A history of the 1903's rimfire little brother.
In 1957, through the old U.S. government Director of Civilian Marksmanship gun purchasing program, my father bought a Model 1922 M2 .22 caliber Springfield bolt action. He ordered a serviceable rifle, taking his chances on what he would receive. It arrived still packed in the original Springfield Armory storage cosmoline wrappings.
I was just a kid, but I can remember well the difficult job of cleaning up that rifle. I can also remember, after it was cleaned, how elated my father was that he had received what appeared to be an unused, new-condition Springfield .22. It soon proved very accurate and became a family favorite for plinking. That fall I got my first hunting license, and that M2 became my favorite squirrel hunting rifle.
In the late 1970s, after my dad had retired and was selling off many of his rifles, I purchased this Springfield from him, along with the original sales papers and spare parts he had acquired over the years. The rifle is still all original as it came from Springfield Armory. He was happy to keep it in the family, and it is still part of my collection.
In recent years I was struck with a rekindled interested in the history of this model variation of the 1903 Springfield, so I started a new and deeper study of the M2's history.
The Model 1922 was not Uncle Sam's first attempt at building a .22 rimfire Springfield. That was actually the U.S. Gallery Rifle Caliber .22 Model 1903, which was introduced in 1907. But it failed because of design problems and corrosive .22 rimfire ammo of the period.
In his book The Rifle In America, Philip B. Sharpe wrote that "[T]he U.S. Gallery Rifle caliber .22 Model 1903 was one of the crudest abortions ever developed by any organization, regardless of the fact it was turned out by Springfield Armory."
So in 1919, under the direction of Maj. Julian S. Hatcher, with the cooperation of the National Rifle Association, work was started on a newer .22 caliber gallery practice rifle. The goal was to provide an accurate smallbore rifle for school competitions, civilian rifle clubs and sale to NRA members.
The rifle was to be built on a modified 1903 Springfield action. It continued through several test models, with the final design standardized in 1922. It was called the Model of 1922, Cal .22, and was so marked on top of the receiver ring. It had an NRA-style sporting pistol grip stock, with one barrel band and no upper handguard. It was fitted with a checkered steel buttplate.
The front sight was a modified military type, the rear sight a Lyman 48B peep mounted on the rear receiver bridge. The 24-inch barrel had four-groove rifling with a 1:16 twist. The rifle accepted a detachable five-shot magazine, the well for which was designed around the original 1903 floorplate and trigger guard assembly.
The rifles were built at Springfield Armory until 1924, when production stopped for modifications. A little over 2,000 were made.
After modifications and testing, the U.S. Army decided to adopt the rifle, and after that it was made in two versions--one for Army issue, the other for civilian sales.
The author's rifle is unusual in that its bead front sight is enclosed by a hood. The barrel stamping "4-42" indicates it was made in the final year of manufacture. The M2's redesigned bottom metal eliminated the M1's magazine filler block and incorporated a stamped steel guide/push button release.
It was designated U.S. Rifle, Cal .22, M1922M1 and later known as U.S. Rifle, Cal .22, M1. The improved M1 had a new firing mechanism and bolt head, and new five-round magazine that fit flush. The barrel had a slightly larger rifling diameter and smaller chamber with tighter headspace. It was fitted with a Lyman 48C receiver sight, which allowed half-minute adjustments.
The Army issue rifle had a modified military-type "C" sporter stock, while the sales version had an NRA sporter stock. The sales version was also drilled and tapped for scope bases. Final receiver markings were U.S. Springfield Armory, Model 1922M1, Cal .22.
This improved semi-sporter rifle was very accurate and functioned more reliably. These rifles went on sale in 1926. Older 1922 rifles, when returned to the armory for repairs, were fitted with all the new parts and marked M1s by re-stamping the receiver.
In 1932, a second set of improvements was made to the Springfield .22. A new bolt was developed, with adjustable headspace and better extractor. The rear striker was fitted with a large round disk nut. It was serrated on the outer edge for grasping to cock manually. It also acts as a gas deflector in event of a ruptured case.
The trigger guard assembly and magazine mount were redesigned, eliminating the magazine filler block and installing a stamped steel guide/push button release. It was fitted with a new stock with less drop at the heel. It also had a deeply checkered National Match buttplate, without a trap.
While M2 buttplates were deeply serrated, there's no record of them having a trapdoor--but obviously some did, as evidenced by the author's gun.
This modified rifle was designated the M2. Receivers were marked "U.S. Springfield Armory, Cal .22, M2." The new model was not drilled and tapped for scope bases.
Again, when older rifles were returned to the armory for repairs, they were retrofitted with the new parts. 1922 rifle receivers were re-stamped 1922M2, and an "A" was added to the serial number. 1922M1 rifles were re-stamped 1922M11, and a "B" was added to the serial number. This was to prevent a mix-up and duplication in a wide array of serial numbers used.
There were minor changes made to the M2 in later years, but this was the final form and model of this classic Springfield. The rifles were produced into early 1942, with parts made until December 1942.
After World War II, 1942 barrels were used for reconditioning work. Surplus parts, including barrels, bolts, receiver and
stocks, were sold on the surplus market. Records show that between 1933 and 1942, 11,172 M2 rifle were made.
As mentioned earlier, serial numbers showed a wide variation and overlapped between the different models. To try to clear up this confusion, I contacted Richard T. Colton, a historian at the Springfield Armory Museum. His records show my low-numbered receiver to be made in 1904, and he told me many of the early rifles--including the U.S. Gallery Rifle caliber .22 Model 1903--were rebuilt and updated and possibly used to build the 1922 M1 and M2 models.
Luckily, Springfields had a date stamped on the barrel, just behind the front sight. It could indicate when the rifle was manufactured or when this barrel was installed as part of armory reconditioning. My rifle has the date "4 — 42," indicating it was built in the final production year.
The M2's improvements included a new bolt and rear striker that was fitted with a round, serrated disk nut for manual cocking. The rifle sported a Lyman 48C receiver sight.
The model and serial numbers are original, not re-stamped, so I believe this is an original-manufacture M2 rifle. However, my sample rifle has a few variations not mentioned in any of my research. M2 rifles had deeply checkered buttplates with no trapdoor. My rifle has a deeply checkered buttplate, but it has a trapdoor in it, with no storage hole in the stock.
The front sight is a bead sight with a stamped steel hood. Over the years I've examined other samples at gun shows and have never seen one with this style of front sight with hood.
The left side of the buttstock has Springfield Armory's SA stamp in a rectangle. There's a partial stamp in the pistol grip curve behind the trigger guard that looks like a "P" in a circle. This would be an inspector stamp. The bolt body has a number stamped on its top, with "M2" stamped back by the bolt handle.
On top of the bolt handle root is stamped "NS," for nickel steel, and under it, again, the M2 model number. The underside of the bolt body is hand-etched with matching receiver serial number. Along with the date behind the front sight, on the left side of the barrel breach, is stamped "Long Rifle Cart'ge Only."
There is also a "T" stamp on the breech right side, which I would assume to be another inspector's stamp. Metal finish is Parkerized, which records show started with the M2. Trigger is typical military double-stage and deeply serrated.
A lot of these rifles have been cut up and sporterized. Years ago it was also popular to modify and rechamber them to .22 Hornet, but if you have one I'd suggest leaving it as it is. The value of an unaltered rifle has gone way up and continues to increase.
Besides, these semi-sporter rifles look good as is and are a joy to shoot. My rifle has been well-maintained and after all these years is still in good shape. It is more accurate than my older eyes can now shoot with peep sights.
Receiver markings indicate the rifle's receiver was made in 1904 and was later used to produce an M2, as many early Gallery Rifle receivers were.