Value of excellent condition late "low number" 1903 Springfield?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by .455_Hunter, Mar 6, 2021.

  1. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    An LGS just took in a 7XX,XXX Springfield Armory produced 1903. The gun looks almost unissued, has the original 1917 barrel, and includes the front sight protector. The bore is pristine.

    Was I stupid to not buy it this morning for $695?

    I don't need a shooter- I already have one of "final production run" 1934 guns for that use.
     
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  2. rbernie
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    rbernie Contributing Member

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  3. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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  4. Mosin77

    Mosin77 Member

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    I’d buy it, shoot it with some hot hunting ammo doing the whole string tied to the trigger from a safe distance thing, and if it shot that fine, I’d think it was A-ok for light loads. I suspect by this point all the low numbers that could explode, already have, given their continued issue in the service for several decades after the heat treat issues first came to light.
     
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  5. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    Given the specific gun in question, I would say it's round count is pretty low.
     
  6. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    If I'm remembering my Hatcher right the problem with the low serial number Springfields was that they would pass prof testing and then, at some point, the receiver would just shatter like glass.

    They never did find a way to determine a bad receiver from the good ones, and the interwar Army would have gone through great lengths to not have to scrap a 3/4 million rifle receivers...

    BSW
     
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  7. Mosin77

    Mosin77 Member

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    I’d probably also try to avoid hitting it with a hammer...


    (I do recall the shattering issue.) I have read that severely over pressure ammo and poor QC at Winchester ammo plant may have also played some role. Easier for PR to blame the heat treating exclusively than to also implicate millions of rounds of ammo already in circulation.
     
  8. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    There isn't a chance in the world that I'd have passed on it if it held up under inspection.

    Too, - with appropriate ammo - I'd shoot it. While I know the story of the crystal receivers, I haven't had nor 1st hand heard of one failing though I recognize the nature of the caution.

    Todd.
     
  9. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Even the improperly treated receivers are very strong- longitudinally. When they suffer a transverse event, such as a ruptured case (or a hammer blow), is when they fail catastrophically as they lack malleability and the ability to stretch or deform under the cross-grain force. Most failures occured during WW1 because the QC of the wartime ammo was so bad.

    If a particular gun never suffers from a case rupture, it could last centuries and thousands of rounds and never fail- but explode the first time it does run into a bad case. Of course, a ruptured case is always a bad day, but most rifles can handle it in less spectacular fashion.

    I sold my beautiful low-number '03 because it was primarily a display piece (though I did shoot it a few times). If you are ok with rarely, or never, shooting it, and accept the realistic risks, I think $700 is fair, but not a steal.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
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  10. Offfhand

    Offfhand Member

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    I would have bought it in a heartbeat, just to look at and have in my rack. Keep in mind that the price you paid is close to what the parts are now selling for. Add up what good '03 stocks, sights, bottom metal, barrels, etc. are selling for now and you'll see you made a comfortable investment that will only get better.
     
  11. Steve Milbocker

    Steve Milbocker Member

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    Shattered like glass? I believe I’ve heard the same stories about the Krags.
     
  12. tark

    tark Member

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    I believe the OP said he didn't want it for a shooter. If it is in as described condition, it is a screaming bargain. You must remember we fought WW 1 with low numbered 03s and very few of them gave any trouble. The pros and cons of shooting a low numbered 03 with reduced pressure levels have been discussed many times on the forum. It is the individuals choice. I don't shoot my low numbered 03, but the gun has an interesting history. It was re-built by the San Antonio Arsenal during WW 2 and then put into war reserve storage, which meant it should only be issued under dire circumstances, because it was a low numbered gun. It was re-barreled during the rebuild. That meant it was proofed a second time, which it obviously passed! So here is a low numbered gun that passed a 70,000 PSI proof test not once, but TWICE!

    And pictured below is a REAL low numbered gun. !!!

    And yes, that aperture is filthy dirty! I cringe every time I see that, but the rifle never leaves the display case, so I haven't got my paws on it.....yet!
     

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  13. wiscoaster

    wiscoaster Member

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    As a collector's piece you got a damn fine deal. Keep it. You could sell it on Gunbroker for twice that price.
     
  14. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    AEF actually went to Europe with fewer than 1000 1903 Rifles, the bulk of the rifles were the M-1917.

    War Department had about 250,000 in uniform in 1916, and ballooned to one million in 1917, there were nowhere near enough of anything to stand up a million in uniform. Not just arms, but belts, suspenders, shoes, uniforms and the like. They were getting ready to field the next million at the end of 1918, just in time for the Spring Offensive of 1919.
    A lot of things were going to be 'just in time for the spring offensive of 1919.' BAR, Pedersen Devices (for 1917, SMLE, and 1903 rifles), rifle grenades, Thompson SMG and the like.

    I was offered an immaculate low-number RIA 1903 back in the 90s, something ludicrous like $250. I gave it serious thought as a display piece, but I was living in an apartment, and did not have a fireplace to put it over. Passed in the end.
     
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  15. tark

    tark Member

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    Are you sure about that number, CapnMac? Of those 250,000 men in uniform in 1916 none would have carried 1917s because we weren't making them yet. There would be no reason to take away their 03s and give them something else. Pederson devices were never intended for use in SMLEs. There were intended for 1903s, 1917s and Mosins-Nagants, but I don't know if any were actually made for the latter two.
     
  16. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    We didn't declare war until April 1917. Spinning the manufacturing already established for the U.S. produced Enfields over to .30-06 meant almost immediate max-capacity supply of the 1917 as opposed to the slow re-tooling to produce 1903s on those same lines.

    It's generally accepted that 3/4 of the U.S.' long arms were 1917 rather than 1903.

    Interestingly, it's a manufacturing/supply bodge somewhat mimicked in the 1917 revolver decisions in order to make up for the lack of 1911s.

    Todd.
     
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  17. tark

    tark Member

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    Quite true, I've heard that probably 3/4 of our troops were humpin' 1917s.....but that still makes for a lot more 03s in the field than 1000.
     
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  18. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    Certainly can't dispute that deduction.:thumbup:

    The 1,000 number may be from some limited span of time at the beginning when U.S. troops were first arriving and were in many cases, using an almost complete TO&E of British and French equipment. I don't know that to be the source of the *1,000* number but it could fit the very early narrative.

    If it weren't for Pershing, a lesser commander might have acquiesced to the British and French expectations for U.S. troops to merely be replacements in the Allied units.

    Todd.
     
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  19. Mosin77

    Mosin77 Member

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    It’s always seemed quite ironic to me that “the” legendary US bolt rifle, the ‘03 Springfield, didn’t actually see service in either WWI or WWII as the predominant rifle.
     
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  20. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Im thinking that 250k covers all the troops scattered about SE Asia, the Mexican border, Cuba, etc. So many of the .03s already extant were doing garrison duty all over the world. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible to ship them home for the newly raised AEF.

    So, it makes sense to me that the troops destined for Europe would have been issued new build rifles, which were largely M1917s.
     
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  21. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Early in WW2, the '03 carried the torch in the Pacific as the predominant service rifle in the hands of the Marine Corps until the Army began arriving with Garands and Carbines.

    The Army units in the Phillipines and Hawaii would have also been armed primarily with '03s.
     
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  22. ApacheCoTodd

    ApacheCoTodd Member

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    Heavily used in North Africa and not rare in the Italian campaign too.

    I figure it's unfairly underrepresented in photographic history as the contemporarily preferred photos would be of more modern long arms.

    Todd.
     
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  23. BigBlue 94

    BigBlue 94 Member

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    I paid 750 for a 1943 (3.5mill SN) 1903A1 Remington with unmarked barrel about 6 months ago and felt like i got a fair deal.

    I would buy it and shoot light loads, and enjoy a nice piece of history. Regardless of how much its been shot, it has been shot and has survived for 117 years. As long as you dont push it, it should continue to last.
     
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  24. Ugly Sauce

    Ugly Sauce Member

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    I have heard that the low numbered receivers can be re-heat treated. ?? True or false?
     
  25. BigBlue 94

    BigBlue 94 Member

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    They can definitely be annealed and re-heat treated. But likely it would be very expensive and the rifle would need disassembled. How cost efficient it would be, I cant say. Most steels get treated at around 1400° F and must stay that hot for an hour per 1" of thickness. Then quenched in a specific medium of oil, water, salt, etc; depending on material. Then it will all need refinished. Not a cheap endeavor.
     
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