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The Ross in the Great War: The Mk III (and MkIIIB)


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and today we’re going to take a look at the third and final major iteration of the Ross rifle. Today it’s the Ross Mark III, or Model of 1910. Work developing this would begin as early as really, like, 1907. As is typical for Ross the developmental work on this was done beginning with sporting rifles and then integrate it into military pattern rifles later. In 1910 the action was formalised, it was submitted to the military, they approved it in 1911, and starting in 1912 production began. In total some 236,000 M-10 Ross rifles would
be manufactured for the Canadian military, and this would be the initial armament for the Canadian
soldiers who went over to Europe for World War One. With a few minor exceptions. Now, let’s start by taking a look at
what these changes actually were, because they were pretty substantial
changes from all the previous Ross patterns. So I mentioned that Ross began his
developmental work for the M-10 with sporting rifles, and we actually have an example of them here. So this is a 1905 action, but if we look at the bolt head it has 3 basically interrupted thread style of locking
lugs on the top, and another three on the bottom. This is the bolt style that would
be used in the model of 1910. Now in a 1905 action the locking lugs
actually travel in the vertical position, when he finalised the 1910 action
that would change by 90 degrees. So on the standard production M-10s
you have bolt lugs on the left and right. And when the the bolt goes into battery
and locks, those rotate to be vertical. This would actually aid in feeding as the cartridge
is able … to be held higher in the magazine because the bolt lugs don’t reach down so far. Anyway, in conjunction with this new bolt
design Ross also added a new magazine design. This is a 5 round single-stack magazine used in
conjunction with a stripper clip guide, right here. It is offset to the side just slightly, but that doesn’t
really make a difference when using stripper clips. Of course the military really
wanted that native stripper clip ability. Now the magazine would … be the source of a few
issues in general over the service life of the M-10. This was prone to damage. It was in fact beefed
up a little bit during the production of the gun, but if this got dented, … basically it was not super easy
to replace and it could prevent the rifle from functioning. A good rear mounted aperture sight was used. This has actually an open notch for quick shooting, and then
for precision shooting you can lift it up and use that aperture. One of the cool things we have here to show you is a 1914
production Ross presented to Lieutenant-Colonel Farquhar, … About a dozen of these presentation Ross rifles
were made and given to various people of influence. What’s interesting about them is they
are the very first pattern of the 1910, they allow us to see a few of the design elements
that changed over the production of the 1910. … Ross was changing rifles kind of on a constant basis almost. So here, for example, we have a stamped nose cap.
Relatively light construction compared to a later milled style. You can see that this is drilled and screwed
instead of having a hole punched in it. This was the result of the nose
cap being not quite strong enough, leading to breakage when used with
bayonets, and it was reinforced later on. There was a similar issue with the magazines, you can see that this magazine has been reinforced right
above my finger there. Where the early 1910 has not. Now the markings remain basically the same in pattern
as the earlier versions. So we have a Mark III gun here. Our serial number is 467 ME, these continued in
the same serial number range as the earlier ones. It is rather interesting that this is a 1917 dated gun, given
that the rifles were pulled from service in Europe in 1916. We don’t know the exact chronology of when production
fully stopped, or exactly how … factory production related to military acceptance.
There are some guns dated 1918 even. How exactly that correlates to production we’re not
sure, but this is a standard style of marking for the 1910s. On the top of the receiver we have pretty much standard
markings for these, although there’s some interesting stuff here. Ross Rifle Company, Canada, M-10, we have British proofs here. This appears to be a rifle that went to Britain
in the commercial trade at some point. But we also have this “LC”. That stands for large
chamber, and this was indicative of one of the attempts to rectify the Ross production for British ammunition. This was an armourer task done in the field by units
where they basically just reamed out the chamber slightly larger to better accommodate the
British pattern, British toleranced ammunition. Interestingly, in 1916 Ross was actually able to
convince the British to take an interest in the Ross rifle. And he got it added as a formal British service
rifle to the British list of changes in 1916. And the British placed an order, or orders, for what
would ultimately be something like 66,000 rifles. Now, it doesn’t appear that all of those were actually produced,
it seems maybe more like 10,000 were actually shipped. But these were designated the Ross M-10 B,
and they used a different style of rear sight. This was per British preference, like they didn’t
see a need to have a windage adjustable rear sight, they wanted something that was more in line
with the Pattern of 1914 rifle and so they got this. Interestingly, you’ll notice this is very similar to what you
would later have on the Number 1 Mark V Enfields in the ’20s. But, that lifts up and is adjustable for elevation. (See that right there.) And it has a slightly different front sight as
well, also taken from the Pattern 1914 rifles. Now interestingly these would actually see
some notable service in Britain in World War Two when they were issued out as Home Guard rifles, as were
a number of M-10s that were left in Britain after World War One. Alright, having looked at the design and development and the
service history of these, there’s something that we need to talk about, and that is the collective understanding, kind of the collective
consciousness, of what were the problems with the Ross. Like why did this rifle get pulled out of service? And it was in fact formally, officially,
pulled out of service by Douglas Haig in 1916. Canadian troops were re-equipped with Lee-Enfields. Well, … as is typical for real world problems like
this, there are a number of contributing factors. Many of them political, a few of them … mechanical. So looking at this from the political side, of course,
there was a tremendous amount of politics involved in repercussions over guns that were or weren’t ideal.
Not necessarily in reality so much, as … in the public realm, what was public opinion? Well, if you’re on the losing side of a public
opinion battle, that spells danger for you politically. Sam Hughes was the Minister of War in
Canada and he was ultimately thrown out of office, largely over his defence and support of the
Ross rifle once it became a political hot potato. However, mechanically speaking there
were a couple of issues that came to light. So, the most commonly known one is probably
this idea that the bolt can be reassembled incorrectly and then the rifle can be fired
with the locking lugs actually out of battery. Now, I actually have a video from years and
years ago where I tested this, and I was able to do it. However, the rifle I did that with is a pretty
well-worn one, and it’s much harder to do that on a brand new production rifle like
the Canadian troopers actually had. The major problems, and I should say even if we accept all
of those problems as someone reassembled the bolt wrong, there are actually very few of those documented. Maybe a half
a dozen total, both military and civilian, going up into the 1960s. What was much more significant
were ammunition supply problems. So the ammunition that the Ross was designed for and
initially used with, was made by Dominion Arsenal in Canada. And it was made to substantially tighter
tolerances than the British supplied ammunition that was primarily
used in World War One at the front. So, the British ammunition worked in the
Lee, it caused problems in the Ross. Cartridges stretched more than they should have,
the brass wasn’t made to quite the same standard, head spacing became an issue. And all of these things combined to get rifles
that would jam up and have trouble extracting. Because one of the limitations of most
straight-pull rifles, including the Ross, is that you don’t have nearly as much leverage
to extract a cartridge if it gets stuck. So. Once the problem happens it becomes harder to
fix with a Ross than it would have been with a Lee. So what you get are guys doing things like
stomping bolts open when they have stuck cases, or using their entrenching tool to
hit the bolt until you can get it open. This compounds the problem because the bolt stop
on the Ross was really smaller than it should have been. In addition there were issues with under-hardened bolts. This one appears to be legitimately not really
Ross’s fault, it was a material supply issue. But the result was the same, you get
an overly soft bolt lug impacting heavily on a not quite large enough bolt stop, and
you had issues of bolt lugs chipping or bending. And once that happens, then it becomes
very difficult to put the bolt back into battery. And now you have a rifle that you have to
hammer open and you have to hammer closed. All of this stemming originally
from poor quality ammunition. So as early as the Battle of Ypres, where Germans
pioneered the use of poison gas on Canadian troops, these problems start to manifest. And when they do Canadian
troops do the sensible thing, if the rifle doesn’t work they throw it out and they find one that does. And
so you started to get thousands of Lee-Enfields being used by Canadian troops against
regulations. They weren’t supposed to be. In fact there were actually specific orders put
out to stop this, but they weren’t really enforced. And ultimately this problem would snowball, even
while Ross was attempting to resolve the issues, even while they’re looking at things like
drilling out the Ross chambers to be larger to better accommodate the British ammunition. Even as this is happening it’s probably too late to
stop the actual problem, and it would ultimately end when Douglas Haig in 1916 ordered the … Canadian
troops to simply be rearmed with Lee-Enfields. By the fall of 1916 the Ross had been
pulled from field service in Europe, and it was not long after that production shut down.
The Ross factory was actually nationalised, they paid Ross two million dollars cash
basically just to cancel the contract and walk away. Various things were tried with that factory afterwards,
but those are subjects for another video, so. … Hopefully you’ve enjoyed all three
of these these history videos here, the Ross is a really interesting example of a rifle
that was developed and manufactured in Canada. And kind of an outlier, a rifle that had the potential to be
something better than the standard, better than the Lee-Enfield. And in fact the Ross, despite being pulled
as an infantry rifle, would go on in service as a sniping rifle until after World War
One, and truly excelled at that role. Anyway, hopefully you guys enjoyed the video, hopefully we have
shed a little bit of light on all the different patterns of the Ross. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “The Ross in the Great War: The Mk III (and MkIIIB)

  1. Main things that aided it as a sniper rifle were that Canadian snipers were issued the best ammo available (Canadian tolerances), and the slower and more deliberate shooting of a sniper meant the bolt issues were few and far between, and much less likely to be lethal.

    Basically countered the two biggest problems. Could have easily been used through WWII but by the '30s it was well past its due date in any form, as it was no longer being developed. Had Ross been given a sniper rifle contract perhaps it could have been used through WWII. It was, afterall, incredibly accurate in its era and the accuracy and smoothness likely could have been improved on in a dedicated sniper variant.

  2. Why didn't the British set up a lee enfield factory in Canada? They did in Australia and India,so it makes no sense to me.

  3. I thank you sir. One of the items I missed out on years ago was a free Ross. Some rotter beat me to it. Once had a similar experience with a free M2 BMG. Was taken off a crashed Lancaster Bomber in the Netherlands and hid up in a barn loft. It had sat there for over 50 years. When I looked into scooping it I learned it was given to the Dutch authorities not 1 year previous. Darn! Assume all collectors have similar tales to tell.

  4. My dad used one in the home guard, they loved the accuracy on the few occasions when they were allowed to live fire however they hated the weight when marching. Like a lot of British troops he was a fetishist of the SMLE for it's handling prowess. He also used P14 in 30-06 too, The armorers marked the rifle butts with a red strip on those to avoid ammunition confusion.

  5. I don't know if the Ross rifle was a good rifle in WWI but if I were a collector I would buy it or at least try to buy it.

  6. Thanks that was a interesting look into the Ross rifles. Can't help but think it would have been no more difficult to design a semi-auto rifle. Certainly no more machine time.

  7. Thank you Ian , I love the Ross Rifle , My Father had one in WW-2 , on getting it cleaning it and firing it, it had to go in and have its sights adjusted as they where way off . But then again I also love the Mars pistol lol ,

  8. Although yanked from general service in 1916, Canadian snipers would continue to use the Ross till the end of the war

  9. Canadian Military: Stop throwing away your broken rifles, keep using them.

    Canadian Troops: F*** that, there’s Germans coming, I’m using a rifle that works.

  10. Nah. Haig had put the Ross rifle out of service, because they were not suitable for his massive cavalry push through plans in 1916.

  11. I'll like to see a video about "famous jerks that produced historic weapons"; i haven't heard that part of the history but i'll like to.

  12. Wait, so you're saying Ian and let me get this straight:
    Shitty poor quality ammunition, incompetent material suppliers, stupid troops unable to understand orders AND TO TOP IT ALL OFF political nonsense hellbent on ruining an otherwise working rifle system forced the Ross rifle out of service?
    Say it ain't so!

    SA85 GB politicians shuffle uncomfortably
    Personal note, politics seem to be bent on destroying and ruining everything rather than simply leaving well enough alone.

  13. Are all these Ross rifles from the past three videos in someone's private collection in Canada? Because this is like seeing a whole herd of unicorns in the wild.

  14. Was the presentation rifle given to the same Lt. Col. Farquhar who founded the sport of F Class? If not, then it must be some relative.

  15. Interesting that what probably made it a good sniper rifle (tight tolerances) also made it less than reliable with poor ammunition. Another one of the compromises that needs balancing when designing a firearm. Do you go with a finely tuned machine that chokes on the first sub-standard round or a rugged rifle that will take a beating and keep on ticking but measures its MoA in feet rather than inches. Before the inevitable counterpoints, I am fully aware that is a gross exaggeration.

  16. I read somewhere regarding ammunition that the British took the high quality Canadian cartridges for their machine gunners and went so far as to give the Canadians stuff that was condemned. Don't know whether that was true or not.

  17. I'm fairly sceptical about the "out of spec" ammunition story; perhaps thats slightly over-exaggerated or seeking an excuse? There were dozens (70+?) of small arms munitions factories across the Empire, and the .303" round was well defined and well known in its specs. They had quite tight batch testing standards imposed by the War Office. I have hundreds of WW1 rounds, and not one appears different in any way. In fact, due to the way cordite was die extruded and then cut to length, ammunition from different sources is remarkably consistent in performance – a mixed handful will usually form a reasonable group.
    I expect the major reason Ross' were ordered withdrawn was lack of logistic support for them. By 1916, the UK rifle factories were routinely rebuilding hundreds of thousands of battle-damaged Enfields. That industrial level of rifle refurbishment and re-issue would simply not be possible with the Ross', which would have had to be shipped back to Canada. The Commonwealth and Empire forces in Europe needed to be plugged into the UK armaments support in order to maintain field equipment levels, and so native major equipments would not be sustainable.

  18. These are really nice rifles, I've owned two, a sporterized M10 I traded and an almost pristine M10 I'll never part with. It's too bad they weren't able to iron out all of the problems.

  19. Silly Canadians! Adopting a rifle that could be jammed and put out of action by poor quality ammunition. It's a good thing the U.S. never did that. 😀

  20. Hey Ian, i would Love for you to make a video on the intratec company. Lots of history there! You are where i go when i want to learn about a gun….thank you

  21. Great video series of the 1903, 1905 and 1910 Ross Rifles, Ian. You make mention of the large chamber for the MK III, but it is a somewhat or little known fact that a good portion of the MK II 3* rifles supplied to the US also had their chambers altered to the same specifications. I own one made in 1909, supplied to the US, and has that same alteration. Shoots great, but fire forms the brass to something that looks more like a Weatherby shoulder than a standard .303. Thanks again!!!

  22. The rifle with proper ammo and proper maintenance is a high degree of accuracy rifle in fact some of the best snipers in the Commonwealth forces in both world wars used it!

  23. One of the biggest "what if" stories of the war isn't it.

    How much more effective would the Canadians have been if they had had a rifle that ran rock solid reliably (either a Lee-Enfield or a Ross with all the kinks worked out) right from the start as opposed to in 1916..

  24. so ian i have to ask, do you think the ross rifle should have been pulled from service or should have been left in service?

  25. Ian: "i try to spread out videos about related content"
    Also Ian: makes a Ross marathon
    me: violently watches every single one

  26. So let me get this right, one of the BIG issues was that the British were making worse ammo than us in Canada?..
    Well, that's hardly something to blame on the guy making the gun, let alone anyone other than the British.

  27. I have a Ross bayonet in un-used condition, with both US and Canadian markings, what rifle would this have been used on? ROSS RIFLE CO. / QUEBEC / PATENTED 1907

  28. I actually have an original Ross Mk III R-10 Civilian Sporting Carbine. Hands down, the smoothest bolt action I have in my collection, and that's surprising for a straight pull. Still, the speed gains over the No. 4 Mk I is minimal, as I'm good at speed cycling Enfields.

  29. All it takes is one bad story though to make opinions of a gun sour especially if the guns of the enemy or your other allies dont have these problems

    The M16 in vietnam for example and reports of US troops being so mad at it that they started picking up AKs or going back to M14s against regulations. People still hate m16s to this day over that despite all the changes made

  30. I remember that video about the Ross bolt you had to Dremel the pin out and even then the damage wasn’t that bad it
    That was When I subscribed to your channel

  31. Great series of Videos on the Ross. While he is mentioned in the series Sir Sam Hughes played a pretty big role in the history of the Ross and is a rather "interesting" character in Canadian History. For more on him, I would highly recommend that you take a look at "the Madman and the Butcher" by Tim Cook. A secondary side note on the Ross is that after they were decommissioned, the bayonets apparently weren't compatible with the Lee Enfields and were re-ground after the war and sold off as sporting knives.

  32. The British: 'Eh, this ammo is vaguely close to spec.'

    Also the British: 'Your rifle is crap because it doesn't like our garbage ammo. This is your fault, Canada.'

  33. There’s an old bayonet (still with its scabbard) in the shop on our farm, in very bad shape, but it is a Ross rifle bayonet. The Ross Rifle’s bayonet is of a Wieldy size like a normal knife.

    ( For the longest time I never even knew what the Ross rifle looked like itself.)

  34. frankly the major issue of the ross always ends up the same the tolerances and quality are to high for what militaries can/could consistently supply for……. it was a gun taken on excitement over economic/ political gain but also over it being a very accurate rifle which many militaries liked… but they went to fast without enough proper working……..

    granted it is to bad the whole story was not known from beginning to end at the time because in the end the British look pretty foolish…… they say no we cannot produce them/ if we do they will be 3x the cost of the rifle to build or to licence build them….. by ww1 (let alone ww2 after long branch was open) the british are begging even canada to help provide materials and parts for weapons without licencing because they cannot do it themselves…..

  35. The amount of ignorance in the comments…
    British Ammunition (plus ammo made in the rest of the Empire) was very consistent, and no other rifle or machine gun had the same issue. When one rifle has an issue that no other has, you have to consider that the Ross, while a neat idea, was a flawed combat rifle.

  36. My only exposure to this weapon before this video was the "BOSS" rifle in Hideous Destructor, a doom mod of all things. It… retains a lot of the real-life weapon's flaws.

  37. Did I spot a excess pressure vent hole in the bolt and rife on the later model? I think this would have been a good rifle if it would have gone through some extensive testing before shipment.

  38. Canadian Snipers adored their Ross rifles because they were extremely accurate, and the straight pull allowed them to cycle the action without disturbing their positioning or sight picture, reducing the chance of being seen and allowing them to make rapid follow up shots on multiple targets. Since snipers are known to take much better care of their weapons than regular infantrymen, they were far less affected, or not affected, by the issues that got the Ross pulled from frontline service.

  39. I own a Bayonet for the Ross Rifle. Not sure what model its for or if it can be fitted on all Ross types. Bought it for 125$ and its in good condition

  40. One section of the Canadian 25th Battalion actually lifted a batch of SMLE's which were under guard while British troops were off on a working party. Source 'Merry Hell: The Story of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Regiment)'.

  41. It is not "Far-qu-har".
    I made the mistake of saying that.
    Some guy who actually has the surname corrected me.

    "Farh-kher", he said.
    Up to this point, everyone will be giggling because of the resemblance to that profanity.

    I looked it up and it is legit.
    https://www.pronouncenames.com/pronounce/farquhar

    Yes, Justin Trudeau's ancestor has a ""Farquhar".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Farquhar

  42. I owned a M-10 Ross for a few years, 1915 date on the stock and the L.C. mark over the chamber and they weren't kidding. Case necks on fired rounds were grossly expanded and also out of round, not surprising since the work was done by field armorers working in haste. Nevertheless, it was surprisingly accurate and I took a few whitetails with it.

  43. Numerous officers complained about the unreliability of the rifles. They didn't listen. It took General Douglas Haig to finally persuade them to stop issuing the Ross and replaced with the SMLE.

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