When Jacob Hawken ﬁrst began making his “mountain” riﬂes, he incorporated features into each gun that were well thought of based on his experience. Hawken wanted his riﬂes to be the very best available and, therefore, desired by the most people. His strategy worked, because these days, they are the riﬂes we remember the most from the early to mid-1800s.
Dan Phariss, a highly regarded gunsmith and black powder historian, may have said it best: “The Hawken, the fully evolved mountain riﬂe, be it full or half-stock, was the ﬁnal evolution of the American muzzleloading hunting riﬂe.”
In my opinion, no other muzzleloading riﬂe ever surpassed the classic percussion Hawken riﬂe.
MOUNTAIN MEN NEEDED A RIFLE that was dependable, one that could last a whole year or more in the wilderness. Generally, it had to function without the possibility of major repairs and need for replacement parts, although trapping brigades sometimes had blacksmiths or gunsmiths traveling with them. But with Hawken, that strength and dependability was built right into their riﬂes.
For example, muzzleloading riﬂes were often susceptible to damage with breakage to the stock right at the wrist. To strengthen that area, Hawken riﬂes and their replicas have the long upper tang, as well as the extended trigger plates. Those two iron or steel pieces reinforced the wrist of the stock at both top and bottom, and screws from the tang go through the stock to anchor the trigger plate.
Unlike many modern modular 70 designs, the barrel is the literal backbone of muzzleloading rifles, as it provides the foundational support for all of the other parts and pieces. With that in mind, the Hawken rifles had heavier barrels than most other models. It could be that this was because Hawkens were expected to make more frequent use of heavier loads, but that explanation isn’t as probable as the brothers simply seeking a stronger foundation for their rifles.
The locks and triggers used in the Hawken design were also the ﬁnest available at that time, and were another reason that they were the ﬁnest shooters in the world. Finally, the Hawken shop was one of the ﬁrst to embrace the percussion ignition system, and while many historians believe the Hawken brothers also manufactured ﬂintlocks, none of these have ever been located.
Some believe the role of the Hawken riﬂe in western history has been exaggerated, or that the Hawken brothers are being given more credit today than they deserve. But This if nothing else, the Hawken riﬂes were clearly recognized as being the gun to have if you could aﬀord one. That is not just because they were more expensive than most other riﬂes at the time, but also because – in the diaries, ledgers and account books of the time – Hawken riﬂes were frequently the only riﬂes that were mentioned by name.
For example, in the inventory listings of what the American Fur Company shipped to Fort Union, in what would become North Dakota, in 1834, a notation indicates “4 riﬂes, Hawkins.” Another early reference appears in a list of goods taken west by French Canadian trader and fur trapper Etienne Provost in 1829: “2 riﬂes, Hawkins ($25.00 each).” Those are just two examples (both notations appear in the book Supply and Demand: The Ledgers and Gear of the Western Fur Trade by Olsen and McCloskey). Other riﬂes were not generally named to this level of detail, but Hawken riﬂes (and some pistols) always seem to be mentioned by name. In other words, if it wasn’t a Hawken, it was just another riﬂe.
For comparison, the price of a “trade riﬂe” (a riﬂe made for the fur trade, to be sold or traded to trappers, red or white) as made by Henry, Leman, Tryon or others could be purchased for around $12. At more than twice that amount, Hawken riﬂes were truly expensive guns.
Details like these serve to remind us how respected and desirable the old Hawken riﬂes were. Those reminders emphasize the fact that Hawken riﬂes were certainly on the “roll call” at rendezvouses of the period. At today’s, the caplock Hawken is just as much at home on the good list, and much in demand. There just isn’t anything that spells “mountain doin’s” like an authentically made classic Hawken.
HAWKEN RIFLES EVOLVED OVER TIME, starting with the early J&S Hawkens ﬁrearms and ending with the S. Hawken riﬂes, which continued to be manufactured for nearly 20 years after Jacob Hawken’s 1849 death. The diﬀerences between the early and late riﬂes are primarily minor details, such as the use of a single pin to hold the entry pipe for the ramrod on the S. Hawken riﬂes in place instead of two as used on the J&S Hawken models. But the truth is that each original Hawken riﬂe was a unique, handmade creation, with no two being exactly alike.
In my 40-plus-year quest to acquire as much Hawken information and experience as I can, I’ve handled – and admired – several original Hawken riﬂes. But believe it or not, I have never ﬁred one. All of my shooting with Hawken-style riﬂes has been accomplished with more recent duplicates of these famous guns, many of which have been very exacting copies and that performed in an amazing fashion.
However, Art Ressel, long-time proprietor of the original Hawken Shop in St. Louis, once showed me six Hawken riﬂes, all laying on a bed. He let me handle them all I wanted, for as long as I needed, and asked me if I could ﬁnd the one riﬂe in that group that was not a real Hawken. Although it took me over an hour – a very treasured hour – I’m proud to say that I ﬁnally identiﬁed the imposter. What ﬁnally gave it away? The reproduction had eight-groove riﬂing while all of the others had seven grooves in their barrels.
In short, the Hawken riﬂe was a highly desired and reliable ﬁrearm of the iconic mountain men who blazed trails and helped settle the American West, and it deserves its place in the historical saga of that important period in our nation’s growth, expansion and development. ASJ
He wasn’t the biggest buck I’d ever seen, but he had eight points and a big body, and at that stage of the season he was a shooter. Head down, searching side to side, neck swollen, he cruised along giving the does’ scent the utmost attention.
At 90 yards, he stopped and gave me a quartering-toward shot, and I placed the crosshairs of the 6.5-284 Norma just inside his foreleg, gently breaking the trigger. At the shot, the buck ﬂipped backward onto his back, legs in the air, and stayed in that position. The 156-grain Oryx had taken him through the heart and lungs, and proceeded to exit just behind the offside ribs, killing him instantly.
THE ORYX IS A PREMIUM BULLET, designed for a perfect blend of expansion – to create a large wound channel – and penetration – to ensure that the wound channel reaches the vital organs. Usually designed in a semispitzer proﬁle, the bullet’s copper jacket is engineered to be thinner at the nose, to initiate expansion, yet gets thicker toward the ﬂat base of the bullet.
In addition to getting thicker, the rear portion of the jacket is chemically bonded to the lead core to make sure that things stay together. Chemical bonding, resulting in what we call a “bonded core” bullet, prevents bullet breakup, and slows the expansion process down to allow the bullet to penetrate deeply. It is one of several methods used to resist overexpansion, a problem common to standard cup-and-core bullets at high-impact velocities, and the Norma Oryx does this well.
Being a semispitzer, the Oryx may not possess the high ballistic coefficient (BC) ﬁgures that some of the sleek, polymer-tipped hunting bullets may have, but at normal hunting distances that doesn’t pose a huge problem. Inside of 400 yards, shots can be made with a bullet in this conformation, and the additional terminal performance can make a big difference when it really counts; should tough shoulder bones, thick hide, or gristle plates need to be penetrated, the Oryx will deﬁnitely hold together for you.
Norma loads the Oryx in their factory ammunition, in calibers from .224 inches all the way up to .375 inches. The smallest are a good choice for those who wish to use a .22 centerﬁre on deer and other similar game. The standard big game calibers, say from 6.5mm up to 8mm, can be used with an additional level of conﬁdence, should the shot angle be less than desirable.
The heavier calibers, from .338 inches up to the .375 inches, will take full advantage of the Oryx’s stature, as these calibers are often used to pursue the largest animals that can be effectively hunted with a soft-point bullet. Norma offers the Oryx in mid- to heavyweight projectiles for caliber, at standard muzzle velocities. Retained weight is often high – above 90 percent in most instances – with expansion usually doubling the original diameter.
THE ORYX IS AVAILABLE IN MOST of the popular calibers, such as the .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springﬁeld, .308 Winchester, .375 Holland & Holland and .300 Winchester Magnum, but also has embraced some of the rarities, like the .308 and .358 Norma Magnums, as well as the Weatherby and Blaser Magnums. Hailing from Sweden, Norma loads many of the metric calibers, like the classic 7×57 Mauser, 9.3x63mm, 8×57 and 9.3x74R, as well as some of those lesser-known calibers here in the States like the 7×64 Brenneke and the 7x65R.
Norma also offers the Oryx as a component bullet for the handloader, so for those of you who like to hunt with your own ammunition, the Oryx remains a viable option.
In the ﬁeld, I like the Oryx for any situation where a difficult shot angle may be the only shot you get, or in an instance where stopping an animal may be necessary. The Oryx would make a very good choice for a hunter who wanted to use his or her .270 Winchester for elk; at 150 grains, the heavy-for-caliber bonded core slug will deﬁnitely hold together well enough to reach the vitals. I also like the Oryx for many of the African species, as well as for our North American bears. Thinking lion and leopard, as well as eland and wildebeest, the Oryx – in a suitable caliber – will provide enough expansion to shred the vital organs, yet will break those tough shoulder bones that guard the vitals.
I also think that a .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H Magnum, loaded with a heavy-for-caliber Oryx, would make an excellent brown bear combination, and would certainly handle any black bear that ever walked. For a hunter who wants to pursue bears with his standard deer riﬂe, the Oryx will handle the shoulder bones and put that bear down quickly. For those who hunt deer with the popular .243 Winchester, the Oryx will surely get the job done, at just about any angle.
Is it accurate? My 6.5-284 Norma will print three of those 156-grain Oryx bullets into ½ MOA groups, as will my .300 Winchester Magnum with 180-grainers. My .375 H&H puts three 300-grain Oryx bullets into exactly 1 inch at 100 yards. For a trio of hunting riﬂes that will handle most all of the big game scenarios across the globe, that’s more than enough accuracy. ASJ
Lyman patented their #1 Tang Sight in 1879. The #2 followed either very shortly after if not at the same time. The only difference between those two types of sights is that the #1 had the combination apertures, with the fold-down small aperture, and the #2 came with removable discs, a feature that came to be favored by target shooters.
Putting one of these sights on an Uberti copy of the 1873 Winchester will usually require drilling and tapping for the forward sight hole, and Lyman includes directions on how to do that, including tapping the hole for 10-32 threads. I needed that to be done on my Stoeger/Uberti riﬂe, but that was the only modiﬁcation I had to make before the sight was installed. Then it was lined up with the open sight before the open sight was removed.
Let me give one tiny warning: be sure the very small Allen screw on the lower part of the upright is good and tight. That’s what holds the sight stem in place.
Shooting with the new tang sight was a blast! I used loads with 200-grain cast bullets over 33 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F black powder. My ﬁrst group was a bit high, so the sight was lowered. The next group is what you see pictured, ﬁve shots in a very tight group. I was aiming at 6 o’clock so the sights were left as is, to hit with a dead-on hold.
Lyman’s list price for one of its #2 Tang Sights is $99.95 and they are available directly from Lyman or most sporting goods stores. The sights are also made for the 1866, 1886, 1894 models, and the Marlins.
For more on the entire Lyman line, visit lymanproducts.com. ASJ
Now, your vote may be swayed by the current AR platform rage, but that involves multiple calibers and brands. I’m talking about the most popular single gun, and the Ruger 10/22 owns that honor, hands down.
Not bad for a riﬂe that ﬁrst hit the market in 1964.
The 10/22 became my go-to riﬂe pretty quickly. How could I not love it? It’s extremely dependable, accurate and, as I mentioned, you can trick it out as much as you want. But it was my quest to hunt the elusive whistle pig (which in southern Idaho, where I shoot, refers to a Townsend’s ground squirrel) that led me to desire a higher level of accuracy, which in turn led to this article.
I love hunting varmints in the spring, and on good days I’ll shoot 400 to 500 rounds at these ornery targets. But if you’re like me when shooting hundreds of rounds using a gun with a small capacity clip, you’ll get frustrated, and I mean fast. In fact, it’s easy enough to get frustrated if you don’t have two or three fully stocked 25-shot banana clips on hand.
As my experience progressed, it got to be fun to see how far out I could hit whistle pigs. I hit one a year or so ago at 197 yards, and then another at 207 yards. If they hold still and let you get three shots to zero in, you can hit them out there. Of course, the gale-like winds we encounter regularly out on the high plains here in Idaho don’t help with long-range shooting.
I noticed that while sighting in with a new scope, I’d have one or two ﬂiers out of a 10-round group. Then, when I listened good, I observed that there’d be a diﬀerence in the loudness or volume of the report, which meant it had a little less powder than the previous shot.
I then begin to doubt the ammo more than my shooting ability, a conclusion that was conﬁrmed when my buddy told me that even with good ammo, match shooters weigh their bullets and kick out those with the highest and lowest weights. I also shot his tricked-out 10/22, and although I thought he might have gone a little overboard with his, it got me thinking about which steps I should take with mine to achieve a higher level of accuracy.
In other words, which items helped me and which ones did not?
Hunting whistle pigs requires a scope because they’re small targets. You may have to take head shots when they pop out of their holes, so I didn’t begin this test using open sights. In fact, with a cheap scope and Remington ammo I was already getting between .65-inch and 1.0-inch groups at 25 yards. Then I shot some Eley ammo and got my groups
down to .4 inches.
The ﬁrst thing I did was install a Leupold VX2 4-12 AO CDS scope that I’d had painted in the company’s Custom Shop to match my new Boyd stock. Now I could really focus in and I was able to get my shooting down to groups of .6 inches with the Remington ammo and .4 with the Eley.
My original trigger had a pull of 5.5 pounds but it had a rough spot and some drag, which hurt my accuracy. So after adding the scope I installed a Timney trigger with a 2¾-pound pull. This lighter setting aided my squeeze immensely.
Installing a Timney 10/22 trigger was super simple. In fact, my son-in-law located a YouTube video that showed everything we needed to do, so we did the ﬁrst one together. The video said to remove the stock and pull the pins. Well, we removed the stock and two pins fell out, so I looked at him and said, “I assume those are the two pins we’re supposed to take out.” They had been held in place by the stock, so the process couldn’t have been simpler.
Despite the wind being pretty bad, with the new scope and trigger I was able to shoot groups between .5 inches and 1.0 inch using Remington ammo, and with the Eley I was consistently getting .5-inch groups. I now felt as if I had a good shooting riﬂe.
The next step was to put on a Brownells barrel and a Boyd Stock. Removing the barrel was also pretty simple. First you remove the stock, and then there are two Allen bolts holding a block that pins in the barrel. Remove them. My barrel was tight, so I ran home and used a wooden dowel rod to tap it oﬀ. To mount it again, just reverse the
order of steps. Then I slid on the Boyd stock and tightened it down with the one screw. What a sweet-looking riﬂe!
The following day I had to teach some seminars at Sportsman’s Warehouse, but as soon as I was done I took oﬀ for the plains. Now, I didn’t measure it, but I’ll estimate that the wind was blowing around 15 miles per hour. The next day there was a little less, probably 8 to 10 mph, so that helped. But with my new, tricked-out 10/22, I was able to achieve .4- to .6-inch groups with the Remington ammo, and .2- to .3-inch groups with the Eley. I now had a shooter.
If you believe diﬀerent brands of ammo vary in your bigger caliber riﬂes (and I do), the variance is even more so with a .22. So on the ﬁnal day, just for the sake of this article, I shot four brands. Here were the best groups that I obtained with each brand.
Federal Target Grade Performance: 1.3-inch group
Winchester M22: .9-inch group
Remington Golden Bullet: .4-inch group
Eley Force: .2-inch group
Tests were performed at 25 yards oﬀ a stable bench with Altus shooting bags;
Distances were set using a Leupold RS-1200iTBR/W Digital Laser Rangeﬁnder;
Five-shot groups were ﬁred;
Shooting was done out on the prairie, so wind was a factor. For example, using Eley ammo indoors, I believe I could have obtained .1-inch groups.
Here is how I would rank (from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important) which item most aﬀected and/or improved accuracy besides choice of ammunition:
1. Scope You must be able to pinpoint one spot or you just aren’t going to be accurate.
2. Trigger If you can’t get a good squeeze, you just aren’t going to be able to tighten up your groups.
3. Boyd stock My stock is super comfortable and I feel like I have a good grasp of my riﬂe. Does that really help the accuracy? I think it does, if only minutely. Your mind will not drift oﬀ thinking how awkward or uncomfortable it is to hold. And although it is not a factor on a .22, Boyd claims that they help reduce recoil on larger caliber riﬂes.
4. Bull barrel I think this add-on would play a bigger factor on hot days when you’re pouring out the ammo. A lighter barrel would get warm.
5. Cool factor If you want to have a riﬂe that takes people’s breath away, a scope out of the Leupold Custom Shop and a Boyd stock will surely help. Tell Leupold what type of stock you’re buying and they’ll paint your scope to match it. What’s cooler than that? In addition, both companies have options too numerous to mention. ASJ
I was recently sent a Magpul “Hunter” stock for the Remington 700 series riﬂes to test. Now, admittedly, I’m not much of a hunter. I choose to spend my shooting time a bit more tactically, but with that said, I really do like this stock.
The version I received was in basic black, but other available colors include ﬂat dark earth, stealth gray and olive drab green. This stock features reinforced polymer construction, and includes such unique features as a spacer adjustable length of pull with a range of adjustment from 13 to 15 inches in half-inch increments. That is a wonderful addition to any stock, in my opinion. I think of myself as an average-sized guy (5-foot-9, 170 pounds), but I’ve yet to ﬁnd a stock that ﬁts me out of the box. The ability to simply add or remove spacers to get the gun to ﬁt me the way I like it is an excellent improvement over a “standard” stock.
Another unique addition is the ability to adjust the height of the cheek piece. A high cheek riser kit is available that enables users to modify the height of the stock comb and allow a proper cheek weld behind a scope. Most “hunter” stocks seem to be set for iron sight use, and adding even a low mounted scope forces the shooter to compromise a good cheek weld to use the scope. This leads to less accuracy and a slower shot, as the shooter has to ﬁnd the eye box behind the scope. Not with this set-up. Simply mount the gun to your shoulder, get a solid cheek weld and the crosshairs are right in front of your eye. Nice!
The stock comes out of the box it set up to use both the OEM bottom metal and the blind magazine standard on the Remington 700 series riﬂes. There is, however, an option to replace that with detachable AICS-pattern magazines. A section of M-LOK compatible slots in the forend make attaching accessories easy and fast. This is a “drop-in” product. No ﬁtting or inletting is required.
Here’s some sentiments on the Magpul Hunter 700 stock from Reddit and AR15 Forum:
heathenyak: picked up an older 700 bdl the other day in .338 win mag because why not. The action is smooth as glass. I’ll be taking it out to the range next weekend or the following
nomadicbohunk: It shoots sub moa no problem. We’re actually pretty impressed with it. The only work I’ve done to it was to stiffen the stock and bed it. He wishes he’d have bought a few of them.
tomj762: Yeah I thought it was the Remington 770 that gets a lot of hate. The 700 gets accreditation for being a rifle you can buy for under $1,000 and get out of the box 1,000 yard precision.
Chowley_1: Or spend $650 for a Tikka and have a vastly superior rifle.
wags_01: Bolt gun mags aren’t cheap. AICS .308 mags run ~$70 too.
Isenwod: Considering it’s been the platform for every military sniper rifle since the 70s, I would say not.
morehousemusicplease: grip angle is excessive for my liking price isnt bad at 260 which puts it in line with the b&c.
The_Eternal_Badger: Admittedly no one has really handled or used the Magpul stock yet, but if it’s up to their current standards I can’t see how it wouldn’t be a better deal with equal or better performance out of the box.
THellURider: Honestly – I’ve wondered why they hadn’t released this many years ago. And then I remember that they’re more a marketing and design company than a manufacturer of anything with more than 1 moving part.
Hunting rifle: Going to be tough to beat a B&C Alaskan (I or II) or if you’re going to go spendy, McMillan Edge.
KC45: I’ve never been much of an aftermarket stock guy. I bet for 99% of shooters here a decent factory stock will do just as well and the money they save would be better spent getting some good precision shooting training/instructions and on ammo (or components). It’s the indian…not the arrow
JohnBurns: Mid-priced platform for bench shooting? Sure. That style of hunting, that guy’s set up is all wrong. Ultra light hunters want small, light, compact rifles with small, light scopes. Leupold VX6 2.5-10, McMillan Edge, on a light profile 260 rem – yes.
Lost_River: Great video quality. However it pretty much showed nothing in regards to technical information.
Bubbatheredneck: What does it offer vs the AICS? And no mountain hunter is gonna lug that beast around very long if it is as heavy as it looks..
Dash_ISpy: I like my Magpul 870 stock. Id probably get one of these as well. I wonder if itll be easier to integrate a mag. Im not excited to spend $300 extra just for a mag.
bulldog1967: it doesn’t do anything my Tikka T3 in .270 WSM doesn’t do.
Foxtrot08: That set up will be my next rifle. My current rifle is an older M700 long action, in 300WM on a B&C Alaskan II stock. Barrel has been blue printed, and bolt has been fitted. Not 100% light weight, but I haven’t needed it yet, as I only do day hunts on the western slope of Colorado.
LuvBUSHmaster: My .300 WinMag 700 BDL could use some MAGpul love but I need specs and a Long Action Model.
RePp: I don’t need another stock but for that price it will be very hard to beat. Now those magazines I will buy a shitload of. A polymer AICS mag like that will be a huge hit.
If you are looking to upgrade your Remington 700 stock, be that of your favorite deer riﬂe in .308 Win, a suppressed 700 SD in 300 Blackout or any other short- or long-action 700, you should give this option a good long look. ASJ
Recently, we had a conversation with Legendary Arms Works’ sales and marketing executive Walter Hasser, who ﬁlled us in on the Reinholds, Pa.-based (717335-8555; legendaryarmsworks.com) company’s back story and its exciting future plans.
American Shooting Journal How did cofounders Mark Bansner and David Dunn team up to get LAW started?
Walter Hasser David and Mark go back a few years, as Mark worked on a few of David’s guns when he was operating Bansner’s Ultimate Riﬂes. After David had been operating a ﬁrearms retail store and indoor range in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, he began noticing the trend of American-manufactured ﬁrearms decreasing in quality and sending products oﬀshore to be produced. He wanted very badly to do something about it and believed, as we all believe today, that a ﬁrearm is something greater than the sum of its parts and deserving of the attention of craftsmen.
Furthermore, a larger portion of the American shooting population should have access to a higher level of quality versus just a handful who can aﬀord a full custom riﬂe. David’s ﬁrst step in realizing his dream was purchasing the M704 design and rights to manufacture from Ed Brown. His second was to form a partnership with the best custom gun builder and share his vision with the country.
ASJ How much did Mark’s passion for hunting inspire him to have his own ﬁrearms company?
WH Mark is an extremely passionate hunter and the type of guy you want in your camp. His ideals and character set him apart, both aﬁeld and in the shop. He likes getting his hands dirty, solving problems, working with people, growing and aﬀecting those around him. And he holds a deep respect for the sport and the industry as a whole. Mark understands the emotional and spiritual experience of hunting big game. As an artisan he holds a heightened sense of how that experience is ampliﬁed when undertaken with a ﬁne instrument. I believe he takes great pride in contributing to that experience for our customers.
WH Our M704 Action design is completely unique. A true controlled round-feed system that also has the luxury of single feeding without ﬁrst depressing a round on the magazine follower is a great advantage in many scenarios. The ﬁxed ejector blade is ruggedly simple and eliminates the common user error of “short stroking” during the cycle of operation, as the spent case will not eject until the bolt is fully cycled. The action is the perfect foundation for the perfect hunting riﬂe – not to mention the precision CNC machining quality and one-piece bolt.
ASJ What is your favorite LAW model and why?
WH “The Professional” is our ﬂagship riﬂe and best seller, and it’s easy to see why once you have it in your hands. The balance is perfect and craftsmanship is unlike any other product in its price bracket. You have the luxury of a fully custom mountain riﬂe in a package for one-third of the price.
ASJ How has LAW evolved over the years and what plans do you have for the future?
WH A very signiﬁcant development you’ll see from us this year is stepping into the realm of tactical and longrange precision riﬂes. To date our product line has been based around hunting riﬂes, but we are not just a hunting riﬂe company. We are a manufacturing company – a small, veteran-owned business with a large veteran workforce committed to bringing great riﬂes and great customer service to a bigger portion of the market than before. We have some very talented folks on our product development team, with backgrounds in law enforcement and the military, along with competitive shooting. This year we’ll be bringing a chassis system to market that I think you’ll love!
ASJ Is there anything else you want to say about the LAW brand?
WH We’re very grateful for our customers and the opportunity to manufacture and sell these products into this market and this industry that we all care so deeply for. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more on Legendary Arms Works, like them at facebook.com/ LegendaryArmsWorks.
THE SEVEN-SHOT MAGAZINE is genius. The thick stainless-steel lips are smooth to the touch, and all seven rounds can be loaded quickly and effortlessly. Since all of the external edges are smoothly radiused, a handful of these mags can be carried in a pocket with no worry of them scratching each other.
You won’t ﬁnd a magazine catch on this gun. The magazine is retained on both sides by a springy mag well. The magazine locks in solidly until the shooter pulls down on the magazine with moderate effort, and they cost around $22 each. Even though I have several, I found myself just reloading the same one in the ﬁeld because the process was so quick and effortless.
The seven-shot capacity is dictated by the curve of the ammunition stack. If there were more than seven, the cartridge would have to curve forward even more, requiring a more complex magazine body shape.
ALL VARIANTS OF the Model 722 come with a crisp 2-pound trigger with an overtravel adjustment. The bolt has a locking lug opposite the handle, which acts as a second lug. The action is smooth and easy to run. The symmetrical design operates with only a 50-degree throw, easily clearing even the largest scopes. The short 1.5-inch cycle distance makes for very quick loading. The short length of the action permits a 20-inch barrel on a very light and compact gun. The 13.25-inch length of pull makes it feel even smaller. The safety is a lever – forward for ﬁre, back for safe. It clicks very positively, but the angle of throw is fairly small, so it’s sometimes hard to tell at a glance if it’s on. On the left side of the receiver there is a spring-loaded bolt retainer. The bolt does have to be cycled briskly for reliable ejection.
KEYSTONE ARMS’ SISTER company is Revolution Stocks, a premier aftermarket manufacturer. It’s no surprise that the stock quality for all three variants is superb, with a tight wood-to-metal ﬁnish. The decades of metalworking experience behind the Crickett brand also make for excellent action ﬁt. Keystone didn’t skimp on the manufacturing process – even the trigger guard is a nicely machined part.
THE CLASSIC IS lightweight at just 4.6 pounds, and feels even lighter, thanks to the good balance. The Varmint is a couple of pounds more, but the sculpted thumbhole stock makes
steadying it off-hand quite easy. The Classic comes standard with Williams Firesights, ﬁber optic front post and semibuckhorn rear that adjusts for windage and elevation. Picking up the front is very easy in any kind of light, but the bright ﬁber optic pipe on the front sight obscured at least 2.75 inches of the bull’s-eye, making precise alignment difficult. At best, my groups were 2 inches at 25 yards. After trying several kinds of ammunition, I gave up and scoped it with the dedicated Primary Arms 6x rimﬁre BDC scope in low rings and tried again. The results improved greatly: From prone at 80 yards, the CCI Green Tag ammo grouped at 1.25 inches, or about 1.5 minute of angle. Ammunition quality matters. Bulk .22 gave me 3MOA at best. Even with bulk Federal ammo, the BDC reticle made hits on pop cans placed 50 yards downrange routine. Shooting off of a lead sled indoors, without wind, produced 1.25MOA with Aguila Match, 1MOA with Aguila Super Extra subsonic and 2MOA with Federal 550-round bulk pack. I am guessing Green Tag would have come in at about 1.25MOA as well.
THE REAL ACCURACY testing was with the Varmint version. Prone at 25 yards produced a single seven-shot hole scarcely larger than the bullet diameter. Topped with the superb 6-24x Weaver with an adjustable objective, this riﬂe made extreme accuracy the default result. The slim 1-inch tube with a 40mm objective permitted low rings and thus minimal sight height over bore. The mildot reticle provided for drop compensation, and the focusable objective made for a crystal-clear view of the bull’s-eye obliterated by precision ﬁre. Both CCI Green Tag and Aguila Riﬂe Match grouped near 0.6MOA, and Eley Match was right at 0.5MOA at 50 yards – a great performance for any riﬂe, and even more so for the budget-priced 722.
One exception to the versatility of the Varmint model comes from its match chamber incompatibility with the CCI Stinger hypervelocity round often used by actual varmint shooters. The Aguila equivalent works ﬁne, as does the Winchester, but neither hypervelocity load equals the standard velocity loads in outright accuracy under controlled range conditions. In the real world with wind drift and imperfect range estimation, the faster loads perform almost as well as the match bullets.
Twin forend studs allow for simultaneous installation of a bipod and a shooting sling. Despite the greater weight, I consider the Varmint version the best of the three models not only for rested shooting but also for ﬁeld hunting. The exception would be left-handed shooters, who would have to stick with the ambidextrous Classic stock design.
OTHER THAN THE QUICK but imprecise iron sights, Classic is a strong competitor to CZ455 Military Trainer. With optics, the 722 Varmint gives up nothing at all to the competition. Overall, the riﬂe is just fun to use. Its operation is so transparent that it feels like a natural extension of the marksman. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more info, go to keystonesportingarmsllc.com.
When we think of the leaders among quality gun makers of the British Isles we tend to think of names like Purdey and Holland and Holland, but these men have been dead for over a hundred years. Only their firms survive. For innovative leadership we must look to individuals in the trade today, and certainly no one has been a more innovative gunmaker than Giles Whittome.
Giles is famous for his giant 2-gauge single-shot rifles. His 26-pound, 2-bore rifles are the largest and most powerful sporting rifles ever made. They are capable of shooting a half pound of lead backed by a 24-dram powder charge. That is eight times the bullet weight and eight times the powder weight of a standard Brenneke 12-bore torpedo slug. This gun is capable of shooting a heavier charge than a shooter can actually handle so every customer has to work up to their maximum load capabilities.
Giles stands 6-foot, 5 inches, and is quite accustomed to shooting big-bore guns. He remains the only man to have ever fired a 24-dram load through this gun. He pronounced it lethal at both ends.
The 2-bore has a frontal area of 1.05-inch in diameter and greater power than five .600-caliber nitro express bullets hitting at once. It gives a new meaning to the term stopping power. Technically, this is actually a cannon. Swivel cannons were usually 4-bore because anything heavier tended to rip them out of their mounting on a ship’s rail. The recoil of a 4-bore is 295 foot pounds. This gun is twice that size, but no one has ever computed the recoil of a 2-bore. Suffice it to say that the a 4-core recoil is pleasant by comparison.
Proof firing shook the entire London Proof House building, and even with the smoke extractors running, visibility in the room was only one foot 20 minutes after the test. It was truly a moment to remember for everyone present.
The huge action was copied from an old Alexander Henry harpoon gun. The standard two-bore is a rifle Whittome would be glad to make a smoothbore version of for anyone who wants the option of firing harpoons; he can also supply any sort of harpoon or bomb lance required for it. A smoothbore 2-bore would be quite a deck sweeper when loaded with buckshot, and would lose very little practical hunting accuracy, because large dangerous game is not shot at long ranges.
In other arenas and as one of the last experts on the Paradox ball-and-shot guns, Whittome has made new headway in increasing the accuracy of an already accurate and useful weapon. The old accuracy standard was 2½ minute of angle at 50 yards and a handspan at 100. Whittome has managed to shrink that to 4½ MOA at 110 yards. He is one of the few men in the gun trade who understands the rifling subtleties a Paradox gun requires and the secret of regulating its barrels, which is so different from a double rifle. This is still considered a trade secret, and I am not at liberty to divulge it.
Whittome often traveled to Africa for large game, and has had to fight off hyenas. A hyena can take a prize away from any hunter, and keeping them at bay is a lot harder than folks might imagine.
He has had the pleasure of hunting with a dog and a cheetah that had been raised together, and were inseparable. If the cheetah didn’t come when Whittome called for him, he would command the dog to “Kamata duma,” which means catch cheetah in Swahilli. The dog would then go sit on the cheetah until Whittome arrived. Cheetahs are prone to rickets, so Whittome would give it a calcium tablet and a spoonful of cod-liver oil every day to keep it in perfect health and subsequently gave it a shiny coat.
This trio kept the jackals off of the local golf course, and brought many hares to bag. Catching a hare is easy for a cheetah.
Whittome once saw a Swedish missionary and his wife on a motorcycle running at top speed — over 60 miles per hour — trying to get away from the Cheetah, which was easily running beside them having a good time. The riders just didn’t know what a big pussycat it was, and probably imagined a meaneater was after them.
The famous African snake man, Ionides, was a friend and Whittome often helped him gather poisonous snakes such as black mambas and gaboon vipers to get their venom, which was sold to drug companies for anti-venom. He was a gifted linguist capable of communicating in English, French, Swahili, Italian, German, Swedish and some Danish, Norwegian, Greek and Latin. He served as a second lieutenant in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry where he saw combat during the Cypris Rebellion and hunted Greek Cypriot terrorists, and for many years he taught the British military how to use exotic machineguns.
In terms of guns Whittome is responsible for The Paragon, perhaps the most elaborate and best quality12-gauge sidelock double ever made. It has every bell and whistle the gun trade can put on a gun:
– The barrels are nitro proofed Damascus steel, and the gold inlays and embellishments are the maximum allowed by good taste.
– There is a rare and desirable disappearing flush-lock detaching, lever which is flipped up by a thumb, and then unscrewed to remove the sidelocks, as opposed to the protruding projection on the lock screw normally found. They can snag on brush and begin unscrewing at the wrong times.
– The pinless locks have blind holes on the inside instead of being drilled all the way through where they can interfere with the artwork of the engraver.
– The self-opening action operates whether or not a barrel has been fired, and the strikers are made of stainless steel.
– The double triggers are unique. They function as both single and double triggers. The front trigger will fire the right then the left barrel in turn with successive pulls, while the rear trigger fires the left barrel only.
– The grip and forend have borderless checkering, and the skeleton buttplate is blued and gold inlaid. The frontsight is a solid gold Labrador retriever’s head with faceted diamond eyes.
– The snap caps are made of Damascus steel.
– The velvet-lined rosewood case is quite airtight and emits an audible “whoosh,” as air is expelled when it closes. It has its own velvet-lined canvas to protect it, and embeded inside the case are the Damascus steel snap caps, a horn-snapping block, three fitted screwdrivers and an ivory-handled chamber cleaning brush along with a three-section hardwood cleaning rod with engraved ferrules. There is a circular patch box carved with a high-relief elephant’s head and a ruby for its eye. Also included is a striker box, two glass bottles — one for gun oil and the other for stock oil — an extractor, a gauge and sundries.
All in all this is perhaps the single most elaborate example of the gunmaker’s art produced in the 20th century.
Today, Whittome hunts mostly in his native England normally using a silencer on his rifles because they are not only legal in England, but it is just considered good manners not to disturb the peace with a rifle’s report when good silencers are readily available. To the English a rifle without a silencer is like an automobile without a muffler.
His interests are varied. He has flown state-of-the-art fighter jets in Russia just outside of Moscow, and made his own horn to play in an orchestra. He is currently preparing to make his own bronze-age sword under the tutelege of one of the last sword masters in England.
If you buy a gun from Giles Whittome you are not only getting one of the finest guns made in the British Isles, you are also dealing with perhaps the most colorful gunmaker that the gun trade has ever known. ASJ
Author’s note: If you would like to contact Giles Whittome, you can call him in England at 011 (441) 76-324-8708.
SINCE THE FIRST 1915 Fedorov’s Avtomat chambered for the 6.5mm Arisaka cartridge, Russian, then Soviet and later Eastern Bloc countries made little terminological distinction between submachine guns and light automatic rifles. What they termed automatic rifles were full power 7.62mm types, while the PPSh41 and AK-47 were both commonly termed avtomat. A technical term for submachine gun existed, but it wasn’t in common use. The doctrinal niche for the early automatic rifles was almost the same as for the pistol-caliber SMGs. To that end, the Czechoslovak vz58 was designed more along the lines of an MP5 or XM177 than an M16 or a Sig550. It’s handy in close quarters and usable further out, a more defense-oriented design than the rifleman’s ideal rifle of certain military branches that is only usable up close as an afterthought.
The action design is quite unusual: a short-stroke piston acts on a locking block that is separate from the bolt and the carrier, but it attaches to both. It’s almost like a rifle version of the Walther P38 or Beretta M9 in that regard. The lugs of the locking block engage with the steel rails inside the machined aluminum receiver.
The lightweight magazine, externally similar to the AK mag, holds 30 rounds and rocks in the same way, though with far less effort required for proper alignment with the receiver. With the action locked open after the last round or manually with the plunger near the trigger guard, the magazine may be topped off with stripper clips. Ten-round magazines are also available for bench shooting or in restricted states. The magazine may be safely used as a hand-hold, and there is absolutely no play in the lockup.
THE RIFLE IS AVAILABLE in three variants: with a fixed resin-impregnated wood stock, a folding-wire stock and a collapsible stock with railed forend. I mainly use the fixed wood stock by preference. Because of the short length of pull and relatively light weight, the carbine can be effectively run by 10-year-old kids. Felt recoil is very mild, even below that of the heavier AK-47, and the rotary safety is easy to reach, at least for right-handed shooters. While manual bolt hold-open is provided, bolt release requires operating the charging handle integral to the bolt carrier. All major action components, including the bore and the gas piston, are chrome-plated for better corrosion resistance.
RELIABILITY IN MY USE has been 100 percent over about 1,000 rounds without cleaning. The rifle runs extremely cleanly, and the receiver contains minimal carbon residue even now. However, the lightweight barrel and the operating system does impose tactical limitations, the most obvious being accuracy and heat endurance. The rifle can fire about 60 rounds in a row before the forend gets uncomfortably hot. For military use, that can be an issue, while for personal defense less likely. With the stock iron sights, I and other shooters got groups around 5 minute of angle with Comblock military surplus and Russian commercial ammunition, and about 4MOA with premium US and European brands, like Federal and Fiocchi. The constraint is almost certainly the sighting. The railed forend on the tactical version proved too unsteady for the red dot. Other forend options exist for this rifle, but I have not upgraded it yet. Neither of my carbines have side rails for optics. People who set up their vz58 rifles with magnified optics and raised cheek rests report 3MOA dispersion.
That makes sense: The 5.56mm version of vz58 with a red dot yields about 2MOA, thanks to the relatively heavier barrel – the outer diameter is the same and the bore is smaller. I left my 7.62 carbines unscoped, but replaced the front sight post with a Hi-Viz fiber optic for quicker acquisition. The rear-sight leaf marked from 100 meters to 800 meters is an exercise in optimism for single shots, but reflects the old military doctrine of creating beaten zones at long range using small arms.
In my mind, the best niche for this carbine is self-defense. It’s reliable, handy and may be fired with one hand if necessary. I have yet to find a record of a nonmilitary self-defense situation in which 4MOA or the two magazine rapid-fire heat endurance would have been deal-breakers. Using the tactical version with a vertical foregrip extends the heat endurance to about 100 rounds the barrel can take more heat than the shooter’s support hand. The 2011 tactical version I have was not a success overall: the current Czechpoint offering uses a modified Magpul forend instead for much better ergonomics.
THE RIFLE FEEDS SOFT-POINT and hollow-point ammunition reliably. So far, the best defensive loads I found are Corbon DPX, G2 Trident Ripout and Federal Powershock. All give substantial expansion – up to 0.9 inches with Trident – and 16 to 20 inches of gel penetration. While the vz58 classic has no flash hider, it produces minimal illumination with these loads. The tactical model comes with a needlessly concussive pinned-and-welded muzzle brake best replaced with a flash hider by a gunsmith. Vz58 is very suppressor friendly, despite the gas system without a manual regulator. One of the demo rifles used by Czechpoint is a short-barreled suppressed version that they run very hot during range events.
Vz58 appears to be what the Ruger Mini-30 was supposed to become, a light and handy .30-caliber carbine for short-range use. It fills the same niche as the M1 carbine, providing a little less accuracy but more power. The vz58 handles out of proportion to its specifications and proved reliable with a wide variety of ammunition. It’s one of the most pleasant intermediate cartridge rifles in range use, and I recommend it as one of the basic choices for self-defense. ASJ
One tangible connection to the human cost of the Civil War can be found in the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Ky., in the form of a beautifully engraved Henry repeating rifle, serial number 19. The original owner was Connecticut native George Dennison Prentis, who was the editor of the Louisville Journal from 1830 to 1860 and a staunch abolitionist. After succession, he was an outspoken advocate of the Union even though his newspaper was absorbed by the pro-Confederate Louisville Morning Courier. On July 14, 1862, he wrote a report for the newspaper that praised the Henry.
“It behooves every loyal citizen to prepare himself upon his own responsibility with the best weapon of defense that can be obtained. And certainly the simplest, surest and most effective weapon that we know of, the weapon that can be used with the most tremendous results in case of an outbreak or invasion, is one that we have mentioned recently upon two or three occasions, the newly invented rifle of Henry.”
It is very likely that his Henry was a gift from the manufacturer. The Connecticut-based New Haven Arms Company hoped to make the Henry the standard-issue rifle of the Union Army and sought favorable endorsements in hopes of securing government contracts. As a matter of fact, a similar engraved rifle was presented to President Abraham Lincoln.
Ultimately, 1,731 Henry rifles were sold to the US Government for a $63,943 (about $50 each). Far more (approximately 10,000) were bought by individuals and state regiments like the 66th and 7th Illinois and the 97th Indiana. The rifles were highly prized on the battlefield. Confederates described the Henry as “that darn Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week.”
THE PROGENITOR of the Winchester repeaters, the Henry was a technological marvel in its time. It fired a .44-caliber, self-contained, metallic, rim-fire primed cartridge. The magazine held 15 shots, and one more could be loaded in the chamber, giving it more firepower than any other rifle on the battlefield. It was accurate by the standards of the day too, equipped as it was with a graduated ladder rear sight. Army tests showed it could keep 100 percent of its shots inside a 25-inch circle at 500 yards and a 48-inch circle at 1,000. Bullet weights were either 200 or 216 grains over 26 to 28 grains of black powder, giving it a muzzle velocity of 1,125 feet per second and a muzzle energy of 568 foot pounds. Ballistically it was between today’s .44 Special and .44-40 WCF of the same bullet weight, which leads me to wonder how much energy it had left at 200 yards, much less either of the Army test ranges. Compared to the standard rifled musket of the era, the .44 Henry was a pipsqueak, and that insured it would never be selected for general issue to troops. However, at ranges of less than 100 yards the Henry’s accuracy and power were perfectly adequate, and its speed and firepower proved devastating to the enemy in close combat.
THE HISTORY OF GEORGE PRENTIS’S Henry rifle is not a happy one. Though he supported the Union, his two sons, William Courtland and Clarence J., believed in the merits of the Confederate cause and actually fought for the South. William took his father’s rifle to war and died leading his troops in the Battle of Augusta, Ky., on September 18, 1862. The rifle and the sad news made their way back home to George. The Henry left his home again, for the last time, when his remaining son joined the Confederate cause. Reaching the rank of colonel, Clarence survived the war and his father pleaded that he be shown clemency. The rifle never came home. Hidden by Confederate soldiers, it was rediscovered a century later in a Memphis, Tenn. basement. ASJ
There are competition rifles, there are pretty rifles and then there’s the Colt CRP-18 GunGoddess rifle, a perfect blend of both performance and elegance!
This eye-catching rifle offers all the features of the standard CRP-18, with a feminine touch – an exclusive, custom-designed, filigree handguard and a choice of eight Cerakote colors.
“As more women become gun owners and as they participate in the shooting sports in growing numbers, manufacturers will be challenged to meet their needs with functional, high-quality products,” says Athena Means, president of GunGoddess.com.
“While aesthetics matter, it’s not just about making it pretty. It’s about providing a product that performs.”
The CRP-18 is competition ready right out of the box, with features including a match-grade, stainless-steel barrel, a Geissele two-stage trigger and a patent-pending finger-adjustable gas block. Colt guarantees accuracy, and tests each rifle to ensure a 3-shot group of 1 inch or less at 100 yards.
The GunGoddess CRP-18 is available exclusively at GunGoddess.com, both to consumers and dealers. Orders can be placed by phone at (866)957-1117 or online here!
Northwest Action Works is a newcomer to the precision ﬁrearms custom rig creation world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their targets dotted and their hairs crossed. Their humble roots but high quality standards have given them the tools they need to create some truly impressive riﬂes for considerably less than most other custom shops. Why do they do this? We asked NAW founder Mason Watters how he got started, and what he is doing to shake up the industry as a newcomer.
American Shooting Journal How did Northwest Action Works LLC get started and what inspired you?
Mason Watters We started this company on accident. We weren’t able to afford the often high prices associated with custom riﬂes, so we started building our own. Over time and after several builds for friends and ourselves, we started to get pretty good. When we ﬁrst became an official business, we thought it would only be a side job. We primarily just sold components. The next thing we knew we had custom-barreled actions and complete riﬂe orders coming in. We quickly had to adapt and it turned into a fulltime operation. We decided that in order to focus solely on the company, we had to maintained a goal of bringing only a line of high-quality products to the market at prices we felt were fair to us and our customers.
ASJ What would you say is your best product or strength?
MW All of our riﬂes and barreled actions come with a ½ minute of angle accuracy or better – guaranteed! With high-quality loads and steady hands, these actions are capable of much better, and it is not uncommon to see ragged or even single-hole groups at 100 yards, or bullet impacts stacking on top of each other at longer range steel gongs. Many of our customers are outstanding shooters and report some incredible feats of marksmanship.
ASJ How are you involved with the nation’s fastest growing shooting sport, the Precision Rifle Series?
MW We are actually just getting our feet wet with PRS. We have put together several rigs for people getting into practical competitions, and recently expanded our lineup to include a wider range of tactical-style, custom-riﬂe packages, each of which have a number of features and options that can be conﬁgured into an ideal competition rig.
ASJ Have you released anything new, or do you have anything in the works?
MW Yes! We have a new riﬂe package called the PMR Tactical, and we’re very excited about it. While this is our most entry-level package in price, it features performance traits that make it anything but entry level. It comes with our ½ MOA or better guarantee, as well as several upgrade options that make it a truly customized ﬁrst rig without breaking the bank.
ASJ It’s been great talking to you. We support your eﬀorts and look forward to seeing what you come up with next.
MW Thank you. ASJ
Editor’s note: For more information on Mason Watters or Northwest Action Works, visit nwactionworks.com.
“I‘ll take a semiautomatic riﬂe any day of the week over a bolt action, and twice on Sunday.” That’s what my husband told me when I confessed my love of the Mauser M98 bolt-action. A discussion ensued, and we were not talking hunting – we were discussing war. Our passion for riﬂes and history often leads to a great deal of research and conversation. Neither of us has served in the military, but the conversation thankfully extends beyond the theoretics of our living room to those who have ﬁrst-hand experience to tell it how it is, or was. Speaking with veterans is an opportunity neither of us will ever turn down. Our veterans, after all, are our heroes.
IT HAS BEEN MY HONOR to personally listen to tales of heroism and horror from World War II vets who have experiences ranging from retrieving the bodies of their fallen comrades on Utah Beach to ﬁghting in the Battle of the Bulge, the ﬁnal Nazi Germany oﬀensive. I have watched one of the Chosin Few, a US Marine Corps division who fought in the Chosin Reservoir, wipe tears from his face as he divulged only a small part of his experience in Korea; a friend and ﬁrearms instructor who is a Vietnam Marine shared with me the day he almost died, and now celebrates annually; Purple Heart recipients from our recent wars in the Middle East have revealed acts of horror impossible to comprehend without experiencing them ﬁrsthand; and in addition to America’s heroes, I have also heard ﬁrsthand from those who served in the Axis military.
In all these conversations, I have never heard how any particular riﬂe was more responsible than another for saving or taking human life, or for winning or losing a battle. These surviving storytellers instead focus their successes on much more important phenomena: battle strategy, bravery and luck. Statistical history suggests that many soldiers never even ﬁred their riﬂes in combat during WWII. Some data suggests as few as 12 percent, with arguments to the contrary, and at least one expert suggests soldiers purposefully missed their human targets. Similar studies suggest that small arms were only responsible for an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the total WWII casualties.
Statistics, however, do not stop the debates. Historians and gun enthusiasts continue to credit or blame particular riﬂes with winning or losing battles. Competitors challenge one another to long-distance matches with antiques, and well-known shooters ﬁlm their time on the range, allegedly staging a direct comparison of era riﬂes to prove one is better than the other.
While these feats are interesting, and provide direct comparisons of a speciﬁc riﬂe feature, a complete analysis of any war riﬂe must take into account much more than test ﬁres of speed and accuracy on a range. Battle riﬂes deserve a comparison that includes details of their intended purpose and the battle strategy for implementing that purpose. After all, isn’t a perfect riﬂe one that reliably performs as it was intended in an eﬀective and eﬃcient manner?
THE GERMAN MAUSER KARABINER 98 KURZ, or K98k, is a true phoenix from the ashes of WWI, and despite the challenges faced by its creators, it fulﬁlled its purpose during WWII, is respected by gun enthusiasts around the world and has served as a stable platform for the development of modern riﬂes for almost 100 years.
After the Great War, nations around the world realized the need to improve standard military riﬂes. American military planners studied the eﬀectiveness of bolt-action repeating riﬂes, and concluded there was a need to develop a semiautomatic infantry riﬂe. The Germans, on the other hand, were saddled with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. The signing of the treaty on June 28, 1919, not only oﬃcially ended World War I, but restricted the German army to 100,000 men and forbade the country from producing military weaponry.
Those determined to re-arm a German infantry would have to do so secretly while outsmarting the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission inspectors tasked with ensuring the treaty’s terms were followed.
The Germans worked to improve upon their WWI Mauser Gewehr für Deutsche Reichspost, or Gew 98, bolt-action riﬂes by creating the K98k in secret manufacturing plants. The resulting surreptitious riﬂes were fully assembled under two ﬂoors of underwear manufacturing in Switzerland.
BY JUNE 21, 1935, the K98k was oﬃcially adopted as the German service riﬂe. Its 24-inch barrel and overall 43-inch length is much shorter than the Gew 98. Without a bayonet, ammunition or a sling the K98k weighs 8.38 pounds. With iron sights it has a 550-yard eﬀective ﬁring range, which is increased to over 1,000 yards when ﬁtted with a telescopic sight. The riﬂe holds ﬁve 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridges (originally 197.5 grain), which can be loaded from a stripper clip or one by one.
Like a Porsche, the K98k is German perfection in design and engineering, and carries this ideal through multiple features, but its heart and soul is its Mauser M98 action. Why is the Mauser action so much better than other bolt-action systems? It exempliﬁes two words: strength and reliability.
One reason for the Mauser’s strength is that the bolt’s two main locking lugs were moved to the front just behind the bolt head, unlike early repeaters with only one lug or their lugs positioned at the back of the bolt. These lugs allow for higher-pressure cartridges to be ﬁred safely, and are the reason that the Mauser system is stronger than that of the Lee-Enﬁeld and Mosin-Nagant actions, which require some strengthening to handle the same pressure. Backing up the two front lugs, the Mauser action also includes a third safety lug at the rear of the bolt.
Not only does the Mauser action deliver the power to handle the higher caliber rounds, it also has the strength via its extractor to eject fully loaded, heavy-dud rounds everytime. Not all bolt-actions are capable of this feat, and can leave duds dancing around in the ejection port, causing jams.
AS FOR RELIABILITY, the Mauser action eliminates operator-caused malfunctions that other bolt-actions cannot, including jams due to double loading, failures to load – due to short-stroking or otherwise – and failure to eject duds and casings. It is the Mauser’s large and nearly indestructible claw extractor, which gives the action its control-feed operation, keeping the round under the control of the bolt from the moment it is stripped from the
magazine. The control feed, as opposed to push-open-feed bolt-actions, ensures that each cartridge is held to the bolt face until achieving a positive insertion into the chamber, regardless of riﬂe position. The Mauser action also prevents double feeds, because it is impossible to have a round in the chamber and grab a second round.
Keeping the cartridge on the bolt face until ejected also allows the shooter to reliably extract a round even if the bolt is never fully closed. If you fail to lock the bolt with a push-feed action, you can leave the round seated in the chamber, and you will have to get it to fall out or even pick it out with your ﬁngers – not a good situation for a soldier or hunter. This task may not even be possible, depending on what is causing the malfunction in the ﬁrst place.
As a primary goal for improvement to their battle riﬂe, the Germans sought to ensure that soldiers always loaded a new round. To enhance this feature, they developed the follower at the magazine into a bolt catch. The bolt on a Mauser action cannot be pushed forward while unloaded because the follower in the magazine pops up and blocks the bolt from going forward until it is actually reloaded (pushed down by another round). Also, due to the ejector’s location, it is impossible to short-stroke a Mauser action and close the bolt without ejecting the casing and without loading another round. By the time the bolt is far enough back to eject the empty shell, it is far enough back to grab another round while cycling it forward.
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL German production criteria, it was impossible to cheaply mass-produce K98ks. Each K98k went through an elaborate 25-hour process before it was considered perfect. The barrel was entrusted only to graduates from a special barrel-straightener’s school. It’s no wonder Germany’s unemployment rates dropped substantially after Hitler withdrew from the League of Nations (now known as the United Nations) in 1933.
The painstaking measures required to ensure that every part of each riﬂe was manufactured to perfection also required a special army of inspectors. Each had their own stamp of approval, called an Absnahmestempel (acceptance stamps), aka Waﬀenamt stamp. These stamps appear on multiple K98k parts as either Weimar or Nazi eagles, depending on the manufacturer and year of manufacture. Each riﬂe was test ﬁred, as opposed to just spot checking and testing a single riﬂe per batch. A test round was even pushed backwards through the barrel and then forensically examined for any imperfections. Only after passing this arduous testing did the riﬂe receive the Beschußstempel, and riﬂes that were deemed highly accurate were ﬁtted with telescopic sights and became sniper riﬂes. Despite the elaborate manufacturing and inspection process, over 2 million German soldiers were armed with K98ks by the time German forces invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The cost of this rearmament was not cheap – over 90 billion Reichsmarks were spent between 1933 and 1937 alone.
Of course, times change, and towards the end of 1943 the German standards gave way to the greater need for mass production. Production time per riﬂe was reduced to as little as 14 hours. If you compare only the bolt of an early production K98k with one from a 1944 riﬂe, you will see that the Porsche is now compromised for production purposes and oﬀered as a Volkswagen. The earlier bolt is beautiful and polished; the latter, simple but functional.
THE GERMANS TURNED TO alternative manufacturers later in the war – namely, their prisoners. Albert Speer implemented the supposed plenipotentiary Heinrich Himmler’s earlier request to produce arms in concentration camps. It is estimated that the camp at Buchenwald produced over 340,000 K98ks on behalf of the manufacturer Gustloff Werke. Old photographs depict prisoners at the original concentration camp of Dachau, repairing and assembling K98k riﬂes from components. During my visit to Dachau, there were no obvious signs of the manufacture of K98ks that once took place there. In fact, it wasn’t until after our visit that I learned Dachau prisoners had produced the means to empower their enslavers.
Due to the Germans attempting to outsmart the Treaty of Versailles’ Control Commission, deciphering the origins of a K98k can be a puzzle-solving process. Special K98ks, such as those issued to the Waffen-SS, bear unique markings. Among the 14 million K98ks produced, over 100 combinations of manufacturer code and date markings are known to exist, with new variations still being discovered.
To me and many other collectors, this is all part of the challenge of collecting historic riﬂes. I have been able to determine that my ﬁrst K98k has a combination of Weimar Beschußstempel and Nazi eagles. The number coding, the date and the combination of eagle styles tell the riﬂe’s tale, and clearly identiﬁes it as one manufactured by Sauer & Sohn in 1939. Also, part of the fun is telling a riﬂe’s tale post-war. K98ks were reconditioned and put to use all over the world. The Norwegian armed forces continued to use recycled K98k actions in military and civilian sniper and target riﬂes into the 2000s. US soldiers even encountered K98ks in Iraq. Some of them, ironically, were employed by the Israeli army, but only after stamping Israeli markings on top of the Nazi symbols.
BY FAR THE greatest critique of the K98k is its rate of ﬁre. As with any other bolt-action, soldiers could only ﬁre as quickly as they could operate the bolt. Critics of the German’s bolt-action-armed infantry blame Hitler for losing WWII because he refused to arm his infantry with faster, semiautomatic riﬂes.
When WWII began, the German infantry was not unlike other armies – armed with a mix of bolt-action riﬂes and some form of machine gun. Germany’s strategy for implementing these weapons diﬀered.
They emphasized the machine gun, usually an MG-34 or an MG-42 (Maschinengewehr 34/42) as their primary infantry weapon. A German squad early in the war would have four machine guns, and after 1944 six. The K98k was only intended as the backup support to the more ominous weapon and for sniping. German battle strategy did not intend for individual soldiers to engage the enemy.
In contrast, the Allies employed machine guns as support and point defense weapons. The American’s squad-based weapons, usually Browning automatic rifles, were not comparable to the German’s belt-fed or saddle-drum magazine that could fire faster (1,200 rounds per minute) and longer. This opposite strategy left the American soldiers relying on their individual firepower. In that situation the US rifle caliber .30 M1 Garand was the “greatest battle implement ever devised,” according to General Patton, because at a minimum it equalized the American’s firepower with that of the Nazis.
Both military doctrines had advantages and disadvantages. If you arm one squad with K98ks and the other with M1s or submachine guns at less than 500 yards, the soldiers with the M1s or submachine guns have the advantage. But when you add the use of a machine gun to the mix, per the German strategy, that system takes the advantage. Even in urban combat the K98k still had beneﬁts including its powerful ammunition that was better able to penetrate walls and other cover. The Germans recognized the importance of a submachine gun and married its advantages with a higher-caliber round towards the end of the war –creating the Sturmgewehr 44 – but mass production of these new riﬂes was not fully accomplished before the end of the war.
TODAY, THE MAUSER M98 action remains the precision instrument in the world of bolt-actions. Almost every centerﬁre bolt gun today uses a Mauser M98 action and operating principles with minor diﬀerences. Quite an astounding fact, given that Peter Paul Mauser patented the M98 bolt-action design in 1895. Not only does the action live on as the old faithful and reliable of bolt-actions,it carries on as a top-of-the line luxury action as well. For a mere $12,495, the new Mauser M98 Magnum combines the strength of the ’98 action with modernized features. The Mauser action is also appreciated by elite snipers who value the ﬁrst shot, guaranteed hit over faster repeat ﬁre.
Although German WWII K98ks are highly sought after by collectors, they can still be found as foreign capture riﬂes imported to the US. I found mine a couple of years ago on the shelf at a Big Five Sporting Goods store for a few hundred dollars. These war relics live on as inspiration, history and as platforms for the next leap forward.
And yes, dear husband, I see your points about the semiautomatics. They certainly hold their place in both war and hunting. Finding one that provides the powerful, ﬁrst-shot, reliable tack of a Mauser action is indeed possible. For three to four times the price, I might ﬁnd a one to match the power and precision of a M98. ASJ
The original function of the basic Ruger 10-22 was reliable shooting with passable accuracy. Over time more specialized models appeared, such as heavy-barreled target versions for utmost accuracy, and lightweight take-down designs for portability. Gunmaker Scott Volquartsen’s genius was to find a way to combine light weight with high accuracy. His UltraLite .22 is a featherweight even by rimfire standards, with the barreled action massing under 2.5 pounds, and the lightest of the stocks adding less than a pound to that. The lighter weight is mainly attributed to the materials used for the barrel: a carbon-fiber tube with a thin steel liner.
Carbon fiber has been used in the aerospace industry since the 1970s. Light, strong and distinctive looking, it has more recently become the prestigious and coveted component of fast cars, super-light bicycles, portable but rigid camera tripods and last, but not least, competition rifles. Thermal expansion of carbon-fiber parts is half steel and a third aluminum. That’s a great plus for all carbon-fiber constructions, but presents additional challenges to mixed-metal and composite designs. The same challenges are, of course, present whenever any two materials are mixed in an area subject to intense heat. More importantly for the shooters, carbon fiber conducts heat half as quickly as steel and nearly ten times slower than aluminum, protecting the shooter’s hands from burns. Wood insulates even better, but a much greater thickness is required for the same strength. The insulating quality of the material is terrific for hunters who don’t subject their barrels to intense heat. This is also true for rimfire shooters whose guns burn miniscule amounts of powder with each shot.
On the down side, carbon-fiber composites are expensive, and machining them uses up drill bits fast! That’s partly the reason why the Volquartsen UltraLite lists for $1,100. The other is the adjustable 2-pound trigger which, by itself, sells for $260. The fit and finish of this gun is far ahead of the standard 10-22, which the UltraLite shares an overall design with, but the details are much finer. The muzzle, for example, may be threaded for a sound suppressor or for Volquartsen’s well-designed muzzle brakes. Since the 22LR has little recoil, much of the brake function is to divert the noise of the report away from the shooter. Other options include extended magazine releases, numerous hard-anodized colors, a variety of stocks, and either a Picatinny rail or threaded holes for direct mounting of the industry-standard C-More red-dot sight. All said and done, one of these rifles will cost from $1,400 to $2,000. What kind of performance would you get for that much money?
Practical accuracy is often unachievable even with mechanically accurate lightweight rifles because pulling the trigger would disturb the aim. With the crisp, highly adjustable triggers of the UltraLite, the entire potential of the precision barrel proved easy to realize with good ammunition. With bulk loss-leader cartridges, groups were as huge as 2 inches at 25 yards. The CCI Mini mags shot slightly better than 1-inch groups at 25. Eley Match grouped pretty much on top of each other, with 2/3-inch groups at 50 yards! It pays to put premium ammunition into this premium gun. The other contributor to accuracy is the rigid laminate thumbhole stock, which locks the rifle securely to the shooter’s hold.
The emphasis on weight becomes important in two venues: hunting and competition. Meant mainly for rimfire steel challenge and similar fast-paced disciplines, the UltraLite swings quickly and easily. The greatest benefit accrues to kids and smaller-statured women. With Blackhawk Axiom’s collapsible stock and a red-dot sight, the UltraLite used by eight-year-old competitive marksman Alexis Nicole is still under 3.5 pounds, and fits her tiny frame perfectly. When she grows up, the same stock extended will still fit her. For now, variable length means the ability to fine tune the length of pull for standing, sitting or prone positions. Without the carbon-fiber barrel, she would have had to use a thin, sportier-weight steel barrel, get less accuracy and still struggle with more weight up front.
Lightweight rifles also give an advantage to hunters who use bigger scopes and sound suppressors. Even with a hefty varmint scope and a rimfire silencer, the resulting rig is portable and not excessively front-heavy. Placing the same accessories onto a bull barrel 10-22 would have resulted in a barely portable rifle that would also be difficult to steady offhand. Ruger’s own target model weighs more than twice as much! Could a big, strong male wrestle this rifle along? Sure. But it would be less fun for him, and next to impossible for the bantam-sized rifle operators like Alexis. Since weight and balance are critical for teen and preteen competitors, the extra cost is hardly optional. Without the investment of this specialized tool, the next generation of competitive shooters would have to wait a couple of years before starting out. ASJ