[Guest Post] Tom’s Black Rifle

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[ I am pleased to present this guest post written by David Gomez (aka. redmanlaw). The photo was by his 7th grade son Joaquin. ]

The term “Black Rifle” has become synonymous with the AR-15. My Black Rifle is a 1942 Remington M1903A3.

The rifle came into the family when my late father in law Tom Ansley, a union electrician who worked in West Texas and eastern New Mexico, ordered it for $14.50 around 1961 from the Pueblo Ordnance Depot. After I married Tom’s daughter Inez I would bump into the action and barrel in the closet of his wife Emerita’s sewing room at their ranch in Mora County, New Mexico, put aside and forgotten, but not by me.

Feeling the burden of his 90-some years, Tom and Emerita had me bundle up his rifles – a pair of Savage 99s in .308 and .250-3000, a pre- 1964 Model 70 .243, a 1943 M1903A3 and an old Savage 28 12 ga shotgun – and other shooting and reloading gear one day and take them back to Santa Fe. I pledged to care for them and cherish them just as I did several years earlier with their daughter.

The unstocked M1903A3 intrigued me with “SA 4-42” stamped above and below the Flaming Onion cartouche. It had been drilled and tapped for a scope mount, its dark finish was mostly unmarred, except for some wear and tear. Wanting to shoot it, I ordered an inexpensive black synthetic stock from Cabela’s and dropped in the action and barrel. A gunsmith cut a notch in the stock for the bolt handle and checked the headspace.

I wanted to make my version of a post-war sporterized rifle, something a guy would put together for hunting deer and elk. I found a vintage Weaver K4 scope in Tom’s stuff and mounted it on the rifle. The scope was high enough so that the safety worked. I laser bore sighted it and headed to the range, actually just a berm bulldozed into some BLM land west of town.

Once sighted in, my black rifle easily shot groups of two inches or so at a hundred yards with ammo it liked. The old scope with a dot reticule was sharp despite its age. I’ve been shooting it weekly recently as I’m taking it hunting this fall as my backup to Tom’s .308 Savage 99.

Tom died two years ago this winter. I’ll be in the woods every year as long as I can, carrying one of Tom’s guns or a Marlin .30-30 I got from my dad.

[ Steve says: One of the attributes I love most about firearms is the very personal history each one carries with it. A gun will easily outlive its owner and, if well cared for, outlive generations. ]


Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • dg

    I have a 1903a3 sporter and its my favorite rifle by far. They make great sporters if you do it right. Probably the best rifle for your money available.

  • Scott in Phx AZ

    It should be illegal to “sporterize” an A3-03 (just my opinion :) )

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Personally I do not mind sporterizing rifles.

      I think it is nicer to see a milsurp rifle being actively used for hunting, than getting dusty in a safe (having been fired once by the owner, and probably never again -I think most of us are guilty of this).

      I do hate to see classic rifle made “tacti-cool” eg. M4 style stocksand forward pistol grips added to Mosin Nagat rifles … uurrrggghh.

  • David

    Remember, that The Black Rifle started out as just a barrel and action. I actually have another M1903A3 that looks like it was used at Wake Island or something. I am not messing up that gun. Still getting used to the sights on that one and learning to adjust them among all the other gun stuff I have to do with the time available. Going hunting next week with TBR in the No. 2 slot.

  • Erich

    Nice article, David – thanks!

  • “gunner”

    i prefer restoring old military rifles, but this came as a barreled action. tom did right to put it to work i think, and it has status as an heirloom in his family history. i recently had the pleasure of telling a female friend the “old rifle” she inherited from her grandfather was a classic pre-64 winchester model 70 .30-06 in fine condition with the original period scope, and advised her not to let some shyster “take it off her hands” for cheap.
    “gunner”

  • “gunner”

    ooops! “david” not “tom”, tom was the father in law, sorry ’bout that, getting a little old myself.
    “gunner”

  • http://oswaldbastable.blogspot.com/ Oswald Bastable

    “…I’ll be in the woods every year as long as I can, carrying one of Tom’s guns..”

    Then so will he…

  • David

    Thanks for your fine comments. My mother in law enjoyed them as much as she liked the post itself.

  • Tyson Chandler

    Thanks for the great post David. I agree with Steve, one of the best things about firearms is the history, specifically family history. I hope that one day my sons will pass my guns to their Children, along with the stories and memories of our time spent shooting together. Again, well done David.

  • http://www.predatorwild.com Heath

    Very cool history on that rifle! Good luck on your hunt with it. I hope you’ll come back with a few pictures and hunt report.

  • John K.

    Great post, David. Thanks for posting.

  • Glenn b. wood

    D.G. Very nice and interesting note. Can you bring the black rifle with you tuesday so I can see it in person?
    Thaks D.G. See Ya!