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Hello Everyone,

I'm searching for information on some M1903 stock markings that have generally been attributed to US Navy issue. Specifically, the markings I am curious about are stamped block letters over numbers such as "AA 30" or "B 16" on the right side of the buttstock. My understanding is these are likely rack numbers of some kind, but where did this consensus among collectors come from that has linked them to the US Navy? Does anyone have documentation or photos that this was only a practice among Navy armorers? Another question I have along these lines is what about US Marines serving aboard Navy ships on sea duty? Do you think these Marines would have rifles marked differently than their Navy counterparts? Any thoughts?
 

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I have one such rifle so marked on the top of the Buttstock (2B 116). No one here when asked some years ago seemed to know.

The Navy marking theory I think was linked to Seabee units back in the old "Gun and Knife forum" days or maybe the Culvers site after. I seem to recall the markings were said to correspond to the battalion and then rifle number (3B 110 being 3th battalion, 110th rifle) or if letter/number (B30) alone being company rifles identifier (B company 30th rifle). The only caveat on that is looking at old Seabee tour books indicates arms were held at a central battalion repository, But I am quite sure with so many campaigns the issue/markings might have varied somewhat. Unfortunately I did not keep a copy of that/those posts or the source material and and with near 20 years of time since I am not sure my memory on that linkage is even correct.

The last time I did try and find it in print what I came up with was no official documents linking markings to have anything to do with the Navy or some other possibilities such as ROTC, NG or military school markings post WWI. I seem to recall Cpl Norton or someone who did know these things came back such marking were not approved on Federal Government property. However as some such markings were seen on at least a few guns that came back from Greece, and such were property of the US government when it occurred. The government did issue rifles to some military schools (such as citadel). Also the possibility of State guard units (state owned), California had a bunch of M1903 state property rifles they sold off and so did Maine. Finally I know some Navy collectors that have had rack marked Navy overhauled M1 rifles, verified as they were Navy trophy rifles.

This being on the periphery of my interest what I wrote above is my recollections alone, and might contain errors. That said when I was recently researching the "PBS" markings on M1903, (rebuild markings form the Naples ordnance workshop 1944-45) which also came from recollections from the old Gun and Knife forums (or Culver), I was able to verify my recollections and found pictures of the markings as well as the summary report on the "peninsular base shop (PBS)" activities. So my recollections might not be that bad.

Hopefully someone has done more research and can pipe in.
 

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I have a early single bolt Rock Island stock that came from the VFW or American Legion, it is stamped AT over 21 which
is a US Navy designator (AT) for ocean going tug and the number 21 for USS Bagaluce (1919 to 1946). The designator
code can be found on the internet. Also have the USS Tennesse and others with the more common markings too
 

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I think the leading theory the markings are Navy is the most Plausible. We really don't know a lot about the Navy M1903's, even though they had a substantial amount of them.

For instance at the end of WWII, I see counts of over 500,000 M1903's. Also the Navy had two repair depots that rebuilt countless M1903's, and we have no idea what the traits of these rebuilds are, nor how to tell a Navy rebuild.

The Markings on the Buttstock show up on even newer rifle platforms such as the 03A3 and I've seen them on the M1 Garand as well.

The Navy had a lot of 03A3's during WWII and adopted the M1 in 1945.

One thing I tried to document at the Archives was these markings, but I never found anything mentioned in the Navy, Army, or Marine Docs.

But I do think the Navy connection is the most realistic.
 

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Hey I reread your comment, as far as the Marine connection. It's hard to explain as the policy of the Marines having arms on Navy ships changed a lot over the years. Sometimes the weapons on the ship detachments were the Marine's issued weapons and sometimes they were Navy property.

The biggest thing is though, I don't think these markings were applied to Marine weapons. Though I do have a documented Marine M1903 that was sold at the Navy Philly Yard in the 50's and it has this marking on the stock. But I think it's more like the vast majority of Marine M1903's were turned over to the Navy post Feb 1943, and they would have received markings after that time.

In the Marine docs, they were very particular that the stocks of Marine rifles did not have anything done to them past linseed oil applied. In fact some Marines got in trouble because on ships they were using a coating to make the stocks resistant to the saltwater and they got in trouble for it.

At that time in the Marines Corps if you didn't take care of your rifle, you had to pay for the replacement parts to make it serviceable. So the Marines had a vested interest in not doing anything to their rifles. Because it cost them money.
 

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These stock markings are before WW2 except for the USS WEST POINT. The designator USN code was found on
early stocks and sometimes the hull number was used too. Note the serial number on the USS TENN stock is
among known USN ship serial numbers (sn 825055 with a SA 3-18 dated barrel) this rifle came with the stock
from the CMP rifles. There are also a few more HONOLULU marked SA SPG stocks around too
 

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At the end of the day, unless CPLNorton can find a letter or document list designating SN to stock marking and for what reason, it is pretty much all conjecture. Most of the guns have been rebuilt, monkeyed with, sent overseas, returned, "restored", made prettier, - on and on. For those in their original configuration, it is rare to find one that you can honestly say came that way. Even those could have been cobbled up 80 years ago.
 

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At the end of the day, unless CPLNorton can find a letter or document list designating SN to stock marking and for what reason, it is pretty much all conjecture. Most of the guns have been rebuilt, monkeyed with, sent overseas, returned, "restored", made prettier, - on and on. For those in their original configuration, it is rare to find one that you can honestly say came that way. Even those could have been cobbled up 80 years ago.
There is a collector who posts on jouster2 who has a M1903 rifle salvaged from the USS California, stock is marked CA near the top tang on the butt plate
and another collector on jouster2 who has a USS MISS marked stock with documented serial number on his M1903
 

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There is a collector who posts on jouster2 who has a M1903 rifle salvaged from the USS California, stock is marked CA near the top tang on the butt plate
and another collector on jouster2 who has a USS MISS marked stock with documented serial number on his M1903
Yes, one of the documented BB CA rifles just sold on an auction site for a LOT of $$. the key is "documented". By a letter-offical documents, by SN. they are out there - and were documented by salvage and navy records at the time. Same for pretty much any high end collectible. My point was that a rebuilt Greek return "Maybe restored" mixmaster 03 can have any markings on it for any reason and it does not really mean anything. there were two sequential SN 1911 Colts sold recently as well- but they were just that - someone came across two 1911s that ended up in the same place at the same time and some one put them together again. clearly based on condition they had traveled different paths. No other documentation - so you could speculate any story or series of events that came to mind, but with no documentation they are just speculation. Buy the gun, not the story. Pretty sure I have Hitlers personal Olympic AR-15 pistol. Looks like he stamped "AH" on the grip. o_O
 
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