US troops issued with .303s in WW1

Aparantly in WW1 three US divisions were issued with SMLEs. Can anyone provide validation for this?

Yes the 30th. Inf. Div did,saw photos of the Div in WW1 w/British Rifles while a member of “I” Co. 3rd.Bn. 119 Inf. Regt, 30th ID. while in High School.
Pg 62 “The THIRTIETH DIVISION IN THE GREAT WAR” tells of British Rifles being issued to the Div. also Helments and “wrap around leggins”.

Charles.J.Wells (Jack)
Sgm.A. ret.

The US M1917 Rifle was often referred to as the “American Enfield” and/or the “British Rifle”. I’m not saying that’s what was issued to those Infantry Divisions - I’m just saying.


The 30th was issued SMLE’s,if I remember correctly (after almost 60 yrs),a couple of the former WW1 mermbers “lost theirs”,and found them in their “Barracks Bags” when they got home,or so they told me at a reunion.
I should have added in my inital post the 30th was a National Guard unit composen of NC,SC,& Tenn. troops,and was still composed of NC,SC,Tenn troops when I left the unit in mid 1956 to go Airborne & SF.

IN the “training Period” ( 1917-early 1918,) US divisions were attached to either French or British Divisions, for “training” in the techniques of Trench Warfare, etc. The Units, for ease of Supply, were equipped by their Hosts…the Brits issued SMLEs and Lewis Guns, the French Issued Berthiers and CSRGs (“Sho-Sho’s”).
Some units were "adopted " by the French…for “Racial reasons”…all the US Negro Units in France were attached to French Colonial Units, ( Senegalese etc). for the duration of the war. The French, of course, had no problems with “fraternisation” by Coloured Troops etc, not having any “Racial Bias” as was prevalent in both the US Army and the General US Political scene…Remember Pershing (“Black Jack”) got his nickname for commanding the Negro 9th Cav Regt. ( Buffalo Soldiers), which he joined soon after graduating from West Point as a Lt.
The French considered their Black Colonial levies on a par, Combat-wise, with their Metropolitan Troops, and France had a long History of having High-ranking officers born of Mixed Race.

IN the First Big advance in 1918, US units were attached to Australian Divisional Units under the Command of Aussie General John Monash, and were the only (US) units to have successes in that action. ( a combined Infantry, Tank and Artillery Action)

As US supplies, and Independant action by US Units developed in 1918, Armament reverted to Springfield and M17 Rifles, but the Lewis Guns were withdrawn, and the CSRG issued more widely, as was the M1914 Hotchkiss MG; Browning Guns (1917 and 1918) only came into issue very late in the War.

It is unknown whether some US units held onto their SMLEs until War’s End…the Negro Units certainly held onto their Berthiers till the Armistice.

Doc AV

I believe some US troops in the immediate post-armistice period were issued Moisin-Nagants for the anti-communist operations in Russia, and also some US support personnel (railway) were issued Krags during the war.

When the war was declared on April 6, 1917 the U.S. inventory included 353 Lewis machine guns of .303 British caliber (the contract with Savage for .30 caliber Lewis was placed on April 12 and delivered late in 1917). By the end of the war a total of 1050 machine guns in .303 caliber were issued.

Those were likely the same Lewis guns purchased from Savage for Pershing’s 1916 punitive expedition into Mexico. Savage was already working on a British order for Lewis guns, in .303 caliber of course, and somehow the US Army got some diverted to Pershing for the expedition. The M1909 Benet-Mercier wasn’t working out too well for the army, so the Lewis was about the only other game in town in the way of an available man-portable MG, despite the increased logistic problems associated with the use of a non-standard (at least for the US Army) round. I don’t know, but I imagine the army also diverted some.303 ammunition to feed these Lewis guns from British ammunition contracts with US manufacturers. Does anyone know about this?

There is a brief and interesting mention of .303 British ammunition in U.S. service at History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Volume I p. 250-251; to summarize:

  • 28,419,000 rounds of Mark VII purchased by March 1, 1919 (with some indication to Mark VI also).
  • During 1916 FA converted Mk VII ammunition to dummies for training with the Lewis machine gun.

Vince, there are references to many U.S. divisions equipped with SMLE rifles but here you have a picture:

[quote=“RayMeketa”]The US M1917 Rifle was often referred to as the “American Enfield” and/or the “British Rifle”. I’m not saying that’s what was issued to those Infantry Divisions - I’m just saying.

I know about that one. That was a British design that we had made under contract in the US in 1914 and is called the P14 over here. It was in .303
After the contract was completed they continued producing it in .30-06 for internal use as the M17.

The U.S. also purchased a number of Ross Mark II rifles from Canada for training during WWI. I suspect that these rifles were sighted for Mark VI ammunition which is why the reference to those rounds in WHS.


The 20000 Ross MkII3* rifles purchased by the US were sighted for the .303" MkVI cartridge.

Thanks for the confirmation. I assumed that was the case as the Mark II*** had been withdrawn from Canadian service before the introduction of the Mark VII.


I think also there were some US-made Moisin-Nagants used by the US Army for stateside training during WWI after the Czar was overthrown and the MNs (and US-made ammunition for them) not yet delivered obviously had no other place to go.

An interesting sidelight about the MN I found out about a few months ago. They are now being used by some shipboard anti-piracy private security teams, as they are effective, cheap, and therefore can be thrown over the side if a ship goes into a port where weapons aboard are prohibited.

So can we add .303 to the list of “official” US military calibres? Or would that be stretching it a bit? For those people who like to compile such lists.

At least to me, “Official” would suggest some formal adoption and use approval by the military, along with a specific product identification designation (Model 1906, M2 AP, etc.). If not both, it wouldn’t actually be “Official” even though it could have been widely used.