View Full Version : 1903 springfield 30-06

03-19-2012, 8:52 AM
So...way back in the day, when I was 12, I bought a springfield 1903 30-06 sporterized rifle for deer hunting. Ok..my dad bought it, I just paid for it. Anyway, I killed a few deer with it, and it shot well. I found out about the low serial number(with mine is...), and since I had no interest in blowing my face off, its been in the safe ever since. Is there any way to fix this gun? Since its my first gun, and the same type rifle my dad and grandfather hunted with, I'd be willing to spend some money on it. I have not done much research, as I figured calguns would be a good place to start.


03-19-2012, 9:22 AM
I have a low serial # 1903 sporter in the 500,000 serial range. I got it in the 1970's and seeing it had the dreaded low serial number, I put it in the safe and that's where it sat for a long time. A few of years ago, I found a copy of P.O. Ackley's Hand book for shooters and reloaders copyright 1959.

In reading through the book, Ackley has a chapter on "The strength of military rifle actions". He intentionally blows up a variety of actions. He used his 270 Ackley Magnum as the cartridge to wreck the actions. He blew up 1903 re- heat treated action and nickel steel actions along with an original low serial numbered action (below 8000,000). He concluded that the low numbered actions would not be suitable for Magnum cartridges, but if the old action is fitted with a newer, Nickel bolt, it would be suitable to use for 30/06 factory loads.

According to Ackley, the Nickel steel bolt would stretch instead of shattering and would take the brunt of an over pressured cartridge.

Being curious, I took the old Springfield sporter out of the safe. It had a "NS" (nickel steel) bolt in it (nickel steel bolts will be marked with a "NS" or "N"). Nickel steel bolts didn't come into use until later. Whoever built this sporter, put a nickel steel bolt in it.

I cleaned the old rifle up and took it out and shot it. I've shot quite a few loads through it. I keep it as a back up Deer rifle.

I don't know what your serial number is, but I'd check the bolt to see if it has a nickel steel bolt in it.

03-19-2012, 9:31 AM
Also, if you are into reloading, you could just make your own reloads for it, keeping the pressure below what you deem a critical level. Ex: load just to the starting load that the manufacturers give, never to the max.

Just a thought.

03-19-2012, 9:49 AM
my serial num is very low...62000 range, don't know if that matters. But thanks. Both my father, and grandfathers rifles have nickel steel bolts, mine does not. I also have all my grandfathers reloading stuff, so I might have to learn how to use that stuff. thanks for the info. I appreciate you time.

03-20-2012, 10:15 AM
Flight762, thanks for the info.

We've had a 1903 in the safe for years, did a little research a couple years back on it...but don't recall reading that bolt info.

03-20-2012, 11:22 AM
Where would the N or NS be stamped? Would the bolt be blued, parked or nickle colored?

03-20-2012, 4:06 PM
The problem with low numbered 1903's back then was two fold. One was the heat treatment making some (but not all) receivers brittle. The problem there was there was no way to tell what was bad and what was good. The second problem was the ammo being used at the time being of low quality WWI heavy ball that developed high pressures. Together this caused a catastrophic receiver failure. After the ammo problem was fixed low numbered 1903's served without kabooms until they were retired after WWII. Some even saw some hard fighting with the Marines in the Philippines.

03-20-2012, 4:08 PM
I've always wanted a 1903 but the standard G.I. ones.

03-20-2012, 4:12 PM
You could replace the reciever. Just look for a very poor condition 1903 that has a good reciever and have it swapped out.

03-21-2012, 7:02 AM
The "ns" stamp should be located under the locking lug. Looks like mine has a "j5" stamp. Don't know what that means, but its not good news.

03-21-2012, 3:02 PM
good read on failures of the 1903 at http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/

(posted as maybe someone, and/or newly interested parties, may not have read this before)

OP, the "j5" is on the bolt? Might "j5" relate to this "bolt steel lot codes" info at

from http://www.vishooter.net/slc6_2008.html

Though doesn't relate to the low s/n, so sounds like maybe bolt was switched out back in WWI era??

03-21-2012, 3:13 PM
Just ran acoss this section as well (and honestly don't remember seeing this a couple years ago when I was researching our 1903).

Big thanks to all the people contributing over there at m1903.com!!



Before leaving the manufacturer, M1903's and M1903A3's were proof tested for safety. Proof testing was done by firing several cartridges loaded to produce a pressure substantially greater than that produced by the standard issue military cartridges that would be used in the rifle. If the rifle survived this test of its strength the letter P enclosed in a circle was stamped on the stock just behind the triggerguard, and the rifle was ready for acceptance by the military.

The earliest proof marks used on Model 1903's were a script letter P which was later changed to a block letter P.

U.S. Model 1903's and 1903A3's will sometimes be found with two letter P's stamped behind the triggerguard. The second letter P is believed to have been used when a rifle when through a complete rebuild. Because of the extent of the work it was likely proofed a second time. If a stock is stamped with two letter P's there is a good possibility that it will also have other marks indicating an arsenal rebuild.