While I was there I saw the 1903A3 Remington Springfield rifle she traded towards the purchase of the mystery gun. (Tam showed me the mystery gun, but I won’t spoil her surprise. LATER: Mystery revealed.) Nice rifle. If Tam had come to me first I probably would have bought it.
So here’s the trivia challenge. The 1903 Springfield and its later variants shoot the .30-06 cartridge. The .30-06 (“thirty aught six”) is the U.S. .30 caliber cartridge of 1906. The 1903 was adopted in (wait for it) 1903. How is it that a rifle adopted in aught three fires a round from aught six? It’s like a freakin’ Harry Turtledove novel or something.
No Googling allowed, and don’t answer if your name is Tam (who knew the answer on the spot).
Update: The Answer and Lots of Springfield Trivia
Trebor nailed it in comments. The .30-06 was a slight re-formulation of the original .30-03 cartridge. I thought the only change was the bullet shape, but the case is actually 0.07 inches shorter. A rifle chambered in .30-03 could fire the .30-06, with some loss of accuracy, but a rifle in .30-06 can’t fire the .30-03 because the case is too long to fit in the chamber. The .30-03 powder burned extremely hot and bores were eroding quickly, so the powder was re-formulated for the .30-06 to burn cooler.
Almost all of the original 75,000 1903s were recalled and re-chambered for .30-06. It’s estimated that less than a hundred 1903s survive in the original .30-03 chambering.
The most significant change between the two cartridges was the bullet weight and shape. The .30-03 had a 220 grain, round-nosed bullet with poor aerodynamics and a curved trajectory. The .30-06 adopted a 150 grain, pointy-nosed bullet of the “spitzer” style that had become popular in European military rifles because of its flatter trajectory and greater range. Here’s a comparison of the .30-03 (top) and the .30-06 (bottom):
Reload Bench has an excellent history of the .30.06, including later ammo variants the M1 and M2.
Wikipedia entry for the .30-03 notes that Teddy Roosevelt had a hand in the changes to the original 1903 Springfield. He didn’t care for the sights, which were subsequently improved to an astonishing degree, yielding one of the world’s best milsurp target rifles. Of the bayonet, Roosevelt wrote to the Secretary of War, “I must say that I think that ramrod bayonet is about as poor an invention as I ever saw.” The ramrod bayonet was discontinued and replaced with a knife bayonet.
M1903.com is a site dedicated to the rifle. Their article Ten Oddball ’03 Springfield Variations has more interesting history, including pictures of the rod bayonet.
One variation they missed is the Pederson Device, which converted a 1903 into a 40 round, semi-automatic rifle firing a pistol-sized .30 caliber cartridge to help troops cross the No Man’s Land of WW1 battelfields. The Pedersen Device could be removed and the rifle restored for use with the .30-06 cartridge. They were officially referred to as pistols for counter-intelligence purposes. Some 65,000 Pedersen Devices were manufactured for U.S. troops in France. The war ended before they could be used. They were subsequently scrapped, and only a few dozen remain in existence.
John Pedersen later designed a semi-automatic rifle chambered in a cartridge of his own design, the .276 Pedersen. John Garand designed his rifle to use that very cartridge, but the military wanted a .30-06 rifle. Garand redesigned his gun for the .30-06, resulting in the U.S. M1 Garand rifle, the first semi-automatic battle rifle adopted by a major military power. Pedersen also designed the Remington 1951 pistol and co-designed the Remington Model 17 pump action shotgun with John Moses Browning. Once Remington’s patents expired Ithaca copied the Model 17 and sold it as the Ithaca 37.