View Full Version : Difference between 1903 and 1903A3

August 30, 2010, 10:05 PM
Hey everybody, got a quick question about the 1903 series of rifle. I have tried to do some research around the net but there is a lot of conflicting info out there. I am trying to discern the difference between the 1903 and the 1903A3. Assume I am completely ignorant and let me know all you can (I love learning new things bout firearms!). Thanks in advance.

August 30, 2010, 10:22 PM
Most apparent difference is the rollmark on the front receiver ring that says Model 1903 or Model 1903-A3. The serial number is below this model mark.

Next is the rear sight on the 1903-A3 is a peep sight that sits on a dovetail on the rear receiver bridge, on the 1903 the rear sight is mounted on the barrel in front of the receiver.

Different stock styles (straight grip vs pistol grip) will tell you approximately when it was armory refurbished if it is a 1903. Most 1903-A3 rifles should have the correct late style stock, but not necessarily.

But there are some 1903 experts on here, they will probably be able to tell you a lot more than I can.

Be careful, there are a lot of "refurbished" 1903s around, many with all the correct marks, etc, and others that are mixed parts and mixed vintages.

August 30, 2010, 11:17 PM
As a general rule, 03's will have machined parts such as triggerguard, sling & stacking swivels, and polished and blued bolts, receivers, and bottom metal.

A3's were found needing to be build in a bigger hurry (bigger war I guess)- and they were contracted out to Remington and Smith Corona. They featured 2-groove bbls sometimes (mostly in '43?), parkerized receivers and bolts (usually two different types of park.), and stamped parts such as bottom metal, swivels, barrel bands and such. And as said above, they had peep sights that were far and beyond more user friendly than those facinating but confusing forward sights. I've had a nomber of A3's and only one 03 and they all had the straight stocks.

And, if you get a chance to get a 2-groove- don't believe anybody if they tell you a 2-groove won't shoot!

August 31, 2010, 06:52 AM
and they were contracted out to Remington and Smith Corona.

By the same token, original 03s were made by Springfield Armory (SA) and Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) with SA making the majority. In the case of the A3, remington made more at approx 3 to 1 over Smith-Corona typerwriter company. I own a SC 03A3.

A3's were found needing to be build in a bigger hurry (bigger war I guess)-

I agree with this statement but there were other reasons to make the 03A3 out of stampings. One reason being, for US troops, the bolt action service rifle was pretty much made obsolete by the M1 garand. Another reason being the 03A3 was the last US made bolt action service rifle, being the final generation of the Springfield 03. There was no real reason to machine make the parts when the 03A3 was never intended to be our main service arm.

James K
August 31, 2010, 12:54 PM
Didn't someone forget that Remington made some 350,000 Model 1903's before shifting over to the M1903A3?

The M1 rifle was always intended to be the first line rifle, but when the first Remington M1903 contract was let, there was no sure guarantee that enough M1's could be produced to arm the huge army everyone knew would be needed. Springfield M1 production was agonizingly slow getting started, and Winchester was not yet geared up for mass production. So Army ordnance contracted for more bolt action rifles, figuring that they were at least as good, if not better, than anything the enemy had.


August 31, 2010, 02:59 PM
Didn't someone forget that Remington made some 350,000 Model 1903's before shifting over to the M1903A3?

I always thought that the Remington produced 03s were known as 03A1s because they were different than the original 03 springfields but I never saw one or read much about them to really know. If remington made exact copies of the SA 03, then what exactly is a 03A1?

August 31, 2010, 03:15 PM
Remington was never a US contractor for 1903 Springfields - all of which were made at the US Arsenals @ Springfield & Rock Island.

The 1903-A1's were the approx 350,000 made by Remington with "C" type pistol-gripped stocks, but otherwise similar to the original 1903.

Some 03-A1 National Match rifles were also made by Remington, IIRC.


Jim Watson
August 31, 2010, 03:26 PM
Springfield made some 1903A1s, too.
The stock is the only difference.

I really like the Type C stock on any variant, but straight grips and the "scant pistol grip" A3 stock used less walnut.

Remington also made a number of 1903 (Modified) rifles with the ladder sight and milled trigger guard, but some cost saving parts and shapes elsewhere.

August 31, 2010, 03:46 PM
Then there's my 1903 MK I easily recognized because it has two ejection ports !:eek:
The 1903 A4 was a sniper rifle for use with scope.

August 31, 2010, 11:19 PM
Thanks for all the great advice so far! Can anybody comment on the mark 1? I know it has an additional slot cut into the action, what is it for and does it weaken or affect the action in any way?

Jim Watson
September 1, 2010, 12:01 AM
The Mark I was made for the Pedersen Device, a semiauto conversion that shot a round a little longer than a .32 ACP. Look at the 7.65 French 1935 pistol ammo, which is a development of the Pedersen.

Its 40 round magazine stuck up and out to the right, so there is a little ejection port for the pistol size brass out the left receiver wall. It does not weaken anything, but back when Springfields were more often sporterized than collected, one writer warned that it would keep you from using a side scope mount. The gun started out with a special cutoff/bolt stop to retain the Pedersen Device and a sear with an auxiliary lever to fire the Device. Nearly all of those were replaced with standard when the project was abandoned and the Pedersen Devices scrapped.

James K
September 1, 2010, 12:04 PM
The M1903A1 was an M1903 with a pistol grip stock, no matter who made it. The contract with Remington was for the M1903A1 (technically the current service rifle, although almost none were actually in service), but most were made with the "S" stock, without a pistol grip, or with the "scant" stock with only a slight pistol grip.

Remington's M1903 rifles were marked "1903"; the "A1" designation was never stamped on any rifle. Remington's first rifles were pure M1903. As time went on, Remington proposed changes for ease of manufacture, and eventually was producing what became known as the M1903 Modified. That was never an official designation, since all parts were still interchangeable with the original M1903. Finally, changes were proposed and approved for parts that were not interchangeable with those of the M1903 and the rifle was given the "A3" designation (and so marked). The sniper version, the M1903A4 differed in not having sights, having a bolt cut for a scope, and of course the scope and mount; the marking was still "A3." The "A4" designation was not marked, but the receiver markings were divided and moved to the sides so the serial number could be read with the scope mount in place.

On the Pedersen device, a note that while the 7.65 French Long cartridge uses a case of the same dimensions as the "U.S. Pistol Cartridge, Caliber .30", the French round can't be used in the PD because the bullet is longer and it won't fit in the magazine.


September 1, 2010, 01:09 PM
I understand that there are differences in the stocks as well as some of the metal parts being stamped with the 03's. I am really interested in the actual actions. Are there any difference between the 1903 and 1903A3 actions themselves? I saw that the last post says some parts are not interchangeable between the 1903 and the A3, is this because of difference in the action itself? Also, what is a Hatcher hole? When looking at actions for sale I see that some have and others do not have a Hatcher hole. The reason for all these questions is I want to build a 1903 for myself and am trying to learn all I can before I purchase pieces.

James K
September 1, 2010, 08:31 PM
There is one significant difference in the actions themselves and that is in the rear receiver ring which was changed for the A3 peep sight. I am not sure what you mean by building one for yourself. If you mean acquiring parts and assembling them to make a military rifle, I guarantee that you can buy a decent M1903 or M1903A3 for less than you will spend on parts and (unless you are a gunsmith with the right equipment) labor.

If you are talking about building a sporter on the Springfield action, either action will do very well, and I recommend the A3 as the newer and stronger action due to better steel. Also note that some older M1903 actions are suspect due to bad heat treatment; those "low number" (Springfield below 800,000 and Rock Island below 285,506) should not be fired.

Some of the parts that don't interchange are the M1903 trigger guard and floorplate, and the associated small parts; the M1903A3 has a one-piece welded assembly. Other parts are the upper handguard, the upper band assembly and the rear sights. The M1903 barrel has a front sight spline; the M1903A3 has a milled cut and a key. The M1903 rear sight can be fitted to an M1903A3 barrel, but it takes some work. In other words, all sorts of little things. Then there is the issue of "correct" parts, which has been mentioned. An M1903A3 stock can be installed on an M1903 and worked over to fit, but it won't be "correct." (Most M1903A3 stocks will fit either rifle.)

Briefly, you need to think about what you want to do and how much you want to spend vs. how much a decent rifle will cost.


September 1, 2010, 09:14 PM
If you follow the history of the Springfield, you know that there were a lot of changes over the years including the metallurgy that made up the actions. The early ones were subject to failure due to the heat treat process. Those with serial numbers below 800,000 are suspect. When WWII broke out and it looked like the US was going to be involved, the process of speeding up manufacturing time was critical. From the original Springfield to the Model 1903A3, there were 649 changes to the the design, mostly to help with manufacturing time. The biggest and most obvious was the redesign of the rear sight. It took far too much time to fit the rear sight of the old M1905 design that was mounted on the barrel. The newer rear sight not only was quicker to make and mount, it was a better overall sight. All contracts after May 1942 were for Model 1903A3 rifles with Remington delivering the first December 1942.
You'll find a lot of variances in the Springfields. I've got 6-5-4 and 2 groove barrels on service rifles. There are quite a few different National Match variations with the Model NB probably the rarest. There are different stocks, as well as a carbine version that was only issued once and that was for the Philippine campaign. That rifle was issued with a 16" 4 groove barrel. You'd have to go back to about 1970ish to find an article on them in the American Rifleman. All I have to do is go to the gun vault- I collect Springfields.

September 2, 2010, 05:59 PM
This is a 1903A3 receiver


The receiver rear bridge holds the peep sight in place via a male dovetail milled into it's surface - a detail lacking on a 1903, because the rear sight was mounted on the barrel.

That is the only practical mechanical difference between the two actions - notwithstanding that the A3's are made from argueably better steel.


James K
September 2, 2010, 07:35 PM
The main reason for changing the rear sight was, as Loader9 says, because of it was complex and difficult to manufacture. But it was also the very worst sight ever put on a military rifle, bar none.

It had been designed by target shooters, to be used by those with perfect eyesight on neat, sunlit ranges, firing at black bullseyes on white targets.

With FIVE tiny aiming points, no solid adjustments, slop and backlash in windage adjustments, and windage markings in infantry mils (!!!), it was not easy to use even in bright sunlight, impossible to use in low light or poor weather. To make things worse, it was mated to a front sight that was barely more than a sliver and itself was invisible against anything but a light background.


September 5, 2010, 09:33 PM
Hey thanks for all the great advice everybody, it has been very informative and helpful. God bless you all and have a great labor day!