|CIVILIAN MARKSMANSHIP PROGRAM M1903 DRILL RIFLES
|By Franklin W. Meredith
Over the last year, the Civilian Marksmanship Program has received a large quantity of M1903 and 03-A3 drill rifles. These rifles are now being sold through that program at very attractive prices. I've been asked many questions about these rifles and am pleased to have the opportunity to answer a few in this writing.
First, and most importantly, a lot of folks have inquired as to the advisability and methods of restoring the receivers to "shooters". The answer is short and simple: DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT! It can't be done with any confidence that you haven't created a bomb. All the receivers have been welded at the barrel - receiver interface and, as a consequence, are substantially weakened in the vital barrel thread area.
The "low number" receivers are already of questionable strength and the weld and heat affected zone weaken them even further. Double heat treated receivers are originally much stronger but are made of exactly the same material as the low number receivers. The only difference is the heat treatment, which is destroyed when the receiver is welded. There is no difference in the two types after the weld. Both are totally unsuitable for use. Late NS and A3 receivers probably aren't quite as susceptible to the weld heat but are certainly weakened by alloying with an unknown rod type and heating to molten temperatures in a small area, then allowed to cool in an uncontrolled environment. Don't take a chance. Your eyes are worth more than you'd spend on a safe receiver.
In the last box of barreled receivers I sorted, there were no less than four broken receivers and one barrel which had broken off at the weld. Two of the broken receivers were A3s. All breaks were fractures with no sign of bending. I'm not a metallurgical engineer (although I am a retired Professional Engineer) but, to me, the breaks indicate a very hard brittle material.
I've recently heard reports of some "restored" drill rifle receivers being sold at gun shows for around $275. They were recognized as such by the different color of parkerizing at the welded area on the bottom front of the receiver. The receivers were being sold as serviceable and no mention was made of the welds. This is legally "fraud by deception" (I'm also a retired Attorney) and, if someone is injured using one, could result in personal injury or negligent homicide charges. Please look carefully and ask questions before you purchase any 03 or A3 receiver.
On a much more pleasant note, the drill rifles have been a very interesting source of information. Most are in "experienced" condition and everything was pretty much mixed up in the demill process, but you can still learn a lot from the individual parts.
A few of the more interesting pieces have included: many early receivers with original barrels and blue finish, several 05 barrels with original finish, a few no groove
handguards, several high wood stocks with original cartouche, many WW1 and earlier stocks with original cartouche, one modified rod bayonet stock in very bad condition, three receivers drilled for scopes (all
rebarreled), several star gauged barrels and/or NM receivers, many C stocks of at least seven different configurations, five different styles of NS bolts (many with serial numbers), a few National Match C stocks with serial numbers, a bunch of USMC 1941 and 1942 rebuilds (mostly on low number or RIA receivers), two SA receivers numbered over 153xxxx, and one early Remington in a finger groove stock with rear sight sleeve lightening cuts. These are just a few things I've noticed. Heaven knows what I didn't see. A gentleman in Connecticut wrote that his rifle had a National Match butt plate and CV sear. Must have missed that one.
All the really rare stuff is sent to the CMP auction for sale, but the just interesting stuff is sent out "luck of the draw" with the regular rifles. Feel lucky?
Prices range from $25 for a barreled receiver suitable for a tomato stake to $100 for a more or less complete rifle. C stocked rifles have been withheld from the sale until enough are accumulated to list as a separate item at an increased price. Only a very few C stocks have been received without a rebuild cartouche. Almost none have an original SA cartouche. CMP will announce availability and price of drill rifles with C stocks on their web page
(odcmp.com) when we accumulate a sufficient quantity.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these interesting rifles or if you just want to talk about '03s. They're my favorite subject!
Lynn Meredith - 03 guy
Subject: Re: Lynn Meredith's M1903 Drill Rifle Article
How about just some "facts" and you pick out the important stuff for a bio?
Retired Professional Engineer and Alabama State Bar member. Served on active duty with US Navy as both Enlisted and Commissioned Officer.
Collector of M1903 and M1922 rifles for over 50 years, primary interest in match and sniper variations, telescopes, spotting scopes, and match accessories.
Furnished data and observations for several M1903 related articles in national publications. Once caused Lt. Col. Brophy to gasp in amazement.
Regular (frequent?) volunteer armorer at CMP South, involved in classification, preparation, test firing and repair of M1903 and 03-A3 rifles and drill rifles. Works alone in the darkest, coldest, most remote corner of the CMP warehouse. Resembles a mushroom.