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National Guard Accident with M1903 Rifle

When I wrote this post in 2019 about "low number" M1903 bolt-action rifles being unsafe to shoot, the earliest account I could find of the rifles failing was from 1917.


While doing some research the other day in old issues of Arms and the Man magazine, I found an account of the failures from 1908 - nine years earlier.

The article mentions that this "is the first instance of any such accident" being reported and that it is probably an isolated incident, stating that there "is as little likelihood of its recurrence as there is of a ... train on Pennsylvania being wrecked because ... the New York Central met with an accident."


Here's a close-up of the damaged gun:

The author of the original article surmised that the damage was caused either by a blocked barrel (though the original letter says it was not) or a "defect in the bolt, receiver, or cartridge."


Well, they were right about one thing: it would later be found that the receivers were indeed the issue. (Again, check out this post to see the whole story about the issues with the M1903s.)


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