Surprised by the accuracy of the 03-A4 Springfield

E.Maker

Private
Minuteman
Apr 4, 2019
42
40
24
Happened to get the urge to collect 1903 Springfields for some reason, and am really surprised by the accuracy I am getting.

I picked up an 03-A4 (a genuine one), made by Remington, with an original Weaver 2.5x scope. I did take the scope off and put in in the safe, and replaced it with a Hi-Lux replica. The original scope's clarity had much to be desired.

Regardless, I started shooting factory Winchester Victory 30-06 155gr ammo. Was getting 2-3" groups @ 100 yards. About 2-3 MOA. Expected I thought.

Then I started handloading for the 03-A4 using measurements from the fired brass, using H4350 powder, and Hornady 175 ELD bullets.

After the powder load was worked up, I was surprised that I now was achieving 0.75" groups at 100. 0.75 MOA. Not three shots. Not 5 shots. Multiple 5 shot groups. 0.75 MOA, consistently. About 1/10 shots I would through one out, maybe increasing the group size to 1.5".

I was surprised to say the least. Sub MOA accuracy from a 03 rifle. Makes me want to bring the gun out to a precision rifle course.

Ephram M.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dougie308

Sooter76

Private
Belligerents
Sep 14, 2012
169
31
34
43
Savannah, GA
I had started working up a load from a faux-a4 I had built from a reclaimed receiver. It has a vintage 2 groove barrel and with my first mix of powder and 168gr Sierra MatchKing pills I got 1.2 MOA. Not bad for a starting point. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards the Army decided I needed to deploy. I’ll start up again in another month.

But yes, these old warhorses have more potential than what mass produced during wartime military loads were capable of showing. The low power scopes and ammo were always the weak links.
 
  • Like
Reactions: E.Maker

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
203
182
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
Yeah initially ordnance only required them to be able to achieve 3MOA to pass, but they actually turned out pretty decent for a mass produced sniper.

I've compared mine to an Original USMC Unertl Sniper and the Unertl doesn't do that much better than the A4.

Really the only compalaints I've seen on them in the Army files, were of course of the scopes. They requested thumbscrews on the scope so it could easily be detached, and some type of backup iron sights be applied to the rifle. They were having trouble in the field with snipers damaging the scopes and then the rifle was useless without backup iron sights.
 
  • Like
Reactions: E.Maker

E.Maker

Private
Minuteman
Apr 4, 2019
42
40
24
Yeah initially ordnance only required them to be able to achieve 3MOA to pass, but they actually turned out pretty decent for a mass produced sniper.

I've compared mine to an Original USMC Unertl Sniper and the Unertl doesn't do that much better than the A4.

Really the only compalaints I've seen on them in the Army files, were of course of the scopes. They requested thumbscrews on the scope so it could easily be detached, and some type of backup iron sights be applied to the rifle. They were having trouble in the field with snipers damaging the scopes and then the rifle was useless without backup iron sights.
Definitely a fragile optics system.

There is something about these 1903's though that are just very fun to shoot. Though not as robust as our modern precision rifles, and certainly not as accurate, they do seem to have more of a "soul".

Thanks for your post!

Ephram
 
  • Like
Reactions: cplnorton

Dougie308

Sergeant
Belligerents
Jul 28, 2011
688
564
99
St. Louis, MO
I have an 03 that I inherited that looks like it has been through three wars. However, like you I was very pleasantly surprsed by the accuracy even with SOP ladder sights. I have only shot it at 100 yards and from a rest, but it was pretty easy to keep under a 2 inch

Happened to get the urge to collect 1903 Springfields for some reason, and am really surprised by the accuracy I am getting.

I picked up an 03-A4 (a genuine one), made by Remington, with an original Weaver 2.5x scope. I did take the scope off and put in in the safe, and replaced it with a Hi-Lux replica. The original scope's clarity had much to be desired.

Regardless, I started shooting factory Winchester Victory 30-06 155gr ammo. Was getting 2-3" groups @ 100 yards. About 2-3 MOA. Expected I thought.

Then I started handloading for the 03-A4 using measurements from the fired brass, using H4350 powder, and Hornady 175 ELD bullets.

After the powder load was worked up, I was surprised that I now was achieving 0.75" groups at 100. 0.75 MOA. Not three shots. Not 5 shots. Multiple 5 shot groups. 0.75 MOA, consistently. Abo with five round groups.spotut 1/10 shots I would through one out, maybe increasing the group size to 1.5".

I was surprised to say the least. Sub MOA accuracy from a 03 rifle. Makes me want to bring the gun out to a precision rifle course.

Ephram M.
 
  • Like
Reactions: E.Maker

Sooter76

Private
Belligerents
Sep 14, 2012
169
31
34
43
Savannah, GA
Outside of not being sealed well I’m not sure how fragile the 2.5x scopes were. They seem pretty robust in terms of maintaining zero and it’s worth pointing out that they went through more abuse than probably any scope system that came after the Korean War.

Now the Uterl scopes are a different matter and do seem to be much less robust in terms of maintaining zero.
 
  • Like
Reactions: E.Maker

kraigWY

CMP GSM MI
Belligerents
Feb 10, 2006
2,279
118
169
71
Wyoming
My homemade 'A4 with Hi-Lux scope worked ok, the windage was mine. SC action, 1942 surplus barrel.

 
  • Like
Reactions: E.Maker

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
203
182
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
Now the Uterl scopes are a different matter and do seem to be much less robust in terms of maintaining zero.

Even though this is stated in all the books and online, when we pulled all the unpublished documents out of the National Archives for the snipers, this actually was found to be most likely a case of mistaken identity.

During WWII, the Marine Corps fielded a large number of the leftover WWI Winchester A5 scopes. Because of a lack of official terminology at the time to distinguish between the A5 and the Unertl, most of the field reports only stated they had problems with the M1903 Sniper scope.

The main report that basically condemned the new Unertl Production and is where all the rumors of the Unertl scope not being satisfactory came from the Marine Raiders on Bougainville. It is unlikely the Raiders even had the Unertl and actually had the 80 new made A5 snipers they had received in 1942.

Every report thereafter that details the Unertl scope by name, including on Saipan and Okinawa, declared it very satisfactory in combat. This is repeated again in 1950 when the 8X Unertl was tested against the M82 on the M1C and M73B1 on the 1903A4.

The Unertl was declared an excelllent scope by the Marines but the M1903 that was under it was declared a problem. The Marine M1903 Snipers were getting worn out and parts were running low. Also the Marines were not running a real sniper school at this time, and they state the 1000 yard effective range of the Unertl Sniper vs the 600 yard range of the Army M1C, really made no difference.

The Marine firing it, wasn't trained to shoot at a 1000 yards. So because of a supply of parts mostly, and all current Marines being more familiar with the M1 over the M1903, the M1C was chosen for Korea.

The Marines though in that 1950 report hated the M82 and that is what lead to the Development of the Kollmorgen scope. The Marines at the same time condemned the M73B1 saying it was more suited for a small bore rifle than the heavier 30CAL round.

Everything I have read even into Vietnam has named the Unertl scope a good scope that held it's zero well. The only complaint I really ever see on them is waterproofing, which I see on every scope, and crosshairs broke. Otherwise all I have really read was very positive.

For all intensive purposes, in the Army files for the 1903A4 sniper, they were basically done by 1945. The M1C had been adopted and even by that time they realized the M1D was a superior design. So the A4 was just really outdated and was already seen as a filler piece by 1943 when it was first made. As the Army only wanted it till they could get a Garand sniper developed.

There really isn't any evidence of the A4 being used in numbers past 1945. Most of the ones that came back from the war were rebuilt and put into long term storage, and other than random occurrences of being pulled, or used by allied countries in the MAP program. The A4 mostly sat in long term storage. It's still a hell of a rifle though. It just didn't have a very long service life.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Defender3

Defender3

Online Training Member
Hessian
Online Training Access
Belligerents
Mar 8, 2010
239
214
49
NoVA
The Marines at the same time condemned the M73B1 saying it was more suited for a small bore rifle than the heavier 30CAL round.
Can you expound on that statement? Were the Marines advocating for the Kollmorgen so they needed to denigrate others, or were there M73B1 failures?

TIA.
 

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
203
182
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
Can you expound on that statement? Were the Marines advocating for the Kollmorgen so they needed to denigrate others, or were there M73B1 failures?

TIA.
Basically what you see is every time a war happened, the MArines would conduct a trial of all available scopes and rifles, as potential sniper rifles.

Even though all evidence shows they did it in WWI, there was a document purge around 1920 and those docs don't seem to have made it past the shit can. But the sniper rifle trials of 1940 and 1950, I have a copy of those.

Basically what they did was collect all the available commercial scopes of the time and trialed them. Then trialed several types of rifles as well. Then they detailed usually what they thought of each one in a report.

I know in the 1950 trial they tested an A4. IT's been a few years since I read that one, but what I remember they complained about the trigger not being tuned, the stock not being bedded (which is not like actual bedding, but the fitment of the stock and making sure it didn't touch metal and cause erratic shots), and lastly they hated the scope. I remember them saying the M73B1 was horrible but I can't remember if it was in the 1950 or the 1940 trails they mention it's better suited for small bore. After a while all these docs will blend together if you don't go back and re-read them periodically.

I know in the 1940 trial they tested the Weaver 330 and Weaver 440 both, and disqualified them both rather quickly in testing.

But no I don't think they were doing it so they could later choose the Kollmorgen. I think they were literally just beating the hell out of these scopes and seeing which ones held. lol

If I get some time I will go back and try to find those docs. If I find them I will post them for you to see.
 

cplnorton

Private
Belligerents
Apr 28, 2012
203
182
49
39
Van Wert, Ohio
I should state too, the testing of the M73B1 wasn't against the Kollmorgen at that time. The testing of the Kollmorgen came later after the Marines had chosen the M1C as the official Sniper around Nov 1950.

I think it was around late 1951/1952 when the Marines trialed a new scope for the M1C. There were a bunch of commercial scopes tested again and the winner of that trial was the Kollmorgen. But I don't remember the M73B1/Weaver 330 being tested in this trial.
 

Defender3

Online Training Member
Hessian
Online Training Access
Belligerents
Mar 8, 2010
239
214
49
NoVA
Thanks for the replies. I had a M8 on my A4 and then upgraded to a M73B1 when I found the correct series for my A4. I can understand the dislike with the small straight tube and course reticle, and I guess I have to try and think in context of what they were primarily using, the Unertl.
 
  • Like
Reactions: cplnorton