This M1903 rifle, serial number 404889, was manufactured during 1910 in .30-’06 Sprg. with a 24" round barrel. Both Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal manufactured this model in large quantities. Note the blue and color-casehardened metal finishes. This rifle has nice original wood with no problems. The stock has a “J.F.C.” final inspector mark (for J.F. Coyle) in block letters inside a rectangle in addition to a script “P” in a circle proofmark stamped next to the trigger guard. The sling is an early RIA 1904 pattern.
As recently as 20 years ago, very few people cared about (or paid a lot of money for) this once common U.S. military rifle. Most of the collector interest focused on America’s military handguns, especially the M1911 pistol and its variations. After World War II, many of these Springfield Model 1903s were converted into sporterized versions for hunting. Military bolt-actions had lost favor to the semi-automatic M1 Garand and M1 Carbine made famous during World War II and, because of a huge surplus after the war, ’03 actions were cheap to buy and easily modified.
More than anything else, originality is the key when determining value on this type of 20th century U.S. military rifle. Knowing what to look for on proofs and original parts markings (there are many), and where to find them are absolutely critical when evaluating this rifle’s value. The good news is that there are many good reference books available today to help M1903 collectors and military enthusiasts learn more about their manufacture and to help determine originality.
Looking back at the thousands of earlier sporterized conversions provides the answer as to why original ’03s in superior condition have become so expensive-there simply aren’t that many good ones left. Considering that 25 years ago Springfield ’03s in this condition were commonly selling as “military surplus” in the $350-$500 range, 20th century U.S. military rifles have now become as collectible (and expensive) as many military pistols and shotguns.
-S.P. Fjestad, Author/Publisher, Blue Book of Gun Values