Here's how to restore a classic M1903 Springfield rifle
For the longest time, I always wanted an M1903 Springfield rifle. This was the rifle that served in two world wars and saw use as late as the Vietnam Conflict. To this day the rifle serves in Honor Guard Detachments honoring our fallen military members and US veterans. It's one of those iconic fighting rifles that every serious gunny should have in their safes.
My problem was two-fold.
First, they always seemed to be around and always seemed to be priced on the lower end of the spectrum. I would see one, handle it, inspect it and think about it; only to be swayed by some other firearm, seemingly at the last minute. Those of us who lived through the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or any of the numerous state bans know this phenomenon all too well.
"That's just an old bolt-action rifle. I need to buy more ammo, more magazines, more black guns, before I can't get them anymore."
Invariably this leads to the second part of the dilemma. By the time you think your collection, or horde, is squared away and you can go for something you really want as a fun shooter or a collectible; that price has seemed to skyrocket.
"Oh my God! I remember when these things were $90 all day long in a pickle barrel outside the gun shop! Now they want $1500!!!!"
If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly. Prices of obsolete or out of production firearms rise due to scarcity and demand. Remember when Mosin Nagant rifles sold as low as $39 each, in some areas that price has increased more than 10-fold! Then the realization hits you that there were only a finite amount of those rifles to go around.
Many military surplus rifles were converted into sporting rifles because a surplus Mauser, Enfield or even a Springfield 1903 was much cheaper than a commercially manufactured bolt-action hunting rifle. In the past few years, I have actually restored a number of these rifles to their former military appearance. When I came across this Remington M1903A3 Springfield at around $200, I thought I would take another chance.
Luckily the rifle's action, barrel, and sights were still intact. The previous owner had discarded the original military stock, handguards, and the metal stock hardware. I removed the barreled action from the commercial Fajen stock and began my search for the rest of the parts.
I found all the metal hardware at SARCO: butt plate, sling swivels, stacking swivel, sling swivel screws, and handguard ring. It was a mix of some original and some reproduction. I found an original military stock on an auction site and a reproduction handguard in the white and handguard clips at Numrich Arms.
The stock was very dark and required a good deal of hand fitting in order to install the action properly. This was mostly with regard to the internal magazine body and the mounting screw channels. I spent a week staining the new handguard, but it never got quite as dark as the stock. Eventually I might go with another stock closer in color to the hand guard, but for now, I would be satisfied with just a decent shooter.
I had hopes… the trigger was nice, the bore was clean and the metal still had that Remington green hue to it for which the Remington-built rifles were famous.
It was installing the metal hardware that proved to be its own challenge.
At first glance you might think that these parts slide over the front sight and barrel, but the front sight sits too high and requires removal.
I soaked it overnight in Kroil and the next day removed the front sight base, as trying to tap just the sight blade usually leads to its destruction.
The base is set in a keyway and although it's a notoriously tight fit, it comes off rather easily. Drift out the pin, drive out the sight, remove the entire blade. The handguard, bands, etc. are then easily installed and the sight is put back into place. I advise going slow, using lots of machine oil and you won't ding or destroy your sight.
With the rifle together and in as close to original condition as I was going to take it at this point, I set out to the range.
One of the things I like about the M1903A3 is the longer sight radius with the rear mounted peep sight. It may not be as fast as some military rifles with their over the chamber mounted rear sights, but I'm not gearing up to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal anytime soon.
As a full-time firearms reviewer, consultant, and author I have the luxury of trying out many new firearms, but rarely get to shoot the ones I really enjoy.
Initial testing using some Greek surplus ball ammo yielded groups of 3.35″ to 4.5″ at 100 yards. The next time out, I might try some commercial ammunition and maybe even attempt some fitting of the handguard, stock, and barrel bands. There are a lot of components that can affect accuracy on this rifle, considering in its sporter configuration it produced groups of about half that size at the same distance.
The rifle filled a small void in my collection and will probably only be shot a few times a year if I am lucky. However, I still hold to the old adage that only accurate rifles are interesting and my goal will be to make my M1903A3 interesting once again.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.