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  #1  
Old 03-27-2020, 06:54 PM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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Springfield Armory 1903 vs A3

I have an opportunity to pick up an old 1903 mfg date 1911, barrel replacement 1918. Ive been looking at thr 1903a3 for a while however. I was wondering if anyone can list out some pro/cons on the 03 vs 03a3 besides the site differences. Ive been reading the a3 sites were supposed to be superior.

What about metallurgy, functionality, etc. any opinions out there i should know about?

TIA!
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  #2  
Old 03-27-2020, 07:18 PM
mkk41 mkk41 is offline
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Any receiver made in 1911 should be retired. ''Low-numbered'' 1903 action have a somewhat overblown reputation for blowing up due to inconsistent single heat-treating , and while highly unlikely , why chance fate? I have ''Low Number'' Springfield and Rock Island rifles both rebarreled during WWII. Both are 'retired'. A quick search of ''low-numbered 1903'' should provide hours of reading.

1903A3 receivers and bolts however were made of the best nickle-alloy steel and most modern heat-treating methods of 1944.



good info;

https://thecmp.org/sales-and-service...e-information/
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  #3  
Old 03-27-2020, 07:59 PM
jc2721 jc2721 is online now
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For me, the sights make all the difference in the world. The A3's peep sights I can use. The 03 not so much.
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Old 03-27-2020, 08:29 PM
mkk41 mkk41 is offline
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Originally Posted by jc2721 View Post
For me, the sights make all the difference in the world. The A3's peep sights I can use. The 03 not so much.

Hmmm , I can see the -A3's peep sight being a better battle sight , but for target or hunting , and since I've been staring at the fine lines on micrometers and Vernier calipers for over 40yrs , I prefer the fine precision of the old sights.
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Old 03-27-2020, 09:36 PM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkk41 View Post
Any receiver made in 1911 should be retired. ''Low-numbered'' 1903 action have a somewhat overblown reputation for blowing up due to inconsistent single heat-treating....

https://thecmp.org/sales-and-service...e-information/
MKK41: this is timely. Thanks.

Interesting note on the article you sent, “ All ‘low number’ bolts have the bolt handle bent straight down, perpendicular to the axis of the bolt body. High number bolts have “swept-back” (or slightly rearward curved) bolt handles.”

Im going to get another peek at it next week.
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Old 03-27-2020, 10:27 PM
mkk41 mkk41 is offline
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Originally Posted by AustinWiseGuy View Post
MKK41: this is timely. Thanks.

Interesting note on the article you sent, “ All ‘low number’ bolts have the bolt handle bent straight down, perpendicular to the axis of the bolt body. High number bolts have “swept-back” (or slightly rearward curved) bolt handles.”

Im going to get another peek at it next week.

FYI - There were 2 makers of 1903A3's , Remington and Smith-Corona. Remington bolts are marked with an R , Smith-Corona bolts are marked with an X.
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Old 03-27-2020, 10:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jc2721 View Post
For me, the sights make all the difference in the world. The A3's peep sights I can use. The 03 not so much.
X2 - if your eyes are aged, so tuff using the 03 sights @ 100 yards but not the 03A3 plus more options for 03A3 plus 2 or 4 grove barrels while not much accuracy difference between the two. I shot 300 yards @ steel plates with 03A3 peep sights, it was set @ 100 yards on the peep sight, just moved it 1 notch up @ dead on the plates couldn't have done it with 03.
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  #8  
Old 03-27-2020, 11:33 PM
Uncle Mike Uncle Mike is offline
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Hi, here is an explanation of the 1903 rear sight. http://www.trfindley.com/origstmps/1903_sight_use.pdf

It has also a peep sight and several notches and aiming points. Nothing wrong with an A3 but the '03 is awesome. According to Maj. Gen. Hatcher in "Hatcher's Notebook" Springfield 1903 "below 800,000 and Rock Island receivers below 285,507"; should not be fired. Have these early receivers been fired? Yes, but why take the chance. I have a '03 and a A3, both from the CMP. I prefer the '03. These were both CMP rifles returned from Greece, several years ago, regards, Mike
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  #9  
Old 03-28-2020, 08:41 AM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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Seems like theres some who are attempting to disprove:

https://m14forum.com/steel-wood/4887...-s-safe-3.html

“M1903 failures of any serial range are extremely rare, this is what the documents show. As I said, more M1 rifles failed in one day on the firing line for a rifle company, than I can track for all 1919 to 1958. I can track thousands of M1 rifles that had cracks in bolts, receivers, improper heat treatment of barrels. But yet not one person online knows any of this. “

“In fact the Marines even address the issue they had with a high number hurting a Marine. This is why they drilled the Hatcher hole in all high numbers receivers that were rebuilt. Just to be safe. Because when they tested the high numbers, they found that they usually failed at 90,000 PSI. The low numbers tested usually failed at 100,000 PSI. Some low numbers actually survived the 100,000 PSI proof round. Not one high number survived the 100,000 PSI round. None of the receivers tested failed at anything under 90,000. A normal M2 round is 40-42,000 PSI. Basically every branch came to the conclusion this was just a case of chicken little.”
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  #10  
Old 03-28-2020, 10:51 AM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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So ive been reading (dangerous, i know) and it appears, according to M14 Forum member CplNorton, that BrGen. JS Hatcher wrote a book naming the lower numbered M1903s as having heat treatment issues resulting in brittle receivers. This is the only book published on this issue and as a result the CMP issued an advisory about the lower numbered M1903s.

What im also digesting from CplNorton who provides a ton of documentation that:
1. Hatcher published a retraction letter (after his book was published).
2. Army testing revealed larger failure rates with other rifles such as the Garand and M1.
3. M1903A3 failures have been noted.
4. Some failures were attributed to faulty ammo.
5. This DOES NOT exonerate the M1903, but it reveals the M1903s below 800,000 may be the goat in this rodeo as many older rifles appear to be escaping blame.

What im taking away here is that all WWI & WWII era rifles should be approached with caution, carefully checked (by an experieced GS if necessary) for proper headspace and evidence of cracked receivers and barrels before use. If this is the case, I already do this with all my older rifles and most handguns. The bottom line is its not that its a lower numbered 1903, but its just best practices if you choose to shoot a century old veteran such as that.

Does anyone have any significant disagreement on my conclusions drawn here?
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  #11  
Old 03-28-2020, 11:16 AM
mkk41 mkk41 is offline
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Low-number receivers that have been re-barreled by US armories have been fired with proof rounds that are much higher pressure than standard ammo. I've never seen a low-number that blew up , but it would be on my mind should I fire mine. I have several '03's in the high-number or safe range , and 2 -03A3's. No need to tempt fate.

FWIW, I have no reservation about shooting my 1894 US Krag rifle or 1899 carbine , whose bolt and receiver was made of similar materials and heat-treat as low-number -03's , single locking lug bolt and all , but the cartridge is much lower pressure of course.
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Old 03-28-2020, 02:45 PM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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Agreed re cartridge pressure. Question - what low pressure cartridges do you use? Recommendation?

Also, another study by Joseph L. Lyon, M.D., M.P.H. for future reference where he attempted to put the risk of Springfield receiver failures into prospective using statistics, thus permitting the interested reader to make his own decision about the safety of the Springfield rifle receiver. :
http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/
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Last edited by AustinWiseGuy; 03-28-2020 at 03:11 PM. Reason: Adding the J. L. Lyon study for future reference
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  #13  
Old 03-28-2020, 11:29 PM
Uncle Mike Uncle Mike is offline
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" Hatcher published a retraction letter (after his book was published)."


Hi, My copy of Hatcher's Notebook is the 3rd edition; printed in 1962. The first edition was printed in 1947. They had plenty of time to correct the error. In Lt. Col. William S. Brophy's book " The Springfield 1903 Rifles" he has pictures of exploded rifles from the low numbered receivers. Frank de Hass author of "Bolt Action Rifles" and P.O. Ackley's "Handbook for Reloaders and Shooters" also warn about the low numbered receivers. I am not a gunsmith nor and engineer nor to I play one on the internet. I can only read these experienced authors and make an informed decision. I think that since high numbered receivers are not rare why take a chance. In a more comical vain, Norton is a CPL. while Hatcher is a General. Now if Norton was a Sgt. then I would have to side with him , regards, Mike
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Old 03-29-2020, 08:37 AM
bmcgilvray bmcgilvray is offline
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I'm of the view that the rise of the internet firearms forums breathed new life into the controversy surrounding shooting low-numbered '03 Springfield. It's often repeated and amplified by some who really don't know a thing about it, but they "read it on the internet."

I think it's overblown. I've shot low-numbered 1903 Sprinfields I've owned through the years. I shoot the low-numbered '03 here now. I just don't shoot nuclear-powered .30-06 hand loads through it.

I have both 1903s and a 1903A3 on hand. The Model 1903 sights have adjustment capability. They're a bit more fiddly to use and a bit more fragile. The 1903A3 sights are adequately adjustable and more usable.

I began shooting high-power about 1981 with an '03A3 and enjoyed several rewarding years shooting local registered matches with it. I have shot the early '03 in high-power matches as a stunt and it's even smoother and slicker to operate. Sights are fine on the firing line. I don't know how they'd serve on the front line.


All original, as manufactured, and unmolested Rock Island Model 1903 with a barrel date of 8-13.


Early Smith Corona 1903A3 with a six-groove barrel dated 12-42. Stock is a scant grip replacement. This is the configuration of the rifle when I bought it in the fall of 1975. I suspect it was a DCM gun, being an unissued barreled action completed with a replacement stock for the purpose of being sold, but have no documentation to support that.
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Old 03-29-2020, 09:24 AM
Jim Watson Jim Watson is online now
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There is a long thread with the limitations of the "low number Springfield" at:
https://thefiringline.com/forums/arc...?t-551861.html

And don't put stock in those bolt handles, they are pretty well interchangeable within depot headspace limits and you might get an old bolt in a late action. P.O. Ackley thought a low number bolt was a worse risk than a low number receiver.

No need for me to rehash it.
As Jeff Cooper said: You will do as you think best.
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  #16  
Old 03-29-2020, 01:11 PM
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My 1903 Springfield has a serial #136xxx . Supposedly a 1904 receiver. It was arsenal rebuilt in 1943. Remington barrel and bolt, scant stock. I load a 150 gr. Bullet to 300 savage velocity. I don’t worry.
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  #17  
Old 03-29-2020, 01:16 PM
M-Peltier M-Peltier is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Mike View Post
" Hatcher published a retraction letter (after his book was published)."


Hi, My copy of Hatcher's Notebook is the 3rd edition; printed in 1962. The first edition was printed in 1947. They had plenty of time to correct the error. In Lt. Col. William S. Brophy's book " The Springfield 1903 Rifles" he has pictures of exploded rifles from the low numbered receivers. Frank de Hass author of "Bolt Action Rifles" and P.O. Ackley's "Handbook for Reloaders and Shooters" also warn about the low numbered receivers. I am not a gunsmith nor and engineer nor to I play one on the internet. I can only read these experienced authors and make an informed decision. I think that since high numbered receivers are not rare why take a chance. In a more comical vain, Norton is a CPL. while Hatcher is a General. Now if Norton was a Sgt. then I would have to side with him , regards, Mike
Guns, Politics or Virus. Once the cats outa the bag, its near impossible to get em back in.

The few early 03's we've had in the shop we have had for a long time before someone takes them home.
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Old 03-29-2020, 02:09 PM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bmcgilvray View Post
All original, as manufactured, and unmolested Rock Island Model 1903 with a barrel date of 8-13.


Early Smith Corona 1903A3 with a six-groove barrel dated 12-42. Stock is a scant grip replacement. This is the configuration of the rifle when I bought it in the fall of 1975. I suspect it was a DCM gun, being an unissued barreled action completed with a replacement stock for the purpose of being sold, but have no documentation to support that.
Those are really nice. The one im considering buying leans more toward the looks of your Smith Carona. The stock is a type 6? Its minus the hand grooves and a 4 digit number prominently stamped on the right side of the aft-portion of the stock. Assuming its from an arsenal, itd be a WWII stock with WWI receiver and barrel replacement about 6 mo prior to the end of WWI. If i do the purchase Ill post more detailed photos.
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Last edited by AustinWiseGuy; 03-29-2020 at 02:13 PM.
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  #19  
Old 03-29-2020, 02:12 PM
AustinWiseGuy AustinWiseGuy is offline
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Jim, PhoneJack, Uncle Mike and the rest: Thanks for jumping in. Opinions, info and everything in-between including the grins are much appreciated.
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  #20  
Old 03-30-2020, 07:21 PM
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I have shot the 1903 a lot in the CMP Springfield match at Camp Perry. If you are over 40, you will need a good Optometrist to see the front sight well enough to shoot it well (I am 63). I don't like the sights, but that does not mean they can not shoot well. It has several different sights, but the one aperture is like looking at the world through a coffee stirrer. Still, it shoots very well, and I can shoot it better than the 1903A3.
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