Low Number Springfield Receivers

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  • Last Post 23 February 2018
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BudHyett posted this 15 October 2017

There is an interesting article on the low number Springfield receiver written by an epidemiologist at this URL: http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/

The author performs a study based on the overall data and findings from several sources, including arsenal records. His conclusions run counter to the popular mythology. Especially, that the First Marine Division used low-number Springfields at Guadalcanal and did not have a single failure in four major battles.

He also suggests that poorly heat-treated and annealed cartridge brass is a cause that has not been thoroughly investigated. Wartime production is often suspect due to the rush to deliver by schedule. Yet, there is passing mention in the reports of the cartridge brass and no investigation by the Army Board of this condition as a contributing factor. 

While I do not want to sound as if popular mythology is incorrect, I do find the interpretation of the overall data intriguing. 

Farm boy from Western Illinois, living in the Magical Pacific Northwest

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lotech posted this 15 October 2017

I haven't looked at it in a while, but HATCHER'S NOTEBOOK has a factual summation regarding low-number '03s. This may not be the most comprehensive treatment of the subject, but it's worth reading. 

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45 2.1 posted this 15 October 2017

There were also reports of Springfields being fired with 8x57 Mauser ammo blowing up also. That would add to the illusion also.

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Ed Harris posted this 15 October 2017

I think that the bottom line is that any low-number Springfield in original condition is worth enough to a collector that you can sell it for more than enough money to by a well-proven, if ugly WW2-era 03A3 as a cast bullet shooter.  I sold off my low number Springfields 40 years ago and never looked back.  I have seen what happens when they do let go, and it simply is not worth taking the chance to shoot one, even with light loads.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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RicinYakima posted this 15 October 2017

This "report" was originally published in the 1990's on the CMP board. It is a statistical analysis that didn't include any new pressure tests. It is as reliable as hitting the action rail with a hammer to test hardness. Doesn't prove anything at all. For me the issue is that if the case head fails, the single heat treat action will fail. And there are multiple reasons for cases head failure. 

Like Ed says, an original undrilled and tapped, even rebuilt '03 is worth more than on 03A3. 

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gnoahhh posted this 16 October 2017

My personal theory is that categorically they are safe to shoot. Unfortunately, the incidents at the Armory which caused some to be defective (and which lead to the whole class of rifle to be condemned) only effected a small percentage of the rifles. The sad part is that there is no way of knowing which ones they are. "Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?"

I used to also feel that by now most, if not all, the ones that were going to fail had long since done so, further increasing the odds of it not happening to me. But since that would appear not to be the case, I have ceased and desisted.

Give me a double heat treated or better yet a nickel steel '03- but no 03A3's thank you very much!

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Reg posted this 16 October 2017

I actually witnessed where one was tapped on the narrow rail ( and not all that hard ) with a 4 oz. ball pean hammer and it shattered into several pieces like fine crystal.  Very very brittle.

Also there is the fact not only were the heat treat practices suspect but they are also over one hundred years old now. 

If I were to shoot one think it best to stay with moderate cast loads and keep that pressure down.

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RicinYakima posted this 16 October 2017

Reg, It was not designed to hit with a hammer sideways to normal function. That part's only function is to connect the front and rear receiver rings and guide bullets. Also about 50% of the M1917 Enfields from Eddystone will also break if hit with a hammer on the same place. Ric

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Reg posted this 17 October 2017

Ric,

The tap was a very light tap and how it shattered is exactly how it was shown in Hatchers Notebook.  Have deliberately tapped various 1917's, Springfields ect. and they did not fail.  03A3's I have seen, and a few high number 03's, that for some reason ( and no small number of 1917 Eddystones ) that had the barrel very tight or were not properly supported on the barrel and forward receiver area while attempting to remove the barrel were actually "twisted" in the attempt to remove the barrel yet showed no signs of failure along the rails even though the actions were made unusable.

No. its best to not going around banging on things deliberately I agree but this was done in a gunsmithing school by a instructor to get a point across.  The steel was in a condition called "burnt " it was over cooked so to say.

The argument will march on forever no doubt but the track record has proven, no matter what, approach the low numbered Springfields carefully.

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Westhoff posted this 17 October 2017

   I've been happily and free from worries shooting and competing with an 03-A3 that I bought from an arsenal in Texas back in "56 or "57, so my questions are strictly out of curiosity:

   What serial no. - or approximately what number - signals the change from "low number" to "high number"?  Also, my 03-A3 was made by Remington.  Were ANY A3's made by the government?

Wes

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R. Dupraz posted this 17 October 2017

Wes, this is from an old early sixties vintage Lyman loading manual, my first. Can't say for sure exatly what year because the covers are gone now.

 

Remington

 

                   * Single                                    Double                           Nickel

                   Heat- Treat                            Heat -Treat                      Steel

                 carbon steel                           Carbon Steel                   

 

               1-800,000                           800,001-1,275,767              3,000,000-5,784,000

 

 

* Rifles built with actions and bolts of single heat-treat carbon steel WD 1325, the "low number" Springfield's, while proofed to 70,000 pounds as were all Springfield's and adequately strong under normal loads, are not as desirable as sporters as the improved heat-treat and nickel steel types numbered in last two columns.

 

 

 

 

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BudHyett posted this 17 October 2017

To quote from the CMP website: "To solve this problem, the Ordnance Department commenced double heat treatment of receivers and bolts.  This was commenced at Springfield Armory at approximately serial number 800,000 and at Rock Island Arsenal at exactly serial number 285,507." 

Notice the word "approximately" in the description; the records are not definitive. Various writers have suggested that these numbers are only close and to be careful of any receivers in this range. 

Smith-Corona and Remington made the 03A3, there were no other manufacturers. As a note, "Smith" in Smith-Corona is L C Smith, maker of fine shotguns

Farm boy from Western Illinois, living in the Magical Pacific Northwest

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Westhoff posted this 18 October 2017

Okay, looks like my 03-A3 is safe twice over.  (Which I was pretty sure of anyway.)  Made by Remington, and serial no. 3938xxx. Seven digits, not six.

Wes

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GP Idaho posted this 19 October 2017

Thank you Richard D. for your post on early Springfields.  Mine was passed down to me by my Grandfather. The old sporter was used to feed the family as the farm stock was for income purposes and game was for eating.  mine is stamped U.S. SPRINGFIELD ARMORY MODEL 1903 MARK 1 with a serial # of 1097*** It has fired untold rounds of factory 30-06 ammunition and is still in fine shape today I have no idea who or when the stock was replaced by but its stock is a strait pull style and the barrel has no band and is free floated. It wears a Redfield peep sight with a front sight like the one in Ric's post. There is a stamp on the stock between the safety and the trigger A rectangular box with W.E.S. inside I have no idea what this signifies Very proud of this old rifle and it will be with me to the end.  Gp

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RicinYakima posted this 19 October 2017

The boxed W.E.S. is the inspector W.E. Strong who inspected during 1916 and 1917 at Springfield Armory. The rifle was made in 1919 and has the slot on the left side for the Pedersen Device that fired a long .32 ACP semi-auto out of the rifle. The stock came from an early rifle and then used on yours. These Mk1"s were all well made rifles, no need to hurry, the war was over. Plus they were double heat treated, in my opinion the smoothest and safest of the '03's. HTH , Ric

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GP Idaho posted this 19 October 2017

Thank you very much for the information Ric.  Always nice to know more about the guns you have and are proud of.  It's now on a low copper, low powder diet and does pretty well with bullets 170gr. and up. Gp

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clamar posted this 21 February 2018

I know of one low-number 1903 that shattered using cast bullet loads, with 5744, IIRC.  It was apparently reported to have been used with normal jacketed loads prior to purchase by the last owner.  

I wonder if the faster-than normal powder with its quicker pressure build could have been a contributor.  I believe the load may have been quite a bit heavier than I use in my 03A3.  Clarence

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BigMan54 posted this 23 February 2018

My DAD had one. But his was completely reworked by Pachmayr.  I know they reheat treated the action, installed an after-market trigger, put on a new 26" barrel ( yes I said 26" ). Reblued all the bits and pieces. My DAD refinished a new stock with  03A3 handguards  (scant C, maybe) and had Pachmayr install a LYMAN #48 rear sight and a ramp front sight too. It was one of those stolen when I was away in the service. Guess that's why nobody leaves 20+rifle/shotguns and a dozen + handguns sitting in a stairwell these days.

Long time Caster/Reloader, Getting back into it after almost 10yrs. Life Member NRA 40+yrs, Life S.A.S.S. #375. Does this mean a description of me as a fumble-fingered knuckle-draggin' baboon. I also drool in my sleep. I firmly believe that true happiness is a warm gun. Did I mention how much I HATE auto-correct on this blasted tablet.

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