POTD: A Short Service – The Springfield 1903 Air Service


POTD: A Short Service – The Springfield 1903 Air Service

Welcome to today’s Photo of the Day! Here we have a precursor to the mounted machine gun in World War One airplanes. This is the Springfield 1903 “Air Service” rifle. These modified Springfield 1903 rifles were utilized for a short stint in the ariel dogfights of World War One. These are the rarest variants of the Springfield 1903 rifle and some of the most sought-after. They had a fixed 25-round magazine and the purpose was for pilots and or copilots to shoot at enemy planes, troops, and observation balloons. The Air Service 1903 was an initial attempt to have an edge, but warfare evolved so very fast in World War One and these were quickly done away with.

“The most prominent differences are in the stock and magazine, the former being notably shorter, terminating immediately after the mid barrel band and produced without provision for a sling, the latter swapped out for a fixed 25-round extended magazine. The rear sight has been cut down, changing it from a folding ladder sight to a windage adjustable fixed 100-yard notch sight, and the barrel band is solid, one-piece construction secured with a screw. Multiple theories have been advanced regarding the purpose of these rifles, but the one that most fits the facts is that they were intended to be carried on airplanes as emergency weapons in case the craft was downed; the lack of sling was consistent with an arm not intended to be carried on the shoulder for long distances, the large pre-loaded magazine eliminates the need for the crew to wear cartridge belts, and the overall weight reduction would keep the rifle from being an undue burden on the aircraft. Reports indicate that only 910 of the Air Service 1903 were manufactured and shipped to France, with indicators that a number of them saw evaluation as a possible infantry weapon.”

Air Service

Lot 2470: U.S. Springfield Air Service 1903 Rifle – Documented U.S. Springfield Model 1903 “Air Service” Style Bolt Action Rifle as Featured in Multiple Bruce Canfield Publications. (n.d.). Rock Island Auction Company. photograph. Retrieved from https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/72/2470/us-springfield-air-service-1903-rifle.

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