1903 Mistake?


PDA






Sailct41
May 29, 2014, 12:59 AM
Guys I just bought a 1903 and when I got it home I realized that the serial number was 717xxx putting in in 1917 and in the section where there are concerns about the the receiver being too brittle and the bolt hitting me in the eye. The guy whom i bought it from was shooting it with factory loads. I paid 400 for it, it has a new style bolt (slightly swept back) i dont really plan on shooting it much but i would like to shoot it. I reload so my current plan is to load some 30-06 hot as recommended and tie it to the table and shoot 10 rounds. If it does not explode I will make some light targer loads and not worry about it. Sound plan or crazy? I need some help from the experts

If you enjoyed reading about "1903 Mistake?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!
rcmodel
May 29, 2014, 01:41 AM
Several of the early military failures were often as not with light gallery indoor practice loads.

I guess do what you gotta do though.

rc

Edarnold
May 29, 2014, 01:50 AM
Unfortunately, most of the single-heat-treat '03s worked just fine until they were retired. That does NOT mean that the receivers were not brittle, it just means they never encountered conditions that caused them to fail. The factors that caused catastrophic failure were case failures that released high pressure gas, or extreme over pressures due to defective ammunition. The situation that brought the problem to light was National Match loads that had very high bullet pull due to tin-plated bullets that cold-welded to the case neck, coupled with the use of lubrication applied by shooters to reduce fouling. So if you never have a case head fail, or get an over-length case that jams into the chamber and skyrockets pressures you MIGHT be safe. Or not.
To be honest, I wouldn't chance it. It's putting your guardian angel on overtime.

Jim K
May 29, 2014, 02:21 AM
The problem was not with the bolt blowing out but with the brittle receivers simply breaking apart under adverse conditions. That usually meant gas escaping into the action, but I once broke a receiver into three pieces with a blow from a light hammer. As I said, they are brittle; they have no "give". Good steel will bend or at the worst, tear under high pressure; those receivers simply shatter.

Some argue that all the bad ones have already let go, so there is no danger any more. But since no one knows how many bad ones there were, or how many have let go, that is a rather silly position. The Army stopped reporting or counting failures after the rifles were no longer in service, so the fact that there are no reports of failures also means nothing, though there have been reports in the American Rifleman of failures, usually with light loads which give a sharp shock to the receiver.

Jim

kitsapshooter
May 29, 2014, 04:18 AM
There was extensive research done on this and it is available on-line. I lost the links when my drive failed or I would share them with you. Try doing some research. Then you can make an informed decision.

PRD1
May 29, 2014, 12:20 PM
no matter what else is said on-line or elsewhere, is that the Ordnance Department, who had built the rifles and knew best what they were supposed to be and endure in service, after extensive testing in an effort to both solve the problem and, if possible, save as many of the suspect rifles as possible, concluded that the early rifles could not be salvaged, and recommended that they be destroyed: around one million rifles.
That this was not done is a fact, but the reasons had more to do with the poverty of between-the-wars military budgets, and a lack of urgency at the time, than reflecting on the wisdom of the recommendation.
The fact is that no one at all knows which of the early rifles is subject (or more so) to failure than any other, and they are all suspect. Any one of them can and will fail when subjected to stresses that the later DHT and NS actions will survive intact, as all of them were originally intended to do.
If, knowing the facts, you choose to shoot a low-numbered 1903, you should do so with no expectation that it is perfectly safe to do so, the apparent long-term survival of the rifle to date notwithstanding.
And no one at all should ever be allowed to state that it is really O.K. to shoot any low-numbered 1903 without being challenged with the facts.
Do what you think best - I've shot low-numbered 1903s (in fact, I don't know anyone who has ever shot a lower number than 217), and probably will do so again, but never in the misguided belief that it is no real risk at all.

PRD1 - mhb - Mike

SlamFire1
May 29, 2014, 02:40 PM
It is very hard to know, the basic problem is that it takes a destructive test to know if the receiver is bad or not. The predominate problem at the time was over heating billets in the forge shop. The US Army was not putting money into Springfield Armory, was not equipping their factory with the latest technology, so their workers were using out modeled equipment and outdated, even by the standards of 1906, gages. Pyrometers were recent, but not new, new, but the Army was not buying them, SA required their workers to judge forge furnace temperatures by eye. Obviously that was highly variable. If the front end of the production line at SA was so primitive and barbaric you can guess the rest was not particularly better. Anyway once the billets were burnt, they stayed burnt, they are structurally brittle, and they can’t be made unburnt by any method. Sort of like burnt toast, burn toast bad and there is nothing you can do to make it fresh again.

This is what real experts were saying about the things only 27 years after the things were built:

American Rifleman Dope Bag Oct 1945

“All old Springfields Weak”

A long letter written by gunsmith, R.E Simmons to Mr Ness, the editor of the Dope Bag, describes a SHT Springfield that had blown. This section was about midway:

“I just received a letter from George Vitt of the A. F. Holden Company. This company is one of the foremost heat-treaters in the United States and he says that they will not even think of accepting one of these old actions for reheat-treating. To quote him:

“The old Springfield receivers were made of cheap, almost plain, carbon steel, that was merely carburized and quenched. The type of steel used would not readily lend itself to good results from the best heat-treating practices, even though there are one or two outfits in Pennsylvania and elsewhere ** who advertise the so called reheat-treated Springfields for sale I would no more trust these receivers without making a chemical analysis and without testing them on the Rockwell machine that I would jump off the Empire State Building.

From the references I have, the reheat-treatment of these receivers amounts to the same thing as the so called double heat treatment that was practiced at the Springfield Armory prior to 1929 In other works neither of the two is much good for the reason of low-grade material used in the receiver” (End of Mr. Vitt’s quote)”

Mr Simmons, in a bridging section in his letter, states he had worked in the Ordnance Department during WW2 and that he had tested SHT receivers after rebuild with proof loads and Mr Simmons had not seen any break, making him skeptical about these receivers being structurally deficient, but he states “it is best not to recommend these old actions for any of the more powerful loads”


“Incidentally, I noticed that you mention a well-known reheat job which is being done on these Springfield receivers by a well known firm. I wish to state that many of these old actions treated by this firm (which is like the one I sent you), are letting go in every direction. In fact, I personally believe these are about the worst in the bunch, because they simply softened the receivers, which would allow a very powerful proof load to be fired without any danger, but which allowed the bolt to gradually set back, increasing the head space dangerously.

Mr Ness, the editor of the Dope Bag adds a long section starting with this

“Comments: I agree with P.O. Ackley that the only good Springfield action is one made of nickel steel….

The attitude of the metallurgists is that the poor material in these Springfield actions makes any of the carbon steel variety undesirable, including those double reheat-treated at Springfield Armory in the series above 800,000. “


So, it is hard to know if you have one of the good receivers. But even one of the “good” receivers was made of low grade material that now is used for rebar and rail road ties. Because the steels at the time had high slag and impurities, the stuff is even not as good as the same steel made today.

Another issue is fatique life. Metal fatigue prior to 1920 appears to be understood in a very rudimentary ways. The beginnings of advanced stress analysis theory was also after the design of the 1903: the Maxwell-Huber-Hencky-von Mises theory on the yield of ductile materials dates from 1913. While all of this is irrelevant to the faith of Foam at the Mouth Fanatic Fans (FATMFF’s), it is indicative of the overall state of the art at the time. However today, assuming that the service stresses are not exceeded, fatigue lifetimes can be calculated, but they must be taken with a grain of salt. The real world is never as nice as the computer. So, where I am going is that these old rifles went through at least one service lifetime, if it was rebarreled, at least two. No one had any expectation that these things were last in service indefinitely, and as usage increases, the likely hood of metal fatigue increases. You must also understand that to Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, their rifle was a heavy thing to lug around, and since they did not own the thing, when it was a damn nuisance, they treated it poorly. Overstresses reduce fatigue lifetimes by orders of magnitude. So I don't recommend anymore proof testing with cartridges.

This is going to be an experiment, posting this excel table I created comparing the metal properties of the single heat treat and double heat treat receivers, and the data is partially scrambled :mad::

Because the table is a bit scrambled it may be hard to follow, but Class A and Class C steels are plain carbon steels, with a big of Manganese tossed in for impact resistance. It was as good as any in 1895. Steel technology was advancing as fast as the semi conductor revolution back then, so by the time you get to 1906, Class A and Class C steels are old tech and nickle steels are replacing them. Remember the British M1914 and Winchester were using nickle steels prior to WW1. Alloy steels are superior in every category, except cost, to plain carbon steels, they treat treat evenly, the yeild strength is higher, and this is a very important point. You don't want to use a piece of metal that has deformed, that is, was stressed past yeild. It is not long for the world. And another issue is the fatique life is much better with these alloys.




Carbon Manganese Max Phos Max Sulpher Nickel Component
Use
Manganese Steel WD1325 .20-.30 1.0-1.30 0.05 0.05 Receivers
And Bolts
Nickel Steel W.D. 2340 .35-.45 .50-.80 0.04 0.05 3.25-3.75 Receivers
And Bolts
Manganese Steel W.D. 1350 .45-.55 1.00-1.30 0.05 0.05 Barrels



Physical properties in annealed, not heat treated state Tensile Strength psi Elastic limit psi Elongation % Contraction of area % Component use

Class A 110,000 75,000 20 45 Barrels

Class C 75,000 50,000 25 50 Receivers and bolts

Modern Steel Properties
AISI 1118 close to class C 103,000 59,300 19 Mock Carburized, 1450 F quenched, tempered.
AISI 4820 close to WD2340 163,000 120,000 15% Mock Carburized, reheat 1450 reheat, water quench

AISI 4140 270,000 240,000 11% N 1600F, Reheat 1550F, OQ 500F, temper M1 carbine HT



The Charpy impact test is an excellent predictor of fatique life. Just look at how much more energy it takes to shear alloy steels, especially at low temperatures. This test has been used to identify metal toughness, and toughness as a metal property is right up there with yeild in firearm applications. You see the load is an impact load and you want metal that will absorb the energy without shattering. Plain carbon steels are not that great in comparison.


8620 was used in the Garand receivers, it is a good steel. 4140 was used in the M1 Carbine and is a very common steel for firearms. I think Winchester used 4140 for all of the M70 production. A bud of mine, a West Point Metallurgy Instructor, he recommended 4340 for bolts and receivers. And you can see, 4340 is a tough steel.


Charpy Notched Impact

Close to Class C
Open Hearth 0.20C, 0.90 Mn 0.22Si, 0.03Al, Fine grain Tensile RT 65 Kpsi
F ft lb
68 39
32 26
-25 20
-50 10

8620 N1600F, T1000F, OQ1600 T 900
F ft lb
75 45
-40 42
-180 26

4140 N1650, OQ1575, T1075
F ft lb
75 93
0 87
-40 87
-100 65

4340 N1650, OQ1525, T1100
F ft lb
75 82
75 82
-40 82
-100 77
So anyway, even a good receiver from that era is going to be weaker from a structural viewpoint, from modern receivers, just due to the metal used.


So what to do? I would recommend doing what the Marines did. From a poster on another site, the Marines took the action out of the stock, took the bolt out of the action, and hit the action twice with a heavy hammer. If the receiver breaks, you probably saved yourself a trip to the hospital. If it does not break, well, it is still an old receiver. Could be good, could last a long time. Could go Kaboom too. Hard to know.

** Note: Sedgley was in Philadelphia.

Jim K
May 30, 2014, 12:18 AM
There was never any general recall on those SHT rifles, but when they came into the Armory or an arsenal for rebuild, the receivers were scrapped. That stopped at the beginning of WWII and the SHT rifles were rebuilt as necessary. It was felt that any rifle was better than no rifle (and the additional risk was just another hazard of combat).

After the war, anyone having an SHT receiver could send it in through DCM and have it replaced with a DHT or NS receiver. That one I broke was to be sent to DCM, which is why the result made no difference - as long as they could read the serial number, they didn't care about condition or how many pieces the receiver was in.

Jim

SlamFire1
May 30, 2014, 06:16 PM
Times have changed, public attitudes have changed, and the law concerning Product Liability, now Strict Liability is the guiding principle, previously you sued under the concept of negligent liability and the manufacturer did not have as much liability and it took more evidence to prove negligence. But things changed, attitudes and tolerances toward defective products have changed most since WW2. These articles might be of interest :

“Product Liability Law from Negligence to Strict Liability. “
http://www.academia.edu/1320600/Product_Liability_Law_From_Negligence_to_Strict_Liability_in_the_US

The History of Strict Liability for Product Caused Injuries.
http://faculty.quinnipiac.edu/charm/CHARM%20proceedings/CHARM%20article%20archive%20pdf%20format/Volume%207%201995/115%20morgan%20boedecker.pdf

Just looking at the history of product liability, the case of “Lee versus Crookstone Coca-Cola Bottling Company” pops up a number of times. This case must have been a milestone in strict liability and product liability. http://www.leagle.com/decision/1971614188NW2d426_1608.xml/LEE%20v.%20CROOKSTON%20COCA-COLA%20BOTTLING%20COMPANY
I doubt anyone will look at the case, but basically, a Waitress picks up a 26 ounce Coca Cola bottle out of a rack of Cokes, and the bottle explodes, permanently injuring her.


This is from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_liability

For example, a plaintiff might plead negligent failure to warn or strict liability for defective design.[3]
• Manufacturing defects are those that occur in the manufacturing process and usually involve poor-quality materials or shoddy workmanship.
• Design defects occur where the product design is inherently dangerous or useless (and hence defective) no matter how carefully manufactured; this may be demonstrated either by showing that the product fails to satisfy ordinary consumer expectations as to what constitutes a safe product, or that the risks of the product outweigh its benefits.[4]
• Failure-to-warn defects arise in products that carry inherent nonobvious dangers which could be mitigated through adequate warnings to the user, and these dangers are present regardless of how well the product is manufactured and designed for its intended purpose

So the days when the Army could knowingly issue a product that they knew would fail catastrophically and injure someone, well, today’s Society no longer agrees with that. Back then, if your Army built, Army issued weapon blew up and you lost your face, hand, that was too damn bad. At the time it was the low cost solution for the Army. Instead of replacing $500,000,000 of defective rifles, they kept them in service. The cost for long term medical rehabilition came out of another Government agency’s budget, so, for the Services, injuring servicemen was an economically rational decision. General Hatcher pooh pooh’s the number of blowups that happened prior to his involvement with this issue, making it seem that Unicorns were more common that low number rifle blowups, but Hatcher always minimizes the role and responsibility of the Army in any problem it created. You can get a general feeling that these things were blowing up more frequently, and the injuries were not trivial, from the article, “In Defense of “the Short Gun””, in a pre WW1Arms and the Man issue, the author had a SHT 03 blew up on him. You can look up this up on Google Books.

I can attest, by having experienced the misfortune of blowing both locking lugs from the bolt of my service rifle in the 900 yard state of the Leech Cup Match at Camp Perry in 1913, which fortunately did me no more harm than to record a goose egg for my first record shot at this distance, forcing me from the match and putting me out of the running for the Palma Team. The shock of the blow-back had no serious effect on my nervous system, as I was well hardened to the echo of the boiler shop (as the shed in which the International Meter Matchers were held was dubbed) by being a daily constant in the several matches. On this same day on which this accident occurred a team mate, Col Sergt Leary, of the Massachusetts Infantry, had a similar accident, but was slightly bruised about the face. The cause of these blow-ups was attributed to the bolts being too hard or burned in the case hardening process. Last year at the annual encampment of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry, at Martha’s Vineyard, a blow-black put a sergeant of one of the companies in the hospital for a week and nearly cost him the loss of one eye, and I know of another case nearby when two bad accidents occurred in one afternoon, the rifles being blown to pieces in both instances and one of the men having the side of his face torn away. These are the only cases that I recall as having happened in my locality or where I was at the time. Records of many others are well known, so that perhaps there is some cause for this alarm as to the safety of the (M1917) Enfield, which we all know, is not as strong as the US Magazine rifle…

A month or two after this article came out, the Army published an official denial in the Arms and the Man claiming there was nothing systemically wrong with their rifles, that all problems were caused by negligent use. Never again was anything like this, showing Army negligence and defective Army products, published in the Arms and the Man or the American Riflemen. Only if the correspondent wrote claiming/proving that their rifle blew up due to their negligence, would the account be published.

Personally, I really despise those decision makers as cynical swine, they knew their rifles were defective, they knew people were getting seriously hurt, they covered it up, used amoral reasons to keep these rifles in service. But, that was then, though I fear, such times may come again. I don’t consider any Army rationale or action back then as moral, and the reasoning thereof, certainly not validating similar behavior today. Now, they would get sued for their behavior, and I believe, successfully sued, and the financial liability would be high.

Jim Watson
May 30, 2014, 07:00 PM
That last bit "...perhaps there is some cause for this alarm as to the safety of the (M1917) Enfield, which we all know, is not as strong as the US Magazine rifle… "
casts some doubt.

Exactly what would lead us all (then) to know the 1917 Enfield was not as strong as the US Magazine Rifle (1903, I presume)? That is contrary to all I have read, that the 1917 was well designed and heavily built, so even with 1917 steel was a strong rifle; strong enough to be routinely magnumized. Or do you have a catalogue of failures of THOSE?


Financial liability of the Army being high? Then how come the Army, Colt, and Armalite were never sued over the many reported faults of early issue M16s?

PRD1
May 30, 2014, 07:26 PM
were all built of 3 1/2% nickel steel, with appropriate heattreatment (much like the later NS 1903s), and did not suffer from inherent weakness due to either material, design flaws, or manufacture.
Neither is there any record of failures in service comparable to that developed with the early 1903. It is likely that some 1917 rifles survived incidents with poor ammunition (the proximate cause of many 1903 failures) which would have resulted in a disastrous failure in the 1903.

PRD1 - mhb - Mike

SlamFire1
May 30, 2014, 07:53 PM
That last bit "...perhaps there is some cause for this alarm as to the safety of the (M1917) Enfield, which we all know, is not as strong as the US Magazine rifle… "
casts some doubt.

Exactly what would lead us all (then) to know the 1917 Enfield was not as strong as the US Magazine Rifle (1903, I presume)? That is contrary to all I have read, that the 1917 was well designed and heavily built, so even with 1917 steel was a strong rifle; strong enough to be routinely magnumized.

Believe it or not, people one hundred years ago made judgments and acted irrationally on things they heard even though there was very little information on the subject!

Today, we are so much smarter, positively brilliant, and everyone acts with delibration and prudence. To prove this, lets start a rumor that the President is going to make all primers go bad six months after manufacture! Surely, no one would be fooled by such a thing? :uhoh: Or, the world is going to end at the change of the millennium! :evil: That’s a laugh! only fools could believe that!!!:neener:

When the Army announced that they would be adopting the “Enfield rifle”, you can read in the Arms and the Man a section called "Letters to the Editor" or some such. At the time of this article a number of these letters to the editor were warnings that the “Enfield” rifle was too weak for the 30-06 cartridge. While the doom sayers were right, the “Enfield” rifle the Army was adopting was a little different from the “Lee Enfield” rifle the writers thought the Army was buying. Unlike in today's world where everything is known instantly, and perfectly, it took time 100 years ago for everyone to see a new “Enfield” rifle.

It may be hard to believe, but back then, people wrote letters and read news in the print media. They actually created physical documents, using paper and ink, in an forgotten language called cursive, and sent them off via an organization called The Post Office. It is unknown what the acronym for POST stands for, probably as lost to history as the cursive language. Letters were physically carried from one geographic location to another, from place to place and person to person by "Post Men". Posted was a verb and the post mark (a date code installed by The Post Office) was legal proof in so far as meeting deadlines for debt payment. It was a slow world compared to today, but, as it is apparent from reading the letters to the editors, that over 100 years ago, readers would sit down and write a letter to the editor over some issue that bothered them, and sometimes these letters got published and while it is hard to believe in today’s inerrantly accurate world, in the past, both the letter writer and the print media, sometimes got the facts wrong!

Or do you have a catalogue of failures of THOSE?

And why should I have a catalog of failures? Perhaps at judgment day, you can ask the original author of that piece if he has one.

Financial liability of the Army being high? Then how come the Army, Colt, and Armalite were never sued over the many reported faults of early issue M16s?

Well this is a valid point, the Federal Government has a lot of immunity, but sometimes people get sued. My legal advice is worth the amount of money you paid, so take my outrage as meaningless and worthless. After all, today, the legal system in place today is “Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail” so it is more likely that no one has to take responsibility for anything. Except the little guy.

Jim Watson
May 30, 2014, 10:34 PM
I just thought that since the piece was given as a period source on the failings of the 1903 that there might have been something behind his crack about the 1917.
The only old quote I recall about it was the alleged inaccuracy of a supposed .303 barrel with .30 bullets. Not so, either.

Jim K
June 1, 2014, 12:22 AM
"Now, they would get sued for their behavior, and I believe, successfully sued, and the financial liability would be high." Sure if the gun maker were a private company.

But what is the chance that any veterans or their families will be able to successfully sue the government over mis/non-treatment at VA hospitals?

Jim

Edarnold
June 1, 2014, 01:15 AM
Actually, there were examples of the 'Enfield' Model 1917 from the Eddystone arsenal having barrels that were 'burnt' in manufacture: to save time and material some number of barrels were bumped while hot to create the swell at the breech. If they were heated too hot, the steel was damaged and subject to failure in service. Despite the better steel used, there were also some receivers that were overheated and embrittled. These came to light when the rifles were rebarreled, and the receiver rings cracked from the stress. The wise way to handle re barreling was to put the barreled action on the lathe and cut a relieving recess in the barrel just ahead of the receiver. War time manufacture takes it's toll on quality, the baseline and technology during WW1 was just a lot lower.

lathedog
June 1, 2014, 04:07 PM
OP you did not state the manufacturer. I'm guessing SA but maybe it is a good question to ask.

Get a copy of Hatcher's Notebook and read the chapter re: this issue.

What I gather from reading that book and others is that the SN range is approximate and is intended to be outside the range of receivers with possible problems. The Army made some efforts to go back and test (and re-heat-treat) these after the war when things calmed down. They probably missed a bunch, but many of the actual bad ones were found and destroyed in the 1920s.

Many of the receivers in the affected range were fine all along. Others not so much. Check Hatcher's Notebook for the list of incidents over time and what conclusions were drawn about the events. !903 rifles in the affected SN range were used in WWI with success and statistically very few incidents.

Having said all that:
Never do anything you are uncomfortable with. You can resell the rifle as a collectable and make sure the new buyer is aware of the controversy. A couple of bucks is no big deal in the greater scheme of things and you can get another rifle that gives you confidence.

SlamFire1
June 11, 2014, 10:21 PM
Get a copy of Hatcher's Notebook and read the chapter re: this issue

Many of the receivers in the affected range were fine all along. Others not so much. Check Hatcher's Notebook for the list of incidents over time and what conclusions were drawn about the events. !903 rifles in the affected SN range were used in WWI with success and statistically very few incidents.


People just don’t realize that Hatcher is an apologist for the Army. Hatcher wants to sell books, yes, and wants to have a long and lucrative career after retirement. While he is climbing to the top of the Ordnance Department, which is a remarkable achievement, he is either working for the American Rifleman, and upon retirement, applying for a job. When he finally dies in the early 60’s he has made it to the top job at the NRA, the head of the executive committee.

In 1947 he is 59 years old, looking to work to work for at least another decade, if not longer. He is also very qualified to lobby the US Army and he is well placed with the NRA from all the years he wrote articles and dope bag replies. Money is an excellent incentive for people. I don’t know the 1940’s salaries of anyone and even if I did, inflation would make the number look paltry. So in terms of today’s money, the salary of a MG General with 10 years in Grade: with allowances, about $161, 712 per year. Assuming a 75% retirement for 30 years service, retired MG Hatcher would be getting $121, 284 per year. Not bad at all.

However, if he was to get a top job at the NRA his compensation would really go up. MG Hatcher eventually became the Director of the Executive Board, a job title which has changed, but basically, he ran the NRA. The President’s job is primarily ceremonial unless the guy wants to be involved.

Current Salaries of NRA Executives:

Executive Director NRA General Operations $1,027,217
NRA Executive VP = $845, 469 per year
Executive Director for Legislative Action: $588, 412.

So lets assume in 1947 that the job Hatcher was interviewing for was equivalent to the Executive Director General Operations, and that is a $1,000,000 a year. Maybe he got the $845, 469 dollars a year job, but $1 Million is easy to type. If you are looking at a $1 Million dollar a year job in the 1947 NRA, one huge job requirement for that position is outstanding relations with the Army. You will scupper your job prospects if you make the Army Ordnance Department look stupid in your latest book.

In everything Hatcher wrote, the Army always appears in the light it thinks of itself: wise, all wise, warrior gods, totally superior to all the minions out there, perfect in all regards, and nothing is ever its fault.

I don’t consider the double heat treat receivers a success, I consider them a failure. That was the juncture point the Army should have either canceled the production of 03’s, because there were more than sufficient M1917’s in service, or the Army should have gone to alloy steels.

Retaining plain carbon steels with their inferior material properties was the wrong decision at the wrong time. Only in the 20’s was this corrected. The double heat treatment basically doubled production heat treatment times. Hatcher makes it read as though this was a huge Army achievement, which it was not, and downplays the later decision to use nickel steel. I am of the opinion that the process controls of the period were still out of control as there are a number of accounts of brittle double heat treat receivers that have shattered. Double heat treat receivers were made out of inferior materials with an expensive heat treatment, which did not make up for the inferior properties of plain carbon steels. Just look at the improvement in yeild strength going from plain carbon steel to WD2340, it basically doubled.

CLP
June 12, 2014, 04:15 PM
Here's some additional information: http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/

SlamFire1
June 12, 2014, 06:12 PM
Dr Lyon’s statistics are based on Hatcher’s Notebook which is not an all inclusive list of all 03 failures. Hatcher’s list starts 1917 and ends 1929. There are known failures before and known failures after.

I disagree with Dr Lyon’s risk percentages. His percentages are based on the total number of rifles built, not the rifles in use. There were about one million of these rifles built, but post WW1, there were never one million at service at any time. By the time you get to 1922 Congress authorized only 136,000 Officer’s and enlisted in the Regular Army. I could guess how many rifles were in service with an Army that small, and it sure would not be one million. Lets say, as a ridiculous example, that their were four rifles in use and the remaining one million in storage. Let also say that one of the four blew up. Dr Lyon’s analysis would give you the risk as one in a million. But for those rifles in use, it would be 25%.

Dr Lyon’s analysis also does not take into account the destruction of single heat treat receivers. As rifle came into depot, the Army scrapped these receivers. The population of these things liable to hurt someone just got smaller and smaller over time. Any risk calculation based on the total production is misleading because that is not the actual risk to the user. The user’s risk of harm is much higher. By what amount, I don’t know.

I am certain there are no databases extent which would allow the calculation of risk based on active duty rifles, but the Army had seen enough accidents and decided to take a course of action which would remove single heat treat receivers from the inventory.

Dr Lyon also says:
No receiver failures were reported in the training period before the battles, and during the four major battles that occurred in the seven month period in 1942-43. While it's not possible to estimate the exact number of rifles involved, up to 7,000 would have been in use by the three rifle regiments of the 1st Marine Division, Based on the failure rates of 1917-1918 between one and two rifle receivers would have been expected to fail.

Dr Lyon could not find any failure reports and is makes the conclusion that absence of records proves absence of receiver failures. I disagree with this. The absence of records indicates the absence of records. That does not mean that records were not made, they probably existed, but they were never made available to the public before destruction. It is a known fact that Army Safety Incident reports are not released to the public, only Safety Investigators or Law Enforcement have access. I challenge any an all to go find these lists. If you do, you will go to jail for hacking! But regardless, there are buildings full of records that the US Army and Marine Corp have right now which Dr Lyon will never see. These records will be disposed of by the lowest cost method which will guarantee the least embarrassment later. A better question for Dr Lyon to answer is just how long he maintains patient records and just where is that searchable data of medical malpractice. Since I have not ever found the second, I guess those estimates that medical mistakes kill 400,000 Americans per year must be wrong, no one dies!

And this leads into the greatest misuse of Hatcher’s List that Dr Lyons commits: he lets the statistics do the talking. These accidents are with people and it is people being hurt. Perhaps the accidental death rate caused by Physicians is so high that they get callous that pain and suffering are just a statistic, but to those who are hurt, the pain is real, the injury permanent, and sometimes the suffering is lifelong. The list is a list of people who were hurt and we should not diminish their misfortune as being equivalent to a coin toss or a roll of the dice.

CLP
June 12, 2014, 06:37 PM
I was just offering it for his consideration. I agree with your concern for the risk of receiver failure. I would not shoot a low numbered 1903. I think the lesson here is to do your homework. I would consider one as a wall hanger though.

Edarnold
June 13, 2014, 01:06 AM
OK, time to put some more fuel on this fire. A fatal flaw of design that affects the M1903, the M1917, and several other actions is the cone breech on the barrel. Designed apparently to ensure faultless feeding, this leaves over a eighth of an inch of the case head without support. Which means that if there is weakness in the case, or excessive pressure, the escaping gases are let loose inside the receiver ring to bulge or rupture, depending on the pressure and the metallurgy. The Mauser 1898 design breeches up much closer. Interesting fact is that the cone breech design was carried over by Remington in the model 30 and 720 action, which were derived from the Model 1917. More surprising is that the Winchester 54 and the controlled-feed Model 70 also used the cone-breech. So, up to 1964 the major maker of US bolt-action rifles continued a design that placed it's customers at increased risk of disfigurement or death, when it was well known that the design was flawed. I await the revelation of how the swine at US Ordnance, or the nefarious Col. Hatcher, were responsible for this decision.
On the other front, all Mauser bolt-action designs from the 1891through the military 1898's were made of cheap, inferior low-carbon steel, given the simplest heat-treatment of carburizing ( case-hardening ). Despite this I have not seen many indications that they are regarded as bombs waiting to explode into shrapnel. The Winchester Model 70, despite being made of superior nickel-alloyed steel during peacetime and, presumably heat-treated with considerable care, has been know to fail from overloads or defective cartridges. My conclusion is that design trumps metallurgy, but in neither case is the risk so serious as to justify diatribes against organizations and individuals who contributed much to the development of firearms.

fguffey
June 15, 2014, 02:16 PM
OK, time to put some more fuel on this fire. A fatal flaw of design that affects the M1903, the M1917, and several other actions is the cone breech on the barrel. Designed apparently to ensure faultless feeding, this leaves over a eighth of an inch of the case head without support. Which means that if there is weakness in the case, or excessive pressure, the escaping gases are let loose inside the receiver ring to bulge or rupture, depending on the pressure and the metallurgy. The Mauser 1898 design breeches up much closer. Interesting fact is that the cone breech design was carried over by Remington in the model 30 and 720 action, which were derived from the Model 1917. More surprising is that the Winchester 54 and the controlled-feed Model 70 also used the cone-breech. So, up to 1964 the major maker of US bolt-action rifles continued a design that placed it's customers at increased risk of disfigurement or death, when it was well known that the design was flawed. I await the revelation of how the swine at US Ordnance, or the nefarious Col. Hatcher, were responsible for this decision

Fuel on fire, then there is discerning fact from fiction and separating truth from nonsense. The cone face of the barrel reduced case head protrusion. I know, that is something that is beyond comprehension for someone that talks about it but has never seen one. If there was as much separation between the receiver and barrel as some believe the extractor cut would not have been necessary.

F. Guffey

Sunray
June 18, 2014, 05:45 PM
It a Springfield or Rock Island? 800,000 is the cut off number for Springfield made rifles.286,506 for Rock Island.

If you enjoyed reading about "1903 Mistake?" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!