American Rifleman - April 2011 - 48

TECHNICAL

U.S. M1903 Springfield Magazine Cut-Off

Q

Save

$67

I am aware that the Model 1903
Springfield has a "magazine
cut-off," but I am puzzled by its
intended purpose. I thought the
whole point of a magazine-fed
repeating rifle was to increase the
firepower of the soldier?

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A

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$90

Federal Nato 5.56 55gr
XM193 FMJ 1000/box

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Photos by author

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When the bolt-action repeating rifle was being developed in
the mid-1870s by the U.S. military, there was a widespread fear
among many of the "old line" infantry and ordnance officers
that such an invention would encourage the troops to "waste"
ammunition. In order to mollify these concerns, virtually all
of the early U.S. military bolt-action repeaters featured a
"magazine cut-off." With this device engaged, the cartridges
in the magazine were held "in reserve," and the rifle
functioned as a single-shot with each subsequent round
being loaded into the rifle individually. The cut-off was
only to be disengaged (permitting the cartridges in the
magazine to be used) in the event of an "emergency." In
order to promote "fire discipline," elaborate bugle calls
were developed to alert troops when magazine cut-offs
should be disengaged.
Early U.S. bolt-action repeaters with magazine cutoffs included the Hotchkiss, the Remington-Keene, the
Chaffee-Reece and the Krag-Jorgensen.
The feature was retained on the Model 1903 Springfield, which was the last standardized U.S. military
rifle with a cut-off. In the case of the M1903, a lever on
the left side was marked "ON" and "OFF" to denote
whether or not the cut-off was engaged. Initially, the
"ON" side of the lever was brightly polished to make
it easier for superiors to observe if the soldier had
the lever in the proper position. The Model 1917 U.S.
Enfield rifle, used extensively in World War I and
based on the British-designed Pattern 1914 rifle, did
not have a magazine cut-off.
As repeating rifles proved their worth in combat, more emphasis was placed on increasing the
firepower of the individual soldier, and the concept
of a magazine cut-off was eventually seen as anachronistic and unnecessary. In World War I and II, the most
useful feature of the '03's magazine cut-off was that
it kept the magazine follower depressed so the bolt
could be easily manipulated in close-order drills.
-BRUCE N. CANFIELD, FIELD EDITOR

From the thousands of questions and letters on guns, ammunition and their use that American Rifleman receives every year, it publishes the most interesting here. Receiving answers to technical and
historical questions is a privilege reserved to NRA members.

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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

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Questions must be in the form of letters addressed to: Dope Bag, NRA Publications, 11250
Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030-9400; must contain the member's code line from an American Rifleman or American Hunter mailing label or membership card; must be accompanied by a
stamped, self-addressed, legal-size envelope; and must be limited to one specific question per letter.
Non-members may submit a question with a membership application. We cannot answer technical
or historical questions by telephone, e-mail or fax, and we cannot place even an approximate value on guns or other equipment. Please allow eight to 10 weeks for replies.
"Questions & Answers" is compiled by staff and Contributing Editors: Hugh C. Birnbaum, Bruce N.
Canfield, O. Reid Coffield, Charles M. Fagg, David Fischer, Angus Laidlaw, Charles E. Petty, Jon R.
Sundra, John M. Taylor and John Treakle.



American Rifleman - April 2011

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