Reactivating Drill Rifles

Restoring deactivated drill rifles preserves American military history. Here’s how a Springfield 1903A3 was brought back to life.

by Roy Seifert

The Springfield 1903A3 rifle was the World War II variant of the venerable Springfield 1903 rifle from World War I. To expedite production, it used many stamped parts instead of milled components. The most notable difference was replacement of the barrel-mounted leaf/ladder sight with a receiver-mounted aperture sight. Over 900,000 rifles were manufactured from 1942-1944 by Remington (707,000+) and Smith-Corona (234,000+).

After World War II many of these rifles were deactivated and provided to high school Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and other cadet organizations. When I was in high school I attended a military class run by the California Cadet Corps under the California National Guard. In fact, I was the commander of the unit my junior and senior years. We used deactivated Springfield 1903A3 rifles for drill; the barrel was plugged, the bolt face was welded, and the striker was ground down, but everything else on the rifle was functional. Most of us cadets wanted to own one of these rifles, so ever since my high school days I’ve wanted to have a functioning Springfield 1903A3.

As popularity and money for high school military programs waned, many of these deactivated rifles were returned to the military and eventually found their way to the Civilian Marksmanship Program ( In the fall of 2011, the CMP held a “junk” auction with over 80 pallet-sized lots of Springfield drill rifles with most lots containing 100 rifles. An individual who purchased one of these lots sold me one of these rifles. Because the rifle was deactivated, not demilitarized, it had to be transferred through a FFL dealer. A few minutes of paperwork plus a transfer fee put this piece of American military history in my hands.

I completely disassembled the rifle for inspection and to determine what work I needed to perform, and what parts I needed to replace.

Read more in the February 2017 issue.

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