Saturday, January 03, 2009

A hidden gem reveals itself.

OK< it's long overdue, but I finally got this 1903 Springfield out to the range yesterday. A friend of mine had purchased an M-1 Garand from the CMP that he wanted to shoot, so I hosted him out to my club, and just for the heck of it, I brought the '03 along.Now I haven't shot this rifle in 14 or 15 years. It's been a wall-hanger and rack queen all that time, ignored as I shot other, usually newer rifles. This 1903 came to me as a rather shopworn rifle that appeared to have suffered from a fair bit of neglect, and back when I got it I was much more fond of modern semi-automatic rifles. I acquired the 1903 due to it's historical significance and, to be honest, as an impulse buy to save it from a moron who was going to chop it into a deer rifle. But I never really shot it, and by the time I came to appreciate bolt-action rifles, I'd acquired several other ones which appeared to be in better shape, including two more modern 1903A3s. The poor old 1903 was left to languish in the racks with the Arisakas and Carcanos as a display piece and relic of bygone days. This was, after all, the rifle that the US Marines took to Belleau Wood during World War One when they ignored the French suggestion that they join the retreat in the face of a German advance and began picking off startled Germans at distances exceeding 800 meters, a feat considered improbable if not impossible at that time. But that episode demonstrated what a good rifleman and a good rifle could do. The US Marines have typically exemplified that rifleman and the 1903 Springfield was definitely a good rifle. However over the years, while I've reflected back on such battles, I'd overlooked the fact that I had a 1903 in my own collection which was undoubtedly still up to such a task.

But all of that changed yesterday. I took this old rifle out to play with while teaching my friend how to load and fire his new Garand. Running the overly-complicated ladder sight up, I fired a five-round group at a plate a hundred yards out. Turned out that they all hit just off of the target, but wow--what a group! They were all within four inches of each other, and that was with me shooting seated off-hand and not taking any particular care.

I made the appropriate sight adjustments and immediately had no trouble repeatedly hitting a small 4"x4" block of wood that was down on the 100M line. 40 more rounds of .30 M2 ball quickly obliterated anything downrange that was big enough to see yet small enough to be challenging. The rifle kicks a bit harder than a ten pound Garand, but I don't mind the .30-06 recoil in either rifle and the 1903's light weight helps get it back on target quicker, IMHO. It also balances better, at least to me. I can see what Marine greats like Chesty Puller always preferred this rifle over the Garand even though the latter held more ammunition and offered an increase in firepower. It's definitely a rifleman's rifle.

Now this particular rifle's accuracy and consistency was a shock to me considering it's outward appearance and it's long period of dormancy on my rack. I had no idea that such a gem was just sitting there and I will be working up a load just for this rifle because I've just decided that this rifle will be coming to one of the big CMP matches with me in 2009. I'm just sorry that I've ignored it for so long. And no mor

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