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Thread: Springfield Armory 1903

  1. #1
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    Springfield Armory 1903

    I'm always a bit leery when posting in a new forum for the first few times, but I thought this might be a good place to start looking for information.

    I have acquired a Springfield Armory 1903 SN 162015. It has been sportorized, but I do have a vintage leather sling for it. I've shown it to a co-worker and asked for his thoughts on it (who told me about the sling it's self) It appears that the barrel has been polished to get a smooth glossy finish. It has peep sights on it, and I've been told that they're good quality sights. The bolt has the straight handle vs the handle that angles back.

    Here's my concern, he's saying that some of the early rifles aren't safe to shoot, and I'm looking to come up with a long distance rifle for practice, and perhaps one day hunting. I don't want to use this if it's unsafe, but I'm not sure what else I should do with it either. From what I can gather the serial number that I have is prior to the improvement in heat treat or the nickel steel. Was hoping someone could confirm that for me, and maybe tell me if this rifle is unsafe to shoot.


    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
    Adam

  2. #2
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    800,000 or so is the low end for "safe" shooters in the M1903. I would not shoot this rifle.

  3. #3
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    I'm in the same boat. I have a 1903, made in 1905, with a similar serial number. From what I've read from various sources about the heat treating issue:

    1. Only a small percentage of the early receivers actually had heat treating issues.
    2. Through the years most of those have likely already met their fate, as did the shooter

    Most of interest though:

    3. Even knowing that I'm still deciding whether I want to fire mine.

    Mine has clearly been fired, and has a muzzle erosion just under .002, so i'd guess it's been fired at many hundred times - it did go through a war after all. For a rifle like this the (very rough) estimate I use is .001 of wear = 1000 rounds fired.

    I may very well decide to shoot it someday, but at a minimum I think I'll do a several test-fires involving a long bit of string.

    If I still have any of the links I found on the whole heat treating issue I'll post them here.

    Edit: Found one of the links anyway:
    http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/
    Last edited by Farmboy; November 26th, 2008 at 01:35 AM. Reason: Added links to article on receiver failures.

  4. #4
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    I've been told that if you have the lugs replaced it will be fine. I haven't checked this out as I had already sold my 1913 03, which I wouldn't have if I could get it into shooting shape.

    I got mine with a sportarized stock, just replaced all the wood and she was as good as new.

    Henry

  5. #5
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    "...if you have the lugs replaced it will be fine..." How? The locking lugs have nothing to do with the heat treat issue. It's the receivers that were improperly heat treated. The issue is extensively covered in Hatcher's Notebook.
    Low serial numbered rifles are considered unsafe to shoot with any ammo because you have no idea if it will blow or not. Mind you, by the time American, belated, entry into W.W. I, happened, 700,000 '03's had been in use for 14 years with no fuss.
    The guys who did the pre-war heat treating were very experienced. They determined the temperature of the steel by eye instead of pyrometers. However, when a pyrometer was used, their estimates of temperature could be as much as 300 degrees higher on a bright sunny day vs a cloudy day. The steel got burnt. The whole issue got serious with war-time workies without years of experience. Substandard war-time ammo production had some to do with it as well.
    Pre-war rifles worked just fine, however, some of 'em would shatter if they got smacked with a hammer. 'Blue pill' test loads eliminated most of the bad receivers, but not all of 'em.
    "...what else I should do with it..." There's no fixing the heat treating. I'd give it an honoured place on a gun rack and buy something else. Look around for a 1903A3.

  6. #6
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    It's the receivers that were improperly heat treated.
    So were the bolts. P.O. Ackley was of the opinion that a low number receiver with a double heat treated or nickel steel bolt would be acceptable for standard loads in good brass. Few if any of the 130-odd demolished early '03s just "blew up", they had to have something to trigger them. Often it was low quality WW I contractor ammunition in poor brass that ruptured and let high pressure gas into the receiver.

    We are more cautious now, though; and know more lawyers. A friend had a low number gun that was brilliantly accurate but he was reluctant to shoot it and let a collector have it. For a price, of course.
    I have a few facts and a lot of opinions.

  7. #7
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    Another cause was German 8mm cartridges being fired. This was a bad combination.

    Statistically, there was not that great a problem, but with the consequences being so costly, I would retire it. Or only load really low pressure ammunition. Of course, there are dangers of double charging when you do that.

    Shame you can't find a Pedersen device. That would be low enough pressure to be safe.
    "You don't pay back, you pay forward."

  8. #8
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    There is only one 8mm in .30-06 blowup listed by Hatcher. You would really have to have a loose '06 chamber and an undersize 8mm round to get it in without jumping up and down on the bolt handle.

    All the Mk I Pedersen Device rifles were double heat treated. The Device would not work in a rifle without the left side ejection port (and the trick cutoff and sear that were removed from most after the Devices were scrapped.)
    I have a few facts and a lot of opinions.

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