M1903 vs M1917

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  • tomcatfan

    Active Member
    Jan 27, 2024
    107
    St. Marys
    I just picked up an Eddystone M1917 to add to the collection and was able to shoot it Friday. I also have an RIA M1903 amongst other classics I was able to compare it to. But to compare same era rifles, I focused on WWI rifles. Both receivers were made in 1918, but the 03 barrel is a 41 manufacure while the m1917 was an original 1918. The M1917 is the only cock on close rifle I own, so it feels weird to me, but I shot the m1917 so much better than the 1903. The sights on the enfield are so much better in my opinion. I really struggle with the 1903 sights and it shows on target too. The experience of shooting them side by side reinforced the importance of the improvements made to the m1903a3. To be honest, the 1903 was the worst shooting rifle I shot between everything in the picture below. Granted everything else had a peep sight, but I couldn't get comfortable with the sight picture of the 03. I dont like the blade sights of the 03 rifles, it feels like there should be something there toprotect it. I love the classics and it's awesome to shoot the old school rifles every once in a while. TBH, for the money I'd take the M1917 over the M1903. Thoughts?
    Resize_20240331_211617_7348.jpg
     

    tomcatfan

    Active Member
    Jan 27, 2024
    107
    St. Marys
    I'd take the m1917 every day, but I picked up my 1903 for $100 a couple years ago. It's a crazy story, but long story short, a family member was showing me this old 30-06 he picked up for $100 from an old guy down the street. Based on the shocked look on my face when he showed it to me, he asked if I wanted to buy it. He had no idea what it was. I offered him $1000 but he wouldn't take more than $100 for it. I paid more than 10x for the m1917, but I felt like it needed to be in the collection.
     

    ken792

    Ultimate Member
    Sep 2, 2011
    4,489
    Fairfax, VA
    I actually really like the ladder aperture on the 03 for target shooting, except for standing offhand, where the larger field of view on the 03A3 lets me track the front sight movement better. I like how small the 03 aperture is for the other stages and how I can dial very fine corrections, especially using my PJ O’Hare micrometer for elevation.

    I have a USMC sight hood on my 03 to protect the blade. The blackening always remains on the blade regardless of if I case my rifle or lean it against a tree. The USMC hood is large enough not to be seen in the sight picture when using the 03 aperture.
     

    tomcatfan

    Active Member
    Jan 27, 2024
    107
    St. Marys
    I actually really like the ladder aperture on the 03 for target shooting, except for standing offhand, where the larger field of view on the 03A3 lets me track the front sight movement better. I like how small the 03 aperture is for the other stages and how I can dial very fine corrections, especially using my PJ O’Hare micrometer for elevation.

    I have a USMC sight hood on my 03 to protect the blade. The blackening always remains on the blade regardless of if I case my rifle or lean it against a tree. The USMC hood is large enough not to be seen in the sight picture when using the 03 aperture.
    I have the same hood on mine, but I had to take it off. I really struggled to see the target with the hood on and with the v notch. The front sight post was too fine for being in the shade/dark.
     

    ken792

    Ultimate Member
    Sep 2, 2011
    4,489
    Fairfax, VA
    I have the same hood on mine, but I had to take it off. I really struggled to see the target with the hood on and with the v notch. The front sight post was too fine for being in the shade/dark.
    The one above looks like the common, standard hood. The USMC hood is larger and has plenty of space for seeing the target.

    Picture I found online
    1711937569904.png
     

    tomcatfan

    Active Member
    Jan 27, 2024
    107
    St. Marys
    The one above looks like the common, standard hood. The USMC hood is larger and has plenty of space for seeing the target.

    Picture I found online
    View attachment 463360
    What!! That's awesome. I've got to find a couple of the hoods on the right. Thanks for the info.

    Edit... never mind. The USMC hood is $80 compared to the standard one which is around $10. I'll just 3d print something before I spend $80 on that piece of metal. But thanks for the info. I didn't know the usmc hood existed.
     
    Last edited:

    Red1917

    Active Member
    Apr 13, 2017
    666
    Anne Arundel County
    I agree, I’d take the 1917 over the 03. I’ve shot my 1917 in high power matches and action shooting matches and the sights just work so well for both types of shooting. I just could never shoot the 1903 that well despite trying many times. Only downside is it’s heavier and a bit longer but in a match on the clock it wasn’t an issue, including moving around barricades and other stuff
     

    Doco Overboard

    Ultimate Member
    The 1903 tall hood can also be used with USMC undercut blade.
    It's wider which makes a big difference when used with the large peep slide aperture as well which allows a ton more light through.
    The 17 has a much longer sight radius which reduces error itself significantly in any rifle system sometimes up tp 30% if its stock mounted as is popular on many single shot and lever action rifles. Depending on available sunlight, the USMC hood alone doesn't provide much of an advantage and can even be a hindrance in a rapid fire stage if you asked a few people that are using them I bet.
     

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    SmokeEaterPilot

    Active Member
    Jun 3, 2011
    525
    Ken and I have talked about this a lot.

    90% of my collection is made up of M1903s. It's an absolutely gorgeous rifle but it's a terrible battle rifle.

    Here's a letter from John Thompson (same guy) who was in charge of training the National Army on the M1917.

    At first many draftees, reservists and Guardsmen hated it initially. Likely due to preconcieved notions of using a foreign "inferior" design over an American rifle (this is discussed in the Chief of Ordnance files).

    Once training took place, feedback of the rifle came back very positive. This is one of my favorites, a side by side comparison of how the M1903 should start adapting design features found on the M1917s.

    One of my subscribers sent an e-mail to me several years ago saying he noticed that a lot of these desirable features weren't incorporated into the M1903 but they can be found on the M1 Garand. Such as rear mounted peep sight, front sight ears, semi-pistol grip stock, etc. I found that interesting.

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    Melnic

    Ultimate Member
    MDS Supporter
    Dec 27, 2012
    15,333
    HoCo
    Everything changes when its dusk and you have low lighting conditions.
    I took a peep 1903A3 hunting with me one time and was PRAYING the deer did not show up till later as at dawn, I could not get a good view of my target I was looking at.
    Prayed too hard and NO DEER showed up.
     

    Doco Overboard

    Ultimate Member
    So the other thing with a M17 is that the push to cock aids in primary extraction and has gobs of lock up.
    With a 03, the hotter the rifle gets the stickier the extraction becomes and bolt manipulation becomes slowed and more difficult as the action heats up.
    It also has one more round capacity as an aside.
     

    Allen65

    Ultimate Member
    MDS Supporter
    Jun 29, 2013
    7,145
    Anne Arundel County
    So the other thing with a M17 is that the push to cock aids in primary extraction and has gobs of lock up.
    With a 03, the hotter the rifle gets the stickier the extraction becomes and bolt manipulation becomes slowed and more difficult as the action heats up.
    It also has one more round capacity as an aside.
    M17 extracts better, until your ejector spring breaks. Had that happen during a match.

    It's almost like the Brits who designed the P14 forgot to design one on and added it as an afterthought once the machine drawings were done.

    "Oy! The ejector don' work!"

    "Bloody 'ell. Oh, let's just cut it with a saw and bend the bloody thing into somethin' that looks like a spring. That'll make 'er right. And don' you tell anyone it weren't planned like that."
     

    Doco Overboard

    Ultimate Member
    The M17 was adapted from the P14 but the extractor for the 14 is a claw, with a claw so to speak for how it interacts with the extractor slot.
    When the bolts closed the hook on the extractor gets ramped off the rim of the 303 cartridge. The M17 the extractor stays the head of the 06 cartridge.
    The ejector for the P14 and and the m17 are not interchangeable and yes the spring is weak but somehow all the ejector springs on p14 rifles remain intact which just could be coincidence.
    The LE rifles the no 1 thru 4 didn't need an ejector because the bolt well is tapered to interact with the cartridge rim to eject without one. The small ejector screw just helps with the weight of a loaded round to clear the rifle when opening the bolt smartly.
    Something interesting with both the P14 and 17 rifle is they were both manufactured in great numbers and could be the only battle rifle built designed and manufactured to any great degree with a known safety off problem. A user could manipulate the bolt and the safety simultaneously and wind up with one unexpectedly if the right conditions are met.
     

    Dave91

    Ultimate Member
    Nov 25, 2009
    1,991
    Anne Arundel
    I have a 1917 that made its way to the Danish Home Guard, who replaced the front sight blade with a thicker post. It's the best shooting rifle I own. The 1917 has so much going for it between the cock-on-close bolt, sights, lockup, safety, capacity... It's up there for me as one of the best military bolt actions ever. I think the only downside is it's a little clunky compared to its peers.
     

    Abulg1972

    Ultimate Member
    Don't call the M1917 an Enfield!! Of the early U.S. bolt action general service rifles, the 1903A3 is hands down the best in my opinion. I've taken all three to the range. Of course, it depends on the condition of bores and muzzles, but I've found the sights in the M1903A3 to be superior. I do have a Pattern 1914 that's still in grease and that I haven't taken to the range. Like lots of things in the safes, I need to take it out and shoot it.
     

    mawkie

    C&R Whisperer
    Sep 28, 2007
    4,353
    Catonsville
    Had the opportunity to oogle a Pattern 1913 in person and it took all my resolve to not grab it and run for the door. Very cool and just looked expensive.
    Makes me wonder if the Brits would have been successful getting around the problems of the .276 round to make it work had the war not interrupted troop trials. Then again, probably not. The state of metallurgy concerning high velocity bullets was in its infancy and another decade or so would be needed before all the problems could be properly addressed. Ross had the same problem with his groundbreaking .280 cartridge. Bullets breaking up on impact, not penetrating or not expanding.
    So you rework the rifle for the old reliable .303 rimmed round and have the Americans make a bunch of them for you. Only to have them not make it into the front lines except for those used for sniping.
    Then the Americans do the same. Rework the Pattern 1914 for 30.06. Deja vu all over again. At least these rifles got to go to war, albeit just one, unlike the Springfield 1903. When you think about it this design was pretty flexible and successful after all.
     

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