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04-17-2007, 10:14 AM #1
Low number Springfield 1903 rifles
The Purpouse of this is assist those who are considering aquiring a 1903 service rifle, to aid in identifying the so called "low numbered recievers" which are considered unsafe to fire.
The Magic numbers here are any rifle below 800,000 for Springfield Armory and 286,506 for Rock Island Armory. The reason these rifles are considered unsafe to fire is due to improper heat treatment when they were manufactured.The ammunition of the time was thought to be a contributing factor as well. The method of determining the proper heat treatment was less than scientific in that the men who were doing the heat treatment used the color of the steel to judge whether the correct temprature had been reached, When these rifles failed they shattered often causing injury to the shooter. Rifles manufactured after 800,000 and 286,506 recieved a double heat treatment and tempratures were measured with insturments rather than "by eye". Many of these original rifles were not withdrawn from service and are still on the market today.
1903/A3/A4 rifles manufactured by Remington and 1903A3 rifles manufactured by Smith Corona are not affected and are considered safe to fire as long as they are inspected by a competent gunsmith as they should still be checked for proper headspace, bolt setback etc.
If an individual is considering buying a low numbered Springfield or Rock Island 1903 do so knowing that it is not a shooter and IT SHOULD NOT BE FIRED! but rather as a piece of military history.The actual change in heat treatment occured somewhere between 750,000 and 800,000 for Springfield, but the exact serial number is not known so it is possible to have a Springfield below 800,000 that is safe to fire but there is still no way of knowing if a given rifle with a serial number between that range recieved the proper heat treatment, so you are taking a chance on firing one. The actual rate of failure is very low compared to the number of rifles produced but it ain't worth losing an eye over! I know of people who own and fire low numbered rifles, but in my opinion it's just not worth the risk.
Those considering an 03 purchase should also be aware of Sante Fe and National Ordnance rifles. These companies manufactured rifles with surplus GI parts and new cast recievers. The safety of these rifles is suspect and they hold almost no collector value except the sum of the GI parts they were put together with. Some dealers, whether decietfully or honestly unaware, will sell them as Remingtons (many of the surplus parts are R marked) and the unknowing buyer will not get what he thinks he is getting.
A4 Fakes: Be aware that there some people who are trying to pawn off drilled and tapped A3s as A4 snipers. Real A4s bring prices of over 4K so the temptation to fake them is high. A4s were not marked A4 but rather A3. The only way to verify that it is a real A4 is to look at the location of the reciever markings. The right side bears the serial number which will be completely legible with the mount attached, and the left side will bear a U.S. marking by the gas escape hole that looks like it's upside down. A4s were only manufactured by Remington.
The following link is to an excellent site with a very detailed article on the 1903 reciever failures. http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/
Another web site with great info. http://www.jouster.com/cgi-bin/03/03config.pl?
I would also add that if you think you are going to get serious in collecting the 03, you may want to consider aquiring some basic guages. At minimum a no-go and field guage for 30.06, beyond that a field test bolt, throat erosion guage and muzzle wear guage. All these guages are still available. Whenever I buy one I bring all these things with me and check the rifle whether it be at a shop or a show. If the person behind the counter says no, or gives me a hard time I just walk away. Prices on these rifles have gone through the roof over the past few years, and before you plunk down $800-$1000 for one you want to make sure it is still serviceable.
Last edited by 1903Collector; 04-24-2007 at 10:42 AM."Nothing wrong with shooting..........long as the right people get shot."
04-17-2007, 01:33 PM #2
Looks like a good sticky to me. Thanks for the info.
04-17-2007, 01:37 PM #3
Thanks, hope it is helpful to somebody.."Nothing wrong with shooting..........long as the right people get shot."
01-26-2009, 08:40 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jan 2008
- MANNING SC
there is quite a no of post on other sites.there was considered no more problems after 1929. the navy never got rid of theirs and the marines used them in WW2 in the pacific.I have one an am not afraid to fire it.I do shoot lead loads,because the barrel is perfect,and my loads go in to 1" at 100yrds.
my barrel is 1914.I have seen many 03s shot before WW2 in the NG at wakefield mass.
Last edited by WILDCATT; 01-13-2010 at 09:57 PM.
12-12-2009, 10:45 PM #5
- Join Date
- Sep 2009
thanks for the info - i'm reading up on the 1903 rifles.
where are the serial numbers located on the rifle so one could find out if it is in the "don't fire" category.
12-12-2009, 11:00 PM #6
12-12-2009, 11:06 PM #7
Last edited by 1903Collector; 12-12-2009 at 11:11 PM."Nothing wrong with shooting..........long as the right people get shot."
01-13-2010, 10:13 PM #8
- Join Date
- Jan 2008
- MANNING SC
in reply. there is a book,with info on them I use several on guard duty and fired them.the last one that had probles was in early 20s and after that none failed there were only a few and it was determand that it was at certain times that the workers got the heat treatment wrong. also some were determined to have broke when 8 mm mauser were fired in them.they were recalled but the navy never turned them in.and the marines used them in guadalcanal,til they could steal army garands.
01-18-2010, 02:54 PM #9
I am not arguing with your facts, they sound right on but for the purpose of giving someone advise I will always warn them. Like I said above after that they can do what they will."Nothing wrong with shooting..........long as the right people get shot."
04-29-2010, 12:15 PM #10
Low numbered 1903's
What is your thoughts on Shooting a Low Number Rock Island with a 1943 Barrel on it ???
Thanks S.D.I WOULD RATHER BE JUDGED BY TWELVE
THAN CARRIED BY SIX