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Last year I was browsing a local gun store when I noticed a gun that stood out to me. It was a Smith-Corona made 1903A3 Springfield rifle. Obviously this rifle had been in the store a while, as it was taking up one of the counter top displays and its price tag showed several significant price drops.
The metal was in good condition, with a very nice and well preserved gloss blue finish. The stock had been replaced with a Sporter stock, which needed some work, and a couple other modifications had been made.
I had wanted a Springfield project for a while, so I got the salesperson's attention and pitched an even lower out the door price. After some discussion with the sales manager, the gun went home with me at my reduced price.
Inspecting the gun mechanically, I found it to be in very good condition with the exception of one feature; the trigger was awful! It had a pull nearly akin to a double action pistol. The pull was first a canyon of creep, then several stages of spongy take up as the trigger weight increased, and finally a mushy break with no clear indication of when the firing pin would drop. Although the trigger pull gauge only read around 5.5 lbs, it was an uncomfortable and inconsistent experience.
In addition, at one point during the initial shooting test when the bolt was closed on a live round and the firing pin dropped with it instead of catching on the sear, resulting in a dead trigger. I already had a feeling from the long, spongy pull that somebody had tried to do a trigger job on the rifle and had messed up the sear engagement angles. Now unsatisfied with. the trigger and unable to trust its safety, I started looking for replacements.
It didn't take me long to find that Timney, one of the best known names in the aftermarket triggers game, had a budget priced option for me. The Timney Sportsman is made for Springfield, Mauser and Enfield rifles and retails for around $55 + Shipping.
The trigger soon arrived and I took it to school (where I was studying gunsmithing) to make the switch. Installation was very simple; remove the barreled action from the stock (make sure to use proper gunsmithing screwdrivers!), remove the old trigger pack, and install the new one. It requires only a couple of tools, and you can see the process more closely in this video that I made.
After installing the trigger to the receiver, there was a little bit more fitting required. The trigger itself was a little wider than the original 03A3 trigger, and didn't want to fit back into the trigger guard. This was solved with a little bit of careful filing on the trigger guard with a needle file until everything cleared smoothly. Because the assembly itself is a little bit bigger, some minor inletting of the stock may be required. I accomplished this by marking the assembly with a little bit of inletting black (some people use Prussian Blue) and a good, sharp wood gouge.
The difference was immediate and impressive with this new trigger. I ordered mine with the 3 lb factory setting and I found this perfect. The Sportsman, like most of Timney's offerings, is user-adjustable for features such as trigger pull and take-up, but I left mine exactly the way it was. Just by watching my trigger finger in the video above, you can see the drastic reduction in the trigger take-up and creep.
All in all, I was very pleased with my experience and I'd recommend it to nearly anybody who's looking for a 1903 Springfield trigger job or improvement. Based on my experience with it, I'd even highly recommend the Sportsman model for the Mauser or Enfield models without directly having used them. The price is right, the company is a good company with good trust in the market, and installation is incredibly easy.
The only con I can think of? 1903 Springfield rifles are a part of US History and as the years go on, they will be increasingly more desirable in 100% original condition for collectors and historians. Typically, a drop-in trigger replacement can be used and then replaced with original trigger components. Since I did find a little fitting was necessary on mine, you might find that you have to make some modifications of your all-original parts. There's a big debate on modifying mil-surp firearms, and while I won't tell you what to do with your guns, I will caution you to think about this and the impact it could have on the value of your firearm.
In my case, the gun had already been long sporterized, so the only option was improvement.
Hopefully this review helped you in your decision-making. Are you a fan of .30-06 bolt action rifles with fine wood stocks? Maybe you'll enjoy reading about the one I built at the same school. Or a great guest post about why working rifles should have metallic sights.