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  1. #1
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    Default Is my 1903 serial number 693088 safe to shoot?

    This rifle was arsenal reworked in 1942 with a new stock, new barrel and a parkerizing job. I understand it is in the low range of serial numbers. However if it was good enough for the Army to rearsenal the I would think it would be good enough to shoot. I plan on handloading moderate ammunition for this rifle. I do not plan on feeding it any max pressure cartridges.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Every bit as safe as riding a motorcycle without a helmet. You will be fine 99 times out of 100. BUT, why risk it at all?

    Words Conquer!

  3. #3
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    Because it is in great shape
    It's the only one I have
    The Army though it was good enough to put a new barrel on it
    The Marines never got rid of there low number serial 1903s
    There were no failures after 1929
    Bad brass was attributed to most of the failures
    Only 68 rifles ever failed

    Those are most of my reasons for wanting to shoot it, mostly #2, #3 and #4

  4. #4
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    They needed all the rifles they could get, 68 we know of failed, who knows how many others and why. Id say sell or part it out, or trade, hunt for a new one, a good high number rebuild can be found for 500-700, more or less. Granted some local collectors here use low powered handloads with cast bullets, some even go as far as to use blue dot, very light loads.
    Last edited by CptEnglehorn; 09-13-2009 at 01:44 AM.
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    A couple of thoughts come to mind, I recall that a low pressure short range "sentry" load, not effective beyond 100 yards, had been worked up for the '06. Supposedly for use around bases, defense plants, etc. The rifle could have been issued with that ammo for use in such a facility. I know this raises issues with controlling the ammo supply as Joe Sentry might be inclined to feed his rifle anything he got his hands on, but not being there, its hard to say how things worked back then.
    Something else I remember too, though I can't seem to put my hand on the information just now, I remember reading that some '03's were tested to ensure that the receivers had been correctly heat treated and somehow marked- I want to say with a punch mark- and then re-issued. Can someone else comfirm this or did I imagine it?
    My final thought though, not knowing for certain just what went on with that rifle, err on the side of caution, hang it on the wall.

  6. #6
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    I wouldnt but clearly you want to so have at it.
    Ike
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  7. #7
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    If you take a drinking glass from the kitchen cabinet and drop it into the sink from a hight of -say 4inches and it doesn't shatter, does that mean you can repeat that drop 100 times without breakage?

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuscleGarunt View Post
    The Army though it was good enough to put a new barrel on it
    The Marines never got rid of there low number serial 1903s
    There were no failures after 1929

    Only 68 rifles ever failed
    The Army put a new barrel on that receiver because it was more effective than throwing rocks.

    The Marines never threw anything away, because they weren't properly funded to receive adequate replacement arms during the interwar years.

    There have been failures after 1929... do some research.

    There have been reports of 68 failures in ordnance documents. Other receivers have failed in civilian hands, and ordnance would not have records on those matters.

    Granted, most injuries were minor, and modern shooting glasses would most likely provide adequate protection. You are forgetting a large part of the problem is the coned breech design of the M1903... the lack of full case head support allows a pierced primer or failed case to dump all that pressure into a void in the action, increasing pressure beyond the capability of the material strength of the receiver to contain it. There is absolutely no reserve of strength in a low number receiver. Double Heat treated and Nickel Steel receivers became the solution to the problem. DHT and Nickel steel receivers have failed also, but those receivers fail in a different fashion.

    Have I ever fired a low number M1903? Yes. I do not make a regular practice of it, and I was fully aware of the implications.

    Roll the dice and take your chances.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuscleGarunt View Post
    This rifle was arsenal reworked in 1942 with a new stock, new barrel and a parkerizing job. I understand it is in the low range of serial numbers. However if it was good enough for the Army to rearsenal the I would think it would be good enough to shoot. I plan on handloading moderate ammunition for this rifle. I do not plan on feeding it any max pressure cartridges.

    Thanks.
    Muscle, You sound just like me years ago when I had a very nice low number 03, and used to shoot it all the time, with milsurp ammo only. I also read the same info you did on the failures. However, better judgment prevailed, and I no longer have that rifle. I heeded the wise advice of the board members here, and these guys are giving you VERY sound advice, listen up. Just remember that when you are shooting the rifle it's not just your ass you have to worry about, as at the range the people on either side of you are also at risk, or anybody else you let shoot the rifle. There is a way to test the metal, I believe it's called a Rockwell test. However if it fails the test your rifle receiver is ruined/shattered.

    Michael

  10. #10
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    The vast majority of low number 1903's served with no problem, the receivers holding up just fine.

    Is it safe to shoot with factory ball ammo? Probably. I've fired low number '03's plenty, back when a low number rifle was the rifle I owned. But once I got a high number rifle, I retired the low number. I still own a low number rifle, which is one of my favorites. (A 1906 receiver with a 1915 barrel, in a one bolt stock, which looks like it came right out of the trenches.) I've never fired it, and never will. Why tempt fate with a valuable weapon?

    So, while yours may well be safe enough, it could be said might be that it simply hasn't failed yet. Why chance being the one on the trigger when the law of averages comes up with your serial number?

  11. #11
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    What is the Rockwell test and does anyone have any more information on the receiver stamp that was mentioned earlier in the thread? Were these rifles proof tested when they were rearsenaled? I hear they are rated at 50,000 PSI with proof loads at 75,000 PSI. I don't know much about the stamps on the Springfield, any information is valuable.

  12. #12
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    A Rockwell Scale is a hardness scale based on the indentation hardness of a material. The Rockwell test determines the hardness by measuring the depth of penetration of an indenter under a large load compared to the penetration made by a preload.

    The problem with low number receivers is that an undetermined number of receivers were manufactured with defective "burnt" billets, where the steel was burned during the forging operation. They were machined and finished into receivers, and appear totally normal. You can not tell by physical examination alone that a particular receiver is questionable. There is no way to determine this by non destructive inspection methods. Since all the low number receivers were case hardened, they all are going to be hardness tested by the Rockwell method. The problem is that the receivers manufactured with the defective billets are glass hard completely through the material, instead of being case hardened with a softer core. The burning of the steel damaged the chemical structure of the steel at the molecular level. Add the lack of total case head support and the relatively poor gas handling of the original design, and one has a real problem on their hands.

    Again, I can only give you enough information for you to make an informed decision. If you are going to shoot it, do so knowing that there is a real risk involved.

    You might want to shoot away from others... a failure may result in a tort claim that will injure your wallet as well as your face.
    Last edited by Deputy Dan; 09-13-2009 at 12:01 PM.

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    My suggestion to you is to wait until the CMP gets some more late serial series m1903s and order one. There are others out there if you don't want to wait available through commercial sources that I believe are all mil-spec.
    My copy is packed away due to some remodel work I am waiting on but I believe you can find pictures of one or more destroyed m1903s in Hatcher's Notebook but it might be where someone fed an 8mm mauser into a 1903 I cannot remember. In any case some place I have seen the amount of damage a burst 1903 has and it is tremendous. I believe the reports documented in Hatcher's notebook in some cases document the physical damage done to the shooter and there are other issues beyond the ever precious eye sight.
    There are still a lot of low number m1903s still being shot every day and there are no telling how many custom sporters were built and are still carried into the north woods in search of deer that have weak receivers that fire without failure. However, do you really want to be a invalid because your rifle happens to be a defective rifle and catch a defective round that no matter how much QC the ammo makers use still get through?
    Do you have a family? What burden will you place on them by your disability or even death?
    I don't mean to sound like a A$$ and I don't generally tell people how to live there lives or spend there money but this is simply not worth the risk.

  14. #14
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    Well, I've read a lot of articles in the last 2 days about low number 1903s. In general I consider them safe to shoot with good ammunition loaded to safe pressure ranges. The army selected 3 random rifles and none of them burst with 75,000 PSI proof loads. One gave way at 80,000 and the other 2 gave way at 100,000. My particular rifle made in 1917 rebarreled in 1942 and probably after WW1 as well would have shattered by now if it was going to shatter at all. It's got the army firing proof mark on it. I am going to load 165 grain bullets at about 2300-2400 FPS with IMR 4064. If anyone has any logical objections to this please reply. To say that all low number serial rifles are unsafe just doesn't make sense. You would think that in the last 90 or so years the few that were going to shatter would have already done so. True some low number sporters have shattered as well but that can be attributed to overloaded handloads and greased bullets.

  15. #15
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    Why chance blowing up a nice rifle? I've seen what a blown Springfield M1A did to one of our moderator's face a few years back. He almost lost an eye. It just ain't worth it. Old rifles are still old rifles and one that is suspect and possibly brittle...nah, I don't think so, no matter what the research says about it. If you're intent on shooting it, I'd do it from a bunker with a string...:eek:
    Thanks,
    Ol'Duke

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    While several of your arguments are factual, many of them are based on "feelings" and speculation. You have no way to determine how often your rifle has been fired in the last 60 years or if it was dropped onto the floor at some point to speculate that it would have "shattered by now". Likewise, damage is cumulative to metallurgy... each shot can make a small impact. We have all said you are "probably safe". I can see a difference in perspective between you and a majority of posters. Those of us with wives, kids, etc. don't see a need to take the risk. Where is the balance of guys telling you they are just fine? In my 20's I thought I was invincible too. I have lost enough friends in my lifetime to know that accidents occur far too frequently to invite them for minimal benefit.

    As a young lieutenant in the 1st Gulf war, I decided I was going to blow up some abandoned BMPs in an Iraqi position. They were loaded to the gills with fuel, RPGs, 73mm ammo and grenades. I dumped 10 gallons of gasoline inside where it puddled, took a flare gun from the turret and started popping rounds towards the open rear crew hatch. Flare guns are not really accurate, and I kept inching closer, intent on getting one in. It worked, and one landed directly next to a puddle of gasoline. I could see it burning through the open back hatch. It didn't light off. WTF??? At this point, I am about 15 feet away, pissed, and getting ready to pull the trigger on the last flare. My internal voice suddenly told me I had lost control and was about to become a sad paragraph in the Darwin awards. Dropped the flare gun and let it be. I am convinced that internal voice saved my stupid young life.

    You really want to shoot this rifle. Folks have told you is isn't worth the risk. Still your call. Good luck at the range... because that's what it is.
    Last edited by BradB; 09-14-2009 at 02:51 PM.

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  17. #17
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    Stay at home, dont go out in the sun, dont get in a car, dont drink, dont eat anything that tasts good, dont ride a bike with out a helmet or knee pads, dont smoke, and above all else DO NOT SHOOT A LOW # 1903!!!!

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    "It's the only one I have".
    So sell it and get one that has no question marks.

    A safe-to-shoot high numbered M1903, or a M1903A3 can be purchased for less than $800 http://www.gunbroker.com/Auction/Vie...Item=136273511

    My eyes, face, and hands are worth more than $800 to me. Maybe others don't value their body parts as much, to each his own.

    I have a low-numbered M1903 that I will never shoot. When I want a 1903 shooting experience I use my M1903A3. No worries about possible bad heat treatment, and it has an easier to use rear sight than the M1903 too.

    Even if I wasn't to be seriously hurt by an exploding M1903, the gun would be destroyed, and they aren't making any more. Why take a small but known risk destroying a piece of history and possibly injuring yourself at the same time when there are so many 1903A3s and high-number 1903s around?

  19. #19
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    I shoot mine and have shot quite a few low numbered '03s through the years. Though it isn't proper "conventional wisdom" these days, there is excessive worry over the low numbered '03. One really doesn't see additional instances of low number '03 rifles blowing up that might be held up as an example of the folly of shooting one, yet the internet has given rise to much dithering. Any of a host of other elderly firearms could be worrisome too but some of us like to play with them. Careful attentiveness to headspace and loads is beneficial. Mongrel "garage rebuilds" or "sporterized" rifles as are frequently found at gun shows might be suspect but draw your own conclusions about sound original rifles. Only my view.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by noelekal View Post
    One really doesn't see additional instances of low number '03 rifles blowing up that might be held up as an example of the folly of shooting one,...
    Maybe it is because most people who own low-numbered 1903s don't shoot them. If they aren't being fired, you won't read about them blowing up.

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    While the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) sells low-numbered M1903s, they advise against firing them:

    *WARNING ON “LOW-NUMBER” SPRINGFIELDS
    M1903 rifles made before February 1918 utilized receivers and bolts which were single heat-treated by a method that rendered some of them brittle and liable to fracture when fired, exposing the shooter to a risk of serious injury. It proved impossible to determine, without destructive testing, which receivers and bolts were so affected and therefore potentially dangerous.

    To solve this problem, the Ordnance Department commenced double heat treatment of receivers and bolts. This was commenced at Springfield Armory at approximately serial number 800,000, and at Rock Island Arsenal at exactly serial number 285,507. All Springfields made after this change are commonly called “high number” rifles. Those Springfields made before this change are commonly called “low-number” rifles.

    In view of the safety risk the Ordnance Department withdrew from active service all “low-number” Springfields. During WWII, however, the urgent need for rifles resulted in the rebuilding and reissuing of many “low-number” as well as “high-number” Springfields. The bolts from such rifles were often mixed during rebuilding, and did not necessarily remain with the original receiver.

    Generally speaking, “low number” bolts can be distinguished from “high-number” bolts by the angle at which the bolt handle is bent down. All “low number” bolts have the bolt handle bent straight down, perpendicular to the axis of the bolt body. High number bolts have “swept-back” (or slightly rearward curved) bolt handles.

    A few straight-bent bolts are of the double heat-treat type, but these are not easily identified, and until positively proved otherwise ANY straight-bent bolt should be assumed to be “low number”. All original swept-back bolts are definitely “high number”. In addition, any bolt marked “N.S.” (for nickel steel) can be safely regarded as “high number” if obtained directly from CMP (beware of re-marked fakes).

    CMP DOES NOT RECOMMEND FIRING ANY SPRINGFIELD RIFLE WITH A ”LOW NUMBER” RECEIVER. Such rifles should be regarded as collector’s items, not “shooters”.

    CMP ALSO DOES NOT RECOMMEND FIRING ANY SPRINGFIELD RIFLE, REGARDLESS OF SERIAL NUMBER, WITH A SINGLE HEAT-TREATed “LOW NUMBER” BOLT. SUCH BOLTS, WHILE HISTORICALLY CORRECT FOR DISPLAY WITH A RIFLE OF WWI OR EARLIER VINTAGE, MAY BE DANGEROUS TO USE FOR SHOOTING.

    THE UNITED STATES ARMY GENERALLY DID NOT SERIALIZE BOLTS. DO NOT RELY ON ANY SERIAL NUMBER APPEARING ON A BOLT TO DETERMINE WHETHER SUCH BOLT IS “HIGH NUMBER” OR “LOW NUMBER”.

    http://www.thecmp.org/m1903.htm
    Also, low-numbered M1903s are banned from use in CMP-sanctioned competition:

    6.3.3 As-Issued M1903 Springfield

    The rifle must be a standard issue service rifle that was issued by the U.S.
    Armed Forces and be in as-issued condition. Permitted rifles are the Caliber
    .30 U. S. Model 1903 and Model 1903 A3 Springfield rifles, except that Caliber
    .30 U. S. Model 1903 Springfield rifles manufactured by Springfield Armory
    with serial numbers of 810,000 or lower or by Rock Island Arsenal with serial
    numbers of 285,506 or lower may not be used in any CMP-sanctioned competition.

  22. #22
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    I was really interested in this debate some time back and corresponded with Bruce Canfield and others. My theory was that period greasing of rounds may have lead to the failures and since that practice ended in the 20's, one should not worry about reaching the failure point with standard ball ammo.

    (See attachment for the article.)

    But it was pointed out to me that it's not the failures that are the problem, it's HOW the receiver fails that matters. Receives in the post-800k range have also failed, but the difference is that they don't shatter or fragment like the low numbers. In a failure situation, it could mean the difference in all pieces staying together and having the magazine blow out or having the entire receiver shatter like a grenade and the bolt sent flying into your face to elsewhere.

    Maybe it's like driving a car with no seatbelts or airbags. It may not mean it's any more likely to get in an accident, but in the event there is an accident, you're hosed.
    Last edited by Homer2; 09-17-2009 at 10:32 AM.
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    But we did fight a world war with low number springfields. I don't own one, so that was just an observation not an endorsement.

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    It was a low enough risk given all other battlefield conditions and military necessity that the decision was made to do it (in both world wars). There are no "huns" or "sons of nippon" threatening this shooter, and a variety of fully safe alternatives with little to no risk of catastrophic failure. The gain is what exactly? I still don't understand the whole argument for even shooting these rifles? Stranded, in the mountains and starving with no other weapons? That one I would get.
    Last edited by BradB; 09-17-2009 at 03:43 PM. Reason: qu

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    If you never have a head split, other case failure or overload then your rifle will probably be safe. Have one head split and low number receivers do fragment rather then fail gracefully. If you want a 1903 to shoot get a high number. The army concluded that there was no way to assure a low number receiver was safe and chose to pull them from issue when turned in for repair. Not all were destroyed, though that was the recomendation, but until WWII broke out and all rifles were in short supply they were held at the arsenal and a new high number receiver was used in rebuild. When things got bad after Pearl harbor the risk of a blow up did not go away but the option of using rocks versus a low number 03 made the choice to continue to issue them a no brainer. Since 1918 they have been considered defective and time has not chagned that.

  26. #26
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    To quote Hatcher on the single heat treated M1903 receiver:

    "I had just come to Springfield Armory from the Mexican Border, and had been placed in charge of the Experimental Department, where one of my first duties was to examine two burst rifles and report on the cause of the trouble. Both rifles had failed while using a certain make of wartime ammunition. This, on the face of it, pointed to defective ammunition as the cause of the trouble, but only a cursory examination of the steel in the receivers was required to show that it was coarse grained, weak and brittle. I reported that soft cartridge cases had probably contributed to the failure, but that the real underlying cause was poor steel in the receivers."

    Hatcher again:

    "When gas at 50,000 pounds is pressing on the inside of a barrel, it does not have much surface to work on, and the total load is not great, but when it gets out into the bolt well of the receiver, whose diameter is about an inch, it has more surface to push against, and the total load is enormous. A failure of this kind will likely burst a weak receiver, and even if the receiver is not injured, escaping gas is likely to do damage of other kinds, such as blowing off the extractor..."

    "As has been stated above, the modern military bolt action rifle is no stronger than the cartridge case; or stated another way, the first thing to fail is the cartridge case."

    "When properly headspaced and used with ammunition of good quality, these receivers gave excellent results. The Springfield rifle had then been in use for fourteen years, and there were about 700,000 of them in existance, and there had never been any complaint, though it was later found that some of them, while showing great static strength, would shatter under a sudden blow."

    If you are going to shoot the low number M1903, have at it. Just know that careful handloading will not appreciably lower the operating pressure of the cartridge. Any cartridge head failure will exceed the limits of strength of the receiver. Put some real thought into components, as commercial cases , for the most part,are thinner and less robust than military cases.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Deputy Dan; 09-17-2009 at 07:35 PM.

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    I shoot for fun, not for survival on the battlefield or to put dinner on the table.

    If in the back of my mind I'm wondering if the rifle I am holding against my cheek is going to explode when I pull the trigger, I'm not having fun.

    Imagine if these rifles had been made by Ruger or Remington by the hundreds of thousands a few years ago, and "only" 68 had failed so far. Would they have recalled the rifles when the defect was recognized, or would Ruger or Remington be telling people that the risk has been exaggerated and overblown, and that owners shouldn't worry?

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    Among the low numbered rifle failures that Hatcher recorded in his book "Hatcher's Notebook" is found the following:

    Date 1923

    Rock Island Arsenal rifles numbers 234466 and 235742

    Reference: O.O. 474.1/4720, 4726, 4727, 4735

    Organization and Location: Coalinga Rifle Club, Coalinga, California

    No description of persons injured

    Ammunition: R. A. '18 lot No. 397

    Nature of Failures: Receivers shattered

    Probable Cause: Defective ammunition (Frankfort Arsenal). It is concluded that the bursting of each rifle was due primarily to failure of the cartridge head, the cause of such failure is not know, combined with weakness and brittleness of the receiver, and possibly aggravated by excessive pressure. (Springfield Armory)

    Disposition of Rifles: Forwarded to the Springfield Armory




    This Rock Island '03 with a barrel date of 8-13 is 1230 higher than the first rifle mentioned and 46 lower than the second. It sees occasional use at the range and has for over 25 years now. Total round count for the time period is likely less than 400 including a couple of high power matches (just for fun).

    A load that it likes consists of a Sierra 150 grain flat base spitzer, a moderate charge of IMR 4064, put up in once-fired Lake City military cases, and using a Remington 9 1/2 primer. This load chronographs 2684 fps and works well with the original sights.

  29. #29
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    If you want to 'test' your receiver, take it out of the stock and using a hammer or steel rod, strike the receiver rail(s); if either shatters it it brittle. If it does not, maybe you didn't hit it hard enough.

    Here is what brittle and double heat treated recievers look like when tested in this manner.

    Hope this helps your decision.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails springfield receiver destruction tests.JPG  
    03man - Don Voigt
    Author of "The Japanese T99 Arisaka Rifle" 2010 edition
    Co-author of "The Knee Mortars of Japan 1921-1945" 2011 edition
    Near Charlotte, NC

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by noelekal View Post
    Among the low numbered rifle failures that Hatcher recorded in his book "Hatcher's Notebook" is found the following:

    Date 1923

    Rock Island Arsenal rifles numbers 234466 and 235742

    Reference: O.O. 474.1/4720, 4726, 4727, 4735

    Organization and Location: Coalinga Rifle Club, Coalinga, California

    No description of persons injured

    Ammunition: R. A. '18 lot No. 397

    Nature of Failures: Receivers shattered

    Probable Cause: Defective ammunition (Frankfort Arsenal). It is concluded that the bursting of each rifle was due primarily to failure of the cartridge head, the cause of such failure is not know, combined with weakness and brittleness of the receiver, and possibly aggravated by excessive pressure. (Springfield Armory)

    Disposition of Rifles: Forwarded to the Springfield Armory




    This Rock Island '03 with a barrel date of 8-13 is 1230 higher than the first rifle mentioned and 46 lower than the second. It sees occasional use at the range and has for over 25 years now. Total round count for the time period is likely less than 400 including a couple of high power matches (just for fun).

    A load that it likes consists of a Sierra 150 grain flat base spitzer, a moderate charge of IMR 4064, put up in once-fired Lake City military cases, and using a Remington 9 1/2 primer. This load chronographs 2684 fps and works well with the original sights.
    Would you like to conduct a controlled experiment with vintage ammunition? I have several bandoliers of M1906 Ball, manufactured by Remington in 1917 and 1918, United States Cartridge Co (U.S.C. Co. 1918) and some by National Brass and Copper Tube Co. 1917. The ammunition is in excellent condition. Care to have a go with your RIA?

    You are missing the point entirely. The Low Number M1903 will work flawlessly, until you have a mishap, which will cause catastrophic failure.

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    No, I am not missing the point and I already have some WWI vintage M1906 that I don't intend to fire in this rifle.

    I understand that "the sky is falling" when it comes to the low numbered '03. It is made abundantly clear here.

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    The sky is not falling, but you are doing a great disservice to those who have limited knowledge of the early single heat treated M1903 rifle. You have accepted the risk of firing your rifle, by your own statements. Unless you possess some prescience of what will happen with cartridge cases, there is no possible way for you to say that there isn't a risk involved.

    By the way, the National Brass and Copper Tube Co. cartridges would almost guarantee that the receiver in the RIA would fail, as they were one of the cartridges listed in Hatcher's Notebook.

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    I sure would like to own that Rock Island!!

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    I'm using Federal brass. It's about the thickest of the commercial brass as far as I know.

  35. #35
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    Yes, there's a risk involved. There's a degree of risk involved in discharging any firearm. When considering the low numbered 1903 (or any of several other firearms designs) careful attention to detail can mitigate that risk to an acceptable level in my view. If, in future, I blow my silly head off shooting ancient '03s I'll let y'all know.

    The low numbered actions remained in service for many years through a big war and some police actions. They were tested with the 75,000 "blue pill" which winnowed out the ones that were truly weak. They were used (and abused) both in service and after they were mustered out. They formed the basis of a host of custom rifles, some being rechambered for other cartridges. They were fed the products of the reloading benches of America for several decades, both well thought out hand loads and slip shod stuff along with thoughtless "hot" loads. It is certain that a fairly large pile of big game has fallen to low numbered '03 Springfield rifles.

    Unknown numbers of other low numbered actions used during all those years were bound to have failed but one rarely ever hears about it outside "Hatcher's Notebook" and P.O. Ackley's work. Hatcher stated that the low numbered action could pretty well be depended to fail by 90,000 lbs. That's a lot of pressure. I'm not operating my rifle in the 75,000 to 90,000 range. I'm not going to strike its receiver with a hammer either.

    A judicious hand load in a proven once-fired case represents a larger margin of safety than the unknown materials, components, and assembly of a factory load. Avoid high-pressure overloads, excessive headspace, soft case heads, greased ammunition, bore obstructions such as bullets, patches, gum, or dirt in muzzle, damaged firing pins that fire the cartridge prior to engagement of the locking lugs, or the firing of 7.9 German service ammunition in the rifle which is chambered for the .30-06. The brittle single heat treat receiver is a thread running all through the accounts reviewed in "Hatcher's Notebook" but it was aggravated by the significant issues as listed above. These would cause problems with most rifle designs.

    By all means don't fire an old '03 if one can't become comfortable with the thing, however it isn't quite such a disservice to refuse to jump on the "Chicken Little" bandwagon regarding low numbered '03s. Have a gunsmith go over it, checking it for headspace before shooting it. As long as the rifle isn't a compilation of parts cobbled together in someone's garage or hasn't been rechambered to shoot some nuclear-powered magnum cartridge, it should be fine with factory fodder or hand loads generating pressure in the 40,000 to 45,000 range. Obviously there are no guarantees 90-100 years hence. It goes without saying that shooting glasses are a must as they are a necessity with any shooting. Hatcher also said that the simple expedient of wearing shooting glasses would have significantly reduced injuries encountered with burst rifles. I've seen both an M1 and an M1A damaged by cartridge cases that had been excessively annealed and were dead soft. In both instances factory ammunition was the culprit. In the case of the M1A, it occurred on the firing line during a high-power match and left the operator bleeding about the face. Shooting glasses saved his eyes from injury.

    According to General Hatcher the early Model 1903 was manufactured from the same type of steel as Krag Jorgensen. I'm not familiar with heat treatment methods for the Krag actions but imagine it was much the same. Despite that pesky "cracked lug" issue that is repeated far and wide as a potential problem, Krags have never had a reputation for bursting and they are said to have a "weaker" action than an '03. Or, perhaps all Krags should be retired as well and not shot.

    That compels us to reconsider the "Trapdoor" Springfield ... the 1873 Winchester...the Luger...the Beretta 92... even the Pre-64 Winchester Model 70 has that cone breach design that offers somewhat less support around the case head.

    Coin collecting looks safer all the time.

  36. #36
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    What a good post.^^^:D

  37. #37
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    Over the years I've read a lot of good information both for and against shooting these low numbered '03's. I don't own one, but if I did I would probably shoot cast bullets under a lesser charge. But then I usually don't try to see how much velocity I can get out of any rifle, especially my milsurps. There are exceptions since I do use a few for hunting, and there I'm looking for the flatest trajectory and sufficient terminal velocity.

    As long as the shooter has made an informed decision to shoot and is aware of the risks, then the onus is on them.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by noelekal View Post

    This Rock Island '03 with a barrel date of 8-13 is 1230 higher than the first rifle mentioned and 46 lower than the second. It sees occasional use at the range and has for over 25 years now. Total round count for the time period is likely less than 400 including a couple of high power matches (just for fun).
    Not all low-number M1903s were improperly heat treated, some were and some weren't. This is obviously one that was properly heat treated. But that tells us nothing about MuscleGarunt's rifle or any other low-numbered M1903.

  39. #39
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    Well mine was shot enough in WW1 to wear out a barrel. That's a pretty good test. It's got a 42 dated barrel. PO Ackley, and Hatcher seemed to think that the rifle was good if kept into the safe pressure range. I was planing on shooting 165 grainers at about 2450 FPS or so. Should be similar pressure to 150 grainers going at 2700 FPS.

    I do believe that the low number Springfields are weaker than the high numbers. But if the rifle has been proof tested at 75,000, made it through a war being shot enough to wear out the original barrel and is shot with ammo in the 45,000 PSI range or lower what could cause it to fail besides a case head separation?

    It does seem like it's just the thing to say when someone asks about a low number Springfield. The CMP says don't shoot them based on liability reasons, that makes sense. But that does not mean they are all unsafe.

    I'd reckon a guess that all low number Springfields that have been proof tested with the blue pill are safe to shoot in the normal operating range of 45,000 to 50,000 PSI.

  40. #40
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    Case rupture+questionable metallurgy=hole in face is a disqualifier for me. I submit the I-35 bridge collapse as my final attempt to make a comparison that catches your attention. The bridge worked perfectly for millions of cars until it fell. You know your "bridge" was made by the same maker as others that have fallen, there is no inspection that can be conducted on yours, yet refuse to change your route to somewhere you don't even need to go.
    Last edited by BradB; 09-18-2009 at 07:44 AM.

    Words Conquer!

  41. #41
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    noelekal

    The Krag does not fail in the same fashion as a SHT M1903 due to the fact that it is a completely different design! The M1903 has a coned breech, and does not fully support the case head. The Krag's rimmed cartridge is fully supported, there is no void for pressures to spike. Any pressure release vents straight out of the action, there is no "containment vessel" of a coned breech to raise pressures.

    To illustrate, here is an image of a Krag rifle. You can see the open design of the action. If you look just foward of the bolt stop pin, you can see the end of the receiver. If a cartridge fails, the gasses will be vented out of the receiver without encountering any intervening structure:



    And yes, it is manufactured of the same Springfield Class C steel as the M1903.

    Your theory regarding high pressure overloads is flawed. They can fail with normal service cartridges, that nominally operate at 50,000 pounds. Yes, the rifle can be successfully fired, many thousands of times, IF the pressure is contained within the cartridge case, and not vented into the action. If you have a cartridge failure, the pressures exerted on the receiver by a failed service cartridge exceeds the determined bursting strength of the receiver!
    Last edited by Deputy Dan; 09-18-2009 at 03:48 PM.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuscleGarunt View Post
    Well mine was shot enough in WW1 to wear out a barrel. That's a pretty good test. It's got a 42 dated barrel. .

    Not true, most likely since it has a 42 dated barrel it was one of the recievers taken off a rifle returned for repair in the 20s. Those receivers were stored at SA and when the war started were assembled into complete rifles using any parts on hand. The original barrel may or may not have been worn out as it is not uncommon to find early barrels on very late recievers. I might also point out that one round of ammo can destroy a barrel if the bore is not cleaned afterwards. That would be any that is corrosive primed. I am sure most barrels that required replacement were from pitting not wear from firing.
    I do not know why you even asked if it was safe to shoot your rifle since it seems you have your mind made up. Bottom line is that is there is no problem with the ammo then most likely there is not going to be an issue shooting. However if you have a head failure any Low Number 03 is subject to fragmentation becasue of the way it was made. Some of the low number 03s have really brittle receivers due to faulty heat treatment but all of them are somewhat brittle. SO when you do shoot your low number be sure have really good shooting glasses on and that your ammo is high quality. As a favor to other shooters if you are shooting at a public range do not shoot right next to other shooters so they will not be hit by fragments if you gun does blow up. Just hope you do not have a head split like this one I had in a 1917 Enfield.


  43. #43
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    Great Photo!

    Gents, the gasses released by this cartridge will enter the SHT action and exert pressure into a component that can't support that load. What happens within that coned breech void in a weak receiver is simple physics, folks.
    Last edited by Deputy Dan; 09-18-2009 at 10:47 AM.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by BradB View Post
    Case rupture+questionable metallurgy=hole in face is a disqualifier for me. I submit the I-35 bridge collapse as my final attempt to make a comparison that catches your attention. The bridge worked perfectly for millions of cars until it fell. You know your "bridge" was made by the same maker as others that have fallen, there is no inspection that can be conducted on yours, yet refuse to change your route to somewhere you don't even need to go.
    Yes, but the bridge had a bunch of work being done at the time and many large pieces of equipment on one end, similar to having a super hot load. I drove that route every day, and crossed 1/2 hour before it fell, by the grace of God.

    Since the poster seems dead set (no pun intended) on shooting it, he is assuming the risk, whether good, bad, or indifferent...

  45. #45
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    I like talking about stuff and getting other opinions. I want to shoot it since I bought it and was told by the seller it was safe. I now want to get other opinions. If anything this thread is a good source of information.

    Thanks for all the posts.

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