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Thread: 1903 Sporting Rifles

  1. #1

    1903 Sporting Rifles

    Bavarianbrit posted a neat story a few weeks ago about how he was given a 1903A3 sporter as a gift. I have a soft spot for these rifles, in all configurations. They don't have to be super nice, or collector items by Griffin & Howe; there are lots of decently nice ones out here in the USA, and I have been seeing them come up for sale.

    I wondered how many (or how few ) of these, or original military configuration 1903s and 1903A3 rifles there might be in the UK, or among SDUK members.

    Here is one of mine, with a Redfield base and a Swift 6x40 scope on it. I had removed the Lyman receiver sight to mount the scope ( in the original holes ), and do a little stock work, but I will post more of the sights on other rifles, later.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Very few as sporters. Parker-Hale produced a budget rifle under the old Midland Rifle Co. name sometime back in the '80s that was built around surplus M1903 bolts, but with a new non-1903 receiver.

    All the M1903s in original form are very highly regarded by Historic Arms shooters in the UK and there are a fair few around. My first ever centrefire rifle was a clapped out SA 1903 which would have originally been made around 1921-22 according to Hatcher, and which had been rebarrelled in 1942. As it bore some Chinese ideographs stamped into the buttstock, it had presumably either been supplied to Chiang Kai Chek's forces in the Far East and then made its way to Taiwan after the Nationalists lost out to the communists, or been refurbished for US use in WW2 and supplied to Taiwan by the USA after the war.

    There are hardly any genuine M1903A4 sniper rifles here and likewise the USMC sniper models, and what there are mostly in national collections. There are some ersatz models in private hands. (An old acquaintance who is a sniper rifle historian of some repute and had a large collection moaned to me once that he was priced out of getting a genuine 1903A4 by Steven Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' which quadrupled US prices for the model within 12 months of the movie's release.)

    All of the other models from the original '03 to '03A3 are seen in varying numbers. An outfit called Colenso Arms made up 100, maybe 150 '03A3s in both standard and 'National Match' form from mainly surplus parts around 20 odd years ago - really nice rifles and they shot well. Another outfit called Bremmer Arms did a similar job in conjunction with Parker-Hale shortly before its demise, and didn't do as good a job. Bremmer in person left the UK allegedly in what we called a 'midnight flit' in my young days in Scotland owing a lot of money to a lot of people in the British gun trade.
    Last edited by Laurie; 09-02-2016 at 01:28.

  3. #3
    Thanks for that interesting history.

    I have some unaltered 1903 and 1903A, an unaltered M1D ( needs some freshening and a scope rebuild), all from the USMC Major who brought them back, a 1903A3 from U.S. Army, Vietnam vintage, and several sporting rifles. I will buy a nice '03 with the plan to build a really nice one, in something like a Mannlicher stocked .257 Roberts, but then start restoring the thing as it is, after it shoots a cloverleaf and I fall in love. If there is an interest, I will keep posting photos of mine and others which friends own.

    When some of the European countries starting legalizing the .30-06 and .308, I thought we might see more rifles come out of the closet. I have had two people contact me to help them with provenance on rifles like that, which came out of hiding, and legalized. Both were pick ups by civilians during the Battle of the Bulge.

    Chiang Kai Chek did have a variety for rifles supplied to him. Winchester made mild 8x57 ammunition for some 1888 and Turkish Mausers the Nationalist Chinese were using, beginning in the late 1930s, when the US was in things secretly. I have one of those 1888s, too.

  4. #4
    Before moving here to Lincolnshire belonged to a club based around Gatwick and one of the older members called Mike had a small collection of Springfield 03 rifles and was especially interested in Marine Corps marked ones and stuff. He found at a Bisley arms fair an ex Marnine Corps Sniper rifle and managed to get the mounts that Ron Wharton fitted for him and he then fitted the correct scope that was again USMC marked to finish the restoration. He also had a nice 03 that had the Pedersen cut. Sadly and something he never forgave the British establishment for all hi M1's and M1 carbines were deactivated. Mike also owned an original WW2 Jeep that he and some friends took across for the D Day anniversary along with a White Half Track a couple more jeeps, both Ford and Willys were represented) and a couple of Bren Gun carriers. In Mikes collection he had USMC marked scopes by Fekker and Unertl and if I remember correctly he was a retired architect and a very nice and interesting man. His .22 rimfire rifle for week night club nights on the indoor 25 yard range was an Erma M1 carbine copy. It shot very well as I remmeber and got to shoot it a number of times.

    He was not interested in sporting rifles although when walking a Bisley Arms Fair together on year we did come across a Sedgely marked sporting conversion and although it appealed to me Mike was not interested. Of course I did not have a 30-06 slot on my ticket and it was priced a bit high so that was that. So there are some about but they are not common here in the UK.

  5. #5
    Sounds like Mike gobbled up a lot of the cream Springfields in the UK. How great you got to know him.

    I have an old friend who has a complete collection of M1 Carbines, at least one of every configuration and manufacturer, as well as a 1903 in .30-03. I will post some photos of a Jeep collection, as soon as I can dig them up on my phone.

    It is interesting that you saw a Sedgely rifle. One thing I was wondering is how many Sedgelys, NRA Sporters, and Griffin & Howe rifles made it to the UK, back in the day when shipping guns between England and the US was easy. I figured some may have made it to Africa, as I handled a set of G&H a few years ago, for sale from an estate, in .35 Whelen and .400 Whelen. Let me dig up one of the photos and post that.

  6. #6
    Some US made and converted rifles that were never imported by official importers came in through the US PX system on Air Force bases. I saw Herters U9 rifle with Herters accessories like sling swivels and sling and Herters branded scope for sale at A Birmingham Arms fair once. The dealer bought it from a US airman and it was bought through the base PX.

  7. #7
    The PX stores in Europe used to have some fabulous stuff: Steyr Mannlicher rifles, Browning shotguns, etc.

    I stopped in a rural gun store yesterday and headed right for a used gun rack. There was a barely-butchered Rock Island '03, original stock, rear sight removed for a Redfield base and Simmons scope - $299.00. Oh, I was having visions of a project... restoration to an ersatz sniper or a Mannlicher stocked 7x57 or .257 Roberts!

    But right beside it was a Ruger 77 Mk1 in 7mm RM with Leupold Vari-X III for $599, a Remington 721 in .300 H&H for $499, and a pre-64 (1950s) Model 70 in .270 W for $599. I ran for the door.

    I will post more photos of some nice 1903 sporting rifles tonight or tomorrow.

  8. #8
    Don't know the Remington 721, will do a web search on it in a bit, but a 300 H&H sounds nice. Real old classic that one ..cartridge that is.

    Just did the web search and is the 721 not very much based on the US Rifle Model 1917? I find this confusing as now found a photo of the metal out of the wood and it has a round receiver and yet another photo has stripper clips in use. Overall I find this an interesting model... thank you for bringing it my attention.

  9. #9
    No, the Remington Model 30 was a sporting rifle based on the M1917. After WWII, in 1948, Remington went back to making a bolt action to compete with the Winchester Model 70, the Model 720 long action ( the 720 was a short-lived Mauser action which ended during the war, with only 2,500 made ). The 721 was short action. These were made from 1948 to 1962, when the Model 700 came out in full force.

    The 721 looks a lot like the Model 30, but internally, it is a redesign to utilize manufacturing efficiencies developed during wartime production.

    I also found a really pristine Model 30 in .30-06 just last month, for $600, in a small town gun store. That is right on this thread. I should go buy that, a real rarity.

  10. #10
    I used to have a thing for Model 30 Express rifles. They came without being drilled for scope bases and had that wonderful bolt guide that made them so smooth to operate. Built a 375 H&H on one once -didn't even get the stock finished before it was sold.~Muir

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