January 2012

Classic Bolt Rifles, Round Two

Readers Blum, Russell, Grant, Brewer, Jaruk, and others have things to add to our December report. Also, readers help readers with problems aired in Firing Line. And rifles as walking sticks.

“Classic Military Bolt-Action Rifle Shootout: Lee Enfield Wins,” December 2011

Just a comment on your review of the 1903A3 Springfield rifle. I fully understand you test the rifles as you buy them, and that’s the way it should be. And I agree about the jolt the 1903A3 gives you. Anyone who wants either a 1903 or 1903A3 as a shooter would be well served to either find one with the full pistol grip “C” stock as opposed to the straight stock you tested, or the semi-pistol grip (“Warthog stock”) that many are found with. 

The “C” stock makes for a far more comfortable shooting rifle, which enhances its already considerable accuracy potential. If one can find a 1903 or 1903A3 with a “C” stock they’ll be miles ahead. The stocks are also available in reproduction form from a number of vendors. Any 1903 shooter will be far happier with the full pistol grip stock.    

—Bruce Blum
Frederick, Maryland

Two sites that sell the “C” stock are www.SarcoInc.com and www.DunlapWoodcrafts.com. We’re not recommending either, just noting that they have the stocks for sale. For further digging on the rifles, Brownells sells 616-page hardbound book, “The Springfield 1903 Rifles” by William S. Brophy, for $85. —Todd Woodard

In the report on rifles used in the two World Wars, I would have liked to see the Enfield 30-06 from that time included. I have found them to be quite accurate. What was the reason for using the Mosin Nagant? I’ve never seen one I would shoot, and your shooters said the same thing.   

—John Russell

Mosins are cheap and plentiful. As you noted, Bob Campbell’s test didn’t much like it. Also, it seems we used a variant, and incorrect, spelling. Reader Walt Kuleck wrote that the rifle is partially named for Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Mosin, with only one “i” in it. —tw

In his November 2011 “Firing Line” letter, Len Spitzer noted that the bolt was very tight on his M-N. The one I bought locally for $99 was the same way, but it loosened up after about 100 rounds and has worked fine since. It’s a good shooter, accurate enough for its purpose, and fun to shoot. I advise Mr. Spitzer to keep on shooting his Mosin. I’d rather have one a little tight than too loose.

—Yr ob’t svt, Mark
Henderson, Nevada

The article mentioned Lee Enfields still being seen in India today. Most likely they are not 303 Enfield chamberings, but the 7.62x51 version. The British would not provide them with more 303 Enfield ammo. We would give them all the ammo but no rifles, so their Enfield holds 12 rounds instead of the original 10. Thanks for the continued good work.   

—Dave Grant

I noted that you did not have an Arisaka in your interesting test of military rifles. I have a fine Type 38 carbine in 6.5mm. It is a genuine war trophy with a chrysanthemum crest. It was never fired in the war, but has killed numerous animals. It has a scope and was converted to a 6.5x257 Roberts. I have fitted it with an original-type stock and sights. It has a scope and a bent bolt handle, but can be loaded to original specs. It groups under 1 inch at 100 yards.

Also, I read your review of the Kel Tec PF9 (April 2011), in which you awarded it an ‘A’ rating. Mine just came back from the factory today. This is the second time I have had it in, and I bought it in August of this year. It has had a failure to fire consistently. I suspect the reason that the first repair did not work is that the person on the phone was a PR person and did not know what she was talking about. She told me not to send the whole gun, just the barrel and slide assembly.

—Ken Brewer

I can just imagine the pile of hate mail from the lovers of the Mighty Mosin you are going to get because of this article.

Mind you, I don’t disagree with your assessment that the No. 4 Mark I is the bolt-action battle rifle to take into action if you can’t have a semi-auto battle rifle in the 30-caliber cartridge class. But I must object to your dismissal of the Model 91/30 MN with the comment, “With the others to pick from, we don’t see any reason to buy a Mosin Nagant except as a shooting collectible.”

I have a hex Mosin made in 1926 at Izhevsk. I’ll admit that I have free-floated the barrel, smoothed the trigger a mite, polished the bolt and all bolt parts, replaced the buttplate with a purpose-built rubber buttpad that improved the length of pull, and put a scope on her. (My eyes ain’t what they used to be.) But shooting from the bench, Natasha will deliver minute-of-angle performance with commercial 180-grain ammo and an action that is slick as ice. And I assure you, I am not the only shooter who owns a Mosin Nagant that performs that well.

Yes, the Mosin Nagant, particularly the wartime production rifles that look like they were made from leftover railroad rails by drunken machinists and dropped into stocks chewed into shape out of spare railroad ties by rabid beavers, is not an elegant rifle. But they perform nowhere near as poorly as you rated them, if you take the time to understand them and tune them up a bit.

—Roy Jaruk

Drunken machinists and rabid beavers. Works vice versa, too. We are in awe. —tw
“AK-47s: Fixed-Stock Romanian Versus Folding-Stock Yugoslav,” December, 2011

Thanks for the recent write-up on AK derivative rifles. I love that your publication illustrates the accuracy that these rifles are (sometimes) capable of, and I have been wondering for years what the acronym WASR means.

I just wanted to say that the wedge “flash hider” on the end of these rifles is actually more like a compensator in theory, and the reason why it sets at an odd angle is theoretically to deflect gas and rifling spin. Though it does not seem to serve either purpose very well in practice, when I got my M-70 AB2, the first thing I got for it was a phantom flash hider, followed by a Tapco muzzle brake, Hogue grip, bayonet, and an aperture sight by Mojo that is far superior to the OEM rear sight, in my opinion. I got a replacement tritium vial for the front sight at www.CPFMarketPlace.com (requires a log in). Finishing it off with a Tromix bolt on charging handle, I have a much more comfortable and accurate weapon than the original configuration.

I also wanted to mention that Yugoslavian M-70s are different from regular AKs in a variety of ways too numerous to list here, because Zastava never got technical assistance from Russia when they began producing their rifle. They are AKs and they aren’t, kind of like a Galil or a Valmet rifle, the basic operating system is the same but they are their own thing. Keep up the good work.   

Reno, Nevada

Re “Firing Line,” November 2011

Regarding Mr. Cate’s letter as to the reason for the Mannlicher’s full-length stock: Austria is a hilly, mountainous country with hunting requiring trekking up steep trails. The full-length stock was designed so the rifle could be used as a hiking/walking stick. This was also the reason for the schnabel forend tip, so the barrel could be gripped directly behind the muzzle without it sliding past the muzzle. The butterknife bolt handle kept that piece from protruding and getting caught on vegetation like traditional bolt handles. The forends on the very early sporting models had a bit of a potbelly directly in front of the magazine, then quickly became extremely thin out to the muzzle. Over the decades, the forends became thicker and the rifles heavier. Now Mannlicher-style stocks are purely aesthetic because nobody would use their rifle as a walking stick!

—Johnny Tipps
Nashville, Tennessee

Re “Firing Line,” September 2011

For some reason, my September issue missed me in the mail, though your staff was very kind and hastily got me a replacement copy. As a result, I’m a bit tardy in commenting on a Firing Line letter that is a recurring theme.

I am weary of hearing people discredit the Ruger Mk I/II/III series of 22 pistols because “they really despise their disassembly.” Like one of the readers who wrote complaining about it, I have each variation of the pistol and am quite familiar with it. Though the Mk III version gums up the works with the magazine disconnecter, a tight one may still be safely disassembled or reassembled in 30 seconds or less. It really isn’t any more difficult than a 1911 with a bull barrel or a Colt Woodsman.

The most common error I have found — both with myself and other shooters — is being unaware of the position of the hammer strut relative to the cross pin. Hold the pistol up so you can see inside the frame to see where the hammer strut is before you try to close the mainspring housing. Then, put gravity to work by keeping the muzzle skyward, and you should be able to prevent the strut from getting caught behind the cross pin.

The other common problem I have seen is failing to get the barrel centered on the frame. Only one of my pistols does that, though only on occasion, so I eyeball the alignment from the rear to ensure it goes on straight.

Many in our community insist on having everything nice and tight for better accuracy, and that is often the case with a new Ruger Mk pistol. If the pistol is too tight for your liking, call Ruger — they have wonderful customer service. Just remember tighter guns are supposed to be more accurate. Also, Gunsmither Tools makes a takedown tool (carried by Brownells) that is a great help, though you can get the same results with a paper clip and dowel.

I will readily agree with anyone who says the directions in the owner’s manual are verbose, but they do provide proper instruction. For those shooters who are better visual learners, Ruger has videos. Go to their website under News & Resources>Videos>Ruger Tech Tips. That page has three different links for the Mk disassembly, cleaning, and reassembly. Frankly, if you read the instructions, watch the videos, and still find the pistol overly difficult, perhaps you should stick to revolvers and stay away from the reloading bench!

If an owner of one of these fine pistols continues to have extreme difficulty, they really should call Ruger for assistance before blaming the pistol. Prospective buyers should not be intimidated by the so-called “bear” of a process, as the Ruger pistols are arguably the best 22 pistol bargain out there.

Thanks for all of your great articles, as well as the asides where the evaluators explain who made the gadgets they used during evaluation.      

—Paul Barr

Re “Firing Line,” December 2011

Here is an alternate choice for speedloaders for the 10-round S&W 617. The DS-10-1M from DS-10 SPEED obtainable from Dave Skrzela, 7377 W. Vienna Rd., Clio, MI 48420. Website is www.DS10Speed.wordpress.com for pictures and info. I recently purchased one of these speedloaders and loading block, and found it to work flawlessly during a 120-round range session with my new 617. Prices for the speedloader and accessories are significantly less than the one from Dillon.

As an aside, I have been a long-time subscriber. You are the only gun magazine I subscribe to. You have come a long way as a magazine from the rough-around-the-edges beginning. Although, I still find oversights, now and then, you are still the only one around that can be trusted. That is saying a lot.   

—D. Ritton

Re “The ‘A’ List: 2011 Guns & Gear,” December 2011

Each month I enjoy reading your publication. Every month there are more and more choices about where to spend my hard-earned dollars — better barrels, better triggers, better stocks, etc. Your research helps me spend wisely. Thank you!

I have a request and a suggestion. I know you have only so many lines of text in your publication. As a hunter who still enjoys getting out there with a nice bolt-action rifle in all kinds of weather, I would enjoy seeing a comparison of production rifles by caliber, in 308, 7mm-08 or 30-06 or 270 (choose any one caliber, standard or magnum). Sort these by barrel lengths, stock material, how they perform, quality, barrel contours (can be a factor in accuracy), overall weight before scope, etc. In other words, try to level the playing field as much as you can. Take the whole thing and throw it in a spreadsheet. Since it is probably going to be a fairly extensive spreadsheet, perhaps do it as an online bonus issue?

Put in as many of the major production manufacturers as you can, including CZ, Winchester, Howa, Weatherby, Browning, Remington, Kimber, Montana Rifle, Savage, TC, Sako, etc., for a particular production year. Divide results into rifles under $1,000 and rifles between $1,000 and $2,000. In the higher-priced category, you may not necessarily get a better rifle. Let the results speak for themselves.

I would love to see you do this year after year, using a different caliber each year. I think it would be enjoyable and revealing.

Someone once said “only accurate rifles are interesting.” Not all of us can afford to go out and spend $3,000 to $9,000 on a custom rifle that shoots minus half-MOA groups all day long. For most of us out here in the real world, that’s not going to happen. But all of us desire to have a rifle that will consistently shoot well and give us the confidence to say, “It wasn’t the rifle’s fault.” I think putting together a comparison like this would go a long way to help making good decisions on quality firearms.

—Christian Guntert
Victorville, California

Gun Tests Report Card Grading

We Welcome Letters