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Old May 30, 2013, 05:31 PM   #1
winchester214
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Low number 1903?

so about 2 years ago i bought a 1903 springfield which i have been shooting consistantly since i got it. i recently stumbled upon a bit of information that said any rifle under 800,000 serial # is unsafe to shoot. i checked the number on my riofle and it was 762,XXX. i have been shooting the Federal American Eagle M1 Garand ammunition through it for like i said about 2 years. it appears to have been rebarreled in 1944 with a HS barrel. should i be shooting this thing?

Also, the guy who had it before me used it in competition shooting

Last edited by winchester214; May 30, 2013 at 05:51 PM.
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Old May 30, 2013, 05:55 PM   #2
PetahW
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.

Welcome to the forum !

I suggest that you google "low numbered Springfields", since there's plenty of info out there about the spotty heat-treating the receivers received.

IMO, you've been fortunate - but NOBODY can determine what will or will not happen the next time you pull the trigger.

YMMV, but I've traded off low-numbered Springfields that I got as part of a package deal, but only to a collector who knew about the issue & didn't plan on firing it.




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Old May 30, 2013, 06:10 PM   #3
winchester214
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well that honestly makes me very angry because i bought this thing full price from a local store. they seemed knowlegable but i guess it pays to know your s**t.
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Old May 30, 2013, 07:31 PM   #4
tahunua001
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Quote:
so about 2 years ago i bought a 1903 springfield which i have been shooting consistantly since i got it. i recently stumbled upon a bit of information that said any rifle under 800,000 serial # is unsafe to shoot. i checked the number on my riofle and it was 762,XXX. i have been shooting the Federal American Eagle M1 Garand ammunition through it for like i said about 2 years. it appears to have been rebarreled in 1944 with a HS barrel. should i be shooting this thing?

Also, the guy who had it before me used it in competition shooting
ok first of all welcome to TFL, you will find that we are all like family...dysfunctional... but a family all the same.

ok here's the skinny on low numbered serial numbers. during the early years, springfield was using very primitive methods of manufacturing their rifles, as was the arsenal at rock island. coupled with the poor manufacturing practices the ammunition was also made very poorly especially in the years leading up to and including WWI. when those casings failed they would vent pressure into the receivers instead of down the barrels and the steel would shatter as it was overcooked during heat treating and became brittle. not all the rifles were overcooked, the issue was with workers having to eyeball the metal and pulling it out when it turned the right color but on a bright sunny day the metal had to get hotter for the workers to see the color change. the treatment styles were changed after serial 800,000 at springfield and 285,000 at rock island and not a word was ever uttered again about it.


many of those rifles served through both world wars and never saw a single problem even with being shot so much as to require new bolts, barrels and other replacement parts. however it is impossible to test to see if your gun has been overcooked without risking damage to your receiver and the test itself could damage and make it more prone to fail even if it wasn't to begin with. some of us weigh the risks and decide to continue to shoot mild loads out of our low serials while others vehemently advise against it. James K and Kraigwy are two members here that are against, a couple others strongly take the position that it's internet myths being perpetuated. I am somewhere in the middle. I own a low serial springfield and I shoot it from time to time. I use mild loads and don't do it often but I do shoot it and have never had a problem with it. however it is something that you have to weigh and decide if you are willing to risk personal injury to continue shooting.

also, ever since someone started making a big hullabaloo out of low serials CMP has banned their use in competitions and since most vintage military matches are facilitated by CMP I would probably say you were lied to by the guy that sold it to you.
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Old May 31, 2013, 01:36 PM   #5
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As, Tahunua says, many folks simply refuse to accept that there can be any problem with those single heat treat rifles, or claim that the bad ones have been weeded out. One fellow "proved" with statistics that there was not and never had been any problem.

I became a believer many years ago when I hit a low-number receiver with a light hammer and watched as three pieces fell to the floor. And the hammer was not a statistical hammer, either. The rifle belonged to a friend and we both turned a bit green, as we had been firing the rifle the day before.

(The shattered receiver didn't matter as it was being returned to DCM for replacement, which they would do in those days.)

Jim
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Old May 31, 2013, 02:35 PM   #6
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it is impossible to test to see if your gun has been overcooked without risking damage to your receiver and the test itself could damage and make it more prone to fail even if it wasn't to begin with
I wonder if that is still so.
They improved the heat treatment in 1918 and went to nickel steel in 1928.
All the pronouncements about the impossibility of detecting brittle actions seem to be based on tests in the 1920s leading up to the adoption of nickel steel.
The old Mk I eyeball heat treat crew surely got some of them right even if only by chance when the ambient light was right and they weren't too hung over.
It ought to be possible to pick them out with truly modern methods.
It would likely take destructive testing to find a good one and a bad one to compare.
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Old May 31, 2013, 06:06 PM   #7
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I don't know much about metallurgy but from how I understand it the only test around that works is a hydrolic pressure test and if it is too brittle it will shatter the receiver but if it's not overcooked the pressure points used for the test could develop micro fractures and eventually give way.

I won't subject my 101 year old springfield to such a test I am just going to go forward with a prayer every time I squeeze the trigger.
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Old May 31, 2013, 08:36 PM   #8
winchester214
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according to CMP an unsafe rifle is one made before February 1918. My rifle was made in 1918 but i have no idea what month. If i found out that it was made after February, could it be "safe to shoot"? if so how can i tell what month? ive been looking for some kind of list of months and years but cant find any.

"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."

http://www.thecmp.org/sales/m1903.htm
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Old May 31, 2013, 10:11 PM   #9
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"The old Mk I eyeball heat treat crew surely got some of them right even if only by chance when the ambient light was right and they weren't too hung over."

I believe they got most of them right. The trouble is that there was not then, and AFAIK is not now, any guaranteed non-destructive test to locate the bad ones. The bad ones are brittle (as I found out) and like, say, a soda bottle, can stand a lot of pressure but will shatter under a sudden blow. I have seen a cola bottle run over by a car without breaking, but they will certainly shatter if struck sharply.

That is why you hear and read stuff like, "That low number business is BS; I have fired mine hundreds of rounds with no problem." Firing normal ammunition exerts a push, not a sharp blow, so there is rarely a problem in that situation. But LN receivers have blown when firing light loads of pistol powder; when cartridge cases have let go, releasing gas into the action; and when the receiver was struck a sharp blow, as in the one I broke. Of course, the second situation will usually wreck any receiver, but not shatter a properly heat treated forged receiver.

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Old May 31, 2013, 11:21 PM   #10
tahunua001
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Quote:
according to CMP an unsafe rifle is one made before February 1918. My rifle was made in 1918 but i have no idea what month. If i found out that it was made after February, could it be "safe to shoot"? if so how can i tell what month? ive been looking for some kind of list of months and years but cant find any.

"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."
I couldn't tell you, the first number of 1918 was 761,758 so it would be very close however everything I've read suggests that DHT receivers did not begin until 800,000.
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Old June 1, 2013, 12:48 AM   #11
DoctorXring
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"Low" Number Springfield rifles

.


Read this article and make your own decision. There is
a lot of myth and hyperbole concerning the 1903 Springfield
receivers in question.


http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/


.
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Old June 1, 2013, 02:21 PM   #12
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Own a low number 1903 Springfield too....receiver is 1914 and barrel 1924. When I got the rifle four or so years ago, stock had been chopped, but metal was still intact. Restored it back to its original military configuration. Obviously its prior owner(s), had used the rifle for hunting due to wear on the metal and blue.

I shoot the rifle at range, but always use reduced loads in it. Using Trail Boss and 125 gr bullets I finished third place in our last 100 yd target military rifle competition. Velocity of my Trail Boss load is around 1400 fps. Nothing complicated in our military shoot.....10 shots at a 12" bullseye at 100 yds from benchrest. Had one flyer that cost me a higher finish.
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Old June 1, 2013, 04:21 PM   #13
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. There is a lot of myth and hyperbole concerning the 1903 Springfield receivers in question.
Indeed there is.

i own several M1903 rifles, including four with low numbers. They have not been fired in many years; not because i deem them to be unsafe but because i've lost interest in milsurp rifles.

Most of the documented kabooms involving low numbered rifles took place during WWI and shortly thereafter. Some of the .30 caliber ammunition manufactured during WWI was of very poor quality. .30 caliber ammunition made by made by National Copper and Brass was condemned during WWI because of soft cases. i have some of that ammo with headstamp NC18.

The USMC never withdrew low numbered M1903 rifles from service. Some of those rifles were in service until 1945.

BTW: Some M1898 Mausers have very hard and brittle receivers. Many years ago i dropped a 1898 Mauser receiver on the concrete floor while rebarreling a gun. The receiver broke into three pieces.

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Old June 1, 2013, 09:53 PM   #14
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Actually, no one ever withdrew any M1903 rifles from service. The policy at Springfield and the major depots was that when a low-number came in for rebuild, the receiver would be scrapped, but there was no general recall. Most of those rifles continued in service through WWII apparently no concern about their strength, and after the U.S. entered the war, the practice of scrapping receivers stopped; the U.S. needed every rifle it could get and that overrode any concern about defective receivers.

AFAIK, by WWII, no one was reporting or keeping track of any problems with those rifles; they were obsolescent and of little concern to an Ordnance Department trying to produce the M1 rifle. And if one did let go and injure a soldier, it was simply one of many dangers GIs faced every day.

Jim

P.S. The famous Lyon article is a perfect example of trying to prove by statistics that something that happened in the real world didn't really happen. Take it with a large grain of salt.

JK
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Old June 2, 2013, 10:36 AM   #15
thallub
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Actually, no one ever withdrew any M1903 rifles from service.
OK: Perhaps "removed from service" is a better term.

IMO: The piece by Dr. Lyons is much better than anything that has ever been written about low numbered M1903 rifles.

The big safety problem with the M1903 rifle is the coned breech: i can't understand why the designers of the rifle did not copy the M1898 Mauser breeching system.

The original model 70 Winchester and the M1917 Enfield rifle also have the coned breech. A case head separation in a coned breech rifle can be a serious event.

i was present on the private weapons range at Ft. Sill when a shooter had a case head separate in his beautiful pre-64 model 70. I'm left handed: The other shooter was about three feet to the left of me when the kaboom happened.

The receiver of the rifle split along the top center line leaving the barrel loose, the stock was blown in two at the magazine, the magazine follower, spring and floor plate were blown out of action. The shooter looked like he had been shot with .22 birdshot in the face. He was wearing quality shooting glasses. Luckily, he was not seriously injured.

I have since seen a model 1917 Enfield and another model 70 rifle that were destroyed by case head separations.

Last edited by thallub; June 2, 2013 at 11:18 AM.
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Old June 2, 2013, 12:17 PM   #16
tahunua001
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I have since seen a model 1917 Enfield and another model 70 rifle that were destroyed by case head separations.
I think you may have gotten the circumstances wrong with the 1917. 1917s are widely regarded to be one of the strongest actions among all VIMBARS. I've seen several that were recambered for 300 win mag and larger. I cant see anyone doing that with a receiver that blows just from a separated case head. either there was a squib involved, or that receiver was heavily abused over the course of it's lifetime.
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Old June 2, 2013, 02:12 PM   #17
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I think you may have gotten the circumstances wrong with the 1917.
Wrong: i talked to the owner of the rifle; the gun was damaged by the firing of a reloaded .30-06 cartridge that experienced a case head separation. Some M1917 receivers were brittle too. It's not unusual for one to crack while rebarreling.
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Old June 2, 2013, 03:59 PM   #18
tahunua001
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Wrong: i talked to the owner of the rifle; the gun was damaged by the firing of a reloaded .30-06 cartridge that experienced a case head separation. Some M1917 receivers were brittle too. It's not unusual for one to crack while rebarreling.
so the guy used hot loads and wore his brass out until he had an uncontrolled hot explosion, this is hardly the rifles fault. my brother blew up a rem 700 in 243 back when he was a kid by reloading without proper supervision... who in the world claims that the rem 700 is a flawed receiver design?
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You can't believe everything you read on the internet-Benjamin Franklin
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Old June 2, 2013, 05:12 PM   #19
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Shooting low number Springfields is kind of like seat belts.

I've driven thousands of miles without getting in an accident and needing my seat belts so I guess that means I don't need seat belts.

Do what you want, wear seat belts or don't, shoot low number Springfields or don't.

I know as a CMP GSM MI I have to follow their rules in clinics and matches therefore I don't allow Low Number Springfields.

I also don't let my family in my vehicles unless they are wearing seat belts.
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Old June 2, 2013, 07:26 PM   #20
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The Model 1917 never had the same heat treatment problem as the early Model 1903's. True, some Model 1917's do crack when excessive force is used to remove the barrel, but the problem with the Model 1917 was that Eddystone used hydraulic machinery to install the barrels to the draw line. While normal installation would have required some shoulder work to get the proper alignment, the machine put the barrel on, hell or high water. That excess tension sometimes caused season cracking or cracking when a gunsmith attempted to remove the barrel. Most gunsmiths will make a relief cut before removing an M1917 barrel, unless the barrel must be saved.

I once had to rebarrel an Eddystone M1917. Knowing the problem I might encounter, I set up with a tight barrel vise, and a long bar on the receiver wrench. (Had that failed, I would have made a relief cut.) Anyway I got set to really strain and about fell on my face. That barrel was barely hand tight!

Jim
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