1903 Springfield below 800K SN: Safe to fire?

Discussion in 'Curio & Relics Forum' started by szissman, Nov 28, 2008.

  1. szissman

    szissman New Member

    Nov 28, 2008
    Santa Clara, CA

    I'm 80 years old and I finally got my C&R license to start buying a few of the weapons I've admired through the years. I don't just want to own, I also want to fire.

    I've read that 03 Springfields made in the Springfield Armory w/ SNs under 800,000--and SNs below 285,000 if made at Rock Island--had improperly heat-treated receivers and are unsafe to fire.

    How serious an issue is this? Is this something I really need to be concerned with? Do you worry about it when firing yours below these SNs?


    Sol (With a little typing help from my son, but I'm getting better at it!)

    USMC 1944 - 1946
  2. Mark

    Mark New Member

    Jul 1, 2006
    The low serial numbers you mention were carburized using a "pack hardening" method that was acceptable in that time. The issue that came about was the carbon content in the steel allowed for a "through hardening" that caused the steel to become brittle.
    The steel wasn't like glass, it required repeated firings to work harden itself. It was then that the steel came apart.

    Receivers were "caught" at the 800K mark, annealed, and re-heat treated, then drawn back. These are good to go.

    As far as firing the low numbered receivers, how lucky do you feel?
    jim brady likes this.

  3. Pawpaw40

    Pawpaw40 Well-Known Member

    Dec 18, 2012
    East Texas
    Resurrecting an old thread.
    Here is an interesting study of the low numbered 1903 reciever failures.

    Despite the authors conclusions, I would still only fire a high numbered 1903.
  4. jim brady

    jim brady Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2009
    Simla, Colorado
    This is one question that comes up very often. Mark hit the nail exactly on the head - Just how lucky do you feel? There are thousands of low number 1903s that will be fired long after I turn to dust, but which of those will be the one that burst on firing when YOU fire it?

    I of of the opinion that the low number 1903s have already done their work, and deserve to be retired and honored. I am a major fan of the 1903 rifle, and very much enjoy shooting mine. One is a high number 1918 Springfield and the other (my 'tack-driver') is a Remington 1942 made 1903. My Tack-Driver hasn't shot the X ring in years at 100 yards. It shoots the little printer's mark in the corner of the target. Of course this is NOT with the iron sights - is is with a 3X9 range finding scope, an old beat up C stock and my M72 match ammo.
  5. CHW2021

    CHW2021 Well-Known Member

    Feb 16, 2009
    I agree to the above and ask 'do you want to make it to your 90's?"
  6. gdmoody

    gdmoody Moderator Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2007
    Athens, Georgia
    The original poster may not be with us any more, his one (and only) post was made 6 years ago and he was 80 then.
  7. roger starkey

    roger starkey New Member

    Jun 28, 2014
    Have a low-numbered Springfield that was re-barreled (Remington) and tested w/proof round in 1942. I can't think this rifle is unserviceable. I fire ONLY m-2 ball! The ser# puts year of manufacture as 1910.
  8. jim brady

    jim brady Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2009
    Simla, Colorado
    Roger - if after reading just the replies posted here that you firmly believe your low numbered M1903 is fine and dandy to fire, I don't think there is anything that anyone can do or say to influence your thinking.

    Your 1903 was deemed SERVICEABLE for issue during a NATIONAL SURVIVAL EMERGENCEY in the 1940s when Hitler, Tojo and Mussolini were knockin' on our door. Old Tradpdoor single shots and .30 Krags were also dragged out of dark corners back then for guarding obscure outpost in the homeland.

    As far as 'I only shoot M2 Ball ammo' - .30 M2 Ball ammo is loaded at 50,000 Psi for 2740 feet-per-second with a 150 grain FMJ bullet measured at 78 feet from the muzzel. 'Course I'm jess guessin' here. If your receiver fails, it will fail suddenly and without any warning. Good luck - Jim
  9. Huffmanite

    Huffmanite Member

    May 1, 2006
    North of Houston, Tx
    As mentioned, this is a very old post and the subject of it has been well discussed in the past. Obviously, the low-numbered 1903 Springfields and Rock Island rifles have a potential problem and should be considered unsafe to shoot.

    Having written the above, I admit to having a low numbered 1903 Springfield that I have shot on a regular basis since acquiring it 3-4 years ago. Its my go to rifle to use in the monthly surplus rifle competition we started at range I'm a member about 15 months ago. Love its rear sight.

    Had acquired it at a local gunshow for a low price (around $150), Stock had been butchered, extractor collar broken on it, but bore was decent, being a 1942 barrel on a circa 1915 action. While external metal on the barreled action was well worn, no rust pitting and etc. I was able to find a suitable stock and restore it to its military condition since the barreled action and trigger guard had never been messed with. It was obvious to me the previous owner(s) before me had well used the rifle.

    One final comment. While I shoot the rifle on a fairly regular basis, probably 30 or so rounds a month when getting ready to shoot in our surplus rifle competition. Never have shot any standard 30-06 loads in the rifle, factory or my reloads. The 125/135 gr Jacketed bullet reloads I shoot in the rifle chronograph around 1400 fps and have no recoil and I can expect some decent accuracy with them. Chuckle, a standard 30-06 load in my darn nice Smith-Corona 1903A03 is not pleasant for me to shoot from benchrest. LOL, my fellow competitors in the surplus rifle competition with a 1903A03, about 4 of them, all admit their rifles with standard 30-06 loads is not fun to shoot from benchrest. Gave a few of my reduced loads to a gent to try in his 1903A03. Told him to expect them to hit 6 or more inches lower on the 100 yd target.....they hit closer to 10 inches lower than his normal 30-06 reloads.
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