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Thread: 1903 and cast bullets. Want advice before I buy

  1. #1
    Boolit Master GARD72977's Avatar
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    1903 and cast bullets. Want advice before I buy

    Tell me about your 1903's and accuracy you get with cast bullets. Do i need a mint gun or will it shoot ok with some wear on it.

    I have looked around at these and there is so much i dont know. I see what looks like the same gun to me and huge price differences.

    Im also intrested in your low velocity loads. I want this to be cheap and fun to shoot. I would like to load on a dillon 550.

    Im open to spending the money for a NM gun or a WWII gun. I want it get my moneys worth and be proud of which evere gun I end up with.

    Please share what you have and your experience loading/casting and shooting.

    I re read my post and want to be clear. Im wanting a 1903 in original configuration. Im open to the stock being cut for NM sight. I have a High power match gun.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

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    Rifles, even though they look alike, can be pretty individualistic when it comes to shooting....anything, really. I would say that the condition of the bore is paramount, but unless the seller is going to let you take measurements then there are no guarantees. I have a very low number M1903 Rock Island Arsenal that was re-barreled with a brand new surplus WW II barrel and it shoots 1" groups at 50 yards using 165 gr. cast pointed bullets and a low charge of IMR-4895. Much of the fun is in finding what any individual rifle will shoot well, but once in awhile you'll find one that seemingly won't perform no matter what you try.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master JMax's Avatar
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    I have an 03 made in 1934 and load on a Dillon 550. I have two loads, 16 gr 2400 and 30 gr of IMR4895 and both group between 1 an 2 inches depending on how I do my job. I use an NOE 202-314GC 200 gr RN sized to .311". I have experimented with diameters between .309 and .312" and .311" seems to perform the best in my rifle. Have fun.
    Last edited by JMax; 07-25-2017 at 08:45 AM.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master




    Scharfschuetze's Avatar
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    1903 Loads

    My favorite bullet for any of the US Military's 30/06 rifles is the Lyman (or clone) 311299 or the 314299 depending on the rifle's bore diameter. The Lyman 311334 is also a good choice.

    While no longer available, SR4759 has always produced the best results for accuracy and ballistic uniformity for long range use.

    The 1 in 10" twist of US martial rifles means that the best accuracy with cast is usually around 1,850 for me. A good 1903 will shoot into 2 MOA to 300 yards with the above formula and is pretty darned accurate to past that if the wind isn't too inconsistent.

    A few 1903s that'll shoot cast very well as well as the 311299 and 311334 bullets for them.
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    Last edited by Scharfschuetze; 07-23-2017 at 10:31 PM.
    Keep your powder dry,

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  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    In my opinion the 03 is worth more. Because they used milled parts instead of stamp parts like in the later models. Also 4 grove barrels instead of two groove. A lot of them were rebuild during ww11 so they can be a mix of parts. You need to study up on them before you buy.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    The 2-groove 03A3s are affordable and shoot cast well.

    An 03 which has been drilled and tapped and a Lyman 48 receiver sight fitted won't bring collector price, but will also be a good shooter.

    A sporterized '03 will go very cheap because collector value is ruined, but can be a good buy as a shooter.

    The crowd I shoot with favors any flavor of '03 and we mostly use plain-based bullets with either 8.5 grains of WST or 5.0 to 7.5 grains of Bullseye at 100 yards.

    Don't recommend current NEI molds, quality not up to those made when Walt was alive. Accurate 31-160H or NOE .311-155FN used without GC are good choices, or Accurate 31-155D as dedicated plainbased bullet. NOE clone of #311299 also VERY good and will shoot accurately in ten-inch twist subsonic without GC using 8.5 grains of WST.,

    Rifles below include an 03A4, USMC M1941 sniper, NM '03 and an NRA Sporter.

    All shoot 2 moa or less at 100 with plainbased cast:

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    Last edited by Outpost75; 07-23-2017 at 11:10 PM.
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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    As I have been learnig myself, military surplus bought sight unseen normally means a high chance of needing a new barrel.

    Buying from a reputable member here, who has shot the gun is worth the time and effort.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master GARD72977's Avatar
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    Im wanting one that is collector grade but also a good cast bullet shooter. Im a little confused about what guns came with what sights. My budget is going to be about 2500 for this gun. That seems to be on the low side for a National Match rifle so im probably looking at a service rifle.

    I want higher condition than rare/collectable. I want to get my moneys worth. What guns have the best barrels for cast and the best factory sights. I dont mind changing sights but not if the gun has to be alterd. Im fine with a less rare high condition gun but if there is something that intrest me i would pay a premium.

    Those light loads of WST or Bullseye are exactly what im looking for. I have several thousand 30-06 brass with about 2k new Winchester. Most if not all my 30cal molds are GC. I may want to add a couple PB molds. It would be great to crank out a few ammo cans of 06 without breaking the bank.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    well since you have the cash, it would be much simpler and easier to get a rifle with the best receiver and stock and metal on it you can find and toss on a new barrel.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by GARD72977 View Post
    Im wanting one that is collector grade but also a good cast bullet shooter. Im a little confused about what guns came with what sights. My budget is going to be about 2500 for this gun. That seems to be on the low side for a National Match rifle so im probably looking at a service rifle.

    I want higher condition than rare/collectable. I want to get my moneys worth. What guns have the best barrels for cast and the best factory sights. I dont mind changing sights but not if the gun has to be alterd. Im fine with a less rare high condition gun but if there is something that intrest me i would pay a premium.

    Those light loads of WST or Bullseye are exactly what im looking for. I have several thousand 30-06 brass with about 2k new Winchester. Most if not all my 30cal molds are GC. I may want to add a couple PB molds. It would be great to crank out a few ammo cans of 06 without breaking the bank.
    Well.... lots of enthusiasm there....

    But also conficting statements IMHO....

    You want an 03 in "Collectors Grade"...but want to shoot " a couple of ammo cans out of it"..you are swilling to "change sights, but not if it alters the gun"....

    S-o-o-o here's my suggestion..IMO "collectors" Grades aren't shot, they are collected...working the bolts and other moving parts , disassembling the gun etc all lessen the value..of a "collectible" gun..

    HOWEVER... there are some shooters out there that are in great shape that can be used WO lessening their value...
    the other great news is that even if they are "shot out" for use with jacket ammo using cast bullets will bring them back to their former glory....how do I know this?

    These are typical 100 yd shots




    Note the diameter of the bullet .312, all my other Springfields use a bullet sized .311..

    This is out of a 1903 Remington Springfield in in excellent shape, except for the USMC Sedgley barrel that was shot out by an old gentle man through 30 yrs of Military shoots...he had put a Lyman 48 rear sight and Lyman 17 front sight on the gun as well as a "c" type stock...





    I would expect this rifle to sell these days for about half of your $2500.00..that would leave you enough to purchase another 03 in "collectors grade" to keep in the safe...and would allow you to shoot " ammo cans" through it WO hurting it's value...

    If I was looking to shoot cast boolits out of a Springfield I would do what someone has already suggested...get a good 03a3 with a two groove barrel...they like bore riders and are easier to get accuracy out of...4 groove barrels shoot as well but like different shaped boolits..the 03a3's also come with a rear peep sight so all you have to do is find a Lyman 17 front sight drift out one small pin and install it...doing the reverse will bring it back to original..

    So..here's the list for "best" (easiest) shooters;
    '03a3...swap out stock for aftermarket "c" stock and install Lyman 17 front sight
    '03 with "C" stock , Lyman 48 rear and 17 front

    Or my favorite a 1918 MK1 with all the above and a two groove barrel !


  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    If I had $2500 to spend on but one '03, I would scout out an example with a star gauged barrel that hasn't been shot out. I would settle for less than stellar exterior condition (as long as it was not altered) as long as the bore was nice- if having a cast bullet shooter was my goal.

    Star gauged barrels didn't receive special attention during their manufacture, but they did pass a strict quality test in order to receive the star gauge stamp on the muzzle. That is no guarantee of exceptional accuracy either, but it increases the odds of it.

    If strict originality is of lesser importance, than a sound original rifle with a bad bore can be had for a lot less money- then all that's left is to get a new Criterion barrel from the CMP and install it. They are excellent barrels and equal or better than original '03 barrels, with more consistent inside dimensions. This advice is for the serious '03 shooter, not a collector. An '03 with a new Criterion barrel is eligible for use in CMP sponsored vintage matches but not in CBA matches- but either way it will be a joy to shoot! Mine, on my 1903A1, has had nothing but cast through it and just seems to keep getting better the more I shoot it.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    ^^^ Sound advice...

    I have one with a Star Gauge barrel ...and he's right, they are no different, they were just gauged and the readings were recorded....cast boolits will make just about any barrel shoot...BOOLIT FIT IS KING..the rest is shimming the stock and trigger pull..AND BEING ABLE TO SEE THE SIGHTS..

    Good looking rifles are for those who can't shoot...got to have something for people to awe over when the groups are just so-so...

    BTW...sooner or later with the rifle listed above in the auction the buyer is going to want a rear receiver sight as well as the Lyman 17 front..sooner or later..

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Was at an LGS this AM - he had three 03A3's - one replaced barrel (military, but new) one replaced C stock, and one as is. Wanted in the range of $800-900 each.
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    ok finding a good gun aside....... I have some pretty worn crusty barrels on my mil surps.
    As for cast goes. Everyone of them shoots more accurately with cast loads than FMJ.
    So far the ranch Dog 160 grain GC TL bullet is doing very well for me sized .310 with LLA 16 grains of 2400 has brought home a few CMP vintage medals in local matches. with a 99, 94, 88 being my best so far. The 314299 sized from .310 to .314 has done very well also.

  15. #15
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    ShooterAZ's Avatar
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    I bought one of the Greek 1903 returns from CMP when they had them. It's a Remington with original barrel in good condition, all R marked parts and correct stock that unfortunately was oil soaked. It is a good shooter however, and that's all I wanted. It shows a strong preference for the RCBS 165 Sil with 18.5 grains of 2400 powder. One should be able to locate a decent shooter 1903 with a little diligent searching.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    My most accurate 7.62x54R with cast was of the "dark but strong" variety.

    First you must remove all prior fouling and corrosion.

    I used JB and Kroil, alternated with Sweets until I got no more green out. May take several repetitions.

    Then to recondition the bore for lead use SOFT, plain based bullets with a very light, subsonic load.

    I used NOE clone of #314299 as-cast and unsized with 6 grains of Red Dot or Bullseye.

    First lubricate the cleaned and defouled bore with Lee Liquid Alox, wet patch, then dry patch.

    Shoot 5 rounds. Don't brush bore, but wet patch, dry patch. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

    After 20 rounds repeat JB and Kroil.

    Again lubricate bore, repeat 20 conditioning rounds, NOT brushing, but one wet patch, one dry patch every 5 shots.

    Continue for 100 rounds.

    Repeat JB and Kroil again. Lubricate bore and now try your mild GC cast bullet, WW alloy, #314299 or similar 15-16 grains of #2400 in .30-'06 or similar.

    Shoot ten-shot groups, don't brush, use one wet patch, one dry patch after each ten-shot group.

    Repeat shoot and clean routine for ten, ten-shot groups.

    By now you should be getting NO lead out on a tight, wet patch after firing well lubricated bullets which fit.

    From here out treat bore like a .22 match rifle, if groups open up, several tight, wet patches, inspect for lead.

    If you get lead, repeat JB and Kroil again. DO NOT BRUSH!.

    Once bore is conditioned you should be able to go 100 rounds without cleaning with moderate load 1000-1450 fps, no GC needed below about 1240 fps in salt & peppery bore. Use GC above that.

    After 1000 rounds the bore will look good to visual inspection, as the pits have been filled with lead and smoothed out.

    Firing jacketed destroys it all and you start the whole process over.

    Each time at the range if groups open just wet patch, dry patch, go back to shooting. It should settle down.

    Hunting performance should be OK for 10 to a dozen rounds with heavier GC loads, but if leads, use the wet patch, dry patch, JB and Kroil only, fire some gallery plainbased loads to reestablish bore condition.

    When done shooting leave bore wet. Before shooting push one dry patch through bore and dry chamber, go shoot!
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  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by ShooterAZ View Post
    One should be able to locate a decent shooter 1903 with a little diligent searching.
    Haven't found one yet that won't shoot...beside load work ups..one has to pay attention to the barrel contact points..
    when they come out of the factory it takes (this varies according to various experts) 3-7# to move the muzzle up off of the tip of the stock....as time goes buy the receiver is crushed into the wood where the rear tang screw is located...
    to compensate for the crushing shooters in the know place a shim around the screw and under the receiver ..thus raising the receiver and putting more pressure on the barrel tip against the stock....this works so well that it is against the rule in Military matches..NO SHIMMING..BUT.. for casual shooters like myself it'll turn a so-so shooter into the great shooter...don't tell too many people 'cause then they won't sell you their so-so shooter for short change...

    Some match shooters were known to loosen the screws when not shooting and then retightening just prior to matches to help keep the wood from crushing.....

  18. #18
    Boolit Master




    Scharfschuetze's Avatar
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    Not Collectable, but Shootable 1903

    My collectable (and shootable) 1903s are in a post above. It's hard to find them in such good condition anymore and the ones that are out there are approaching your self-imposed spending limit.

    On the other hand, it's very easy to build a "shooter" with the parts out there that are still available. My "parts" 03 was built up on mostly free or cheap parts and closely mimics Qucksilver's 1903 in his post. It's a double heat treat 1903 receiver that was drilled and tapped for a Lyman aperture sight so it was devoid of any collectability. I put a 2 groove 03A3 barrel on it with a Lyman 17 front sight, dropped it all into a "C" stock and have been having fun with it ever since. It's a very doable way to get into a shooter and contrary to rumors, the 2 groove barrel will shoot cast as well as a 4 groove barrel, particularly with bore riding design bullets.
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    Keep your powder dry,

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  19. #19
    Boolit Master Char-Gar's Avatar
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    I have been shooting 03s and O3A3s since the late 50's and there is no other rifle on earth I can shoot as well with original sights.

    Currently I have a excellent O3A3. It came to me unfired from an Odgen Arsenal rebuilt. It is a Remington with a Remington 4 groove barrel.

    Ten years ago I built up a NRA Sporter clone using a Smith-Corona 03A3 receiver and installed a brand new S-C barrel. It took many hours of hand polishing to take off all the machine marks from metal. With enough elbow grease you indeed turn a sows ear into a silk purse.

    Either rifle is a true 1.25 - 1.50 MOA rifles, jacketed or cast, for ten shot with good ammo, good weather and a shooter that is also having a good day.
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    Disclaimer: The above is not holy writ. It is just my opinion based on my experience and knowledge. Your mileage may vary.

  20. #20
    Boolit Master Jack Stanley's Avatar
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    Whatever rifle you decide on inspect the crown first , it will be tough to get good groups with a bad crown Rifling worn a little , frosted inside maybe even small pits aren't going to hurt if you are a careful loader .

    As far as what did I do . I got one of the Greek returns , a Springfield with a High Standard barrel that wasn't co-operating . So I got a new old stock barrel from Bill Ricca and had Mark Kovach install it . A blank was sent to Pennsylvania and cut with a straight grip (type seven I think it was ) . Wood and metal was shipped to DGR in Tennessee for final fit and finish . Cost was still within your budget and the rifle was still bone stock something to be proud of .

    The only cast loads I've worked with have been to use only the battle sight at inside of sixty yards and hit right on . Lyman bullets were use but any similar weights would work I bet . 311466/7.5 Unique , 311291/9.2 Unique , 311334/11.2 Unique .

    All that said there are lots of unaltered 03 that will do this and if you want one with a Lyman 48 on it and a globe front sight you can go that way too . So which way do you want full out match or something else ? Lots of ways to get this done just know what you want to end up with first .

    Jack
    Buy it cheap and stack it deep , you may need it !

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

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
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check