“No Drill” 1903A4 Sniper Rifle – 1903 Springfield

by Administrator on June 7, 2012

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No, this isn’t a real 1903A4. It is a run of the mill mix-matched Rock Island 1903 Springfield fitted with an S&K “Insta-Mount” and a Hi-Lux M73G2, replica scope from their “Malcolm” line. The scope mount is not drilled and tapped into the receiver. See the directions at the bottom. The cheek pad is from Ebay, $25.

The scope is mounted on a standard Weaver style rail with 3/4″ inch mounts for the thin tube of the old Weaver model 330 World War II era design.

This is a Weaver 29S from the same period as the Model 330, with the same 3/4″ tube. This is a drill and tap mount made for the 1903 Springfield specifically for this generation of scope.

This is a scene from “Saving Private Ryan” in the beginning towards the end of the Omaha Beach scene. The sniper character uses a M73 scope on a 1903A4. Later he switches to a Unertl scope on an A1.

The only modification I had to make to this gun was this small amount of inletting for the receiver band that holds the front of the S&K mount.

My bolt just cleared this scope at full throw.

This is a picture of a bolt bought on Ebay that had been ground down for more clearance with a scope (the bottom one). It was not headspaced correctly for this gun and would require a gunsmith to use, but you can at least see the difference.

The shaved bolt offers a lot more clearance on the scope and in fact shooting would interfere less with the turrets.

Our resident US Army Sniper Ben Becker shot this platform and it seemed stable and capable of competition level consistency, despite the fact that it appears to have far too few parts when you install it.

Ben’s 100 yard groups hovered around 2 inches with the gun. Not bad for almost 100 years old.

These are all World War II era scopes that were deployed mainly on the Garand M1C and M1D snipers, but most likely were also used on 1903 Springfield sniper rifles at some point. They are, top to bottom, the Numrich Arms M84, the Numrich Arms M82, both of those replicas, then two Lyman Alaskans, which were the civilian version of these scopes back in the day. All have a 7/8ths tube, so do not fit standard 1″ scope mounts. I have yet to find a 7/8ths mount, but we will see all of these scopes when we go over the M1C and M1D Garands we recently ordered from CMP.


List of Resources:

S&K Scope Mounts: http://www.scopemounts.com/ (800-578-9862)
Gibbs Rifle M73G2 Orders: http://www.gibbsrifle.com/
Numrich Arms M73G2 Order Page: http://www.gunpartscorp.com/m73
Sun Optics USA (3/4″ Weaver Mount): http://www.sunopticsusa.com/

If you trace the evolution of the modern sniper rifle, it invariably leads you back to the Model 1903 Springfield. It served US forces in World War I, then soldiered on into World War II, through the Korean Conflict, and even appeared here and there in Vietnam. Several versions of the 1903 Springfield were used as sniper rifles, the most common of which was the 1903A4. It first appeared in 1943 and carried a Weaver 330 scope, mounted on a drilled and tapped Redfield base that was created specifically for the gun. The Weaver 330 later turned into the M73, and then the M73B1, and with its 2.2x not waterproof sniper scope, the 1903A4 is today the most classic of all US sniper rifles, but they are expensive, in the thousands of dollars for even a beat up one.

Over the past several years there has been an explosion in shooting competitions based on “as issued” military bolt rifles, or “service rifles.” Thousands of old ’03 Springfields and other bolt action battle rifles have left the confines of the gun safe after decades of non-use and have again become “working rifles.” The problem is, a lot of the shooters involved in these new service rifle competitions are great shooters, but have aging eyesight. Over a certain age, you really need optics to shoot well, but the 1903 Springfield isn’t the easiest gun on which to mount a scope. The receivers are extremely hard on most of them and difficult to drill and tap, and drilling and tapping them is a big decision as well. It is very rare if not impossible to find an ’03 that is all original, but they all have historical value and significance. Most of us out here with the guns are also history nuts and at least quasi-collector/accumulators, and we can’t just decide to drill and tap them for scope mounts so we can shoot them better. That is why, until now, they have largely just sat in the safe.

Fortunately, after searching far and wide, I found a scope mount for the 1903 Springfield that doesn’t require drilling and tapping, and actually looks, feels, and is solid like a genuine drilled and tapped mount. It is made by S&K Scope Mounts and it is called the “Insta-Mount.” With the new replica M73B1 scope being sold by Gibbs Rifle company , it is hard to distinguish an S&K 1903A4 from a real 1903A4. And the nice thing about it is that you can use really any scope setup you want with your rifle. The S&K mount gives you a standard Weaver base, for use with any standard rings or rail bases. For a casual service rifle match, even the oldest eyes will be able to shoot an authentic 1903 Springfield with optics, and without destroying the historical and monetary value of the gun.

What’s the catch? Well, one is that you do have to inlet your stock a little for the width of the barrel band that holds the front of the mount. In the rifle you see in the pictures, a Rock Island ’03 probably made right before World War I, the stock was already definitely not original, and they almost never are. The government cannot throw away or destroy battle rifles without an act of congress, so over the last half century or more they have re-barelled, re-stocked, and even completely refinished these rifles over and over again. In general, ’03 stocks are a dime a dozen and go for $100-$150. My stock on the Rock Island could even have been replaced three times and you would never know the difference. It has no inspector marks, called cartouches, and even if it did, you can buy cartouche stamps on Ebay that when used creatively are virtually undetectable from original specimens. The receiver is generally the only original part on an ’03, and my Rock Island has little collector value other than that it is a genuine Rock Island ’03 that looks pretty good and works.

If you have an ’03 that you wish you could shoot in a casual service rifle competition with optics, this S&K mount kit may work for you and it may not, but there is more than one way to skin a cat. If you don’t want to inlet your stock, buy another stock, put it on the gun, and inlet that. The bolt handle is another part you may want to modify if you plan to shoot the gun with a scope a lot, but as you can see from my pictures, this can be an optional modification, and you can do it with another bolt as well. On my gun, with the 3/4 inch rings I was able to score for the M73, the regular ’03 bolt handle clears just enough to not require any modification. I have included both pictures of my bolt and those of a bolt that has been ground down for a proper clearance for a real drilled and tapped 1903A4 mount, so you can see exactly what S&K is talking about in the directions when they discuss this issue. Remember these are battle rifles, and most competitions are timed, so a good clean bolt throw can be important.

With the installation pictures I have included here you will not go though the fits I went through when I first got my first S&K mount. It comes with virtually no directions, and a pile of what seems to be way too few parts to create a solid scope mount on a rifle. I freaked when I first read the part about grinding your bolt after you have installed your “no drill” mount. What’s the point of having a no drill mount when I now have to go grind my bolt? Well it’s not such a big deal after all. The same thing with inletting the stock. It is just part of the deal, and a whole lot better than trying to drill and tap an ’03 receiver. Read the directions, and follow the pictures. It goes together fairly easily, but keep in mind that the mount is aluminum, and it is easy to booger the screw holes if you are not careful. I had to get a second mount when I overmuscled the first one.

At present there are only two companies carrying the M73B1 scope. Gibbs Rifle Company is using it for their hog rifles that Scott Mayer already did a story on here. Those rifles are being made from revitalized de-milled drill rifles, so Gibbs has no conscience problem drillings and tapping them for a proprietary mount being supplied by Hi-Lux, who is making the replica scopes in China. I was unwilling to drill and tap my Rock Island, and my search led me to S&K, but it took me weeks to find a 3/4 inch Weaver scope mount with which to mount the M73B1 scope. Surprisingly, they don’t exist through normal suppliers, but I found one source, Sun Optics, that was willing to send me rings to try. My understanding is that Val Forget from Gibbs is in contact with them as well, so if you want to put this together, you will have to call around and see what you can get like I did. The Hi-Lux drill and tap mount also has a built in windage adjustment, because the M73 is known to not be very flexible with windage, but my rifle zeroed just fine with the turrets.

The rings I was not able to get were the 7/8ths inch that are required for the M81/82 and M84 scopes that were found on the Garand M1C and M1D sniper rifles. I have a picture of some here. These scopes were based on the Lyman Alaskan and are also only about 2.5x power. These would be historically accurate for period correctness, but I have not found a government issued 7/8ths mount for the Springfield, so for historical correctness I’m not sure. We will visit these scopes, including the what appear to be very good replica M82 and M84 scopes from Numrich Arms, in an upcoming article on the M1C and M1D we ordered from CMP. There was no sense holding this article up for now when summer competition season is around the corner just so I could find a 7/8ths scope mount with a Weaver base. I will find one, in time.

Also note that we have an article coming up on the “other” Springfield 1903A1 sniper variant that carried a special Unertl external adjusting scope. Hi-Lux also has created a replica of this classic external windage and elevation adjustment scope, and we are trying to work with the American Gunsmithing Institute to make a video of how to mount this on an ’03. That scope requires drilling and tapping, to the barrel (uhum), and it is a little tricky. But for an only moderately collectible ’03, it’s a nifty scope to create a pretty unique rifle. If you watch the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” in the beginning scene on Omaha beach the sniper character uses an M73 scope and a 1903A4, then later in the movie, in the scene where he gets blown up in the tower, he uses the Unertl model scope on a 1903A1. I sent one of my other ’03 Springfields, a re-parkerized gun I bought on GunsAmerica for $350, to AGI to make the video and hopefully that will come together soon.

A vintage 1903 Springfield is not going to be the most accurate gun in your arsenal. Most of them were re-barreled at some point with two groove emergency war barrels, and the ones that weren’t are pretty well shot out. You can still easily get surplus and aftermarket replacement barrels, as well as stock sets, bolts, and just about every other part for an ’03. If you tune your gun up it may do better than the two inches or so we were able to get out of my Rock Island. And even then, the Rock Island plant closed in 1919. It is almost 100 year old firearm, and it shot as well as many out of the box brand new deer rifles I have owned over the years. The S&K mount, though sorely lacking directions, is a brilliant piece of engineering and seems solid as a rock. That leather cheek pad I got on Ebay for $25 and it fits just fine, and looks great. I am leaving my Rock Island set up as a 1903A4. It’ll outshoot any Nagant I’ve ever seen, and we’ll see how she does against the Mausers, Arisakas and Enfields out there at some point. But let me warn you, if you get to the shoot and you see a Swiss K31, scope or no scope, put your rifle back in the car and go home. More on this as well later.


Installing the S&K Insta-Mount on the 1903 Springfield – Photo Essay

To get started, remove the bolt and unscrew the two action screws in the bottom, then drop the floorplate and trigger guard piece of of the bottom.

Then remove the barrel band scew and slide the barrel band forward. Don’t worry about taking it off.

Unscrew the front cap and bayonet mount, both screws.

You should be able to remove the wood and end up holding the barreled action and trigger assembly. This is as far down as you have to take the gun.

Open your S&K Insta-Mount package and read the entire directions. Make sure you have all of these parts. Note that ONE SCREW IS LONGER. I have no idea why they have a longer one, but it appears to work best in the rear position, as explained later.

Bend the ring evenly so it slips over the action.

Use needlenose pliers to hold together the wings of the band and use the tiny screw to mount the band. You may want to Locktite blue these screws.

Using what seems to be the longest of the three heavier screws, mount this hook thingy to the back of the mount like this, but down screw it all the way down.

The nut with the two wings on it goes upside down, up into the back of the mount. Use one of the shorter thick screws to secure it to the mount, and the wings go down into the back of the action, matching up with the action pieces so it doesn’t stick out. You’ll see how it goes when you go to put it in. One of the wings here is hanging out just to illustrate. Note that the end hook is not screwed down yet.
Then wash the carcass down to remove any contaminants from the outside.

Screw the rear top screw down tight before you do the rear hook.

The front of the mount should be lined up perfectly with the bolt hole at the top of the receiver band you installed. Screw that down, but not all the way tight yet.

Tighten the rear bolt, making sure to hook the back of the action, locking the whole system together.

Make sure the bolt flows smoothly through the rear nut with the wings. It is a little finicky.

All that is left is to inlet the stock a tiny bit for the receiver band you installed.

If you don’t have a Dremel tool, you can use a small wood chisel or very gentle routing with an electric drill for removing most of the meat for the screw ears on the ring.

This wasn’t the cleanest job, but this stock was clearly a replacement and this is all inside, so who cares.

I had to cut a hole in the cheekpiece for the sling mount on the ’03, and it took some patience to find the right spot for the hole when it laces up, but for $25 on Ebay, it ads a lot to the rifle when done.

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob MacIntosh June 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Hi,
New to the website is your rifle for sale. Thanks Bob

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Administrator June 9, 2012 at 10:08 pm

no

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David M June 11, 2012 at 10:33 am

Thanks for opening up options for an old guy with macular degeneration. jn

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Bert June 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Is there any further information on that cheek piece besides “found it on eBay”. Maker, model #, anything?

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Administrator June 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Did you bother to search for cheekpiece on ebay? Try Key word m1d

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Mike Bowen June 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Hello

Great write up on the 1903a4 Sniper Rifle. Always like your info on weapons.

MB

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jc July 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Looking forthis basic model, also looking for a jc higgins 16 guage bolt action From sears and roebucks!! Can ya help

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Erik June 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Are they going to make one for the 1903a3? that would be cool

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Administrator June 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

It fits all 03 receivers. They are for the most part the same.

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Theadore Stone June 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm

“Using what seems to be the longest of the three heavier screws, mount this hook thingy to the back of the mount like this, but down screw it all the way down.”
This caption follows the picture of attaching the band and screw. At the end of the sentence did you intend to say “but do not screw” instead of “but down screw it”?

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Administrator June 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm

don’t screw it down all the way, yet. I’ll fix it.

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Billy June 11, 2012 at 11:23 pm

What is a run of the mill mix matched rock island 1903 Springfield in decent condition worth?

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Administrator June 12, 2012 at 2:04 am

These days we see them going for over $750 on GA.

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John June 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Where can I find a bent bolt for a 03a4??

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EDDIE 1911 June 12, 2012 at 7:26 am

what would the hole packes cost

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Ricardo June 12, 2012 at 8:26 am

I’m curious if the 1903 that you tested had the barrel bedded do you think it would improve accuracy?

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Administrator June 12, 2012 at 9:06 am

That is a whole other world that you would begin by replacing the barrel with a Criterion or whatever.

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Pat June 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm

In one of the pictures the rear sight shown is a tangent sight, not a diopter sight. Are you sure the rifle you modified is an A3 and not an earlier version? S&K has a kit for the 1903A3 and a kit for the 1903. Otherwise, the pictures are very helpful for one considering an S&K kit.

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Larry June 13, 2012 at 8:16 am

I have a U.S. Rock Island Arsenal Model 1903 Ser# 274326. This gun is all original and all numbers match, with bayonet and cover. Very nice gun…How much is this weapon worth?

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leo buot June 20, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Do you need to modify the bolt so as not to interfere with the scope?

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Administrator June 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm

It explains in there that you don’t have to but you can.

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David June 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Would Hi-Lux scope http://www.creedmoorsports.com/shop/Hi-Lux-Malcolm-8X-USMC-Sniper-Scope.html fit on such a mount? For ’03A3?

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Administrator June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

No that requires you to drill and tap the barrel we have an article coming on that scope at some point.

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David June 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Thank you Administrator for the quick answer. For me to go through the trouble and expense of doing this I would want something more than 2.5 power. I believe the 8 power Hi-Lux scope would meet my long distance shooting needs. To bad somebody hasn’t worked out this problem of the mounts for that scope.

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David June 24, 2012 at 7:40 am

Sorry for the running commentary here. I am trying to understand something that is coming to me slowly. In the movie “Saving Private Ryan” Private Jackson switches his “M73 scope on a 1903A4″ to a “Unertl scope” (as stated above). I checked the film and that appears to be the case. I noticed the Unertl scope rests on the same mounts that his other scope did. I also noticed that the Unertl scope, which is almost 2 feet long, overhung the front mount by more than a foot. Kind of hanging out there.

When look the mounts of Hi-Lux which is the modernized version on the Unertl the front mount would not have been used by Private Jackson, the front mount is completely different than what he used. See the above photo in this article and contrast it with this (top) photo from James River Armory on their sniper clone using the Unertl/Hi-Lux scope http://www.jamesriverarmory.com/ Notice two photos down they have a ’03A4 clone with a M73 type scope similar to what Private Jackson used at the beach landing.

OK, what I am getting at is could a person put on a “No Drill” mount on their 1903/’03A3 (different mounts for different rifles), eliminate the front mount from the Hi-Lux (Private Jackson apparently did) and then use just the portion of the Hi-Lux rear mount for the external elevation/windage adjustments? Again Private Jackson used the mounts of the M73 to mount his Unertl with it’s external adjustments. So why can’t we do the same using the “No Drill” mount? What am I missing here?

Thank you Administration for your patience with all these questions. I do not want to spend a good portion of $800 on something that could never work.

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Administrator June 24, 2012 at 9:37 am

I think it was mickey moused for the movie. There is no way you could use the adjustments on the back with it locked into that standard redfield base, which has a rudimentary windage adjustment only. We will address this on the article on the Hi-Lux, if it ever comes together. We made the article more complicated than it needed to be and it is dragging it badly.

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David June 24, 2012 at 10:13 pm

The movie did play fast and loose with some of the facts. I noticed Private Jackson up in the tower fired 8 rounds in rapid succession from a 5 round rifle all the while quoting Scripture.

I see your problem with the editing of a tech article. You need a lot of information to make what your saying useful but too much information bogs it down. I had the same problem with an article on racing transmissions I was working on. Plus how many people care about modifying a A903 Torqueflite transmission for a Slant Six? The limited interest affects whether one makes the effort r not.

Again thanks.

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Casey Cutler September 10, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Sir, HELP PLEASE – I have placed a S&K scope Weaver mount on a 1918 Mark 1 1903 Springfield to mount on my 1940 Weavern 330 on . The rifle has a scant stock put on it in 1943. I previously detailed it out with the leather cheek pad, recoil but pad from the 03 grenade launcher and nickel thong cleaning kit.

I would like to set it up EXACTLY like yours pictured because I do not want to grind the bolt and yours has the required clearance. Where can I get the rings like those you have? Is it Sun Optics? What specifically do I need to ask for?

Thank you for any and all help

Casey Cutler
409-370-9758

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Administrator September 11, 2012 at 9:20 am

You need the 3 quarter inch scope rings from sun optics. You can also use it Delrin ring reducers available at brownells.

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Casey Cutler September 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Just talked with Sun Optics. They remebered your article. You readers might like to know that later this month they are going overseas and finalizing the production of a no drill military mount for the Weaver 330 for the ’03 with the correct ring size (7/8s). It is supposed to be ready after the first of the year. They gauanteed that with this mount there will be no grinding of the bolt required. Worth waiting for.

Thanks for your help!

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Administrator September 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm

FYI Sun Optics has former execs from B-Square, so the mount will be based on the B-Square mount, which they make a version of. This mount utilizes the selector tab on the left side of the bolt to hold itself in place. We were unable to test this mount because our pin didn’t fit the mount. The pins are apparently not all the same size, and the box even has a note about contacting B-Square, who apparently will machine your mount to fit your pin. We didn’t. Hopefully we’ll see the Sun Optics mount when it comes out.

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Whyawannaknow December 3, 2012 at 10:41 am

A 1903 won’t be the most accurate rifle in your collection? I beg to differ.
http://i559.photobucket.com/albums/ss31/Bert2368/photo-45.jpg

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Bob Guzauskas December 3, 2012 at 8:03 pm

OMG…! You butchered that wood. Buy a Dremel and some proper burs and take your time.

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Matt December 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Where would one find an authentic cheek piece for a real A4? I stumbled across one about 10 years ago and have it locked in my safe.

I am thinking of putting it into service for shooting fun.

Please let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Matt

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Administrator December 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Ebay is full of them.

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Matt December 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Thank you. Where would one find price evals for an a4 with the proper scope , mounts etc?

Thanks again,
Matt

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Larry January 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

I have a 1903 a3 that has been sporitized with new barrell. will this mount work on this rifle will the front ring fit?

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AFITgrad86 July 17, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I have the Gibbs A4 reproduction. Love it. Thanks for sharing the information. Just remember this… if the 1903 were a car it would be the Model T. Kind of hard to imagine that still being competitive in today’s market! So the 03 is a true classic and every bit the shooter today as it was when I was a pup.

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Ray Farley August 30, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Very interesting article, and very well done! I was on the fence about the S&K mount until I read your article. What were the height of the rings you installed on your 03A3? I’m going to do the S&K mount on one of my 03A3′s, and was wondering what the best ring height would be?Thanks,
Ray

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Jin September 1, 2013 at 4:40 pm

You guys are talking about a 1903A4 and showing pix of a 1903A3 instead. The thing that makes an A4 an A4 is the bent bolt that gives clearance for the scope. Later A4′s came with a four groove barrel as well. As far as I know they are all marked 1903A3 and not 1903A4 but I am not absolutely sure about that.

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Les September 25, 2013 at 10:55 am

I believe your correct on the markings. I have 2 1903′ I inherited from my father, the 1st is a very nicely done but still unfortunate Sporterized A3 version, the 2nd is an 1903A4 Sniper Version that other than missing the scope and shoulder strap is a complete authentic Sniper Rifle. Point is, they both are Stamped 1903A3 just in different locations.

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Ron Smith October 2, 2013 at 9:21 pm

After the scope is installed can you still load the rifle from clips? I can’t tell from the photos if it blocks the top or not.

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Administrator October 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Of course it blocks the top.

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leo buot November 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm

In the S & K website, you have the choice of 2 styles of 1903 Insta mounts:

a) style 1465 – with S & K rings included

b) style 1570 – S & K ring not included

What style did you use in your presentation? Does it matter if you don’t use the S & K rings ? Thank you…

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Administrator November 5, 2013 at 8:33 pm

rings not included if I remember right.

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Tyler February 19, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Does that leather cheekpad help at all? I thought the original purpose of the side cheek pad was for M1 Garands and their offset scope mounts. Wouldn’t the pad make it worse with a normal scope?

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herc00798@yahoo.com March 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Hi great article!!! I must be missing this though. Where did you get the high scope ring mounts and what were the model number for the insta mount and 330 Weaver, Chris

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