The production 1917 U.S. Enfield rifle is the result of a string of odd coincidences that eventually led to a great boon for the American hunter.
The 1917 wasn’t supposed to be a hunting rifle, but that’s the way things work out sometimes. This largest Enfield is really just a ballooned version of the 1894 Mauser with a cock-on-close action and a simple but sturdy design.
It was meant to replace the Lee-Enfield rifles of the British army, but the contracts for its production by Remington, Winchester and Eddystone were cut short by the outbreak of WWI.
Stuck with tooling to produce the rifles, these three arms companies switched the chambering from 303 British to 30-06 and sold the rifles to the U.S. Army to supplement their supply of shoulder arms.
All told, a little over two million 1917s were turned out, with Eddystone producing the majority of them. Most of these rifles remained in the grease in their crates until they were sold off by the NRA as military surplus.
What civilian shooters have always loved about the 1917 Enfield is that it is the world’s most affordable long action. While the 1917s were all chambered for standard length rounds like the 30-06, the rifle was originally meant to handle the .276 Pederson round, which was longer and required a longer receiver.
This means that the 1917 only requires a new barrel and some adjustment of the extractor by a gunsmith to produce a heck of a neat gun chambered for the 375 H&H, 300 Weatherby or any other popular magnum-length cartridge.
The fact that the Enfield isn’t a very pretty action and can even be a little sticky due to the high nickel content of its various parts hasn’t stopped many thousands of shooters from converting these grand old guns into very heavy artillery.
These days, a 1917 that still wears its military furniture and the integral rear sight will run you at least $500, due in large part to the fact that most have been sporterized.
Naturally, a 1917 that’s still in original condition should now be left alone to preserve the collector’s value, but that’s not a big problem because of the large number of already converted rifles available. In my opinion a fair price for a converted 1917 is still about $250, but you’ll have to make that call for yourself given the number of possibilities out there.
If you’re investing in a 1917 and want to switch out the barrel or have the receiver tapped, then the Remington or Winchester variants are probably the best choice.
Eddystone receivers are a little harder than the other two, and it is possible to damage them when removing the original 30-06 barrel or drilling on them. This doesn’t happen often but it happens enough that some gunsmiths are wary of working on them.
The 1917 Enfield is an old design but is wonderfully functional as a hunting rifle. The fact that these great old guns can handle nearly any rimless cartridge and can still be had for reasonable prices will keep these classic bolt guns on racks for a long time.
If you’ve ever considered building a custom rifle on a military action the 1917 gives you plenty of options at a great price.
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