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  1. #1
    Contributing Member METT-T's Avatar
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    RIA 1903 381XXX. Good? Bad? Ugly.

    I'll let the pictures tell the tale. Please let me know if I should include any other pics and thanks in advance for any information.



    Bolt is marked J6, forgot to take a picture.

    Now the ugly.



    The stock is badly cracked.

    And then this little guy. I have a protector for the front sight as well but I need to find it. Don't remember what the markings are. I can't find a pic of one of these that has the U S stamped.



    I purchased the rifle with sling, sight protectors, and uncut bayonet around eight years ago, I think, for around $700.

    I guess my questions are 1. Is this just a rebuilt parts gun or could it be an intact barreled receiver? 2. Is the stock worth doing anything with or should I look for another one and, if so, what would be suitable? 3. Any insight on the sight protector, any record of these being issued items?
    Last edited by METT-T; 12-22-2021 at 09:25 PM.

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    Advisory Panel browningautorifle's Avatar
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    Well, the bayonet may be worth at least one third of what you paid... It's seen hard times hasn't it? Still there it is, you at least have one. Stock can be had... Slings can sell for over a hundred in any shape.
    Regards, Jim

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    Contributing Member METT-T's Avatar
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    Thanks Jim, I made an edit with some more specific questions. I figured I was getting my money's worth, or close to it, when I bought the set. The underlying - faint - hope is that it might be a Springfield-assembled RIA receiver that somehow stayed together through the rebuild given the ordnance bomb punch mark, barrel date, and serial. I've read what I could find online and don't really have a clear idea if that would be possible.

    It's an almost comically brutal stock repair. Looks like something I'd do with some deck screws.

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    I look at those really old and worn ones and wonder if they're actually a reconstituted drill rifle. There are tells if it were and you'd likely have noticed. Hard to say about the barrel receiver assembly. I doubt they're original though.
    Regards, Jim

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    Legacy Member 1903Collector's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by METT-T View Post
    I'll let the pictures tell the tale. Please let me know if I should include any other pics and thanks in advance for any information.

    Attachment 122368Attachment 122369Attachment 122370Attachment 122371Attachment 122372Attachment 122373Attachment 122374Attachment 122375

    Bolt is marked J6, forgot to take a picture.

    Now the ugly.

    Attachment 122376

    The stock is badly cracked.

    And then this little guy. I have a protector for the front sight as well but I need to find it. Don't remember what the markings are. I can't find a pic of one of these that has the U S stamped.

    Attachment 122377

    I purchased the rifle with sling, sight protectors, and uncut bayonet around eight years ago, I think, for around $700.

    I guess my questions are 1. Is this just a rebuilt parts gun or could it be an intact barreled receiver? 2. Is the stock worth doing anything with or should I look for another one and, if so, what would be suitable? 3. Any insight on the sight protector, any record of these being issued items?
    sight protector were used by the NM rifles along with the O'Hare front sight protector. Ive never seen them on anything but a 1922 - 1939 SA 1903A1 NM rifle. It was not USGI issue, but used by the competition team members for meets at Camp Perry, etc.
    Stock repair looks robust. It looks serviceable and ANY '03 finger groove stock is worth salvaging if possible. They are THAT precisions! Inspect the face of the fore end of the stock, and if it is marked "RI" you have what I consider to be a very rare and hard to find RIA S Stock from 1917 or later ($$$, even with the repair!)
    Your rifle (or at least the stock) has been thru the Augusta Arsenal for post WWII rework and inspection. That explains the few incorrect parts. The barrel is normally found on a 1927 or later SA 1903A1 rifle. I find SA barrels from 1922 thru 1939 VERY desirable. They are some of the best in the world. Even if they dont have the star mark at the 6 o'clock position of the crown they were gauged and passed, they just werent among the (what we would call today) AQL sampled) marked barrels. Ive never seen one mounted to a late 1918 RIA receiver out of any arsenal, but its possible it was installed at Augusta.

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    Contributing Member METT-T's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1903Collector View Post
    sight protector were used by the NM rifles along with the O'Hare front sight protector. Ive never seen them on anything but a 1922 - 1939 SA 1903A1 NM rifle. It was not USGI issue, but used by the competition team members for meets at Camp Perry, etc.
    Stock repair looks robust. It looks serviceable and ANY '03 finger groove stock is worth salvaging if possible. They are THAT precisions! Inspect the face of the fore end of the stock, and if it is marked "RI" you have what I consider to be a very rare and hard to find RIA S Stock from 1917 or later ($$$, even with the repair!)
    Your rifle (or at least the stock) has been thru the Augusta Arsenal for post WWII rework and inspection. That explains the few incorrect parts. The barrel is normally found on a 1927 or later SA 1903A1 rifle. I find SA barrels from 1922 thru 1939 VERY desirable. They are some of the best in the world. Even if they dont have the star mark at the 6 o'clock position of the crown they were gauged and passed, they just werent among the (what we would call today) AQL sampled) marked barrels. Ive never seen one mounted to a late 1918 RIA receiver out of any arsenal, but its possible it was installed at Augusta.
    OK, great, thank you! The stock has no marks on the nose. The only stamps I can make out other than the AAP are what looks like a faint "F" to the left of the AAP, a number "4" in front of the magazine floorplate, a "36" on the bottom of the toe of the stock behind the rear sling mount (rack number?), and the stamps on the wrist by the stock repair (a circle "P", and number "7", and something that's been obliterated by the screw). ETA: Missed what looks like an "O" stamp in the cutoff recess.

    Could that stock repair have happened at Augusta Arsenal? The Arsenal stock repairs I see are so much cleaner, I immediately assume that's a home job, but the repair is old and I see mentions of brass screws being used by armorers...here's a picture of the split from the side.



    So leave it be, or is it a candidate for a talented gunsmith to do a cleaner repair?

    Again, my knowledge on the subject is no deeper than a few hours of reading online resources and forum posts. My hopeful theory was based on this:

    1. I understand the serial number is in the range of RIA receivers that were shipped to Springfield and completed as rifles in 1928ish.

    2. Those rifles would be completed with 1927-dated SA barrels - check.

    3. The punch prick in the ordnance bomb on the barrel indicated a barrel that had been proof-tested as part of an assembled rifle.

    I've never fired this rifle as I wasn't sure about the stock. Doing a safe clean-out and I'm trying to decide whether to hold on to it, correct some parts, shoot it, get another 1903 as a shooter, push it down the road if it's just a gun with a couple desirable parts...
    Last edited by METT-T; 12-23-2021 at 12:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by METT-T View Post
    Could that stock repair have happened at Augusta Arsenal?
    That's a home repair.

    Quote Originally Posted by METT-T View Post
    So leave it be, or is it a candidate for a talented gunsmith to do a cleaner repair?
    A gunsmith may make it worse, there'd be lots to do and hide. You'll likely never hide all that repair.
    Regards, Jim

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    Legacy Member 1903Collector's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by METT-T View Post
    OK, great, thank you! The stock has no marks on the nose. The only stamps I can make out other than the AAP are what looks like a faint "F" to the left of the AAP, a number "4" in front of the magazine floorplate, a "36" on the bottom of the toe of the stock behind the rear sling mount (rack number?), and the stamps on the wrist by the stock repair (a circle "P", and number "7", and something that's been obliterated by the screw). ETA: Missed what looks like an "O" stamp in the cutoff recess.

    Could that stock repair have happened at Augusta Arsenal? The Arsenal stock repairs I see are so much cleaner, I immediately assume that's a home job, but the repair is old and I see mentions of brass screws being used by armorers...here's a picture of the split from the side.

    Attachment 122378

    So leave it be, or is it a candidate for a talented gunsmith to do a cleaner repair?

    Again, my knowledge on the subject is no deeper than a few hours of reading online resources and forum posts. My hopeful theory was based on this:

    1. I understand the serial number is in the range of RIA receivers that were shipped to Springfield and completed as rifles in 1928ish.

    2. Those rifles would be completed with 1927-dated SA barrels - check.

    3. The punch prick in the ordnance bomb on the barrel indicated a barrel that had been proof-tested as part of an assembled rifle.

    I've never fired this rifle as I wasn't sure about the stock. Doing a safe clean-out and I'm trying to decide whether to hold on to it, correct some parts, shoot it, get another 1903 as a shooter, push it down the road if it's just a gun with a couple desirable parts...

    KEEPING IT OR NOT HAS TO BE A PERSONAL PREFERENCE THING.

    BUT, assuming the ME & TE measures within limits and the head spacing is good, that is a damn good barrel...and its a WWI RIA receiver...and the stock repair...well, it would not bother me (and Ive got 14 '03s in my collection and Im sitting on 82 others that I sell for funds when when I see something I want on GB that will improve my collection of 85 long arms (and counting) from WWI, WWII & Cold War conflicts...good and bad guys!)

    Ive got a soft spot for type 2 thru 5 S-Stocks (type designations per Harrison) and yours is clearly a type 4 (SA & RIA used from 1917 until date of end of type 4 inventory). Many type 4 S-Stocks were actually manufactured as type 3 stocks (the so-called "high-wood") that were altered to "low-wood" (type 4) before being married to a barreled receiver. The "tell" is the sharpish corners in the transition from the comb to the wrist that was changed to a softer, wider angled transition from comb to wrist in the type 5 stocks.

    The single number or letter stamps above the trigger guard are inspector stamps from different steps in the assembly process. The P is of course the proofing stamp and since its a circle around a san-serif "P" it is almost certainly an RIA proofing mark. If the circle is 7/16" dia then IT IS the original RIA proofing stamp. Most stocks were fully "boned" when rebuilt or repaired at an arsenal (meaning all previous stamps obliterated by sanding), but some were only partially boned and some were missed altogether! Rifles rebuilt or repaired at an arsenal were not always given a proofing stamp, so if completely boned there would be none.
    I dont see an "F" to the left of the AAP and the letter F does not correspond to any stampings normally located in that area that I know of. The "36" on the bottom of the toe of the stock behind the rear sling mount is not likely a rack number...another inspector's stamp maybe, or ??? The "O" stamp in the cutoff recess is correct since there is no other valid character on record used there that looks anything like an "O". It indicates the manufacturer or factory, Im not sure which.

    I strongly feel the stock repair was a done by an owner and not at the Augusta Arsenal. Remember the repair and rework was done post-war and there was a countless supply of brand new S, Scant and C Stocks available. In any case, an arsenal stock repair, if they bothered to repair it at all rather than just replace it, would have been much better dome. Personally, Id be more comfortable if the second screw were further way from the trigger guard since the break goes much further and a screw located further along the break would sandwich far more wood on both sides and thereby be stronger. However, Id be surprised if there wasnt a glue of some sort used, so the current screw locations may not be an issue.

    If the majority of the break was glued, as I suspect it was, then there is little, if any chance to "redo" the stock. There would be more chance of completely ruining what is otherwise a decent and somewhat rare stock than achieving a "cleaner repair". Ive recovered and repaired scores of stocks, mostly '03 and M1icon Carbines, and though I would not call myself a professional, I do have some talent with wood and have recovered a number of "hopeless cases" in the past. Im pretty confident in my assessment of the stock repair.

    I have never seen or read anything indicating that RIA receivers which had serial numbers stamped in the RIA 1918 SN range (289900 - 322747) on them were shipped to SA. In fact, RIA continued to build '03s into 1920 stopping somewhere after sn 430742. However, there WERE blank or WIP RIA receivers shipped to Springfield sometime AFTER the RIA '03 line was mothballed, but they were stamped with an SA SN within the SA SN range of the year when they became an actual rifle. Ive got one, its an RIA stamped receiver with a 1928 SA SN of 1292xxx. Unfortunately it was re-barreled at some point with a 1944 SA barrel.

    The punch prick in the ordnance bomb on the barrel indicating that the barrel had been proof-tested as part of an assembled rifle may not necessarily be a rifle with that RIA receiver. It is more likely that the barrel was removed from a different receiver at some point and was your receiver was re-barreled with it by a private owner at some point. HOWEVER, is it also possible that when older '03s still in US inventory were re-built and re-issued early in WWII that the SA 1927 barrel was an inventory spare that was barreled to your receiver. It is hard to say and you may never know. I gave a quick study of the one pic that shows both the receiver and a little bit of the rear sight body and the patia and wear looks a little different. That is one method of verification, but not at all conclusive and does not preclude the later scenario that the SA 1927 was the actual NOW barrel installed for re-issue for WWII.

    So, for what it is worth, were it me, and if I didnt have a collection that already includes a decent representative of a WWI 1918 RIA rifle (SA 1927 barrel not withstanding), Id correct the few parts needed to make it correct "as-issued" foe WWI, or consider it a WWII reissue, a likely WWII veteran, and certainly a likely post WWII re-arsenaled rifle that was probably loaned to one of our NATO allies and returned, and shoot it!

    In any case, Id keep it until I acquire a better example of WWI RIA rifle that is all or mostly "as-issued", or Id find a RIA 1918 barrel, switch it with the current one and sell the SA 27 for between $300 - 450 (but good luck finding a better WWI RIA rifle with an RIA S-Stock or a decent RIA 1918 barrel for a reasonable price! There may be some out there, eventually, but few and far between!) There is A LOT of history there in your rifle!

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