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May 17, 2020

Gun Thread: '03 Springfield! [Weasel]

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For a few weeks I've been promising "you people" a video on the '03 Springfield, and I finally got 'er done! Sort of. It didn't exactly come out as I'd hoped, but I didn't want to put it off for another couple of weeks while waiting to shoot key scenes over again. Anyhoo, let's have a look at that, shall we?

And before a bunch of you email me to point it out, yes, I did incorrectly say windage instead of elevation when discussing the rear leaf sight!

'03 Springfield and "Low Number" Receivers
Originally published in the November 25, 2018 Gun Thread - we recycle!
One of the all-time greatest topics for internet forum debate involves the question of the '03 Springfield and 'low number' receivers.
Introduced in 1903, the United States Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903 was the standard U.S. infantry rifle until the M1 Garand came along in 1936, and the development and use of the '03 Springfield is extremely interesting. For today, however, we're going to talk a little bit about metallurgy and wartime production.

The U.S. entered WWI with insufficient rifles to arm the troops so production had to be increased and that meant adding shifts at the arsenals. At the time, the heat treatment of the receiver steel was controlled thru visual inspection by armory workers. When the steel glowed a certain color it was deemed to have reached the proper temperature, an obviously subjective procedure. It was later determined the actual temperature of steel produced in this manner might vary by several hundred degrees, depending on whether it was a day or night shift, or a clear vs. cloudy day, and resulted in potentially over-cooked and brittle steel. A relatively small number of the receivers failed during use and injured soldiers which prompted an investigation.

Compounding the problem was, by design, the head of the .30-06 cartridge is unsupported by the chamber for about 1/8th inch. Some receiver failure incidents were suspected to have been caused by defective cartridge head brass and even others attributed to the use of incorrect ammunition altogether. The Army Officer leading the investigation, Julian Hatcher, incorporated the findings into the book bearing his name, Hatcher's Notebook, which is highly recommended. As described by Hatcher, the investigation and testing continued into the 1920's when a sample of 26 low number receivers were subjected to twice the rated pressure without failure.

Whatever the cause, about a dozen soldiers received serious injuries resulting from receiver failures. The manufacturing process was improved in February 1918 at Springfield Armory around S/N: 800000, and at Rock Island Arsenal at S/N: 285507 with the installation of pyrometers in the forges. But what to do with approximately 1 million 'suspect' receivers then in use? The Army decided to leave them in regular service and only retire them as they came through the arsenal for repair, and the Marines decided to simply keep using them until someone handed them something else to shoot. And the great Springfield low receiver serial number issue was born.

My rifle is S/N 379145 made at the Springfield Armory in 1909, but with a barrel date of November 1944. That's right, the receiver made in 1909 is matched to a barrel made 35 years later. It's a rifle which was fired to the point of wearing out at least one barrel, and perhaps several barrels, before concluding its military service in 1944.

Do I shoot it? Of course I do. It was made in 1909, well before WWI and the increase in wartime production which many think contributed to the problem. The CMP and most of the rest of the world declare this rifle 'unsafe to shoot' based on the low number. I suspect it may have been a USMC rifle given it was never removed from service, and if it's good enough for the Marines then it's good enough for me. I ususlly hand load for it using surplus brass, 150gr bullets, and IMR4895 staying on the lower end of the velocity curve - around 2650fps. The load for .30 cal military ammunition has fluctuated over the years, but in 1944 the new M2 Ball used a 152gr flat base bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2805fps.

Remember, these rifles weren't treated like some sort frail and fragile item 100 years ago, but rather continued to be used until they were worn out and then removed from service, or replaced by something else, a fact that is usually omitted from discussion on low serial number rifles.
Am I recommending you shoot a low number receiver? No. I'm just telling you that I shoot mine, and the reasons I think it's OK for me to do so with my particular rifle.

Suggested references:

The definitive resource:
The Springfield 1903 Rifles, Brophy

Also recommended:
The Model 1903 Springfield Rifle 4th edition, Poyer
Hatcher's Notebook, Julian Hatcher

There are many many others, and countless websites devoted to the development and long history of these wonderful rifles.


Next we have a 1911 front sight repair project from our pal Jesse in DC:

These are the pics of me repairing the front sight on my 1911. An easy repair I guess, but I was surprised at how hard the sight part was. That probably explained the bad previous staking job. I did not want to damage the slide, so I used some green locktite, the stud and bearing mount stuff. I think that should be sufficient, but if not I will try to find the official tool to stake it Now, ready for the next range trip. Jesse in DC

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Nice job, Jesse in DC, and I like your library!


Here's our pal Jerry Miculek with a video on moving targets:


Cowboy Action Shooting
Here's an article from American Grit sent in by our good buddy Mr. C.B. Dildo. The article itself is on a form of shooting competition we've never discussed, Cowboy Action Shooting, and it features a girl!!!

Have any of you participated in this type of competitive shooting? Looks like fun! Maybe an idea for the TXMoMe?



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Sad people who cannot make the new NoVaMoMe date of August 29th

Due the Chinese Cooties hysteria in Virginia, the NoVaMoMe 2020 has been postponed until Saturday, August 29th. The time and location remain the same. If you haven't already, please check your email and let the Central Planning Committee know if you are able to make the new date. If not, your registration fee will be refunded and we will open your spot to those on the wait list. Questions? Just email us at NoVaMoMe2020 at gee mail dot com. Thank you!



I'm really very seriously not kidding around anymore. Buy Ammo
AmmoSeek - online ammo search tool
GunBot - online ammo search tool
SG Ammo
Palmetto State Armory
Georgia Arms
Target Sports USA

***Mail Bag***

From the Why Would You Do This and the Don't Try This at Home Departments, this week's entry comes to us from Classic Firearms. [h/t redc1c4]

Thanks redc1c4!


Please note the new and improved gmail account morongunthread at gmail dot com. An informal Gun Thread archive can be found HERE. If you have a question you would like to ask Gun Thread Staff offline, just send us a note and we'll do our best to answer. If you care to share the story of your favorite firearm, send a picture with your nic and tell us what you sadly lost in the tragic canoe accident. If you would like to remain completely anonymous, just say so. Lurkers are always welcome!

That's it for this week - have you been to the range?

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