In the years prior to World War I, the US Army Ordnance Department was already investigating the possibility of adopting a self-loading service rifle, even as the 1903 Springfield rifle was being adopted. In 1904 and again in 1909, the department published the testing procedure that would be undertaken for semiauto rifles submitted for consideration. Between 1910 and 1914, seven different models were tested (not counting developments from within Springfield Armory and semiauto conversions of the 1903). These seven were the Schouboe (aka Madsen), Dreyse, Benét-Mercie, Kjellman, Bang, a design from the Rock Island Arsenal, and one from the Standard Arms Company.

The rifle submitted by Standard Arms is also known as the Smith-Condit, after its designer (Morris Smith) and the secretary of Standard Arms (W.D. Condit). The company had high hopes for its design, and had incorportated in 1907 with a million dollars of capital and purchased a factory where it planned to employ 150 workers and produce 50 rifles per day (source: The Iron Age magazine, May 23, 1907). These hopes turned rather sour when the military testing was done, though. Ultimately the design was revised into the Model G and a few thousand were sold commercially. Remaining parts were used in the Model M, which was essentially the same gun but with the self-loading mechanism replaced by a slide action.


Smith-Condit military trials rifle
Smith-Condit military trials rifle (patent drawing)

But, back to the military design – the commercial Standard Arms rifles will have an article of their own later. The military rifle was tested twice in 1910, and rejected both times, primarily because it was deemed to fragile for military service (which would seem reasonable, considering the problems that plagued the commercial guns).

Mechanically, it was a gas-operated design with a gas port a few inches shy of the muzzle and a piston running underneath the barrel. The piston split into two wings to avoid the 5-round integral magazine, and operated a tilting block which would pivot up to lock into the top of the receiver. Upon firing, the piston would force the locking block down, and then the bolt was freed to travel rearward, extracting and ejecting the spent shell and loading a new one. It was also equipped with a cutoff on the gas system, allowing it to be run as a straight-pull bolt action instead, which was a feature desired by the military. A fairly conventional by today’s standards, but a difficult design to manufacture in 1910.

There seems to be some question as to the caliber of the test guns, as different sources suggest three different calibers (and it is certainly possible that the caliber changed when the gun was re-submitted to military trials). One example sold by Cowan’s is described as being in .30-06 (nd has a military-style stock and front sight). Another one sold by Rock Island is described as being in a proprietary .30/40 Short, and a third held in the Springfield Armory collection is listed as being in 7mm. Of those three, only the Rock Island one has detailed photos:

In addition to its fragility, the rifle was found by the Ordnance Department to have too complex of a disassembly procedure, too low a rate of fire, and to not be strong enough to handle full-power military ammunition (as if any one of those wasn’t enough). Needless to say, it never went any farther with the military.

Morris Smith’s patent #817,198 (the rights to which were purchased by Standard Arms) is the basis for this design, but he had several other firearms patents from around the same time. You can see those here:

US Patent 784,966
US Patent 814,212
US Patent 817,197
US Patent 818,920

Article on the Smith-Condit military rifle from Arms and the Man:

A New Military Automatic Rifle (May 12, 1910 – English)


  1. Regarding the caliber of the Smith-Condit trials rifles I have located documents (Congressional edition, Volume 5252 By United States. Congress) that list W.D.Condit as having purchased 1903 pattern rifle ammunition from the US Ordinance Department in quantities of 1000 rounds in June 1904 and 500 rounds in both May and September of 1905. The patent drawings for #817,198 look remarkably like the .30-03 and I submit that it is highly probable that these purchases were in support of Mr. Morris’s development of the rifle and it is likely that the prototypes would have been in that cartridge.


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