The Springfield M1903 is one of the longest-serving United States military rifles. Adopted in, well…1903, it served throughout both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam (initially as the standard service rifle and later as a sniper rifle). Today, it continues to be utilized as a military ceremonial rifle.
What some people don’t know, however, is that Springfield was not the only manufacturer of the M1903 rifle.
The 1903 may be commonly called “the Springfield,” but the truth is that other manufacturers produced more 1903 rifles.
Long story short, Springfield could not keep up with the demand for the 1903 rifle that the United States military needed. Other manufacturers had to step up to the plate to produce 1903 rifles as well, and one of these manufacturers was none other than Remington.
The 1903 rifle served as the standard issue infantry rifle of the United States military up until 1936, when it was replaced by the M1 Garand.
The complete transition, however, would not be completed until several years later. As a result, 1903 rifles continued to be built and issued as insufficient M1 Garands could be made to arm the entirety of the United States armed forces.
The Army units were the first to receive the new Garands, and when World War II broke out for the United States in 1941, many Marine Corps units were still being issued 1903 rifles. In engagements between Japanese and American forces, most American soldiers were using 1903 rifles in 1941 and 1942, and even into 1943.
Springfield was hastening to pump out as many M1 Garands as possible, so production of the M1903 rifle was transitioned to other companies, including Rock Island, Smith-Corona, and Remington. Rock Island in particular had already been helping with M1903 rifle production during World War I.
In 1941, discussions were opened up between the British and American governments to supply American arms to the British military. It was initially decided that Remington would produce M1903 rifles that were to be rechambered for the .303 British round (among other modifications), but the deal ended up falling through.
Nonetheless, Remington was provided with Rock Island tooling and equipment, and when the United States entered the war later that year, they contracted Remington to start producing M1903 rifles.
For a time, Remington was the predominant manufacturer of the M1903 rifles. They ended up producing over half a million M1903 rifles.
Similar to Rock Island 1903s, the Remingtons had a parkerized finish with a strong heat treatment. They were stamped as Remington over the receiver rings and the barrels. In addition to American forces, the Remington M1903s were also issued to Commonwealth allied nations.
Soon after, the M1903 rifle would be developed into the M1903A3 rifle.
The most significant difference was the rear sight being moved from ahead of the action to behind the action. The sight itself was changed to a peep-style sight. In addition, the handguard was slightly extended.
Other changes were made that quickened the production process as well.
Most of the design changes that led to the creation of the M1903A3 were done by the engineers at Remington. The first rifles were delivered to the United States armed forces at the end of 1942.
By mid-1943, production had transitioned entirely from the M1903 to the M1903A3. There was roughly a six-month period where Remington was making both rifles at the same time. Smith-Corona also produced large numbers of the M1903A3.
Most M1903A3 rifles were used by American forces in the Pacific theater and Commonwealth forces in Burma and India. A limited number were used in the North African and European campaigns.
The M1903 As a Surplus Rifle
M1903 rifles are available in large numbers on the American surplus market. These rifles are available in both sporterized and non-sporterized form, and many have scope mounts attached.
Prices can vary widely. I’ve seen some M1903 rifles in good condition go for as little as two to three hundred dollars, while others will be more than a grand. I have noticed that the sporterized M1903 rifles are almost always far more inexpensive than the rifles that are kept in their original stocks and handguards that extend almost all the way down the barrel.
My M1903 has a non-sporterized stock with a scope mount attached. It’s a heavy rifle, I must admit, but it shoots very accurately.
M1903 surplus rifles serve two primary purposes, in my opinion. The first is the value it represents as a piece of military history. If you collect World War I or World War II rifles, you’ll definitely want to have at least one M1903 in your collection.
The second purpose is more practical. The M1903 rifles are known for their durability, quality, accuracy, and strong actions. They can shoot just as good as modern hunting rifles, and the .30-06 round they shoot is widely available. The M1903 will work perfectly for bringing down large game and putting meat on the table.
Given the choice, would I take an older M1903 in good condition over a new hunting rifle off the shelf?
I’m not sure I would, just because of the extra weight that the M1903 comes with.
My Ruger Model 77 .308 Winchester and Winchester Model 70 .270 Winchester rifles are lighter than the M1903 and more pleasant to carry around while hiking up and down hills, for instance.
But I will say that the old-fashioned M1903, with its hefty metal, solid wood stock, and rust-resistant parkerized finish, harkens back to a time when rifles were just plain rugged and dependable.
Contrast that today, where a lot of budget bolt action rifles, in particular, can often feel relatively cheaply made.
The M1903 is precisely the opposite.
Conclusion – Remington M1903 Review
M1903 rifles are neat guns. They’re well-built, excellent hunting or sporting rifles, and fun to have as a piece of United States military history.
In essence, the M1903 proved itself wholeheartedly on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific, and it’s equally as adept at being used as a hunting or target rifle today.
If you want to buy an M1903 or already have one, take good care of it and pass it down to someone else in the family someday.
Nick Oetken is a writer and firearms enthusiast based out of Idaho. He specializes primarily in writing about the outdoors, firearms, and disaster preparation. Nick is a published author and has written for major firearms publications like Guns.com.