2-Gun Action Challenge Match: US WWI Infantry (M1917 & M1911)

In this month’s 2-Gun match, I am competing as a WWI US infantryman, with an M1917 Eddystone rifle and an M1911 pistol (both are genuine WWI-era originals). I am also using a reproduction US 1917 uniform from Mike’s Militaria. It’s a fantastic quality reproduction, made from the same patterns and materials as the originals, and custom tailored to fit. If you are looking for truly excellent reenactment gear, definitely check them out!

Ultimately I placed 50 out of 60 shooters – not bad for shooting against almost exclusively semiauto rifles! The more I shoot the M1917 rifle, the more I like it – although heavy, it is excellent in every other way. The 1911 is an iconic pistol, but does leave something to be desired. The hammer bite left my hand bloody, but it did get the job done.

54 Comments

  1. Ian, nicely period correct equipment otherwise, but an enlisted men’s uniform is not supposed to fit so well. As a rule, they are always little too big or tight at some places 😉

  2. I just recently recently bought a 1903 Springfield and compared to my 1917 Eddystone I find it has a better trigger and a more comfortable weight, which gives it a more refined feel, but I have not shot it yet. I do think the 1917 is a better combat rifle due to better sights, and safety location. One of the weaknesses of the 1917 is the fragile ejector that can break easily. I fixed my broken ejector with a pen spring.

    • Hi Claypigeonshooter:
      I know it has been a while, but I was reading your comment on the M1917 and you said “I fixed my ejector with a pen spring” I have a P=14 which is essentially the same rifle and the ejector spring has broken, so I wonder if you could explain the fix in a little more detail?
      Dave in Ottawa , Canada

  3. Kudos Ian! That Brodie helmet was not helpin’ at all… For the blazing AZ desert, one of them chasing Pancho Villa doughboy campaign hats, or even the straw sombrero of the ejército del norte or a pith helmet might have been more comfortable…

    M1917! Awesome. And left handed?! Holy south-paw-speed-shooting bat man! Make my .45acp a revolver, however…

  4. What stripper clips were you using? They looked suspiciously steel, like Swede ones.

    Clearly you should have been using proper WW1 brass ones with those pesky little tabs!

    I love my 1917 as well. Being tall, it fits me better than some of the shorter, lighter guns of the era.

  5. Looks like you had a good time except for the chewed up hand. It looks like the early 1911 are unpleasant to fire. If I owned a early 1911 it would probably be christened” Paku chan.” (” Paku,”a Japanese children’s term for chewing.)

      • Air rifles and shotguns are the easiest to own. Rifles are harder and require gun club membership. Pistol ownership is almost impossible. All require licenses that are expensive and hard to get. Police inspections of your home every 3 years. You must have a reason to own. No military firearms of any type or bayonets. Ian’s rifle in the video is prohibited from ownership. Funny you can get a rifle like a Remington 700 but not a P17. Of course this doesn’t stop organized crime from acquiring firearms. I have seen much evidence of this and heard pistol fire many times in the section of the city I live in. This is contrary to what is pushed in the west on how Japans draconian firearm laws are so effective.

        • “shotguns are the easiest to own”
          Any shotgun or with some restriction (not self-loading? magazine capacity?)
          Can blank-firing-only weapons be owned?

          • In the 1980s in Japan, when I was there, semi-auto shotguns with a bird-hunter’s 3-round capacity were legal, albeit subjected to police inspection periodically. And the owner had to actually hunt with it, certainly. Seems some of those things haven’t changed. Lively market it dewats, no?

            Of course, Japan’s draconian firearm laws date back to, what, 1572? As you state: Chi-com and especially ex-Soviet weapons may be had by resourceful smugglers and hence, organized crime groups.

          • Single,double,manual repeater and auto loader are legal. As far as I know mag capacity is not limited. I’ve seen home defense Remington 870’s listed in firearms magazines as legal for sale. Still you cannot use a firearm for home or self protection.

        • Air rifles require licenses as well? Some European countries require licenses or compulsory registration of high-powered air guns, but weak ones are usually free to own. Definition of “high-powered” depends on the country. In Finland an upcoming law will require licenses for larger than 6.5mm bore air rifles.

          • In England and Wales, airguns with nuzzle energy over 12 foot pounds require a full firearms cert (5 years between renewals at the moment, it has been down to 3 years), home inspections, check of medical records (having had depression or epilepsy would disqualify) and a security cabinet.

            An airgun constitutes “armed”, for armed tresspass or in a public place.

            If the cops confiscate an air gun of any sort (even a GATT inertia type) and a tin of pellets, the number of pellets listed on the tin gets booked down as “number of rounds of ammunition” seized, and is used in any prosecution and newspaper reporting.

          • Any air gun that fires a projectile over 300fps-91.44mps requires a license. The Daisy Red Ryder bb gun needs a license. Many people have been arrested and charged for modifying air soft guns to shoot over the legal velocity.

        • Thank you Mikawa B.
          Believe me, just like in Japan in West as well, criminals are exempt from any rules; talking about them is kind of pointless since they are a special category. They often meet harsh end.

          But, I am quite impressed that you are allowed to own shotguns and sporting rifles (outside of military style); even if in connection with club only. That means you can legally burn some powder and maintain your skills; good for you.

          Japanese society is in somewhat unnatural positon because of its officially “anti-war” posture (it is non-sense and you know that as much as rest of the world does) which sways it into this abnormality. To me it’s kind like an overreaction. One can only hope it will pass with time. People ought to be free – everywhere.

          • Keith, I promise I will not kid you over your name…:-)

            But I have to tell you, what you write about circumstances of owning air-guns in your country is downright pathetic. I feel sympathies for gun-interested English people after reading this.

          • The cost of the licenses and the firearms themselves prohibit me from ownership. I don’t have the disposable income and my Japanese language skills ain’t up to par. If the country had as liberal laws as the U.S. I’d import my toy box from the U.S. and be done with it. The country could adopt this mind set with little to no change in crime. This is due to the way Japanese people view each other, and the top to bottom structure of society. The low crime has little to do with silly laws. You would be surprised on what gets reported on the news regarding crime. In the U.S. a little crime that people pay little attention to would be big news here.

  6. Is that what U.S. soldiers carried; LE 1917? I thought it was Springfield 1903. It may be a silly question, I know, the authenticity does not have prime role here. Just saying it.

    The woollies look very good and shooting is splendid!

      • Technically there were not enough 1903 Springfield rifles to go around when Doughboys first got into the trenches. As a result, some units would get the 1903’s and others would get the 1917’s. The only common thing between the rifles was ammunition.

        • According to Wikipedia, at the end of the war three quarters of the American troops in France were armed with Model 1917s.

      • Otteson, Bolt action Vol 1,
        Stated that the M1917 became the standard for the duration of the war, but was relegated soon after because there was not infrastructure of unit armourers tools, guages, spare parts etc to maintain them in long term service.

        By contrast that backup was there for the 1903.

        • Discussion of the M1917 as the new service rifle to supplant the M1903 afaik. Lack of windage adjustment was also a factor, I think, in retention of the M1903.

    • Same issue with handguns, there were not enough model 1911’s to go around either so some soldiers were issued 45ACP revolvers instead.

      Sadly, the 1917 rifles were not seen as being very desirable on the civilian market until recently and many of them were “sporterized” as they came onto the civilian market in prior decades. I own one of those sporterized rifles. It is running great, even for nearly being 100 years old. But I wish that whoever bought it originally would have just left it alone. The design is as tough as can be–some people re-chamber these rifles for 375 H&H.

      • “The design is as tough as can be–some people re-chamber these rifles for 375 H&H”
        Well, but lets see at it from other point-of-view: this rifle is oversized for .30-06, i.e. is bigger and thus heavier than is necessary to handle .30-06. When no big flaw for sporting rifle, it become serious flaw if you have to march with it for hours a day.

      • The P14 and M1917 have been opened out and used for much bigger and hotter loaded cartridges than the H&H mags

        With appropriate choice of action (not the brittle ones) they have been converted to the various .416 Rigby derived cartridges, including the big Wetherby mags and .338 Lapua mag.

        To be fair, the original concept of the .276 cartridge that the P13 was designed around was to be of similar size to a full length H&H magnum. during development of the actual cartridge, the .276 cartridge ended up shorter, but the P13 rifle design was not modified.

        When War broke out, the only changes to the designs were those sufficient to adapt the rifle to .303, and later to adapt it to .30-06 and to tighten up on tolerances to allow full interchangeability between the all of the plants contracted to build the rifles.

        So yes, the action was bigger, heavier and clumsier than strictly necessary.

  7. Nice video and good shooting! I picked up a mostly original Eddystone built M1917 a couple months ago (mostly because Eddystone was local to me and family worked for Baldwin at the time) and wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it, but even with a pretty worn out bore it is a nice shooter. I do agree the weight could be real draw back in the field and in one of these matches, but on the bench it’s pretty pleasant. They’re not a bad buy either if you get a good one at the right price though in my area most of them were turned into hunting rifles so original ones are tough to get. I’m going to shoot a CMP-style match with it this month and I’m really looking forward to it.

  8. Looks like a lot of fun. The 1917 is a fine rifle with an incredibly strong action and better sights than the 1903 Springfield. My Winchester is still a sweet shooter after almost 100 years. The A-Square Rifle company used them as the base action for some really powerful magnum hunting rifles back in the late 90s-early 2000s. Unfortunately, many originals and WW2 reworks fell victim to garage “gunsmiths” who wanted a $20 deer rifle. And those old 1911s do bite! (Still have a mark from Saturday.)

    • “for some really powerful magnum hunting rifles back in the late 90s-early 2000s.”
      Which is not surprising considering that rifle start as P13 rifle firing .276 cartridge (165gr @ 2700fps)
      https://sites.google.com/site/britmilammo/-256-276-inch

      “Unfortunately, many originals and WW2 reworks fell victim to garage “gunsmiths” who wanted a $20 deer rifle”
      After end of WW1 assembled new rifles from left-over parts and dubbed it Model 30. It was later produced from newly manufactured parts, so assume it must be quite popular and desired among US shooters.

        • With respect, Doc was referring to the A Square company using the P14 / M17 actions for magnums

          The A-Square Rifle company used them as the base action for some really powerful magnum hunting rifles back in the late 90s-early 2000s.

          There’s a lot to be said in favour of a low cost Enfield action as a workhorse, especially if you can lay your hands on unused bolts.

          Start with an M17 bolt and chamber a new barrel for a .308 length case.
          Enjoy shooting.

          when the throat wears too much, rechamber and cut a fresh throat for one of the improved X57mm cases,

          Then an improved case based on the .30-03 or .30-06 case.

          then a 3″ case (of .470 headsize or mag head size)
          The extractor ejector and bolt face of the P14 are about right for the H&H belted heads

          Of course the same throat chasing can be done with long Rem 700 and Win Mod 70 actions too.

    • “Unfortunately, many originals and WW2 reworks fell victim to garage “gunsmiths” who wanted a $20 deer rifle.”
      It was not only individual reworks, but also creating in bigger quantity by Bannerman (firm which sold any military surplus)
      http://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2012/8/20/bannermans-special/
      states that:
      between the world wars the [Bannerman] company found itself in possession of large quantities of Mauser, M1903 Springfield, M1917 Enfield and Krag-Jorgensen parts. Not wanting to let anything go to waste, it began cobbling together affordable “Frankenstein” rifles made out of bits and pieces of those (and other) guns.
      example described in above linked article is assembled from Remington action, a 1917 bolt and modified stock, 1903 barrel assembly, sundry Krag and “mystery” parts and a Buffington rear sight from a Model 1884 Springfield “Trapdoor” rifle
      Despite being not in compliance with factory blueprints these rifles also are part of history.

      • For over a decade, perhaps two decades, Ruger 77 bolt action sporters used reworked surplus “Enfield” extractors.

        For someone who knows what to check out (eg which makers have a reputation for receiver rings cracking, what parts to make sure Bubba hasn’t fiddled with)

        A mildly Bubbaficated P14 or M17 might still be a good buy – if the price is right.

  9. Another great vid. You have sure opened my eyes up to the P14 and M1917. Nice hat too. In WW1 many troops cinched the ‘chin’ strap to low on the back of their heads so that exploding artillery concussions would not snap their chins back as the helmet tried to blow away. This might also keep the helmet from slipping down over your eyes. Don’t forget to put graphite powder on your clips to make ammo slippery for competition loading.

    On a totally different tangent I have recently read a german history that claimed WW2 US infantry fire could be spotted by its gun smoke whereas the german fire was truly smokeless. Could this be true, I have been reading histories for 50 years and have never found any reference to this phenomenon.

    • “On a totally different tangent I have recently read a german history that claimed WW2 US infantry fire could be spotted by its gun smoke whereas the german fire was truly smokeless.”
      I don’t know, I heard about Japanese rifles being “flash-less”, but after some experiments it was concluded that it was caused due to smaller powder charge in Japanese cartridges (which is not surprising if you compare 6.5 Japanese and 30-06 size)

    • The single base nitrocellulose only powders do burn slightly more smokily than the the true double base powders that had significant additions of nitro glycerine (there is typically about 35% NG in British Cordite).

      Older British shooters have commented that there was a noticable increase in smoke blowing along the firing line when Britain changed from Cordite loaded .303 to 7.62 that was loaded with powders that contained less or no nitroglycerine.

      High NG contents result in less smoke and higher combustion temperatures compared to single base nitrocellulose powders (so all else being equal greater heat and chemical stress on the throat of the rifling)

      NG burns to produce excess oxygen, Nitro cellulose burns to produce excess carbon monoxide

      With reference to ideal gas theory, the gas volume at a given temperature and pressure depends on the number of molecules in that sample of gas

      for a given weight of powder, you’ll get more gas if the molecules are CO rather than CO2

      So the extra heat from having NG in the powder is not necessarily translated into more push on the bullet, as the NG results in fewer molecules of gas (because they are CO2 rather than CO).

      Muzzle flash is largely due to the hot high pressure gas, which contains carbon monoxide, burning when it emerges from the muzzle and mixes with air

      Ways to avoid flash are;
      reduce CO content (by additions of Nitro Glycerine, or more recently, by additions of nitro guanidine, which burns to release lots of nitrogen, which dilutes the CO)

      Reduce temperature of the emerging gas:
      this can be done by
      allowing a greater expansion ratio (longer barrel, and or bigger bore diameter, and or smaller case capacity) The American rifles in .30-06 typically had one of the worst expansion ratios with respect to reducing flash, of any military rifle and calibre combinations world wide.

      by sticking pieces of metal in the way to absorb the heat – in the same way that the metal gause does in a mine safety lamp.

      Adding inert salts to the powder, that require heat to vaporise them, such as ammonium carbonate. These reduce the temperature of the powder’s burning.

  10. Wool uniforms are surprisingly comfortable. I have worn a 18th century Jaeger uniform ( wool breeches, waistcoat, and coat with linen shirt ) during the Georgia summer and it wasn’t that bad.

  11. It occurs to me, continuing this theme, that it would be interesting to run this course with a Winchester M1895 in the configuration sold to Russia, 7.62x54mm and equipped to use stripper clips. It’s always seemed to me that the lever action should have at least a little speed advantage over a bolt.

  12. I have a 197 eddystone but unfortunately it was halfway in a state of “sporterization” when I got it. someone put a decent looking stock on it but then they ground off the ears on either side of the rear sight, so it can’t really be restored. it’ll make a good deer rifle I suppose.

  13. WWI-era shooting stances?

    I’m pretty sure that the two-handed pistol grip would have been an oddity in WWI, and I’ve also got to wonder if perhaps using a 2-handed grip on a pistol that was not (at the time) designed for it might have been a contributing factor to that hand injury?

    Also, I wonder how WWI soldiers were trained to fire their bolt-action rifles when facing enemy forces on an open battlefield — standing, kneeling, or prone?

    I’ve also wondered if historic battlefield re-enactments [like those put on for tourists] tend to favor the riskier stand-up firing positions because perhaps the unpaid volunteers putting on the show would rather not get their fancy uniforms dirty.

    • “Also, I wonder how WWI soldiers were trained to fire their bolt-action rifles when facing enemy forces on an open battlefield — standing, kneeling, or prone?”

      Behind cover!

      The squatting position sometimes nick-named “rice paddy prone” apparently stems from the need to adopt a quick lower profile shooting position in an area with mustard gas. The oily droplets would remain in an area for quite some time, and so the blister agent was used for counter-battery fire at enemy artillery to befoul the area for a considerable length of time. In the cold, the gas would get on the wool uniform, and when the soldier went down into a dugout, the heat would turn it back into gas and threaten the dugout’s occupants.

      • Wow go into the warm dugout and enjoy mustard gas sloppy seconds. Gives credit to the saying, “The gift that keeps on giving.”

    • Typically, tendency was to dig in as soon as a particular objective was reached. After all soldier cannot stay on his feet whole day. “Soldier is ether running or laying down”, that’s what I remember as one of wisdom I heard form one experienced officer.

  14. Things I have learned:

    The 1911 was designed to be fired one handed. Anything else would have seemed odd back then.

    The M1917’s bolt can be worked very fast, even when used left handed.

    When used left handed, it probably feels heavier than it is, because the left hand is taking all the weight of the rifle at the grip whilst the right hand works the bolt.

    • I rather doubt it, although Ian shows it is quite feasible.

      Now that the British Army has a bull pup rifle, the option is no longer open at all: it must be fired right handed. Progress?

    • “Would a soldier of the time have been permitted to shoot left handed?”

      Let’s not forget that school children were not allowed to write left-handed back then (and up to much more recent times). Left-handedness was considered a human defect, (perhaps not unlike homosexuality) and people living back then in the “Age of Conformity” were trained and disciplined to abandon their natural tendencies and do things the “right” way.

      And in the more superstitious era of past centuries, left-handedness was widely considered a Satanic curse. So the (widely presumed) ban on left-handed Knights went far deeper than just the obvious challenges of fighting on horseback.

      • I think in the case of the military, it was more to do with the fact that all rifles had the bolt handle on the right, and to the tidy military mind, it therefore followed that rifles should be shot right handed.

        As we have seen, it is quite possible to shoot a right handed bolt action rifle from the left shoulder, but it does leave the rifle unsupported when the left hand is holding the grip and the right hand works the bolt. If you have a rifle like a Lebel or Mosin-Nagant, with a 30″ barrel, that does mean you have a lot of gun waving about, which is not ideal. But the bottom line is that these rifles were designed to be fired from the right shoulder, and as far as military training went, that was that.

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