CMP Forums

CMP Forums (
-   CMP Bolt Action Rifles (
-   -   Correct Springfield Armory Model 1903 Mark I Information, Value (M1903, Mk I, Mk1) (

martin08 06-25-2017 04:40 PM

Correct Springfield Armory Model 1903 Mark I Information, Value (M1903, Mk I, Mk1)
US Rifle, Cal. .30, Model of M1903, Mark I


There are hundreds of forum topics on the US Springfield Armory Model 1903 Mark I rifle which can be retrieved through internet searches. But for the average gun collector, it is very difficult to locate valuable and encompassing information in one stop.

Some folks buy rifles only to collect, others will not own a rifle if they can't shoot it. But most owners will have an interest from an historical perspective, and the current relevance of their particular rifle's originality and value. Hopefully, the following presentation will alleviate the need for owners of Mark I rifles to surf and weed through extraneous links and unrelated text to find quality answers to their questions.

Pictures are presented to support the text. Some photos are limited in size to facilitate ease of reading. But if anyone would like larger images for greater detail, let me know and I will add them in subsequent replies to the topic.

The focus of this article is on rifles in military configuration only. Sporterized examples are outside the topic of discussion.

A special thanks goes out to John Beard and Rick Slater for review, input, direction and corrections.


In an effort to break the stalemate of trench warfare in WWI, noted arms designer John Pedersen developed a mechanism which would fit into the bolt channel of a rifle, successfully transforming the bolt action into a semi-automatic firearm. Capacity increased from five rounds to forty rounds, and rate of fire increased from fifteen rounds per minute to eighty. Seen by the War Department as a highly advanced offensive and defensive advantage over enemy troops, the development and production proceeded under secrecy with a deceptive designation given by Ordnance Department as the US Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, Model of 1918. Today, we simply call it the Pedersen Device. Sixty-five thousand Pedersen Device units were built at Remington Arms from late 1918 through mid 1920.[2]

Pedersen Device (pictures courtesy of Rock Island Auction, sale price of lot - $69,000}

In order to accommodate the Pedersen Device, a few changes needed to be incorporated 1nto a standard bolt action rifle. While the device could be adapted to most any rifle, and plans were made to include the Model of 1917 and Model 1891 Mosin Nagant, the only rifle to receive alterations and go into full scale production was the US Rifle, Cal. .30, Model of M1903, Mark I at Springfield Armory.

WWI ended before the Pedersen Device went into full scale production. Hence, the devices and most Mark I rifles went straight into storage. When semi-automatic rifle plans became operative, the Pedersen Device became obsolete and all but several dozen were destroyed in 1931. The inventory of Mark I rifles were ordered to be returned to M1903 standards in 1937.[3]

But since a small percentage of Mark I rifles still appear today in original configuration, John Beard states, "The Chief of Ordnance issued a directive that the peculiar Mark I parts on the rifles were to be removed and replaced with standard service rifle parts in preparation for issuance. The existence of numerous original Mark I rifles indicates this directive was not entirely followed. The rifles were issued to National Guard troops, since the regular Army was being issued M1 Garand rifles at that time."

Hence, the Mark I rifles which retained their original features have a more favorable allure in the collecting community than the rifles refitted with standard parts or entirely Arsenal Overhauled. But whether original, returned to standard, re-inspected, repaired or entirely overhauled, there is still a connection to a unique purpose and history, and the Mark I is a niche variant for any complete Model 1903 collection. For collectors seeking a better familiarity with the Mark I before adding their specimen, let's take a closer look and answer some common questions.

John Pedersen


The most commonly asked question will be addressed first (and last).

Q1: How much is my Mark I worth?
A1: The $64,000 question. And yes, a spectacular and completely original Mark I rifle accompanied by an excellent conditioned Pedersen Device with full accoutrements could approach $64,000. But what is just the rifle worth? It depends. Many sellers, buyers and owners will see the Mark I stamp on the receiver ring, and dollar signs begin to roll in their eyes. And rightfully so. Desirability for the Mark I drives up collector's interest, and hence the price. All features and condition being equal between a standard M1903 and a Mark I, the latter will generally realize a 7-10% higher price.

But what factors can account for one rifle selling at $600, and another at $4,000 or more? There is no one simple answer, so it is best for a buyer to be armed with accurate information before clicking the BIN on a nice looking $2,500 Mark I appearing on an internet auction or at a show, and to later find out that experienced collectors value it at only one-third the price paid. So, what is one worth? It really does depend, so please read on.

Q2: Is the Mark I rare?
A2: No. Citing Springfield Armory's serialization chart, Mark I production began in the fall of 1918 at serial number 1034502 and ended in mid-1920 at serial number 1197834, allowing for a possible 163,332 units.[1] John Beard also states that some overlap with standard marked receivers took place both early and late, as well as some National Match and star-gauged Special Target rifles appearing in 1919 and 1920. Other sources (Canfield and Eger) cite Mark I production at 101,775 units.[2][4] Beard suggests that the total is much greater than the Canfield low estimate. Of the approximately 1,536,300 Springfield Model 1903 receivers which were serialized from start to finish (1903 -1940), Mark I rifles account for a minimum of 6.62% and a maximum 10.63%.

Realistically, around one in every twelve to thirteen of all Model 1903 rifles from Springfield Armory were Mark I stamped. Even if Rock Island and Remington Model 1903 rifles are included in the total number of rifles, the Mark I still accounts for 4.21% to 6.75% of production from the approximate 2,417,000 units.[1] So due to the sheer numbers produced, and the relative ease at which one can locate a rifle for sale on the secondary market, the Mark I is best described as 'less common' than a standard Model 1903 - but not uncommon, scarce or rare. Notwithstanding, it is a noted collectible variant.

Q3: Can I use a Pedersen Device in my Mark I?
A3: Probably not. Most Mark I rifles (over 95% by my estimate) have been stripped of their adaptive parts which mate with the Pedersen Device. The bulk of the approximately 65,000 Pedersen Devices which were originally produced at Remington Arms have been destroyed, and the ones which do remain are generally cost prohibitive, at $20k -$50k.[2][3][4] And even if one has a device and a rifle with the correct mating parts, the original Remington ammunition is so scarce that the rounds themselves are collector items. France did adopt a similar cartridge that was mass produced, as 7.65 X 20 Longue. To my knowledge, no working reproductions of the Pedersen Device are available on the market.

Q4: Can I find original Mark I parts for my rifle?
A4: Yes. But parts may not be readily accessible or reasonably priced when/if found. Aside from the receiver with the Pedersen ejection port in the left bolt channel, an original Mark I is equipped with an adaptive cut-off switch and associated slotted-head and plunger-loaded spindle to lock the Pedersen Device in place. The non-serrated trigger has a dual sear function, one for firing as a normal 30-06 with the original bolt, and the other for the .30 cal pistol round (7.62X20) of the Pedersen Device. The upper rear shank of the Mark I trigger arm was milled flat to ensure consistent and smooth contact with the secondary sear arm. The two-crossbolt, grasping-groove S-stock with smooth buttplate also has a milled recess directly under the ejection port on the left side of the receiver.

During Arsenal Overhaul programs most of the specially designed cutoffs, spindles and trigger/sear assemblies were replaced with conventional parts. Stocks which were still serviceable were installed on any 1903 rifle, without regard to Mark I or standard 1903 receiver. Mark I stocks can still be found on general overhauled rifles. Small parts can still turn up on rebuilds, but with far less frequency. Loose parts can sometimes make cameo appearances in the usual places such as ebay, Gunbroker, classifieds or general parts for sale sites. But be prepared to pay. Most folks know the rarity and value of their special items.

Q5: Are there reproduction or fake parts?
A5: Yes. Stocks can have post-military cuts for the ejection port recess added by civilian owners. Some are crudely done and readily identifiable as non-arsenal, some not so much. Cutoffs and spindles have been altered and/or newly manufactured. Trigger systems are a little harder to fake, as the trigger housing/sear is uniquely shaped, but it can be duplicated by machined removal of material on a standard sear. Also note that Rock Island used a smooth trigger face. Study carefully and tread lightly.

Q6: Is a Mark I safe to shoot?
A6: Maybe, but generally yes. As with any firearm, a qualified pre-firing safety inspection and headspace check should be performed. On the receiver steel forging consistency, all Mark I receivers have serial numbers higher than the (approx.) 800,000 serial sequence at which the double heat treatment (DHT) process began in Feb 1918. Low Number receivers could be brittle, and might be unsafe to shoot.[1] High Number receivers are generally considered as safe to shoot, when passing safety inspection. Again, all Mark I rifles are High Number, and hence, DHT.

Rifle bolts could also be affected by forging consistency issues before the DHT implementation, and a bolt is the easiest part to swap on the rifle. A general rule of thumb follows that all bolts with the rearward Swept Handle received DHT, and the bulk of bolts with a Straight Handle did not receive DHT, and could be brittle. Most bolts will also have steel lot codes stamped on surfaces of the safety lug or bolt handle root. Bolts with no steel lot codes are generally early construction. Study of these codes will aid in determining whether they were built before or after DHT.[1] Please follow all safety protocol to determine if your Mark I is safe to shoot.

Q7: Is my barrel original to my receiver?
A7: Maybe. No records were kept for barrel dates and individually serial numbered receivers. Throughout Model 1903 production at Springfield Armory, there was no attempt to follow assembly in an exact sequential serial number order, nor any guarantee that barrel dates (month, year) were mated to serial numbers from the same month of construction. Receivers and barrels were produced in lots, and the parts could be randomly pulled from production bins at assembly.

Receiver numbers were also recorded only at the beginning of each year, so there is no monthly serial data available.[1] But since a yearly beginning number is known, a receiver can generally be determined as early/mid/late year production, and barrel dates which fall within a three or four month range of the estimated receiver age could reasonably be considered as an original pairing.

An unknown but significant number of Mark I rifles were subjected to rigorous period testing, and may have required barrel replacement contemporaneously with new production. Hence, we see a fair number of barreled receivers today which appear to have original finish, but with barrel dates from early to mid-1918 which significantly precede the start of Mark I receiver production in late-1918.

For the Mark I, any SA stamped barrel (Springfield Armory) which is five months or more out of the estimated receiver date, can not be determined to be (potentially) original construction. Any barrel stamped other than SA is not original. An excellent data table appears on the VI Shooter site which lists serial number and barrel dates for several hundred Springfield Armory Model 1903 rifles.[1] A look at this table, with cross-reference to the yearly starting serial, may help you decide for yourself if your barrel and receiver are an original pairing.

Q8: Was my Mark I used in battle?
A8: In The Great War, no. Mark I production began almost simultaneously with time of the Armistice to end WWI. It is possible that some Mark I rifles could have been issued in post-WWI activities with American Expeditionary Forces such as the Siberian Intervention, but near impossible to prove without direct written provenance. By the time the US entered WWII, the Springfield 1903 had been largely relegated as rear echelon, support and guard weapons, and likely did not see front line use in major battles.


[1] Vi Shooter, Beard, Henry
[2] Eger
[3] Wikipedia,
[4] American Rifleman, Canfield

martin08 06-25-2017 04:42 PM

Example: Arsenal Repaired/Re-Inspected US Rifle, Cal. .30, Model of M1903, Mark I

I used the terms Correct Springfield Armory Model 1903 Mark I Rifle Information and Value (M1903, Mk I, Mk1) for the title of this article to facilitate internet search results only. Modern day collectors use different terminology than did the U.S. Ordnance Department when discussing our wares. Officially, the rifle is called the US Rifle, Cal. .30, Model of M1903, Mark I. It is stamped on the receiver ring as U.S. Springfield Armory Model 1903. Mark I.

The example presented for this article is more likely Arsenal Repaired or Re-Inspected, as it does have a boxed RA-P cartouche (Raritan Arsenal). The original Mark I parts could have been removed and replaced with standard 1903 parts prior to WWII or at post-war repair, and may well have been reintroduced (collector term is 'corrected') to this rifle by an owner after its release for civilian purchase. At the time of this article's publication, I have only possessed this gun for a few months and have no history on its past. My personal observation is that the rifle is in very good condition with clear period markings, arsenal Mark I parts, and largely original finish (stock appears as lightly sanded, many years ago). It makes for a nice instructional and representative model.

PICTURES AND COMPARISONS (Mark I features appear on the left in comparisons)

The Mark I is readily identified by by the receiver ring stamp configuration, and the machined ejection port.

Mark I vs Standard 1903 receiver

The Mark I cutoff switch is uniquely machined to lock the Pedersen Device in place. The machined recessed portion of the switch is commonly referred to as a W-shape. The switch was made only at Springfield Armory in the non-serif lettered font. Any switch with serif lettering, parkerized finish, or an R-stamp on the rear surface is not an original Mark I part.

The Mark I set screw is longer than a standard set screw, and has a reduced diameter locator pin machined below the threaded end.

Mark I vs Standard 1903 cutoff switch with set screw.

The Mark I spindle has a large slotted head at the rear, and an internal spring loaded plunger mechanism at the front of the shaft. It is also machined with a single locator hole for the cut-off set screw, instead of a groove around the entire diameter of the shaft.

Mark I vs Standard 1903 spindle

The Mark I trigger has a dual purpose sear system. The standard sear operates the bolt action striker release. The secondary sear is attached as a pall on the trigger arm, and releases the striker of the Pedersen Device. The dual sear system may be viewed when the stock is installed on the gun by removing the bolt and observing from the rear of the bolt channel. The face of the trigger is smooth, as the serrated trigger had been temporarily discontinued throughout the span of Mark I production. All Springfield trigger housing/sears will have the S-stamp.

Mark I vs Standard 1903 trigger/sear

martin08 06-25-2017 04:43 PM

(trigger cont'd)

The Mark I stock has a 1.5 inch long and .25 inch deep recess beneath the left side receiver ejection port. A factory recess is uniformly beveled at each end of the flat. The recess may or may not be milled as parallel to the bottom of the port. This recess is by far the easiest feature to fake, as all it requires is removal of wood. If a milled recess is questionable as original, sometimes the best course of action would be to take quality pictures and consult with experienced collectors. Even then, there may be no consensus of opinion, as again, this feature is the easiest to fake.

All original stocks will be two-crossbolt and grasping-groove S-stock design with a smooth buttplate. Most common inspector initials would be E.H.D. and D.A.L., and some stocks may have missed inspection marks. Less commonly encountered inspector initials could be W.J.S., J.F.C., or W.E.S. The firing proof is the 7/16" diameter circle-P, non-serif or script.

Mark I (recessed at port) vs Standard stock

All Mark I rifles were originally equipped with Swept Handle bolts and received DHT. Steel lot codes, from early to late, are J5 on the bottom of the safety lug, L2/w on the top and bottom of the bolt handle root, L5/w (top/bottom), L9/w (top/bottom), and J6 on the top of the bolt handle root. The 'L' will always appear stamped in the shape of an upside down '7'. A punch mark (firing proof) should also accompany any marks on the bottom of the bolt handle root. On occasion and in addition to steel lot codes, other letters, numbers (sub inspection) may appear on bolt surfaces.

Mark I Swept Handle (post-DHT) vs Straight handle (pre-DHT)

Mark I Bolt Steel Lot Code and Firing Proof (L5/w)

martin08 06-25-2017 04:46 PM

(steel lot cont'd)

The original metal finish of the barreled receiver, as explained to me by John Beard, is a glossy black finish of unknown chemical composition. During Arsenal Overhaul, many receivers were given a grainy parkerized finish with hues ranging from dark gray, through greenish gold.

Mark I Original Finish vs Rebuild Parkerized Finish (standard receiver shown in comparison)


Returning to the BIG question, "How much is mine worth?"

The usual cliches and disclaimers: "People can ask anything they want. Auction sales aren't real values. I wouldn't give that. The value is the sale price. It comes down to what a buyer will pay. They were $29 in 1960..." I could go on. But let's give it a go!

Hopefully by now, many questions about the Mark I have been answered, and clear pictures with descriptions have imparted an encompassing understanding of original features. It would be nice if NRA Grading Standards and Blue Book values could be administered directly, and some aspects certainly do apply. But for a variant of a military rifle, and now in civilian hands, there are factors which can't be incorporated into neat guidelines and charts in value books.

So I am going to establish some non-conventional descriptions with factors of condition and features, and assign my opinion of value as current to the date of this posting. As a collector who buys and sells many military firearms, I am not shooting from the hip. I understand that there will be individuals who will disagree with my appraisals, and the topic is open for commentary or criticism.

Value ranges are wide, accounting for private vs public sales, regional supply and demand, and seasonal waxing and waning. Know the trends for your particular market.


Valuation 1. Mark I rifles which have not been through Arsenal Overhaul, Repair, Re-Inspection or any changes since date of production. Rare.

- As Issued/New. All original arsenal assembly, original finish and near 100% condition. - $4,000 and up
- As Issued/Excellent. All original arsenal assembly, original finish 95 - 99% condition. - $3,000 to $4,000
- As Issued/Very Good/Good. All original MkI parts, original finish 80 - 94% condition. - $2,000 to $3,000
- As Issued/Fair/Poor. All original MkI parts, original finish 50 - 79% condition. - $1,200 to $2,000


Valuation 2. Mark I rifles which have been through Arsenal Repaired or Re-Inspection, retaining original barrel/finish, with potential replaced parts, and still fitted with retained or reintroduced Mark I parts. Scarce.

- Arsenal Repair/Re-Inspected/Excellent. All MkI parts, original metal/wood finish, 95-plus% condition. - $2,500 to $3,000
- Arsenal Repair/Re-Inspected/Very Good/Good. MkI parts, original finish, 80 - 94% condition - $1,800 to $2,500
(The example presented for this article falls mid-range into the above category)
- Arsenal Repair/Re-Inspected/Fair/Poor. MkI parts, original finish, 50 - 79% condition - $1,000 to $1,800

Note 1: Just an educated guess, but rifles which fit in all the above categories (valuations 1 and 2) will account for 5% or less of existing Mark I rifles. Only a handful, if that, of every hundred units will have correct parts.

Note 2: For any of the above, you may be the judge for under 50% condition. Values drop precipitously for rust, pitting, dark bores, damage, rough stocks, etc.


Valuation 3. Mark I rifles which have been through Arsenal Overhaul, rebarreled and/or restocked, arsenal refinished metal and have no original Mark I parts. Ninety-five percent or more fall into this category. Common.

The usual High Number Model 1903 Springfield rifles on the market, which are not National Match or similar special purpose, will typically sell from $600 to $1,200. Features and configuration will range from low to high end, depending poor condition, refinished metal/wood after civilian sale, percentage of correct parts (bolt, sight, stock, small parts), and Arsenal Overhaul finish/configuration in excellent condition.

So, for the bulk of overhauled Mark I rifles which can be purchased or sold today, with all other factors being equal to a Standard High Number rebuild Model 1903, and adding 7 - 10% for the desirability of the Mark I variant. - $640 to $1,330.

Yes, this is a WIDE range, and should stress the importance of careful study of the factors for each individual Mark I rifle on the market. Homework is required to make a fair trade. If you have read this far, you will be an informed buyer and ready to make a better purchase decision.


A good example: Several weeks prior to this posting, I sold a standard High Number Springfield M1903, S.N. 1,137,XXX, parkerized finish as Arsenal Overhauled at RIA, 10-42 HS barrel, sanded stock and decent bore (non-sporter). With good pictures, description, low starting price, no reserve and 37 bids, it sold for a respectable $815.00 on a national auction site. If the receiver had had the Mark I stamp, and all other factors being equal, I could have expected and would have been satisfied at $870 to $900.


I'm hoping that this individual collector's valuation opinion is not a let down for those folks with general overhauled Mark I rifles who have read all the way through this article, expecting to hear appraisals in the several thousand dollar range. But unless a Mark I rifle is largely original and with the special adaptive parts, it is simply not much different than a standard rifle.

However, the information in this article should clearly present the physical difference between the well-equipped and average fare. And now, the educated buyer may not get sucked into the hype of a $2,500 sales pitch on an $800 gun. I hope it was entertaining, as well. Thanks for looking and listening.

-Matt Martin

SmokeEaterPilot 06-25-2017 07:03 PM

How much for a documented Mark I rifle?

ZvenoMan 06-25-2017 07:37 PM

Nice and informative. However, the values listed are based on ???
Source + date or, to use Raodkingtrax' comment out of context, "a dollar a word"

Smokeaterpilot, what is "documented" in relation to a specific 1903 MkI? Receipt from seller, CMP certificate, serial number appearing on xxxx document? Each has a value.

Great article and descriptions.

martin08 06-25-2017 08:04 PM


Originally Posted by ZvenoMan (Post 1614281)
Nice and informative. However, the values listed are based on ???
Source + date or, to use Raodkingtrax' comment out of context, "a dollar a word"

Smokeaterpilot, what is "documented" in relation to a specific 1903 MkI? Receipt from seller, CMP certificate, serial number appearing on xxxx document? Each has a value.

Great article and descriptions.

Thank you. Values are derived from many years of collecting and selling firearms, watching internet and forum classified sales, employment experience at a nationally renowned auction house, and stack upon stacks of auction catalogues. And again, as stated in the article, the values are my opinion, and other opinions are welcome.

And I'm with the rest, SmokeEaterPilot, I'm sure that documents such as original sales receipts, CMP certificate and the likes will add an equivalent premium, such as it does for the M1 Garand.

And your PM box is full, btw!

SmokeEaterPilot 06-25-2017 08:18 PM


Originally Posted by martin08 (Post 1614289)
Thank you. Values are derived from many years of collecting and selling firearms, watching internet and forum classified sales, employment experience at a nationally renowned auction house, and stack upon stacks of auction catalogues. And again, as stated in the article, the values are my opinion, and other opinions are welcome.

And I'm with the rest, SmokeEaterPilot, I'm sure that documents such as original sales receipts, CMP certificate and the likes will add an equivalent premium, such as it does for the M1 Garand.

CMP certificates really do nothing for me. Not sure of they do anything for anyone. Thats as of now, that could change in a few decades or more. As the DCM sales reciepts have added value, but at the time they were written did nothing.

I like archival documentation. But that's just me. And based on your reply Martin, you know me too well.

Nice write up btw, we'll organized.

TexasDan 06-25-2017 09:20 PM


Thanks so much for your efforts here. The article is full of useful and interesting info.

I checked my 1179xxx against your pictures, and it looks like the only Mark I part I have is the receiver (with original finish and probably original barrel ... 2-20).

The original rear sight is tough on my old eyes, but I do try to shoot it when I can.

Best Regards,

jimmyzwei 06-26-2017 07:19 AM


thank you for pulling a that info together in one place. Hope you dont mind that i am coping and saving it to my files.

Interested if you might share where you acquired your "employment experience at a nationally renowned auction house" if you prefer just email me a few times till you feel comfortable enough to share.

again thanks for posting.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 12:18 PM.