The M1903A4 Sniper Rifle: An Old Soldier Still Hits the Mark

Gun Digest looks at the Springfield M1903-A4 Sniper Rifle

There were two telescopic sights used, both variants of the 2.5x Weaver 330.  The first scopes were marked commercially and had either tapered post or crosshair reticles.  Later scopes were marked M73B1, the military designation for the Weaver 330.  Our M1903A4 was fitted with the tapered post version of the commercial 330, although our rifle’s serial number indicates that it was in the last production batch of 6,300 M1903A4s. The final M1903A4s were manufactured in June 1944 when the M1C started being delivered in sufficient numbers to begin replacing the M1903A4.

There seems to be disagreement among the M1903 authorities on total numbers of M1903A4s manufactured.  According to Canfield and Clark Campbell, the number was 28,365.  On the other hand, Brophy states that 29,964 were produced.

Top view of the Springfield M1903-A4 action and bolt.We probably will never know exactly just how many were manufactured, except that the M1903A4 represents a tiny fraction of the more than 1 million M1903A3 type rifles produced by Remington during World War II.  When Smith Corona production is added to the mix, the total M1903A3 production rises to nearly 1.5 million.  So it is clear that the M1903A4 is one of the rarest production M1903s ever made, which has driven prices into the $3000 range for an example in good condition.

The M1903A4 soldiered on after World War II, despite M1C and M1D sniper rifles that supposedly replaced it.  M1903A4s were drawn from storage for the Korean War and surprisingly also saw service in Vietnam during the early stages of the conflict before other, more modern sniper rifles could be procured.

This made the A4 the last version of the M1903 to remain in military service.  The M1903A4 thus saw active military service for over 20 years, indicating that it must have had some positive attributes.  Just how good was the M1903A4 for its intended purpose?

According to Brophy, the M1903A4 was “…at best a poor excuse for a sniper rifle.”   The M1903A4 had no special attention given to its accuracy or its suitability for use as a sniper rifle.  The Weaver scope had the benefit of being cheap and available and little else other than being simple to install.  But in the context of the time, the M1903A4 wasn’t really significantly inferior to sniper rifles from other nations.  The Russian PE and PU sniper rifles with their 3.5x scopes were really no better, nor was the German 98K.

The British Number 4, Mark 1(T) wasn’t either.  All were essentially bolt-action service rifles that were pressed into sniper service, except for a few 98Ks that were specially made up as sniper rifles.  The M1903A4 was actually no better nor worse than other sniper rifles of the time.

When compared to sniper rifles from the Vietnam era, the M1903A4 comes off as inferior, but at the time of its introduction it did its job and from what research we have conducted, did it relatively well.

One thought on “The M1903A4 Sniper Rifle: An Old Soldier Still Hits the Mark

  1. Joe89

    I want to make a statement regarding my late Grandfathers experience with the M1903A4 – Being a farm boy in Michigan he was a crack shot with a rifle,Due to this he was made the squad sniper when he served in World War 2 through France,Belgium,Germany. He Never spoke much about combat but he sure told us how great of a rifle his 1903A4 was,He kept that rifle clean and working at all times and loved it. And this was a guy who knew his guns believe me, He never made 1 complaint about the rifle,the scope or accuracy. I believe its true when they say “Only a bad workman blames his tool.”

COMMENT