I've inherited a few guns that belonged to my father and would like to find out more about them. I know very little about firearms. I remember using them for target practice when I was a kid and keeping them cleaned and oiled year after year.
This rifle hasn't been fired for over 30 years now but I still get it out to give it a good oiling every now and then. It's still in mint condition. I know the Redfield scope was an add-on sometime in the 60's. Any specific thoughts on the rifle itself or where I can identify the various marks?
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July 6, 2011, 07:33 PM
a more-or-less original U.S. M1903A3, which has been modified for mounting a scope by altering the bolt handle, apparently fitting a low safety for scope use, and, presumably, drilling holes in the receiver ring for the forward scope base. Since you did not say, and your photos do not show the markings on the receiver ring (which may be concealed by the scope base), I cannot say whether it was made by Remington or Smith-Corona, though the trigger guard appears to be S-C. The original barrel (if still present) would be marked as to manufacturer, too, just behind the front sight base - RA or SC - with the date of manufacture.
It is remotely possible that the rifle was originally an 03A4 Sniper, in which the front scope base holes would have been already present, though the bolt is not an A4 bolt - if it is an A4, the markings will be visible on the right side of the receiver ring, and the manufacturer and model info should be readable - if not, some of the info will be under the scope base, though you may still be able to see enough of them to know which manufacturer produced it.
Probably just a minimally sporterized 03A3.
PRD1 - mhb - Mike
July 6, 2011, 09:12 PM
Thanks for that, Mike. I'll try to look closer around the scope to see if I can find a manufacturer. I'm still curious about the markings in the photos that are on the side of the gun and underneath the stock near the trigger. What do they represent?
My next trip will be to a gunsmith to check out its condition. There's a range near my place and I sure would like the chance to fire this again if it's up to it.
July 6, 2011, 09:42 PM
The FJA is for Lt. Col. Frank J. Atwood, chief inspector for Remington Arms and Smith Corona 1903A3s (also Remington Rand and Ithaca 1911A1s.) He, or actually one of many inspectors on his staff, stamped the gun to show it was acceptable for the Army. They also applied the Ordnance mark (crossed cannons in circle).
The P under the grip shows that it was proof tested with overload to expose any manufacturing defect.
Oh, yeah, edit to add, it lacks an RA (Remington Arms) stamp so it is likely a Smith Corona. You will have to unscrew the front scope base to tell for sure, though.
July 6, 2011, 11:31 PM
To add to what PRD1 said, if it was an 03A4 it wouldn't have a front sight base, although it would have the "H" shaped sight groove cut in the barrel.
It seems to have a well-done scope conversion, although that will detract from its collector value. To restore it to as-issued condition (besides getting rid of the scope), you'd have to replace the bolt body, the stock (because of the cutout for the altered bolt), and the safety. I can't tell if the dovetail on the receiver bridge has been ground down to install the rear mount, but if not, you would put the issue rear sight there. (If the bridge has been ground down, you might as well forget the restoration.) The holes in the receiver ring for the scope mount represent the main thing that can't be changed (if the bridge hasn't been ground down). You'd have to settle for small filler screws there.
July 7, 2011, 12:14 AM
FWIW, Col. Atwood was the Commanding Officer of the Rochester Ordnance District, which took in Remington at Ilion, and S-C at Syracuse, as well as the Ford Jeep factory at Buffalo and other ordnance materiel producers. The Army had an inspection team at all those factories, but for the most part they spot checked; the actual "inspection marks" were normally put on by company employees.
July 7, 2011, 06:56 AM
Close-up of the scope. Is Redfield a quality brand? My mother remembers a local gunsmith put it on in the early 60's as a present for my father. From all your comments it seems I don't have the right pictures to show the conversion that would have been done for the mount.
One more detail - the butt end. What is the purpose of the hinged metal piece at the rear?
The collective knowledge of this site is really impressive. Thanks for all the info and the patience with a newcomer. I'm not too concerned about the collector value of the rifle. I'll keep it as it is although it would be good to get some use out of it again.
July 7, 2011, 08:00 AM
Cleaning kit storage. Nice hunter. My '03 served me well for 20 plus yrs as my deer hunter and plinker. I chose it over auto loaders. Replaced it with a Ruger 77, also in '06. Glad you have your Dad's rifle. Am sure it means a lot.
July 7, 2011, 08:21 AM
Thanks, 06. Very cool to know more about it all.
And as a supplement to your quotation, how about:
"Chaos favors the prepared mind"
July 7, 2011, 09:09 AM
Is Redfield a quality brand? My mother remembers a local gunsmith put it on in the early 60's
In the 1960s, Redfield was THE brand to have in scope sights.
Weaver was good but lower priced, Leupold good but not as well established, Oriental imports were not well regarded and the European makers were not yet paying attention to the US market.
My next trip will be to a gunsmith to check out its condition.
I know it is against Internet Expert Policy to not recommend a gunsmith checkout of any surplus, used, or merely idle gun, but if this one shot for you and Dad 30 years ago, it will shoot for you tomorrow. Unless terribly neglected, guns don't age.
July 7, 2011, 12:40 PM
In terms of a restoration, you're in luck because the dovetail on the receiver bridge has not been messed with. The only alteration that really can't be reversed is the drilling and tapping of the receiver ring, and for that you can use removable plug screws, or regular screws filed down and spot-blued so as to make an almost invisible repair.
The proper (issue) implement that goes in the butt trap (under the hinged door) is a metal (or plastic) cylinder, 6" long x 3/4" diameter, with an oiler in one end and a compartment for the brush and pull-through in the other.
Other than the fact that it messed with the originality, the gunsmith's job was generally pretty good. Those look like Weaver rings and bases with the Redfield scope.
If you have a spare stock and bolt, you can have the rifle in two interchangeable configurations, "issue" and "altered."
July 7, 2011, 12:59 PM
which would prevent proper restoration of an original 03A3 altered as this rifle has been (and which I neglected to mention earlier) is that the bolt handle has been turned-down to an extent that would require a corresponding clearance cut in the rear of the receiver - adding the cut to an 03A3 receiver, which didn't have such a feature originally, would be an irreparable alteration.
The addition of holes drilled in the receiver ring would also prevent a full restoration to original condition - while the holes could be filled, the original lettering would have been partially obliterated, too, and that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to correct properly.
It does not appear that the rear sight dovetail has been altered.
In all, it is probably best to leave it as-is, shoot it and enjoy it as a family treasure.
PRD1 - mhb - Mike
July 7, 2011, 01:05 PM
I've known this gun for 30+ years yet I've learned more about it than I ever knew in the last 30 hours!
Thanks Jim, Alex, Mike and all for the input. With this in hand I am even more interested in getting it on to the range.
July 7, 2011, 11:15 PM
Give it a good cleaning before shooting and try 150 grain bullets by Federal or Remington. You can usually pick up a box at your local big box sporting goods store or Wal-Mart.