1. If you enjoy the forum please consider supporting it by signing up for a NES Membership  The benefits pay for the membership many times over.

  2. Dismiss Notice

Low number Springfield 1903 rifles

Discussion in 'Mil Surp Collectors' started by 1903Collector, Apr 17, 2007.

  1. 1903Collector

    1903Collector NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    468
    Location:
    Armpit region
    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 Many of these original rifles were not withdrawn from service and are still on the market today.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.

    03C.....
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2007
    Choctaw and Ranger007 like this.

  2. SKS Ray

    SKS Ray Moderator NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2006
    Messages:
    16,781
    Likes Received:
    1,536
    Location:
    South Eastern, MA
    Looks like a good sticky to me. Thanks for the info.
     
  3. 1903Collector

    1903Collector NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    468
    Location:
    Armpit region
    Thanks, hope it is helpful to somebody..
     
  4. WILDCATT

    WILDCATT

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Messages:
    663
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    MANNING SC
    low# 03s

    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. [rolleyes] [grin]
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2010
  5. doylea84

    doylea84

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2009
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Quincy
    Hi Guys

    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.
     
  6. 1903Collector

    1903Collector NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    468
    Location:
    Armpit region
    On the forward reciever ring just ahead of the bolt.
     
  7. 1903Collector

    1903Collector NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    468
    Location:
    Armpit region
    Agreed, but since there is no way of knowing absolutly, if someone asked me for advice.... and I am not claiming to be an expert by any stretch, I'm telling them not to shoot it. After that they can do whatever the hell they want. I am sure many of the other sites and info out there will also state not to fire the older 03s even though we know people do and if I am not mistaken I believe the CMP site also posts a warning.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
  8. WILDCATT

    WILDCATT

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Messages:
    663
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    MANNING SC
    1903

    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.
     
  9. 1903Collector

    1903Collector NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2007
    Messages:
    3,752
    Likes Received:
    468
    Location:
    Armpit region
    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.
     
  10. sheriff dudley

    sheriff dudley NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2006
    Messages:
    397
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Bradford Mass
    Low numbered 1903's

    What is your thoughts on Shooting a Low Number Rock Island with a 1943 Barrel on it ???
    Thanks S.D.
     
  11. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Moderator NES Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2005
    Messages:
    16,012
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    RETIRED, at home or wherever I want to be
    The barrel wasn't the problem, it was the receiver. That said, thousands of low numbers had the snot shot out of them with no problems.

    Personally I don't want one as a shooter.
     
  12. rlphil

    rlphil

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Likes Received:
    0
    RL Phillips

    Gents,

    I have a lower serial RIA 1903 1852XX (1910) that was used by my grandfather, father and now I use it for deer in our family bottom land. I would say we've harvested 70 plus deer with her over these many years and never an issue with her...as smooth an action as you can find. I've also used her for varmint and ground hogs...how many over the years???? Accurate!!! We can't remember a jam or malfunction of any kind over these many years and that's why she spends so much time in the field.

    I've heard about and read about the receiver failures and I've also noticed a lot of issues noted with the poor ammo of the day back in those early years. I also read an interesting article and the army study on the failures. Is it a concern... I guess. Is this gun a wall hanger...No! I'll be preparing a table this week with deer provided by this good old lady. She's sill going strong 101 years later. Use modern manuf ammo!!!

    My two cents..from a third generation shooter of a (1910) RIA 1903.

    Good shooting!

    RL
     
  13. Speedway

    Speedway

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2008
    Messages:
    2,051
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Southwest CT
    I looked at Rock Island 1903 today. Serial number 3,4XX. Barrel dated 1905. As mint as they come. My friends father had it for decades.

    I did not get a chance to get any pics of it. I might swap something from my collection for it. Are the 4 digit rock islands worth a premium? I don't want to low ball a friend.
     
  14. DonBuralli

    DonBuralli

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    I have a lower number rifle, I believe it's around 752xxx. It was passed to me from my grandfathers collection. I haven't been able to find anything by pictures that look quite like mine. Everything on it looks really well kept and if it saw service you wouldn't know it. There is no rust or corrosion. The stock looks nice (I do see it as being possible that the stock was replaced). If I can remember how to post pictures on these forums I'll post a picture. I have no interest in sellling it, but does anyone know a price range for these lower serial number rifles?
     
  15. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Moderator NES Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2005
    Messages:
    16,012
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    RETIRED, at home or wherever I want to be
    If you research the documents about the problem of them 'blowing up', I think you'll find there were less than 2 dozen that were actually reported, but it was enough for the gov't to do something about it, although they never did pull the low numbers from service, that I know of. The danger is MINISCULE, but I don't want to be the one in a million who swallows a bolt.


    Sorry I can't help you with a value.
     
  16. noddaduma

    noddaduma

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    Messages:
    4,697
    Likes Received:
    1,119
    Location:
    Brookline, NH
    Hatcher's Notebook has all the info on the problem. He's the guy who led the US Army investigation into the brittle receivers.
     
  17. martin08

    martin08

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2009
    Messages:
    2,171
    Likes Received:
    349
    Location:
    Western Maine
    Wow. Lots of factors to consider. First, it is likely a 30-03 which is rechambered to a 30-06. If this is all original, there are VERY few remaining. Serial number matches the barrel date very closely. Check for plugs of wood in the forearm, for the early rod bayonet. And/or the high wood along side the receiver.

    If it's the real deal, these are going for "What a true collector will pay", and $1,500 and up is not unheard of. Still, probably not a shooter.
     
  18. Maninblue1861

    Maninblue1861 NES Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2009
    Messages:
    2,369
    Likes Received:
    414
    Location:
    Methuen, MA
    Most of the failed 03's were attributed to the single treated bolts than the receivers failing. Most if not all the marines 1903's in WWII were low numbered and we're used to great extent.
     
  19. the_shootist

    the_shootist Banned

    Joined:
    May 9, 2008
    Messages:
    10,119
    Likes Received:
    1,573
    Location:
    Nowhere near Mass!
    I have a Springfield 1903 I bought for $375. It's in superb condition for its age and looks very serviceable. That being said, I understand the warning here and I believe its quite appropriate. That being said and taking everything I've read about this subject in consideration, I wouldn't hesitate to fire it using commercial ammo. Mine was rearsenalled and has a 1942 barrel installed. That tells me it was in service for many years without exploding.

    This is a great sticky and I hear the message, I'm just not too concerned about the weapon blowing up
     
  20. invaliduser

    invaliduser NES Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2012
    Messages:
    1,177
    Likes Received:
    165
    Location:
    Quinzee, MA
    I've got a under 800,000 serial number Springfield too and I feel the same way you do about it.
    Another factor is that I don't have it out to shoot much either. It does more sitting in the safe with the collection than anything else but if I wanted to I would not be afraid to shoot it.


    But then again, someone else may feel different about it so for those buying one of these read about it and make up your mind about the rifle you're looking to buy
     
  21. AllaSnackbah

    AllaSnackbah

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Messages:
    5,424
    Likes Received:
    2,366
    my friend was just given a 1903 springfield by some idiot who had it stashed in his basement rafters with a serial number in the 13,000 range. he has no idea what it is worth but would like to find out and potentially sell it to someone who will appreciate it, i figured you guys would be able to help.

    ill try to get pictures.
     
  22. jpm

    jpm NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2013
    Messages:
    5,134
    Likes Received:
    968
    Where is he located? Its probably going to need a live inspection to see what he's got if its not obviously re-arsenaled.
     
  23. AllaSnackbah

    AllaSnackbah

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Messages:
    5,424
    Likes Received:
    2,366
    Down in Connecticut
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  24. jpm

    jpm NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2013
    Messages:
    5,134
    Likes Received:
    968
    need better pics. Closeups of the sight ladder, the nose, the bolt, cartouches on the left and underneath and the barrel stamp behind the sight.

    looks to be in pretty nice shape though
     
  25. AllaSnackbah

    AllaSnackbah

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Messages:
    5,424
    Likes Received:
    2,366
    She's a little beat up but looks like some original parts. Supposedly the guy he got it from's grandfather carried it in WWI.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  26. jpm

    jpm NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2013
    Messages:
    5,134
    Likes Received:
    968
    Wow, sure looks right. Its got the cursive 1904 inspector's stamp and the C counterstamp next to it which its believed indicates it was converted from the original 30-03 to 30-06 caliber. And the barrel date and sight ladder indicate that as well.

    Curious to know if its a converted rod bayonet stock. Tell him to look at the nose of the stock (where the barrel leaves the stock just before the muzzle) and see if there is a square “plug” in that part of the stock.

    also have him check the trap in the butt and see if there's anything inside there like a cleaning kit or spare parts kit (bonus!). I'd say the sling is definitely not original to the gun btw.
     
  27. jpm

    jpm NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2013
    Messages:
    5,134
    Likes Received:
    968
    btw tell him do NOT clean it up!
     
  28. AllaSnackbah

    AllaSnackbah

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Messages:
    5,424
    Likes Received:
    2,366
    Is this what you needed to see for the bayonet lug?
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Anybody have any opinions on what it is worth?
     
  29. jpm

    jpm NES Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2013
    Messages:
    5,134
    Likes Received:
    968
    No, the nose is the wood part under the barrel at the end of the stock.

    Looks like the lower barrel band is missing, does he have that or is it just what you see is what you get? Its NOT for shooting so its probably worth at least a grand to a collector I'd say.
     
  30. AllaSnackbah

    AllaSnackbah

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2009
    Messages:
    5,424
    Likes Received:
    2,366
    It is a converted rod bayonet stock, the inspector date is 1904 by JS Adams. Hope this helps.

    He looked under the buttplate and found an oiler, the barrel band is unfortunately missing.

    Bolt is marked C8 on the locking lug.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     

Share This Page