One of the more interesting and unusual - and rare - variations of the M1903 Springfield is the version that was “Stripped for Air Service”. Contrary to common belief, these were not used as in-flight aircraft armament before the use of machine guns, or as antiaircraft armament for observation balloon crews. Instead, they were developed by Springfield Armory in early 1918 as a pilot’s survival rifle - armament to be used in case one crash landed in enemy territory.
The modifications made include cutting down the stock and hand guard to reduce weight, adding a fixed 25-round box magazine, elimination of the sling swivels, and simplification of the rear sight to a 100-yard notch. The large fixed magazine was chosen because a pilot would not be carrying extra ammunition in a cartridge belt, as would a normal infantryman. All the ammunition he would have if he needed to use the survival rifle would be what was stored in the rifle itself.
A total of 910 of these modified rifles were made, and 908 of them shipped to France in late June, 1918. They were never put into service though, and 680 were still in a French depot at the end of the war. The remainder may have been distributed to some airfields, but they were never actually used. With the end of the war, the rifles were put into storage in the US along with the mass of other war materiel. In the mid 1920s, much of this stock was scrapped, and the surviving Air Service 1903s were either destroyed or converted to standard infantry pattern rifles. Very few survived this process, making them extremely rare today. This particular one came from the collection of Bruce Canfield.
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