It’s the weekly gun thread over at Ace of Spades, written by our buddy Andy. And the Scary Gun of the Week is an early Assault Rifle, the Springfield M1903A3.
We have a long affinity for, and association with the ‘03A3.
In the fall of 1982, as we began our sophomore year, as a member of the high school NJROTC, we tried out for, and were accepted onto, the Armed Drill Team.
The Armed Drill Team would compete against other JROTC teams in the area in three phases of competition- In Ranks Inspection, Regulation Drill, and Exhibition Drill. Obviously, the “armed” part meant that the members of the team had to be under arms, and for that, the US Navy had provided our unit with a selection of M1903A3 rifles. But for various reasons, the Navy wasn’t keen on giving out actual honest to goodness weapons (mostly a matter of secure storage). So the weapons had their barrels plugged, and their bolt actions welded shut. Further, the wood stocks had been replaced by a plastic stock, which was much more resistant to breaking when we inevitably dropped the piece.
At about 9.5 pounds, the ‘03A3 was a pretty hefty piece, but it was also wonderfully balance, and for drill, just about perfect. It may have been surpassed as a weapon of war, but to this day it is still the preferred piece for ceremonial units such as the Army Drill Team, and for color guards both in and out of the service.
It was also quite capable of inflicting some significant trauma. Esli was there when I lost my two front teeth to one. And Esli and Jay were both present when I had one thunk me right on the crown of my skull and leave me dazed and confused. And goodness knows all the times I picked up minor cuts and bruises from one.
Just about the day after graduation, I memory dumped all the nomenclature and other information about the ‘03 (I had to memorize all the M16A1 stuff in its place!).
But when I found myself in college, and again on an armed drill team, I had to relearn all that stuff. And at the college level, the weapons were not demilitarized, but actual functioning weapons. That meant finding secure storage for them. We ended up storing them at the campus police office.
There are quite a few Springfields in civilian hands, and are popular rifles. Very well made, they have a great reputation for reliability and accuracy. And the .30-06 cartridge rightly holds a place as one of the greatest rounds in history.