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    Member Nick Adams's Avatar
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    Unusual RIA 1903 ... and 'N' stamps

    I came into an unusual RIA 1903 back in June - # 49643.

    It has a S.A. barrel dated 7-15, with flaming bomb.

    Regarding the stamps, there are the usual ones, such as a sideways 'U' stamped on the rear metal band. On the underside of the barrel, there's a 'P ' stamp, and then on the 'flat' of the bayo lug there's an 'H' stamp. There is an 'S' stamped on the forend wood (or 'nose'-piece) under the barrel.

    However there are two capital 'N' stamps that I'm unable to account for, although given the background of the owner I have a theory as to what they signify.

    One 'N' is stamped on the left side of the stock, below and to the right of the cut-off lever where you'd expect to see a rebuild cartouche or Inspector's initials. On this rifle, it's just the 'N' alone, not boxed or circled.

    On the underside of the grip, just behind the trigger guard, there is another 'N' (not boxed or circled) stamped above a highly-serifed and circled 'P.'

    Overall, the rifle is pretty clean. The stock has finger grooves and shows only minor dings and scratches. The buttplate is smooth, not checkered.

    I'm thinking the stock and handguards are from Springfield rather than being original RIA wood, perhaps added when the 1915 barrel was installed, but I'm not for sure on that.

    The sights are in good shape, and the front sight had a protector attached which I removed for taking pictures.

    The bore of the barrel still has some shine to it and good rifling. The muzzle also looks good.

    A few pics are attached ... 1903 experts, what do you think?
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    Last edited by Nick Adams; 08-09-2018 at 09:16 AM.

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    Member Nick Adams's Avatar
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    Thread Starter
    More pics ... among them, one shows the bolt handle is the early straight one rather than the later swept-back type.

    The other pic, not so great, was an attempt to capture the 'S' stamped into the forend 'snout' wood under the barrel.
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    Last edited by Nick Adams; 08-09-2018 at 09:15 AM.

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    Also, in the wood just under the cutoff lever, there appears to be a small 'o' or maybe an 's' stamp, but it's very difficult to discern. You can sort of see it in the larger pic of the 'N'.
    Last edited by Nick Adams; 08-09-2018 at 09:25 AM.

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    A mixmaster, but a very interesting one. The stock appears to be a modified Rod Bayonet from Springfield that was updated with the "dog leg top and two stock bolts. I know that Rock Island used a single letter on WWI-era stocks, but not sure if that is the case, here. There is a possibility the barrel may have been fitted sometime in the 1917-1918 period, which is where the two-bolt stock was first used.

    The upper band is a Springfield, as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick the Librarianicon View Post
    A mixmaster, but a very interesting one. The stock appears to be a modified Rod Bayonet from Springfield that was updated with the "dog leg top and two stock bolts. I know that Rock Island used a single letter on WWI-era stocks, but not sure if that is the case, here. There is a possibility the barrel may have been fitted sometime in the 1917-1918 period, which is where the two-bolt stock was first used.
    The upper band is a Springfield, as well.
    Thanks, Rick. I was hoping you and/or John Beardicon might look at the pics and weigh in.

    The pics aren't great, but I can tell you the stock and top wood all match (same color, same grain), as if taken from the same bin of stocks.

    I wasn't sure if the circled, highly-serifed 'P' on the grip decidedly pushed the stock one way or the other into the RIA or S.A. camp.

    After first going over this rifle (figuring the receiver dates to about 1906), my working theory was that it was a 1918-ish "rebuild" of an RIA '03 that saw hard use in the war, came home, and was then rebuilt/refurbished at S.A. using a NOS 1915 barrel, updated stock (with bolts), etc.

    But now I don't think so. I think initially it was a pre-war build, maybe first with a 30.03 chambered barrel, but once the '.06 became standard was it re-barreled in 1915, and possibly remained stateside, and then was further "upgraded" post-war by S.A., looking as it appears now, at which time it was shipped out to one of the military services (Army, Navy, Marines, etc).

    It's at this point that the story behind the rifle offers - I think - an intelligible clue as to the 'N' stamps as well as to why this rifle appears to be in such good shape ...

    A gun store contact who knows I collect these 'Old School' U.S. rifles (like Garands) called me to relate that a friend was liquidating a bunch of rifles that had belonged to his father and grandfather, which he had inherited, among them a low-number RIA the grandfather had acquired in WW2. My contact kept it in the store's safe until I could get over to see it ... The price was lower than I'd expected so I bought it.

    My contact knew the seller well (they went to high school together), so I asked him where did the guy's grandfather get such a nice looking 1903. Turns out, the grandfather had been a young Navy doctor (a surgeon) in WW2. The grandfather was a hunter and had also shot competitively in pistol & rifle matches.

    In the very late 1940s, there was some sort of rifle match held "on a range at a military base." The grandson said it was definitely very post-war, 1948-49, but "before Korea started up." He didn't know where, or on what base, the match took place, or whether it had been held on a Marine base. (It took a couple of phone calls to get all this information).

    He was very adamant however, per his grandfather's account, that only Navy doctors participated in the match, and "thought" his grandfather said it was "about 20 or so" navy doctors. He also didn't know whether they shot the match with M1s or 1903s. Regardless, his grandfather won the match, scoring "top shooter," and this RIA 1903 was awarded to him as the prize ... My contact also said the family of this Navy surgeon is very proud of his and their family history, which has given much military service, but also that the surgeon's 4x-great grandfather was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence ...

    ... Once I heard this story, it suggested a couple of things.

    By 1948-49, the M1icon Garand would've been our issued military rifle across all the services, including the Navy. 1903s in Navy and Marine armories at that time were likely mothballed and kept in storage, except maybe for occasional recruit training or formation drills if M1s were unavailable. I've seen pre-WW2 pictures of navy shipmen standing in formation on deck armed with 1903s, so they clearly kept these rifles on ships.

    So my theory is that some high-ranking Naval officer, who was aware of this match among the service's M.D.s, authorized a 1903 to be taken from the armory and used as the prize for the top shooter. Maybe an admiral had personally approved it, who knows?

    But I think the odd 'N' mark stands for "Navy," and was stamped on the stock's side and grip by the unit armorer to signify or distinguish it as a "Navy 1903," or 'Navy property', as opposed to 1903s in Marine possession, which as I understand it, had no special stamps or marks to identify them as Marine rifles.
    Last edited by Nick Adams; 08-10-2018 at 10:03 AM.

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    That's the thing - no way to know exactly what happened with these rifles. Your story is interesting but I doubt the "N" is Navy.

    The "script" P was used by both RIA and SA - RIA until the end of production in 1919 and Springfield until somewhere in the 1913-1915 date range. The stock with the small "S" on the foretip is definitely Springfield. Of course, after the rifle left the Rock Island Armory, hard to tell where it went or what happened to it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick the Librarianicon View Post
    That's the thing - no way to know exactly what happened with these rifles. Your story is interesting but I doubt the "N" is Navy. * * *
    Well, two things: first, I doubt it's a sub-inspector's stamp, because if it were we'd be able to find other images of it on other 1903s. I can't image a sub-inspector's stamp being singular to only one 1903 after a rebuild or even just re-stocking. We'd have seen it used before. And if not "Navy," what else might it stand for?

    Second, typically sub-inspector stamps are smaller, unlike like the larger letters you see in cartouche stamps. While not that large, these 'N's are larger than the 's' stamp on the foreend wood and the stamps on the barrel. I'll measure them with my caliper next chance I get.
    Last edited by Nick Adams; 08-10-2018 at 10:51 AM.
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    Actually, I looked through my "archives" and I had a 207,777 RIA, also with a N stamp in the same place. I also checked in C.S. Ferris' book "Rock Island Model 1903" and he states that single letters appeared in the 1917 period on RIA stocks. Obviously, while yours in a Springfield, there is a possibility it was stamped on rebuilds, as well.

    Last edited by Rick the Librarian; 08-10-2018 at 09:42 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick the Librarianicon View Post
    Actually, I looked through my "archives" and I had a 207,777 RIA, also with a N stamp in the same place. I also checked in C.S. Ferris' book "Rock Island Model 1903" and he states that single letters appeared in the 1917 period on RIA stocks. Obviously, while yours in a Springfield, there is a possibility it was stamped on rebuilds, as well.

    https://www.milsurps.com/images/impo...standard-1.jpg
    Awesome follow-up, Rick! - and thanks for the picture!

    Okay, so I guess we can discard my theory that the 'N' stands for 'Navy.'

    So the 'N' would be an Inspector's stamp indicating a rebuild at RIA?

    I guess I'm still not clear on whether the stock on mine is an "upgraded" RIA stock, or a Springfield stock(?).



    Thanks again anyway!

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