Ross Rifle

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Ross Mk III Model 1910 sniper rifle with Warner & Swasey M1913 Prismatic Musket Sight - .303 British

The Canadian Ross Rifle shares a dubious distinction along with the Chauchat of being one of the worst weapons deployed during World War I. The straight-pull bolt-action Ross was initially designed by Scottish-born Sir Charles Ross, inspired by the Mannlicher M1895, as a target rifle for the civilian market. It was initially pitched to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in its Mk I form, with 1,000 rifles being sent for testing in 1905: this led to rejection in 1906, with the RCMP producing a list of 113 defects (it is, needless to say, unusual for a rifle to have more defects than components), including a defective bolt lock that allowed the entire bolt to simply fall out of the rifle and internal springs so badly tempered they were described as being "soft as copper." This led to rejection and the redesigned Mk II in 1905, later reinforced as the Mk II* to handle the new .280 round.

In 1910, another new version was produced, the Mk III, also known as the M1910 or Model 10. While it was hopeless as a standard infantry arm, it found a place with snipers, who tended to be able to take better care of their weapon and appreciated the greater accuracy over the SMLE, though they were less keen on its tendency to jam if fed ammunition that was not perfectly clean. While Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence Sam Hughes attempted to turn the matter into an issue of national pride and repeatedly ignored reports of serious issues with the Ross, eventually the evidence against the gun proved overwhelming: Hughes was forced to resign in 1916, and most Ross Rifles were pulled back from the front line to be used as training weapons in order to free up Lee-Enfields for use in combat. The configuration called Mk III B was a British variant with minimal differences, mostly confined to the sights. 100,000 were ordered, with the order being cancelled after 67,000, these also ending up being used as training rifles. On their entry into the war, the US military received stocks of Ross Rifles for the same purpose.

Surplus Ross Rifles were used during the Second World War, though not by frontline infantry: instead, they were issued to coastal defence units, the Canadian Navy, the British Home Guard and Metropolitan Police, and suchlike. The Soviet Union also acquired some through lend-lease, though it is not particularly clear what they did with them.

Contents


Specifications

(1903 - 1916, 1939-1945 (non-frontline use only))

  • Type: Bolt-action rifle
  • Caliber: .303 British, .280 Ross (Sporter model)
  • Weight: 9.6 lbs (4.35 kg)
  • Length: 52 in
  • Barrel length: 28 in
  • Capacity: 5 round integral box magazine loaded with charger clips
  • Fire Modes: Straight-pull bolt action
  • Variants: Mark I (1903), Mark II (1905), Mark II* .280 (1907), Mark III (1910), Mark IIIB (1914)

The Ross Rifle and variants can be seen in the following films, television series, video games, and anime used by the following actors:

Ross Sporter

Ross 1910 factory sporter - .280 Ross

This was the civilian sporting rifle variant, with companion versions to each of the main Ross models.

Film

Title Actor Character Note Date
Joe Kidd Clint Eastwood Joe Kidd Sporter Model 1910 1972


Ross Mk III

Ross Mk III Model 1910 - .303 British

This was a full redesign with none of the major components interchangeable with previous models, swapping the Mauser-like two-lug bolt to a multi-lug locking system, and easily identified by its exposed Enfield-like magazine. After being turned down for a production licence for the Lee-Enfield and unable to purchase them, Canada decided the Mk III Ross should be pressed into service as a military rifle with the Canadian Army.

This was a mistake.

As well as being heavier and more unwieldy than the SMLE and with only half the magazine capacity, the more complex straight-pull mechanism very quickly proved highly sensitive to debris and mud, neither of which were in short supply in WW1, with reports of rifles locking up so completely that soldiers could not even free them up by stomping on the handle. One Canadian Lieutenant commented that it sometimes took five men to keep one rifle in action, while a Major described the weapon as "contemptible." Even worse, unlike the Mk II it was possible to assemble the Mk III's multi-lug bolt with the the bolt head rotated 180 degrees from its correct position, which would allow the rifle to close and fire, but prevent it from locking. If fired in this condition, the bolt would immediately shoot backwards right into the rifleman's face, often causing serious injury and sometimes even death (if the rifleman survived, he would also probably have a case head separation to deal with and a sheared-off locking lug even if the bolt stop prevented the bolt completely exiting the gun). A safety rivet was later added to prevent misassembly, though the rivet also did a lot to prevent disassembly and only made the cleaning problems worse. To add to the woes of Canadian soldiers, the bayonet lug was of poor quality to the point that firing the weapon would often cause a fixed bayonet to fall off. Often they would scavenge Lee-Enfields from casualties rather than use their issue weapons.

Film

Title Actor Character Note Date
Sniper Pyotr Sobolevsky The Soldier With sniper scope 1931
Boris Shlikhting The Captain
Russian and British soldiers
Izhora Battalion (Izhorskiy batalyon) Viktor Zhukov Kolya Matveyev Sporterized Mk III 1972
Michael Collins IRA Rebel Mk. III 1996

Television

Title Actor Character Note Date
The Meeting at High Snows (Vstrecha u vysokikh snegov) Basmachi 1981
Fiery Roads (Ognennye dorogi) Basmachi Ep.13,15,16 1983-1985

Video Games

Game Title Appears as Notation Release Date
Verdun "Ross Model 1910 Mark III" 2015
Sniper Elite 4 "Ross Mark III" With Warner & Swasey M1913 Prismatic Musket Sight, "Allied Forces Rifle Pack" DLC 2017
Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 Not usable 2017
Battlefield 1 Ross MkIII With Warner & Swasey M1913 Prismatic Musket Sight, added in Apocalypse DLC (2017) 2016


See Also

  • Huot Automatic Rifle, a drum-fed gas-operated select-fire light machine gun prototype based on the Ross that did not enter production.



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