When the United States entered World War I in 1917, we were woefully under-prepared (read, under-armed) for what was to come. Spurred on by the need to do their part at home to support the troops overseas, wartime production ramped up exponentially in a short period of time.
Newton Baker was the Secretary of War, and his report for 1918 details just how busy our factories were when it came to churning out arms and ammunition. (Interesting side note: Baker personally selected Gen. John J. Pershing to head the AEF.)
Here are some of the official monthly production figures for M1917 rifles:
- August 1917: 2,000 rifles
- September 1917: 12,000 rifles
- August 1918: 235,900 rifles (11,700% increase in 1 year!)
By the end of the war in November 1918, the United States had produced 2,137,025 Model 1917 rifles. But rifles were only one aspect of production. After all, what good are rifles without ammunition?
In September 1917, monthly production of rifle ammo sat at 12,000,000 rounds, or 400,000 per day. By October 1918, that figure was up to 254,000,000 rounds, or 8.46 million per day. It’s amazing to think that the daily production of rifle ammo reached a level that would have taken three weeks to produce just one year prior.
Pistol ammo was up, too: October 1918 daily output was equivalent to 5.5 days of daily output just a year before.
By war’s end, the United States’ manufacturing capabilities had been put to the test. And we passed with flying colors. It was a good, thing, too, because they would be needed again in a couple decades to again provide the Arsenal of Democracy. As it turns out, WWI wasn’t “The War to End All Wars” after all.
Logan Metesh is a firearms historian and consultant who runs High Caliber History LLC. Click here for a free 3-page download with tips about caring for your antique and collectible firearms.