The M1917 Carbine

Chinese Rifle M1917 Crest

I know a lot of you are thinking “No such thing” but it’s true.  There is a carbine form of the U.S. Rifle Model 1917.  For those of you unfamiliar with this dog-leg, Mauser-derived, cock-on-close bolt action of British design and American manufacture, a WWI staple that exceeded production of the Springfield M1903, and a heavy but accurate piece of machinery; I’m sorry but you’re going to have to do some reading.  For the rest, let’s talk about China.

Chinese Rifle M1917 Full 2k

During WWII, China had sent an expeditionary force to aid in the defense of Burma against the Japanese.  This measure failed and Burma fell.  Chinese troops retreated, with many running to British India.  These displaced troops were gathered into a group known as X-force and reorganized under Sun Li-Jen and US General Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell.  They were retrained and re-equipped by the U.S. military and used as a spearhead for retaking the Ledo Road.

One of the goodies we gave X-force was the Model 1917.  Well once the guns hit the ground we realized there was a problem.  These rifles had been too big for our boys in WWI, let alone the smaller stature Chinese soldiers of the 1940’s.  So someone, we aren’t sure who, cut them a break and cut down the rifle.  The overall length of a standard M1917 was 46 inches and by shortening both the barrel and stock, these handy “carbines” come in at only 41.

M1917 and Carbine comparison 2k

In order to accomplish this the front sight, rear sling, and butt plate all had to be moved and refitted, with wood splices where necessary.  The parts were then serialized (which is not normal for the 1917) to match.  These guns were reissued and likely found more favorable as they seem to have turned up in both the Chinese Civil War and the Korean War, following their intended use in WWII against the Japanese.

Examples are exceedingly rare so make sure you keep a tape measure handy and a sharp eye out at the next gun show!



Othais

Othais is practically useless with modern firearms. That’s OK though, because he specializes in Curio and Relic military pieces and has agreed to decorate The Firearm Blog with a little history. He maintains his own site, C&Rsenal, with the help of his friends and the collector community.


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  • UnrepentantLib

    I’ll be darned. Some time ago I was pondering what could have been done with the WWI leftover stocks of the M1917, which by all accounts was a good rifle except for the weight and length, and wondered why no one thought to trim them down a bit. I believe the Philippine Army was equipped with M1917’s. This would seem to have been a logical modification for them, if anyone had thought of it in the ’20’s or ’30’s.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    There seems to be a close parallel here ( and for the same reasons of producing a weapon based on a proven action that was lighter, more compact and easier to handle than the parent weapon while retaining the latter’s positive traits ) to the relationship between the Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifle and its M44 carbine progeny, to cite but one example.

    Glad you brought up this interesting variation, Othais — many thanks!

  • gunsandrockets

    Cool!