Good question..the only 1903 rifles that I owned were old surplus rifles that could be had for $15 or $20 because the barrels were shot out.
We would shoot tracers and light up the sky back in the late 60's and early 70's. I never owned a 1917 Enfield. I do have a Smith Corona 03A3
which is a great rifle.
When was a "substitute-standard" ever better than what it supplemented? Is a Model 1917 Colt New Service a better platform than the Colt Model 1911? Okay a Triple Lock is a much better gun than a Webley Mark V, so is the .455 No.2.
I have 1 1903 Springfiled, and 2 Enfields, no Eddystone rifles though.
I assume you're really asking about the 1917 Eddystone.
The Eddystone has proven to be more accurate and easier to load than the 1903 Springfield. The 1903 is also lighter than the 1917.
There was a great deal of trouble with the Eddystone's and complete interchangeability of parts, especially bolts for the first year of production, but after a while they finally got past those problems.
It's all a matter of preference. For me, I still prefer the 1903 Springfield, but I am looking for an Eddystone to add to my collection.
I would think that Blitzencat has at least one of each rifle in his military rifle collection.
I have one of each. My 1903 has a terrible front sight but I enjoy shooting it. My Enfield is much more accurate and holds an extra round. Good article in the latest NRA magazine regarding both rifles.
The '03 is a Rock Island Arsenal and the M1917 is an Eddystone.
I've only owned one of them. A p17 made by Winchester. It was accurate enough, but I didn't Like the cock on closing feature. I do like peep sights and think they are as accurate as a scope at reasonable ranges. I've only fired an '03 once. It was also accurate enough but the fine sights made it much harder to shoot as accurately.
The 03 is a fine rifle gun indeed! It is a product improvement of the Spanish Mauser that gave our soldiers a bloody nose in Cuba. It is chambered in .30-06, which for 70 years was queen of the battle field. It is light enough, handy, easily used. It cocks on opening which is a plus to some folks. The barrels are excellent, chambers/throats are well set up, overall it is a fine rifle gun! It is not perfect. The front sight is thin and delicate. The rear sight is ... delicate beyond words. The sights are great for range work, not so hot for use in less than ideal light, etc. The 03-A3 offered a better rear sight, less adjustable but infinitely more rugged. The front sight ... no.
The 17 is a very fine rifle gun! It was an adaptation of the 14, a British design intended to chamber a hot shot 7mm round that but for WWI replaced the .303 round. It cocks on closing, which with the SMLE, etc., was a demonstrable advantage when trying to get the fastest possible results operating a bolt action. It was not as light as the 03. This is of course a consideration for man carried equipment. Given that most of WWI was a sitzckrig rather than a blitzkrieg, the weight difference was not much of a concern. The rifle was manufactured in overwhelming quantities by Winchester and Remington and Eddystone ... quantities that dwarfed what could be produced by Springfield and Rock Island. It was the rifle that won the war "over there!" It had sights superior to the 03, superior for the range and superior for the day to day grungy conditions of the trenches and battlefield. The extra round (six rather than five) would not have been a hindrance.
So, which was the best? The 03 was what Springfield and Rock Island produced. After the war, there was no doubt that they would lobby for continued use of the 03. The 17 was produced solely by commercial manufacturers. It was supremely effective, strong, etc. It's rifling was a bit deeper than what as used w/ the 03. Given the problems with corrosive primers, that slightly deeper rifling was a plus. In practical usage, the 17 was easier to use well. After the war, the 17 was used in matches producing better results than the 03. Its only real draw back was that the rear sight was not adjustable for windage. In the field it is not likely anyone ever fiddled around with the rear sight for windage while trying firing pot shots at Germans. On the range firing matches, that was of course a big deal. Understandable. Shooting for score is serious business! Winning trophies is serious business indeed. The 03 had a rudimentary adjustable rear sight that, with a bit of fiddling would allow a marksman to have an advantage firing at longer ranges. All in all, the 03 was preferred because of course it was an American design, based on the Spanish Mauser. That by itself made it superior to the 17 which was of course despised because it was based on a British design. After the war, the need for rifles production was nill. Springfield could supply all demand by all services. Rock Island was shut down. The civilian manufacturers were stuck with receivers, barrels, etc. as contracts were terminated. Remington took the 17 and made it the basis for the Remington 30, a very fine rifle. Winchester ... the whole business almost went under. Later in WWII, Winchester would produce plenty of rifles, but under terms that unlike those of WWI did not end up leaving Winchester with lots of unsellable parts, etc. when contracts were terminated, etc. Personally, for shooting long strings of fire, I very much prefer the 17. Once the oil is seeping out of the wood b/c the barrel is getting really hot, the 17 is easier to use, the sights are easier to see. The rear sight is just excellent for hitting targets, etc. at just about any range out even to the next zip code. For looks, etc., a elegant Springfield 03 cannot be beat. Using a double-heat treated 03 w/ a nice DHT bolt, you have a rifle that is slick as a New York lawyer, deadly as a snake and just overall a delight to carry and use. It really shines when flipping rifles around in parades, etc. But, the 17 is the better rifle for use in the day to day grunge of trenches and battlefields. JMHO. Sincerely. bruce.
I shot this five shot group with the iron sights on my 03-A3 at 100 yards. The high shot was the first one I held on the bottom of the white bull, the other four I held on the bottom of the red. It was my lucky day.