiver sights. The M1917 sight was situated on an elongated receiver bridge, which added weight to the action, as well as lengthening the bolt. The M1917 action weighs 58 oz (1,644 g) versus 45 oz (1,276 g) for the 1903 Springfield.

The rifle maintains the British cock-on-closing feature, in which the bolt's mainspring is loaded and the rifle cocked as part of the return stroke of the bolt, which aided rapid fire, especially as the action heated up. Most bolt action designs after the Mauser 98 cocked as part of the opening stroke. The rifle has a characteristic "belly" due to a deeper magazine, allowing the rifle to hold six rounds of the US .30-06 cartridge. In a manufacturing change from the Mauser 98 and the derivative Springfield, the bolt is not equipped with a third 'safety' lug. Instead, as on the earlier Model 1895 (Chilean) Mauser, the bolt handle recesses into a notch in the receiver, which serves as a emergency locking lug in the event of failure of the frontal locking lugs. This change saved machine time needed on the rifle bolt, cutting costs and improving production rates, and this alteration has since been adopted by many commercial bolt action rifle designs for the same reasons. The location of the safety on the right rear of the receiver has also been copied by most sporting bolt action rifles since, as it falls easily under the firer's thumb. One notable design flaw was the leaf spring that powered the ejector, which could break off and render the ejector inoperable. A combat expedient repair method was to slip a bit of rubber under the bolt stop spring.[6] A redesigned ejector, incorporating a small coil spring in place of the fragile leaf spring, was developed and can be fit to the M1917 to remedy this issue.

The M1917 was well-suited to the powerful, rimless .30-06 round which was closer in overall length and ballistics to the original high-velocity round for which the rifle had been designed than the rimmed, less powerful .303 round of the P14. The M1917's barrel retained the 5-groove left hand twist Enfield-type rifling of the P14, in contrast to the 4-groove right hand twist rifling of the M1903 Springfield and other US designed arms.The M1917 had a long 26-inch heavyweight barrel compared to the lighter 24-inch barrel of the M1903 Springfield. With the longer sighting plane, the M1917 proved generally more accurate at long distances than the M1903, at the expense of greater weight. The M1917 weighed 9 lb. 3 oz. (4.17 kg) empty, and a rifle with sling, oiler, and fixed bayonet weighed over 11 pounds. The M1917's long barrel and issued 16.5-inch blade bayonet proved too lengthy and cumbersome for trench fighting, while its weight and overall length made the rifle difficult to use for some smaller-statured soldiers.

Many M1917 rifles were refurbished during World War II with newly manufactured High Standard and Johnson Automatics barrels which had 6-groove and 2-groove rifling respectively.[7]


While developed at the same arsenal, the M1917 is not a version of the .303 caliber rifle of c. 1890-1955, the Lee-Enfield (such as the SMLE version). Both were developed at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield (arsenal) in the United Kingdom. Like the 1903 Springfield, the M1917 actually used the basic Mauser 98 rifle design coupled with a few modifications. Due to the use of rimmed cartridges in the P14, the magazine capacity for the smaller diameter 30-06 was 6 rounds, although stripper clips held only five cartridges.

The M1917 action proved very strong, and was used as the basis for a variety of commercial and gunsmith-made sporting rifles in standard and magnum calibers between the world wars and after. Later, Remington Arms redesigned the M1917, removing the "ears" and changing it to cock-on-open, to become the Remington Model 30 series of rifles in the interwar period. Some (approximately 3000) M1917 rifles were produced in 7 mm and sold to Honduras around 1930. Additional surplus rifles were bought by European arms distributors and converted to 8x57 Mauser, then sold for use in the civil war in Spain during the 1930s.


See also


  1. ^ Schreier, Philip American Rifleman (January 2009) p.80
  2. ^ Ferris, C.S.. United States Rifle Model of 1917. pp. 54. 
  3. ^ Phone #615-898-2375 - Professor Tom Nolan (Alvin York Project 2006)
  4. ^ http://acacia.pair.com/Acacia.Vignettes/The.Diary.of.Alvin.York.html
  5. ^ Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation: "Sgt. Alvin C. York's Diary: October 8, 1918", accessed September 25, 2010
  6. ^ Dunlap, Roy, Ordnance Went Up Front, Samworth Press (1948), p. 301
  7. ^ Hatcher, Julian S. (1962). Hatcher's Notebook. Harrisburg PA: Stackpole Books. pp. 16. ISBN 978-0-8117-0350-5. 

External links

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