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ESWL 06-13-2021 01:57 PM

Rifle of a World Champion
The last month or so, I have been watching a rifle listed for auction with a potentially interesting history. The rifle, a Springfield Model of 1922, SN 129, finally came up for auction last Thursday and I was fortunate to win it.

First some background on the listing. It was listed as a Springfield Model of 1922, MI in decent condition with no mention of provenance. As I was reviewing the photos, I noticed that the Lyman 48 rear sight was indexed for 1 MOA/clk adjustment and as such was a Lyman 48B not a 48C. This was important because the 48B was only used on the first Model of 1922 rifles made from 1922 - 1924, with only 2020 made. I immediately requested detailed photos of the receiver, its front ring and of the bolt. The additional photos confirmed that the rifle was indeed a first year production Model of 1922 and not the second variant MI. The rifle is generally correct with its original rear sight and dual striker bolt. The rifle has a newer 1942 dated barrel and may have been reblued. The correct 1922 5-round magazine is missing and the stock appears very light in color suggesting it was cleaned or sanded. However, more importantly, as a Model of 1922 variant rifle, SN 129 just happens to appear in the Springfield Research Services (SRS) 1922 listing.

The SRS 1922 listing has the following entry for SN 129; “031523 W R STOKES”. This listing indicates that SN 129 has an association with Walter Raymond Stokes on March 15, 1923. That association was likely the sale of the rifle to Mr. Stokes. Interestingly, SN 603 was also listed on the same day to W R Stokes.

So who is Walter R Stokes? Stokes was a prominent sport shooter in the 1920s. He competed with and against noted marksmen of the era like Carl Osburn and Morris Fisher. Some of his achievements include:

• 1921 World Champion 300m Free Rifle 3x40
• 1921 World Champion 300m Free Rifle Standing
• 1921 World Champion 300m Free Rifle Kneeling
• 1921 World Champion 300m Free Rifle Prone
• 1922 World Champion 300m Free Rifle 3x40
• 1922 World Champion 300m Free Rifle Kneeling
• 1923 World Champion Team 300m Free Rifle 3x40
• 1923 World Champion Team 300m Free Rifle Prone
• 1923 World Champion Team 300m Free Rifle Kneeling
• 1923 World Champion Team 300m Free Rifle Standing
• 1924 World Champion 300m Free Rifle Prone
• 1924 World Champion team 300m Free Rifle Prone
• 1924 World Champion team 300m Free Rifle 3x40
• 1924 Olympic Games - Bronze team, 100m Running Deer doubles
• 1924 Olympic Games - Gold team, 400m-600m-800m Army Rifle

Not only was Walter Stokes an achieved marksman, he also earned two degrees at George Washington University while also coaching their men and women’s rifle teams to several intercollegiate championships.

The question of provenance is personal and purely subjective. Any value it might add to the rifle is based purely on my opinion of Walter Stokes' achievements and importance that may not be shared by others. I for one, however, am proud to own a rifle that was once owned by a World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist and when I finally receive it, I plan to honor it and Mr Stokes by shooting it in some local small bore matches.


MGMKS 06-13-2021 02:50 PM

Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story about an interesting rifle!

johnHD 06-13-2021 05:31 PM

Wow that is cool!

Please keep us updated when you receive it and shoot the rifle.


RVN 69-70 06-13-2021 08:04 PM

Walter visited me (in a dream) and said to tell YOU that it is imperative that you win whatever match you shoot with that rifle so as to NOT belittle the ability of that rifle. :p

PS....awesome provenance !!!

Nevada Smith 06-16-2021 07:46 PM

Stokes family on the back steps of their home - Mohawk, Florida

Ralph and Walter Stokes with dogs - Mohawk, Florida

Ralph and Walter Stokes sitting on a large alligator [1] - Mohawk, Florida

Ralph and Walter Stokes sitting on a large alligator [2] - Mohawk, Florida
The first boy is Ralph Stokes. The second boy is Walter Stokes and Harry K. Stokes (sitting) is launching the skeet.

You can find more pics of the Stokes' at Florida Memory dot com.

ESWL 06-16-2021 08:11 PM

Thank You! These are amazing! They have quite the history.


gaterbaitii 06-16-2021 10:09 PM

Awesome story and rifle

navyrifleman 06-17-2021 07:58 AM

Since he was a Naval Academy Midshipman, he might be included in their Register of Midshipmen - a book that is periodically printed. He would probably been a member of the Class of 1922.

Sometimes, when a person resigned from one of the service academies, they would go on with a military career in the reserves or National Guard, especially in wartime.

Contact an Historian at the Nimitz Library, which is at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, and ask if they might have further information on him.

MGMKS 06-17-2021 12:07 PM

Walter R. Stokes - Here are some other interesting things.

He obtained a passport in Washington DC 25-JUN- 1921. He had LTC O.F. Snyder (Captain of the Rifle Team) and his Father (a Doctor in Washington DC) vouch for his identity. The Passport was issued 29-JUN-1921 and he sailed on USS Utah 05-JUL-1921 to Europe (specifically Belgium, France and Holland with “Germany” crossed out) to “Participate in Rifle Matches”.

A very interesting document dated 26-JUL-1921 is approval for return passage in September 1921. This lists all the team members and shows Stokes as a civilian.

The passport was applied to be amended 08-SEP-1922 while in Coblenz for travel to Austria as a member of the American Rifle Team. Ultimately – the passport was also renewed 16-AUG-1922 for general travel in all countries.

It also appears he returned to the US in JUL-1924, likely from a different trip

Nevada Smith 06-17-2021 03:23 PM

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