Documented Firearms

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M1903 Serial Number 661,258

This rifle was recently discovered from a list of Serial numbers in the files of the Office of Chief of Ordnance. These numbers will be included in our January 2019 serial number lists. The serial numbers have been known among collectors. There are 150 M1903 and 29 M1917 rifles on the list. The speculation is that since the majority of these serial numbers are in the 600,000 serial number range attributed to Winchester Repeating Arms (WRA) Company in 1919. Many believed these were M1903 A5 Sniper rifles which were sent to WRA for repairs following World War I. That however is nothing more than conjecture since no one has been able to locate the files since they were first discovered. The files indicate these rifles were used in a ammunition test, the test was concluded and WRA was requesting shipping instructions since they were still government property on loan for the test. The test indicates the condition of the rifles, where the rifles came from and how many rounds were fired through them. Some rifles had as many as 5600 rounds fired through the rifle during the testing phase. This is another example why primary documentation is extremely important for the purposes of historical research. The rifle has been altered but based on the conditions of the reciever, it was never a M1903 A5 Sniper rifle, and there is no mention of any telescopic sights in the testing. It unfortunately, does not denote the reason or scope of the test.
This rifle currently resides in a private collection on the East Coast.

Here is the rifle in its current state.

M1903 Serial Number 211,558

This rifle is unique for several reasons. One it can be documented to a specific piece of paperwork from the archives. Next, it can be pinpointed to a specific unit. But what was most intriguing about this rifle is that it had an individual attached to it. This particular rifle’s serial number is associated to the 14th Cavalry and a specific trooper. It gives you a purchase point, in the “buying sense,” but in the sense to an anchor point to start digging.
Now the 14th Cavalry only served in the Mexican Border War, never made it to Europe during World War I. During the Post WWI era, served mostly in the Midwest (probably Iowa since that is where it was moved to). Let’s look at the individual Leo Girens.

Census records indicate Leo Girens was born April 18, 1904 of Joseph and Anna Girens in Winnebago, Wisconsin. His father was a painter in the carriage industry. By the age of 17, Leo Girens was working as a laborer for an unidentified Sash and Door Factory. Records indicate in 1930 he was a truck driver. He married Mary Weisaple and they had at least one son together, Leo Elmer Girens. In 1932, he became a member of the Oshkosh Fire Department, and became Chief of that Department in 1945. Eventually Girens became President of the Wisconsin State Fire Chiefs Association. He is mentioned in several local newspapers concerning the actions of his fire department at the time.  The fire department where Leo Girens spent his career provided a picture of him. They were actually shocked they had anything on him since the file probably has not seen the light of day in quite some time. He was also in an article on the history of their Fire Department.

“Pretty and papered” is obviously the most desirable. Typically only seen in DCM sales rifles instead of service rifles. But these service arms were used, and the more it was used the more likely it is to carry paperwork. Through overhauls, repairs, issuances, bills of lading, etc. In our experience the more “pristine” or “original” a service rifle is, the less likely it is to have a paper trail.
If something in your collection can tell a story, would you listen? Would you care? It’s not documented to battlefield after action reports, or a MOH recipient. How often do you run across a chance to attach something tangible?

The owner provided pictures to this rifle. It currently resides in a private collection on the West Coast.