The M1903 Springfield rifle is a bolt action rifle adopted by the United States military in 1903. Initially chambered in .30-03, it was redesigned three years later to accept .30-06 ammunition, leading to the ubiquitous cartridge and familiar rifle we know today. At the time of its adoption, it was the very peak of small-arms technology. By the end of World War I, it had been rendered obsolete. While the Army would search for a replacement, it wouldn't be until 1936 that one was found.
The Springfield 1903 was the result of that rarest of events: the US Army learning from its mistakes. During the Spanish-American War the Army took heavy losses at the hands of Spanish soldiers armed with the new M1893 Mauser rifles, chambered in the ferocious 7mm Mauser. The Army realized that the Model 1892 rifle, also referred to as the Krag, just wasn't going to cut it in this day and age. The .30-40 Goverment cartridge stacked up poorly compared to the spanish hornet, and the Krag loaded slowly compared to the clip-loaded mausers. The Army paid Mauser-werke the highest compliment possible by ripping off the Mauser design wholesale, changing some features slightly and adding others. The result was the M1903.
At heart, the Springield is a Mauser. It is so much a Mauser that after a lawsuit by Mauser-werke, the US Goverment paid royalties on the design. As such, it has the common features of that design. It is operated by a bolt which is rotated 90° counterclockwise to unlock the action. The bolt handle located at the right rear of the bolt is bent downward to aid leverage and improve ergonomics. At the rear of the bolt is the cocking piece, which is flared outward and knurled, unlike most other Mausers and Mauser derivatives. The safety is located on the bolt above the cocking piece, and is switched from READY to SAFE by turning it from the left side to the right side through 180°. Opposite the bolt handle of the left rear side of the receiver is the magazine cutoff. This prevents rounds being stripped from the magazine by the bolt by limiting the rearward travel of the bolt. It is activated by flipping downward from ON to OFF through 180°. When rotated halfway down into a detent provided for this purpose, the magazine cutoff will disengage completely, allowing the bolt to be removed. The ejector is in a housing inside the left side of the receiver, just forward of the magazine cutoff. The trigger is located under the receiver slightly to the rear of the bridge.
Forward of the bolt handle cutout and magazine cutoff is the receiver bridge, which is the location of the clip guide. This machined guide cut holds charger clips in place for rapid loading of the internal five-round magazine. On the 1903-A3 revision of the rifle, the rear sight is also located on the receiver bridge, which simplified production and increased the sight radius. The third or emergency locking lug on the bolt rests on the front right side of the bridge. The magazine is located under the receiver, with a follower under spring pressure pushing rounds up into the feed lips. The magazine is a double-stack Mauser type, with a leaf-type spring and either stamped or milled followers depending on production year. The trigger guard and magazine body and floorplate are one piece. At the front of the receiver there are the cuts where the locking lugs on the bolt lock in, and a gas-vent hole on the left front side in case of a ruptured cartridge. The barrel is screwed into the front of the receiver.
The barrel is 24" (610mm) long, with a simple front sight blade near the front end of it. Stamped steel hoods are sometimes seen used as protection for the vulnerable front sight blade. To the rear of the front sight is the front barrel band and bayonet lug, which also serves to hold the handguard's front end down. The stacking hook is on the bottom of the front barrel band. Somewhat to the rear of this is the rear barrel band, which holds the handguard and stock together. The front sling swivel is on the bottom of this piece. At the rear of the handguard is the rear sight for non-A3 rifles. This is a very complicated ladder-type sight, which can compensate for drift or windage, as well as being calibrated for ranges up to 1000 yards. The ladder sight is either folded up for long range fire or folded down to use the notch-type battle sight. At the rear of the stock there is a steel buttplate with a trapdoor in it for a cleaning kit. The rear sling swivel is located at the toe of the stock. The stock is attached to the receiver by the two screws which hold the magazine on, in addition to the barrel bands.
The bolt is the heart of this rifle. At the head are the two main locking lugs, which are diametrically opposed. The bolt head has a machined recess for the base of a cartridge. In the center is the hole for the firing pin, which also serves as the path for gas to escape to the vent hole in the side of the bolt and out of the receiver in event of a ruptured primer or cartridge. The Mauser-type claw extractor fits over the lug on the right, but does not rotate with the bolt during locking and unlocking. The extractor is a long clawed piece of metal which locks onto a collar on the bolt which remains stationary while the bolt is rotated. The extractor runs from in front of the right primary locking lug to just in front of the emergency locking lug. The claw locks onto the case rim to remove a fired casing from the chamber.
The bolt is cocked on the opening of the action, where the trigger locks the cocking piece to the rear, putting tension on the firing pin spring. Pulling the trigger will cause the firing pin to slam forward impacting the primer of the chambered cartridge, firing the rifle. The bolt is then turned upward, pulled rearward to extract and eject the spent casing, then pushed forward to feed a round and turned downwards to lock the action. The trigger may then be pulled once again.
Again writing about a rifle I own. I have a Remington made 1903-A3 which I love. I'll be updating this for better detail when I manage to acquire a non-A3 rifle to play with. There's something very righteous about an '03. Having to operate the rifle also makes you aware of what you're doing, which is nice.