August 2014 - Featured Milsurp Library Entry of the Month
1915 M10 Ross MkIII* Sniper Rifle Serial #223
(Mfg by The Ross Rifle Company, Quebec)
c/w Model 1913 Warner & Swasey Telescopic Musket Sights Serial # 18
Weight 2 lbs 3.3 oz. .... 5.2x power scope with 1 1/2" eye relief
c/w Leather Carrying Case (Mfg in 1915 by M.J. Wilson & Sons - Ottawa)
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Observations: (by "Badger")
Extracted from "Without Warning" by Clive LAW (pages 5 thru 16) - ISBN: 1-894581-16-4 - Service Publications (click here).
This is an excellent book by Advisory Panel member Clive Law (click here)
about Canadian sniper equipment in the 20th century. We highly recommend that this be a major part of the research library for anyone seriously interested in collecting Canadian sniper rifles. It may be purchased directly from Service Publications (click here).
Copyrighted material reproduced here with the gracious written permission of Clive Law ....
(start of extract) ...... Canada was extremely receptive to the concept of snipers even before the World War. Shooting, as a social event, was one of the greatest incentives to joining the militia and most large communities could boast a rifle range nearby. The pre-war Militia had a long tradition of competitive rifle shooting and supported a large number of rifle associations and cadet corps. However, no vision for mounting a telescopic sight to the rifle had been envisioned by the Department of Militia and Defence, in fact the concept of a sniper was still relatively unknown within the armies of the British Empire. In a fashion typical for the Canadian Militia during the Great War, once the decision had been made by the Department of Militia and Defence to buy telescopic sights to be mated to the Ross rifle several purchases were made. These purchases were made based primarily on unsupported recommendations, and with no testing or reference to the War Office. In December 1914 the Militia Department asked the government for approval to purchase 832 Warner & Swasey telescopic sights and mounts. The government felt that this was too great a number and referred the request back to Colonel Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defence, for reconsideration. The paperwork was shuffled back and forth a second time before approval was finally obtained, in March 1915, to purchase an initial 250 W&S telescopic sights numbered 1 to 250, at a cost of $58.00 each. If it was found that these sights were useful, permission to purchase an additional quantity would be considered by the government.
These sights were the standard Model 1913 and included a range table applied to the top surface of the sight. This range table, unfortunately, was for the 30.06 calibre bullet and therefore useless when used with the .303 cailbre Ross. These were usually discarded by removing the six retaining screws. Inexplicably, the holes were not covered, thereby defeating the seal and risking interior fogging of the lens. The sights were delivered without a carrying case and a contract was let with M.J. Wilson Ltd., of Ottawa for a leather case. The case was numbered to both the rifle and the scope - the first 250 sights had the scope number stamped above rifle number while the markings on the second lot of cases was reversed. The Department of Militia and Defence also provided printed instructions on the care and maintenance of the sights which were then included with each case.
Delivery from Warner & Swasey was haphazard and the sights, once received, were forwarded to the Ross factory in Quebec city to be mounted on the rifles. It was at this point that the leather case was stamped with the relevant numbers. Once matched to a rifle the scope number was stamped on the butt, above the rifle's serial number. The first lot of rifles were from 1915 FK serial range. Ottawa then arranged for the completed rifles to be shipped overseas whenever they received sufficient quantities of sight-mounted rifles. Ottawa made six shipments as follows; 28 September 1915, 40; 1 October 1915, 40; 2 February 1916, 50; 26 February 1916, 10; 11 March 1916, 15; 5 June 1916, 58. This brought the total up to 213 complete rifles by mid-June which left little room for spares considering the scale of issue was four sights per Infantry Battalion called for a total of 208.
The telescopic sights initially proved so popular that several Brigade Commanders called for an increase in issues. A second purchase for 250 sights, was approved in November 1915. These sights were consecutively numbered to the first group. The rifles for this second lot are mostly (but not all) numbered in the 1917 LL range. Due to minor changes in the manufacture of the rifle, which included a thicker fore-end, fitting the dove-tail mount required shaving the wood from the left side of the fore-end. In many cases sniper rifles in the second lot are marked S.A.E.D. indicating Small Arms Experimental Department, located at the Ross factory in Quebec City.
Production of this second purchase proved difficult and the Master-General of Ordnance, Major-General MacDonald cabled the Quarter-Master General of the CEF, Major General Carson, advising of the "inability to obtain glass for 250 sights 'this side'. Can you arrange for supply in England?" The second lot of sights was finally procured from Warner & Swasey but in the meantime a search had been undertaken in Britain for additional telescopic sights. By December 1916 the second lot of sights had been received and Ottawa wanted to know if the CEF would need any more. On 29 December 1916 the Quartermaster General in Ottawa cabled Brigadier General Grenville Harston, Chief Inspector of Arms & Munitions "Is it probably any more telescopic sights Warner & Swasey pattern for the Ross rifle Mk.III will be required for the Canadian Contingents?" After consulting with Colonel Sclater, Officer Commanding the Sniper School, Harston replied "I am of the opinion that they (the snipers) do not require any more telescopic sights of the Warner & Swasey pattern." The decision was easily made for the staff at Canadian Headquarters, the Ross rifle had been drawn from the front and replaced with the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield, No.1 Mk.III*. However, many snipers at the front chose to retain their Ross rifles, most shooting with the W&S sight, others with different scopes or using rifles' iron sights.
Not everyone was enamoured of the W&S scope. Major Armstrong, Chief Instructor of the Canadian Corps Sniping School condemned it as being "most unreliable under active service conditions." The sight also refused to "hold its zero" and, due to its weight and the fact that it was off-set "it was necessary to use a rubber band 'round the sight and stock for steadying purposes. ....... (end of extract)
Collector's Comments and Feedback:
1. Some pics of Canadian snipers in WW1 equipped with their Ross MkIII c/w Warner & Swasey telescopic sights. It should be noted that few, if any, operational Ross MKIII snipers were NOT cut-back, as you can see from the pics shown below, of Canadian Snipers in WW1 with their Ross MKIII sniper rifles.
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Besides being done at the field armourer level, they were also done at factory. Based upon the Model 1913 Warner & Swasey Telescopic Musket Sight being Serial #18, the sniper rifle shown in this Knowledge Library entry is of very early manufacture and the work seems to be far too good to have been done in the field, however if it was, the armourer's work was excellent and clean. (Feedback by "Badger")
2. If you LOOK CLOSELY at the pic below taken directly through the 5.2x power scope, you'll notice that the reticule has staggered vertical stadia lines for judging distance, placed in upper left quadrant of cross hairs, so they can span the height (5' 8") of an average man standing at a distance of 1,000 - 1,500 - 2,000 yards. It's interesting to note that in this period (1913-1918), the designers considered the average height of a man to be only 5' 8", while today the average male height has risen to approximately 5' 10". Apparently, we're all getting taller over the years, but not necessarily smarter. .......... (Feedback by "Badger")
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3. The Mk III Ross was the primary service rifle of the 1st Division, C.E.F. (Canadian Expeditionary Force), until June 1915, and of the 2nd Division until the summer of 1916. Serious problems with the Ross surfaced during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, April 1915. When the Mk III Ross rifles were withdrawn from front line service, SMLEs (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield) were issued. Subsequent Canadian service of the Mk III Ross rifle was in a secondary role, except for sniper rifles, which were retained in use through 1918. In 1939 there were approximately 120,000 Ross rifles of various marks still in inventory - there were more Rosses than SMLEs and they continued to serve in a secondary role until 1945. Ross rifle service was controversial and highly politicized. The primary and best reference on Ross Rifles is "The Ross Rifle Story - ISBN: 0-9732416-0-8". (Feedback by "tiriaq")
4. There's an outstanding article by "PerversPépère", on Ross M-10 Rifle Bolt Disassembly (click here) and the dangers of doing it incorrectly. It may be found under the Technical Articles for Milsurp Collectors and Re-loaders (click here) forum of the Milsurp Knowledge Libraries. ......... (Feedback by "Badger")
5. As a Ross collector and aficionado I would like to add the following comment:
The Ross M10 has suffered for years with a reputation for poor tolerance for dirt. This is actually not totally the problem. The problem dates back to the original dispute between Britain and Canada which led to the development of the Ross rifle to begin with. When Sir Charles Ross developed his first rifles, there was a strong desire to have a "made in Canada" rifle. One result of this was to produce a cartridge similar to, but not identical to, the .303 British cartridge. This was the .303 Ross, and all Rosses were chambered in it up until the M1910. The .303 Ross cartridge case is very slightly narrower than the .303 British. Ross envisioned military rifles as long range precision target rifles, so his rifles were made with very tight tolerances.
Unfortunately, production of .303 British cartridges during WWI was very sloppy, with considerable variance noted between manufacturers. Although stories vary, it appears much of the trouble at the Battle of Ypres and other engagements was that the Canadian soldiers were issued with British ammunition, which was too large for the fine tolerance chambers. Once the rifles heated up, the cases jammed. Soldiers then had to use their feet to kick the bolts open. This not only introduced large quantities of mud into the chamber (bad for any rifle) but also resulted in the bolts being slammed back against the bolt stop, causing burring of the rear thread of the bolt, which in turn worsened the jamming issue. There is also a story which the user has been unable to confirm that the British issued a large quantity of Winchester ammunition to the Canadian forces, and this particular case lot had been rejected by the British themselves as inferior.
The problem of tolerances was circumvented by reaming the chambers. Often, M1910 Rosses will be found with an "LC" stamped on the top of the receiver. This stands for "Large Chamber", and indicates the gun has been reamed.
For those doubters who own an M1905 target rifle, try going to the range with modern military surplus ball ammunition and firing a few fast shots. At one point, before I needed funds for studies and moving, I had 13 M1905 Mk II** target rifles in various configurations. I shot them all at the range; 11 of them jammed shut after 4 quick shots and wouldn't open again until they had cooled down. Note that this does not occur with sporting rifles, as they were made with a larger chamber to begin with.
There were other issues with the Ross which made them unsuitable for trench warfare--their length (although the G98 and Lebel were just as long) and bayonet issues were problems as well. However, their bad reputation for jamming is not really their fault. ......... (Feedback by "boltaction")