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March 15, 2013

The Pedersen Device

By Joel R Kolander

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We here at RIAC love Winchester rifles and rightly so.  Only one manufacturer can claim the title “the gun that won the West,” and played such a huge part in our “Manifest Destiny” as American settlers tamed the frontier.  However, attention must also be paid to its American firearms counterpart, Remington Arms.  Remington has produced such notable and widely-used weapons as the Model 1858 New Model Army revolver, Model 700 bolt-action rifle, the Rolling Block Rifles, and the 870 pump-action shotgun.  In fact, in 2012, the U.S. Army awarded Remington the contract to produce 24,000 of the M4A1 and has been designing other exciting guns such as the MSR, ACR, and the RSASS.

However, today’s post is not going to talk about their accomplishments, but rather one of their technological marvels that never had the chance to enjoy the success it deserved.  It was a top secret military project that was completed too late to have any true effect in WWI, was mothballed for over a decade, and eventually all but completely destroyed.  The last time a Pedersen Device went to auction at RIAC with its metal carrying case (a rarity!) and an M1903 Mark I rifle capable of firing it, it sold for $48,875!  To up the ante even further, the Pedersen Device we are offering is even more complete than the aforementioned listing and includes everything shown below.

Two original 40-round stick magazines, the disassembly tool, a web pouch to carry the stick magazines, which are marked “R.I.A./6-19; a web case to carry the 1903 Springfield bolt when removed from the rifle, which is marked, “RIA/1919,” with an original WWI era leather sling.

And the rifle.

A rare Springfield Model 1903 rifle equipped with the innovative 1918 Mark I Pedersen Device. Available this August.

John Pedersen's Invention

In 1917 a man named John Pedersen called Chief of Ordnance General William Crozier, a few of his Ordnance Officers and some Congressmen to Washington DC for a weapons demonstration he claimed would be of great interest to the War Department.  They were all sworn to secrecy.  At the Congress Heights Rifle Range, before his audience, Pedersen began firing ordinary .30-06 rounds through what appeared to be a standard issue Springfield M1903 rifle.  Very quickly Pedersen removed the bolt, inserted his Pedersen Device, locked it in place with the rifle’s existing cut-off switch, slammed in a 40 round magazine, and began filling the air with lead as fast as he could pull the trigger.

Pedersen emptied the magazine, replaced it with a full one and repeated his feat.  After the onlookers pulled their collective jaws off the ground, they immediately gave the device a top secret clearance.  In fact, to ensure the utmost secrecy they gave the device a very lengthy and misleading name: “The US Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, Model of 1918.”  In addition to its top secret classification, it also received the immediate recommendation that 100,000 of the devices be procured for the infantry.

How Many Pedersen Devices were made?

On March 26, 1918 that recommendation became an order placed with Remington and the number was soon upped to 133,450.  In June that same year, Pedersen adapted his device for the British Enfield M1917 and an order of 500,000 was placed to be completed once the order for the Springfields had been completed.  These were to be used in a surprise offensive against the Germans in the spring of 1919. However, since World War I was officially ended on November 11, 1918 (Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day), the Pedersen Device had no chance to truly make its impact felt on the battlefield.

Orders were cancelled, but production continued until 1920 in case further conflicts arose.  Remington eventually produced around 65,000 units in total.  In the late 1920’s the M1 Garand was developed which negated the need for the Pedersen Device and in 1931 the Pedersen Device was declared surplus, five years before the M1 Garand even started production.  Existing M1903 Mk. I’s were converted back to their original configuration with a now vestigial ejection port.  The government, no longer wanting to pay to store the device ordered them all destroyed.  Nearly all were burned in a large fire, resulting in less than 100 estimated to be surviving today, let alone with their full accessory kit!

Outstanding All Complete Model 1903 Mark I U.S. Springfield Bolt Rifle with Ultra Rare Original Pedersen Device with Metal Case Magazine Canvas Pouch and 1906 Dated Bayonet

“Wow what a fantastic find! A complete 1919 dated U.S. Springfield Model 1903 Mark I rifle rig with an original “Remington-Bridgeport” 1918 Mark I Pedersen Device that is in its entirety with the original Pedersen device metal carrying case, disassembly tool, two original stick magazines, canvas pouch for the magazines, and an original canvas pouch for the 1903 bolt when removed from the rifle. What a complete turn-key type set up. As we all know these rare Pedersen Devices were developed at the end of WWI in early 1919. They were officially designated the “Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, Model of 1918- Mark I”, and the Pedersen Device itself consisted of a semi-automatic bolt assembly and detachable stick magazine that was designed to replace the standard bolt in a modified Model 1903 Rifle, that would convert the rifle into a semi-automatic weapon. The device fired a low velocity 30 caliber type pistol sized cartridge designated the “Caliber .30 Automatic Ball Pistol”. The device used a 40-round stick magazine, that would have been inserted from the right side of the receiver, with the spent cartridges ejected through the port on the left side of the receiver. The Pedersen Device was classified as a secret weapon and was intended to provide the infantry man with a close range, semi-automatic rifle for assaults on enemy trenches, but still retain the capability of converting the rifle back into a high powered, bolt action rifle for long range combat. The Army planned to introduce the Pedersen Device in the offensive against the German Army in the spring of 1919, however when  WWI ended in November 1918, the Pedersen Devices were placed in storage. In 1931 the security classification was removed from the Pedersen Device and all of the devices were ordered to be destroyed. The destruction was nearly complete as fewer than 100 Pedersen Devices are estimated to be in collections and museums today. The metal case is even more rare than the Pedersen Device itself; most existing Pedersen Devices lack the issue metal case. This Model 1903 Mark I rifle was manufactured by Springfield Armory in April 1910 and has the special “Mark I” receiver markings and the oval ejection port in the left side of the receiver. In addition to the special receiver these rifles had a special stock, magazine cut-off, cut-off spindle, trigger and sear, all required for use with the Pedersen Device. After all the Pedersen Devices were destroyed, the Mark I rifles had the special components removed and were converted back into a standard Model 1903 configuration rifle. This beautiful Pedersen Device has the original dark black-green parkerized finish with the top of the cocking piece roll-stamped: “U.S.A. 1918-MARK I/42384” in two lines on the left side, with the right side marked: “REMINGTON-BRIDGEPORT/PEDERSEN’S PAT’S. PENDING” in two lines. The U.S. Ordnance final inspection proofs of “E.E.C./Eagle Head/S28” are stamped on the back of the cocking piece. Each device was issued with a small stamped metal carrying case. The metal case has the same black green finish as the device. This super rare device is accompanied by an original, Model 1903 Mark I rifle. The receiver is marked in five lines: “U.S./SPRINGFIELD/ARMORY/MODEL 1903/MARK I/1091435” and the barrel is stamped “SA/4-19”. The rifle is fitted with a correct WWI Mark I finger groove stock, that has the correct lower left side, that provides clearance under the receiver ejection port; a WWI handguard and fine checkered buttplate. The stock has a small boxed “D.A.L” cartouche on the left side with a small circled “P” proof in the pistol grip area. The rifle is fitted with a correct “W L 3” marked WWI bolt. This excellent rifle still retains the original magazine cut-off, cut-off spindle, trigger and sear, as noted above. This beautiful rig is complete with two original 40-round stick magazines, the disassembly tool, a web pouch to carry the stick magazines, which are marked “R.I.A./6-19; a web case to carry the 1903 Springfield bolt when removed from the rifle, which is marked, “RIA/1919 with an original WWI era leather sling. Also included with this beautiful and very rare rifle is an original M1905 bayonet and second type leather scabbard. The bayonet is marked: “R.I.A./Shell and Flame mark/1906” with the obverse marked “U.S.”. The leather scabbard has the long throat with the leather covered hanger intended for the Garrison belt. The back of the scabbard is stamped: “R.I.A./1907/E.E.B.”.

What a great piece of American and firearms history!


Hatcher, Julian S., Hatcher’s Notebook, Military Service Publishing Co., 1947, Ch. 15 The Pedersen Device, pp. 361-372.,-1914-1918/wwi-secret-weapon-the-pedersen-device.aspx

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