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Thread: `03 action soft or hard?

  1. #1
    PAPERPATCH MASTER


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    `03 action soft or hard?

    I have a chance to acquire an `03 Springfield reciever with bolt and trigger but nothing else. The serial is 750,XXX. I know the cut off point for soft recievers is near this number but don`t know the serial number. Can anybody refresh my memory on the cut off point?Robert

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    This is all I found
    http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/

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  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I found one from the CMP, looks like any Springfield over 800k is good, but I have also heard of people shooting the low # 1903's without issue
    http://thecmp.org/cmp_sales/rifle_sales/m1903-m1903a3/

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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    800,000. But lower than that isn't "soft"- they were all case hardened, and harder than woodpecker lips.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I have a Springfield made in 1914 serial just under 500,000. I figure I'll shoot cast loads only in it.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    The "low numbered" 1903 Springfields are not known to fail at a greater rate than those with "high numbers". The issues is what happens when they do fail. The low numbered receivers, being brittle will shatter and turn into grenades. The high numbered receivers will swell up, but not shatter.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  7. #7
    pointless
    Last edited by HappyWarrior; 07-14-2017 at 12:40 PM.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarrior View Post
    The "low number lie" continues. There is ZERO evidence of any low # receiver failing if headpace is correct and cartridges made are after 1920. In fact 1000s were rebuilt for use in WWII as our stock of M-1s could not meet needs. Marines at the "Canal" carried 03s, many of them low # guns pulled out of storage. 1000s of sporters were made by big name houses like G&H on low # actions. None are reported to have failed.
    It is not factual to say none are reported to have failed. All military rifles have failed from time to time. It is factual to say that the low numbered 03 do not fail at a great rate than high numbered 03. The army did an extensive study of these and found failures in both types, but no statistical difference in the rate of failure.

    I would be careful, were I you, about the causal use of the word "lie". It is an offensive word, a fight starter and does not add credibility to what you say. People can disagree without one being a liar.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    If there had been no issue due to the incorrectly heat treated recievers, the arsenal would NOT have done the following"

    -Switched to use of dial gauge thermometer instead of naked eye color checking
    -Studied the structural issues
    -created the Hatcher hole

    The army also would not have let so many low numbers be turned into unusable drill rifles,,, many of whish have been converted to firing weapons over the years.

  10. #10
    Julian Hatcher and others who were there during all this report otherwise. Having seen a picture of what's left of a low serial number gun after an over pressure round I wouldn't want to shoot one if I didn't have to. As Char-Gar said it's not normal everyday shooting that causes the issue, it's one of those pesky little one in a million issues that causes the problem and as he mentioned the same problem still would trash a later receiver, but the receiver would stretch and swell in a safe manner .

    The basic problem is Springfield Armory personnel were heat treating the receivers without proper equipment to measure the temperature they were being heat treated at. Army Ordnance started getting reports of Springfield's catastrophically failing and literally exploding and sometimes seriously injuring people when overpressure rounds or to a lesser extent rounds with flawed cases were fired through them. When they checked the heat treatment plant at Springfield they found that the personnel were judging temperature by the color of the steel alone and that some receivers were heat treated well in spec and others were dangerously off. The problem is there is no way of knowing if the receiver was correctly heat treated or not until the action fails.

    Hatcher also stated that Remington M1917 barrels made during the war had the same issue due to a manufacturing shortcut to avoid having to source properly dimensioned barrel blanks. Remington hit on the idea of using cheaper steel bars that were the correct dimensions for the barrel past the chamber and heating the end for the chamber and forging it to the dimensions needed. Some of the barrels were overheated in the process.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master lefty o's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarrior View Post
    The "low number lie" continues. There is ZERO evidence of any low # receiver failing if headpace is correct and cartridges made are after 1920. In fact 1000s were rebuilt for use in WWII as our stock of M-1s could not meet needs. Marines at the "Canal" carried 03s, many of them low # guns pulled out of storage. 1000s of sporters were made by big name houses like G&H on low # actions. None are reported to have failed.
    wouldnt happen to be a former member under a different name would ya?

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minuteshaver View Post
    If there had been no issue due to the incorrectly heat treated recievers, the arsenal would NOT have done the following"

    -Switched to use of dial gauge thermometer instead of naked eye color checking
    -Studied the structural issues
    -created the Hatcher hole

    The army also would not have let so many low numbers be turned into unusable drill rifles,,, many of whish have been converted to firing weapons over the years.
    Springfield Arsenal continued to heat treat the early 03 actions the same way it had head treated the Krag actions. The difference was in the design. The Krag did not trap escaping gas while the 03 did. The Hatcher hole was put in as a way for the gas to get out should it get loose in the action.

    Buckshot, one of our members blew up a low numbered 03 some time back and posted a series of pics of the remains of the action. It was quite an eye opener. He took the action apart with cast bullets and a DOUBLE charge of powder.

    I have seen high numbered 03 locked up by pressure in the action, but the did not fragment. They just swelled up like a toad and that was the end of that action.

    High pressure gas can get turned loose in any rifle due to ammo failure. I once was firing some 1930s Remington Palma match ammo in my 03 when one round felt different. I looked down and smoke was pouring out of the action and the striker was at full cock. Some of the gas had come back through the bolt and blown the striker back to full cock. The case body had a generous hole in it. I checked the target and sure enough the hole was there but 6" out of the group. I ejected the case, checked out the rifle and it was fine. The rifle was one of the good old double heat treated actions. Yes, I did have on shooting glasses. This was back about 1961 or so.

    Bottom line is low numbered 03s don't fail any more than high numbered 03s. But when one does fail...Whoa Nelly!
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    That is the problem; overly hardened and brittle receivers on Springfield rifles with serial numbers below 800,000. They were subject to sudden and catastrophic failure. The 800,00 number was for the Springfield Amory rifles, the number for the Rock Island Arsenal was below 285,00 or so(I'm dealing with memory here). This did not mean that all these rifles were going to fail, only that the possibility existed. They did replace the receivers on models sold to civilians at no cost and recalled the ones in service. Part of the problem was also traced to ammo but you can start a real argument when you say they are completely unusable. I myself like the nickel steel receivers used later. Just my experience anyway, james

  14. #14
    Suggest that the link provided by Remeil is REQUIRED reading.

    The author's conclusion is clear: quote:

    Conclusions

    The problem of Springfield receiver failures was a rare event throughout the service years of the Springfield rifle despite statements to the contrary. It was also concentrated in certain years of manufacture suggesting that an important component of the failure was human error in heat treatment. The heat treatment problems had been present long before the manufacturing pressures of 1917. The receiver failures were also compounded by a design flaw in the support of the cartridge case head in the Springfield rifle, and this problem was exacerbated by uneven manufacturing of brass cartridge cases during 1917-18.

    Eleven receiver failures in 1917 prompted an investigation and a change in the heart treatment of the receivers. The decision in 1928 to replace the low numbered receivers as rifles were returned to arsenal for repair was an effort to provide soldiers with a greater degree of safety. The board of officers recommended that the low numbered receivers all be withdrawn from service, but the general responsible for reviewing this decision did not concur with the board's decision, and left most low numbered receivers in service until replaced by the M1 Garand in the early 1940's. He took a calculated risk, and the risk paid off. There were no further receiver failures after 1929.

    It also suggests that ammunition manufactured during World War I likely played a major role in receiver failures.


    In addition to the military's findings, there are no fully documented cases of receiver failure in WWII or since then, military or civilian that are not linked to user error.

    The link is an excellent update of Hatcher's info and illuminates what Hatcher found to be the major cause of failures.

    A single heat treated action is more brittle than a double HT one. Both are more brittle than a nickle steel one.

    A SHT action is also slicker than snot, hand fitted and as made. a thing of beauty. Anyone who owns a pre 1906 unmessed with, mint 03 military rifle or a high grade custom sporter built on a SHT action can attest to that.

    If you do own one and don't wish to shoot it, that's fine. If you do, probably wise to have it tested for cracks, make sure headpace is correct, use quality ammo (03's like M70s have an unsupported case head) and stick with conservative handloads.

    Why the Alaskan is not all the way back .... who knows, but this RF Sedgley 7x57 was built on a low # action in the 1920-30s and is quite nice. I doubt G&H would take the chance on selling an unsafe rifle.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by HappyWarrior; 07-14-2017 at 02:36 PM.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarrior View Post
    pointless
    No, your original post was not pointless, just wrong. Your follow up post is factual, but tells us nothing new. Do you have anything we don't know to offer up on the matter?

    Folks with low numbered 03 receivers can shoot them or not, that is their choice. However they should know the consequences in the unlikely event that one should go kaboom, which does happen ever now and again. Yes, most likely due to the ammo, but that is not the point. Most kabooms are ammo related in whatever firearm.
    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  16. #16
    What was pointless was attempting to illuminate the subject to those with locked in opinions.

    The link cited is by far the best source of the whole story. As the link points out there were no military failures after 1929 and no evidence of fully investigated civilian examples has been presented here or elsewhere. These "kabooms" due to some basic defect in the action just don't seem to exist post 1929. As you point out ammo related failures are due to the nut behind the bolt, not the gun. The OP can read the link and make his decision with the benefit of a full understanding of the issues concerning low # actions.

    What I have to offer is decades of experience with hundreds U.S. military bolt action rifles chambered in 30-03 and 30-06 as well as several dozen sporters chambered from 22 Hornet to 400 Whelen derived from them. SHT, DHT, Nickel, 03A3s. By observing the correct headspace and good ammo rules, have yet to have any issues. Real experience with real rifles is a contribution. Very few 03' collectors out there with my experience and few posters here either.

    As the link's author pointed out, the risk is infinitesimal. I would suggest that if a like (well over 1,000,000) number of any military rifle were subjected to the detailed analysis undertaken by the US Army, as many or more failures would be found. No such studies have been done as most governments would not bother.

    God forbid anyone make a habit of FL sizing 303 cases for war production SMLEs. You can get a real "kaboom".

    Millions of SMLEs built, a pierced primer can do this, but nobody is keeping track or afraid to shoot theirs'.


    Click image for larger version. 

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  17. #17
    Boolit Man
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    What's the story on the No.4?Never seem a failure like that before.

  18. #18
    Get on the mil-surp forums, plenty of photos of SMLEs taken apart by pierced primers, defective ammo and excess headspace.

    You have not seen it because it's not a NRA myth, parroted over and over by people who repeat what the last guy said.

    A Ross will also blow the bolt into your face if it is incorrectly assembled. M97 Winchester pumps have been known to shed the bolt into the shooter's head. An 8x57 Mauser round will chamber in a controlled feed 270/280/30-06 and fire with severe consequesnces .... none of these are hot internet topics ..... why ? No NRA to beat the drum.

  19. #19
    Boolit Mold
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyWarrior View Post


    Why the Alaskan is not all the way back .... who knows, but this RF Sedgley 7x57 was built on a low # action in the 1920-30s and is quite nice. I doubt G&H would take the chance on selling an unsafe rifle.
    Lyman Alaskans had an eye relief long enough that they were sometimes placed with the scope rear in front of the bolt handle. This eliminated reshaping the bolt handle (and stock) for scope clearance. The one pictured is even a bit more forward to clear the receiver sight aperture.

    Bruce

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by Char-Gar View Post
    They just swelled up like a toad....
    Man! True Texas lingo. How I love it!

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BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
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