Saturday, March 14, 2009
Saved another one... New '03A3 comes home
OK, so this one's not exactly new. It's a compilation of parts from at least three different World War Two-era 1903A3 Springfield rifles, all of which had been consigned to the junk piles before I got hold of them.
It all began a couple of years ago when I purchased what was advertised as a display-only 1903 Springfield from a Fish and Wildlife auction. The rifle had been used for Hunter Safety classes and was reportedly rendered "non-firing" by having the firing pin ground off and firing pin hole in the bolt plugged.
Well I needed a cheap hobby gun to work on, since I was just sitting here all day, not doing anything other than wishing that I could go back to work, so I bought it for a seriously low-ball price.
As it turned out, the receiver was a low-number 1903 receiver that had been re-blued over significant pitting. That had somehow not been mentioned in the auction description. I was about to send it back and demand my money back when I noticed that all of the other parts on the gun seemed to be rather good-condition 03-A3 parts, including the barrel. Someone had rather clumsily hammered a 1903 rear sight base over the barrel and replaced the front blade with one taken from some mystery gun, but it was clearly a late-war Remington barrel. I gauged it and it registered less than 1 on both the throat and muzzle end. This was a new-condition barrel. Likewise, the stock was a very nice walnut C-stock that alone was easily worth more than I'd paid for the rifle. So there was some potential here.
I fixed the bolt by unplugging the hole and replacing both the firing pin striker and the extractor (it had been broken off too), and the project shifted to the back burner for a long while until I had the good fortune to come across a very nice (and very cheap) Remington 1903A3 receiver that had been taken off of a drill rifle. Now it was a crying shame, but at sometime back in the day, our government had taken thousands of these old Springfields and welded up the bolts and barrels, rendering them "permanently non-firing" and relegating them to display pieces good for training only. Many wound up in ROTC units and other ceremonial details, and when no longer needed, they were sold off or broken up--an ignominious end for many once excellent rifles.
The receiver that I got--a Remington to match the barrel--had been re-activated by cutting the old barrel, bolt and safety off and replacing the bolt and safety with new pieces. This one had a beautiful greenish parkerizing and only a slight shiny spot to show where the weld had been removed from the safety. I took this receiver and all of the other parts to a local gunsmith who, as a former Marine who served back in the 1950's, was quite knowledgeable regarding the Springfields. He checked the components over, pronounced them usable, and mated the barrel up to the new receiver, properly timing and headspacing it and checking it for overall safe function. After what seemed like forever,he told me that it was ready and I picked it up today.
Meanwhile, I'd acquired one of the old wood-grain plastic stocks that the Navy had put many of these rifles into back in the 1960's, the theory being that the plastic would be cheaper and less susceptible to warping in wet or humid environments than the wood stocks. Putting the rifle in this stock allows me to save the valuable C-stock while giving me a slightly lighter rifle that I can hunt with or take with me on camping trips without my having to worry about dinging it up. Plus it now has that neat and historically-accurate Navy look. I even finished it off with a blue web Navy-issue sling.
So now I have this rifle:As you can see, it fits in well with the other '03 Springfields while also standing out as a distinct and somewhat unique variation.
And like it's brothers on the rack, it's not only a good shooter, but a veteran whose wartime service to this country earned it a better end than to see it welded into a wall hanger or reduced to scrap parts. And while some people may say that it's not as sexy as one of those AR-15 rifles that Obama and Company plan on banning in the near future, it's at least as effective in the hands of a capable rifleman and it's a lot more historically significant, plus I can hike with it without alarming ever eco-freak bunny-hugger who sees it--these aren't all "scary looking" like those evil black rifles are, even though it can reach out just as far if not farther than most so-called "assault rifles". It also feeds off of the ample stock of .30-06 ammunition that I've squirreled away for the Garands and the Browning. Ammo shortage? Not here and not in that caliber.
Call me Old School, but this works for me.