Magazine Fed 1903? Indeed – The Air Service M1903

The U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Modle of 1903, commonly called the “Springfield” to this day for its close association with the government arsenal has a long, storied, and well-documented history. The weapon faithfully served through two World Wars and numerous lesser ones and has a reputation for stout service and faithful reliability – a fact not lost on the new Army Air Service.

The 1903 has various modulations – various models for snipers, scouts, and others. The weapon was adapted for as many uses and the military had specialties. One of the most specialized was for pilots, who had extreme space and usability constraints.

While the exact reasons for the “Air Service” 1903 remain a mystery, it can be deduced through the large-capacity magazine (for the time!) of 25 rounds was set up for pilots who would not have easy access to reloads. The magazine was not detachable, the stock and forearm modified, and the sights greatly simplified.

Sorting through old Springfield Armory and Great War records, has painted a compelling picture of the weapon’s origins, its usage (or lack thereof), and perhaps most interestingly – its intended usage.

To read the full story on the Air Service weapons and to piece how they fit into a nation at war and later weapons development, check it out at

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • clampdown

    Scout rifle prototype?

    • tiger

      No meant for airplane shooting, Pre machine guns.

  • iksnilol

    I want to take a hacksaw to the barrel… Just chop it down to right in front of the forestock.

    • Vet for Trump

      Keep it 16+” or it becomes a SBR.

    • jamezb

      Oh yeah! Let’s thread it for a compact can, too!

  • Major Tom

    In the First World War era pilots or more accurately their GIB’s would take potshots at other planes and observation balloons as they passed by each other. At first the weapons were shortened rifles and period pistols, then evolved to early self-loaders like the Mondragon and the Mauser M1916 and then evolved to swivel mounted machine guns like the Lewis gun.

    Mind you this BEFORE the advent of dedicated aircraft weapons.

    • marathag

      French got some Winchester 351SL, with 20 round mags and full auto, for aviation use

      • Major Tom

        And some of those self-loading Winchester 1907’s (I don’t think the full-auto ones though) also found their way into the US Army Air Corps for issuing to recon aircrews.

        Either way, it was a practice that continued until the end of the war.

    • Iggy

      My favourite example and possibly even viable ( if you squint) are the Maser 1916 issued to the Zeppelin corp, there’s something delightfully diselpunk about a dedicated ‘flyer’s rifle’.

  • Vet for Trump

    Since the barrel stayed the same length, I call that “sporterized”, and I would not want one.
    Sorry, but that’s just me.
    FFL03, Curios and Relics.
    That destroys any value to me.

    • Doom

      But it was modified by the military for military purposes, not bubba so he can “shoot them durr mor gud”

  • Anonymoose

    You sure it’s not some bubba’s creation from the 60s or 70s?

    • tiger

      Nope, very real. Saw one in American rifleman like a decade ago. Keep in mind this is like Early WW1 tech. Pre MG mounts for planes.

  • Drang

    In The Thin Red Line James Jones wrote about “guys spot welding BAR magazines to their Springfields”.

  • Matt B

    All M1903 rifles are magazine fed.

    • Major Tom

      The technical term is internal magazine and 1903’s are stripper clip-fed.

  • john huscio

    Love 1903s…….don’t like paying $1000 and up for one though…..

    • iksnilol

      Just get a Mauser (CZ makes some good ones) then, same thing only better made and can be gotten for half the cost of a 1903.

  • “Hey, I’ve got a great idea– pilots have limited space for defensive small arms in their aircraft, so let’s give them a rifle that’s just as long as the infantry’s battle rifle, but with an extra-long mazine added so it’s even bulkier!”

  • Secundius

    Looks like Model 1918 BAR magazine, possibly a 30-round magazine…