03-A3 Drill Rifle Facts and Recovery Process
Visits since 28 january 2012

Freeing Cut-Off Turn Down Bolt Pesky Screw

In the fall of 2011, the CMP held a "junk" auction. There were over 200 pallet sized lots of M1 Garand stocks, bayonets, scabbards and Springfield drill rifles.
There were over eighty lots of drill rifles and most lots contained 100 rifles. Here is a closer look at one lot of drill rifles.

These rifles were not de-milled, but de-activated. They can be restored to firing condition. They were de-activated for use by ROTC, JROTC and high school honor guards and drill teams. To de-activate the rifle several things were done in order to make it difficult to easily return it to service.

Drilled Chamber

Torch Chamber

Steel Rods
Biggest thing was the chamber was cut and a steel rod welded into the barrel. It is safe to say the barrel was de-milled!
In many the rod was positioned almost to the bolt face and you cannot even chamber the head of a cartridge in it and close the bolt!

Barrel Weld
Next, they spot weld the barrel to the receiver. This was to prevent the barrel from being easily unscrewed.
However, even un-welded '03 barrels are a bear to remove and require a barrel vise and receiver wrench. Tools not usually found in a high school metal shop.

Bolt Face

The bolt face is welded over closing the striker hole and the tip of the striker is broken or ground off.
This is to prevent the striker from somehow pounding its way through the weld or getting bent up and jambing the action.

Lite Tack

Two Tacks

Front to Back
Finally, with the bolt in the action, the magazine cut-off is welded in the down position. This was certainly intended to keep the bolt from getting "lost" as well as making it difficult to replace the bolt body with one that wasn't welded over.

Non-Gun and C&R

If you have been poking around the web I am sure you have seen ads for drill rifles that are non-guns and require no FFL.
Well for an '03 to be a non-gun it has to have all the modifications as listed above AND the recoil lug must be removed and the receiver cut in two places.
The only reason I can think to cut out the recoil lug is in order to sell the rifle without FFL involvment.
Receivers with the recoil lug removed and cut in two places cannot be safely restored to firing condition.

Additionally, you may have seen ads that proclaim '03 drill rifles as C&R (03 FFL) eligable. This is true, but only for complete rifles. A barreled action or stripped receiver still must go through an 01 FFL.


The information below is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith. Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith. The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of or misuse of this article. Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer. This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith. Some procedures described in these articles require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them. I assume no responsibility for use or misuse of this article. Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Choosing a Candidate

Lite Tack

Barrel Weld
The first thing you want to look at when choosing a drill rifle for re-activation is the weld at the cut-off.
Some of these rifles have only a small spot weld and this can be easily removed with a hand grinder.
Some cut-offs were welded front to back and these will require more work to remove.

Next is the barrel to receiver weld. You can't see this without taking the action out of the wood.
However, my experience is if you have a small tack at the cut-off, you will have a small tack at the barrel.
Most welds used stainless steel filler rod and it will not parkerize.
A very small number of receivers in my lot had mild steel filler used at the cut-off while stainless was used for the barrel weld. Go figure!
Stainless is always bright with the color of a US nickel. You can test for mild steel with cold blue.

Freeing up the cut-off and releasing the bolt

First, remove the cut-off screw, then draw out cut-off spindle.
Grind away the weld to remove the cut-off. If the cut-off is loose, but won't come out, don't be tempted to pry it with a screw driver. You may damage the receiver.
Keep after the weld until the cut-off comes out easily. Some cut-off can be cleaned up and returned to service, but new ones can be had for $3...
With the front-to-back welded variety, kiss the cut-off good by! I use a 3" abrasive wheel and the entire cut-off must be ground away.
Note: When the cut-off is free, there is a spring and detent that can go flying. Try not to lose them.

Then the cut-off is out, the bolt may be removed to the rear.
Clean up the front and rear faces of the slot where the cut-off sits with a file or abrasive stone. Do the same for the cut-off if it is savable.

Removing the barrel

Getting the "ruined" barrel off requires grinding or machining through the weld. Take care here not to grind into the receiver.

Very important! Be sure the bolt is removed or to the rear before twisting the barrel off or you will ruin the extractor!

Once sufficent weld has been removed, an action wrench on the receiver and a pipe wrench on the bad barrel shold break it free.

.005 from face

cut into barrel

finished cut

milling vise
pipe wrench
I cut the weld in an engine lathe using a parting tool. I chuck the barrel with the receiver face about 1/4" from the jaws.
I touch the tool off on the receiver face and then move it away by .005" and then cut in with the tool until I cut about 1/32" into the barrel.
The receiver is then held in a good milling vise and a pipe wrench finishes the job.
I then dress down the remaining weld on the receiver face with a file and abrasive stones.

At this point you will now have a good 03-A3 receiver.
If you purchased a complete rifle to start with here are the parts you will need to add:

  • Barrel (NOS military $100 to $250) or new Criterion from CMP ($189)
  • Bolt body (Numrich $14)
  • Striker (Numrich $8)
  • Cut-Off (Numrich $8)
  • Anything else missing or ruined.


Timing Marks
The receiver and the barrel will have timing marks. These marks must line up. They get the extractor cut in the barrel lined up with the extractor.
Also, it puts the keyway for the front sight base in the right place.
With the new barrel hand tight on the receiver, the marks should be apart with 16 degrees to go. Measured with a caliper the distance between the two lines should be .167". A new barrel may have double that so you may have to skim a few thousandts off the barrel shoulder. The barrel diameter is 1.200" and you can do the math if you want. I have worked up a simple formula; Measure the distance between the marks when hand tight. Subtract .167 to find the difference. Multiply the difference by .0265 and the result is how much you have to skim from the barrel shoulder.

To insure the cut is square to the bore, I hold the barrel by the muzzle in the lathe chuck and put a live center into the breech end and take a light cut. At this point I back off the tail stock and spin the receiver on again and re-caculate how much to remove before taking a final cut.

Now all you have to do is put the barrel in a barrel vise and using a receiver wrench tighten the two together until the lines are coincident.
If you have a GI barrel, it might head space right off. If not you will have to ream the chamber until your bolt closes on the Go-Gage.

All that is left to do is re-assembly and go shoot!

A4 Scope Base Hole Dimensions
Due to the popularity of the Vintage Sniper Match, I have drilled and tapped several A3 receivers for scope mounting and built them into the A4 configuation. The jpg above is my dirty old note showing the location of the scope mount holes and the Redfield parts for mounting a Lyman Alaskan scope.