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Thread: Low number 1903 Springfield.

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Low number 1903 Springfield.

    I have a low number 1903 Springfield that I know a relative used in the first world war. It is in real good shape for it's age. Any ideas on this rifle. I have read the warnings but if it has seen this much use it should be safe. It is a 1917 year of manufacture.
    I keep trying to stay afloat but can't help from shooting holes in my own boat.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy 45-70marlin's Avatar
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    Here is a good site it. http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/
    I have a 1913 and I do shoot it with normal loads. The only thing is if you overload it, it does come apart in pieces.
    Endeavor to persevere

  3. #3
    Boolit Master frnkeore's Avatar
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    That is a very good condensed information from Hatchers book. I have Hactcers book and have read it all.

    I consider the <800,000 rifles to be safe with normal cast bullet pressures. The main problem was HT temps so, many were treated correctly and some were beyound the limits. One of Hatchers test was to hit the rail with a hammer and some shattered. As a basic test for the most brittle actions, you might try using a hard plastic mallet (won't mar the metal) on the left action rail. If it shatters, you've saved yourself injury, if not, it will give you slightly more confidence.

    Frank

    PS, Hathchers book is very good reading and not expensive. I got mine newly printed 2 yrs ago.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master gew98's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frnkeore View Post
    That is a very good condensed information from Hatchers book. I have Hactcers book and have read it all.

    I consider the <800,000 rifles to be safe with normal cast bullet pressures. The main problem was HT temps so, many were treated correctly and some were beyound the limits. One of Hatchers test was to hit the rail with a hammer and some shattered. As a basic test for the most brittle actions, you might try using a hard plastic mallet (won't mar the metal) on the left action rail. If it shatters, you've saved yourself injury, if not, it will give you slightly more confidence.

    Frank

    PS, Hathchers book is very good reading and not expensive. I got mine newly printed 2 yrs ago.
    I've had hatchers on my desk for many years. Love it. I also would not suggest firing any low number 03...they are brittle and it only takes that one little bit to make it all go downhill real quick. I would think when the 'hammer' test was done it was not with a plastic hammer either...it will most certainly give different results.
    No , I did not read that in a manual or stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.... it's just the facts Ma'am.

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  5. #5
    Boolit Master frnkeore's Avatar
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    I do know that it isn't the same as a steel hammer but, if extremely brittle, it's would be worth a try. I was trying to give a little incentive to try something, I doubt many would use a steel hammer on a rifle in nice shape.

    I believe the Krags were made of the same material and heat treatment, I would assume that the Krags were made with the same technic (i.e. "eye balled" temps) and there are very few to no failures of the Krag recievers but, they operated and lower pressures (more like cast bullet pressures).

    Hatcher gives the metals and HT for the Krag and I believe they are the same as the early '03's. I'll have to check.

    Frank


    Frank

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Looks like a wall hanger just to be safe.
    I keep trying to stay afloat but can't help from shooting holes in my own boat.

  7. #7
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    I have hatchers notebook and a low numbered springfield, 11,xxx. That's about as low as you can find.
    Having said that I shoot mine all the time with fairly robust loads. Mine likes a 311290 over 30 grains of IMR-4895.


    Let your conscience be your guide.
    Quote Originally Posted by Theodore Roosevelt
    No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdet69 View Post
    I have a low number 1903 Springfield that I know a relative used in the first world war. It is in real good shape for it's age. Any ideas on this rifle. I have read the warnings but if it has seen this much use it should be safe. It is a 1917 year of manufacture.
    Check the date of manufacture of the barrel, a number of low number 03 failures were traced to defective barrels suplied by subcontractors.
    These barrels were replaced around 1918, but some may still be around.

    More than a few 1903 rifles ended up being purloined by returning troops, and at different times mustered out U S troops were given the oportunity to buy their service rifle. I don't know if this was the case after WW1.
    If the rifle is unchanged from its WW1 issue condition I'd definitely have the barrel checked out carefully.

    Not all low number receivers were brittle, but there is no way to know for sure if any particular receiver was overheated during forging.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Due to the need to produce more rifles for the war inexperienced people were hired and were doing heat treating from what I have read. With the Krags these were made by more experienced individuals at a more normal rate.

    In the 2010 Gun Digest there is an article on the use of a grease called Mobilube on the bullets to help prevent the severe cupro-nickel fouling from the jackets. Apparrently this grease was getting on the brass cases preventing them from gripping the case walls. After the jacket material was changed some still used the grease in violation of orders. The was a connection made between this grease and blown up guns.

    I would not shoot your 1903, but would find a nice old sporter and shoot that.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by fatnhappy View Post
    I have hatchers notebook and a low numbered springfield, 11,xxx. That's about as low as you can find.
    Having said that I shoot mine all the time with fairly robust loads. Mine likes a 311290 over 30 grains of IMR-4895.


    Let your conscience be your guide.

    The load above is a decent load, but remember that it doesn't peak as quickly as a unique/red dot/ etc. fast burner would. Fast burners hit the roof faster, maybe like a hammer. Slower powders much less so.

    There's a lot of discussion on this subject all over the place, use your discretion.

  11. #11
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    Let us also remember that a root cause of most of the destructed m1903s mentioned in Hatcher's Notebook were caused by defective ammuntion (also of wartime production by a couple manufacturers) where the cases ruptured allowing the gas back into the action. Once this was determined and the ammuntion no longer used the instances of '3s destructing went to nothing. As mentioned; let your conscience be your guide as to whether or not to shoot it.

    Larry Gibson

  12. #12
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    How bout smack it with a heavy brass hammer?

    Why not just shoot cast at low safe pressures like 25,000-30,000 max, or is that still pushing it?
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  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    So upon further inspection the reciever is of 1907 manufacture and it was rebarreled in 1918. It also has an arsenal stamp for @1932. So it has seen some use.
    I keep trying to stay afloat but can't help from shooting holes in my own boat.

  14. #14
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    A real conundrum. Not all are bad, some got heat treated correctly. I tend to think that if
    it shot out one barrel (at least) maybe it is just fine. The hammer test seems reasonable,
    but what a shame if it shatters.

    Bill
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  15. #15
    Posted elsewhere, but germane.

    Most M1903 kabooms can be traced to ww1 ammunition and a phenominon called galvanic corrosion. This is corrosion caused by dissimilar metals, specifically brass cartridge cases and cupro-nickel bullet jackets. Hatcher notes that a tremendous amount of pressure was required to pull down much ww1 vintage ammo in investigating M1903 kabooms, and this would be consistant with the bullet jacket corroding/welding to the case neck, thus causing phenominonally high pressures.

    Some mention has been made of chamber pressure. The .30-40 Krag's industry standard has been 37000 PSI for years, and every single pub I have on the 03 states that the .30 M2/M1906/whatever has a chamber pressure of 50000 PSI. Every .30-06 round makes @15000 more PSI than the Krag. While the single heat treat is perfectly fine for a round like the Krag, it leaves NO margin for error with a higher performing round like the .30-03 or 30-06. Powder from an exceptionally fast-burning lot, a slightly oversize bullet in a slightly fouled bore or any number of factors can completely remove any margin of safety you might have with an LN M1903.

    The 'arsenal stamp" is doubtless a custody mark, as Hatcher states that LN M1903s were withdrawn from service in the 1920s and maintained for war reserve (also nicely explains all the Greek return LN M1903s with WW2 dated barrels).

    The dangerous *barrels* were made by the Avis Rifle Barrel Co. and are marked "AV/(flaming bomb)/xx-18. AV marked barrels should not be fired with live ammunition of any sort regardless of serial number or maker of reciever.

    Conclusion: You might safely fire rounds for YEARS through an LN M1903, but then again you might safely tightrope walk between skyscrapers for years, too. OR you might wind up like all the people in Hatcher's Notebook with wrecked M1903s or the Flying Wallendas. You're only issued one of you, and you ain't no Marine on Guadalcanal so what good reason is there to take the chance of wrecking an interesting artifict or maiming yourself or WORSE? Bottom line is that with so many high numbered M1903/M1903A1/M1903A3 rifles about there is no good reason to fire a Springfield M1903 with a serial number of under @800,000 or a Rock Island M1903 with a serial number of under 285,507 with any form of live ammunition. Oil yours lightly, find a safe high numbered rifle to shoot with whatever safe loads you care to put through 'er, return the artifact to the gun safe, and enjoy the *safer* M1903.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master gew98's Avatar
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    As Brophy noted in his tome on the 1903 all it took was a small deviation north of operating pressures and or case failure(s) to put a low heat treat 03 in the danger zone toot sweet. Simply not worth the risk. Would be akin to using a smokeless powder in Black powder rifles.
    The 30/40 krag did not suffer from rushed production and flawed design...and subsequent ammunition quality control problems and all those coupled with use in the mud of the great war.
    Most I have ever seen of the US krag was a cracked bolt lug , and this was not a rare occurence then either.
    US ordnance would have been better served to copy the mauser more dilligently , but alas that's hindsight speculation on what could have been.
    No , I did not read that in a manual or stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.... it's just the facts Ma'am.

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  17. #17
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    Most I have ever seen of the US krag was a cracked bolt lug , and this was not a rare occurence then either.
    I have seen images of cracked Krag receivers, mainly cracks at the lug recess or at the point where the safety lug would make contact if a bolt lug failed.
    Some target shooters lapped the front lug and its seat till the safety lug made full contact, this apparently improved accuracy a bit.
    Some Krag safety lugs made contact fresh from the armory, or made contact after much wear or lug setback.

    When the Army went to a slightly higher velocity .30-40 ball cartridge operating pressure increased from a Max of 40,000 CUP to 43,000 CUP, thats when bolts began cracking.
    Springfield Armory offered free replacement bolts to civilian Krag owners, if the damaged bolt was sent in with a report on the conditions at time of failure.
    I figure an unexpected increase in maximum deviation pressures did the damage rather than the slight increase in average working pressure.

    Most M1903 kabooms can be traced to ww1 ammunition and a phenominon called galvanic corrosion. This is corrosion caused by dissimilar metals, specifically brass cartridge cases and cupro-nickel bullet jackets. Hatcher notes that a tremendous amount of pressure was required to pull down much ww1 vintage ammo in investigating M1903 kabooms, and this would be consistant with the bullet jacket corroding/welding to the case neck, thus causing phenominonally high pressures.
    Some Krag milspec Ball had cases plated on the inside with Tin.
    I've read of speculation that the tin plating inside the neck "cold soldered" to the cupro-nickel bullet jacket. Sometimes dis-similar metals in direct contact can produce a very weak electric current, more so if a chemical reaction such as powder degradation in storage boosts the process.
    A similar "cold weld" process has been tried out by Astronauts, assembling sheet metal objects in the vacuum of space. The contacting points are highly polished, the astronaut then uses a tool similar to a long handled eyelet setter to mash the surfaces tightly together. With no oxidation of the polished surfaces the metal cold flows and essentially two pieces of metal become one at the molecular level.

    One of the low number Springfield 03 receiver failures investigated by Hatcher involved a very light gallery practice cartridge.
    The rifle had survived proof testng at 70,000 CUP and hundreds and possibly thousands of rounds of full power .30-06 Ball, but shattered like a jelly jar from a single low pressure practice round.
    Hatcher suspected that the lower pressure of the practice round did not swell the case body into a close contact fit too the chamber. With none of the back thrust being absorbed by case wall friction or primer cup cushioning, the casehead smacked the boltface in a short sharp blow.
    The receiver didn't blow up, instead it fractured into many pieces and then just fell apart a second or so after firing.
    So this seems to indicate that a low pressure cast load may not be a guarantee against failure.

    When the seriousness of the LN failures was finally recognized reports stated that there was no non-destructive test to determine which receivers were bad.
    I wonder if the cutting of the "Hatcher Hole" to provide an oversized gas escape port might also have allowed the armorer to get a feel for the metal below the surface hardened layer.
    You can usually feel the difference in hardness or brittleness of steel during drilling even if a drill press is used. Also shavings from the metal removed could be closely examined, sort of like a biopsy.
    A local machinist once told me that he had made a number of super hard drill bits for gunsmiths to use in DT'ing Springfield receivers. I've always heard that the Springfield had the hardest surface treatment of any milsurp rifle. So the difference between surface hardness and hardness of the steel below the surface should be rather pronounced.

    In the distant past whenever I drilled a receiver ring or the tang of a hardened knife blade I'd use a .30 AP core as a center punch, then chuck a very tiny grinding ball from a Dremel kit into the drill press, grinding through the hardened layer with the punch mark keeping the ball centered before using a drill bit. Most milsurp rifle receivers aren't hard enough to require all that extra work, and of course only pre-bubba'ed rifles should be DT'ed these days, unless one is building a sniper replica project rifle or mounting period correct target sights.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    You guys are correct when you say there is no raeson to risk injury with an unpredictable rifle. It will remain a safe queen and I do not have a real reason to use it, not with what I have else around to use.
    I keep trying to stay afloat but can't help from shooting holes in my own boat.

  19. #19
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    ...............The low numbered Springfields that were ah, ...................... left too long in the oven are incredibly strong. If measured a certain way. Think of the very hard actions as being similar to a file. They have no ability to withstand sudden shocks, and that's why a smack with a hammer can crack or break them.

    My grandfather had a nice old low numbered Springfield action as an NRA Sporter. I dont know how much it had been fired before it was handed down to me. I shot the heck out of it, until ...........................



    The left over pieces I could find!



    You can see the vaporized cartridge brass on the bolt. The bolt remained in the closed/locked position but that didn't make much difference as the entire action was shattered.

    What it took to detroy the action was to double charge a case with 4227 under the Lyman 311284. The casehead failed and when that high pressure gas was turned loose in the reciever ring, it came to pieces. The casehead pretty much vaporized. No one was injured and in case you're wondering, that 220gr cast slug tripped the chronograph at over 3000 fps.

    .................Buckshot
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buckshot View Post
    ...
    and in case you're wondering, that 220gr cast slug tripped the chronograph at over 3000 fps.

    .................Buckshot
    The real question is:

    was there any leading in the barrel???


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