As a shooting rifle, the Eddystone M1917 is more of a curiosity than anything else. In the midst of World War I, the British army contacted Enfield to increase their weapons production. Unable to fulfill the order, England turned to the United States to fill the contract for them. Eddystone was one of three American companies that would help England fulfill the order. The American variants chambered in the British .303 and quickly helped fill the shortage. Three years later, the United States entered WWI. With not enough rifles, the US Army turned to the same three companies to fill the order. After a few minor adaptations were made, the M1917 was born. Eddystone quickly surpassed the other two companies in production and nearly two million were produced in total. The weapon served most notably in the hands of Sergeant York on the day he won the Medal of Honor.
After WWI, it served through WWII as the primary weapon for artillery, mortar, and reserve units. It made appearances in every theatre of the war. For years after WWII, the M1917 was used in a sniper role through the early years of Vietnam. Even today, it stands next to the M1 Garand and M1903 as a drill rifle.
As a shooting rifle, there’s nothing special about it. The rifle was a product of necessity, disregarding comfort. Despite sporting the heavy 30.06 round, there is little in the way of recoil control and it takes some time to get used to for anyone familiar with more modern rifles of that caliber. As a hunting rifle, it is perfectly sufficient; my grandfather kept his freezer stocked with venison every season using his M1917. My personal experience with the weapon was quite enjoyable. Though I found the ring sights to not be fine enough for target shooting over longer ranges, it is capable of mounting either a scope or the Springfield iron sights if desired.
As a collectors piece, I found there are several unique features, beyond its history, that make this rifle stand out. The first thing I found strange was that the internal magazine holds six rounds, plus one in the chamber. The second was that the British Enfield flip-up ring sights. Even after being reworked to American standards, the sights were left on the rifle instead of converting them from its ring sights to notch sights. This rifle was also the first weapon to mount the 1917 pattern bayonet, the same bayonet that was used on several weapons including the M1897 Trench Gun and the M1 Garand.
If looking to purchase, one thing to note about this rifle is that during the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of these rifles underwent a re-barrelling process that left many M1917s with cracked receivers. Some of these rifles are still on the market and are unsafe to discharge.