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  #21  
Old 05-31-2020, 10:39 PM
Milsurp Collector Milsurp Collector is offline
 
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Originally Posted by jakhamr81 View Post
Don't want to turn this into another low number safe to shoot debate, as this topic has been covered extensively but I will point out that Cpl Norton has posted plenty of compelling evidence on here including documents from the Ordnance Department declaring them to be considered safe to shoot.
I read the documents you linked to. There is no "compelling evidence" presented at all, just declarations by Lt. Col. B. Whittaker in 1944 and Lt. Col. Boyd L. Bryant in 1952 that they are safe to shoot "when shooting any standard or arsenal loaded ammunition", with no evidence, compelling or otherwise, presented to support the declaration. The fact that low serial number rifles can fire proof rounds or rifle grenades isn't compelling evidence that there isn't a problem if there is a brass failure.

Hatcher's Notebook, specifically Chapter VIII The Strength of Military Rifles, describes the mechanism of failure in low-numbered M1903's. It isn't firing a full power load that causes failure. In the M1903 part of the case near the head is not supported by the chamber. It's part of the Mauser design that the M1903 copied. That area is totally dependent on the strength of the brass case since there is no support from the chamber. If the brass fails in that area high pressure gas - even from a "light load" - is free to escape. A normal receiver can handle it but a brittle receiver can shatter. The incidents that occurred with low-numbered M1903's were believed to be caused by substandard ammo cases failing, not because it was too high pressure.

Hatcher points out that the Krag, which was made with the same "eyeball" method of heat treatment at Springfield Armory, uses a rimmed cartridge that is completely supported by the chamber. That's why Krags didn't have the same problem as M1903's even though some Krag receivers might have had the same poor heat treatment. And he pointed out that John Garand carefully designed his rifle to have a chamber that completely supported the cartridge, and of course the heat treatment methods were much better.

That's why so many people report shooting hundreds of zillions (it seems) of full powered .30-06 rounds in low serial numbered M1903's without any problems. As long as they don't have a case rupture there shouldn't be a problem. But if they do have an unexpected event with a brittle receiver it might not hold together.

In the rare event of a failure with a low serial number M1903, even if you aren't injured the receiver will be destroyed. There are many high number M1903's, Mark I's, and 03-A3's available on the market to shoot so I don't shoot my low numbered M1903's. The risk of injury and destroying a collectable rifle while low is avoidable by shooting one of the readily available alternatives. I'm guessing that for many of the people who want to shoot a low serial number M1903, that M1903 is the only M1903 they own, and they really want to shoot it because they don't have an alternative. I can't imagine why someone would choose to shoot a low number M1903 if they also own a high number M1903.

The "standard or arsenal loaded ammunition" Lt. Col. Whittaker referred to was brand new in 1944 and was at low risk of failure. But if people are shooting decades old surplus possibly degraded ammo, or reloaded ammo with brass of unknown remaining thickness at the head, if the brass fails there could be a serious problem. Granted the risk is low but I disagree with the idea of making a sweeping statement that "all of the claims have been refuted", or there is "compelling evidence" that they are safe to shoot in all situations and with all types of ammo. That isn't true. There is no such evidence. A 1944 memo declaring they are safe to shoot is not evidence. Running a test with deliberately weakened brass to see what happens to a low serial number rifle if the case head fails would be evidence. I haven't seen anything like that presented.

It's like two fighter pilots taking off. One wears a parachute (shoots high serial number rifles only) and the other doesn't wear a parachute (shoots low serial number rifles). As long as they take off and land without incident there is no problem. They could fly hundreds of sorties like that without incident. But if for some reason they have to bail out the pilot wearing a parachute is going to fair a lot better than the one who isn't.

Last edited by Milsurp Collector; 05-31-2020 at 10:49 PM.
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  #22  
Old 05-31-2020, 10:54 PM
Flypa38 Flypa38 is offline
 
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Thanks, guys. All valid points, but let me try to explain my hopes/expectations/philosophy on this.....
I'm not great at wording things like this, so hopefully you guys will understand what I mean.
A verified all original combat vet is virtually unobtainable for me, or may not even exist. I can afford CMP prices.....barely. I'm not really worried about monetary value when it's all said and done as it won't ever be for sale. What's important to me is shooting the rifle in the configuration it was originally used in. Correct parts, but by no means a museum piece. If that means it's made up of parts from lots of rifles, perhaps there's a better chance one of those parts was a witness to significant history.
Regarding the low serial numbers, I'd really prefer to avoid them. At first I considered those as a last resort, but the more I read, I don't think I'd even buy one. Good point about the ruptured case too. Would the "Hatcher hole" prevent a catastrophe in the event of a ruptured case, or weren't the low numbers so equipped?
Regarding the books, I'm almost finished with Leroy Thompson's book and have Joe Poyer's book to be read next. Hope I can get them done in time to know what I'm looking at for my appointment!
Thanks for your advice everybody, it's appreciated!
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  #23  
Old 06-01-2020, 06:21 AM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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Please understand when I post the documents on the low numbers. I'm picking single one page documents to post and I'm not posting the actual testing.

The other thing is there are many more pages from the Army and Marines that I've posted on other forums not in those links.

There are thousands of pages on my harddrive of low number testing and discussion from the Marines and Army where both branches finally came up with the conclusion that they were safe for ordinary issue.

If you read the beginning of Hatcher's notebook it makes a comment that is something like his views and the views of Army Ordnance are different, or something to that effect. That was because they were.

Some of the info in Hatcher's book are his opinions, and some of the research is skewed. He leaves out some of the testing.

Basically I say it like this. Hatcher's notebook has a lot of opinions in it. Just like we all base opinions on what we read. He had an opinion back then and that is what he wrote about.

I advise people to research this themselves. Read Hatcher's notebook, read a lot of the documents that I have posted from the Marines and Army both declaring them safe. Then realize there are thousands more pages of this I'm not posting.

Base your own opinion then.

As for me, if I could only own one M1903 to shoot. It would be a nickel steel receiver. Nickel steels can fail but usually the recievers are soft and will only stretch and loose headspace. High number or not, those carbon steel receivers both high and low had a lot of issues with heat treatment and can grenade if there is a failure. People have been falsely told that just because it's a high number, its safe. That is not true. But if all I owned was a low number I would not have any reservations on shooting it as long as it headspaced and I was using quality ammuntion.

People think the heat treatment problems with the M1903 were bad, but collectors are unaware of the heat treatment problems with the Garand. The Garand was substantially worse. But Hatcher didn't write about that, so no one knows about it.

The low number problems are nothing compared to the other service rifles unfortunately.

As far as owning a m1903 for the chance it served in combat. I would choose a low number Marine rifle.

The majority of time I find serials that are documented to serving in combat, they are low numbers.

In fact going into WWII half of the Marine Corps 03's were low numbers. But today a low number Marine 03 is very rare. I think its because of the influx of up to 50,000 Navy M1903's that went to the Marines in 1942. Which were mostly all high numbers

Many of these were rebuilt by the Marines and are sitting in our safes appearing by the traits to be a Marine rifle, even though they were actually Navy. The Navy 03s in the Marines stayed stateside and did not go overseas during WWII. They were only in the Marines for a very short period of time.

Now if you can find a documented Marine 03 prior to 1942, there is almost a 50/50 chance it went to Guadalcanal. The Marines had a fuzz over 50,000 M1903's going into WWII. They took over 24,000 of those M1903's when they set sail for the Canal.

For the reasons above a low number Marine 03 is at the top of my 03 collecting. You just don't see them

Last edited by Big_Red; 06-11-2020 at 07:22 AM. Reason: Combine consecutive posts again
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  #24  
Old 06-01-2020, 10:47 AM
Tom Trevor Tom Trevor is offline
 
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LSB auctions in Simi Valley Ca. has a low number marine 1903 with the paper work showing it and others turned in for replacement at Pearl Harbor Hi. in 1931. Clp Noton might like to see the paperwork posted on the site. It will be at auction for the next twelve days.
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  #25  
Old 06-01-2020, 06:31 PM
jakhamr81 jakhamr81 is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Trevor View Post
LSB auctions in Simi Valley Ca. has a low number marine 1903 with the paper work showing it and others turned in for replacement at Pearl Harbor Hi. in 1931. Clp Noton might like to see the paperwork posted on the site. It will be at auction for the next twelve days.
Dang, I saw that one yesterday and was really hoping it'd stay under the radar. Oh well, It'll very likely bring in a premium price.
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  #26  
Old 06-02-2020, 09:32 AM
Firstflabn Firstflabn is online now
 
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The first problem is defining what is meant by 'served in combat.' In WWII, the US Army had about 500 different unit types that had personal weapons. Which ones would be included and which excluded from the 'served in combat' list?

Would an '03 in an Aviation Engineer Battalion building an airfield in New Guinea in 1942 be included? Engineer units outside of divisions were classified as combat support by the Army, not combat. What if it was used to fire at a Zero strafing the airfield?

Telephone Linemen and Light Truck Drivers in an infantry regiment HQ Co were authorized '03s for GL until the M7 GL became available early in 1944. Did those rifles 'serve in combat' because they served in a combat unit?

You'd have to have a daily log for the use of a rifle - such logs were kept for individual artillery pieces because wear had a direct effect on range - to make such a determination.

Nothing wrong with playing the odds a bit, but any conclusions resulting from it start to sound like those lottery ticket winning strategy books.

Steve, your Guadalcanal bean count research is an exception. I think I recall seeing that the Army resupplied Guadalcanal during the ground campaign. (I forget stuff, but when I remember something it has a pretty fair chance of being right). If that is close to being right, then wouldn't that muddy up the percentage when considering survivors?

Just a data point to give some perspective: I have an overseas theater Army report dated 1 Jan 43 that shows a bit over 200,000 '03s 'On Hand & Enroute.' Unfortunately, forces in North Africa didn't get their homework done in time to be included. The one advantage to this incomplete report is that it wouldn't have included any '03A3s.
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  #27  
Old 06-02-2020, 10:12 AM
Flypa38 Flypa38 is offline
 
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I know what you mean. I guess my best case scenario would be a rifle that was more likely to have been issued to a unit that went overseas. More specifically, from what I've learned so far, an '03 seems to have been more likely to have been used overseas, for any type of use, than an 03a3. Don't get me wrong, I'll take what I can get, but I'd greatly prefer one that had a better chance of not being a stateside trainer. Hope that makes sense!
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  #28  
Old 06-02-2020, 05:59 PM
Ed Byrns Ed Byrns is offline
 
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1903's were issued in theater in a good number of SRS and National Archive data.
These documents have the US Marine who was issued a new 1903.
When rifles were deemed "B/O" ,bad order , and signed off by an Officer
a form#782-QM was issued for the new weapon.
US Marines returning from China ,had inspections of their 1903s, for serviceability.
If any defects were found the Marine was charged for the repair, and possibly brought up on charges, even if the problem existed when issued.
I've always said that the enlisted Marine serving outside the continental US, ended up buying new barrels and installation following their return to the US.
All of this is well recorded the National Archive.
So ,there are 1903s with records of theater use and the Marine who used it.
Respectfully submitted
Ed Byrns
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  #29  
Old 06-02-2020, 09:05 PM
cplnorton cplnorton is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Firstflabn View Post

Steve, your Guadalcanal bean count research is an exception. I think I recall seeing that the Army resupplied Guadalcanal during the ground campaign. (I forget stuff, but when I remember something it has a pretty fair chance of being right). If that is close to being right, then wouldn't that muddy up the percentage when considering survivors?
I've never seen anything that the Army supplied the Marines rifles on the Canal. Now I have seen the Marines were supplied right after the Canal. For instance when the 1st Division was sent to Australia. That is where they got switched over to Garands off the Army. Now if you see something they got rifles off the Army on the Canal, please let me know. That would be a new one to me and I would be highly interested in that.

Now the count I have is the inventory of all the Marine rifles on the Canal before November 1942.

It breaks it down by Regiment and all the weapon counts for the rear echelon Marines as well. It even details the 164th Army Regiment on the Canal and all their weapon counts.

But as you said earlier, even though the Marines had a little over 24,000 M1903's in the campaign, a lot were in the hands of the non infantry Marines. I think it was a little more than 10,000 were in the hands of the infantry, Para's and Raiders. The rest were in the hands of the non infantry.

For example a few examples of the M1903 counts:

1st Marines 2133
5th Marines 1800
7th Marines 1762
1st Raider BN 502

But then some examples of 03's in the non-infantry Marines.

Engineer BN 593
Pioneer BN 404
1st Marine Wing 1035


But this list is pretty detailed. It details every type or rifle, pistol, machine guns, anti air craft weapons, artillery, basically everything.
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  #30  
Old 06-02-2020, 10:03 PM
Flypa38 Flypa38 is offline
 
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Just out of curiosity, how do you get that information? It's really interesting stuff! Although it's completely unrelated, would your methods of information gathering help find out what my grandfather did in the war? He never talked about it, so I tried going through the VA and was told all records were lost in the fire.
Thanks again to everyone who replied. I appreciate you guys taking the time to share information.
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