1903 Springfield Lt Wgt Mtn Rifle
Three years ago I bought two 1903 Springfield sporters in caliber 30-06 for around $250.00 apiece, pretty good deal in my opinion. I am thinking that this action would be a good platform for building a lightweight mtn rifle. Wondering if anyone on the forum still uses the 1903 for hunting, if so what do you think about them? Or have any forum members built or had a lightweight mtn rifle built using one of these actions before? Any info/recommendations (triggers, stocks, barrel contour, etc) on the use of the 1903 action for building a lightweight mtn rifle would be appreciated. Thanks
1903 Springfield rifles
I still have the 2 rifles that my father and myself bought through Montgomery Wards, some 45 years ago and paid 19.95 each for them. Later that same year I bought 2 more, one was made into a 458 Winchester Mag and the other was made into a 308 Norma mag. both rifles are still going to this day, and the first 2 are still in orignal form and still very functional to this day.
I don't think you can find a better action to build on, and have your choice for anything you want to build. There is so much you can do with this action and have any caliber you want. Build what you want and don't look back, how ever it turns out it will be a good shooter.
I shoot them a lot more than I hunt them, but I DO on occasion pack one. My 'go-to' hunting 03 is a 1941 production Remington 1903 model chambered to .257 Roberts, 22" barrel, in a 1959-ish vintage Bishop stock, Redfield rings and one piece base, Timney trigger, and 4X Lyman. It's done up to weigh within a few ounces of the same weight as my pre-64 M70 .243 featherweight. I know, by today's standards, the early Featherweights aren't exactly that, but compared to some of my other rifles, there's a considerable weight difference.
I also quite regularly use another Remington 1903 with a 26" McMillan stainless .22-250 Ackley Improved barrel, medium heavy contour, put into a modified pre-64 Model 70 stock, wearing a 6-24X variable.
My 'other' 03 is a 1928 vintage nickel steel Springfield Armory receiver fitted with an octagon .35 Whelen barrel in a Wenig stock that I finished up. Nice rifle, but heavy, but it also soaks up quite a bit of the recoil with the heavier loads.
Compared to some other actions, there's not a lot of accessories, and some 'custom' touches are really 'custom'!
I'm not sure that it's worth the effort or expense to replace the triggers. The originals can be made to be quite nice, and rock solid dependable. It'd help some to increase lock time, I've fit mine with the old National Match type headless striker rods, and 'speed lock' springs. If you scope it, you will need a lowered safety.
As to stocks, well, about the only choices are a Bell & Carlson, Ram Line, or a Butler Creek off the top of my head. Walnut or laminated stocks can be fitted and dimensions reduced, but you really don't realize much of a weight reduction that route.
Thanks jebb45 and Darreld Walton for your input. Have a few ideas to work with now. The caliber I am considering is a 280 Remington. Montana Rifle Company has a 22" U/L sporter barrel #1 contour that weights approximately 2.5 lbs. Ed Lapour Gunsmithing and Gentry Custom LLC both manufacture a 3 position Winchester style safety. LaPour has both a headless design cocking piece and a original-look cocking knob type available.
Does anyone know the approximate weight of a 1903 action?
Any suggestions for floorplate conversions, kinda like the idea of going with a triggerguard and blind magazine but I don't believe the B&C stock is designed for that configuration. Also should I replace the extractor with an aftermarket one? read somewhere that some of the original military extractors were prone to breakage. If I stick with the original military trigger what exactly should I ask the gunsmith to do to increase lock time? (I am not familiar with military type triggers).
Also just found out this evening that MPI has a Mountain Rifle style stock listed on their website, also 3 stocks for the 1917 Enfield. Thanks again for sharing your experience and expertise.
The most reliable, least prone to unrepairable damage magazine assembly is the stamped metal 1903-A3 one piece jobs. Downside is that in a pinch, you can't unload through the bottom, no floorplate, and they're, well, ugly. Never cared for the cast aluminum jobs, and I've seen them with busted trigger guard loops. At leastwith steel, they can be pushed, or pried back into shape to keep using the gun if you take a fall and bash it.
I emailed Gentry awhile back about his conversion, and the only thing other than cost that turned me off was that the rifle has to be converted from cock on opening to cock on closing. Couple years ago when I inquired with Lapour, he said he was waiting for castings, and then it'd be a couple months befor he got them worked over, AND you had to send your bolt to him. I also got a couple emails from folks who were less than enthused about the Lapour conversion. Neither were inexpensive.
I don't know of any aftermarket extractors, especially anything that offers any more reliability or strength than the original. Genyooine USGI extractors are still available brand spanking new, and I'd go with one of the WWII Remington or Smith Corona contract replacements that are available still in the cosmoline and wrap. The only failure that I've had with one is when someone had polished the face to just about paper thin after opening it up for the magnum size rim, and it broke the inside lip off.
Tubb used to offer a stiffer mainspring for the03's, Not sure, but I believe Wolf still does, but take a look in Brownell's website fortheir listing of available 'speed lock' kits. Dayton Traister used to make them, and I believe they still do.
IF you can find an original NM type headless cocking piece for really reasonable, it's the most reliable of the bunch. Simply grinding the knob off the end and shortening the rod seriously weakens the bond between the rod and the sear, and after some cycles, they like to pop off or slip. Some guys counterbore the end and put a spot of weld in there, but you run the risk of softening the sear and safety notches doing it.
The .280 in that action soundslike a winner! Let us hear how the Montana barrel works out, will you?
Take 'er easy and Good Luck with the project!
Last edited by Darreld Walton; 07-23-2008 at 04:47.
Here is a photo of my 1903 Springfield action with floorplate, not stamped metal like on my other rifle. Seen one that looks similar in my book titled: The Springfield 1903 Rifles by Lt. Col. William S. Brophy, USAR, Ret.
When I removed the floorplate from the action there is a hinged lever on the top forward section of the trigger guard, between the guard and magazine well that releases the bottom plate from the magazine, plate has a lip that slides back and out of a horizontal slot. Darreld, can you tell me if this particular floorplate is a standard part for this model or an aftermarket? Thanks
Last edited by Nukalpiaq; 01-04-2009 at 12:50.
your floorplate is original, that is, as it was made originally. Nice looking conversion, so far. The idea was to use the point of a cartridge to push in the little sliver of metal that you see through the rear hole of the floorplate, that pushes the lever up, and lets you slide the floorplate to the rear to release it.
Looks like most of the 'hard' work's already been done on this one. Lowered safety, lowered bolt handle, drilled and tapped. Should'nt be exceptionally tough to finish it up!
I doubt that you're looking at any other modifications to the action to get .280 to feed and function just fine.
Only 'problem' you may have is finding a lightweight stock for the rifle. Have you investigated that part of the project yet?
"Learn something new everyday", just tried using the point of a cartridge to release the floorplate and sure enough it worked. Now that's what I call "old school", pretty slick. Thanks
As for the stock I emailed MPI and asked about the Mountain Rifle Style stock they reponded the very next day and said it would work but the magazine area would need to be built up a little so that it would fit the depth of the magazine. I will ask them a few more questions this weekend. Thanks again.
Right now I am still debateing about my 03/A3 MK1. Trying to decide about a 24" 30/06 bbl or getting a 338/06 in 24". Had a 338/06 custom built by balenger in chico CA, some yrs ago, but traded it for something that I probably really dint need. My work will be done by Jack Hunington here in N. Cal. Gonna find me a decent stock as it has an old Bishop stock that "BUBBA" worked on.