Springfield Models 1903A3 & 1903A4

Springfield Models 1903A3 & 1903A4

The M1903A4 was a sniper version of the Springfield M1903A3 fitted with a Weaver 330C scope.

From its establishment in 1794 up to 1968, the Springfield Armory was the primary R&D and manufacturing facility for the small arms used by the armed forces of the United States. And while it has produced everything from flintlock muskets to selective-fire assault rifles, when the name "Springfield" is mentioned around any group of firearms aficionados, the image that immediately comes to mind is the "U.S. Magazine Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903"--the "Aught Three" of fame and legend.

In 1898 Mauser-armed Spanish soldiers taught the U.S. Army a rude lesson as to the shortcomings of the Krag-Jorgensen rifle. (As a Krag aficionado I hate to say that.) So much in fact that within five years, Springfield Armory had developed a rifle that used obvious copies of the bolt, magazine, and loading system of Mauser's Modelo 1893 and Infanteriegewehr 98 rifles.


The management at Waffenfabrik Mauser took umbrage at various features of the new U.S. service rifle and threatened a series of patent infringement lawsuits. An out of court settlement was reached, whereby the U.S. government agreed to the payment of royalties totaling $200,000 for the Model 1903's charger-loaded magazine.


Adopted as the U.S. Magazine Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903, the rifle underwent a series of changes over the next two years. Changes to the sights, bayonet, and stock resulted in the outline that is now so familiar to generations of American servicemen, shooters, and collectors. By January 1906, approximately 200,000 rifles had been built by Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal when it was decided to modify the .30 M1903 cartridge to use a pointed spitzer bullet.

Adopted as the .30 Caliber Ball Cartridge, Model 1906 (a.k.a. .30-06), its 150-grain pointed bullet was driven to a velocity of 2,700 fps. The shorter bullet required that the cartridge neck be shortened, reducing case length to 2.494 inches (63mm) and requiring rifles already in service to have their barrels shortened and re-chambered.


The M1903A3's bolt had dual front locking lugs, a third lug on the bolt body, a long non-rotating extractor, a wing-type safety lever, and a knurled cocking piece.

As produced by Springfield Arsenal and the Rock Island Armory, the pre-1917 Model 1903 was probably the finest made and finished bolt-action military rifle in history. And it quickly earned a reputation as one of the, if not the, most accurate of the breed.


With the massive expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War I, the Army was forced to adopt the U.S. Magazine Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917 (the M1917 Enfield) as substitute standard. After the war, it was suggested that the Model 1917 be adopted as standard, but while it's an excellent battle rifle in its own right, for the regulars of the Army, the USMC, and the extremely influential target-shooting fraternity of the NRA, the Model 1903 was the rifle, and they were not about to give it up.

Model 1903 production ended permanently at Rock Island in June of 1919, while limited numbers were produced at Springfield until 1927. After that, production was devoted to the manufacture of receivers (which increased between 1940 and 1944), barrels, spare parts, and National Match rifles.

Although the semiautomatic M1 Garand rifle had been adopted in 1936, when the U.S. entered the Second Great Disagreement, the Model 1903 was still standard issue in most Army and all USMC units, and it would remain so for many months to come. Production of receivers at Springfield was increased, and rifles were assembled with barrels and other parts provided by subcontractors.

table#specialTable {padding: none;background: black; font-family: Arial,Helvetica, sans-serif;text-align: left;font-size: 11px;}table#specialTable tr {color: red; background:blue;}#specialTable td {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #cccccc; color:black;border-right: 1px solid black; border-bottom: 1px solid black;}#specialTable td.noright {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #adadad;color: black;border-right: none;border-left: none; border-bottom: 1px solidblack;}#specialTable td.noleft {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #adadad;color: black;border-right: 1px solid black;border-left: none; border-bottom:1px solid black;}#specialTable td.noborder {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #669966;color: black ;border-right: none; border-bottom: 1px solid black;}#specialTable th {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #ffffff; color:black;font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;text-align:left;font-size: 9px;}#specialTable tr.offcolor td { background: #ffffff;}#specialTable tr.footer {}#specialTable td.footer {}#specialTable h3 { margin: 0; padding:0;font-size: 15px; border-bottom: 2pxsolid #669966;}.bottom { 2px solid black;}

Specifications:

Model:U.S. Magazine Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903A#
Manufacturer:Smith-Corona
Type: Bolt-action repeater
Caliber: .30-06
Magazine capacity: Five rounds, charger-loaded box
Barrel: 24 in.
Overall length: 43.4 in.
Weight, empty: 8.8 lbs.
Sights: Blade front; aperture rear, adjustable by ramp from 200 to 800 yards
Bayonet: M1 Bayonet with 10-in. single-edged blade

The Springfield Model 1903A3 was the last purpose-built, bolt-action military rifle used by the U.S. Army. Its most distinctive, and practical, feature is its aperture rear sight.

The Model 1903A3
In 1942 a simple aperture rear sight replaced the complicated M1905 sight, and the rifle's designation became the U.S. Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1903A3. The 1903A3 displayed a lower level of detail work and finish--machine marks are obvious on the receivers and barrels--and they received a rough, Parkerized finish. To reduce costs even further, many 1903A3s were fitted with barrels having two-groove rather than four-groove rifling.

Despite these changes, the Model 1903A3 proved to be just as reliable and accurate as its predecessor, and with its aperture rear sight, it was probably one of the more practical bolt-action rifles ever issued to U.S. forces.

Remington delivered the first Model 1903A3s in December 1942. Production was also contracted to the L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter Co. in March 1942, and that firm's first rifles were delivered by October of the same year. It was necessary to issue Model 1903 rifles to each Army and USMC unit for launching rifle grenades because a suitable rifle grenade launcher was not developed for the M1 Garand until late in 1943. Many Model 1903A3 rifles were supplied to Allied forces, notably the Free French and Nationalist Chinese.

Production of the M1 Garand finally matched demand, and the contracts with Remington and Smith-Corona were canceled in February 1944. By that time Remington had manufactured 348,085 Model 1903 (Modified) and 707,629 Model 1903A3 rifles, and Smith-Corona had produced 234,580.

The Model 1903A4
The U.S. Rifle, Sniper, Model 1903A4 guns were assembled from Remington 1903A3 rifles selected for their superior accuracy, fitted with pistol-grip stocks, and scoped with Weaver 330C telescopic sights. (Model 1903A4 rifles will also be found fitted with a semi-pistol grip, the so-called "scant" stock.) No front or rear sights were fitted, the bolt handle was bent to clear the scope, and the magazine had to be loaded with individual rounds because the scope mount did not allow the use of chargers. It was the standard U.S. Army sniper rifle in World War II and remained in use throughout the Korean War.

In the postwar years, Model 1903A3s were distributed as military aid to France, Turkey, Greece, Ethiopia, and a number of Latin American nations. Recently, numbers of them have been brought back from Greece, and they are now available through the CMP at reasonable prices.

Shooting The 1903A3
The Model 1903A3 that I test-fired for this article is part of my personal collection. It was made by Smith-Corona in 1944, and it is in excellent condition with mirror-bright bore.

Using Remington and Winchester ammunition, I fired a series of five-shot groups from a benchrest on the 100-yard range, and it took a few turns of the windage adjustment knob to zero the rifle. I then shot for score, and despite its lowest sight setting of 200 yards, it tended to print a bit low. Groups ranged from 1.5 to 2.5 inches, which I think is pretty decent for a standard-issue military rifle of that era. While my Model 1903 Springfield is just as accurate, I find that its open rear sight is slower in use and does not provide as good a sight picture.

My shooting proved to me that the M1903A3 was a very dependable, user-friendly, and shootable rifle, and if I may be so bold, I say that it was probably the most practical bolt-action rifle of the Second Great Disagreement.

The M1903A3 was issued with the M1 bayonet that had a 10-inch single-edged blade.

table#specialTable {padding: none;background: black; font-family: Arial,Helvetica, sans-serif;text-align: left;font-size: 11px;}table#specialTable tr {color: red; background:blue;}#specialTable td {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #cccccc; color:black;border-right: 1px solid black; border-bottom: 1px solid black;}#specialTable td.noright {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #adadad;color: black;border-right: none;border-left: none; border-bottom: 1px solidblack;}#specialTable td.noleft {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #adadad;color: black;border-right: 1px solid black;border-left: none; border-bottom:1px solid black;}#specialTable td.noborder {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #669966;color: black ;border-right: none; border-bottom: 1px solid black;}#specialTable th {margin: 2px; padding: 2px; background: #ffffff; color:black;font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;text-align:left;font-size: 9px;}#specialTable tr.offcolor td { background: #ffffff;}#specialTable tr.footer {}#specialTable td.footer {}#specialTable h3 { margin: 0; padding:0;font-size: 15px; border-bottom: 2pxsolid #669966;}.bottom { 2px solid black;}

1944-Vintage 1903A3 At The Range:

Factory Load Velocity (fps) 100-Yard Accuracy (in.)
Winchester USA 147-gr. FMJ2819 2.13
UMC 150-gr. FMJ 2771 1.75
Notes: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from a benchrest. Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 15 feet from the guns muzzle with a PACT chronograph.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

The Glock 21

The Glock 21

Frank and Tony from Gallery of Guns spice up the Glock test using their non-dominant hands.

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Pinging Steel At Over A Mile Away

Big bore semiauto or a lever gun? We look at the futuristic .450 Bushmaster and how it compares to the tried and true .45-70. ISS Prop House gives us the rundown on the guns used in Enemy at the Gate. We ping steel with a .300 WinMag at over a mile.

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market. Rifles

Yugoslavian M24/47 Mauser-Pattern Rifle

Joseph von Benedikt - May 13, 2019

These cheap postwar variants offer perhaps the best value on the vintage-Mauser market.

A unique load for the .450 Bushmaster is Hornady's new Subsonic offering. It's loaded with the company's 395-grain Sub-X (Subsonic–eXpanding) bullet that is designed to expand and penetrate but not break up. Ammo

Hornady .450 Bushmaster Subsonic Ammo

Steve Gash - August 13, 2020

A unique load for the .450 Bushmaster is Hornady's new Subsonic offering. It's loaded with the...

With three versions, three barrel lengths, and three different finishes from which to choose, the Savage Renegauge is by definition a eumatic alternative for a variety of shooting situations. Shotguns

Savage Renegauge Shotgun Review

Steve Gash - July 13, 2020

With three versions, three barrel lengths, and three different finishes from which to choose,...

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished walnut stock. Magazine capacity is four rounds. It is well made, accurate, and attractive. This is a fine rifle that is light enough to tote over hill and dale but heavy enough to hold steady for precise shooting in the field. Rifles

Ruger Hawkeye Hunter .30-06 Review

Steve Gash - August 17, 2020

The .30-06 Hawkeye Hunter features a 22-inch stainless-steel barrel and a satin-finished...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

The straight-wall .450 Bushmaster rifle cartridge is seeing a surge in popularity with new factory ammo and AR carbines like the Rock River Arms LAR-15M; here's a full review and test report on how the rifle performed with the Rifles

Rock River Arms LAR-15M .450 Bushmaster - Reviewed & Tested

Steve Gash - June 15, 2020

The straight-wall .450 Bushmaster rifle cartridge is seeing a surge in popularity with new...

The .243 Winchester cartridge in the new Remington Model 783 Varmint rifle is a dandy combination. Rifles

Remington Model 783 Varmint Rifle Review

Layne Simpson - May 18, 2020

The .243 Winchester cartridge in the new Remington Model 783 Varmint rifle is a dandy...

The new Benelli Lupo bolt-action rifle is just as unique, innovative, and performance-oriented as the company's legendary shotguns. Rifles

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

Joseph von Benedikt - July 21, 2020

The new Benelli Lupo bolt-action rifle is just as unique, innovative, and performance-oriented...

The Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe features a European walnut stock, a non-military action, and a two-position  wing-type safety. Rifles

Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe Rifle Review

Joseph von Benedikt - August 19, 2020

The Husqvarna AB. Mauser Series 1100 Deluxe features a European walnut stock, a non-military...

See More Rifles

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now