Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Another restoration project: Springfield Model 1903A3

About six years ago, I rebuilt this 1903A3 from parts on a reactivated drill rifle receiver.

But I was never happy with the way that it shot, mostly due to the plastic stock I'd put it in which didn't fit all that well, causing accuracy to fall off, and because of a damaged rear sight that refused to hold it's elevation setting, dropping to the bottom of the ramp with every shot.

For six years, it languished in the rack as a non-shooter. A year or so ago, I got some repair parts for the sight and spent a frustrating evening trying to get those tiny pieces and parts into the right alignment in the old sight base. Just add that to the list of gunsmithing jobs that I don't want to try again soon, ok?

I still did nothing with the rifle, meaning to clean it's wood stock up but never getting around to it. Well last week, when I was working on the Long Branch Enfield and had the linseed oil out, I decided to take a whack at the '03A3 stock too. I sanded it down and prepped a new handguard that I'd bought for it since it never had one when I got it, and I oiled them up when I finished the Emfield wood, mainly as a practice project. I figured that if I messed it up, no big deal.

I did not mess it up. It came out beautifully.
Click on the pics to enlarge.
I'd always thought it a shame that this rifle was just sitting around in that crappy plastic drill stock I'd put it in. It was the total "ugly duckling" of the gun room. But it's not ugly any more.

Got a Remington 1944 barrel that gauges like new on both ends.

When I bought it, the rifle was just a collection of 1903A3 parts fitted to an old 1903 receiver, built as a training aid for a state hunter safety course. It couldn't shoot and wasn't supposed to, but once I figured out what I had, I pulled it apart, sold off the old 1903 receiver (after using it as an office paperweight for a year or so) and mated the parts to a new 1903A3 receiver that I got from Gibbs Rifle Co. in Martinsburg, WV. I even got to drive over there and choose a Remington receiver to match the barrel.

I had the receiver cleaned up and the barrel installed and headspaced by a local gunsmith who is a retired Marine Corps Armorer and the only indication that it was once a drill rifle is the shiny spot by the magazine cut-off where a weld used to be.

A new cut-off and bolt were added and it now functions nicely and looks good sitting in with it's brothers.
Second from the right.

It's still missing a rear sling swivel that I somehow lost while the rifle was disassembled for so long, but that's on order along with the new Long Branch parts, and come Monday I should have everything I need to make both of them 100% again. Meanwhile, first chance I get, this 1903A3 is going out to the range for a proper "Welcome Back" shooting session.


  1. Hopefully with a good rear sight! :-)

    1. It seems to move when it's supposed to move and stay put when it's supposed to stay put. But that stamped-metal slider on the '03A3 is one of the weak points of the rifle. A loose one on another rifle that dropped the sight during a rapid-fire stage cost me a medal at Perry one year.

    You should start a cottage business(?)


  3. It's good to see somebody putting one of the old rifles back in it's original condition, as opposed to hacking it up trying to make a hunting rifle out of it.

    The rebuild looks really good.

    I don't have a 1903A3. I have two 1903's, both in the high enough serial number range I can shoot them without blowing my face off.

  4. Hey Murphy, do good work on those old rifles.....They look good and you treat them as they should have been treated:)

    1. Thank you.

      I respect these rifles because they were proud fighting rifles once, and I take care of them both because they earned it and because the way things are going, they might have to fight again in my lifetime.

    2. Here's hoping they can stay in "retirement" permanently.

  5. Another job well done.

  6. Do NOT over-tighten anything!