A Match 03A3
Springfield Armory tried to build a Match Grade 03A3 and it did not work out too well. I built a match Grade 03A3 like the armory should have built.
When 03A3’s were selling for $14.50 listed as UNCLASSIFED I received a pristine Smith-Corona with a four groove SC barrel (dated o0-43) in what looked like new condition. The bolt was rough and the action was rough in accordance with what one could expect for the late 03A3’s. I needed a target rifle and no more NM M1903’s were available, thought I could not have afforded one if they had been. I decided to build my own.
1. I replaced the bolt with a very smooth late SA bolt. These bolts were smoother than some of the rougher 03A3 bolts and were not as deeply y undercut as were most 03A3 bolts. They were also harder and polished up very nicely. It is marked “0 15” on top of the bolt handle and “P” over a punch mark over “SA” and had a contoured safety lug. I also replaced the trigger, sear and cocking piece with prewar SA assemblies which I adjusted for a clean 3 ½ pound pull with no creep. I elected not to convert the cocking piece to the headless variety as I had used one for years and saw no real advantage to it.
2. I polished the rails for smooth action using an Arkansas stone. I did not try to remove all of the tool marks; only made it smooth. With the new bolt the action was as slick as a M1903.
3. I replaced the rear sight with a Redfield long-slide Model 70 rear sight. This could be mounted on the right side of the receiver without interfering with the clip slots or the action of the bolt. The Redfield 70 was as good as the Olympic that the Army used; as neither had any method of removing backlash. With the 70 sight I put a coil spring over the elevation screw to eliminate the back lash. Something that could not be done with the Olympic sight. The Lyman 48 and the Redfield 70 were in common use on match rifles of the era. The long slide accommodated 1000 yard shooting.
4. For the stock I used a replacement “TYPE C” by Keystone obtained through the DCM for $2.25. The late Keystone stocks were very generous in their inletting so that it was not possible to bed the rifle correctly in just the wood so I glass bedded it. It was not possible to get the forend in full military dress to bed correctly so I cut the stock forward of the lower band and glass bedded it so as to put about five pounds of pressure on the barrel at this point. Since the rifle could only be used in the NRA Match Rifle class, there was no reason to fight with the full length stock. On the outside the stock was overly generous in some places and scant in others. I bought a new checkered butt plate for a $1.00 and on the left it over hangs the stock and on the right the stock overhangs it. No the butt plate was not a repro.
5. I replace the 03A3 trigger guard assembly with a M1903 TG assembly and a milled follower.
6. Because I liked the sight picture with the M1, I replaced the front sight with a M1917 front sight.
The rifle proved to be quite accurate- will consistent shoots MOA with good match grade ammo. I shot it across the course and at 1000 yards on occasion. I fired on several four man rifle teams and my 03A3 stuck right in with the M70’s. In the days after WWII the match rifle was limited to ten pounds in weight. After I converted to the M70 (when I could afford it) I used this rifle as a backup and a loaner.
Some may doubt that glass bedding was available very early. I glass beded a rifle in 1957. The glass bedding compund was very dificult to work with and had a very rapid setting time, but it worked.
I guess this makes me a full fledged "BUBBA".