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Old December 15, 2012, 04:51 PM   #1
MMV.30
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more Springfield questions

I recently obtained a model 1903 Springfield rifle. Serial number 635,289 puts it in the low number category. Is there any way to find the exact history of this particular rifle? Like if it was used in WW1 and WW2? The barrel is dated 9-44 and has a punch mark on the flaming bomb stamp but appears to have another punch mark below that. The underside of the bolt has a small "r" and apunch proof mark next to it. The "r" i assume is for Remington. The receiver has no punch mark that i can see. The butt plate door seems to to have a punch mark too. Does this mean anything? If the arsenals reworked these rifles during the pre WW2 years shouldn't it be safe to shoot. The rifle has no cartouches anywhere. The strap is stamped "GADEW 1917 LHA".Does anyone know the meaning of this? Finally, the stock is stamped " A.W 147" by the right side of the butt stock. A soldiers initials and unit number maybe? Any help would be greatly appreciated!






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Old December 15, 2012, 05:27 PM   #2
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alright none of your pictures actually posted. you can't copy and paste for your personal collection, you need to upload them to a photo sharing site like photobucket.com or such and copy the direct link URL in order to embed the image into a post.

I also have a low serial number springfield, dated to 1912 manufacture with a 1918 barrel and remington replacement bolt(that's what the R underneath the bolt handle denotes). so since your gun was given a remington bolt and a replacement barrel made near the end of WWII it is perfectly acceptable to assume that your rifle used extensively during WWII at the least and more than likely saw some service towards the end of WWI as well before it was rearsenalled and packed away for a rainy day.

the politically correct answer is that low serial number springfields are unsafe to fire and CMP does not allow low numbered springfields to compete in their rifle matches. however I am of the train of thought that believes that many of the unsafe to fire rifles were weeded out over the course of the last 80+ years and since yours was fired enough to require a new bolt and barrel that it was definitely given the proper stress testing to ensure that the receiver is stable and safe to fire. it is a heated debate among springfield collectors and nobody is changing their positions on the matter any time soon but what I would recommend is test firing in a controlled environment from cover to make sure it is truly safe, if you don't want to take the chance then sell it, there are plenty of collectors like myself that shoot their low number springfelds that would love to add another one to their collection.
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Old December 15, 2012, 07:35 PM   #3
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Well, you certainly can upload photos directly from your computer's picture library if you do it right. Once you hit post reply, scroll down to and click on MANAGE ATTACHMENTS. There are three BROWSE windows that let you browse your picture files and then UPLOAD any picture you have in your computer or on a photocard in an attached reader.

This photo was attached from my photo library. Points for knowing what it is.

As for the history of any individual rifle, barring some info like General Whosis's diary entry that he was issued M1903 serial 12345 when he was at West Point, there is simply no way to track most issue rifles. Springfield Research Service, which scans the few existing records, will check to see if they have anything on the number, but to be honest there rarely is.

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Old December 15, 2012, 08:33 PM   #4
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@tahunua001 Yes, i believe the bad receivers were weeded out too. But what gets me is that there is no punch mark on the receiver and i see this mark in other photos of guns. And why are there 2 punch marks on the barrel?
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Old December 15, 2012, 08:37 PM   #5
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@James K. That photo i believe is a rod bayonet version? I thought they destroyed/converted all of those.
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Old December 15, 2012, 09:45 PM   #6
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Nope, some escaped, and that is a genuine one. Unfortunately, it is not mine.

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Old December 17, 2012, 12:26 AM   #7
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There is no such thing as a Weeded Out, low number reciever. They are low number or they arn't. The <800,000 Springfields are UNSAFE. Just because one hasn't blown up yet, doesn't mean they wont.

I recommend not firing it, as mentioned, the CMP will not allow any low number Springfields to be used in their matches regardless whether one thinks the Low Numbers have been weeded out.
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Old December 17, 2012, 11:34 AM   #8
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and around and around we go...

as I said it is a rather heated debate and both sides have a valid argument IMO, Kraigwy is usually my counterpart in these discussions and knows quite a bit about the subject.
Quote:
There is no such thing as a Weeded Out, low number reciever. They are low number or they arn't. The <800,000 Springfields are UNSAFE. Just because one hasn't blown up yet, doesn't mean they wont.
ok you know as well as I do that the reason for the unsafe receivers was the heat treatment process n where the factory workers had to guess the temperature of the metal by the color as it heated up and on a bright sunny day where the metal was being hit by direct sunlight through the windows you would have to heat the metal up quite a bit more to to be able to see color change than on an overcast day of time of day where sun was not directly hitting the metal. this is why SOME of these receivers were over baked and became brittle. to say ALL low number Springfields are unsafe is a broadly incorrect statement. a fair analogy to that, and I hope it's still not too soon for this but it is like saying that all sons of Connecticut teachers are mentally unstable based on the occurrences of late. furthermore in all of the instances where the receivers failed, they were accompanied by casing failures, a side effect of early mass manufactured ammo, modern brass is much stronger and would not be nearly as likely to fail and therefore put all of that loose pressure on the receiver. and in the great colonels testing, he had to load his test rifles with vastly overcharged rounds to reproduce the failures in a lab setting.

Quote:
I recommend not firing it, as mentioned, the CMP will not allow any low number Springfields to be used in their matches regardless whether one thinks the Low Numbers have been weeded out
this is just my personal feelings on the matter but:
it is unfair to the many people that buy these rifles prior to hearing about the low serial debacle and then being told that they just spent $600+ on a gun that is to be fired under no circumstances, that no gunsmith will touch because of the liability and which certain organizations ban from formal VIMBAR matches for safety reasons. I am well versed with your role in CMP competitions but I still must assert that the CMP bans these rifles for liability reasons rather than an actual fear for everyone's safety. can you please tell me the last documented case of a low serial springfield going KaBOOM? apparently it hasn't happened since the internet was invented because I've been trying and all I've come up with are high number serial rifles exploding from squib loads blocking the barrels.

I continue to recommend testing in a controlled environment from cover and shooting loads that are stronger than what you plan to shoot on average. then if it holds up, the shooter should be free to use any ammunition lighter than that and use it for whatever purpose he sees fit.

here is a pretty good write up on the receiver failures issue, I read it soon after buying my low number serial springfield unwittingly.
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Old December 17, 2012, 12:16 PM   #9
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When you heat treat metal, you do it twice. First heat it, quench it. Its quite hard and brittle. Now to make the metal usable, you re-heat it and draw the heat out slowly, its called tempering. Just how much tempering depends on the use of the steel or how hard you want it.

Or you can add nickle to the metal to make it elastic.

We know that when an explosion occurs in the chamber of a rifle, something has to give so the metal in the action and barrel has to be elastic enough to allow it to expand and contract.

Kind of like hitting a piece of glass and a piece of lead with a hammer (extreme but you get the ideal) the glass being hard and brittle shatters, the lead being soft gets smashed but doesn't shatter.

Its the same way to an extent with rifle actions. You heat them, quench them they are brittle, they can, and have shattered. If you draw the temper out of the receiver (second heat treatment) the metal is allowed to give much like the lead mentioned above.

Consult Gen Hatcher's Hatcher's Notebook, and Capt Edward Crossman's Book of the Springfield, to read more on the subject. Both have reports of destroyed receivers do to the single heat treatment.

Now we know there is a difference in the pressures of different rounds. The 30 cal or 30-06 military round is loaded to moderate pressures, (consult reloading manuals regarding the difference in loading for M1/M14, etc, compared to the loadings for the modern bolt action rifles).

You MAY get by by shooting low pressure rounds, but you run the danger of destroying the rifle and personal injury. This hazard is increased by using modern ammo designed for modern bolt guns.

The CMP probably has the best Surplus Rifle Armors in the country since that is all they deal with. They conclude that the early Springfield's and Rock Island rifles are not safe to shoot.

The CMP has no way to determine what ammo the competitors use. They are commissioned by Congress to conduct matches and clinics and to do that safely, hence the rule for Low Number Springfield's.

One can do what he/she wants with his or her rifle, but I am a CMP GSM Master Instructor, allowing me to conduct Sanctioned Matches and Clinics, am required to do so following the CMP GSM Rules.

I also agree with the rules, but that's my personal opinion. What I do on my own, (and I do do some dumb stuff) is one thing, but ethics require I follow the CMP rules to the best of my ability.
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Old December 17, 2012, 02:21 PM   #10
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if it was a simple matter of just reheating the receivers and letting them cool slowly then the defense dept would have done that, several other nations and companies used the same methods of making their rifles only they used thermometers so they wouldn't over cook the metal, none of those are considered unsafe to fire. depending on weather conditions and the time of day that springfields were treated there is virtually no difference between the steel in a mauser, the steel in an enfield and the steel in a springfield.
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Old December 17, 2012, 09:34 PM   #11
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There is no doubt that some, probably most, single heat treat (SHT) M1903 receivers are perfectly safe. There is no doubt that a few were very brittle and while they passed proof will blow under certain conditions (not always ammunition or high pressure related).

The problem is that there is no non-destructive test to determine which is which; a proof test might "weed out" a bad receiver, but that will be done when a nice old collectors' item blows. Firing the rifle might also detect a bad receiver by having its pieces perform rapid surgery on the shooter's anatomy, but that too is the hard way.

Some folks contend that there have been no blowups since WWII because none have been recorded. But no one has kept records since the M1903 was taken out of service; there is no central point for reporting failures. I have heard of several and personally know of one receiver broken with a hammer (by me).

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Old December 18, 2012, 02:06 AM   #12
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All this being said i'm assuming if there is no punch proof mark on the receiver below the serial # then the receiver was never tested right? And why are there two punch marks on the barrel?
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Old December 18, 2012, 01:02 PM   #13
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I don't know if the punch mark was used when that rifle was made. All the info I have seen on that mark dates from after the heat treatment change, so they might have begun using it at that time.

In any case, that rifle was proved after manufacture and survived. But the proof load, like the service load, uses powder that gives a "push" and the receivers have no problem with that. But it is like a beer bottle - you can lay it on the floor and stand on it or put internal pressure on it without it breaking; but tap it with a hammer and it will break.

One receiver failure I know of was with a load of 9 grains of Bullseye and a round lead ball. The owner was using it to shoot rats. He had fired that rifle many times with standard loads with no problems, but the sharp rap of the fast-burning Bullseye was too much.

In my own experience, I held the receiver in my hand and rapped the left side smartly with a hammer; the receiver broke into three pieces. Yet, that receiver was from a rifle I had fired the day before with standard GI loads.

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Old December 18, 2012, 01:34 PM   #14
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"to say ALL low number Springfields are unsafe is a broadly incorrect statement."

Functionally, though, it is a correct statement.

There is no way of knowing how many low-number receives are bad, nor is there any truly adequate method of testing the receiver that will provide 100% surety.

Let me give you an analogy...

Say I were to place before you a box 100 rounds of .357 Magnum ammunition.

I tell you that, of those 100 rounds, I might have accidentally loaded some of them with C4 instead of WW 296, but at the same time, I might have pulled all of the bad ones, so some of them definitely are OK.

You might fire 100 rounds without a problem.

Or, you might also, on the first trigger pull, put a chunk of recoil shield through the back of your skull.

You really want to play the odds?

Presented with a situation like that, the only possible conclusion that can be drawn is that ALL of the cartridges are unsafe, and all of them should be treated as such.
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Old December 18, 2012, 02:44 PM   #15
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but to be fair test firing in a controlled environment would tell you whether a certain casing was loaded with C4 or gun powder and you would be free to use that particular casing to reload as much as you want afterwards? is that a flawed assumption?
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Old December 18, 2012, 04:16 PM   #16
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That's not really the proper way of looking at it, because the thing about these Springfields is, you just never know when that one shot is going to be THE shot.

Some of these rifles have been used for years and have been just fine.

Until THE shot.

And, in a lot of cases, it's never totally clear exactly why that particular round caused a receiver failure at that particular time.

That's the point I was trying to make with my analogy. You never can be certain which shot is going to be THE shot.

You may make it through all 100 rounds, and can go on to the next 100.

Or, you might find the particular cartridge that causes the gun to disintegrate.

With low number Springfields, you simply do not and cannot know. Is it worth taking the chance? That's a question that only you can answer.

But, as Dirty Harry so famously said... Are you feeling lucky?

In my view, it makes no sense to take that kind of chance. If you've ever seen the after effects of a receiver failure, you'll know it's not something to be trifled with.

I've only seen pictures of a Springfield receiver failure, but I have seen first hand other receiver failures that have caused injuries, and letting the 60,000 psi genie out of the bottle isn't something that I have any desire to do.
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Old December 18, 2012, 07:40 PM   #17
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The C4 ammo analogy is not quite valid. A shot will either be safe or blow up the gun. But each of those SHT Springfields passed proof at the factory, and may well have fired hundreds or thousands of standard rounds since.

Yet one shot, one day, may blow the gun. There is no "controlled environment" non-destructive test that will determine when or if that could happen. The steel can be sectioned and examined under a microscope, but that ruins the rifle. Or extra heavy proof loads or special "fast" loads can be fired. But failure means a ruined rifle.

Myself, I would rather own a nice old M1903 that I won't fire than own a box full of broken steel and splintered wood after a "controlled" test.

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Old December 18, 2012, 10:11 PM   #18
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You're missing the point, Jim.

The point is, it's a game of random chance -- maybe 3 in 100, or maybe none. You just don't know.

Just as in my example no one could look at any of those cartridges and say "yes, that's the one that's going to blow my gun to hell," no one can look at a low number Springfield and say "this one is NEVER going to let loose and take off half of my face."


And yes, the point, and analogy, are both valid because both establish and unknown element of random chance in to the equation.
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Old December 19, 2012, 12:18 PM   #19
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Agree, I think I misunderstood your point.

Let me clarify on the receiver I broke. The rifle belonged to a friend and at that time DCM would exchange any low number '03 receiver, regardless of condition, for a DHT or NS receiver. We had been firing the rifle the previous day, maybe 200 rounds of M2 ball with no problems at all. Then we stripped the receiver and were ready to pack it up when I decided to see if they were really brittle. When the pieces hit the floor, I think I turned a bit green, thinking of all that firing the day before. Unfortunately, I did not record the serial number. We finished packing up the pieces and shipped them off; the replacement receiver, a DHT that looked new, arrived a month or so later. There was no mention of the condition of the one we sent them.

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Old December 19, 2012, 08:50 PM   #20
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I have plans for a low number if I get one cheap enough. I have been collecting WWI gear for a display. I'm going to get a mannequin and set it up in uniform of the period. I figure that would be a good use for one.

I have my 1903a3 SC for shooting, and it shoots dern good.
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Old December 20, 2012, 05:49 PM   #21
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Even though i wanted a WW1 Springfield that i could shoot occasionally i don't think i will be shooting this one soon. Should of held out for something in the 800,ooo to 1,000,000 range. But i'm still thrilled with this rifle and shall hold on to it. Great input from all involved in this thread. Thank you.
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