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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.
President Roosevelt’s custom M1903
Many do not have the opportunities to search the almost endless resources at the National Archives throughout their various locations throughout the country. Most tend to rely on published books, history channel specials and internet mediums for their research needs. But that has its limitations.
Accomplished authors and historians travel to the Archives or hire researchers to dive into the boxes of original documentation on the subject matter they seek out. Then they compile their data, organize it and publish their work. For the reader this presents a problem, the documentation has already been interpreted for them. Each of us bring our own perspective when viewing data.
Taking into account various factors, one individual may interpret the same data completely differently from another, offering a different opinion or perspective on how that data can be viewed. Since most people can not travel to the archives where primary documentation resides, they rely on published works from authors and historians for their knowledge.
Archival Research Group aims to change that. We want to bring primary documentation to you so you may make your own interpretation of the data.
As an example of raw documentation versus packaged information: The United States adopted the United States Rifle Caliber .30 Model 1903 on June 30, 1903 as its standard service rifle. On November 17th of that same year President Theodore Roosevelt sent a letter to the then Chief of Ordnance General William Crozier that he would like to have a 1903 Carbine made specifically for him. This story is not new or groundbreaking. It discussed in Alexander Rose’s book “American Rifle, A Biography.” It is also discussed in “Theodore Roosevelt, Outdoorsman” by R.L. Wilson.
Below is the documentation recovered from the National Archives and accompanying photographs of the rifles featured in the files.
Now you can review the correspondence as it discusses the modifications made to the 1903 Carbine during its production at Springfield Armory. It is the same documentation that an author would use in his or her research on the same subject if they were writing a book or article and allows a far broader view for the student of history than a previously condensed and edited article.
I invite you to review it as well as the photographs.
The rifle currently resides at the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.