An early Smith Corona M1903A3 30-06

Firstly I feel I should point out this is not a definitive historical article, it is simply a few words on a new to me rifle. Shooting for me is so many things including, owning and understanding a rifle and its origins, plus the history and mechanics of the design. This means I will detail some of the more interesting points and might even skirt over some of the general history of a rifle model however this is about the rifle I have in my hands right now.

OK, well that is the disclaimer over, so what is this ‘new’ rifle?

This is a USA produced rifle dated January 1943 and was the final iteration of the M1903 Springfield. There was a later ‘sniper’ variant the 1903A4 and National Match (Target) variants however as far as the battle rifle go this is the last model 1903 variant to be built.

This particular rifle was built by L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter Co. of Syracuse, N.Y. who were better known for typewriters. It is is not unusual for companies to diversify in times of need and Smith Corona also produced fuses and cipher machines during the second world war and lets face it, if they could build typewriters quality should not be a problem and the Smith Corona 1903A3 had a very good reputation for build quality and accuracy. This particular rifle being the A3 variant differed from earlier models in several ways however the notable changes were centred around cost and material saving and speed of production (Not at the cost of quality) So a new rear sight, the forward mounted and complex leaf sight being replaced with a low profile rear peep sight which gave a longer sight radius and was less prone to being damaged. Some of the metalwork moved to pressed from milled and the finger grooves were discarded. This particular rifle is fitted with the small bow trigger guard, otherwise it was a typically robust 5 shot Springfield rifle.

The ’03A3 was also produced by Remington Arms however in greater numbers and apparently of very similar quality which was to be expected as Remington have been known to make a rifle or two…

Final production figures tend to vary slightly, it is suggested  234,580 M1903A3s from Smith Corona, Remington who continued production slightly longer, produced 707,629 M1903A3s rifles. Brophy disagrees and suggests the SC build is 236,831.

This Smith Corona M1903 A3 (03A3) has a serial number 3633137 which means it was around number 25137 off the SC production line so in January 1943 with production starting late 1942 and ending in 1944 when there was no longer a need for such a rifle.

The 24″ barrel is chambered in 30-06 Springfield with a 6 groove SC marked barrel. The 6 groove is fairly unusual and would have been supplied by High Standard in the early days of production before the move to 4 groove and a few 2 groove towards the end of ’43. I have read that only 5,000 6 groove barrel were available at the start of production however being a January 1943 build this rifle is a bit further on in the build numbers

The 24″ barrel is free floating and this particular barrel is scarily good, as I was writing this article I also cleaned the barrel. My normal cleaning regime for such a rifle is Methylated spirits first to remove any oil and dust followed by the tried and tested C2R process inter spaced with a few cups of coffee.

Top row is the Meths and you can see the dust and dirt. Second row is C2R for around 45 minutes as is the third row. What was immediately apparent is there was no copper fouling as such, nor lead fouling so it is not as if the rifle was shot in civilian hands with cast bullets. The fourth row is the final patch out and finish with Meths prior to oiling and I have to say the 6 groove barrel is squeaky clean and as bright as the day it was produced. One thing that I immediately noticed was just how smooth the patching process was. I have cleaned a lot of rifles in my life and can often tell the condition of the barrel as the patch is pushed through and this is about as good as it gets.

This does make me wonder  exactly what the history of this rifle is. The finish is the normal Parkerised receiver and metal parts with the exception of the  blacked bolt. The wood has possibly been very lightly sanded however the stamps are readily visible, the bore as mentioned is as good as it gets and the stamps have been whitened. Now I do see whitened stamps quite often on older rifles, chalk is usually used however the stamps on this rifle have been paint filled very neatly. The rifle came over to the UK from the USA in 2012 according to the UK Proof stamp and has been in private hands ever since, I had known about this rifle for a while as it was in the hands of a friend. It would be interesting to find out a bit more of the rifles ownership in its later USA years, something for a bit more research one day.

The bolt is the typical Mauser esque Cock on open controlled feed type action with three lugs.

The bolt is missing the later ‘X’ stamp however it does have the number ‘1’ on the underside of the handle, so confirming it is an early production item however the Parkerised ‘shroud’ is not something I have come across before. Having said that the Parkerised finish does match the rest of the rifle.

The blacking is remarkably good and the picture does not do it justice and the bolt face is pristine so I am beginning to wonder just how much work this rifle has seen in its last 75+ years.

 

 

 

The rifle has a Parkerised nickel steel receiver and parts with a blacked bolt as normal for the SC.

The magazine cut-off to left rear of receiver in about the same place as the K98 Mauser and in keeping with the Mauser this also acts as the bolt release in the middle position.

The rifle is fitted with a NoBuckle 1 1/4″ buff canvas sling (Correctly fitted!) and I have so far resisted the temptation to swap it for a leather M1907 sling so often seen on Springfield rifles.

Inspectors stamp (“FJA” Frank J. Atwood) is evident on the American Black Walnut stock.

As far as wartime use the 1903A3 saw action with the US forces throughout WWII, and saw action during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Specifications:

Caliber: .30-06 Government
Rifling & Twist:  4 Groove, Right Hand Twist, 1 turn in 10″
Barrel Length: 24″
Overall Length:  43.5″
Weight:  8lbs, 10oz.
Magazine Capacity: 5 rounds, loaded with chargers
Qty Mfg 236,831 made by Smith Corona (Brophy)

The sight protector is un-stamped however it looks to be the correct era as opposed to one of the numerous reproductions available these days, front sight is a blade and I believe it can accept 5 different height sight blades if a change of elevation for zeroing is required. I may need to replace the blade when I decide on the final load for the ammunition I will load. I would have liked to have duplicated the M2 Ball of the time however I no longer have any 150 grain flat base projectiles and sourcing some is going to be interesting. I may end up using the SMK #2155 155 grain Palma although the 175 grain SMK is also an option.

OK, so a great little rifle, what is wrong with it? – Well surprisingly little as far as I can tell. Yes the Parkerised sleeve is unusual, is it a Remington? That possible light sanding to the stock and the front sling swivel screw is wrong so I need to source a new one to correct the issue, other than that, oh and I have not shot it yet, the whole package looks to be very nice and I am delighted to have got my hands on it.

Finally a brief comment on the M2 Ball ammunition that was originally used with this rifle.

M2 Ball utilised a 150 grain copper over lead projectile and there was also the M2 Ball (Alternative) again a 150 grain projectile however it had a steel metal jacket with copper gilding and was a cost saving variant produced from 1943-45. You can easily tell if you have the M2 Ball Alternative as the projectile is easily picked up with a magnet.

Some examples: On the left is M2 Ball and to the right is M2 Ball Alternative with the following head stamps:

LC Lake City Ammunition Plant, Lake City, MO
DEN Denver Ordnance Plant, Denver, CO

Unfortunately these cases and projectiles had been pulled before they got to me so I am not sure if the M2 Ball Alternative was LC or DEN produced.  Right now I am leaning towards the Lake City however I could be very wrong. Something to research at a later date.

On a final note, I know I have many readers from the USA who undoubtedly know far more than I do about such rifles so I would be interested to hear any comments/corrections or observations.

The Carl Gustaf CG63

Am I wrong to say I am a huge fan of the 6,5x55SE when I have never owned one? Well it was all change a few days ago when I managed to source a very pretty Carl Gustaf CG63 target rifle chambered in the never before owned by me 6,5x55SE.

Ah but what is the CG63 and why choose it as a first 6,5×55? Now that is a very good question and given that I just hit 61 years a short while ago with eyes to match it did make me wonder a bit as well. The truth is I am looking for a more challenging type of shooting and we already have a few .22LR target rifles from the 60’s and 70’s so why not add a centre fire. So I did and this is probably one of the most accurate 300-600m of its time at that.

This particular CG63 was originally a Swedish Army rifle Model 96 and the receiver stamp shows it was manufactured in 1898 so 120 years ago this year (2018) I have no idea what the rifle did for the following 70 odd years however in 1972 Carl Gustaf chose this rifle to become a CG target rifle. The stock and barrel were discarded as was the trigger, leaving just a bolt and receiver. To this a heavy free barrel 740,0mm in length was added to the refurbished action, a new firing pin spring and cocking piece fitted and the two stage trigger tuned to match standard. The barrelled action was then fitted to a one piece stock with  a fully floated barrel and the rear of the receiver machined to accept a GF dioptre sight to accompany the Elit (As opposed to Elite) sight at the front.

The year of conversion is clearly marked as the number 72 under a crown and the letter C, to the left is the serial number and the British Proof mark to the extreme left of the receiver.

All in all it is a lovely rifle in superb condition, I have sourced some new Lapua brass and have plenty of 139 Scenar bullets so I will get some rounds loaded and head out with it in the new year, oh and report back of course 🙂

BSA Martini International ‘Scope brackets – A sleeker look

I made some changes to the design of our BSA International bracket a  while ago and have just realised I did not update my Journal to reflect this change so here you go, a sleeker look for our ‘scope brackets.

I prefer this design to the older builds and I do wonder why it took me so long to arrive upon this style. I am leaving the rails longer as people are also using these rifles with night vision systems of varying types and often need an extended rail. The length of rail should not impact the vast majority of ‘scope objectives however if it does get in the way you can easily remove a couple of inches with the careful use of a hacksaw, or ask us ad we can do it in a more precise manner.

Our brackets and rails are available to suit the International MkI to MkV in both left and right hand variants and are available here:

https://shootingshed.co.uk/oscom/product_info.php?cPath=111&products_id=195

 

 

Assembling the Handi Rifle Receiver

A while ago a small box arrived in the post, inside was the receiver of an AAC Handi Rifle in bits with a note telling me it had been light striking so the owner had pulled it apart, could I please assemble it and sort the problem out.

Now I have to admit I am not a fan of these things and have certainly never had need to break one down into its individual components so off I went to the internet to look for some ‘Handi’ hints and tips and a drawing or two and a wasted couple of hours later I came to the conclusion I was going to have to do this the hard way…

First job was to work out how these things actually operate and I opted to build the parts externally using the pins to hold everything in place, it immediately became apparent that my fingers were not going to assemble things inside the receiver without some help and one ‘Handi’ thing I had found was people talked about using a short pin to hold everything together.

So off to the lathe and two short brass pins were assembled, these ones are 15,0mm long by 4,70mm diameter with rounded ends. Next job was a couple of dummy pins, these are 8,0mm 316 stainless reduced to 4,70mm diameter for a length of 39,0mm again with a rounded nose. The 4,70mm is not super critical, just aim for a sliding fit.

Time to assemble the main parts and put everything together. This is probably the culmination of three hours work as it really was a trial and error thing and I tried building from bottom up, so trigger first and top down so hammer first and opted for the latter in the following stages.

Firstly, assemble the trigger, key part here is to correctly index the trigger extension to the trigger however there is a little pin that ensures the trigger and extension are correctly orientated.

 

You can hold everything together with one of your short brass pins and don’t forget the barrel catch spring, this one was coloured red which was handy when I dropped it on the floor…

 

Place the trigger asassembly to one side for fitting later on. I use small clear plastic trays from my local Chinese take-away for this task, they are convenient and I have a good excuse to order one from time to time.

Next job is the  striker and lifter assembly, this is easy enough once you have worked out which way the lifter spring goes in and once you have this sorted assemble the parts with your other short brass pin. This picture should show how the spring is correctly fitted.

 

Now you can fit the firing pin and spring, I did not put the release lever in at this stage however I did use one of my stainless dummy pins, to keep the notch on the back of the pin correctly aligned and everything secure.

 

Next job is pop the lifter into place from the underside of the receiver, push your dummy pin through, do remember the final assembly pins only push in from one left to right so whatever happens you need your dummy pin head on the right hand side at some point so you can push it out with the correct assembly pin. A quick word of warning here, the top firing pin retaining pin is slightly shorter so do not get it mixed up with the others.

With the lifter in place you can now fit the hammer, I pushed the dummy assembly pin in from left to right initially to enable me to locate the spring afterwards, the short leg fits behind the stand off pin on the hammer.

 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so here you go. The forceps serve no purpose other than to add some weight to the long leg of the spring so you can see the short leg located correctly.

If you do not have any locking forceps get some, for me they rank alongside dummy pins, punches and good files and are every bit as important as decent turn screws and hammer spring compressors or bolt take down tools. They cost very little on that well known auction site. Now you can push the long leg down into place, it is located on the inside of the trigger guard well.

Next job is to fit the trigger guard assembly. This simply slots in from the bottom however I would suggest you confirm the fit, which is front first without the barrel catch spring to make sure you understand how it goes in. If you are happy so far fit the spring and lift the assembly into place with the receiver held vertically or the spring will fall onto the floor and hide in a dark corner. Guess how I know this…

OK, now fit the thin front trigger guard retaining pin, followed by the rear pin. As you slide the rear pin in the short brass spacer will be pushed out of the other side. I push the pins in until they meet the knurled section only and drift them into place when everything is together and operation checked.

Now you can fit the release lever and check it really is OK, all good, push the remaining pins in, I use a brass drift and small hammer for this operation and there you go, a fully assembled and functional Handi Rifle action.  You can probably read this and assemble the action in 45 minutes on a good day however please do spare a thought for me, wading through misinformation and poor videos before I got this far. No doubt some lovely young lady at the factory would put the receiver together in three minutes flat however she probably has thinner fingers than I have and the benefit of having assembled hundreds if not thousands of the things.

If you look at my pictures closely you will spot that I fitted the lifter before the firing pin and also added the barrel release lever earlier than I described however with hindsight I believe my written description is the best way to assemble one of these things.

One final thing, would I have one now? Actually I probably would in .300 Blackout  or something equally as quiet.

I do wonder what next will arrive in a box of bits in the post. right, it is time to get out and test a gun now so at least I get to make a noise for a few minutes 🙂

 

They are growing.

The pups are growing, all of a sudden they take up a lot of space, especially if the two of them are lying on the floor outside the living room. I can no longer simply step over them and have to instead walk around them which is all well and good unless they decide to jump up and follow me, which invariably means the other two are going to get involved on the off chance that something interesting is going to happen, or they might get a treat.

The pups stop in the workshop with us during the working days, this means they become used to people and noises and they will happily sleep through a compressor running, lathes and Mills being operated and things being hammered or sawn. They have been exposed to gunshots however only from a distance as the exposure to such sharp noises is a very gradual procedure.

My goal is to get at least one of them out on the last shoot of the year although I may end up beating and keeping my distance from the guns when one is with me. Right now I think it will be the yellow one, his brother is slightly timid although he is the better trained of the two and he will walk to heel off lead for reasonable distances despite distractions.

At this stage of their development I have no real idea how either of them will turn out however what I can say is they are both a delight to be with even if they do wake us up early every morning, at least I do not have to worry about the alarm not going off.

Yesterday was glorious, the Wolds are a beautiful place to be regardless of time of year and I spent a very pleasant day on a local syndicate. Our shoot is a very informal affair which involves a lot of dogs, an equal amount of walking and for me the very occasional shot to keep my Labrador happy, he is more used to 250 bird days so our stuff is very low key for him.

I suspect he appreciates the more leisurely pace of our day. We had walked up from the woods way back in the distance of this picture, headed onto the edge of the woods to the extreme right and then up this track to the waiting vehicles and I paused at this point ostensibly to take the picture although it is fair to say my back was incredibly uncomfortable at this stage and the breather really was appreciated by myself. This is the downside of spending hours either hunched over benches or machines and I find myself having to resort to a couple of Paracetamol from time to time, something I try to avoid as much as possible.

Well my coffee is finished, time to get on with some cutting and welding or the HT oven project will never get finished.