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M1 903 and M1 rifles

The .30 calibre M1903 Springfield was the Army's commonly available rifle in 1941. This five-shot rifle was based on the German Mauser bolt action system, and was known for its accuracy and reliability. The rifle was issued in a grey/green parkerised gunmetal finish. It weighed 81bs (3.6kg), and was called a 'Springfield' or '03' by the GIs. 'For firepower or close range we'd use the M1 rifle or carbine, but for long range accuracy you couldn't beat the 1903 Springfield', remembered an ETC) veteran of the 83rd Division.

The general opinion of reconstituted 'luncheon meat' is reflected in a cartoon from Yank magazine. The caption reads, 'My man are appoint me to offer surrendering - only under one condition - that we are not required to eat admirable American delicacy named spam.'

A limited number of M1917 'Enfield/Eddystone' rifles were also used early in the war, especially in the Philippines. In 1942 the manufacture of the Springfield M1903A3 began. The most obvious difference was the movement of the modified rear sight from the front of the action to the back. Both the 03 and 03A3 remained in production by Remington and Smith-Corona until 1944, and the 03 was retained for launching grenades throughout most of the war.

The most commonly used sling for the 03 and the later M1 Garand was the M1907, made of russet brown leather with brass/steel claw adjusters. A simple khaki canvas web sling first appeared in 1943 and steadily became more common. Also to be seen in limited numbers were the khaki canvas M1917/ 1923 Kerr slings.

The 03 and M1 Garand also initially shared the 16in (40.6cm) parkerised blade M1905/1942 bayonet; the 10in (25.4cm) M1 bayonet began manufacture in 1943 and quickly became the norm. Many M1942 bayonets were arsenal-recut to 10ins (M1905E1). The M7 green plastic scabbard was worn on the side of the pack or on the belt.

The M1 Garand was the replacement for the 03 Springfield and is now recognised as the finest military rifle available at the time - Gen George S.Patton called it 'the greatest battle implement ever devised'. Approved for purchase in 1938, significant numbers were not to be seen until 1942, though a handful of Mis were used in the defence of Bataan. The Garand, produced by Springfield and Winchester, took the same bayonet and cartridge as the 03 but fired semi-automatically - eight rounds, as fast as the shooter could pull the trigger. It was 36ins (91.4cm) long and weighed l0lbs (4.5kg). The eight-round en bloc clip was loaded into the action from the top - rounds and clip together (and, if you were careless, your thumb too - 'M1 thumb' was a common malady). When the last round was fired the empty cartridge case and the steel clip were ejected together, the clip making a distinctive 'pling'.

Philippines, 1944: an 81mm mortarman from the 31st Division gets a compass bearing as his tube is prepared for firing; like most machine gun and mortar crews he has a holstered pistol for self defence. Jungle packs and a machete are also evident. Broken down for carrying, this mortar's three components weigh about 441b (20kg) apiece.

The Marines had examined the M1, but decided in favour of retaining the 03; they also experimented with the Johnson semi-automatic rifle - a satisfactory design, but too fragile. As US industry was pouring out the M1, the Corps changed its mind and went with the Army's choice. On Guadalcanal many 03-armed Marines 'picked up' the prized M1 from reinforcing Army troops. By 1945 over five million Garands had been produced, and the weapon remained in limited production until 1957.

Snipers used the M1903A4 (Remington) with a Weaver 330C/M73B1 2.5 x scope and pistol grip stock. Surprisingly, this 03 was not specially accurised for sniper use, and the scope was found to be somewhat fragile for the battlefield. A sniper version of the Garand (MIC), including a laced-on leather cheekpiece and a scope, only became available late in the Pacific war.

The issued .30cal ammunition was the M2 ball cartridge; commonly referred to as '30-06', this had a copper-jacketed, sharp-pointed 'spitzer' bullet of 150 grains. This powerful, flat-shooting cartridge was issued in ball, armour-piercing and tracer variants. The propellant produced an unfortunately large muzzle flash and smoke signature when compared to Japanese and German ammunition.

M1911A1 pistol

A slightly improved version of the Colt M1911 of World War I, this stalwart semi-automatic weapon was carried in action by officers, senior NCOs and machine gunners, among others. Made of parkerised steel, and holding seven man-stopping .45cal rounds, the much-loved '45' was in US service for more than 80 years. This pistol was carried in a 'US'-stamped brown leather flap holster (M1916) on the right hip; a two-magazine web pouch was mounted on the front of the pistol belt. A shoulder holster (M3/M7) was sometimes used by tank crews, officers and others. A drab lanyard was available but rarely used. (General officers were issued a special Colt pocket automatic in .32 or .380 automatic calibre.)


The .38cal Military & Police (M&P) Model 10 revolver was produced by Smith & Wesson; a similar pistol made by Colt was called the Victory model. Revolvers were issued to aviators and, in limited numbers, to MPs and others (it is a tradition to this day that aviators carry revolvers and not automatics). Front line troops rarely used this weapon. Some old M1917 .45cal revolvers were also issued in small numbers. Revolvers were carried in a brown /leather M1909/17 or M2/M4 half-flap holster.

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