What to look for when purchasing a 1903A3 rifle

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  • Last Post 26 January 2024
putnro01 posted this 24 January 2024

I'm in the market for a 1903A3 to take to my local (SE Iowa) milsurp shoots.

What are some things to look out for on these rifles? I'm familiar with reactivated drill rifles (welds on barrel, receiver, cut-off). 

Is there any preference for Smith Corona over Remington? 2-groove vs 4-groove? 

Appreciate any answers. 

-Joe

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RicinYakima posted this 24 January 2024

Wow.

Won the 2015 CBA Nationals with a Remington 03A3. It had a two groove barrel that was not perfect, but smooth. A few hundred round of military ball will smooth everything out. Spend the money to get an action with a barrel date close to the action, an original barrel. Now there is so much garbage being put together, you may not have anything at the end. 

My biggest problem was getting a stock that gave me a few pounds of up pressure at the muzzle.  Since you can't modify the stock for Issue class, that is the hardest part. With the stock assembled, the barrel has to be firm on the bottom of the stock at the tip, about 7 pounds required to push it up. Free floating barrels is only for barrels with "V" threads, not square threads like the 03A3. 

HTH

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Bud Hyett posted this 24 January 2024

As Ric stated, if you can find an action and barrel with close dates, that is the best place to start. His thoughts on stock fit is correct in my experience. Many Springfield stocks are getting old and have sit for years with cosmoline in them, they are soft on the inside. 

No reweld receivers or drill rifles. I have  a Smith-Corona and a high-number Rock Island Arsenal bought many years ago that are my treasured rifles. The 1903 rifles are now getting harder to find. The 03A3 rifles are easier to find and the two-groove barrels shoot very well. 

I'd get one hundred cases dedicated to this rifle, sized, neck-turned, trimmed, and primer pockets uniformed. Then research the match results in the Fouling Shot for powders you have.

Sometimes I take a Springfield along to the range just for the fun of shooting it. 

Farm boy from Illinois, living in the magical Pacific Northwest

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putnro01 posted this 24 January 2024

Appreciate the responses. 

A local dealer has an SC that I'll have to check out at the next show (hopefully he still has it). 

I'll bring my brophy book to check serials to barrel date. 

That's unless someone here has one to unload…

 

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gnoahhh posted this 24 January 2024

Really not a heckuva lot of difference in price between a pre-war 1903 and a 1903A3. But there's a world of difference in quality. Just saying!

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RicinYakima posted this 24 January 2024

OP wants to shoot matches, so the sights are so much easier to use on the 03A3.

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Tom Acheson posted this 24 January 2024

Maybe helpful...

For a short time I had an 'A3 and a 1903.

Rear sight on the A3 is much more user friendly.

The two groove A3 shot better than the 4-groove on the 1903. But that barrel was a Sedgley.

Comparisons from match shooting in CBA Military events.

Tom

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gnoahhh posted this 25 January 2024

 To each his own. I'm mighty comfy with an '03 sight (71 year old eyes and all) and much prefer that rifle over the cheaply/hurriedly built wartime expedient 03A3. My heroes are those legions of middle aged guys who turned in a lot of mighty impressive targets at Camp Perry during the inter-war years.

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John Carlson posted this 25 January 2024

Are you interested in the modified-scope/modified-iron classes?  Sporterized rifles are somewhat easier to find.

John Carlson. CBA Director of Military Competition.

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Boschloper posted this 25 January 2024

My father in law purchased an 03A3 thru the NRA in 56 or 57. He said it looked un-issued when he got it . He shot it less than 10 times when he first got it and never shot it again. He gave it to me about 15 years ago and I have been shooting it in the postal matches.  It is a 2 groove Remington and it shoots well. I like the peep sight, I set it at the 600 yd. notch and it is on at 100 with my cast loads. 

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putnro01 posted this 25 January 2024

I'm leaning toward as issued. Looking through the latest fouling shot, I'm seeing more 03A3s listed than 1903s in the results section. That and the sights are why I lean 03A3. 

 

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Rich/WIS posted this 25 January 2024

Have had a number of A3's and an 03 and they all seemed to shoot well.  Still have a CMP Remington A3 with a 2 groove barrel that will stay under 3 MOA with cast and closer to 2 MOA with ball ammo.  Someone who has better eyes and is a better shot could probably do better.  Only mod to mine was replacing the original straight stock with a C stock as it is easier for me to use.  Shooter grade A3's have really gone up in price but still affordable.  Posters on the CMP Forum seem to prefer the Smith-Corona rifles as they are supposed to be more accurate but take that with a grain of salt. The 03 I had was really nice but my eyes and the sights did not not play well together, the peep sight on the A3 were, for me, far more user friendly. 

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sluggo posted this 25 January 2024

I have a 1903 Springfield on which i put a marine corp style front post and rear peep sight. This made the sights a lot more user friendly. I think they are allowed in competition.

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John Carlson posted this 25 January 2024

I have a 1903 Springfield on which i put a marine corp style front post and rear peep sight. This made the sights a lot more user friendly. I think they are allowed in competition.
First blush says it is legal on the 1903.  Will study this further.

John Carlson. CBA Director of Military Competition.

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RicinYakima posted this 25 January 2024

They were allowed in the past, as they were USMC regular issue in the 1920's. They guys that shot them didn't do any better than the regular US Army sights. 

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Ed Harris posted this 26 January 2024

My Remington 6-44 two-groove 03A3 likes the NOE clone of #311299 with 30 grains of 4895 pull-down powder and one inch square of 1/4" thick Dacron quilt batting tucked in neck. Alloy is 50-50 linotype and plumbers lead sized .312 and lubed with 50-50 Alox-beeswax. In our Fairfax matches the only bedding adjustments allowed were sheet metal shims cut with tin snips from ammo "Spam cans" or cardboard shims cut from military .30 caliber ammo boxes, being saturated and affixed with either shellac or varnish. "Period correct" according to the WW2 vets.

73 de KE4SKY In Home Mix We Trust From the Home of Ed's Red in "Almost Heaven" West Virginia

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 26 January 2024

...  maybe time to revisit iron sight rules for military as issued ...   considering the aging of the shooters ...maybe our techies could figure out a peep sight for under $30 that could be ... glued ... onto any military rifle ... hey, remember all those $5 m1 carbine peeps ? ...

i don't have an 03-A3 ... but i do have an as-issued Swede 38-96 that i really cant focus on the rear sight, the front sight, and the bull all at once ... heh, maybe only one at a time ...   ... that micro-notch in the rear sight doesn't help ..   i have considered bending some spring steel at 90 degrees and epoxying it on the receiver ...    maybe those sights are why not so many Swedes now in the military matches ...

hey, maybe allow some bedding as long as it is wood glue and sawdust ...   that could be a cheap fix for oily old wobbly bedding ...

the good news ...  it looks as though the usa Springfield 03 and 03-A3 is the the most accurate rifle of that era ...  i tell my grandkids we used to do things right ..

 

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RicinYakima posted this 26 January 2024

They already have a class for that: Modified Iron Sight. 

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MP1886 posted this 26 January 2024

...  maybe time to revisit iron sight rules for military as issued ...   considering the aging of the shooters ...maybe our techies could figure out a peep sight for under $30 that could be ... glued ... onto any military rifle ... hey, remember all those $5 m1 carbine peeps ? ...

i don't have an 03-A3 ... but i do have an as-issued Swede 38-96 that i really cant focus on the rear sight, the front sight, and the bull all at once ... heh, maybe only one at a time ...   ... that micro-notch in the rear sight doesn't help ..   i have considered bending some spring steel at 90 degrees and epoxying it on the receiver ...    maybe those sights are why not so many Swedes now in the military matches ...

 

If the Swiss and Swede are in that era I don't belive that is an accurate statement. You have to now how to load for the Swede with it's fast twist. The Swiss you basically don't. I've shot 1/2 inch groups with the Swiss with iron sights. 

hey, maybe allow some bedding as long as it is wood glue and sawdust ...   that could be a cheap fix for oily old wobbly bedding ...

the good news ...  it looks as though the usa Springfield 03 and 03-A3 is the the most accurate rifle of that era ...  i tell my grandkids we used to things right ..

 

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Tom Acheson posted this 26 January 2024

Hey Ken, don't worry about not being able to focus on three things AT THE SAME TIME, each a different distance from your eye. I shot handgun silhouette matches for quite a few years, back when only iron sights were allowed, no scopes. You learned that you had to get things lined up and then focus on the front sight only just before the shot. That same practice is still used today by some shooters, for handguns and rifles.

Tom

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gnoahhh posted this 26 January 2024

Another trick for aging eyeballs is to employ a cheap pair of reading glasses, 1.00x or 1.25x at most. They'll sharpen up the sight picture a pretty fair amount and not blur the target terribly. Another appliance I've used is a Merit aperture disc that suction cups onto the shooting glasses lens - peer through it at the sights, does a very good job of sharpening things up. (I think Lyman makes or did make a similar appliance.) Then there's the age-old trick of slapping a piece of electrician's tape with a tiny hole pierced in it over the glasses lens in front of the dominant eye.

Having had cataract surgery put me back in the iron sight game. For how long I don't know.

Do the rules allow opening up the diameter of the aperture on a M1903 rear sight slide for a better view? How about also replacing the front blade with a wider one? The USMC regularly employed those tricks "back in the day".

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RicinYakima posted this 26 January 2024

See my post above.

Issue means issue.

Remember they made '03 rear sight slides from #2, the smallest, to #9 the largest. They are stamped on the back side of the slide. 

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