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May 24, 2006

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The Guns I Own: The .30/06 Springfield Model 1903 A3

Russ Carpenter was a gunsmith who lived in Plattekill, New York and had a shop there for 30-plus years. He taught me what made guns tick, and got me started big-game hunting. One of the rifles I own was made by Russ for himself in the early 1950s, and he used it until he finally stopped hunting whitetails 50 years later.

It’s a .30/06 Springfield Model 1903 A3 that’s been converted to a Mannlicher-stocked sporter. About the only metal work Russ did was to chop the barrel from 24 inches to 20. He kept the double-stage military trigger and the original greenish-gray Parkerized finish. The stock is reddish-colored black walnut with a steel cap at the muzzle and a tiny compass inletted into the comb. For a scope he chose a Bear Cub (a very early Redfield) 4X with a plain medium crosshair reticle in the old, horrible, but reliable Weaver mounts.

If there is such a thing as a typical 1950s working gun, this is it. There were still tons of military rifles that could be had very cheaply then, and the numbers of Mauser 98s, Enfields, and Springfield 03s that ended up being chopped and channeled (that's a 50s hotrodding term) into sporters is huge.

I have no idea how many deer Russ killed with this rifle. He did most of his hunting in the Adirondacks where there aren’t a hell of a lot of deer, but on the other hand he was a very good hunter. I’ll never use it because it’s right-handed, but I can take it out of the safe now and then and remember the man who built it.

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Comments

Mike Weyrauch

I'm looking for a new stock for a 1903 Remington chambered for 30-06. If any one know of a place to check I can us all the help I can get, as the old stock is cracked.
Thanks
Mike

Dennis

THe 1903 is a really good gun. Still pack one when working in the bush. 30-06 with 220s will stop any in Ontario. Prefer the two stage tgrigger becasue it allows you to squeeze it off ofter the first stage.

Dennis

Sorry about the spelling in the above message the teacher interuptted when i was writting it

Cesar Rodriguez

I just purchased a Mauser 98 action and am interested in building a sporter in an old and unfashionable caliber capable of harvesting Nilgai in South Texas. Your thoughts on capable calibers? Is the 8mm Mauser sufficient cartridge for these critters?

AJG

1903 Rem. Stock is a tough one. If I were you, I'd look up the Kittery Trading Post in Maine. Their firearm dept. and selection is one of the best in the country. If they don't have one - they can sure point you in the right direction.

Concerned_Soldier

Mr. Petzal,
Great Post,
I look forward to reading about your guns all the time, I wish it was a daily post thing, but I guess I will have to wait for the weekly update.

Oh I just finished your article in F&S about the 10 great gunsmiths, another winner, thanks for the great read, any chance next time you can add a name of a great gunsmith in everystate?

V/R

C_S

Tom Fowler

Thanks for the mention of Russ Carpenter....a friend of my Dad, Russ Fowler. Russ the gunsmith was apparently a practical kind of smithy, and Dad would send all manner of odd jobs to him. The only surviving rifle of Russ Carpenter that I have is a plains rifle, muzzloading, that Russ rifled with a progressive rifling. It takes a pretty versatile smith to tackle all the strange jobs that Russ routinely accomplished. We need a million more like him!
Again, thanks for the memory.
Tom Fowler

Dick Filippini

Dave: Great article on "10 Best Gunsmiths" in June F&S. However, those poor bastards, if they aren't already, are about to be inundated with more requests for info & estimates than they've ever seen. A couple of em are probably cussing you already - with good reason. I've got a couple of Ruger single actions that need smoothing up and tightening up. Anyone know of a good pistol smith here in the Midwest that does good work? I'm in Kentucky (Louisville area).
Dick

Timothy Gossett

I know I am off topic, but in response to Mr. Petzal's article in the June issue, "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed" is from the song of the same name by Merle Travis, written in 1947. The song was also sung by Eddy Arnold.

Ralph the Rifleman

Dave,
It seems you have a rare, and interesting, firearm collection which makes me envious of you.I passed up a purchase, many years ago, to buy a converted '03..I was practical back then and have changed my ways for the best. Sounds like a nice gun with a that touch of history worth reliving every time you look at it.

Bird Dog

Hey Dave... How about a Picture?

Concerned_Soldier

Mr Petzal,
How about doing a post about a good gun store and gunsmith in everyone of the lower 48 and one for Alaska! I think a couple of your followers could pitch in and share their wealth of knowledge to help the rest of us out?

Your thoughts?

V/R

C_S

David Burch

Mr. P.,

My very first center-fire rifle was a 1942 Remington '03-A3. Simple, rugged, plain as can be, and amazingly accurate, given its well-worn 2-groove barrel. It gave me a lifelong taste for aperture sights and bullseye target shooting.

I am, like you, a lefty, and used to tilt the '03-A3 over to work the bolt with my left hand. I always enjoy seeing pics in F&S of your beautiful custom left-hand rifles. Ever think of having someone build you a mirror-image Springfield '03? If I was a millionaire, I'd pay some CAD-CAM genius to scan the drawings for the '03, hit the reverse button, and click me up a southpaw M1903A3.

Dave Burch
Holmen WI

Dave Petzal

Gents: Thanks for the letters. I was away for a week so I'm late getting back to you. To those of you who requested a state-by-state guide, getting just these ten was a nightmare, so I'll pass.

To Mr. Gossett: Very good. The slogan was originally for Lucky Strike cigarettes: "So round, so firm, so fully packed, so free and easy on the draw." And the guitar wizard Merle Travis wrote a song with that title, and had a hit with it, and then Eddie Arnold covered it and had a monster hit.

And if you'd like a photo of the Russ Carpenter rifle, it's on the cover of our February 05 issue, right at the top.

Jeff Nelson

The '03 Springfield is one of the all-time classics, but it usually takes a backseat to the 98 Mauser as a sporting rifle. It's too bad, really, since the '03 doesn't take any more conversion work than does the '98, and sometimes less. Plus, the later double heat treated or nickle-steel versions are superior to any '98 Mauser from a metalurgical standpoint; i.e., they don't need to be re-heat treated. As far as conversions go, the '03 was certainly more adaptable to a LEFT HAND bolt conversion than the '98, and several old-time gunsmiths (Sedgley, Tom Shelhammer & Bob West, among others), did just that. For the record, I have a LH converted Rock Island DHT '03 in .270 with a pre-64 M70 barrel. Don't know who did the work, but it's first-rate.

Dave Yankowski

I have two rifles worked by Russ Carpenter for my father and am in pursuit of the third. They are all early 1950’s late 1940's Winchesters in .243 (1952), .270 (1950), and .358 (1949). They were working man's rifles and dad had them fitted with Monte Carlo stocks and scopes. I love the Baush and Lomb fixed tapered crosshair. Each rifle is stamped Russ Carpenter, Plattekill N.Y. They are the finest shooting rifles I own and will never leave my possession. I did meet Russ once when I was a kid in the early sixties. My dad went to ask his opinion about some rifle he was considering on buying. I do believe that he just went to talk and look at guns. Anyway it is interesting to read a few things about Russ and would like to know more. Thanks, Dave

JOHNNY LAWS

I HAVE TWO 1903 REMINGTONS 30.06 ONE IS PERFECT THE OTHER I NEED STOCK ALSO, BARRELL BANDS WITH BAYONET LUG AND BAYONET, I NEED HELP FINDING THESE PARTS. SHOTGUN NEWS HAS NEW STOCKS FOR 199.00 BUT I NEED ORIGINAL SURPLUS.

boyd thompson

Where do I find technical info or a how to article on the left hand bolt conversion of an '03? Thanks. Boyd

Joe H.

Ditto on Boyd's question. I've got southpaw guns but would love to read / learn about the old conversions on '03's and 98's to LH. Thanks.

Joe

Stuart Reininger

I just read the comments by David Petzal regarding the Gunsmith Russ Carpenter. I have a flintlock full stocked (fiddleback curly maple) rifle that I've owned for many years made by Russ Carpenter. I would like to learn more about this gunsmith as the work on this rifle is extraordinary..Thank you..

I own a russ carpenter rifle 22-250 made on a german 98 action.Can anyone offer more information to me.




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