Military Wiki
Pedersen device, officially US Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, Model of 1918
Pedersen device.PNG
Diagram illustrating the device
Type Semi-automatic rifle
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1918-1931
Used by US Army
Wars World War I
Production history
Designer John Pedersen
Designed 1917
Produced 1918—1920
Number built 65,000[1]
Weight 2 lb 2 oz (0.96 kg) empty
3 lb 2 oz (1.4 kg) loaded[1]

Cartridge .30-18 Auto
Action Complete Blowback (arms)
Feed system Detachable single-stack box magazine (40 rounds)

The Pedersen Device is an attachment developed during World War I for the M1903 Springfield rifle that allowed it to fire a short .30 Caliber (7.62 mm) intermediate cartridge in semi-automatic mode. This wonder weapon was developed to allow infantry to dramatically increase their rate of fire while on the move, while also allowing the rifle to be used in conventional bolt action mode for long-range fire from the trenches.[1]

Production had just ramped up when the war ended and the Pedersen Device ended up in storage after the war. A 1920 testing program in Panama was critical of the awkwardness of conversion in combat and of the weight of the rifle with the belt carrying the Pedersen device and ammunition magazines. Less than 100 Pedersen devices escaped ordered destruction to become extremely rare collectors' items.[1]


John Pedersen, a longtime employee of Remington Arms, was aware that the US would be entering the war[citation needed] at some point. Concerned about the inability for troops to effectively fire on the run while attempting to cross "No Man's Land", he decided to start studying the problem of semi-automatic fire that would allow them to fire from the hip without stopping.[citation needed] However, he also realized that there would be no way the Army would accept[citation needed] a totally new rifle design, as they were already struggling to produce enough Springfields, contracting to produce millions of M1917 "American Enfield" rifle with Remington and Winchester and were importing Ross rifles from Canada for training purposes.[citation needed]

This led him to the final design, which replaced the bolt of the standard Springfield with a device consisting of a complete firing mechanism and a small "barrel" for the small round. In effect, the "device" was essentially a complete blow-back pistol minus a receiver/grip using the short "barrel" of the device to fit into the longer chamber of the M1903 Springfield. The mechanism was fed by a long 40-round magazine sticking perpendicularly out of the rifle at a 45-degree angle to the top right, and could be reloaded by inserting a new magazine. Each magazine had cut-out viewing slots facing aft so the rifleman could observe the number of unfired rounds remaining. The system required an ejection port to be cut into the left side of the receiver and the adjacent stock cut away to allow clearance for spent cartridges being thrown from the action. Sear, trigger, and magazine cut-off also required modifications which did not limit the ability of Mark I receivers to function in the normal bolt action mode.[1]

Pedersen traveled to Washington, DC on 8 October 1917 to conduct a secret demonstration for Chief of Ordnance General William Crozier and a selected group of army officers and congressmen. After firing several rounds from what appeared to be an unmodified Springfield, he removed the standard bolt, inserted the device, and fired several magazines at a very high rate of fire. The evaluation team was favorably impressed. To deceive the enemy, the Ordnance Department decided to call it the US Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, Model of 1918. Plans were put into place to start production of modified Springfields, which became the US Rifle, Cal. .30, Model of M1903, Mark I. The Army placed orders for 133,450 devices and eight-hundred-million cartridges for the 1919 Spring Offensive. General John J. Pershing requested 40 magazines and 5000 rounds of ammunition be shipped with each device and anticipated an average daily ammunition use of 100 rounds per device.[1] The use of the Pedersen Device in the 1919 Spring offensive was to be in conjunction with the full combat introduction of the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR).

The US Patent Office issued U.S. Patent 1,355,417, U.S. Patent 1,355,418, U.S. Patent 1,355,419, and U.S. Patent 1,355,420 to Pedersen for his invention. The United States Army paid Pedersen $50,000 for rights to produce the device and a royalty of 50 cents for each device manufactured. The Army paid for all necessary machinery required to manufacture the device; and Remington received a net profit of two dollars for each device and 3 cents for each magazine.[1]

A Mark II Pedersen Device was also designed for the US Rifle, Model of 1917 (the American Enfield), and a similar prototype was made for the US Rifle, Model of 1916 (the Remington Mosin Nagant). Neither of those were ever put into production.[2]


Production of the device started in 1918, along with the modified rifle that December, after the war had ended. The contract was cancelled on 1 March 1919 after production of 65,000 devices with 1.6 million magazines and 65 million cartridges. Each device was to be issued with a belt including a stamped, sheet-steel scabbard for safely carrying the device when not in use, a canvas pouch to hold the M1903 rifle bolt when not in use, and canvas pouches holding five magazines. The device with two pouches of loaded magazines added 14 pounds to the infantryman's standard load.[1]

Remington subcontracted magazine production to Mount Vernon Silversmiths, and the carrying scabbards were manufactured by Gorham Manufacturing Company. Canvas pouches for magazines and for the rifle bolt were manufactured at Rock Island Arsenal.[1] Ammunition was packaged in 40-round boxes sufficient to fill one magazine. Five boxes were packed in a carton corresponding to the five-magazine pouches, and three cartons were carried in a light canvas bandolier holding 600 cartridges. Five bandoliers were packed in a wooden crate. Ammunition produced by Remington is headstamped "RA" (or "RAH" for the Hoboken, New Jersey plant) with the years (19-) "18", "19", and "20".[1]


File:M1903 Pcu.JPG

M1903 Springfield with ejection port

After the war, the semi-automatic concept started to gain currency in the Army. By the late 1920s several experiments with completely different rifles from the Springfield M1903 which were designed from the outset to be semi-automatic were underway, including a Pedersen rifle firing a new .276 (7 mm) rifle cartridge. John C. Garand adapted his rifle, originally developed for .30-06 to the new .276 cartridge. After the .276 Garand rifle was selected over the Pedersen rifle, General Douglas MacArthur came out against changing rifle cartridges since the .30-06 would have to be retained for machine gun use and one cartridge simplified wartime logistics. Garand reverted his design back to the standard .30-06 Springfield cartridge in 1932; the result became the M1 Garand.[3]

The Pedersen device was declared surplus in 1931, five years before the Garand had even started serial production. Mark I rifles were altered to M1903 standard in 1937 (except for a curious ejection slot that remained in the receiver side wall) and were used alongside standard M1903 and M1903A1 Springfields. Nearly all of the stored devices were destroyed by the Army except for a few Ordnance Department examples, when it was decided they did not want to pay the cost of storing. They were burned in a large bonfire, though some were taken during the process. Following their destruction, noted writer Julian Hatcher wrote an authoritative article for the May 1932 issue of American Rifleman magazine describing the device in detail.[4]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Canfield, Bruce N. (2003). "Never in Anger: the Pedersen Device". National Rifle Association. pp. 58–61&71. 
  2. "Hobbies". Lightner. 1970. p. 151. "In addition, one prototype unit for use in the Nagant rifle and three experimental units for the Enfield rifle were built." 
  3. Bruce N. Canfield, "Garand Vs. Pedersen", American Rifleman, July 2009, pp.52-55, 60, 62.
  4. Julian S. Hatcher, Hatcher's Notebook, Military Service Publishing Co., 1947, Ch. 15 The Pedersen Device, pp. 361-372.

External links

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