Theodore Roosevelt’s Private M1903 Rifle

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Photograph showing Theodore Roosevelt smiling from an automobile.

President Theodore Roosevelt was a statesman and soldier, but also a conservationist and noted sportsman with an interest in fine firearms. (Photo: Library of Congress)

As President and well-liked war hero, Theodore Roosevelt was a single of the initially in line to get a single of the Army’s new M1903 rifles– but wanted it his way. With that, in honor of the 26th President’s 161st birthday this weekend, we take a appear at a single of his most intriguing firearms.

Roosevelt, who earned probably a higher legend as a hunter and conservationist than any other American, had by 1903 led the New York City Police Division, been governor of the Empire State, was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and had famously helped recruit and lead a regiment of volunteers up San Juan (Kettle) Hill in the Spanish-American War. At age 42, he became the youngest president in history– a record that remains currently, right after currently filling the position of vice-president.

soldier and hunter

Roosevelt had a life-extended adore of hunting– shown above with a Winchester lever gun– and had resigned his post as assistant secretary of the Navy in 1898 to serve as a colonel in the Army throughout the Spanish American War, top a volunteer cavalry regiment of cowboys and adventurers dubbed “The Rough Riders” into combat in Cuba. (Photographs: Library of Congress)

As he had initially-hand knowledge with the Army’s Krag .30-40 rifles in combat, and later became involved straight in the improvement of the new M1903 then getting developed at Springfield Armory, it was organic that he moved to obtain a single of these fine new bolt-action rifles for his personal use in the field.

U.S. Rifle Caliber .22, M1903 with Rod Bayonet Springfield 1903

The M1903 Springfield in what ultimately became .30-06 replaced a series of earlier Krag rifles produced in the final days of the 19th Century which had confirmed unpopular in the Spanish-American War. The M1903 went on to serve in each Planet Wars with U.S. and allied forces. In the above photo, of the initially concern version with the original bayonet, note the straight stock with no pistol grip. TR was no fan of the rod bayonet, writing the Secretary of War in 1905 to have it replaced, calling it “about as poor an invention as I ever saw.” (Photo: Springfield Armory)

In November 1903, TR reached out to Brig. Gen. William Crozier, then the Army’s Chief of Ordnance, like his private rifle, for reference. The topic: acquiring a sporterized M1903 developed to spec.

TR_Spfld-Armory_Rifle-Order_003

“I have sent you more than my Winchester rifle, so that you could have a single of the new Springfield carbines produced like it for me. I want the sights reproduced specifically. If needed they can be obtained from the Winchester Firm. I want the butt just like my present butt, only a single inch shorter.” (Photo: National Archives)

The request and sample Winchester quickly located their way to Springfield Armory exactly where Col. Frank Phipps, then head of the historic facility, which dated to 1791, ran point on the project.

The trigger pull was set at four.five-pounds. The major surface of the M1903 for the President was roughed to stop glare in the field. A Lyman adjustable sight was fitted with a series of 3 distinctive wedges sent back to the White Residence for critique.

The stock was crafted from the Winchester design and style “of a pretty peculiar shape” to what would be described currently as a Monte Carlo-style sporter, total with checkering on the forearm and pistol grip and a cheek rest on the left side of the buttstock. Phipps wrote that “it expected a good deal of care to manufacture.” A particular industrial buttplate, with a price of 40-cents, was attached.

Lacking a bayonet lug or attachment point, the rifle had a brief blade front sight rather than the M1903’s taller a single, and, as the forearm was reduce down to expose the barrel, only a single band. The rifle was tested by a single Mr. RT Hare, an specialist marksman at the Armory with years of knowledge, and located to be correct.

The custom M1903, with the bill, was sent back to the White Residence on February 1, 1904, with Phipps commenting to Crozier that, “I hope he will like the gun, and that it will prove satisfactory.”

Apparently, the rifle was a hit as it was promptly paid for by Roosevelt out of his pocket with verify No. 1282, dated February five, 1904, for $42.13. This quantity, adjusted for inflation, is about $1,200 in today’s dollars. Of note, the normal Springfield M1903 of the day price the government $11 apiece, which currently is about $300– a bargain!

Crozier explained to the President, in a letter at present in the Dickinson State University’s Theodore Roosevelt Center, that Phipps, “took good interest in the gun and insured by his care and watchfulness that the material and workmanship should really be the very best.”

He was spotted with the rifle on at least two massive game hunts, in 1905 in Colorado for bear, and a 1910 African safari.

"On the great bear hunt President Roosevelt after leaving Newcastle for the mountains, 1905 Colorado." Note the Colonel, who was president at the time, is carrying the modified M1903 and is using a Spanish-American War-era military-issue Mills Cartridge belt to hold reloads. (Photo: Library of Congress)

“On the good bear hunt President Roosevelt right after leaving Newcastle for the mountains, 1905 Colorado.” Note the Colonel, who was president at the time, is carrying the modified M1903 and is applying a Spanish-American War-era military-concern Mills Cartridge belt to hold reloads. If a existing U.S. president went on a bear hunt with a “military rifle” today’s press would go nuts! (Photo: Library of Congress)

Roosevelt on horseback, holding what looks to be the modified M1903 rifle. The man standing next to him is possibly Kermit Roosevelt. The image was from a 1910 African safari. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Roosevelt on horseback, holding what appears to be the modified M1903 rifle. The man standing subsequent to him is possibly his son, Kermit Roosevelt. The image was from a 1910 African safari. (Photo: Library of Congress)

The rifle currently is preserved in the collection of the Sagamore Hill National Historic Internet site, who graciously supplied Guns.com with pictures of it in its existing state.

Note that the rifle, SN 0009, and has a rear adjustable sight rather than the military ladder sight that was standard GI-issue. (Photo: Sagamore Hill National Historic Site) https://www.nps.gov/sahi/index.htm

Note that the rifle, SN 0009, and has a rear adjustable sight rather than the military ladder sight that was normal GI-concern. (Photo: Sagamore Hill National Historic Internet site)

Also, note the extensive oil-finished walnut and hand checkering. (Photo: Sagamore Hill National Historic Site) https://www.nps.gov/sahi/index.htm

Also, note the in depth oil-completed walnut and hand checkering. (Photo: Sagamore Hill National Historic Internet site)

As for the far more normal GI-concern Springfield M1903, it remained in standard U.S. military service by way of Planet War II and nonetheless endures in modest numbers as a line thrower as effectively as in ceremonial and drill use.  Following all, it was great sufficient for the Bull Moose.

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