A History of Drill and Training Rifles Part 5

UNITED STATES TRAINING RIFLE CO.

The US Training Rifle Co. produced a non-firing training rifle during World War One. At the start of the war there was a severe shortage of serviceable rifles for training purposes. Krag rifles were brought out of storage and put into service as training rifles even though they could not fire the1906 cartridge. This shortage led to the development of the non-firing US Training Rifle. The United States Training Rifle Co. and the Wood-Art Machine Co. were involved in the production of the US Training Rifle. The relationship between these companies is an enigma. Examination of Boyd’s Philadelphia Business Directory, the Industrial Directory of New Jersey, and correspondence with the US Navy give some insight into their relationship. During 1917, both companies used the same business address at 420 Stephen Girard Building and early in 1918 they both moved to 1201 Colonial Trust Building in Philadelphia, PA. The Wood-Art Machine Co. also had a “factory” (at an unknown address) in Woodbury, NJ. During this period both companies had the same officers. James E. Baum was president, Wadsworth Cresse was treasurer, and Stephen Robinson was Secretary.

With few available records, it was impossible to find out much about these companies. However, I would speculate that these companies were in reality one organization that was operating under two different names for economic reasons. It is entirely possible that neither company produced any of the components that went into the US Training Rifle. They may have subcontracted all of the parts and merely assembled them in the Woodbury facility. To me this seems probable as they produced 10,000 training rifles in approximately 125 days. If they had produced all of the parts, I feel that it would have required a prohibitively large facility and work force. There is no record of any such large manufacturing facility in the Woodbury area at that time. The first listing of the Wood-Art Machine Co. appears in 1917 and the last in 1919. From this I must conclude that the Wood-Art Machine Co. was formed specifically to produce the US Training Rifle.

The US Training Rifle was an accurate reproduction of the 1903 Springfield rifle, which was the standard US military rifle of the period. It was not designed to fire but had the same weight and balance as the 1903 Springfield. The bolt was designed to operate in the normal manner. It was equipped with a bayonet lug that would mount a standard 1903 bayonet. The US Training Rifle Co. did not produce any bayonets or accessories for their training rifles. The top of the front receiver ring is stamped:

US TRAINING RIFLE CO., PHILADELPHIA

There are no serial numbers on any of the metal parts. Several specimens have 3/8″ – 1/2″ high block numbers stamped into the wood near the butt plate. They are not in a consistent location but they all are below the 10000 units that were produced. At this time I would speculate that they are a serial number.

On July 2, 1917, Ralph Earle, Chief of the Ordnance Bureau of the United States Navy, contacted the US Training Rifle Co. concerning their advertisement which had just appeared in the Army and Navy Journal. There were discussions within the Navy departments concerning value of a non-firing training rifle but it was determined that, due to the shortage of arms, it was the only available option. On August 22, 1917 the Wood-Art Machine Co. agreed to produce 10,000 training rifles for the US Navy at a cost of $6.10 each at their factory in Woodbury, NJ. At this time they estimated that they could start delivery on September 1, 1917. On September 19, 1917, the Bureau of Ordnance submitted a requisition to the Wood-Art Machine Co. for 10,000 Training Rifles. On October 25, 1917, Navy contract #32435, requisition 383, for 10,000 training rifles was let. The price per unit was increased to $6.15 due to the cost of shipping them to the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York. The first deliveries to the Navy Yard were to start November 1, 1917. It appears that the contract was completed in March of 1918. The total cost of this contract was $61,500.

In all probability the Navy sold off all of their serviceable training rifles as surplus following the war. With the availability of large quantities of surplus rifles, I doubt that there would have been much demand for non-firing training rifles. It is possible that the US Training Rifle Co. had a sufficient number of parts remaining after the completion of the Navy contract to assemble some additional training rifles and they probably continued to do so until the supply of parts was depleted. It seems likely that their entire production would have numbered less than 11,000 units. There are unmarked specimens of the US Training Rifle. It is probable that they were produced late in the production run or after the Navy contract had been completed.

There are photographs of two US Training Rifles that have slightly different contours of the hand guard. The contour that has a raised section near the rear sight is shown in the earliest advertisement in 1917. The hand guard that does not have this raised section is obviously a simplification and was probably later production. It is unknown when this change occurred. It seems likely that the majority of the training rifles would have had the simplified hand guard. Due to their scarcity it is impossible to make any accurate assessment.

In its day, the US Training Rifle was the most sophisticated training rifle ever produced and is an excellent replica of the 1903 Springfield.

The next installment: THE PARRIS-DUNN TRAINING RIFLE

Leave a Reply