View Full Version : 1903 rifle

October 27, 2002, 06:28 PM
A friend of mine just inheritited a 1903 rifle. Unfortunately much of the history of the gun died with his grandfather.
I have not seen the gun yet but he gave me the Sn and read some markings off to me.

SN is 650XX.
It has Ordnance Flaming Bomb on it and a RIA stamp which I assume is for Rock Island Arsenal.
Any idea as to when the gun was made and by who, or other clues I need to look for to get this information for him?



Jim Watson
October 27, 2002, 09:12 PM
Rock Island 1903 no 650XX was made in 1907 at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. It is the same rifle as was made at Springfield Armory.

The Springfield 1903 Rifles by Lt Col William S. Brophy is a good reference, there are some others.

Collector's interest and value depend very strongly on condition and originality. The CMP has been selling 1903s and 1903A3s for from $300 to $500, depending on maker, serial number range and stock style. These rifles were from military inventory and most had been overhauled at least once, with mixed or replacement parts. Some lucky buyers got rifles with barrels and even stocks contemporary with their actions. A nice all-original pre WWI '03 would be worth more, but a worn or beat up one or a non-arsenal rebuild would be less. A home sporterized job would be worth a lot less. A big name sporter could be worth a lot more.

CAUTION: This is what is known as a Low Number '03. It is made out of carbon steel, casehardened like a Krag. They have been known to blow up under stress, if they were hardened too much. It usually takes something extreme like a soft casehead (not unusual in WWI surplus but very rare now) an overload, or a barrel obstruction. Not to mention a nitwit cramming an 8mm round into a .30-06 rifle, as actually happened more than once. But when they go the steel is hard but brittle and they blow into fragments, with injury to the shooter. The really bad ones will break if hit with a hammer or dropped on a hard floor. A good one is strong and smooth, it all depended on the judgement of the guy doing the heat treatment. Do a search and read the controversy before you fire it or encourage your friend to do so.

October 28, 2002, 08:47 AM
Thanks a bunch thats what I was looking to find out. Anyway to tell if its rearsenaled?


Jim Watson
October 28, 2002, 10:34 AM
I am not an expert and it is hard to get everything over the www. You and he need the book, and an expert if it starts looking good.

But... The barrel will be dated. The original will be marked behind the front sight
[Ordnance Bomb symbol]
Date (ought to be a month in 07)

There were many running changes over the years. Something big like a later type stock but with correct proof and inspector's marks would be a sign of arsenal rework.

October 29, 2002, 12:10 PM
Thanks again Jim,
I am going to try to get my eyes on the rifle before the end of the week. Unfortunately I dont know of any experts in my area but I do have access to some good books.

Thanks Again