Educational Zone #71 – Great Firearms – The M-1917 Enfield

The M-1917 Enfield, also called The American Enfield, is a great firearm.

In 1914, the British wanted more battle rifles in a very bad way. They had designed a fine rifle called the Pattern 1914 Enfield, caliber .303 British, but needed foreign contractors to build it for them.

They contracted with American companies, mostly Winchester, Remington, and Eddystone to produce these rifles for them. More than one and one-quarter million were eventually produced for them.

However in 1917, the United States found itself going to war and found a need for more rifles. A decision was made to convert the design of the Pattern 1914 from .303 British, to .30-06 Springfield and make these fine old rifles for US troops.

Originally intended to supplement the 1903 Springfield, the M-1917 eventually surpassed the Springfield in numbers. By 1918, over 75% of the American Expeditionary Force was armed with the 1917 Enfield.

These old rifles were mostly stored after WWI, and then either re-issued to some American troops in WWII, or used as secondary rifles until M-1 Garands were available.

Many of these rifles would be arsenal re-worked before being issued.

No discussion of the 1917 Enfield would be complete without mentioning that Sgt. Alvin York’s Regiment was issued Enfields when they got to Europe.

There is still some controversy about whether Sgt. York used an M-1917 Enfield, or his personal favorite, the 1903 Springfield when he won the Medal of Honor.

I have a copy of his autobiography, and he simply does not say which rifle he was using. We may never know for sure. But both of those rifles were great battle rifles.

I have a fine example of an M-1917 Enfield. Here it is.

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When talking about the M-1917, the word “robust” seems to be well-suited.

Look at the front sight of the rifle.

Look at the front sight of the rifle.

Those wings could be used to drive nails without any damage.

The rear sight assembly is just as tough.

The rear sight assembly is just as tough.

The rear sights are very well made and easy to use.

The rear sights are very well made and easy to use.

The sight has an adjustable ladder for long range shooting, with (optimistic) markings up to 1,500 yards.

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Mine is marked, “U. S. Model of 1917, Eddystone”, showing that it was made at that factory.

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The safety is a large and easy to work lever on the right side of the action.

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The action, being a British design, half cocks on opening, and then full cocks on closing.

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This requires some pressure to close the bolt, and you can then see the cocking piece protruding from the bolt.

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I am especially happy to have this sample because of this cartouche.

Those letters, “OGEK”, enclosed in a rectangular box, show that this rifle was inspected by Elmer Keith at Ogden Arsenal.

Elmer Keith was a great old gun writer, outdoorsman, and shooter. He was the one that basically talked Smith and Wesson into producing the .44 Magnum handgun, and in talking Remington to produce .44 Magnum ammunition.

He was a real character. It thrills me to know that he once held and inspected my rifle.

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Another cartouche is a “P” in a circle, under the grip area, which stands for “Passed”.

The only sad thing about my rifle is that it was once shot with corrosive ammunition and put away without proper cleaning.

The bore is rough.

But with handloads using bullets with long riding surfaces, I can get reasonable accuracy.

I explain more about it here: Solving Accuracy Problems With Handloading

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Here I am shooting it this morning.

Here I am shooting it this morning.

Here's a typical 7 shot group at 50 yards.

Here’s a typical 7 shot group at 50 yards.

Not too bad for an old rifle with a worn bore.

Here I am shooting it standing.

Here I am shooting it standing.

The recoil is not too bad, especially with the weight of this rifle, a little over 9 pounds.

Here's Tman rolling a jug around on the dirt berm.

Here’s Tman rolling a jug around on the dirt berm.

The 1917 Enfield is a great, strong old gun.

So strong, in fact, that many were used after the wars as building blocks to build magnum caliber sporting rifles.

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Conclusions:

But if you can find an original, they are a great addition to any collection.

4 Comments on Educational Zone #71 – Great Firearms – The M-1917 Enfield

  1. Richard Bunn // July 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm // Reply

    Great rundown on the M1917. I have one my dad converted to 300 Win Mag. The barrel was a victim of early corrosion and my dad only had the chamber reamed. I replaced the barrel with a criterion barrel, added a new bolt and while it’s still a thumbhole sporter, it shoots realy well and the trigger is far better on the M1917 then my 1903A3. Thanks for your work.

  2. I have a old 1917 eddystone in bad shape someone put a new barrel on 22 inches so shes a kicker and has a tight group at a hundren yards better than the picture you show. the sad part is it tore my shoulder off with the medal butt plate and I had to run to the gun shop for a rubber butt. theres no open signs so i mounted a old chief scope on. is she a keeper well for the hundren dollars I paid. iam going to keep it. Excellent stand by. 30.06 forever.

  3. I own a low numbered 1917 (5 digits) with a 5 groove bright shiny bore. I’ve fired two shots out of it which landed an inch apart in the center of the bull at 100 yards. I haven’t fired it since that time. I normally shoot .22’s out of target rifles weighing up to 18 pounds and thus I’m not used to recoil. To me that fine old Remington rifle is as accurate as one could hope for but compared to my .22’s, it kicks like a mule. Although I appreciate the wonderful accuracy of the 1917 I’m working with an 84 year old shoulder which enjoys less strain applied to it especially after rotator cuff surgery. Fortunately I still have 20/20 vision and can enjoy my other classic .22 rifles.

  4. Sgt. Alvin York would have used the rifle and the long knife on the end of the barrel. heard he even pick up a pistol too and stuck it in is belt. He was a great shooter. And men follow a person like that.

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