Let me state this right up front: I own a weapon of war. Two of them, actually. They are not the AR-15 “assault rifles” I own which are called “weapons of war” by people who are passionately ignorant, but rather, they both are M1903 Springfield rifles that I inherited from my father-in-law when he passed away. Both of them are military surplus, purchased when they were no longer useful to the military, and unlike my AR-15’s both them them have been handled by a soldier on active duty at some point. One of those bolt-action Springfield rifles is in bad shape, however, it was built in 1904 and I like the idea of passing on something of that age on to my sons after I’m gone. The other? The other has a different story.
Some background. My father-in-law worked for the Forest Service in the Tonto Basin, Arizona area from when he got home from the Pacific Theater until he retired thirty years later. His work there was split between the peaceful work of fixing and repairing hiking trails from horseback and the brutal, dangerous work of fighting forest fires leading “hot shot” crews all over the Mogollon Rim. He loved the Tonto Basin, because that’s where he was raised.
His family first settled that area of the state, but they never were rich. His family were the ones who worked the land for the people who got rich off the land, so as such, his guns were working guns, and these are two of them.
The M1903 in the foreground is decrepit and unusable. The stock is in tatters, the front sight is silver-soldered on and it’s in the 40xxx serial number range, which means the receiver was probably not heat-treated correctly and is unsafe to shoot.
The M1903A3 rifle in back is another story. I don’t know when it was sporterized, but whoever did it didn’t bed the action correctly, something I found out when I took it to my gunsmith to have the scope added to it. The gun (with the scope) will now do 1.5” groups at 100 yards, and it will probably be passed down to one of my sons when my time here is over.
This rifle in particular means something special to me, because it was this rifle that was in my father-in-law’s hands when he stayed up all night long one evening in his home just outside of Payson, watching as the Dirty Dozen motorcycle gang rode up and down the road outside his house, threatening violence on him, his wife and my future wife.
I don’t have many guns that I attach my emotions to, but these are two of them.