New Discovery at the Archives 1942 USMC Contractor Stocks

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Oct 17, 2014
Hey guys,

Some of you know I spend a great deal of my free time at the National Archives doing “box diving.” These past several weeks I have been sifting through early 1940s small arms files for the United States Marine Corps. And I found some truly fascinating documents.
Probably the most important one is concerning the strong connection to the manufacturer of the “J” stock. A M1903 straight stock with no grasping grooves and a “J” in the cutout, commonly found on 1903 Marine rifles.

Correct me if I’m wrong but to my knowledge the M1903 stocks produced during World War II were the C and Scant stocks marked with an “S” (Springfield) or “K” (Keystone) in the cutout. Remington M1903 grasping groove, M1903 straight stocks (or 03A3) with cross-bolts (or pinned) and Smith Corona 03A3 straight stocks with cross-bolts (or pinned). That would leave one particular stock, a M1903 straight stock with no grasping grooves and a “J” in the cutout which I have not heard of anyone been able to pin down to a particular manufacturer.

While looking through these files I found keys to a much larger picture and it painted a much more fascinating story as to the decision to purchase this subcontractor stock. In 1941, the USMC Quartermaster stated that the lot of 4,000 stocks ordered from the Springfield Armory had been exhausted and now the USMC would be ordering M1903A1 C stocks when needed for the M1903 service rifle since as it was standard stock for the US Army. Tim Plowman was kind enough to share a copy of the original purchase order dated March 1940 which he discovered on his last trip to the archives at College Park, it did not specify whether the M1903 stocks were ordered with or without grasping grooves, however given to the nature of the USMC’s tendency to maintain uniformity it would be a higher probability them ordered M1903 stocks with finger grasping grooves to maintain consistency. That would also mean the USMC would be the only branch that would be seeking M1903 finger grasping groove stocks since the majority of branches that did not already begin their transition to the M1 Garand were using C stocks as their replacement M1903 stocks (as also noted in the documentation).

By early 1942, after the attack of Pearl Harbor and the USMC gearing up for war, the situation at the Philadelphia had already reached critical mass and that was prevalent with the various correspondence between the USMC Quartermaster and his purchasing/procurement requests for small arms and equipment.
One issue noted in the summer of 1942 was that of high priority were 20,000 unserviceable receivers and barreled receivers and it was stated that it would take over a half of million dollars to purchase the necessary parts to make them serviceable for the Marines about to leave for the Pacific. Some of the itemized equipment requested included: 13,000 barrel assemblies, 16,000 handguards, 21,000 M1903A1 stocks and the list goes on.
That summer Milton-Bradley must have gotten wind of the situation and sent some letters and brochures of their manufacturing capabilities and priding themselves on being the largest manufacturer of Thompson Sub machine gun stocks. They said they would like to discuss the possibility of producing M1903 replacement stocks. No copies of negotiations or official replies were found in the files between the USMC and Milton-Bradley over the possibility of obtaining replacement stocks from them as a subcontractor. But the USMC Quartermaster attached a memo to the letters stating it is filed for future reference however, but he stated Army Ordnance would be providing the necessary stocks for the Marine Corps.

The most fascinating document laid at the end of the summer of 1942 in a procurement order. A substantially large procurement order for replacement parts of the M1903 service rifle. Some of the parts included: 30,000 M1903 stocks (note it was M1903 NOT M1903A1 stocks such as in previous documents), 30,000 barrel assembles, 42,000 front sights, thousands of various small parts such as bolt sleeves, rear sights, screws, pins, etc. At the bottom of the procurement order is states “it is recommended all items listed in this requisition be procured from RF Sedgley.” (with the exception of specific items which were determined that could not be obtained from Sedgley due to machining and tooling issues. It further states that in instances where Sedgley could not furnish certain items (stocks not being one of the items mentioned) they would be procured from Army Ordnance. The items that could not be obtained from Sedgley were marked with an “asterix.”

Two days later a reply from RF Sedgley, stated that due to circumstances beyond our control we will not be able to make delivery of the rifle stocks per our previous letter. They did offer a delivery schedule which started out at a few hundred a week for several weeks and would be tiered up every couple of weeks until they were able to produce 1,000 stocks a week for the duration of the contract and if they are awarded the contract they will do everything possible to make the deliveries happen.
Now I would like to point out a few things. Nowhere in these files did it give a contract number or confirmation the contract had been awarded. As far as the Milton-Bradley letters, no evidence appears to suggest that negotiations between the USMC and MB ever happened. Also, these files only went up to 1942. Anything occurring after 1942 is not recorded. As far as the final answer concerning the Sedgley replacement parts contract, there was no formal answer as to the fate of the contract going through the rest of the year in 1942. The Sedgley letter was the last word on the issue. Finally, the procurement order never mentioned a “J” marking in the cutout.

This is not definitive but considering this is the only unidentified replacement stock I know of, especially one commonly found on USMC rifles I would say strong evidence lends itself to the theory that this particular USMC replacement stock was made by RF Sedgley in the end of the summer in 1942 during the battle of Guadalcanal.

Not a definitive work, but all these documents tied together a very interesting story and I thought I’d share.


PS - These documents will be available online (subscription based online library), that is in the works. Should be available in the VERY NEAR future.
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