1903 Springfield comes home after 25+ years


Doug S
February 16, 2014, 04:04 PM
As I previously posted on these forums, I had a chance to pickup an old 1903 Springfield that belonged to me back in the 1980’s. As I wrote, I sold it to a friend when we were going off to college. After college the friend moved out of state and we lost touch until recently. During our conversation, he mentioned that he still had my “old Springfield”. After some talk, I asked if he’d be willing to sell it back to me since it had just been sitting in a closet in his parents home since he had moved out years ago. After finding out that it was a low serial number (and giving it some more thought), I offered him $300, and he accepted the offer. It came as pictured with the 30-40 Krag bayonet. When I owned it back in the 80’s, people generally just used them as deer rifles, not collectibles, so I hadn’t researched it previously, so I also bought the book pictured to learn more.

From what I’ve gathered so far (after only a quick glance at the book and rifle) is that my gun is a mixmaster. According to the serial number it was manufactured in 1904. From reading I expected it to be in an “S” stock, but it is in an RIA stock. The barrel has a marking I haven’t been able to find in my book yet “AV”,dated 11-18. The bolt is a later, swept back type. The sights seem to have been converted when they re-did the rifles for 30-06. The stock does have a crack (see picture) near the box magazine door. That about all I have learned so far.

If any of you can help me out with the finer details I sure would appreciate it. For instance, is it unusual for this receiver to be found in an RIA stock? I also notice two holes drilled into the right, rear of the receiver as if someone has maybe tried to put on a peepsight or something? Can anyone confirm if this is true, or are the two holes and the associated cut in the stock of military origin? I don’t see anything on the gun that is overtly WWII. Do any of you think this gun was still in service for WWII? Right now I plan on using it as a wall hanger in my man cave, but I may decide to trade it on one that I can shoot. If I do, what kind of trade value, or sale value could I realistically expect to get from a low serial numbered Springfield with the features pictured? Any and all feedback on the guns history, features, and value in regard to condition and being that it is a low serial number are greatly appreciated. Thanks for any help.
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/1903Springfield003_zpsa499289d.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/1903Springfield003_zpsa499289d.jpg.html)
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/1903Springfield010_zps4ec683d1.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/1903Springfield010_zps4ec683d1.jpg.html)
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/1903Springfield011_zps3ed3d30f.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/1903Springfield011_zps3ed3d30f.jpg.html)
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/1903Springfield013_zpsf04d242c.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/1903Springfield013_zpsf04d242c.jpg.html)
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/1903Springfield021_zps901c6d22.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/1903Springfield021_zps901c6d22.jpg.html)
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/1903Springfield028_zps08c3a0e0.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/1903Springfield028_zps08c3a0e0.jpg.html)

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February 16, 2014, 04:28 PM

That's a nice looking rifle. Just an observation, but it was shot enough to wear out at least one barrel! Too bad there isn't some way to verify the strength, or lack thereof, of the receiver.


February 16, 2014, 04:44 PM
Isn't the swept back bolt handle an indicator of the later, higher numbered 03s?

February 16, 2014, 05:00 PM
That is a very nice looking rifle. Regarding the receiver, that is a very low number Springfield. How low? The production year would have been late 1904 (s/n 16001 thru 67000). This rifle would have been withdrawn from service because of possible risks from brittleness caused by single heat treatment. Personally, I'd love to collect this rifle just for the very low s/n, but would hesitate to fire it.

Regarding the AV marked barrel, Clark S. Campbell's book "The '03 Era" has this to say:

"Armory barrel blanks were produced by heating and rolling bar stock between specially grooved rollers that, in twelve passes, converted the origional 13 1/4" bar into a roughly shaped barrel blank 25" to 25 1/2" long."

"But during the First World War a huge supply of barrel blanks and finished barrels was supplied to the armories by civilian contractors, some of whom, instead of rolling the blanks to shape in formed rollers, used smaller diameter round stock and heated the breech ends and upset the billets to give the required increased diameter at the chamber end. A few of these blanks--perhaps one in a couple of thousand--were overheated and "burnt". (Particularly subject to being "burnt" were barrels supplied by the Avis Rifle Barrel Company, and stamped AV near the muzzle.)"

The bolt appears to be a high number bolt (from the photo, looks to be swept back, and not straight down like a low number bolt that would have come with a low number receiver). So this is probably a rifle that was put back into service and mixmastered by Ordnance during WW2. The RIA FK cartouche is a rebuild stamp - this rifle went through the Rock Island Arsenal for the rebuild.

Doug S
February 16, 2014, 05:01 PM
Hi fellas, I appreciate the responses. Yes, it was shot enough to require a barrel change, and it would be nice if there was some way to tell if these low numbered rifles were safe to shoot. As for the swept back bolt, yes, those are of the later (safe) type, but it is a replacement on this particular rifle, so it doesn't mean that my early numbered rifle is safe to shoot. I really wanted a shooter, but I figured for $300 I wouldn't be out much, and I'd get a neat piece of history (and non-sporterized) for my collection.

February 16, 2014, 05:50 PM
This rifle would have been withdrawn from service

Its my understanding that none of these rifles were ever "withdrawn from service" by the US military. Yes, something like 40 of them blew up which has resulted in the present day stigma. That's all I'm going to say because this subject has been debated ad-infinitum.

Current wisdom is to not shoot them and with that I agree.


February 16, 2014, 06:19 PM
I have a very early original Rock Island that I shoot. The receiver lasted all these years so I figure it will survive a few rounds shot by me.
You have what appears to be a typical Rock Island Arsenal refurb. I would shoot it if the barrel looks good.

February 16, 2014, 06:22 PM
Fair enough - in the Army, those low numbered receivers that were already issued remained in service until they were turned in for maintenance - at that point the receivers were ordered to be "scrapped." Those that were not yet issued were set aside as "war reserve". This was all set forward in a directive issued on February 7, 1928 by Gen. Hof, Cheif of the Field Army Service. The USMC left the low numbered receivers in service. So, withdrawn by attrition in the Army, and left in place by the Marines.

All this is to say, there is a LOT of history with these low number 1903s. And this doesn't even get into the low number 1903s that were re-issued during WW2, or sent abroad to allied forces.

Nice rifle!

Doug S
February 16, 2014, 06:26 PM

Thanks very much for the detailed info. I couldn't find anything about Avis in my book.

Also thanks to everyone else for the comments and info. I do appreciate any help in learning about this rifle.

In truth, I'm hesitant to shoot it even though I realize the chances of a problem are most likely minimal. Still I don't think I'll take a chance. I would have passed on the rifle based on the serial number if it wasn't what I thought was a good enough deal that I wouldn't lose money on it if I tried to sell it sometime. I also like that it has a lot of history, and most likely saw service in both WWI and WWII, and places in between.

February 16, 2014, 07:47 PM
From what I have read, if that bayonet is authentic and in good shape it might be worth what you paid for the gun just by itself.

Just my .02,

February 16, 2014, 08:39 PM
From what I have read, if that bayonet is authentic and in good shape it might be worth what you paid for the gun just by itself.

Just my .02,

Yep, just that bayo may fetch a decent price.
For the rifle, at $300 you couldn't go wrong. There are collectors who seek out these low numbered rifles.

Doug S
February 16, 2014, 10:48 PM
I was told previously that the bayonet is for a Krag rifle. I guess it will work on a Springfield, but it is shorter than the Springfield bayonet. Mine is interestingly dated 1903 on one side and stamped U.S. on the other. It's in rough shape. Some rust on the handle, and the portion that is supposed to slide over the barrel has been crushed somehow. Still a neat piece of history. I've was told that 30-40 Krag bayonets go for around $100. Not sure how to tell if the sling on the rifle is original.

February 17, 2014, 02:24 PM
That's a great-looking rifle, Doug. Glad to see you got it back.

Doug S
February 17, 2014, 10:51 PM
Thanks, PJSprog. It was neat getting it back. I figured it was long gone, but it had been sitting in a closet for the last 20something years.

February 18, 2014, 07:50 AM
Every time a low number gun comes up the posts start how it will blow up if you look at it with the sun at your back.

Eh. I have one about the same vintage. Have I shot it...Yes....do I shoot it every day Nope.

I look at it this way, During the war the marines handed out every rifle they could get their hands on, and how many failures that are not induced have you ever read about? I would say about as many failures as any other gun with hot loads shot in it.

If you want to shoot a 1903 every weekend at CMP matches, pick up another one....they are not hard to find. If you want to shoot it once a year, roll your own ammo, or pick up some safe for a Garand and take your chances....


Well yes....we are talking about a gun that is 100 years old, we are talking about a surplus gun, you take your chances whenever you shoot anything like this.

And as the sticker says on every surplus gun you buy from a distributer...have it checked, if you don't know what you are doing yourself.

February 18, 2014, 07:56 AM
Shoot, I forgot to say, that is a real fine example, nice crisp stampings....take care of it.

You really should be on the look-out for a WWI LONG bayonet for it....that rifle deserves it, but be ready to pay at least half of what you paid for the rifle for the bayonet.

Other accessories would make a nice display, helmet, ammo pouches....displayed in a correct https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-hb1oymvrbA0/UD4zqy9IlXI/AAAAAAAAAqY/D7DuWxsq3aE/s912/cc8251e1.jpgcrate with a 1911, and a heavy glass top make a very cool "man room" table or if your wife is cool the coffee table.

Doug S
February 18, 2014, 09:49 AM

I hear you on shooting the Springfield. It sounds like the issue is rare.

That is a great display case table. I'd like to eventually build some nice display cases, but for now I have my rifles sitting in some handmade wooden rifle racks. Other rifles in the racks include a Garand, M1 Carbine, No4MK1, K98, T38 & 99 Arisaka, Mosin Nagant rifle and revolver. I also have several WWII helmets, and other WWII items displayed around the room (including WWII newspapers framed on the walls). Nothing fancy, but I like it. Even my wife admits it's interesting.

I would like to pick up a correct bayonet sometime.

Thanks for the comments.

February 18, 2014, 10:08 PM
fpgt72...I like that table! Talk about "THE" man cave coffee table! Too cool.


February 19, 2014, 06:03 PM
From the sound of it, it has been drilled and tapped for a commercial sight, likely the Lyman 48.
The long slide version of this required that the stock be inlet to accommodate it, as has happened here.

Doug S
February 20, 2014, 08:50 PM
Hi MkVII, yes, I've learned that these were fairly common on the commercial market. Left some ugly holes in my receiver, but for $300 I figure I could have done worse. Thanks for the response.

February 21, 2014, 06:54 AM
Sorry guys I did not mean to suggest that was my table....I WISH.

Like you I would love to come across a crate to do this with....I have the skills just not the crate, and everyone around here seems to think they are worth a fortune....or at least more then I would like to pay.

February 21, 2014, 07:39 AM
Just a thought if you did want to shoot it, loads made with Hodgen Trail Boss powder have far less pressure than standard loads. Looking at their load data on the website it shows pressures ranging from 14,700 psi starting loads to 26,400 psi max loads, way less than standard load pressures.


Doug S
February 21, 2014, 09:29 AM
Manny, thanks for the helpful tip, but I currently do not do any reloading. Sounds like a good idea, though.

My basement "Cave" is a continual work in progress (already changed from the somewhat dated pictures below), and although I'd love to get a table/crate like the one pictured, or something similar, for now I'm utilizing several homemade racks. Currently I have the two gun rack, and the five gun racks pictured below, and I also have another 4 gun rack not pictured (the Springfield is in this rack), but of the same design as the others. Not a great way of displaying (can't see the rifles in profile as I'd like), but these racks allow me to easily secure them, and there is no danger of them falling. Hope to one day fix it up into a more visually attractive display, but I like it enough for now. I've got a lot of framed WWII newspapers and other artifacts scattered about the room, and I find it very enjoyable to sit and entertain among these items which were previously relegated to boxes, cabinets, closets, etc., where I didn't get much pleasure out of them. If I get around to it this weekend, I'll try to take a picture that shows all three racks in one photo.

http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/8_zpsb63f905d.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/8_zpsb63f905d.jpg.html)
http://i396.photobucket.com/albums/pp42/dmattaponi/Racks_zpsea2bbd32.jpg (http://s396.photobucket.com/user/dmattaponi/media/Racks_zpsea2bbd32.jpg.html)

February 22, 2014, 03:48 PM
I have an original bayonet for the Springfield . It is a WWII bring back from my dad's issue rifle. He went through the war carrying a 03 with a military mounted scope, when he mustered out in Casa Blanca, the USA would not let the rifle come home with him, and I know he tried to bring it back. I would love to find an original with scope and all.

tired bear
February 22, 2014, 08:50 PM
Doug, why did you feel you had to buy it back? Did you miss it, was there an emotional attachment or did it just eat at you for selling it? I did the same thing. I bought a low, 6 digit M1 Carbine in 73 but sold it to a friend in 89. I don't recall what I was thinking, it was stupid but it happened and it eat at me everyday until last September when I bought it back from him. Like yours it was just sitting in a closet. I missed my old friend, got tired of beating myself up on a daily basis, shelled out the cash and brought it home...TO STAY!

Doug S
February 22, 2014, 10:38 PM
tiredbear, yes it was one of those guns, that I had thought about through the years, and wished that I hadn't sold it off. I actually didn't remember having sold it to this friend, so when he reminded me of it, and I was presented with the opportunity of getting it back, I jumped on it. Now if I could just remember what I did with that T99 Arisaka, with the monopod, and the anti-aircraft wing sights...

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