As mentioned, our test M1903A4 was unfired when we discovered it in a local gun store and purchased it at a very reasonable price. Since it was new, we were advised by some that the rifle should remain in unfired condition to preserve its collector value. Nonsense.
We don’t own firearms that we don’t shoot and so shortly after obtaining our M1903A4, we boresighted it and headed to the range to zero it. We zeroed the rifle using Black Hills 168-grain match grade ammunition, but for this evaluation we also tested the ‘03A4 with Greek 1985 production military M2 Ball, duplicating the World War II 150-grain military load.
We also tested Serbian Privi Partizan 180-grain ammunition, imported by Wolf. The Black Hills match delivered 1.25 minute of angle (MOA) at 100 yards. Translated into layman’s terms, that is 1.25 inch at 100 yards, 2.5 inches at 200 yards, etc. For what it is worth, MOA (one inch at 100 yards) accuracy is considered acceptable for modern sniper rifles, so the ‘03A4 – at least our ‘03A4 – gives up little to modern precision rifles in terms of accuracy.
Surprisingly, the Greek 150-grain ball ammunition was as accurate as the Black Hills 168-grain match, probably because the M1903A4 was designed around the M2 ball round. The Seriban Privi Partisan was about two MOA at 100 yards. The bottom line is that our M1903A4 delivered acceptable accuracy that would probably improve once the barrel was broken in by having a couple of hundred rounds fired through it.
The M1903A4 is an excellent representation of sniper rifle technology of the 1940s. As we have mentioned, sniper rifles of both our allies and enemies weren’t superior to the ‘03A4 in any meaningful way and the rifle delivers good accuracy using quality modern match or service grade ammunition. World War II snipers didn’t have access to match-grade ammo like their modern day counterparts, so the Greek ball ammunition test groups are probably more in keeping with battlefield reality.
Probably the most significant shortfall of the M1903A4 was its scope, but it must be remembered that during World War II, everything was in short supply and the Army had to get its scopes from a company that could deliver the necessary quantities within a short time, so it went with the Weaver 330, which was good enough for the task at hand. All in all the M1903A4 was satisfactory for its intended purpose and like most soldiers and Marines of the period served its country well.
Everyone who shot our “old soldier” was overjoyed at being able to shoot a rare piece of American military history. We probably will not shoot our M1903A4 frequently, as it is too rare and valuable for frequent trips to the range, but rest assured that it will continue to do what it was designed to do – shoot with reasonable accuracy from time to time and deliver some enjoyment in the bargain.
Resources for Military Gun Collectors
The Standard Catalog of Military Firearms
The Greatest Guns of Gun Digest
Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Firearms and Their Values
Gun Digest 1944 – 2009 3-DVD Set
Gun Digest the Magazine
Gun Digest 2011