VIDEO: 1903 Demonstration

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Thread: VIDEO: 1903 Demonstration

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    Ex Member Array Amsdorf's Avatar
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    VIDEO: 1903 Demonstration

    Got my Remington 1903-A3 out to the gun club and put it through its paces.

    I find them extremely loud, even giving the Mosin M44 a run for its money and the kick manageable but very strong. Great smooth bolt action, of course, since it was simply copied from the Mauser design.

    What's been your experience with the 1903 platform?

    Here's the video.

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    Cool video! The 1903-A3 was the first center fire rifle I ever acquired and is still one of my very favorites. My initial deer hunting efforts were successfully pursued using the rifle and I enjoyed several fun-filled years using it in high-power competition back in the early 1980s. It still sees use at the range and in the field for long-range plinking. My only real complaint about any 1903 is that they are all a little short-stocked for me but I'm 6'3" with fairly long arms.

    This 'O3A3 is a very early Smith Corona with a 12-42 barrel date. Was likely never issued and the barreled action was placed in the scant-grip stock and sold through the DCM program sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s. That's only conjecture as I don't know its history. It appeared unissued when I got it in 1975 from a pawn shop for less than a hundred bucks. This was not that good of a deal at the time.



    The Model 1903 and sub-variants are most assuredly Mauser derivatives but do offer some unique features all their own. Some of these features' expediency are debatable.

    The rifle features a two-piece firing pin with detachable/replaceable tip. Ordnance saw this development as maintenance advantage but it theoretically slightly cushions the firing pin blow. In actual practice this cushioning effect is probably non-existent. It is also said to be an unnecessary source for weakness in the firing pin assembly. I've owned a lot of 1903s and shot some of them fairly extensively. I never happened to encounter any breakage due to a detachable firing pin tip.

    The rifle features a magazine cut-off, allowing the soldier to use the arm as a single-shot and reserving the loaded magazine for an "emergency." This feature was carried over from the Krag-Jorgensen. Ordnance must have deemed it tactically important in the early years of the first decade of the 20th century but the concept is unnecessary and obsolete.

    The rifle's barreled action features a cone-breech design which aids in feeding cartridges from the magazine. This insures the Model 1903's excellent reputation as a slick-feeding bolt-action design, somewhat smoother than the 98 Mauser and fully equal to the pre-64 Winchester Model 70. In fact, the Pre-64 Winchester Model 70 copied this design so remains the other major bolt-action design featuring a cone-breech. The weakness of the cone-breech design is that it leaves a bit more of the cartridge case head unsupported than either the 98 Mauser or most modern commercial bolt-action designs. It is amply strong, even for cartridges loaded in excess of military proof cartridges, but is a minor design weakness where a cartridge failure could occur from a gross overload or from an improperly manufactured cartridge having a soft case head. A read in "Hatcher's Notebook" describes the relative strength of the low-number "single heat-treat," high-number "double heat-treat," nickel-steel 1903 Springfield, and chrome-molybdenum steel '03A3 directives at length. All are amply strong enough for any reasonable load along with some pretty unreasonable ones. Hatcher apparently tested wholesale lots of 1903s to destruction, running pressures excruciatingly high. He reported that the high-number 1903 actions were handling well over 100,000 psi. He noted actions tested to 125,000 psi in which the cartridge case heads melted and escaping gas blew the extractors off and shattered the stocks yet the actions themselves remained sound. He reported that low-number single heat-treat 1903 actions could be considered to be about all done in at 90,000 psi, bursting uncontrollably. The whole low-number/high-number 1903 Springfield controversy and his description of the study of it makes for fascinating reading.

    The 1903 action's gas-handling capability is considered a bit inferior to the 98 Mauser and most modern commercial bolt-action rifles and engineering changes made to the design during its production life by Springfield Armory and later Remington never really satisfactorily answered this. If a primer is pierced due to an over-pressure condition and gas is released in large volume the 1903 action doesn't do quite as good a job handling it as do other, more modern actions.

    The 1903 offers a flared cocking piece that offers purchase to cock the rifle. The only other Mauser derivative that offers this that I'm aware of is the little Mexican Mauser. One may also lower the cocking piece by grasping and holding it while pulling the trigger. The flared cocking piece has another important function in that it was a design that served to dissipate escaping gases traveling down the firing pin channel from a pierced primer or blown cartridge case. The design's a bit primitive but was an early effort to protect the shooter.

    I actually like the thin blade front sight that is common to all major Model 1903 variants. It offers a lot of precision when shooting the rifle in a match and off the bench rest. It's not so durable as the protected sights of the M1917, M1, and M14. The front sight can be protected to some extent by a GI accessory snap-on front sight cover. Some say this cover was not intended to be used when actually shooting the rifle but I've always left one in place. It shades the front sight blade, giving a nice, distinct silhouette to the blade's appearance. All glint from sunlight is resolved with the sight cover.

    I can't figure out why you find the 1903-A3 to be so loud. It's probably only differences in one's perception. The rifle effectively has a 24-inch barrel (actually 23.78") which is sufficiently long to be of assistance in containing the report. I don't happen to perceive any differences between the 1903, the M1, or a Winchester Model 70 .30-06 rifle with 24-inch barrel when shooting them. For that matter the Model 1917 with it's 26-inch barrel still sounds pretty throaty beneath the awning over the benches at the rifle range.

    The .30-06 is a potent military cartridge in any of its guises. The M1 ball cartridge of the 1920s-1930s being one of the very most powerful cartridges to be fielded in an infantry rifle, the German military loadings of the 8mm Mauser and the 8X58 Danish giving it a run for its money. The M1 cartridge proved to be a bit too healthy for some military ranges to contain, or so it was said at the time, and also was likely a bit too healthy for the M1 rifle which was coming on line in the late 1930s so the M2 ball cartridge was developed and issued in World War II. All of 'em are going to be loud.

    Completely trivial stuff: Why does the Model 1903 and all it's variants come with a 23.78-inch barrel? The original cartridge for the 24-inch barreled Model 1903 rifle featured a 220 grain round nose full metal jacket bullet with slightly different neck design. It is sometimes termed the .30-03 and is a scarce item today. In 1906 the Ordnance Department adopted the lighter 150 grain spitzer bullet upon recognizing it's ballistic advantages. This necessitated minor changes in the dimensions of the cartridge case. Being thrifty in nature the Ordnance Department desired that the earlier Model 1903 rifles all be converted to this new chamber design. When the barrels were converted they ended up shortened to 23.78 inches. Future production was standardized on this minor barrel length change which carried right on through to the World War II production Model 1903-A3 rifles.

    “No possible rapidity of fire can atone for habitual carelessness of aim with the first shot.”

    Theodore Roosevelt, The Wilderness Hunter, 1893

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    Ex Member Array Amsdorf's Avatar
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    Thanks for that fantastic article on the 1903-A3, really appreciate, thanks for taking the time to share it.

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    The video was good, but Bryan's commentary was an excellent complement!

    A couple of years ago I did an Appleseed Event, and achieved "Rifleman" shooting a 10/22... but the guy who earned my respect was the one who showed up and shot both days (about 300 rounds) with an 03-A3!
    Smitty
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    You've done it again, Bryan!
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Diligentia Vis Celeritas"

    "There is very little new, and the forgotten is constantly being rediscovered."
    ~ Tiger McKee

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