I can finally die happy

Discussion in 'The Powder Keg' started by wingman371, Jul 7, 2002.

  1. wingman371

    wingman371 Guest

    I was up in New hampshire about two weeks ago at the local VFW. We were preparing for a funeral for a vet, the full miltary ceremony. As we were sitting in the VFW I happen to notice this feller with a rifle. I blinked and took a double take at what i was seiing. A fully operational 1903, I was pleased as I had never actually seen one or touched one. I imediatley asked if i could indulge my interest and they were more than happy. I began gently fondling this weapon asI would a fine young lady. I walked towards the back room and in my astonishement there were two more set against the wall for cleaning. I was simply in awe. I had fantasized about the 1903 for years and actually got to indulge myself. It was than revealed to me that they had many more under lock and key. The vets were talking a little tlater that they were going to upgrade to a more modern weapon for their different ceremonies and are considering an auction or raffle for the plithera of 1903's they had in stock. I can't wait for the call as they offered me a first chance at one....this is a day i will be looking forward to....till then I must sit here and wait.....Al:D
  2. Eric

    Eric Guest

    Dang Wingman....I think I would sit on their front porch. GOOD DEAL!

  3. You might get permission to look at them first. Share what you find (receiver #, barrel date, stock type and markings, etc.) with us here and on the CSP '03 forum and we could tell you what's the best one to get. Feel free to contact me via email, if you want more information.

    One caution: Many VFW weapons are not taken care of very well and haven't been cleaned properly. I've heard that blank ammunition creates problems if not cleaned.

    Just a thought - good luck, and keep us updated.
  4. jerry

    jerry Since 03-15- 2002 Forum Contributor

    We used M-1's when I was weapons NCOIC on my honor guard stint in the AF. I don't know what it was about the blanks, but yes they did have to be cleaned well. Didn't seem corrosive or anything but oh the crud. I had 30 M1's to take care of. I kept very busy traning supply, & clerk/typist folks to care for guns. All in all a rewarding job.

    NRAJOE YOU TALKIN' TO ME!? Forum Contributor

    I had heard about the Army trying to get these guns back due to storage and liability problems. One post at one time had like 10 or 11 of them and now theres only 2. I think that got shot down and the post's were allowed to keep them. I think the liberals were afraid of a drive by shooting on a rival post by a carload of punk geriatrics!
  6. DocCombat

    DocCombat Guest

    Make sure you tear down the rifile before you purchase it from a VFW. I know from first hand expeareance that most have never been cleaned after having blanks fired through them for years. I cleaned all the 03's for my local VFW after they had several misfires during Memorial Day ceremonies. And when I cleaned them I was horrified to find out that there was no rifling left in the barrels, they were just bumpy tubes. All would have to have their barrels replaced for they were all unsafe for anything but blanks.
    Also lookout for low serial numbers in Springfeilds and Rock Iland 03's. Their receivers have a high carbon steel content and that makes them brittle and cant be fired with modern gunpowders, that generate too much chamber pressure and causes the receiver to fail. Which is usually fatal for the shooter...
  7. Gyrene

    Gyrene Guest

    Colin Britton - I understand that there were some 1903's that blew up, and the real reason was not the metallurgy, but there was a habit developed for some of the old rifles that did not function well. The habit was to dip the bullets and cases in oil before loading them. When they were fired the rifles of course generated an excess of chamber pressure, causing the receivers to burst, along with the chamber part of the barrel.

    The actual story comes from Fulton Armory. I believe that the founder was intimately involved with the 1903 at the time, and his son has related the full story.

    I have seen a lot of low serial number 1903's fired with modern ammunition, and they work well. Except for the often repeated stories about the low serial number receivers, I know of no recent occurrences, and the last reported problem occurred almost 80 years ago.

    There is no doubt that the strength of the steel degrades over time, but time is not the culprit, it is the firing that causes the degradation. The term most people use is "Crystalization", which really describes the appearance of the surface at the fracture, it is not the process. The process is called "Work Hardening" (sort of an annealing process), which is nothing more than a result of the slip planes within the crystalline structure of the material being aligned slowly and steadily, until they rupture or have a catastrophic (catastrophic means it fails and comes apart) failure.

    Much as a car, which as designed will absorb the impact of a collision meeting standards of the day it was manufactured. After 50,000 miles or so, the strength of the steel has degraded and absolutely will not provide the same degree of protection (it is still safe to drive), as more and more miles are driven, the strength continues to degrade.
  8. I am in the American Legion, and I was put in charge of four 1903A3 rifles. One is a Smith Corona, the others are Remingtons. I cannot believe how good these rifles are, with the exception of the Smith. It took a lot of elbow grease to clean them. I took a couple of the Remingtons to the range and they have one hell of a kick. Pretty accurate too.
  9. Eric556

    Eric556 Guest

    Very interesting, Gyrene, but I'm going to have to politely disagree, as I think that the historical record does point to the problem of unsafe, low serial-numbered, '03 receivers being indeed one of metallurgy.

    Prior to the institution of the improved 1918 "double-heat treatment" of Springfield Armory receivers after SN 800,000 (and Rock Island receivers after SN 285,507), the early receivers were occasionally too brittle because of poor control of the furnace temperatures.

    The initial technique used to "case harden" the forged and machined receivers called for heating for 4 hours at 1500 degrees, then quenching in oil. Unfortunately, pyrometers were not used, and occasionally the receivers would be overheated, resulting in too high of a concentration of the carbon species "Martensite" throughout the receiver. And since the hardness of carbon steel is greatly influenced by the form of the carbon, this resulted in a very hard, but brittle, receiver. Some will shatter if merely struck with a hammer!

    The "double-heat treatment" method (it was actually triple-heat treatment, 1500, then 1300, then 350 degrees!) allowed the Martensite in the interior of the receiver to be converted back to the carbon species "Pearlite", resulting in a softer innner core in the steel, while maintaining the harder, Martensite-rich surface. The end result was a non-brittle receiver with a very hard surface and good wearing qualities, but with a flexible interior that allowed it to withstand dynamic loads of 50,000 to 70,000 psi!

    It is interesting to note that some receiver failures occured in rifles with serial numbers AFTER the generally accepted cutoffs, ie., of the 56 failures recorded from 1917 to 1929, one was a Springfield with SN 801,548, and one was a Rock Island with SN 445,136! However, the double heat treated receivers did tend to "bulge" or "deform", rather than shatter/blowup.

    It is not known why all of the failures occured, though some were attributed to head separation of soft ammunition brass, and/or barrel obstruction. Gyrene has a good point that some of these failures may have been caused by doughboys doing things like dipping rounds in oil, and some failures were attributed to firing Mauser 8mm in an '03. But presumably, some failures occured in well-maintained weapons in good condition, with clear bores and good ammo.

    Some of the best sources of information on this subject are Maj. Gen. Julian Hatcher's books, as he spent much of his career in small arms development and testing, and was actually the officer assigned in 1918 to address the problem of receiver failures.

  10. Gyrene

    Gyrene Guest

    Eric556 - Yes, I agree with your comments. The original people doing the heat treatment were very good at what they did, and I doubt that any of them ever made a "BAD" receiver. The heat treat process they followed was really not that much different than the "Double or Triple" heat treat process, it was just done in a mostly continuous single heat.

    I was trained as a "Blacksmith" and I learned the process, heating, watching for colors and polishing, reheating and watching for colors again. You first heat to a bright red, then quench (obtaining the martinsite) then reheating, polishing and quenching when the colors show that you want (this would assure the presence of pearlite inside and the martinsite outside). The process works very well, if you know what you are looking for, and the boss is not pushing you for production quotas. It is amazing how well patience and excellent quality go hand in hand!!

    Apparently the production rate was too slow, and there were new people brought in to learn the process, including some new process engineers. They did want to save time and pushed the production as fast as they could. Since the "New" people didn't know the difference, they rushed their work, resulting in many receivers that were at best "Questionable". Some of them obviously failed.

    I have seen the same thing happen over and over, because the bosses want to meet an arbitrary schedule, set by someone who doesn't have the foggiest idea of what is going to happen. The people have to shortcut processes and everything really goes to #&LL in a handbasket, and the bosses always escape, because they met the schedule (with poor quality matierials produced), but, the bottom line is that they met the schedule.

    The total number of failures recorded was small considering the total number of receivers produced. Keep in mind that of the various receivers that failed, I heard that some failed because they were firing "Hand Loads" and that may have been a problem, some failed because they were dipping the rounds in oil before chambering them. It is easily possible that some failed simply because they would not stand up to the 40,000 psi in the chamber.

    In any case, anyone wanting to fire the low serial number 1903 Springfields or Rock Islands should definitely stay with a commercial or military round, or download the powder charge, if they handload. Definitely don't exceed the 147/150 grain bullet weight.
  11. Gyrene

    Gyrene Guest

    I know many people who shoot the low serial numbered Springfields and Rock Islands regularly, with military or commercial loads. I know one who shoots his low serial numbered Springfield with handloads, and he says he loads them for an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 psi.
  12. Eric556

    Eric556 Guest

    Well said, Gyrene. Too bad no one offers a simple non-destructive test to see if a 1903 receiver was properly case-hardened.

    To complete the record, let me add that MG Hatcher states that there were 137 "accidents" recorded with the '03 from 1917 through 1929, of which 68 were burst receivers, of which serial numbers could be identified on 57, of which 33 were Springfields. And a number of these cases were directly attributed to the COMBINATION of the brittle receiver PLUS bad ammo, the wrong ammo(7.92 German Mauser), bad ("burnt" steel) barrels, and/or obstructed barrels.

    Odds are, the low serial numbered rifles are probably safe to shoot with good ammo. There were only 33 Springfield receivers that burst, out of 800,000 rifles over a 13 year period--that's only 1 in over 24,000! But even those numbers are deceptive--if you count each time a rifle is fired as an "event", and each burst receiver as an event, and conservatively estimate that a typical service rifle was fired only 100 times a year, the odds of one of these receivers shattering when you pulled the trigger would be something less than one in two and a half million! If your bore is clear and your ammo good, the risk becomes much, much smaller still.

    NEVERTHELESS, the risk is still there. There were 6 "serious" or "severe" injuries, and 3 lost eyes, from the 68 burst receiver accidents. Everyone must decide for himself what risks he's willing to take. If something bad happens and you or someone else is hurt, you're going to be kicking yourself for a long time.

    I think I personally will be content to shoot my Remington 1903(Modified) and 1903A3, and leave my Springfield '03 (SN 357XXX) in the safe, taking the old warhorse out every now and then, to show him off to company!

  13. Gyrene

    Gyrene Guest

    Eric556 - Don't forget some of the old warhorses were in a war in Europe, and there is no way to even guess how many times they were fired. It is not unusual for a rifle to get fired several hundred times in a day, in combat.

    It is highly possible that some of those self destructed in combat and we will never know for sure. Many rifles get destroyed by direct hits from mortars or artillery and it would be impossible to tell if the rifle self destructed or was blown up by artillery or mortars. Sometimes you can't find anything, even though you know there were several men and their equipment there seconds before the shell hit.

    Even during WWII many of the old warhorses were fired up to several hundred times a day (some of those quite likely served their time in WWI) also.

    The actual odds are possibly as much as 1 in a billion or so. But it could still happen. The odds are that it would be another driving factor such as too hot a load or an obstruction in the barrel or . . . if something did happen.

    My 1903's, both the Springfield and Rock Island are serial numbered higher than the breakpoint for the heat treatment process change, so I am not worried about them.

    I was a Level III Instructor examiner in Non Destructive Testing for many years and many of the processes can detect cracks, or other flaws in the material, for a price. Hardness testing can be performed with Rockwell or Brinell testers, but finding a shop that would have a good price may not be easy. I used to have a portable hardness tester, but it was stolen some years ago. I doubt that the thief knew what he had, so it was probably ditched.