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Old Trooper Gunsmiths LLC


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Under valued firearms in history: the pattern17 (1917) rifle.

Posted on March 20, 2016 at 6:54 AM
There are a few guns and equipment that is truly under appreciated in millitary service. Like the 2.5 ton truck or the 5 button sweater or the C130. But here is a tale of a great rifle that should have been more and was a reliable "stand by" for almost 40 years. 

     The story of the P17 is a convoluted one. The rifle that we are so familiar with was not even designed here. It was originally intended to be the new British service rifle in .270! This was known as the Pattern 13 rifle. And was based on a Mauser design and built to take advantage of the carnage a small, fast moving bullet can make vs. a large slow one.   
     The project was shelved after the great bloodletting that became WW1 came about. To invested in the Short Magazine Lee Enfield and the .303 round to switch over now. There is a quick war to be won. Or so they thought. 
      So the meat grinder of trench warfare drug on climbing countless lives, and unfortunately also claimed countless rifles. The Commonwealth factories were churning out as many SMLE's as possible. Only to loose them to the cruel  mistress of the trenches.So, the board of Ordinance went to the largest industrial base that was not at war: the Americans.  They gave them the design and patterns of the P13 rifle with the desighinndesighn change of a rechamber to the .303 caliber and some simplification of the finished product. So the Pattern 14 rifle was born! They needed rifles as fast as possible. And as many of them as possible. The new rifles went into production Winchester, Remington and Eddystone (a division of Remington). The conversion was a success. The rifles proved to be rugged and more accurate than the old "smelly".  Some were even adapted sor sniping service and were retained all the way into WW2. They were, however not loved by the Bord of Ordinance. They were only. 5 shot vs the Enfeilds 10. The sights were different and the bayonets were not interchangeable. Once the large English contract was up, the commonwealth had cought up with production and simplification of the #1mk3*. So no more rifles were ordered. Fortunately (for the rifles, not for humanity)  under the Wilson administration, who promised to keep us out of war as part of his reelection campaign, drug the country off to war. 

    The 1903 springfeild was our primary service rifle at the outbreak of war. Unfortunately it was a complex machined Mastrerpeice. The rear sight alone was over eight pieces. And it was only made by Springfeild armory and Rock Island armory. And they simply could not make them fast enough. So. The pattern 13/14 plans were dusted off and redesigned to take the American 30/06 round. The rifle was just as rugged and accurate as the British rifle. And due to it being a thinner round was now a 7 (6. In mag, one in chamber) round rifle. But when your ammo is issued in 5 round clips it is a moot point. The p17 or "Enfield" as may called it was not really that wel, liked. It was heavier than the 1903 by almost a pound, and felt chinky and unrefined compared to the grasefull Springfeild. But it was successful enough that (at best estimate) at least 65% of the AEF were equipped with them. 
          After the war the rifles were placed into storage. There was some debate on making the P17 the new American service rifle due to numbers on hand and its distinguished combat record. But the "not designed here" nationalists one out with that argument. So they stayed in storage. Some were sold off as surplus to requirements and many were chopped up ("Bubbaed") into deer rifles. 

    Now comes the Spector of WW2. Again, not having learned our lessons from the First World War, the allies were found short of rifles. Especially after the disaster at Dunkirk the Brits needed rifles. So, the venerable P17 was pulled out of storage. Many were rebuilt, restocked, refinished and rebarreled.  Most rifles sent to the Brits in ww2 will have a red band painted around the rifles stock to denote that it was NOT its .303 caliber cousin! The p17 went to the home guard, some Canada units and eventually the free French and free Belgian forces.  Some were even sent to the Chineese nationalists. Many of them were rebarreled to 8mm Mauser. Some of the luck ones stayed  stateside for training use.  

    However after WW2 the age of the auto loading infantry rifle was well under way. And once again, the p17 was cast off. This time for good. Many found their way to the CMP, to be resold. Many more were surplused out at scrap prices. Many, many were again butchered into cheap deer rifles or crafted into spotters ov various calibers taking advantage of the "American Enfields" extremely strong action. Many of the old under appreciated war horses are still around today. Wearing fancy stocks, rebarreled, restored, or just used up. But there still widely available at affordable prices. More so than many of its counterparts.  So, want to collect us rifles, a P17 may be in your future! 

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Categories: Under valued firearms in history

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