1903a4 mounted in M70 stock donovan

Forester71

Private
Minuteman
Sep 27, 2022
6
17
Kentucky
I just picked up a Remington 1903a4 that’s been mounted and bedded into an M70 marksman stock with matching number. It’s marked W.E. Donovan 1964 on the underside of the barrel. It looks almost identical to an original Vietnam M70 except it’s a 1903a4. What is this?
 

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cplnorton

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Apr 28, 2012
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42
Van Wert, Ohio
I have heard that name but I cannot place where I have heard it. I am almost thinking that was a commercial gunsmith's name. Maybe the guy who built the rifle are my thoughts.

The double gun forum are some of the most knowledgeable when it comes to custom gunsmiths. I might post over there and see if those guys have an idea.

W.E. Donovan might have also been the name of the person the rifle was built for too, or just the owner at some point. It was common back then to put names, SS#'s, and Driver License #'s on rifles in case they were stolen.

Back in the day that A4 action was a pretty cheap way to build a nice hunting/target rifle. It was much less expensive to build one like this than to buy a new Model 70.
 

Forester71

Private
Minuteman
Sep 27, 2022
6
17
Kentucky
I have heard that name but I cannot place where I have heard it. I am almost thinking that was a commercial gunsmith's name. Maybe the guy who built the rifle are my thoughts.

The double gun forum are some of the most knowledgeable when it comes to custom gunsmiths. I might post over there and see if those guys have an idea.

W.E. Donovan might have also been the name of the person the rifle was built for too, or just the owner at some point. It was common back then to put names, SS#'s, and Driver License #'s on rifles in case they were stolen.

Back in the day that A4 action was a pretty cheap way to build a nice hunting/target rifle. It was much less expensive to build one like this than to buy a new Model 70.
I bought the book The One Round War and W.E. Donovan is listed as a USMC armorer in Vietnam. The side of the receiver is also drilled and tapped for a lyman peep sight.
 

Forester71

Private
Minuteman
Sep 27, 2022
6
17
Kentucky
I have heard that name but I cannot place where I have heard it. I am almost thinking that was a commercial gunsmith's name. Maybe the guy who built the rifle are my thoughts.

The double gun forum are some of the most knowledgeable when it comes to custom gunsmiths. I might post over there and see if those guys have an idea.

W.E. Donovan might have also been the name of the person the rifle was built for too, or just the owner at some point. It was common back then to put names, SS#'s, and Driver License #'s on rifles in case they were stolen.

Back in the day that A4 action was a pretty cheap way to build a nice hunting/target rifle. It was much less expensive to build one like this than to buy a new Model 70.
I personally think it’s something built from surplused parts for competition matches rather than something that actually went to Vietnam. However, the high blue finish on the magazine plate has worn off towards the front indicating that it had been carried a lot by a sweaty hand. Similar to a lot of early german mauser receiver rings that were carried throughout the war.
 

cplnorton

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Apr 28, 2012
285
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Van Wert, Ohio
I knew I had heard that name before. Nice catch. :)

Yeah I do not think this was done as a sniper rifle. I have the counts of those rifles and even before the war started they did not want a 30:06 Sniper rifle. They wanted a 7.62 as they were required to switch because of Nato. So only about a 100 Model 70's and M1D's went to NAM in 30:06. Then within about a year the 7.62 M40 arrived.

I interviewed LtCol Chandler who was in charge of the RTE shop during the Vietnam era. I asked if any armorers marked rifles in anyway so we could be able to tell them today. He said nothing was marked and he wouldn't have allowed it. He said it was a big personal beef of his that his rifles did not look like the Army rifles, with all their elctropencil markings and cartouches and all that. He said he thought they were ugly. He said he did not want his rifles marked in anyway.

My honest thoughts were many of those armorers continued to build rifles into the Civilian world. I really do not think USMC Property would be allowed be marked with the Name.

I would research if this Donovan continued to build rifles past his time in the Marines. That is sort of where my research would start if this was my rifle.

It's a beautiful rifle by the way!
 

Random Guy

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May 16, 2012
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It’s marked W.E. Donovan 1964 on the underside of the barrel. It looks almost identical to an original Vietnam M70 except it’s a 1903a4. What is this?
My guess? It was a 'side project rifle' that a young Marine MOS 2112 built stateside back in 1964 for himself or for someone else. Not a combat weapon, but given the stock and mods, something that could be used at the National matches back in the mid-1960s. As noted, William Donovan is featured in a chapter in one of Peter Senich's books, The One-Shot War. On page 363 it shows him with a custom-made scope mount he did for an M14 (see attached). He served two tours in Vietnam, from Dec 1966 to I guess 1969? He retired in 1980, after 20 years in the USMC.

As for that 1903A4 rifle, it was presumably made by him in 1964 when he was at the RTE shop, so it pre-dated his Vietnam experience. Again, it was likely a personal 'side project' or what is called 'Hobby Lobby' these days, in which 2112s were sometimes allowed to hone/refine their gunsmithing skills by working on firearms owned by other Marines or Service Members. Many Marine officer's frown on 'Hobby Lobby' activities, but sometimes the 2112s would also build ad hoc rifles at the National Matches, reportedly if a Marine or a competitor on good terms with the Rifle Team guys, "dropped off a bunch of rifle parts, and also conveniently left a case of beer at the back of the van," a built rifle would appear a few days later. (An old 2112 told me, btw). Neat little piece of history. Not sure if Donovan is still alive, he'd be approx. 80 years old at this point.
 

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Forester71

Private
Minuteman
Sep 27, 2022
6
17
Kentucky
I knew I had heard that name before. Nice catch. :)

Yeah I do not think this was done as a sniper rifle. I have the counts of those rifles and even before the war started they did not want a 30:06 Sniper rifle. They wanted a 7.62 as they were required to switch because of Nato. So only about a 100 Model 70's and M1D's went to NAM in 30:06. Then within about a year the 7.62 M40 arrived.

I interviewed LtCol Chandler who was in charge of the RTE shop during the Vietnam era. I asked if any armorers marked rifles in anyway so we could be able to tell them today. He said nothing was marked and he wouldn't have allowed it. He said it was a big personal beef of his that his rifles did not look like the Army rifles, with all their elctropencil markings and cartouches and all that. He said he thought they were ugly. He said he did not want his rifles marked in anyway.

My honest thoughts were many of those armorers continued to build rifles into the Civilian world. I really do not think USMC Property would be allowed be marked with the Name.

I would research if this Donovan continued to build rifles past his time in the Marines. That is sort of where my research would start if this was my rifle.

It's a beautiful rifle by the way!
Thank you very much! I’ve collected and shot a lot of guns from 1843 Springfield muskets, SVT40s, to PSLs, all kinds of full auto and this rifle stumped me because of the build quality and the supposed connection to a documented Vietnam armorer.
Honestly, it looks almost spot on to the Scout Sniper raffle gun with the exception that it’s a 1903 variant.
 

Forester71

Private
Minuteman
Sep 27, 2022
6
17
Kentucky
My guess is was a 'side project rifle' that a young Marine MOS 2112 built stateside back in 1964 for himself or for someone else. Not a combat weapon, but given the stock and mods, something that could be used at the National matches back in the mid-1960s. As noted, William Donovan is featured in a chapter in one of Peter Senich's books, The One-Shot War. On page 363 it shows him with a custom-made scope mount he did for an M14 (see attached). He served two tours in Vietnam, from Dec 1966 to I guess 1969? He retired in 1980, after 20 years in the USMC.

As for that 1903A4 rifle, it was presumably made by him in 1964 when he as at the RTE shop, so it pre-dated his Vietnam experience. Again, it was likely a personal 'side project' or what is called 'Hobby Lobby' these days, in which 2112s were sometimes allowed to hone/refine their gunsmithing skills by working on firearms owned by other Marines or Service Members. Many Marine officer's frown on 'Hobby Lobby' activities, but sometimes the 2112s would also build ad hoc rifles at the National Matches, reportedly if a Marine or a competitor on good terms with the Rifle Team guys, "dropped off a bunch of rifle parts, and also conveniently left a case of beer at the back of the van," a built rifle would appear a few days later. (An old 2112 told me, btw). Neat little piece of history. Not sure if Donovan is still alive, he'd be approx. 80 years old at this point.
Yep, got the book.
This rifle is very well made, but does have some filler shrinkage in the m70 bolt handle cut out area.
My thought was that is was a match gun made from what was available and never left the US. However, it was shot quite a bit due to the bluing being somewhat rubbed off on the magazine cover where a sweaty hand might be.
 

Forester71

Private
Minuteman
Sep 27, 2022
6
17
Kentucky
My guess is was a 'side project rifle' that a young Marine MOS 2112 built stateside back in 1964 for himself or for someone else. Not a combat weapon, but given the stock and mods, something that could be used at the National matches back in the mid-1960s. As noted, William Donovan is featured in a chapter in one of Peter Senich's books, The One-Shot War. On page 363 it shows him with a custom-made scope mount he did for an M14 (see attached). He served two tours in Vietnam, from Dec 1966 to I guess 1969? He retired in 1980, after 20 years in the USMC.

As for that 1903A4 rifle, it was presumably made by him in 1964 when he as at the RTE shop, so it pre-dated his Vietnam experience. Again, it was likely a personal 'side project' or what is called 'Hobby Lobby' these days, in which 2112s were sometimes allowed to hone/refine their gunsmithing skills by working on firearms owned by other Marines or Service Members. Many Marine officer's frown on 'Hobby Lobby' activities, but sometimes the 2112s would also build ad hoc rifles at the National Matches, reportedly if a Marine or a competitor on good terms with the Rifle Team guys, "dropped off a bunch of rifle parts, and also conveniently left a case of beer at the back of the van," a built rifle would appear a few days later. (An old 2112 told me, btw). Neat little piece of history. Not sure if Donovan is still alive, he'd be approx. 80 years old at this point.
Yeah, I bought the book and
My guess is was a 'side project rifle' that a young Marine MOS 2112 built stateside back in 1964 for himself or for someone else. Not a combat weapon, but given the stock and mods, something that could be used at the National matches back in the mid-1960s. As noted, William Donovan is featured in a chapter in one of Peter Senich's books, The One-Shot War. On page 363 it shows him with a custom-made scope mount he did for an M14 (see attached). He served two tours in Vietnam, from Dec 1966 to I guess 1969? He retired in 1980, after 20 years in the USMC.

As for that 1903A4 rifle, it was presumably made by him in 1964 when he as at the RTE shop, so it pre-dated his Vietnam experience. Again, it was likely a personal 'side project' or what is called 'Hobby Lobby' these days, in which 2112s were sometimes allowed to hone/refine their gunsmithing skills by working on firearms owned by other Marines or Service Members. Many Marine officer's frown on 'Hobby Lobby' activities, but sometimes the 2112s would also build ad hoc rifles at the National Matches, reportedly if a Marine or a competitor on good terms with the Rifle Team guys, "dropped off a bunch of rifle parts, and also conveniently left a case of beer at the back of the van," a built rifle would appear a few days later. (An old 2112 told me, btw). Neat little piece of history. Not sure if Donovan is still alive, he'd be approx. 80 years old at this point.
My guess is was a 'side project rifle' that a young Marine MOS 2112 built stateside back in 1964 for himself or for someone else. Not a combat weapon, but given the stock and mods, something that could be used at the National matches back in the mid-1960s. As noted, William Donovan is featured in a chapter in one of Peter Senich's books, The One-Shot War. On page 363 it shows him with a custom-made scope mount he did for an M14 (see attached). He served two tours in Vietnam, from Dec 1966 to I guess 1969? He retired in 1980, after 20 years in the USMC.

As for that 1903A4 rifle, it was presumably made by him in 1964 when he as at the RTE shop, so it pre-dated his Vietnam experience. Again, it was likely a personal 'side project' or what is called 'Hobby Lobby' these days, in which 2112s were sometimes allowed to hone/refine their gunsmithing skills by working on firearms owned by other Marines or Service Members. Many Marine officer's frown on 'Hobby Lobby' activities, but sometimes the 2112s would also build ad hoc rifles at the National Matches, reportedly if a Marine or a competitor on good terms with the Rifle Team guys, "dropped off a bunch of rifle parts, and also conveniently left a case of beer at the back of the van," a built rifle would appear a few days later. (An old 2112 told me, btw). Neat little piece of history. Not sure if Donovan is still alive, he'd be approx. 80 years old at this point.
That sounds very plausible.
The competition aspect screams at me from several points.
It’s a non-standard configuration 1903a4 in M70 stock, it has no P mark or US Property, and it’s been drilled and tapped for a peep sight.
Now, the high blue finish is beyond most garage gunsmiths. But, there’s always firsts
 

pmclaine

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  • Nov 6, 2011
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    Sadly the receiver is worth more than the sum of its parts.

    It's a beautiful rifle but as an A4 reconstruction it would be well sought after.