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Thread: What to do with a low number 1903?

  1. #1
    Boolit Master timspawn's Avatar
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    What to do with a low number 1903?

    I just bought a 1903 Springfield. Serial number 6280xx. Barrel is dated 2-42 so I'm sure it has been shot many, many times. Do I hang it on the wall or use it for low pressure cast loads?

  2. #2
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    Bullshop's Avatar
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    If your looking for votes you will likely get about an even split. I will start with a Hang vote. I see no good reason to take such a high stakes gamble.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

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    I agree with Bullshop. Just because you can shoot it doesn't mean you should.
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    lefty o's Avatar
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    i'd hang it, no point in being that 1 in a million blow up!

  5. #5
    Boolit Grand Master


    mold maker's Avatar
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    It's the receiver that is in question, not the barrel. There are still lots of safe shooting 19O3s, why chance it.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    What are your eyes and fingers worth ?
    Every time you pull the trigger you will have to ask yourself " Am I feeling lucky !!".

  7. #7
    Boolit Master UBER7MM's Avatar
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    Trade it for a Spanish 1916 or a FR-7.....
    Uber7mm

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  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I would shoot it with low pressure cast loads.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master gew98's Avatar
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    One of my friends cousins when I was a teenager was mortally wounded by a low number 03 that let go. It had been sportered and he was using factory soft point ammo. Some things are better left as wall hangers...reheatreated or not !.
    My understanding is that these low numbers are supposedly safe with issue ammo but the least little thing that causes overpressure can make them shatter..... but I have understood receivers even cracking and shattering by rough handling due to their brittle nature from bad heat treating .
    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.

    What's the difference between a pig and an Engineer ?
    You can argue with the Pig.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    If 2-42 barrel is good and rest of parts are good. Nice A-3 receivers can be had for a buck and a half and away you go.

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master


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    Over the years I shot numerous LSN 'o3s, especially with cast bullet loads. I don't own one (my two '03 actions are DHT and the '03A3 is better yet) but if I did and it had a new barrel on it such as the mentioned "2-42" and a LSN'd receiver made in 1916 I would probably shoot "low pressured cast loads" through it. That's my choice. I have read Hatcher's book numerous times. I also read a lot of the recommendations for shooting such he and the NRA made in the American Rifleman when the LSN '03 were used a lot and sold through DCM in the '40s, '50s and '60s.

    Larry Gibson

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy
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    I'd shoot it with cast in a heartbeat. Can't think of a more suitable platform.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    The thinking that low pressure loads would be ok can be very dangerous here if that is indeed an early poorly heat treated receiver, the metal is brittle and prone to cracking not just weak tensile strength -big difference there! That thing would not only be brittle but it would be old and brittle and undoubtedly subjected to many pressure cycles in the past from the rounds it has fired, who wants to bet his safety on the next round not being the one that turns out to be one too many? In a poorly heat treated and brittle condition even low pressure loads could be dangerous because it's shock as much or more so than high pressure that can cause brittle micro-cracked metal to fail and without testing (ultrasonic for example) there is just no way of knowing for sure but one thing is for certain, that receiver is too darn close to a person's face to take a chance!

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
    texassako's Avatar
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    The big question is do you like wall hangers? I don't know if I would shoot yours, but I know I shoot every gun I own at least a little bit. I would find an accurate, mild, slow cast load to take it out occasionally and keep it for the history.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    .32 caliber round ball and 2.0g of bullseye. Let the kids have a ball! Cheaper than .22's and I've seen more than one that shoot pretty darn good with that load at 15-25 yards.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master timspawn's Avatar
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    I think I'll just sell it and let somebody else make the decision on what to do with it.

  17. #17
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    I to vote for hang it on the wall and admire it for what it is, what it has done in its long and esteemed life and be satisfied. I would probably look at it and wonder about the young soldier who was first issued that rifle and whatever became of him, but that is just how I think.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Well it is your choice but if it has been shot enough to have a WW II rebarrel the action has been well tested. I'd shoot it with cast loads and never worry.

    Jerry Liles

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Guy I bought my present house from had an attic stored Rock Island 1903 low number. Covered in rust from being stored in the attic, had some funky welding done on it and generally looked a mess. Checked the serial number and it was around the 200,000 series. pretty sure the good ones were over 250,000. Correct me if I'm wrong. He said I'll give you a good deal only $500. Tried to tell him about low numbered 1903's but was like talking to the wall. When I had my 89.00 A3 rebarreled and sporting sights installed and blued I didn't cut the barrel. Took it out of its fajen stock stuck it in a C stock and shot it for quite awhile. Looking to get a really nice set of origional sights for it and try cast boolits. Funny thing is that I never had it drilled and tapped for scope mounts. I found a partially bent and scalloped bolt for my A3. Gunsmith set the headspace so that either bolt will not take the go guage. Turns out the spare bolt is actually for the A4 sniper rifle and probably worth more than the rifle itself. Go figure. Frank

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    Hatcher wrote of an accident where two boys fired three rounds of .35 Remington through a 7.7 Jap rifle, the receiver blown to shards on the third shot, so any action may be destroyed if put to enough abuse.

    The low number receiver failures with known causes would have likely destroyed any action but in less spectacular manner.
    Some were due to a very bad lot of WW1 manufacture ammo with soft caseheads the case head splitting and venting more gas than the tiny vents could handle, probably why the USMC bored "Hatcher Holes" in their low number receivers.
    Others were due to a very bad lot of barrels provided by a subcontractor. The breech had been over heated in the bumping up process, something that was discovered in some early P-14 and M1917 barrels as well. When barrels crack at the breech they can split any receiver.
    I think the defective barrels were replaced, but a few might still be out there.

    The receiver failure that disturbed me was the shattering of a LN when a low pressure Guard cartridge was fired. Hatcher seemed to believe that in this case it was a mechanical blow to the bolt because the case did not expand enough to grasp the chamber walls. That resulted in a sharp blow as from a hammer. All the pieces remained in place with nothing blown out by gas escape.

    If someone was killed by a blown up LN 1903 its never made it into print that I know of, but that does not mean it didn't happen.
    Some will still claim that no Lee Enfield action ever failed except when using handloads but I was able to find dozens of failures documented by the Canadian House of Commons. I found one fatality in Canada and another in the U S. Published accounts of all those incidents were sketchy. People don't like having a dead relatives name tossed around, and if theres a lawsuit records are often sealed by the court.
    Around here no matter what the cause of a firearms accident the only thing the public is likely to find out is the alcohol content of the victim's blood.

    Even if I were willing to fire a LN 03 , with Hatcher Hole of course, I would not want one left in my estate for my heirs to possibly end up being hurt by.

    The LN rifles should probably be converted to Drill rifles as so many were, or deactivated and used as museum displays.

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