Retired from a long career: M1903A3
While attending this year’s inaugural Shooting Sports Showcase, held at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s superb 500-acre Talladega Marksmanship Park, I was lucky enough to find the former Creedmoor shop open on-site. The gun store at the TMP is one of three retail sites that the CMP maintains to sell surplus military rifles to qualified members of the public, with the other two locations being the North Store at Camp Perry and the South Store in Anniston.
Besides a good collection of M1 Garands, they also had a rack of M1917 Enfields and another of M1903A3s on hand.
The bolt guns have been listed as “sold out” on the CMP’s website for years, as the Army had long ago transferred the final stocks of those rifles on hand to the program. In fact, I remember Shotgun News ads when I was in college for $349 M1903s from the newly-formed CMP, which must have been effective.
The CMP’s site has for years stated, “We do not expect to ever again receive large quantities of these models. Currently, M1903 and M1903A3 models are not available, and CMP is not accepting orders,” when it comes to these guns.
The few that they do get from time to time are typically returned ceremonial rifles loaned by the Army decades ago to Veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans, and others like National Cemetery and LE groups.
Sadly, there is a nationwide epidemic of Veteran halls closing both as the number of active WWII and Korean war-era vets are thinning and COVID restrictions are shutting down revenue-earning enterprises such as bars and bingo halls that were used to fund operations. Further, as the old bolt guns are replaced under the Army’s order to homogenize the program to just CMP-maintained M1s, these long-serving M1917s and M1903s are being handed in.
This brings me to the gun I picked up at Talledega.
For reference, CMP’s Service Grade is:
Service Grade Rifles show less wear and better appearance than Field or Rack Grades. Good to very good condition. Rifle wear will be exhibited by worn and mixed colors of the parkerized finish. May have pitting on the metal parts. Wood will be either Walnut, Birch, Beech, or other variety and will be basically sound but may have minor hairline cracks, dings, scratches, and gouges. Wood may not match in color or type of wood. Bores will be generally good with only minor imperfections. The barrel crown may be nicked, but the muzzle will gauge “3 or less” and the throat erosion will gauge less than 5.
While M1903A3s saw lots of use in WWII, they were mostly issued to second-line troops such as signals, bridging, and engineer units.
Odds are that this particular rifle, since the bore is so bright and tight, and it has the correct dated barrel for the receiver and a Remington stock, that it never saw war service and was shipped shortly after the conflict to a Veteran’s hall. There, it was carefully and lovingly taken out of storage once a month for low-impact drill purposes, served on a firing party for interments as needed, and was carried in dozens of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, and Independence Day parades to escort the color guard.
Nonetheless, I gladly paid $770 for the rifle which was likely just stricken off the Army’s “books” in the past few months.
The cash will go to support marksmanship activities– for instance, the CMP has a scholarship program for qualified junior marksmen in addition to supporting rifle teams in JROTC, 4H, and others. Besides the initial instruction I received from my retired senior NCO grandfather, it was in JROTC that I was first introduced to marksmanship.
Further, as I have no plans to ever put more than a box or so of 150-grain ball through the rifle, this old vet can finally retire at age 78.