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Low numbered Springfield 1903

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by mjackson, Aug 19, 2011.

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  1. mjackson

    mjackson Member

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    I know this might be beating a dead horse or swimming pretty hard upstream, but does anyone else think that the low numbered Springfields are just fine for shooting? I have read all the statistics from Hatcher and the doc who did a statistical anyalysis of receiver failures (m1903.com). Has any other rifle whether military or even commercial ever come under such scrutiny? Come on! Here is the important number: .0001% of 1903 receivers failed. Can any firearm manufacturer IN THE WORLD claim a better failure rate? :banghead: Has anyone else read in Frand de Haas's book Bolt Action Rifles, that surplus Mauser receivers have been known to break at the thumb notch after being dropped ON THE FLOOR, but who is going to scrap that sacred cow of an action.

    I just had to vent...I feed much better now. Thanks...no really we are good here now:uhoh:
     
  2. 35 Whelen

    35 Whelen Member

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    If I had one, I'd probably go ahead and use it. In fact all my older military rifles get cast loads fired out of them, so I'd definitely use it.
    35W
     
  3. USSR

    USSR Member

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    If I had one, I would no doubt shoot it. Of course, I reload, so I can control the amount of pressure the rifle would be subject to.

    Don
     
  4. RickMD

    RickMD Member

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    As long as loads are kept at moderate levels I'd have no problem shooting a low number Springfield on a routine basis.
     
  5. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    The Daffy Doc’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 after. Likely there were failures before, but they just were not reported or in the documentation which Hatcher had access.

    I also disagree with Daffy Doc’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. Daffy Doc’s analysis would give you the risk as one in a million. But for those rifles in use, it would be 25%.

    Daffy Doc’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.

    Daffy Doc also says:
    Daffy Doc could not find any failure reports and is making the conclusion that absence proves no receivers failures. I disagree with this. The absence of records indicate the absence of records. That does not mean that there were never were records; there could have been. There are buildings full of records that the US Army and Marine Corp have right now which Daffy Doc will never see. These records will be disposed of by the lowest cost method which will guarantee the least embarrassment later. Might as well ask Daffy Doc how long he maintains paper records of his patients. I will bet it won’t be decades.

    All organizations have to undergo reoccurring data dumps, or there will not be space for the workers. The lack of records might also be due to there was a shooting war going on. Even the military prioritizes efforts as the culture changes from peacetime bureaucracy to a life and death struggle. How high a priority would there be to create rifle failure reports in a war time expansion? I think the correct answer is zero. If a rifle broke, someone threw it in a scrap bin and got busy filling out paper work for the real important things. Like the Guadalcanal invasion.

    Daffy Doc is just another fan boy making excuses for his toys.

    In so far as strength, in the 1969 Gun Digest John Amber provides the only shear data I have seen on modern actions.

    Ruger made its M77 out of 4140 steel. Ruger conducted shear test comparisions against Military Mauser and Springfield rifle bolts.

    The force required to shear the lugs of the surplus bolts was at 1/4 to 1/2 of the force required to shear the M77 bolt lugs.

    So, one of these actions will be 1/4 to 1/2 as strong as a modern action made of modern alloy materials. A contemporary M1898 will be much safer than any 03 , even though those are also made of plain carbon steels , due the design features that Mauser put in his action. Shooter protection features are virtually missing in the Springfield design. Off the top of my head, the safety lug is about it. The hole on the right side of the receiver is totally ineffective, must have been an after thought. Gas handling of actions such as M1898 Mausers, M77's, Savage M110, Remingtons M700, are vastly superior to the Springfield. Pop a primer in a Springfield and all that gas comes right down the firing pin shaft in your eye.
     
  6. mjackson

    mjackson Member

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    Slamfire, I agree about with your post. Would you agree that if a one is to be made into a safe shooter you would check the rifles headspace and then add a Hatcher hole on the left side of the receiver?
     
  7. kragluver

    kragluver Member

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    I too am a handloader and cast bullet shooter. I only say this to give you a perspective of where I come from.

    I would not shoot a LN '03. The issue is not due to "hot" loads. Remember, each one of these rifles - including the LN ones - passed a proof load test with a "Blue Pill" generating on the order of 75KSI. The issue is when a failure occurs in the cartridge - such as might occur with a double charge of "fast" powder like we often use in cast bullet shooting or with a discharge following a stuck bullet (like might occur with very low velocity cast loads). Therefore, I'd argue that shooting cast loads in a LN '03 actually RAISES the risk of turning your receiver into a hand grenade due to the types of failures that are more likely to occur shooting cast. When loading normal velocity jacketed bullets - there's no way you are going to double charge a case full of 4350 or have a stuck bullet in that instance! One way to reduce the risk of course is to stay away from the very fast pistol powders when shooting cast. I personally use SR4759 which was originally designed for shooting reduced loads. Its slow enough burning and bulky enough that in most cartridges, a double charge would over-flow the case mouth.

    Secondly, the next most likely failure is case head separation. This can occur with any load with weak brass or a piece of brass that you might have missed the signs of incipient case head separation. Remember, the case contains the high pressure of the burning powder. With a rimmed cartridge (like the .303 or the Krag) a case head separation is no big deal - the brass is entirely contained by the chamber. When the head separates in a Mauser action, the gas escapes down the bolt-way and into the receiver. This is because in the Mauser actions the very rear of the cartridge is unsupported by the receiver. In a brittle LN '03 action, it is likely to turn into small shards of shrapnel. In the high number Springfield and any modern action, it is likely to blow the floorplate out and perhaps damage the stock but the receiver will hold.

    As far as I know, shearing of bolt heads was never an issue with the Springfield. It is all about what could happen inside the receiver if gas manages to get into the receiver ring.

    To each their own, but if I owned a LN 1903, I'd hang it on the wall and admire its history - but I wouldn't shoot it.
     
  8. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    My understanding is that the Springfields below 800,000 were single heat-treat with case hardening. SOME of the case-hardened receivers were brittle, and you can't tell by looking. Same for some from the Rock Island arsenal, but I don't know the numbers.

    It has been reported--I disremember, 40 or 50 years ago, now--that you can test by giving the receiver a solid rap with a hammer.

    If it shatters, guess what?

    If it doesn't, it might well be safe to shoot.

    And that's about all I know.
     
  9. Hacker15E

    Hacker15E Member

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    IMHO the best thing to do with a LN M1903 that you don't want to part out or turn in to a wall hanger is to convert it to .22 using a barrel insert conversion kit.
     
  10. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Hatcher reported failures with the guard cartridge, 9 gr of Bullseye and the 150 gr service bullet. He concluded that it was the rapid pressure rise of the pistol powder that separated caseheads and wrecked actions.

    But it might have been double charges, I have read that was the reason the 1909 .45 was loaded with RSQ (pronounced "rescue") powder, because it was slow enough burning that the New Service would stand a double charge of that but not Bull. Made necessary by the tendency of that vintage loading equipment to throw doubles.


    Dave LeGate at Rifle Magazine sacrificed some Springfield actions to show that there were more brittle actions out there than failed in service. That probably because they never ran up against a soft casehead as produced by some of the WW I era contractors.


    A friend has one with a pronounced pitted stripe in the barrel, perhaps from one of those "anti-rust ropes" once popular. It was amazingly accurate for about one group from clean until the rough area fouled up. They knew how to do good work in those days even if the metallurgy was marginal. He was nervous about shooting it and retired it to display.


    I have wondered if we might not have been better off to just have bought the whole Mauser package instead of just paying royalties on part of the design elements.
    We'd be shooting the 7.62x57 aka .30 x 2 1/4" and proclaiming it the best ever.
    Hmm, wonder if it would have been worthwhile making the smaller change down to 7.62x51 or if we'd have gone to an assault rifle earlier.
     
  11. Cymro

    Cymro Member

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  12. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    I just do not know a non destructive way to tell if a receiver is good or bad.

    When these early receivers blow, they frag. The 03 does not protect the shooter in any meaningful manner. If anyone wants to fire these things the headspace better be checked. Excessive headspace will result in blown case heads.

    You can see the results of a blown case head in a single heat treat in this thread. Has pictures.

    Blown Receiver purchased from Gunbroker.

    http://www.jouster.com/forums/showthread.php?14045-Blown-03-Receiver-From-GB&p=136820#post136820

    The Hatcher hole is better than nothing, but that is not saying much for the gas handling of a 03.

    I wish I knew away to sort these receivers into categories of "good" and "bad". The hammer test might be as good as any other. If it is brittle, and the side rail breaks, you will know it.

    I am not so positive about the double heat treat receivers either. I have a rifle built around a double heat treat receiver. The original owner broke the recoil lug off. He had a case separation, could not get the thing out of the chamber. Poured serrosafe in the chamber, which formed a solid with the case. He stuck a rod down the muzzle and hit the recoil lug with a brass hammer. The recoil lug broke. That tells me the double heat treat receivers are brittle. They are made from same from the same plain carbon steels as the low numbered receivers.

    I have no test data, but the strongest 03 receivers have to be the Remington 03's. They were made in the 40's, process control just has to have been better.
     
  13. mjackson

    mjackson Member

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    My problem with the hammer test that many quote is this- What does breaking a single manufacturer's receiver with a hammer really tell you? Without going into a bunch of rabbit trail discussions, I would hypothesize that MOST receivers of that era would break with a hammer hit on the side rail. Just like you can snap a sword blade by striking the flat on a hard edge. Neither were designed for stress in that direction. Now your friend who broke the recoil lug put his receiver to the test because that is the stress imposed on recoil lugs ( in line with the bore).

    By the way, de Haas praises Mauser's reliance on safety features over expensive alloys for dealing with ruptured cases, an inevitability in war, over the 03's and even Winchester's model 70, namely the three oblong holes in the bolt for diverting gas downward into the magazine and the flange on the bolt shroud for deflecting gases away from the shooter's face.

    Is it reasonable to conclude that increasing the Springfield's ability to remove high pressure gases from a blown case DECREASES the stresses imposed on the receiver with its inadequate metallurgy?
     
  14. 357_

    357_ Member

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    +1 for this article. 0.7 / 1,000 of injuring yourself with a LN 1903 vs 1 / 1,000 from driving 1,500 miles or smoking 14 cigarettes in a year.

    I'm a smoker, I roll the dice at $5 a pack every day.
     
  15. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    The USMC made no distinction between low number and high number guns. Many Marines fought with low numbered 1903 Springfield rifles in WWII. Never heard of one of them blowing up. Large numbers of low number guns were also given to our allies in WWII.

    You don't even want to have a case head separation with a Springfield. Because of the coned breech the case head is unsupported for about 1/8". The Winchester model 70 and the model 1917 Enfield also have coned breeches. i saw a very nice pre-64 Winchester model 70 destroyed when a case head separated. The receiver ring of that gun was cracked.

    i'm not convinced that the "hammer test" proves anything. Some of the 98 Mausers have very brittle receivers.

    The soft cased WWI era ammo was made by National Copper and Brass. Somewhere in my ammo storage clutter is ten rounds of that ammo.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2011
  16. kragluver

    kragluver Member

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    Nobody ever said you won't wreck a rifle (any rifle) if 60KSI gas escapes into the receiver ring/bolt-way from a case head separation. The one and important difference - well documented - with a LN 1903 is that the receiver could fragment throwing shards of shrapnel. There IS NO TEST to determine whether your receiver is too brittle without destroying the receiver. The hammer test is uncalibrated and unscientific. If it fails, yes, it was too brittle. If it doesn't, that does NOT mean the receiver is safe. How hard did you hit it? Did you impart the same shock load that a blown case head would? Of course you can't answer that question without test lab equipment.

    I agree with the earlier poster - one safe way to shoot a LN Springfield is to have it converted into a .22LR.

    I agree that the odds of being injured from a LN Springfield are very low. However, odds are calculated based on the assumption of a Gaussian distribution. Nobody knows or can ever prove how many LN 1903's were "over-cooked". You can not assume a Gaussian distribution of bad receivers. The bottom line is the receiver on those rifles is not sufficiently robust to handle an accident. Couple that with the poor gas handling in the 1903 design and you have the chance for a problem.

    BTW - note that you said that receiver ring on the pre-64 Model 70 cracked. Good! It did as it was supposed to. You didn't say any parts were liberated. It sounds like it performed as designed.

    If you want a shooter - just buy a 1903 made after S/N 800K (275K or so RIA) - or a Remington. There are plenty of them out there.

    Also - nobody kept records during WW2 of 1903 failures. I'm sure some did. Some still do. (I heard about one just 6 months or so ago.)
     
  17. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    The bolt stayed locked in the receiver. The scope was bent. The floor plate, follower, spring and two rounds of .270 ammo were blown out along with small fragments that probably came from the bolt head. The stock was splintered and broken in two. The firer received an injury to his hand and forearm along with some small cuts on his face.
     
  18. Oohrah

    Oohrah Member

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    Below 800,000
     
  19. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Agree.

    I think Daffy Doc has some very flawed reasoning.
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011
  20. mshootnit

    mshootnit Member

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    It depends, if you have a low number that your granddad shot 500-1000 times without getting hurt are you not going to believe him when he says its safe to shoot?

    If you believe some people a 1957 ford fairlane is completely unsafe to drive (at any speed)

    But the metal was never the strongest and some rifles are dangerously brittle. You could never shoot hot loads or performance 30-06, you would have to shoot mild or low powered loads duplicating the period.
     
  21. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    And remember that the ammo was loaded to around 47,000 psi, not like today's higher numbers.
     
  22. RickMD

    RickMD Member

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    They were all proofed at 70,000 psi. Brass is far superior today as compared to the turn of the century as well. I've seen probably fifty of them shot with no ill effects. As long as I was using factory ammunition or moderate pressure handloads, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot a low numbered '03 as long as the headspace was at a minimum.
     
  23. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    No it is not. The load is a consequence of pressure times surface area. Once that gas is released into the receiver ring the total load goes up. Obviously the pressure is going to drop but imagine 50,000 psia working on the case head, which is about 0.470” (?), then the same 50K psia working on a surface area maybe an ½ wide and 1 ½ long? That is a lot more load.

    You see blown receiver rings in these LN receiver pictures. Barrels were not perfect either.

    Compare against a blown case head in a M70, which has about the same awful gas handling as a 03.


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  24. saltydog452

    saltydog452 Member

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    'Modern' ammunition is supposedly bad for the Garand also.

    I'd doubt that'd it be a good thing to fire Baby Magnum loads through the '03action or the Garand.

    salty
     
  25. kragluver

    kragluver Member

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    True - but for a very different reason.

    1) Most modern factory ammo is not loaded with MILSPEC "hard" primers. You run the risk of slam fires or doubling if shooting standard factory ammo out of an M1. Make sure you are using ammo loaded using MILSPEC primers.

    2) .30-06 ammo loaded with the slower powders (e.g., one of the 4350's) will carry too much pressure to the end of the barrel where the gas port is located. You run the risk of bending the operating rod if you shoot an M1 with ammo loaded with "slower" powder. You need to use one of the faster powders (Varget for example). The peak pressures are about the same between a round loaded with Varget vs 4350, but the pressure falls off much quicker with the fast burning powder resulting in a safe pressure for the op rod once the bullet moves past the gas port.

    I believe IMR 4895 (used in the WW2 era M2 ball ammo) was originally formulated to better match gas port pressures in the M1.

    This is covered in either Hatcher's Notebook or Book of the Garand - I forget which (maybe both).
     
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