The U.S. M1917 was 46.3" in overall length with a 26-inch barrel. It weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces, and had a magazine capacity of six rounds. The same type of five-round charger (i.e. “stripper clip”) used with the ’03 rifle was also used with the M1917. This resulted in five rounds being routinely carried in the magazine, although a sixth cartridge could easily be manually inserted. The rear sight had a folding leaf adjustable for elevation, but not windage. The sight was mounted on the rear of the receiver which made it a better battle sight than the ’03’s barrel-mounted Model 1905 rear sight. The front sight blade was protected by two sturdy “ears,” one on either side. The stock and two-piece handguard were made of oil-finished black walnut with grasping grooves milled into both sides of the fore-end. Most of the external metal parts were blued, except for late production Eddystones, which were factory Parkerized beginning around October or November 1918. After the war, the vast majority of Model 1917 rifles were overhauled, which typically resulted in the formerly blued rifles being Parkerized as part of the rebuild procedure.
Another distinctive feature of the design was a “crooked” bolt handle intended to bring the shooter’s finger in close proximity to the trigger. Although clearly a bit hyperbolic, a post-World War I War Department report stated, “… by bending back the bolt handle we had placed two men on the firing line where there was only one before.”