Are 1903 S/N's traceable to specific units?

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
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Delaware, OH
#1
I inherited two 1903's (not sure which variant) with original barrels etc., but not stocks. I am having them inspected and repaired if necessary to get shooting again. Both are in non-original stocks and we're used at Camp Perry in the 1950's & 1960's.

The Smith that specializes in building these knows based off S/N that they were USMC rifles in WWII. I have the original bill of sale from right after the war when grandpa bought them at $15 each. I also have all his original National Match competitor books that they all received when competing. Amazing history!

So, if we know what year these were made and that they were Marine rifles, is there a resource for figuring which unit? I'm sure they kept that kind of record, no?



 
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earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
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Delaware, OH
#5
Ha! :p

On the 1903 front, I am interested as well. I have a Rock Island that the SN range puts as manufactured in 1905. It has a HS 1943 barrel on it and I'd love to know where it traveled, so watching this thread :)
Nice! I would love to have a WWI era rifle. I have recently taken a keen interest in USMC WWI history, as my old unit, 3/6 was at Belleau Wood, 100 years ago this month.
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#7
I specialize in Marine NM and especially MArine M1903 snipers. I have thousands of pages of unpublished docs on the MArine team rifles and snipers from the National Archives.

For a Marine rifle to be in the 1.52 range, it really could have only come into the Marines in two ways.

One they received 150 National Match rifles in 1940 for the Marine teams. These seem to be in the mid to high 1.52 range and early 1.53 range. All were National Match rifles with usually 3/39 or 6/39 star guaged barrels. Quite a few of this 1940 shipment would would later become Unertl Snipers post Jan 1943. So I am very familiar with this 1940 shipment as I've seen a lot of these rifles personally in this serial range.

The 2nd way which would be extremely rare, is in the used Navy rifles in 1942. But I would say it would be very, very unlikely, and I'm only throwing it out as an extreme possibility.

Really honestly the only 1.52 rifles that could be MArine, were National Match rifles for the 1940 shipment to the teams. I can't tell by the pic, but are the rails on this 1.52 receiver polished? Also what is the barrel date? If original to the MArines, it should be a 3/39 or 6/39 or a 1938 dated replacement barrel.

I have a lot of MArine sniper serials dancing around this serial. But that does not mean this is a Marine rifle. As the 150 NM rifles for the 1940 shipment are not consecutive. they only fall in a serial range. That is where your documents would come into play. That makes me very curious to see what the receipts that you referencing for him purchasing them.

From the way the one rifle looks now, it does not look like the Marines did the modifications to it. It looks like they were done in the Commercial market.

Also what is the serial on the 2nd rifle? I can compare it to what I have on the Marine NM rifles.
 
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sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
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#10
Just a question on a some neat rifles...

Why would you change them 'back'? True, the modifications may be commerical 1950's... but they weren't hardware store hunting hack-ups. They look like guns with Camp Perry provenance and very important/interesting period accessories! Might turning them back into just another issue rifle destroy some even more unique history of competition during, well, a heyday in rifle shooting?

Great thread and some beautiful guns! Love seeing this history get tracked down.

Sirhr
 

hiramberdan

New Hide Member
Mar 3, 2018
8
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#11
My grandfather started going to Camp Perry around the same time! It is incredible that you have the match programs in such good condition. My own match programs from Perry invariably ended up mangled in my shooting stool during my time there.

I'll be interested to hear more about the research into this rifle's background! I agree with @sirhrmechanic in that this rifle is probably more valuable in its current Camp Perry setup, though I didn't read any intent to change them into an M1942 configuration.

@cplnorton, I see your specialty is USMC rifles, but do you know of a person or resource that could help in researching an M1903A4 rifle?
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
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Delaware, OH
#12
To clarify, these were not purchased from the Government this way. They were original 1903's. Grandad built them into match guns.

I am NOT changing the one shown, which is a higher S/N anyway. The 15xxxxx rifle is in a lefty Hunter stock, but has original barrel and sights. That one I want to put back to a 1903 style stock.

I agree, the 1950's & 60's Camp Perry comp rifle, if he did indeed shoot this one pictured there, is cool and historical.

I have every last doodad from the Natl Match competitor kits from 1959-1968.
 
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earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#13
I have never been to Camp Perry, even though I am from and live in Ohio. 😟
I honestly don't know what to do with them other than shoot them. I thought to see if CP has a history museum?
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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48
Delaware, OH
#16
I specialize in Marine NM and especially MArine M1903 snipers. I have thousands of pages of unpublished docs on the MArine team rifles and snipers from the National Archives.

For a Marine rifle to be in the 1.52 range, it really could have only come into the Marines in two ways.

One they received 150 National Match rifles in 1940 for the Marine teams. These seem to be in the mid to high 1.52 range and early 1.53 range. All were National Match rifles with usually 3/39 or 6/39 star guaged barrels. Quite a few of this 1940 shipment would would later become Unertl Snipers post Jan 1943. So I am very familiar with this 1940 shipment as I've seen a lot of these rifles personally in this serial range.

The 2nd way which would be extremely rare, is in the used Navy rifles in 1942. But I would say it would be very, very unlikely, and I'm only throwing it out as an extreme possibility.

Really honestly the only 1.52 rifles that could be MArine, were National Match rifles for the 1940 shipment to the teams. I can't tell by the pic, but are the rails on this 1.52 receiver polished? Also what is the barrel date? If original to the MArines, it should be a 3/39 or 6/39 or a 1938 dated replacement barrel.

I have a lot of MArine sniper serials dancing around this serial. But that does not mean this is a Marine rifle. As the 150 NM rifles for the 1940 shipment are not consecutive. they only fall in a serial range. That is where your documents would come into play. That makes me very curious to see what the receipts that you referencing for him purchasing them.

From the way the one rifle looks now, it does not look like the Marines did the modifications to it. It looks like they were done in the Commercial market.

Also what is the serial on the 2nd rifle? I can compare it to what I have on the Marine NM rifles.
I'll send you a PM today. Thanks for the assistance. The S/N's are 152xxxx and the one shown with the scope is 407xxxx.

Found a local guy who used to work for Unertl that is going to take a look at the scope for me. He's laid-up with medical issues but said he'd be back at it in September. I have the original wooden box and sales receipt for this scope too. Bought in 1949 for $80!
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#17
The 1.52 is consecutive to a known Marine NM rifle that was also made into a Unertl sniper.

On yours it should really show traits of a NM to be Marine. If it does show traits of a NM, the Marines received 150 NM for the 1940 season. These rifles were used in competition by the Active and reserve rifle teams. They were assembled at Frankford Arsenal according to the docs.

Not all these rifles would have been used as the team members usually were issued 2 or 3 rifles, so they had spares in the competitions if one went down. AT the end of the season, all NM rifles were returned to the Philly Depot and checked. If the barrel needed replaced, they were replaced with a standard barrel and became known as a Marine Special Target rifle. Which they no longer at that point were used by the Active or Reserve team. They were sat aside for all Marine competitions such as the Elliot Cup.

The 4.07 million rifle would actually be a 1903A3. Which I would be curious if you have documentation that this rifle was purchased off the Marines. In the Marine documents, they state that the only 1903's they received in WWII were the ones off the Navy in 1942. But they also state that these were all used rifles in terrible shape. So none of those should have been a 03A3. As the MArines had received all those rifles off the Navy before the 03A3s were really coming out. So it really seems the MArines never received any 03A3's in WWII.

Sometime I would love to see the pics of the 1.52. I have pics of a lot of them around that serial that I could share.

Thank you for the time and info sir.
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#18
The 1.52 is consecutive to a known Marine NM rifle that was also made into a Unertl sniper.

On yours it should really show traits of a NM to be Marine. If it does show traits of a NM, the Marines received 150 NM for the 1940 season. These rifles were used in competition by the Active and reserve rifle teams. They were assembled at Frankford Arsenal according to the docs.

Not all these rifles would have been used as the team members usually were issued 2 or 3 rifles, so they had spares in the competitions if one went down. AT the end of the season, all NM rifles were returned to the Philly Depot and checked. If the barrel needed replaced, they were replaced with a standard barrel and became known as a Marine Special Target rifle. Which they no longer at that point were used by the Active or Reserve team. They were sat aside for all Marine competitions such as the Elliot Cup.

The 4.07 million rifle would actually be a 1903A3. Which I would be curious if you have documentation that this rifle was purchased off the Marines. In the Marine documents, they state that the only 1903's they received in WWII were the ones off the Navy in 1942. But they also state that these were all used rifles in terrible shape. So none of those should have been a 03A3. As the MArines had received all those rifles off the Navy before the 03A3s were really coming out. So it really seems the MArines never received any 03A3's in WWII.

Sometime I would love to see the pics of the 1.52. I have pics of a lot of them around that serial that I could share.

Thank you for the time and info sir.
I can get photos tomorrow. The gunsmith called today and said the receivers are good, but both barrels should be replaced. He says they are very eroded and/or shot out. Said probably due to corrosive ammo used back in the day.

The 152xxxx rifle in the left Sporter stock, I want to get back into a period correct stock.

The 407xxxx rifle with the, I'll call Camp Perry barrel, and scope, I want to keep as-is. Should I replace the barrel though, so I can get her shooting again? Would this somehow ,"cheapen" the history of this rifle?
 

FatBoy

Chris Hayes, Nashville TN
Jul 29, 2001
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#19
The 407xxxx rifle with the, I'll call Camp Perry barrel, and scope, I want to keep as-is. Should I replace the barrel though, so I can get her shooting again? Would this somehow ,"cheapen" the history of this rifle?
IMO, replacing the barrel won't cheapen it. Your Grandfather was a competitor, and EVERY competitor I know would rebarrel. The choice becomes 1) do I re-blue and 2) do I change calibers? Guess you need to ask yourself what he would do, or would he want you to make it yours and do it up the way you like?

Personally, I would go with a period correct barrel in the same profile and chambering (maybe tweak it for modern bullets) and I would have the barrel blue like the one currently fit. I would bet it's a chromoly Douglas, which you can still buy and they shoot great. 30-06 with 168 BHs or a 200-20x is a wicked beast that can run with just about anything if you can drive it.

IMO, bluing is a skill most guys who bake Ceracoat don't have. It's also dangerous and should be left to an expert. Do some research on who can do the bluing if you go that route. I would bet Sirhr has someone one speed dial. (if he doesn't do his own)
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#20
On the 4.07, I don't think rebarreling will hurt that one. I would just keep the old barrel just for the history of it. But that rifle to me is more of a shooter, and would be worth more in that aspect.

Now the 1.52 is a totally different monster. If very much depends on what it actually is. IF you would post pics of it, showing the barrel date, the inside of the receiver, and stuff like that. That can determine if you should leave it alone or not.

If it is a National Match you will destroy any value it has by rebarreling it. And if it is a former Marine National Match, you are talking even more money.

Anything collectible would be worth a lot more even with a shot out barrel than a replaced one.
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#21
The other thing as well. I have seen a lot of M1903 barrels look like sewer pipes and then when you actually shoot them, they shoot better than you can do with them anyways.

My suggestion. First figure out excactly what you have before you do anything. Second actually go shoot them. Put them on paper and see how they actually group. I guarantee they will probably shoot just fine. Third, most gunsmiths know jack crap about military firearms.

I don't trust most gunsmiths. They just don't see these rifles, so they know very little about them. I wouldn't really advise you listen to his advise without investigating a lot more.

Personally even without seeing the barrels. I would find the correct style stock for the 1.52 and other than that, I would just keep them oiled and shoot them when you feel like it to honor your grandfather.

I would bet a good amount of money you will be surprised how well they shoot.
 

sandwarrior

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 21, 2007
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#22
You were talking about 1903's getting modified for competition. This is one of those famous gunsmiths who did this, A.O. Niedner:
https://www.gunbroker.com/item/778752814

I want to point out this auction is to see what competitors did back in the day. Not that I endorse paying this much for a low number 1903. Although, since I'm pretty sure this rifle has had thousands of round through it, it won't be a danger with any light target load.
 
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kraigWY

CMP GSM MI
Feb 10, 2006
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#23
how can one destroy the value of Grandpa's rifle, Its priceless to start with. He was a competitor so I would be willing to bet he would love to see his son compete with the rifle, if that warrants a barrel change, so be it.

It would not lesson, in my opinion, the value to a family member, now or to furtuer family members.
 
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earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
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Delaware, OH
#24
The other thing as well. I have seen a lot of M1903 barrels look like sewer pipes and then when you actually shoot them, they shoot better than you can do with them anyways.

My suggestion. First figure out excactly what you have before you do anything. Second actually go shoot them. Put them on paper and see how they actually group. I guarantee they will probably shoot just fine. Third, most gunsmiths know jack crap about military firearms.

I don't trust most gunsmiths. They just don't see these rifles, so they know very little about them. I wouldn't really advise you listen to his advise without investigating a lot more.

Personally even without seeing the barrels. I would find the correct style stock for the 1.52 and other than that, I would just keep them oiled and shoot them when you feel like it to honor your grandfather.

I would bet a good amount of money you will be surprised how well they shoot.
Here are photos of the 152xxxx rifle you asked for. I just got it back from the local guy who builds Camp Perry rifles. He gave them a thorough inspection for me. Both are gtg except for the barrels.

 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#26
I also noticed there's a difference in the left side of the top of the actions between the two rifles, seen I this photo.

The heavy barreled rifle with scope mounts (407xxxx) has this area "shaved/contoured" a bit more than the one on the left with the sights. The bolt handle is also altered, to clear the scope.
 

sandwarrior

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 21, 2007
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#28
earthquake,

Interesting note on the diffeences in the left sides of actions. If you have a depth guage (use the drop point on your calipers if you've got some), can you measure the differences from the closed bolt up to the top of the charging cut and from the bolt up to the left side rail of the rifles?

The pics show the differences, but the bolt seems to be the same height across both rifles. Again, me seeing the pics not how it really is.
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#29
Looking at them, I don't think you will hurt either on value if you rebarreled them. But like I said, go shoot them first and see how they group. I almost bet a large sum of money they will be fine.

Also out of morbid curiosity, what is the barrel date on the 1.52? It should have a date under the front sight, like a 3/39 SA.
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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48
Delaware, OH
#30
Looking at them, I don't think you will hurt either on value if you rebarreled them. But like I said, go shoot them first and see how they group. I almost bet a large sum of money they will be fine.

Also out of morbid curiosity, what is the barrel date on the 1.52? It should have a date under the front sight, like a 3/39 SA.
Yes, 3-39 SA with the logo.
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#34
The SRS won't be able to tell you anything on this particular serial. I have all of their records and already looked.



Isn't that Blue Star Arsenal, or similar. A 1980's 90's reimporter?

Cheers,

Sirhr

That is the star guaged muzzle stamp of the 1940 NM order. His rifle is consectuive to a NM that was shipped to the Marines in 1940. All the 1940 NM's I've seen have had a 3/39 or 6/39 barrel date. The stars on the 1940 shipment are different than the earlier ones. The reasoning it seems most likely in the documents, these NM rifles were put together at Frankford Arsenal instead of Springfield. I'm guessing Springfield was on Garand Production and had Frankford put together the last shipments of NM rifles in 1940.

Now the rifle above he posted pics of, the receiver does not have the NM polished rails. But maybe if his grandfather had it refinished. If refnished the only tale of a NM rifle would be that star stamp at the muzzle, and the star record number on the top of the barrel. That number would be a letter followed by a number. Like say a N 353 or M 2456. Something like that.

But if the rifle doesn't have a star stamp at the muzzle and the star record number on the top of the barrel, then it wouldn't be a refinished NM.
 
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Apr 28, 2012
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#36
Yeah what to look for in a National match is first the polished rails and follower of a NM. LIke this.

P1240048_zpsd4ziwz8r.jpg

Then if the barrel is the original star guaged barrel. Which all that meant was they used a tool to make sure the barrel was close to straight as possible. It had this mark at the muzzle. The left one is the earlier version you see the most often. The one of the right I've only seen on the 1940 shipment for some reason.

1903a1 sniper1.jpg

Then this is the star gauge record number under the handguard. This is a Letter followed up by a number. At one time you could have have got a card of how the barrel guaged at SA. This was the number that corresponded with that record. This isn't the best pic. There is a letter and number. I think it was a G and 1059

P1280947.JPG
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#39
Yes, there is this mark on the end of the barrel on the 152xxxx rifle.
Star Gauge Mark meaning that the barrel was individually QC controlled.

It doesnt really mean there was any difference in manufacturing from a standard service issue barrel but it does mean that it was pulled from production, gauged to meet a tight spec than marked accordingly.

Likely quite a few service barrels could pass a star gauge but they were never "certified".
 
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pmclaine

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Nov 6, 2011
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#41
There was just a CMP or Jouster post I was reading about the "P" on the underside of the barrel and it was noted in an extremely nice NRA Rifle someone had bought.

Reminds me of a proof "P" but that was usually stamped at the wrist of the stock.

I think the NRA guns were teens and twentys though.

CPL Norton will have more to say on those photos.
 
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earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
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Delaware, OH
#42
All markings I posted are on top of the barrel.
I have another barrel that is not on a rifle, and it's only mark is the 'P'. Not sure what it is....no identification anywhere else on it.
 
Apr 28, 2012
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#44
Thank you for the additional photos. That helps a lot.

Your rifle does indeed have a star guaged barrel and with that serial number I do believe your 1.52 rifle was a National Match and one put together for the 1940 NM season.

The rails on your rifle are not polished. But looking at your barrel several of the marking are very light. Especially the SA on the barrel. It appears likely that your rifle was at one time refinished and might have been buffed some. Another way to tell a refinish, several of those stampings should be in the white, and are not.

I think that is why your rails don't show the NM polishing. If you take a NM and refinish it. All you would see is the NM markings on the barrel. That would be the only clue, if the original stock was gone, and bolt swapped.

But your rifle is literally one digit off a known Marine 1940 NM rifle. So that is very good company.

On the P mark on the barrel, usually on the 1940 shipment, it is in the area of the barrel that is visible on the front band. Usually on the earlier ones it is under the handugard. I've seen some weird ones both ways though. But it just means it successfully fired a high PSI proof round and didn't fail.
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#45
Visited Camp Perry today. Very cool place!
I am a bit dismayed however at the lack of 1903 stuff....TONS of M1 rifles and parts, but almost zero for the 03's. 😔

Tracking down parts and a parts list for a C stock is going to be difficult. I couldn't find anyone that had any real knowledge of the 03's or what went on here in the 50' & 60's when granddad competed here.
 

pmclaine

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Nov 6, 2011
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#46
The Minelli C stock repros are thought to be the best right now.

I have a NOS pre-war that I paid a big dollar for a few years ago that Im intending to fit on one of my rifles I just need to get around to it.

All my 03s have pre war Cs from Springfield. They are may I say it "elegant".

The Keystone C's are a sturdy good shooters stock but they are fat through the wrist and elsewhere. Read my sig line and they dont fit the description. Its like the Keystones started stealing food from the Garand.

Another site I was on is having a "hey show me yours and Ill show you mine" contest right now.

This was my contribution...
P7268021.JPG

If you buy anything at Perry get yourself a reproduction or an original PJ Ohare sight micrometer.

You can not accurately and repeatedly use the ladder sight on an '03 without one. This is an SBS Sales repro. Originals can be found on Ebay.

P8117005.JPG

The sight micrometer is considered a necessity by me, and everyone except my friends, family and people I meet in the flesh, always listen to me.
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#47
Amazing collection @pmclaine !

The only thing in the CMP store at Perry 1903 related was a new incomplete C stock without the hardware. A few of the vendors had boxes full of miscellaneous pieces for the actions and front sights etc.

I think I need to find a book or website listing all the stuff I need, because at this point, I have no idea. This is going to be a fun project.
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
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#48
Include a complete picture of the rifle, stem to stern, and the forum can tell you what you need and should you do it.

My shop had a dozen 03s in the rack last time I was there.

You would be better having me pick you out a complete rifle and you buy it from my shop.
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#49
Include a complete picture of the rifle, stem to stern, and the forum can tell you what you need and should you do it.

My shop had a dozen 03s in the rack last time I was there.

You would be better having me pick you out a complete rifle and you buy it from my shop.
Didn't know you had a shop!
If you look at post #24 above, that's the rifle. Posts #25-27 have close ups of the receiver etc. If you need more or better, let me know. Thanks!
 

earthquake

Gunny Sergeant
Jul 30, 2009
1,552
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Delaware, OH
#50
So another question....if the 152xxxx rifle was a 1940 NM rifle, what stock would they have used? Original C or some modern (at the time) variant?

I want 152 in a original or replica C stock as it would have come from the factory....unless the NM rifles were delivered to the teams in something else(?)

The 407 rifle I am keeping as-is, but will rebarrel, if necessary, with a similar barrel.

CMP folks filled me in on their vintage sniper matches, which seems like a lot of fun! Though this 20x Unertl is above the 8x magnification limit.
 
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