The Springfield 1903 rifle was the rifle issued to United States troops during the First World War. It saw service throughout most of the first half of the twentieth century, being replaced during World War II with the M1 Garand.
It was developed due to observations of actions during the Spanish American War, in which Spanish troops were armed with German Mauser 98 rifles, which were deemed far superior to the U.S. issue of the time, in large part due to their durable internal magazines. Work began on creating a rifle comparable to the Mauser, and a prototype was produced in 1900, going into production in 1903, thus gaining its nomenclature.
By January 1905 over 80,000 of these rifles had been produced at the federally-owned Springfield Armory. However, President Theodore Roosevelt objected to the design of the bayonet used (a rod-type) as being too flimsy for combat. All the rifles to that point consequently had to be re-tooled for a knife-type bayonet, called the Model 1905.
The retooling gave an opportunity to incorporate improvements discovered during experimentation in the interim, most notably the use of German-style pointed ammunition. The American version of these rounds which were used in the Springfield were designated "Cartridge, Ball, Caliber .30, Model of 1906"; this is the famous .30-'06 ammunition used in countless small arms to the present day. The rifle's sights were redone to compensate for the speed and trajectory of the new cartridges.
Additionally, tests revealed that the design was effective with a short, "cavalry-style" barrel of 24 inches in length, so the decision was made to issue shorter rifles to the infantry as well, an innovation during a time when long rifles for infantry were the norm.
As a whole, these changes led to a vastly efficient and deadly shoulder arm. Some dubbed it the "weapon of the silent death," due to the fact that a person could be struck by its bullet before ever hearing the weapon's report.
By the time of U.S. entry into World War I, 843,239 of these rifles had been produced; however the demands of the war spurred the production of an additional 265,620. Similarities to the German Mauser were so numerous that the U.S. government was compelled, until World War I, to pay royalties to Mauserwerke. A settlement was reached after the armistice.
World War II saw another jump in production of the Springfield, with manufacturing taking place at the Rock Island Arsenal and by private manufacturer Remington Arms, in addition to the Springfield Armory. The rifle was used by the U.S. military only in the opening years of the war, however, before being phased out in favor of the Garand. Due to its balance, it is still popular with various military drill teams and color guards.