Q: Why is the ’03 Springfield accorded such fame when two-thirds of World War I U.S. infantry carried M1917 Enfields? I’ve owned both and believe the Enfield is a better rifle.
A: When the United States entered World War I, stocks of Model 1903 Springfield’s were low. The national armories were doing their best to move production along, but it was obvious that somehow other rifles would have to be obtained to fill in the shortfall.
As Remington and Winchester were already making .303 versions (Pattern 14) of the experimental .276-cal. Pattern 13 rifle for the British, it was a simple matter to modify the tooling to produce .30-’06 Sprg. variants (Model 1917) for American use. Eventually, many more M1917s saw use overseas than did 1903s. Both were extremely fine rifles and highly regarded by those who carried them.
Whether one likes the ’03 over the ’17 is pretty much a matter of taste. Among other things, sights were different and the guns unquestionably had a different “feel.” For example, the son of World War I Medal Of Honor recipient Alvin York told me his father was issued a 1917 but didn’t like the sights and unofficially swapped it out for a 1903.