The Guns I Own: The .30/06 Springfield Model 1903 A3

Russ Carpenter was a gunsmith who lived in Plattekill, New York and had a shop there for 30-plus years. He taught me what made guns tick, and got me started big-game hunting. One of the rifles I own was made by Russ for himself in the early 1950s, and he used it until he finally stopped hunting whitetails 50 years later.

It’s a .30/06 Springfield Model 1903 A3 that’s been converted to a Mannlicher-stocked sporter. About the only metal work Russ did was to chop the barrel from 24 inches to 20. He kept the double-stage military trigger and the original greenish-gray Parkerized finish. The stock is reddish-colored black walnut with a steel cap at the muzzle and a tiny compass inletted into the comb. For a scope he chose a Bear Cub (a very early Redfield) 4X with a plain medium crosshair reticle in the old, horrible, but reliable Weaver mounts.

If there is such a thing as a typical 1950s working gun, this is it. There were still tons of military rifles that could be had very cheaply then, and the numbers of Mauser 98s, Enfields, and Springfield 03s that ended up being chopped and channeled (that's a 50s hotrodding term) into sporters is huge.

I have no idea how many deer Russ killed with this rifle. He did most of his hunting in the Adirondacks where there aren’t a hell of a lot of deer, but on the other hand he was a very good hunter. I’ll never use it because it’s right-handed, but I can take it out of the safe now and then and remember the man who built it.