Remington’s Hybrid .303 M1903

In 1940, following the evacuation from Dunkirk the British Army was in desperate need of small arms, with over 100,000 rifles left behind in France. In dire need of rifles Britain turned to the US and its huge industrial base and approached a number of companies about tooling up to produce Lee-Enfield Rifle No.4s. Savage Arms took on one contract and projected production of 1,000 per day but establishing production of a rifle US companies didn’t have the tooling and gauges for would take time.

remington_1903_303_rightwm
Right side of the Remington (Matthew Moss)

Remington was also approached by the British Purchasing Commission and asked if they could manufacture up to 400,000 rifles. Remington estimated it would take up to 30 months to tool up for No.4 production. However, Remington believed that if they could lease the old tooling previously used at the Rock Island Arsenal to produce M1903s, from the US Government, they could tool up to produce the M1903 in just 12 months. It was suggested that the tooling be adapted to produce rifles chambered in the British .303 cartridge. Some ergonomic changes could also be made so the rifles mimicked the British No.4.

remington_1903_303_leftwm
Left side of the Remington (Matthew Moss)

 

On 12th December 1940, the British government issued a Letter of Intent to Remington for the manufacture of 500,000 rifles in .303 British. Some sources suggest the British agreed to an advanced payment of $4,000,000. Much of this covered the lease, transport and refurbishment of the M1903 tooling. The rest went on the purchase of raw materials and the necessary accessories for half a million rifles.

The tooling lease was agreed in March 1941, and the US Government also supplied 600,000 stock blanks which had been in storage in exchange for ammunition produced by Remington. With the passage of the Lend-Lease act, on 11th March, the Remington contract came under the control of the US Government, rather than a private order. Remington received the last tooling shipments from Rock Island Arsenal on 22nd April, and by the end of May had the production line up and running.

DSC_0535wm
A detail view of the rifle’s action and follower note the ‘2’ stamped on the follower (Matthew Moss)

A contract to produce the hybrid rifles at a cost of $5 per rifle was agreed in late June. Remington’s engineers began setting up the equipment and working out an ad hoc production layout that would allow 1,000+ rifles per day to be built. At least four pilot models were built, with some of these guns being sent to Britain. The rifles were reportedly received in September 1941, and following preliminary examination were described as “very successful”. Four of the rifles were distributed for further testing but by the end of 1941 the project had been abandoned.

remington_1903_303_nosecap_leftwm
A close up of the adapted muzzle and foresight so the rifle could fit a No.4 bayonet (Matthew Moss)

Remington made a number of external and internal changes to approximate the British No.4. They fitted a front sight post with sight protectors which was moved further back from the muzzle to enable the rifle to mount a Rifle No.4 spike bayonet. As such the upper barrel band does not have a bayonet lug.

Many of these parts are still in-the-white, unfinished, including the barrel, barrel bands, floor plate, front sight assembly, rear sight assembly and the bolt itself. The bolt does, however, have a parkerized cocking piece.

DSC_0524wm
The rifle’s bolt (Matthew Moss)

The hybrid also moves the rear sight back onto the receiver, which necessitates a longer piece of wooden furniture covering where the M1903’s ladder sight would normally be. The style of rear sight was also changed to a two-position flip sight with apertures for 300 and 600 yards mimicking those seen on the No.4 Mk2.

DSC_0541wm
A close up of the rifle’s bolt, cocking piece (which wasn’t properly inserted) and rear sight (Matthew Moss)

 

They also redesigned the charger guide to support the Lee-Enfield-type chargers rather than the M1903 stripper clips. The bolt was adapted to work with Britain’s rimmed .303 round, with the extractor modified for the British cartridges wider, thicker rim.

DSC_0527wm (1)
A close up of the bolt head (Matthew Moss)

The rifle did not have the Lee-Enfield’s detatchable box-magazine, instead retaining the M1903’s 5-round internal magazine. The magazine follower does not appear to have been altered either. Markings on the rifle are minimal and include a ‘7’ on the front sight post, a ‘B2’ on the bolt handle and a ‘2’ stamped on the magazine follower. No roll marks or serial numbers appear to be present.

DSC_0533wm
The faux Lee-Enfield stock with spliced in semi-pistol grip (Matthew Moss)

The rifle’s stock has also been adapted, so instead of a straight wristed-stock a piece of wood has been spliced in to create a Lee-Enfield style contour, forming a semi-pistol grip. The stock is marked with the inspector marks ‘WJS’, which indicate the stock was originally inspected by W.J. Strong and accepted between 1918 and 1921, as well as a pair of later Springfield Armory inspection cartouches: ‘SPG’ – the initials of Stanley P. Gibbs, who was an inspector at Springfield Armory between 1936-1942 and ‘GHS’ – the initials of Brigadier General Gilbert H. Stewart (GHS), Springfield’s commander in the late 1930s- early 1940s. This would suggest that the stock was refurbished at Springfield Armory before being transferred to Remington where it was subsequently adapted.

DSC_0531wm
A detail shot of the stock’s Ordnance stampings (Matthew Moss)

In August 1941, the US began its re-armament programme and in September the British contract with Remington was cancelled. At the same time production in Canada and at Savage’s J. Stevens Arms division in the US had gotten underway and it was decided that the adapted hybrid .303 M1903s developed at Remington was no longer needed. The hybrid contract was formally cancelled in December 1941, and additional .30-06 M1903s and M1917s were taken under the Lend-Lease Agreement to fulfil the needs of the Home Guard. Savage believed that they could significantly increase the number of rifles they could build per day, they managed to enter full production by the end of 1941 and by 1944 had produced well over 1 million No.4s.

1903A3

Remington went on to produce M1903s for the US military, overcoming issues with the original engineering drawings and the tooling dimensions to eventual produce 365,000 M1903s by mid-1943, before switching to production of the M1903A3 pattern and producing 707,629 rifles. In total Remington produced 1,084,079 M1903-pattern rifles during World War Two.

The Remington .303 M1903 hybrids are perhaps the rarest M1903 variant, with only a handful built. They would likely have been perfectly serviceable rifles and helped plug the desperate gap in Britain’s arsenal. Rapidly moving events ensured that these rifles became a footnote in both the Lee-Enfield and Springfield 1903’s histories.

Special thanks to both Remington and the Cody Firearms Museum for allowing us to take a look at this extremely rare rifle.


If you enjoyed the video and this article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters. You can also support us via one-time donations here.


Bibliography:

‘Production of Military Rifles by Remington Arms Company in Ilion, New York During World War II’, American Society of Arms Collectors Bulletin 92:14-24, R. Marcot

The Lee-Enfield Story, I. Skennerton, (1993)

The M1903 Springfield Rifle, L. Thompson, (2013)

‘The 1903 Springfield’, HBSA UK, (source)

The Model 1903 Springfield Rife, J. Poyer, (2013)

 

 

Live Fire: Remington M1917

This week’s episode is a short video of my first trip to the range with the Remington M1917. I basically wanted to get an overall feel for the rifle and see how the zero was. It was a beautiful day, and shooting the M1917 was a lot of fun.

I did take along my proper video camera but in a profoundly rookie move, I forgot to check it had a memory card in it. So had to improvise and use my phone, the results aren’t too bad!

The only range available that afternoon for zeroing was a 100 yard range. The first increment on the M1917’s ladder sight is 200 yards, so I set my aperture a little lower and put 8 rounds of 123gr SAKO .30-06 through the rifle, just to see where point impact was.

IMG_20190420_163848.jpg
A view down range from my firing point (Matthew Moss)

The results were better than I expected. With a six-oclock hold on the 7 ring I got a spread of about 7 inches. This was entirely due to me get used to the rifle and forgetting to bring along a rest. I was just pleased to see rounds on paper. My groups tightened up as the afternoon went on and I’m definitely looking forward to getting to the range with the M1917 again – hopefully with a memory card!

We’ll take an in-depth look at this rifle in the future, and we’ll hopefully have videos on its British predecessors too. In the meantime, bonus video here.

If you enjoyed the video and this article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great new perks available for Patreon Supporters.

John Browning’s Semi-Automatic .22

The .22 Semi-Automatic was John Browning’s third .22 calibre rifle to enter production following the extremely popular pump-action Winchester Model 1890 and the beautifully simple Winchester Model 1900 single shot bolt action rifle. Since its first appearance 100 years ago the .22 Semi-Automatic has been sold by three manufacturers; Remington, FN Herstal and Browning themselves.

Browning FN 22-SA
Right-side view of a FN .22 Semi-Automatic (Matthew Moss)

The .22 Semi-Automatic (SA22/.22 SA) is radically different from Browning’s earlier .22, whereas the Model 1900 had been simple and inexpensive the .22 SA is a masterclass in balance, ergonomics and operation. It feeds from a tube magazine located in the rifle’s butt and is blowback operated.

Browning's Patent for his .22 SA
One of the patent drawings for Browning’s .22 SA (US Patent Office)

The most interesting aspect of the SA .22’s action is that the bolt is at the base of the receiver with the cocking handle protruding downwards.  This makes the rifle truly ambidextrous as the spent cartridge casings are ejected straight down rather than up or to the right of the receiver as in most contemporary rifles.

Browning with Model 24
John Browning poses with what appears to be a Remington Model 24 (source)

The rifle is one of the most balanced of Browning’s designs and it can be balanced on a single finger placed just in front of the trigger guard behind the bolt handle.  Ergonomically the rifle is extremely pointable with an easily acquirable sight picture.  Another interesting feature is the rifle’s takedown mechanism.  Once the bolt is retracted a small catch in the base of the forestock can be pushed forward allowing the rifle’s barrel to be unscrewed from the receiver.  This makes the rifle extremely handy and easily portable weighing just 4.75 lbs or 2.15kg.

DSC_0539
Browning’s .22 semi-automatic disassembled (Matthew Moss)

Browning originally designed the rifle in 1912 with the patents being filed in March 1913 and granted in January 1914. At which time the production rights were immediately taken up by Browning’s European partners FN Herstal of Belgium who sold the rifle throughout Europe. Production was interrupted by the outbreak of World War One and the subsequent German occupation of Belgium. However, production began again in 1919 and continued until it was again interrupted by World War Two. Initial FN models had a small loading port located on the wrist of the stock in contrast to later models which located the loading port on the right side of the butt-stock.

Remington Model 24
Remington Model 24 (Rock Island Auctions)

Production rights in the US were taken up by Remington who began production of what they designated the Model 24 in 1922, four years before Browning’s death. The Model 24 initially was only chambered in .22 Short but was modified to chamber .22LR as well. Up until this point the T.C. Johnson-designed Winchester Model 1903 had dominated the .22 semi-automatic market.

The Model 24 remained in production until 1935 when it was replaced by a the Model 241 ‘Speedmaster’ which built on the original design but introduced a longer 23.5-inch barrel and was heavier, weighing 6 lbs or 2.7kg. Developed by Crawford C. Loomis, the Model 241, had a tilting cartridge guide and a slightly different take down system – moving the take-down catch from the bottom to the left side of the receiver.

Remington Model 241 Speedmaster
Remington’s slightly larger and improved Model 241 (Rock Island Auctions)

Around 100,000 Model 241s were made before Remington ended production in 1949 and sales of the rifle ended in 1951. At which point the Browning Firearms company moved to reintroduce the rifle in the US, marketing it as the Browning .22 Semi-Automatic in 1956. Initially the rifles were produced by FN in Belgium however, all Browning production shifted to Japan in 1976. China’s Norinco have also produced the JW-20/ATD22, a direct copy of the SA .22.

John Browning’s .22 Semi-Automatic has been in almost continuous production for 100 years, another fine example of Browning’s enduring legacy of timeless firearms designs.

If you enjoyed the video and this article please consider supporting our work here.


Specifications:

Length: ~36 inches (91 cm)
Weight: ~4.75 lbs (2.15 kg)
Action: Blowback
Calibre: .22 Short & .22LR
Feed: 11-round tube magazine


Bibliography:

‘Firearm‘, J.M. Browning, US Patent #1083384, 06/01/14, (source)

The History of Browning Firearms, D. Miller, (2014)

John Browning: American Gunmaker, J. Browning & C. Gentry (1987)

‘Remington Model 241 Autoloading Rifles’, Remington Society Journal, (2) 2010, J. Gyde & R. Marcot (source)