Prior to the entrance of the US into WWI, the US Army was a small, professional force. In 1916 the Army consisted of only 140,000 men. When the US declared war on Germany, the Army strength had been expanded around 200,000 men. In the next couple of years, the US Armed Forces would expand exponentially. Ultimately, 4 million men would be drafted into the service. In July 1918, there were over a million US troops in France.
With all of this expansion came some problems. One of these was, “How are we going to arm all of these men?” We have come a long way in the world of manufacturing since 1917. During one of the last “panics”, it has been said that enough weapons and ammunition were sold to outfit the entire Chinese and Indian armies. And then a few months later, these items were again readily available. This would’ve been completely unthinkable in 1917. Back then, there obviously were no 3D printers or CNC machines. Now we take some of this for granted, and it is hard to imagine the enormity of the task they were facing at the time. This situation led to some unconventional solutions.
The standard cartridges of the US army were the .30-06 Springfield, for the 1903 Springfield rifle and the few machine guns it possessed, and the .45 ACP, which was obviously used in the model 1911 pistol. It became apparent very quickly that the government arsenals were not going to be able to produce enough weapons to equip the rapidly expanding American Expeditionary Force(AEF). At that time, some commercial firearms manufacturers were making arms for some of the Allied nations already involved in the war. It was fairly quickly discovered that some of these weapons would lend themselves to be chambered in the US standard calibers. Some examples of this would be the 1917 “Enfield” rifle, which was essentially a rebarrelled Pattern 14’, and the Lewis gun. Other commercially made firearms were simply “militarized” by adding some features or parts and pressed into service, such as the Winchester 1897 shotgun.
by Christopher Mace