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    Post Red Star Remington Model 1903's

    Extracted from "United States - Milsurp Knowledge Library"

    Red Star Remington Model 1903's

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)(Click PIC to Enlarge)

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)(Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Caliber: .............................. .30-'06
    Rifling & Twist: .................... 4 grooves, right hand twist, 1 turn in 10"
    Rifle Barrel Length: ............. 24 in. (610 mm)
    Rifle Overall Length: ............ 43.2 in. (1097 mm)
    Rifle Weight: ....................... 8.69 lb. (3.94kg (with oiler and thong case)
    Magazine Capacity: ............. 5
    Qty Mfg: ............................. 348,085

    Source... "An Illustrated Guide to the '03 Springfield Service Rifle", by Bruce N. Canfield, (2004)
    Source... "The Springfield 1903 Rifles", by William S. Brophy, (1985)
    Source... "The '03 Era When Smokeless Revolutionized U.S. Riflery", by Clark S. Campbell, (1994)
    Source... "The Collectable '03", by J. C. Harrison, (1997)
    Source... "The "RED STAR" Remington '03 Rifles", by Bill Hansen, in the Number 89, July 1999, issue of "The U.S. Martial Arms Collector and Springfield Research Letter"
    Source... "The Red Star Remington '03 Rifles", by William R. Hansen, in the 2007, third-quarter issue, of the journal of the Remington Society of America
    Source... "Small Arms of the World", by Joseph E. Smith, (1969)

    Red Star Remington Model 1903's

    (82 picture virtual tour)

    Observations and Pics: by Terry Hawker (click here)
    Terry would also like to extend a special thank you, to Ian Shein, and especially Loren Relin.

    The definitive, in-depth study of the early Remington Model 1903 rifles is, at this point in time, a work in progress.

    Perusing the standard texts on the subject, namely, William Brophy's, "The Springfield 1903 Rifles", (1985), Clark Campbell's, "The '03 Era, When Smokeless Revolutionized U.S. Riflery", (1994), J. C. Harrison's, "The Collectable "03", (1997), and Bruce Canfield's, "An Illustrated Guide to the '03 Springfield Service Rifle", (2004), one can't help but notice that the more recent the publication date, the more information each book contains on these relatively uncommon rifles. Although all these excellent books should be in the serious collector's reference library, it becomes quite evident that much more work needs to be done in ferreting out the true story of Remington's remarkable contribution to the war effort.

    Like these standard texts, the most current discussions of these rifles by the experts are sometimes contradictory, with errors being committed when well-meaning opinion is mistaken for fact. What would thought to be a relatively simple questions, such as, "When did the Model 1903 become the Model 1903 Modified?" and "What features differentiate these two models?", are still debated without firm resolution. No doubt there are other such questions.

    The most recent book, Canfield's superlative, "Illustrated Guide to the '03 Springfield Service Rifle", probably has the most information on the early Remingtons, and certainly the best photographs of these models. Even so, it too, has at least one questionable statement, seemingly disproved by an examination of the subject of this article, as we shall see later. The definitive last chapter on Remington's Model 1903 and Model 1903 Modified rifles won't be published until the Remington records regarding contracts, production figures and manufacturing details come to light.

    What the various sources do seem to agree on, is that the cancellation in September, 1941, of the British contract with Remington for a 1903-type rifle in .303 British that never went into production, left the company free to begin manufacturing Model 1903's for the United States government. Thanks to Remington's March, 1941, procurement of the rights to use Rock Island Arsenal's 1903 tooling and machinery in anticipation of the British contract, in an amazing tribute to Yankee ingenuity and manufacturing acumen, Remington was producing basically standard 1903 rifles in limited quantities as early as October, 1941. (For greater detail on this period, check the mentioned sources.)

    As a lot of the early production was slated for various Commonwealth allies, an unknown quantity fell victim to U-boat action, thus increasing the rarity of this model today. Those that survived the trans-oceanic voyages, or even those that never left the United States, have usually been subject to arsenal re-builds, or much worse, from a collector's point of view, been turned into the dreaded, "sporter". These actions left very few in their original, as manufactured, condition.

    Rather than re-hash or condense what various authors have said about these rifles over the years, thus perhaps repeating any of their inadvertent errors or misconceptions caused through lack of original examples to study, the focus of this article is primarily the photo montage of the four rifles.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    These rifles, probably in their original configuration, should help collectors identify the features inherent in Remington Model 1903 rifle production of the late 1941, early 1942, period.

    Along with this photo collection, thinking it may be of interest to some collectors, are included the facts surrounding the acquisition of these historic artifacts and the story behind them, as told to the author personally by the seller's agents.

    My first introduction to these rifles began in early March, 1998, when I received a call from Red Star Military Museum and Sales, (previously Lincoln Hobby Center, previously, Mecca Hobbies, but always owned by Loren Relin), in Culvericon City, California. Don't remember if it was Loren or his right hand man, Ian Shein, that called that day, but knowing I collected British arms, I was asked if I had any interest in Model 1903 rifles, previously owned by the British government, still in the grease, that had come out of a crate that had just been opened for the first time, after being sealed for the last 44 years.

    Can't recall if I remembered to hang up the phone before I jumped in the truck, but I am pretty sure my wheels must have touched the ground once or twice on my trophy run to Culver City, as I didn't get a ticket on the way there.

    Upon arrival, as I was being ushered into the back room of the store, I was told that a retired United States Air Force officer was looking to sweeten his retirement by selling these rifles on consignment. When I got into the back room I was amazed at what I saw.

    There sat an old wooden crate, with a straw-like, packing material made from shredded wood shavings hanging out of it, and inside the crate were the dirtiest looking rifles I had ever seen.

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    Upon closer inspection, what looked like dirt was actually 44-year-old, dried-out grease with all these tiny bits of wood particles stuck to it. The grease had just enough viscosity left, that with judicious use of thumb nails and paper towels, it could be partially pushed away to reveal what lay beneath.

    Emerging from the crud were obviously un-issued, early Remington 1903 rifles, all with a red, painted band around the fore-end... the British method of denoting a non-standard caliber rifle. On the red band, stenciled in black paint, was either a large number "30", or a much smaller "300", the British designation for the .30-'06 round.

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    Try as I might, I couldn't find any British export proofs or U. S. import marks. Knowing little about U. S. martial arms, but a bit more about British arms, I recognized typical British cancellation marks through some of the markings on some of the rifles, just ahead of the magazine floorplate.

    The stocks appeared to be the standard, military "S" type, with two reinforcing screws, some having grasping grooves, but most without. Although bearing no discernable evidence of wear from use, they did show the effects of years of storage and shipping adventures. The rifles were packed in crates made in 1954, judging by the markings on the inside of the crate I bought, and were laid to rest in two rows of six, separated by wooden dividers, packed barrel to butt, with very little room left between them for padding. This combination of close quarters, time and travel, left quite an assortment of dings, gouges and scratches on the woodwork.

    A common wound was in the middle of the right side of the buttstock, where, due to sardine-like packing, the head of the front band screw of the rifle next to it had tried to imbed itself into the wood. At least one of these dings was so hard the screwdriver slot in the head of the screw that bashed it is visible in the dent. The opposite end of this screw also produced its share of scars on the butt's left side.

    Some of the butts bore evidence of light sanding in this location, which, when these rifles first came to light, was seen by some of the "experts", relying solely on descriptions related over the phone, as evidence that these rifles weren't original. As the sanding was usually in this same location, and underneath more dings and gouges from the front band screw, I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps the light sanding was more likely the result of the rifles being tidied up a bit as they were unpacked after their first trip across the pond from the Remington factory to Britain. It wouldn't be like British armorers to put to store rifles ready for issue that had possible splinter-causing gouges in the stocks, but this is just speculation.

    All four rifles in this small sample have a tiny "L" stamped on the tip of the stock, the boxed RLB, ( Col. Roy L. Bowlin), inspection mark and the Ordnance crossed-cannons escutcheon, as well as the circled "P" stock proof mark and the various little geometric symbols that Remington used as sub- inspection marks on the fore-end in front of the floorplate. This last area is where the typical British cancellation marks are found on some of the rifles, through other British markings stamped on top of Remington's marks.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Some rifles had probable British letter stamps on the left side of the stock, below the boxed RLB, and others had these marks in the middle of the left side of the butt. (For a possible explanation of the British markings, see, "The Red Star Remington '03 Rifles", by William R. Hansen, in the 2007, third-quarter issue of the journal of the Remington Society of America.)

    Due to the packing method, whereby the stocks touched each other, but protected barrels and receivers, the metal parts of these arms fared much better than the wood. Most are in excellent condition with little evidence, if any, of much firing, with bores almost as new. The bolts only show light wear marks through the blue-black finish from manipulation, and, on the ones I bought at least, there is no evidence of cartridge case wear on the feed ramp, or even a bullet mark, supporting once again, that these rifles are indeed, un-issued.

    Up until at least serial number 3051776, these rifles had the large gas-relief, (or gas escape) hole, known as the Hatcher Hole, (thanks to his suggestion), on the left side of the receiver, and another, smaller gas-relief hole on the right side. This evidence tends to contradict the statement on page 118 of the 2004 edition of Bruce Canfield's, otherwise excellent, "An Illustrated Guide to the '03 Springfield Service Rifle". Mr. Canfield states on that page, in discussing the M1903 Modified receivers, which he says starts at approximately 3020000, that, "The small gas escape hole on the right side was eliminated".

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    It would appear that this hole was eliminated later than Mr. Canfield thought, and, as an aside, thus pointing out the one advantage these Military Knowledge Library entries have over the print is so easy to go back to correct things which later prove to be incorrect.

    There are no stamped parts on these rifles, (other than the front sight cover), with many of the milled parts stamped with an "R" and all finish appears original. All screws are blued, as are parts of the rear sight, with a noticed degradation of the finish on the rear sight of the later rifles. The majority of the few scratches in the metal work appear to be fresh, probably inflicted after the crates were opened.

    On March 9, 1998, my first visit to Red Star after the arrival of these rare bits of history, I picked out serial number 3016776, with a 12-41 barrel date, and one of the few with a finger-groove stock. They were going for $750 at the time, but shortly after, when Loren and Ian began to realize what they had, the finger-groove stock models quickly rose to $1,100.

    As he was writing it up for me, Loren told me of Ian's first visit to the old gentleman's garage, where he saw ten of these crates, still banded as they were the day they left Englandicon. With 12 rifles to a crate, it is hard to imagine that here was a non-descript garage, in the heart of Southern California, that just happened to have 120 un-issued Remington M-1903 rifles inside.

    As Ian was feeling poorly at the time and the seller advanced in years, they couldn't lift a full crate into Ian's vehicle, so they cut the bands on the crate, took the 12 rifles out of their 44-year old casket, put the crate in the vehicle, then re-packed the crate. The drill may have been reversed when they reached the store, so the rifles probably saw more handling in a day than they had in the last 44 years!

    Realizing that this was more than likely a once-in-a-lifetime milsurp opportunity, I went back on April 11, 1998, to take another look. Ian told me that as word was getting around to the collector fraternity, interest in these rifles was climbing sharply. Of course there were some well known "experts" that doubted their originality, but were curious to know, by the way, how many rifles would they be allowed to buy? Rather amusing really.

    Ian filled me in a bit more on the back story and said the seller was a U.S. Air Force officer stationed in England just after the war where his duties involved interaction with various British government officials. Through these contacts, Ian said, the old gentleman was offered crates of surplus rifles. He said he was also offered crates of M-1911 pistols, but passed on those!

    Evidently in their hurry to divest themselves of war material, almost unbelievably, these rifles left British government ownership without getting the normally required export proofs. It would be interesting to know exactly how that happened.

    After arrival in the U. S., Ian said, these crates followed the officer from duty station, to duty station, as supported by the markings on the crates. (This later proved to be incorrect, as due to recent information, courtesy of John Beardicon, we now know, that after the crates of rifles arrived at Wright-Patterson AFB, they were shipped to the basement of a relative in Dayton, where they were to remain until the end of the gentleman's military career.) Purchasing the first crate for $50 to help prove the rifles' provenance, the photos of the inside show the who, what, where and when of the maker, plus the broad arrow government acceptance mark, while photos of the crate's exterior show evidence of the original shipper and the consignee, a Major Willard Levin, as well as some of the shipping points they passed through.

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    Copying down the information painted on another empty crate stored behind the store revealed even more information, including a doubtlessly, well-deserved promotion. Painted on this crate was:


    AO 393885

    Ian said the seller seemed to be getting a case of "seller's remorse" and didn't want to sell any more of the rifles with the finger groove stocks, so he was removing those from the crates before he let them go to Red Star. Resigning myself to a rifle without the grasping groove stock, (which some collectors feel is the feature that separates Model 1903's from the Model 1903 Modified's), I looked through that day's backroom treasures and found serial number 3030333, (any serial number with "303" in it being dear to the heart of a British rifle collector), with a 1-42 barrel date, and also, serial number 3047064, with a 2-42 barrel date. At that point in time these rifles were selling for $600 each, but the price soon rose to $750.

    On July 17, 1998, I was back in the store, chatting to Ian, when he told me the seller was starting to re-think whether he should continue selling any of these rifles, so not knowing whether this was just good sales technique on Ian's part, but suspecting it to be true, (it was), I headed into the backroom again.

    This time, pushing the goop aside revealed serial number 3033032, with a 1-42 barrel date. As I already had one with that barrel date, I didn't get too excited, that is until I jumped to the conclusion that I had found a consecutive serial number to rifle 3030333 that I bought previously. (You will notice that I had transposed two digits in my head... I didn't.) Looking further, I found serial number 3051776, with a 3-42 barrel date, the only rifle with that late a barrel date of the ones I had examined. It took me over ten years to discover just how unique 3051776 is. Loren did me the favor of selling me these rifles for $650 each, but the regular retail price soon reached $849.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    According to the production and serial number tables compiled by William Hansen and published in Bruce Canfield's, "Illustrated Guide to the '03 Springfield Service Rifle", these barrels are all original to the rifles and, at this point in time, (Nov. 2008), there appears to be a consensus that these rifles are indeed, for the most part, in original condition. (For a complete list of the serial numbers of the 60 rifles sold by Red Star, which reveals the earliest of this batch to be serial number 3008004, [with an 11-41 barrel date], and the latest and only rifle higher than the 305000 range, serial number 3090031, [barrel date, as yet unknown], see, "The "RED STAR" Remington '03 Rifles", by Bill Hansen, in the Number 89, July 1999, issue of the "U.S. Martial Arms Collector and Springfield Research Newsletter".)

    Carefully de-greasing these rifles, then giving the thirsty stocks a couple of drinks of boiled linseed oilicon and turpentine, revealed some things I hadn't immediately noticed before. (I am a British arms collector, remember?) Brought to light were various manufacturing modifications Remington employed, in the space of the four months represented by these five rifles, to improve the production rate of these arms without harming their utility or safety.

    The most obvious change was the elimination of the finger-groove stock, followed shortly after by the disappearance of the lightening grooves on either side of the rear sight base.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    The rear trigger guard screw hole began to be drilled all the way through the receiver tang, and, although the hole was still in the receiver rail for it, the bolt stop pin was eliminated. Changes in the degree of parts polishing can be observed as the serial number rises, as can the resulting degradation of the overall finish.

    The four rifles pictured here would seem to indicate that these manufacturing modifications progressed in chronological and numerical order, but I would suggest that is just coincidental to the gathering of this small sample. Although serial number 3033032 is 2,699 units further along than serial number 3030333, its receiver tang is not drilled through for the rear trigger guard screw, but 3030333's is. This is the only difference in these two rifles. (Note: Serial number 3030333 was not available for photography at this time as it was traded to a dear friend who missed out when the rifles were originally sold.) Conversely, rifles in the 3050000 range have been reported with receiver tangs that have not been drilled all the way through. Proof once again, perhaps, of the "first in, last out" theory of firearms assembly.

    This was the beginning of Remington's process of stream-lining production efficiency that culminated in the development of the Model 03-A3 and its kin.

    As to the unique property of rifle 3051776 that was discovered only recently...the receiver ring markings are, "REMINGTON MODEL 1903 3051776", with the conspicuous, (now, anyway!), lack of the "U.S." government ownership stamp.

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Research on the most prominent 1903 web-site forum has, as yet, failed to reveal another specimen so marked. Thought it a bit of patriotic irony that a rifle that is "U.S."-free, should have a serial number ending in 1776.

    An accurate explanation of how this rather unusual marking anomaly could have occurred will have to wait until that time someone manages to access Remington's manufacturing and production records and writes the definitive reference for this, the early period of Remington Model 1903 manufacture.

    Through an accident of history, Colonel Levin's decision to hang on to ten banded crates, for as long as he did, has proven invaluable to collectors and researchers trying to put together this part of the Remington story. Although he has now passed on, his service to his country and preservation of part of its history will always be remembered and gratefully appreciated.

    In closing, I would like to thank Ian Shein, and especially the always cheerful Loren Relin, for the many happy hours I spent in Red Star over at least twenty years, where they generously shared their vast store of milsurp knowledge with the fledgling collector I was then. It was sad to see the store close, but as Loren explained, "Twenty-eight years is enough!", still, I do miss you guys. All the best in a well-earned retirement.

    Collector's Comments and Feedback:

    1. For what it's worth, there is another stash of these in Texas. I believe he had/has 3-4 cases, and I bought two about 3 months ago (see pics below). They are SWEET.

    Rick the Librarianicon also wrote an excellent article on them as well in our forum at (click here). Rick's article is titled British Remington M1903 #3,024,801 - A Primer (click here) .......
    (Feedback by "EdHoffer")

    (Click PIC to Enlarge)(Click PIC to Enlarge)

    Ed Hoffer's Red Star Remington 1903

    (12 picture virtual tour)

    2. The secret to creating and maintaining quality research data in the Milsurps Knowledge Library is you! This is your site and these MKLicon entries on various old milsurps are yours to add to, or change. The volunteers on the Advisory Panel (click here) can only do so much to vet and validate the information posted here, so please contribute as much as possible to help us present the most accurate and reliable data we can gather on these old milsurps. If you own a particular specimen of any MKLicon entry, then please send us pics of it, even though they may be duplicate views of pieces you already see here. In that way, we can build up multiple sets of pics for several milsurps of the same model, which will help in indentifying markings and authenticity. For example, in the case of this MKL entry of the Red Star Remington Model 1903, if you own one, we'd like to receive more pics of the stampings and serial number views as shown in the "Observations" section and various "Collector's Comments and Feedback" notes. ALL pics and information received will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and respect of your privacy. Thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, which is helping to make the Milsurps Collectors Forums a prominent site for serious collectors of all genres of old milsurp collectibles. ....... (Feedback by "Badger")
    Warning: This is a relatively older thread
    This discussion is older than 360 days. Some information contained in it may no longer be current.
    Last edited by Badger; 07-31-2010 at 03:12 PM.

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