Army Wants its Springfields Back

What? You didn’t know the Army has Springfields still? Well, it does… although most of them are on loan to veterans’ groups and ROTC detachments. The Army has, for years, been calling in the loans on these long-obsolete weapons. (The Springfield was made from the 1900s to the 1940s, using an 19th-Century action licensed from Mauser). But one volunteer cemetery firing party, at Ft. Snelling, Minn., is holding out, grimly hanging on to their WWI-era bolt-actions, spurning an offer of WWII vintage M1 Garand rifles. The Army Times has the story.

What is the Army planning to do with the Springfields if it gets them back? The article does not say, but obsolete weapons like that are either sold off by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which has disposed of many old Springfields, or cut up — “demilled,” they call it — and sold for scrap value. Generally, which way they go depends on the attitude of DOD political appointees towards guns — in the current Administration, the Ft. Snelling 1903s probably have a date with an acetylene torch.

Why are the vets holding out, when the Army has promised them newer M1 rifles? Well, the Army Times article makes it clear they prefer the Springfield. “I like … the sound that it makes,” Vietnam vet John Sobaski told NPR. “It sounds a little more traditional.” Another Vietnam vet, Bob Nelson, said of the Springfields, “They sound the best,” and indicated that the Springfield salute helped veterans buried at Snelling “go out in style and class.”

There’s another reason the M1-for-M1903 swap doesn’t look good to the vets: the Army wants to give them 15 M1s to replace 50 Springfields. But with over 1000 veterans dying every day nationwide, vets’ cemeteries often have several funerals going on at once. This plan would mean some vets go without a firing party, or have to settle for a tape recording. For years, lower-ranking vets have been buried with a recording of “taps” instead of a live bugler. Is a recorded gun salute the next step?

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