Increasing Accuracy in Lightweight Hunting Rifles

True, modern manufacturing and materials mean back country rifles are accurate right out of the package, but you still need to put in the work of learning how to shoot them correctly – here’s how.

Story and Photos by Jason Brooks

Author Jason Brooks downed this Idaho mule
deer with a 303-yard shot from his Savage Lightweight Hunter in 7mm-08. This lightweight rifle
can shoot very accurately and carries easily afield.
When it comes to hunting the backcountry, you will find all sorts of gear and gadgets made with reduced weight. The rifle is included in this, and it seems the market has been flooded lately with “ultralight” rifles. From titanium actions to fluted barrels, all of these rifles draw the attention of the hunter and shooter who want to carry a light and accurate firearm.
But it is the accurate part that most shooters find difficult. There is a reason why bench rest and “sniper” rifles are heavy, as the weight helps steady the rifle, as well as reduce recoil. The light rifle is neither Sturdy nor fun to shoot, often kicking hard and difficult to hold steady.
Rifle companies often market rifles for a specific intent, such as light weight or sub-MOA accuracy and most offer both. However, it seems the expectation is that the user can take it out of the box and shoot dime-sized groups the very first time they take it to the range. This is not the case, and often the rifle is blamed. There are so many factors that are in play when it comes to shooting a light rifle accurately, and knowing how to overcome the obstacles that often frustrate shooters will help you get those tight groups.

A solid rest is needed when taking ethical
shots with a light rifle. A coat allowed the
author to settle the rifle in the rocks, making
for a steady rest in the prone position.
A RIFLE THAT is less than 6 pounds will kick, and this causes flinching. It is human nature to avoid pain and shooting a rifle can cause some discomfort in both our shoulder and our ears. In fact, it is probably the loud “bang” that will cause you to flinch more than the actual recoil.
This is because hearing is one of our defense senses and we spend all of our time in the outdoors listening for noises that might tip off game or cause us harm, such as a grizzly bear or other predator. So when the rifle fires, we react to the loud noise more than the recoil. One way to overcome flinching is to wear hearing protection, even while hunting.
There are plenty of noise-cancelling earmuffs that also have electronic amplifiers. You can talk, hike and even hear game, but when the rifle fires, the loud bang is muffled. Being “scope bit” hurts. A few drops of blood running down your cheek and that sharp pain above your eye is a reminder to your subconscious that it might hurt when you pull the trigger.
Another thing to keep you from flinching is wearing safety glasses. It still stings a bit when the scope hits the glasses, but it will keep you from getting cut. If you have the time to find a rest and set up for a shot, then put on the safety equipment.

Besides recoil and an accurate barrel, the trigger causes the shooter the most problems when it comes to accuracy. Aftermarket triggers offer the ability to adjust their poundage as well as travel. Some rifle companies, such as Kimber and Savage, offer adjustable triggers in their factory rifles.
With Kimber, there are two set screws in the trigger assembly. One changes the travel and the other changes the pounds of finger pressure needed to fire the rifle. Some shooters like to pull the trigger or have it travel before the rifle fires. This allows you to mentally prepare for the report of the rifle as you feel the trigger moving.
Other shooters like a “stiff” trigger, which means once you apply the needed poundage, the gun fires with little to no trigger movement until after the rifle fires. Never go below the minimum poundage that the manufacturer recommends, which nowadays is pretty low – most are around 2 pounds or less – as this can be very dangerous and cause a misfire.
It all comes down to less than a quarter of an inch. When you finally have that bull or buck – or whatever the quarry is – in your sights and you start to squeeze the trigger, this is the very last thing you will do before you either hit the target or miss.

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A FEW YEARS ago, I was on what is known as the High Buck Hunt in the Cascade Mountains of my home state of Washington. It was the second day of the season and a mature mule deer buck was in a small clearing 350 yards away.
The rifle was very capable of that shot, and I had my son with me. He wanted to take the shot, so he rested the rifle across his pack – a solid rest for the 11-year-old. There was plenty of time and no need to rush the shot. He was not shaking and knew that he would have another chance, as the hunting season was just starting.
He squeezed the trigger, and nothing. He squeezed again and then looked up from the gun when it wouldn’t fire. Making sure the safety was off, he pulled hard on the trigger and missed. We learned a lesson that day: Be sure you practice with the rifle you plan on hunting with. My son was used to shooting his Thompson/Center Encore with a very light trigger.
My rifle was a bolt gun and the trigger was only a pound stiffer, but that felt like a brick wall to my son.

You can easily move the rifle while actually shooting it, especially if you are using a lightweight “mountain” rifle. There is a reason why bench rest competition shooters use a heavy rifle and a “hair trigger.” I don’t recommend either for hunting, as safety has to come first and I really don’t like hauling a heavy gun around the mountains.
Trigger pull is an easy one to overcome; all you need to do is practice a lot, and then practice some more. You cannot over practice pulling the trigger, and it also helps you overcome all of the other factors that contribute to missing. The more you shoot your rifle, the more comfortable it becomes.
In the field, have a good rest and use it. This could be something as simple as shooting sticks, a branch on a tree or even lying down in the prone position. A few years ago while elk hunting in Idaho, I came upon a herd of elk on a far hillside as I crested a ridge. As I laid down, I noticed a rock pile and placed my coat on top of it. The rocks cradled the rifle much like a bench rest and made the shot much easier.

When it comes to shooting a light rifle, the shooter must remember any “outside influence,” which is basically anything that comes into contact with the rifle while shooting it. If possible, only put one hand on the rifle as you squeeze the trigger; again, think safety glasses and hearing protection, as the rifle jumps up at the recoil.
But if you use two hands, then you are likely to move the rifle through natural movement; even breathing can cause the rifle to move. Of course you need to keep control of the rifle at all times and this sometimes means holding onto it with two hands. If using a tree branch, brace the rifle by using your far hand to clasp the rifle and the branch, clamping down to hold it steady. An offhand shot is almost impossible with an ultralight rifle, but if that is your only option, learn to use the sling to brace the rifle with your forearm.

Becoming proficient with a light rifle means
spending plenty of time at the bench and
sighting in with quality ammunition.
YOU CAN SHOOT an expensive rifle using a cheap scope and find it to be “accurate” – that is, until the scope fogs up, its cross hairs shift, the bad coating doesn’t allow proper light transmission or any other number of issues that arise with poor quality control. It is better to shoot a cheap rifle with moderate accuracy and use a well-built scope that never fails in any weather condition, is bright in low light and won’t change point of impact when you slip and fall.
If you can’t see it, you can’t shoot it. There are many factors that can affect even the best scopes and their accuracy, such as parallax – the way light bends as it passes through the lenses. Some shooters like having a variable-power scope and most of my rifles sport them as well, but be aware that an increase in magnification also increases your counteracting of aiming.
You will notice “wobbling” as you try to hold the cross hairs steady when on a higher power or with more magnification. A fixed-power scope takes away a lot of the potential problems with variable-power scopes, such as internal debris from the rings and moving parts inside the scope, parallax and wobble, but you are also stuck with just one magnification. A good compromise is to get a variablepower scope that has a lower range, such as the Vortex Razor 2-10x40mm.
I have shot mule deer using the 2x at 100 yards and could see the entire deer, helping me stay focused on the front shoulder. I also killed an elk in Idaho at 325 yards on 10x and it helped me slip the bullet between trees to the lungs of the bull. Both times the rifle stayed steady, as I was focusing on the animal and not the wobbling crosshairs. A quality scope, regardless of power, needs to be clear with multicoated lenses that allow low light to pass through, as well as keep condensation and raindrops off.

Ammunition is a key part of shooting accurately. Most competition shooters reload because they can be precise, down to the hundredths of a grain of powder, exact case length and overall cartridge length to where the head space is but a sliver. Of course not everyone reloads, but if you plan on shooting accurately with cheap ammunition, then you are doing yourself a disservice.
Quality ammo is expensive to manufacture, which is why it costs more than bargain ammunition. From primers and brass to blended proprietary powders and even bullet construction, try several different brands and bullet weights, as each rifle will shoot them differently. After working up a load for my 7mm-08 that shot consistently tight groups in my Savage Lightweight Hunter Model 110, I put them in my son’s Browning Micro Midas and couldn’t get them to group at all. Both rifles sport 20-inch barrels, but the Browning didn’t like the bullet-powder combo, where the Savage loved it.
Once you have put together a lightweight rifle package, topped with a quality scope and premium ammunition, and you have learned how to hold it steady and overcome flinching, you will realize that sub-MOA groups are common. Modern milling processes and materials make these rifles accurate right off of the assembly line, but it is up to the shooter to learn how to shoot them accurately. Always remember safety and manufacturer recommendations.

Editor’s note: Author Jason Brooks has hunted deer and elk in the backcountry for the past 37 years and has served in law enforcement for the past 25 years.

Exceeding High Rifle Standards

Well known for super-lightweight, accurate hunting rifles, Kimber has outdone itself with the new Hunter Pro Desolve Black.

Part II of III Lightweight Hunting Rifles
Story and Photos by Jason Brooks

Kimber is known for its extremely lightweight and accurate rifles. Machined to tight tolerances, assembled and completely built in the USA, Kimber rifles are carried into the backcountry each fall by hunters who want a rifle that shoots well but doesn’t weigh down the pack.
The Alabama company was founded in 1979 and has become an industry leader with a reputation for benchrest accuracy, comfort and quality construction of their firearms. For 2021, they added the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak to the Mountain series of rifles. It is one of the lightest production rifles on the market that is budget-friendly. This rifle is currently chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester and .280 Ackley Improved. The rifle is 41¼ inches overall and the Creedmoor and .308 versions weigh only 5 pounds, 7 ounces, while the .280 Ackley is 43¾ inches and 5 pounds, 12 ounces.

ACTION: The rifle is an 84M bolt-action that has tight tolerances and virtually no “slop” when you lift the bolt knob. It has a Mauser claw extractor and a three-position Model 70-style safety. Sliding the bolt both backwards and forwards is smooth, with virtually no lateral movement. The design of the bolt is to reduce weight; in fact, everything about this rifle is designed to reduce weight while maximizing the machined accuracy of the rifle to its fullest potential. At the top of the action are predrilled and tapped holes to mount the scope bases.

The rifle also comes chambered in .308 Winchester and .280 Ackley Improved. The .308 and Creedmoor versions are slightly shorter and lighter than the third, but all weigh under 6 pounds.
BARREL: The .280 Ackley Improved is a long action and comes with a 24-inch barrel, while the short-action .308 and 6.5 Creedmoor are available with a 22-inch barrel. All of the barrels are pencil-thin to reduce weight. Each rifle also comes with a muzzle brake that is threaded on and a thread protector if you choose to remove the brake. For me, the muzzle brake is a must when it comes to a super-lightweight rifle. The chamber is match-grade, making for an extremely accurate rifle, and the barrel is mounted with a pillar block that helps accuracy. It is guaranteed to have a sub-MOA right out of the box.

STOCK: The stock is fiber-reinforced polymer in Desolve Blak pattern, which is a digitized grey splatter that accents the rifle well. It is extremely lightweight and tough, resisting scratching and comfortable to grip. It also tends to be “non-slip,” which helps when you use a rest to shoot the rifle, as it grips the rifle and helps you hold it steady. The rifle comes with a 1-inch recoil pad and the total length of pull is 13.75 inches.

Close-ups of the 84M action, barrel and trigger, as well as Desolve Blak pattern.
TRIGGER: When it comes to shooting a lightweight rifle accurately, one of the most influential factors is the trigger. Since the rifle is so light, any pressure on the rifle causes it to move and that decreases accuracy. Kimber knows this, which is why the factory trigger is adjustable. The assembly is easily removed and two set screws adjust the length of travel and the pull weight. When you get the rifle from the factory, it comes with the trigger pull set to between 3.5 and 4 pounds and no travel in the trigger. You can adjust this yourself if you feel the need, but be sure to stay within recommended tolerances. A quarter to half a turn on the set screw will lighten the trigger significantly, but I found it wasn’t necessary on this rifle.

SAFETY: Kimber uses a three-position Model 70-style safety. The safety locks forward once the rifle is fired, which is a reminder that the rifle has a spent case in the chamber. The three positions allow you to keep the rifle in the “safe” position and able to work the bolt to unload the rifle. It has a fairly large flange that is textured and is easy to use, even when wearing thick gloves for those late-season hunts.

MAGAZINE: Unlike Kimber’s Mountain Ascent series, the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak comes with a detachable box magazine. This is a nice bonus feature, as it is quick to unload and makes it easy to carry extra ammunition that’s ready to go in magazines. The magazines themselves are once again designed with weight in mind, as they are constructed of polymer and metal, and they hold three rounds of ammo.

MUZZLE BRAKE: Thankfully Kimber has made the muzzle brake part of the package instead of an add-on. This is an extremely lightweight rifle and recoil is not fun to shoot. But the muzzle brake takes a lot of the felt recoil out of the rifle. It does add to the increased noise and hearing protection is a must, even when hunting. If you decide you don’t want to use the muzzle brake, then you can simply unscrew it from the end of the barrel and put on the thread protector that is included.
The model I have is in 6.5 Creedmoor and though a muzzle brake isn’t necessary, it really helps stay on target for follow-up shots if needed. Even in this mild caliber, the rifle tends to jump a bit since it is so lightweight.

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PERFORMANCE: Like my other Kimbers, and even a few other lightweight rifles I own, the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak is made to be carried easily afield. One of the main differences between Kimber rifles and other rifles I own that are sub-6 pounds is the accuracy and increased ballistics.
The longer barrel that Kimber offers for such a light rifle allows the full potential of the cartridge. The length of the barrel has two main influences when it comes to accuracy and performance. The first is that the longer the barrel, the less “off center” the projectile is when it leaves the barrel if you happen to flinch or move just slightly. The second thing is pressure build-up. As a cartridge is fired and the powder burns, it creates an increased pressure of gasses that pushes the bullet down the barrel.
Once the bullet leaves the barrel, it is no longer being pushed. The more travel or time the bullet is in the barrel, the faster the bullet accelerates, which means the long barrel increases the bullet speed compared to a shorter barrel. With very tight machined tolerances, the long barrel, quality trigger and pillar bedding, the Kimber Hunter Pro Desolve Blak is guaranteed sub-MOA accuracy with quality commercial ammo.

You may not want to take off-hand shots with
the rifle, but from a steady rest and when
topped with good optics, “this is one of the
best and lightest rifles on the market today” for
backcountry hunters, states Brooks.
THE TEST: Just like with any new rifle, the first thing I do is clean it. I remove the bolt and wipe it down with a solvent, run a few patches down the barrel and work the action once it is all assembled. This is an operational function testing to make sure everything is in working order. A Leupold VI in 3-9×40 matched the rifle and caliber very well. Three cartridges were loaded into the magazine and from there the rifle was placed on a shooting rest. The trigger didn’t need any adjusting and the rifle fired without issue. Cycling the 6.5 Creedmoor was relatively easy with no feeding problems occurring. Accuracy was better than I could shoot the rifle, meaning off of a bench and wearing proper safety equipment such as hearing protection and shooting glasses, the rifle shot extremely accurately. Replicating these conditions during hunting is impossible, but knowing the rifle shoots tight groups means that if I miss, then it is my fault and nothing to do with the rifle.

BOTTOM LINE: Kimber makes high-quality firearms and the Hunter Pro Desolve Blak, with a price point almost unheard of for a rifle built this well and lightweight, exceeds even their great gunmaking standards. Unlike other companies that produce dozens of rifles or more at a time, Kimber runs each rifle through tight tolerance inspections and it shows. The rifle will not make a good whitetail “deer drive” gun, as it should be fired from a steady rest. And if you take the time to set up for the shot, you will know that the rifle is more than capable of making it count. For the backcountry hunter, this is one of the best and lightest rifles on the market today.

1876 Winchester

Our man with the black powder on his hands tests loads for the ‘new’ .50-95 1876 Winchester manufactured by Uberti.

One big difference between the old and new .50-95-caliber rifles is that the original Winchesters from 1879 had a rate of twist in their barrels of one turn in 60 inches. That was for the very short 300- or 312-grain .50-caliber bullets. Today’s copies of those guns, namely the Uberti version of the old Winchester Model 1876, have barrels with one turn in 48 inches. That simply means the new .50-95s will perform with slightly heavier bullets.

When it was introduced, the .50-95 Winchester was the largest member in the line-up of cartridges for the repeating Model 1876. All of the cartridges chambered in the 1876 Winchester were considered short-range rounds when comparing them to the mid range and long range cartridges that were available only in single-shot rifles at that time.

And the .50-95 was an express cartridge, shooting a rather lightweight bullet at a high velocity, listed at 1,556.8 feet per second, making it a powerful hunting rifle for thin-skinned game within, let’s say, 200 yards.

Mike Venturino included the .50-95 cartridge in Shooting Lever Guns of the Old West (2010), which is an excellent book. In the section on cartridge reloading, he gave the specs for loads with both Goex FFg powder and the fine Cartridge powder, which is no longer available.
We might say that Mike wrote about the .50-95 almost a decade too soon, because there are now some important new “ingredients” that were not previously available.

THE UBERTI 1876 IN .50-95 has a 28-inch barrel, the same length as their other 1876 calibers. Along with a different twist rate, the groove diameter of the barrels on the new guns is a touch wider than the old Winchesters.
The rifle shot for this update had a barrel with a .514-inch groove diameter, and Mike said the original he shot with had a .509-inch groove diameter. These are simply little differences we should know about in advance of preparing any “special diet” for the newer .50-95.
Another “new thing” that wasn’t available when Mike did his loading and shooting for his book with the .50-95 was Jamison’s brass or ammunition.
Jamison, now a division of Captech International (visit, offers both new brass and loaded ammo for all of the Winchester Model 1876 calibers, which includes the .50-95.
Jamison ammo uses a 350-grain lead bullet over just enough smokeless powder to give it an advertised velocity of 1,300 feet per second. That’s a bit of a “cowboy” load and, of course, it was the Cowboy Action shooters who made the old lever guns popular enough for this new ammo to be made.
All of the loading and shooting done for this update was done with either Jamison’s loaded ammunition or new Jamison brass. The remaining ingredient that wasn’t available 10 years ago for use in the .50-95 was Goex’s Olde Eynsford powders.
A decade ago Goex was offering cartridge powder, and Mike’s chapter on the .50-95 did show one load using it. And Olde Eynsford is available in four different grades for better fine-tuning of black powder loads. In the following information, two of the Olde Eynsford grades were used.

LET’S FOCUS ON THE BULLETS we used. Wayne Miller did the casting and loading for these tests, and we were using Wayne’s rifle for the shooting. The handloads were topped off with the 350 cast bullets, with a 20:1 alloy, sized to .514 inch and lubed with SPG. Going along very well with the new Uberti’s one-in-48-inch rate of twist, a 350-grain bullet was used for all shooting.
For shooters who want a good shooting bullet for the Uberti rifles in .50-95, I quickly recommend bullet number 51-350CL from Accurate Molds. That bullet has the proper nose shape and distance from the crimp groove for good feeding from the magazine in the lever-action .50-95s.

If you visit the Accurate Molds website (, you’ll see another bullet for the .50-95, number 51-350C. The only difference between those two bullets is that 51-350CL is slightly longer with a larger lube groove, designed more with black powder shooters in mind. Loads with all powder charges used Jamison brass primed with Federal Large Rifle Match primers.

Powder was always dropped into the primed cases through a 24-inch drop tube, and then topped with a .030-inch Walters’ veggie wad. While that might sound rather formal, our shooting was actually informal, shooting across a bench rest at only 50 yards.
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Our shooting quickly showed that the rifle’s front sight was too low and, consequently, our groups went a bit high. For chronographs data, we fired only five shots per load, so our test results might show a rather narrow view.
No loads with powder charges greater than 85.0 grains were used. Olde Eynsford has slightly less density than some other black powders. The 85-grain charges completely filled the .50-95 cases, right to the top, even when the drop tube was used. That gives a clear picture of the amount of compression for the powder because the .030-inch wad plus about .33 inch of bullet had to be seated below the mouth of the case.
It is also interesting to note that the velocity difference between the 85 grains of OE 1 1/2F and the 2F was only 5 feet per second, in favor of the 2F.

THE RIFLE WAS CLEANED after each set of five shots, so the shooting with each loading began with a clean barrel. This rifle was, basically, a “just out of the box” Uberti, using the sights which came on the gun as well as the trigger pull set at the factory.
The trigger pull was on the stiff side, especially to a shooter who feels more at home with set triggers.
We tried loads of 75 and 80 grains with both of the Olde Eynsford powders, but only the 85-grain charges are shown here.
Those were simply the best and, therefore, they are what we recommend. In general, the loads with the 85-grain powder charges seemed to make the rifle almost come alive, and those are the loads that should interest hunters the most. It was the 80- and 85-grain loading that gave the best groups.
At the same time, we discussed changes to the sights which should improve the rifle’s accuracy all the way around. With some improvement to the sights, combined with the 85 grains of powder loadings, the .50-95 certainly becomes a serious contender for putting meat on the table.

Story and Photos by Mike Nesbitt

Old School Rifles that are Still a Favorite for Hunters

Guns are much more than guns to die-hard hunting folks. Sometimes they help define the love of a family as grandfather passes their guns from one generation to the next. And, more often than not, the gun that is cherished the most as a symbol of tradition and collective wisdom is the “humble deer rifle”.
The following hunting rifles are no longer in production yet still find their way to the the hands of hunters who value both tradition and well-design sporting arms. Maybe this is what the younger generation rifle lacks.

  • Savage 99

    Savage’s Model 99, preceded by the 1895, was the first hammerless lever-action rifle in mass production. The reliability, accuracy, and appearance of the 99 have made it both a classic and a practical gun for hunters.
    Well ahead of its time, the internal rotary magazine and brass round counter defined the rifle and allowed use of both higher powered rounds and also the pointed bullets that tubular lever rifles could not.

  • Winchester 54

    Winchester’s Model 54 is regarded as the company’s first mass production civilian bolt action center fire rifle. Though the two-stage trigger pull wasn’t the greatest, its Mauser action was incredibly reliable.
    Produced from the mid-1920s until 1936, over 50,000 Model 54s came off the line.
    The Winchester 54’s particular value here is as the predecessor to the even more beloved Model 70, which would top this list were it not in current production. Because the Model 54 was made in the era of iron-sighting, its bolt throw is too high to allow for simple scope mounting. Regardless of its short coming, the build quality of these bolt guns has kept them in the field all these years, passed down from one generation to the next.

  • Remington Model 8 or 81

    The powerful semi-automatic was introduced as the Model 8 in 1911, a John Moses Browning brainchild using the same long-stroke spring-recoiling design as his Auto-5 shotgun.
    The Model 8’s jacketed barrel is the defining feature, as is the five-round integral box magazine that could be filled by military-style stripper clips. Original chamberings included 35 Rem, 30 Rem, 32 Rem, and 25 Rem, marketed as much more powerful than the then-common 30-30. By 1936, Remington learned they could make the same gun cheaper but with a stouter wrist and for end, and the Model 81 took over.

  • Winchester 88

    This one was really a toss-up between the lever-run 88 and the semi-automatic Winchester 100. Both guns were available in rifle and carbine lengths and still account for a consistent take of whitetails each year.
    The hammerless Winchester 88 was introduced in 1955 as a .308. Within a few years, 243, 284, and 358 chamberings were added, though all rounds were short action, albeit high power. The gun operated a three-lug rotating bolt, short throw lever, and four-round detachable magazine.
    They came standard with iron sights but were drilled and tapped for scope mounting. Long known as a harder-recoil gun than others, the Winchester 88 still rightly remains a beloved rifle that, hunter carry today.

  • Remington 760/7600

    The Model 760 and 7600 GameMaster slide-action centerfire rifles date back to 1952. They featured a rotary, front locking bolt run by simple yet sturdy dual action bars.
    Fed by detachable box magazines and offered in both rifle and carbine length in many stock options and the necessary deer calibers — 243, 308, 270, 30-06 — the rifle is well balanced and still remains one of the most commonly encountered deer rifles out there.
    While the 760/7600 triggers were not great, reliability was above the norm. All of the 7600s came with iron sights but were also drilled & tapped for scope mounting. While many hunters still tote the 740/7400 semi-auto versions, the reliability and lasting power of those receivers is awful.

Sources: Wikipedia, Kristin Alberts

Gun Review: The Fully Functional AR57

The AR57 Is An Excellent High-capacity Yet Affordable Alternative For Self-defense, Varmint Hunting

The AR57 (also known as the AR Five Seven) upper receiver for the AR-15 has two claims to fame: a 50-shot capacity and downward ejection for ambidextrous operation. Operating by simple blowback, this upper is available in 6-inch pistol and 16-inch rifle versions, with the latter being reviewed here.

Manufactured by the eponymous AR57 LLC, and chambered in 5.7x28mm, this upper is less powerful than the standard 5.56mm version, but it has certain tangible advantages, including reduced muzzle blast, a high practical rate of fire, nonexistent recoil, and the ability to use folding stocks. Since the buffer is located within the receiver, folding stocks may also be used for compact storage or carry.

To load, place the base plate of a standard FN P90 magazine into the recess on the front of the upper, then press the feed lip side down on the catch located above and slightly back of the bolt. To charge, pull on the right-side nonreciprocating handle and release. The right-side charging hand placement makes it accessible for operation by the strong hand. Since it only has to be operated once every 50 shots, the time penalty for moving the hand off the pistol grip isn’t too great.

Empties will eject downward through the nominal magazine well. Some people use a 20-round magazine body with the feed lips, spring and follower removed to act as a brass catcher.

The magazine has no provision for activating the bolt lock when empty, but the bolt can be locked open using the catch on the lower. The upper runs very cleanly and reliably, requiring no maintenance after the first 500 shots.

The AR57 comes with a medium fluted barrel, reasonable for a varmint rifle but excessive for a defensive carbine. Burning around six grains per shot, 5.7x28mm runs much cooler than 5.56mm, which burns four or more times as much. That yields much reduced muzzle blast and far greater heat endurance, of course at the cost of a roughly 40 percent slower bullet.

The baseplate of a standard FN P90 magazine fits snugly into the recess on the front of the upper.

The adequacy of 5.7x28mm for stopping human aggressors has been in dispute ever since its introduction. Some of the lighter bullets available for the caliber have traditionally been tipped or leadless hollow points prone to excessive fragmentation. Firing a 27-grain lead-free hollow point at a full, upright 12-ounce beverage can did not produce a complete penetration – an excellent result for a range or a small varmint round, but not a man-stopper.

With no protruding magazine, the AR57 allows shooters to get very low into a prone position.

Expanding ammunition with better penetration is also available from FN, along with nonfragmenting 40-grain FMJ American Eagle. Recently, RR Weapon Systems introduced two 37-grain all-copper loads, 37F (fragmenting) and 37X (expanding). In testing 37X, I found it much hotter than the alternatives and a very reliable terminal performer. The three-petal bullets expanded to fill 2/3-inch circumference and penetrated around 12 inches into gel. Velocity was around 2,680 feet per second with a standard deviation of under 10, so it was no surprise that it produced groups a touch under 2 inches. Other than handloads with 40-grain Vmax, all other ammunition grouped closer to 2.5 to 3 minutes of angle when fired using a 2.5x scope.

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The AR57 is an excellent choice for self-defense, especially for individuals of smaller stature.

The main limitation on the use of an AR57 for varmint control is the space available for optics. Because the magazine is lifted up for unloading, the potential length of the scope is sharply limited. I have been able to fit 2.5x or 4x prismatic scopes, but anything longer caused interference. Considering these sighting limitations, I would rate it as suitable for small rodents out to 100 yards.

Accuracy is a less important consideration for defensive use. Follow-up shots with the AR57 are limited only by the trigger finger dexterity, as it showed no muzzle rise at all. Up close, this platform would be better served with a red dot sight and a laser for rapid aiming. I’d like to see a defensive variant with a pencil-thin barrel and a more skeletonized forend developed alongside the current version.

Compared to the PS90, the AR57 is the heavier option, even when polymer lowers are used. It is also longer. But the advantages of an AR57 are numerous. Even a stock AR-15 has a better trigger than a PS90, and aftermarket options can enhance that difference a great deal. AR lowers allow adjustable length of pull, and AR ergonomics make more use of existing training, other than in the reloading process. The height of sights over bore is significantly less, making accurate hits easier.

This functional upper features several advantages, including reduced muzzle blast, a high practical rate of fire, and nonexistent recoil.

Compared to a 5.56 upper, the AR57 is simpler to clean, generates less felt recoil and much less muzzle blast. With no protruding magazine, it allows the shooter to get very low into a prone position. Two full 50-round P90 magazines weigh as little as one 5.56 30-rounder, so you can carry a lot of ammunition.

At $745 direct from the manufacturer or an authorized dealer, it is less expensive than a PS90 carbine (which lists at $1350), even after the cost of an AR-15 lower is added in. The 5.7x28mm ammunition costs about the same as 5.56x45mm, though the variety of available loads is definitely smaller.

The niche I see for AR57 – besides it being plain fun to shoot – is for self-defense by the same slightly built individuals who would have picked an M1 carbine in the past. It requires less upper body strength to use than most long guns, and gives 50 shots without reloading. A small teenager or a fragile senior can run it with ease, but the rest of us won’t need an excuse to enjoy using this upper.

Supppressed full-auto with Youtuber Military Outdoor Supply



Editor’s note: For more information about the AR57, visit

Hunting Rifles for Any Game

Are you into hunting and like going after both the big game and small ones with one or two guns?
If you’re the practical hunter that would rather spend time on hunting time vs buying a new hunting gun. Have a look at this list.
With the following list you can practically hunt any animal in the world.
This ranges from squirrel to elephants.
One thing to note about the following list.
This list is not the ultimate hunting rifle list.
There will be rifles that wasn’t mentioned or the one that you’re using. By all means let us know below in the comment section.
Another thing is that these rifles are not your specialist type of rifle, they’re just adaptable.

Without further adieu we give you four hunting rifles that can take down any game.

  • Remington Model 870 12-Gauge Shotgun

    Not only is this the iconic home-defense shotgun, but with its 3-inch chamber is also a perfect shotgun for hunting as well.
    With its interchangeable choke tubes, you can hunt all different type of birds: doves, quail, grouse, pheasants, duck, turkey, etc.
    For the bigger game which requires buckshots you can go after deer and feral hogs at close range.
    Want to reach game farther out in distances, just change out the barrel and put in a rifled barrel with sights.

  • Ruger 10/22 Rifle

    Because its small, lightweight but very reliable, the 10/22 is perfect for smaller game and varmint.
    Going with a .22 LR ammo is the least expensive from the bunch.
    If you’re looking to keep things quiet on your property while hunting, look into getting subsonic rounds.
    There is a time and place to have .22 caliber shotgun shells, its for situation where you don’t need to lug out the full shotgun.
  • Remington Model 700 in .30-06 Springfield

    This Remington Model 700 is one of the most affordable on the market for a good quality long range hunting rifle.
    With the caliber .30-06 you can take down any big game in the world.
    At the basic level, the 700 shines in the category of accuracy, reliable and easy to use.
    With this caliber most are within 150-180 grain, but you can find them in 110 to the heavy 220-grain for taking down real big game.

  • CZ-550 American Safari Magnum in .375 H&H Magnum

    Theres big game and theres dangerous game like brown bears, elephants and cape buffalo. You should go with the .375 H&H Magnum it is a little more powerful than the .30-06.
    Many seasoned hunters recommends this bad boy if you’re headed into Africa.

What do you think about the choices and what hunting rifle serves you?

Restoring an 1886 Colt Lightning Rifle back to Life

When you find a relic, will it go on your wall or is it a shooter?
In this case a Colt Lighting rifle was raised from the dead.
Andre Will shared a video with us on this rare collection that he purchased and restored.
The rifle was in fairly bad condition, covered by some sort of chemicals which caused deep rust and cracks, it was badly restored by the previous owner.

The Colt Lighting rifle is a slide pump-action rifle manufactured from 1884 to 1904 and was originally chambered in .44-40 caliber.
The rifle profile resembles the pump-action rimfire rifles made by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and Remington Arms.
The Lightning saw use as a sporting arm in America and was adopted for use by the San Francisco Police Department, but was never as popular or as reliable as the various lever-action rifles of its day.

Many moons ago, in this video Andre observed while he was cleaning up the rifle. Rust that was developed under the non-original finish almost destroyed the barrel and the magazine. There’s not much of the magazine, eaten by rust.

The barrel was cleaned then decreased and hooned with soft polishing paste.

Andre goes on to laser weld some of the deep pitting on the barrel, took a couple of hours.

After the welding its filing and sand papering those pitted areas.

After cleaning up the old finish removal the parts were sent to a local gunsmith to properly rust the bluing and marble finish. The stock was only clean and refinish with tru-oil.
Seems like a pretty cool project to bring a vintage gun back to life as a shooter. If you had a chance would you have kept the rifle in beat condition as a wall decorator or would you fix it up as a shooter?

Buy bulk ammo at Lucky Gunner

The War Horse Bolt-Gun Shootout

Story by Dusty Boddams

Did the rifle make a difference? Having become a shooter, and I guess by accident a collector of military bolt guns, I have been adding to the “collection “ regularly. Probably most real collectors would turn up their nose and depart for greener pastures when they see what I have. My grouping is eclectic.

bolt gun1Now, I have a bunch of friends who are wild bunch action shooters, and have taken to the shooting competition called BAMM (bolt action military match) with great enthusiasm. Lots of 03 and 03a3 in these matches, but there are lots of other great guns out there, and the question is by design, are any of them faster or slower than others?
Not just for five shots but with reload under speed. Do the sights really make that much difference for fast shooting? What about cock on closing compared to cock on opening? Which ones are really faster? Everyone has an opinion, but have they done it or are they guessing? What about left-handed shooters? What’s best for them?

We are going to try and answer these questions plus a few more with this article. Now, this is not a true shootout of bolt gun2all the bolt guns of pre-WWI thru post-WWII. I’m not pulling out any Mannlichers or Carcano cartridges. I’m not using any carbines or sniper rifles, but these are what we are using: early ’03 Springfield .30/06 03a3, Smith Corona .30/06, Ishapore Enfield 7.62 Model of 1917 rifle, .30/06 1891 Argentine Mauser, 7.65 Colombian R.Farmage Mauser, .30/06 Russian Mosin-Nagant 7.62×54, and a rimmed K-31 7.5 Swiss. I could have expanded the selection, but I feel this is a good representative of different types of rifles and are the most commonly encountered types.

Ammo was kept simple; all the above used lead-gas checked bullets, and all were traveling between 1,500 to 1,700 feet per second. Most all used the same powder, and all used the same bolt gun5standard Winchester primer. Each rifle had been shot and checked over, and everyone shot with factory ammo and then shot with the lead ammo to verify that our hand-rolled ammo shot at least as well or better than factory.

Standard IDPA cardboard targets set at 100 yards

Seated from stable rest. Rifle supported. Five cartridges in the rifle. Bolt open. Rifle at ready. Timed with a pact timer. At the beep, commence firing – reload – fire. Total of ten shots . Must have ten shots on target or results thrown out. The feeling is bolt gun8that accuracy and speed are of equal importance, and one will not carry more weight than the other.

The results working with the bolt guns was a most pleasurable experience. Having the opportunity to compare these side by side, some conclusions were drawn. Of these rifles, the K31 had some issues and it was sidelined. Overall, the left and right hand shooter did best with the R. Farmage Mauser, followed very closely by the 03 and 03a3 for the left handed shooter. Also favorable for the southpaw was the 1891 Argentine Mauser,the K31 Swiss, followed by the Ishapore. The P17 was the next to slowest for lefty, but he shot an amazing 5″ group at speed. The Mosin was his slowest. Captain Jarrett really enjoyed the range time with the battle rifles, as it gave him the opportunity to shoot unfamiliar bolt gun7guns at speed.

The P17 ,1891 Mauser,and 03a3 were all a tie for me. The Ishapore during the test had a hiccup and was slower than four other rifles. I corrected the problem, reshot it and it turned in the third fastest time. The biggest shock of all this testing was the Mosin Nagant. It was one of the last rifles shot on a long morning, and with temperatures approaching the century mark it came in last. Typical rough clunky arsenal refinish with a hex receiver and an abundant amount of shellac. This old rifle was pulled from a crate and shipped to me complete with lots of cosmoline in the bore. Cleaning it all up and putting it to the test at 100 yards, I think my full choked shotgun was tighter. Honest 18″ patterns told the tale.

bolt gun6Re-disassembly proved lots of pressure points. Taking care of these problems, it started turning in 3 1/2″ groups, but when shot at speed, turned out the slowest times due to fighting the bolt. Always remember Mosins were sighted with a bayonet mounted, which dampened a lot of harmonics.Taking the bolt out and pulling it apart working all the rough areas resulted in a different animal. This rifle went from the slowest to the second fastest rifle!

After spending a lot of time with these rifles and with Capt. Jarrett, the left handed shooter, a few definite thoughts emerged. First, a left handed shooter can be competitive with the right battle rifle. Some designs do not lend themselves as well to a southpaw. The second thought is that if you’re a right handed shooter, all the battle rifles are just about equal.Pardon the pun, but there is no magic bullet. Cock on open versus cock on close is a non-issue for a right handed shooter.


bolt gun4Sights were all good with the most reduced load friendly going to the Mausers and the 03a3. Least friendly was the P17, because the ladder has to be flipped up for reduced loads and the front sight is so stubby that I don’t think there is room to regulate it. Same for the 91, except it could be regulated in the down position.The way to the winners’ circle is not just buying equipment and showing up. The way to winning is being a rifleman. Choose whichever rifle you like, and get to where you can really run that rifle. Shoot at speed, shoot for accuracy, shoot at unknown ranges and reload at speed. Take it through fun house drills, use it close and far away. The more you use the old battle rifles, the more addictive they are. Get that war horse out of the closet and go have some fun with it, find a BAMM competition or vintage rifle match and put that rifle to use. The old battle rifles are ready for action, are you?

Re-barreling the M1903A3 Rifle in .308 Winchester

A step-by-step guide for replacing the barrel of a deactivated war trophy rifle.

Story and photos by Frank Jardim

Over the years I’ve seen many otherwise fine rifles with poor barrels sell cheap because barrels are usually the most expensive part on the gun and the gunsmith’s labor to install it was never going to be less than a C-note for the most simple replacement job.

Vintage 20th century bolt-action military rifles are among the easiest and most economical to re-barrel. It’s not particularly hard, as long as you have a replacement barrel and the right tools. Though you can change a barrel with a bench vise and a pipe wrench, to do the job like a pro requires a pro’s tools.

Your savings in gunsmith labor will pay off the investment in the first two or three jobs. My first job was a .308 Winchester conversion of a reclaimed DEWAT (deactivated war trophy) M1903A3 Springfield drill rifle I bought from the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) many years ago. THE 1903A3 IS one of the easiest guns to re-barrel. A lot of this has to do with the availability of excellent quality replacement barrels from Criterion Barrels ( The CMP uses Criterion barrels in their restoration shop and after installing thousands of them, has never had one fail to index properly. Criterion actually makes barrels for all the American service rifles, from the Krag to the AR-15, and a couple British guns too. Their barrels are match grade quality at a bargain price, thanks to a highly refined manufacturing process.

The 1903A3 barrel costs $219.99 and is a direct replacement for the original, lacking only the U.S. Army Ordnance roll stamp. The threads are properly timed and the mark stamped on the side; the extractor slot and front sight key are cut, and the barrel is parkerized. All you need to do is screw it on and set the headspace. Since the barrel has to index in a specific spot to keep the front sight properly oriented, the barrels are all short chambered by .010 inches so they can be finish headspaced to suit your rifle.

Criterion was a pioneer in the development of match grade button rifling. They do all their barrel machining operations in-house, including finishing their own rifling buttons. Before the bore of the barrel blank is rifled, it is lapped to remove tool marks until mirror smooth. When the rifling button is drawn through, by a custom-built CNC machine, the resulting lands and grooves are consistently uniform. Their ordnance-grade 4150 chrome moly barrel steel is stress relieved before and after the rifling process to maintain dimensional integrity during machining.
The specialty tools required for this project were an action wrench, chamber reamer and headspace gauges. You’ll also need some quality sulfur-based cutting oil like Brownells Universal Do-Drill. The vise and wrench need to be bought or made, but the reamers and gauges can be rented from several companies for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them if you don’t see yourself doing another gun in the same caliber again.

Customarily, the barrel is held still in a vise while a specialized action wrench is used to torque the receiver on or off. The action wrench jaws are designed to disperse force around the ring of the receiver so it won’t be crushed or bent. The Brownells tools I use are excellent quality and so rugged, they seem indestructible. The Brownells barrel vise bolts to the workbench and uses split shim inserts of various diameters to grip the barrel between the base and top plate secured with four massive socket head bolts. Aluminum bushing inserts protect the barrel from marring.
Cost for the vise and a #8 (1.175-inch) bushing for the 1903A3 Springfield was $149.99. Additional bushings in other sizes cost $29.99. Brownells’ action wrench is comprised of a universal handle that fits about 20 custom upper jaws that bolt on to match the receiver. The wrench with the Springfield upper jaw was $124.99. Additional jaws for different guns cost $40 to $70.

MY PROJECT RIFLE was a re-activated DEWAT drill rifle originally sold by the CMP. They were DEWATTED for parade use by breaking off the tip of the firing pin and gas welding: the firing pin hole on the bolt face closed, the barrel to the receiver, the magazine cut-off down so the bolt can’t be removed, and finally a hardened pin in the chamber. Some were very lightly welded and their receivers were restored to function by cutting the barrel and cut-off away through the weldment and leaving the receiver itself intact. Contours were restored with careful filing and a Dremel tool before reparkerization. Some surface defects from the original weld, and the heat that made it, will remain visible in the finished receiver and are easily detected on an assembled gun in the exposed cut-off area.

While my drill rifle was a great candidate for reactivation because of the light welds, not all of them are. Some welders were sloppy. I’ve seen reclaimed receivers that were reparkerized and showed big halos around the weld area where a lot of heat was put into them with the torch. I’d question the heat treatment and safety of those.
For the record, the CMP doesn’t advocate the reactivation of DEWAT rifles for the simple reason they can’t certify them as safe. They will also disqualify competitive shooters using them at the CMP matches if they discover it during their safety inspections. They’ve found rifles put together on receivers so heavily, and needlessly, ground on the bottom of the ring that barrel threads showed through the .030-inch gap! They’ve also had plenty come into their shop for work, some from customers who had no idea their rifles were built on reactivated receivers.
Their policy is to inform the customer, and if the customer still wants the work done and signs a waiver holding them harmless, the CMP will do the work but won’t certify the gun as safe. As such, they replace the firing pin with a deactivated one and return the finished rifle in a non-firing condition along with original, undamaged firing pin. What the customer does from there is on them.

BEGIN THE BARREL swap by applying some penetrating oil to the receiver ring/barrel junction inside and out over the course of a few days. I’ve been a fan of Kroil brand and I’m still using the gallon can I bought 10 years ago. While the oil is doing its thing, set up your barrel vise. Find something solid and heavy to mount it on with two ½-inch bolts. The left side of the bench is preferred because the weight of the bench helps to stabilize it when you are trying to torque off a stubborn barrel. Always clean the oil off the barrel and receiver with solvent before clamping. You don’t want them spinning in your tools.

Once clean, install the bottom barrel bushing, barrel, then the top bushing and cap. Start all four bolts in their holes and adjust the position of the barrel before you tighten them so the receiver wrench handle is where it’s easiest for you to work with. Since the 1903A3 barrel has a short shoulder, only the front two bolts on the cap do the hard gripping.
The two rear bolts just serve to keep the cap level and the force evenly applied. Get those front bolts as tight as you can with an Allen key alone and then give it an extra short push with the leverage of a 10-inch pipe extension on the tail of the Allen key Before mounting the receiver wrench, make a protective shim for the receiver ring to protect it from getting marred. I cut a strip from an aluminum soda can, wrapped it around the ring and taped it in place. The receiver wrench has a cut-out on the head for the recoil lug. The top jaw is relieved for the extractor hump. Screw the top jaw down evenly until it’s tight enough that it doesn’t slide or wiggle on the receiver ring. Don’t “go caveman” and overtighten or you can crush the ring.
With the wrench securely on the receiver, put your weight on the handle, turning counter-clockwise, until the receiver turns free of the barrel. If you need more leverage, slip a section of 1½-inch steel pipe over the wrench handle. Once you get it off, clean up the threads of the receiver ring with a wire brush and solvent to get any rust and dried grease out.
Mount the new barrel in the barrel vise, leaving enough exposed to see the witness mark on the left side of the barrel. I orient the mark facing up so I can see it easily and it puts the wrench handle pointing downward and to the left so I can lift it, rather than pull it. Grease the barrel threads, hand-tighten the receiver on, and wrap and tape the aluminum can shim back on before re-attaching the action wrench.
Have good light on the work so you can see where the witness marks are on the barrel and receiver. They will be easier to see if you fill them with white crayon. Before tightening, mine were about 3/8 of an inch apart. The barrel shoulder has about .003 inches to .004 inches of lateral crush against the receiver once tightened. That’s what holds it on.
Get a firm grip and lift the wrench handle to snug up the receiver while watching the witness marks. You may have to tighten and loosen the receiver a few times to set the threads before you can get the lines on the barrel and receiver to meet up and it’s been known to take up to 60 pounds of torque. Those witness lines can play tricks on your eyes.
Proceed slowly so you don’t overshoot the mark. There’s enough elasticity in the steel to recover from a few degrees of overtightening, but too much and you’ll deform the shoulder so much you’ll never get the barrel to snug up without pressing the shoulder back down. Lacking heavy rollers, you could carefully peen the shoulder back down with a hammer.
Be aware of the witness lines to get the barrel and receiver close enough to the ideal position that the rifle can be zeroed with sight adjustment. It might be perfect, or it might be slightly off when you meet those witness lines up. You may want to place a machinist rule or similar perfectly straight narrow object in one of the front sight key flats and see if it is parallel to the top of the rear sight base when you sight down the barrel. If it’s not, now is the time to make fine adjustments.

ONCE YOU HAVE the new barrel mounted, it’s time for the precision work of setting the chamber head space by hand-reaming the chamber to get it perfect for your receiver/bolt/barrel combination. I put a new bolt in this rifle but shot it enough with .30-06 to wear it into the receiver. If you are using a brand new bolt in your newly re-activated receiver, the time to lap the lugs to the receiver is now. You probably wouldn’t gain much head space as the bolt wears in if you didn’t. I wouldn’t expect .0005 inches as the high spots wear down, but I’ve been told by people who shoot better than I ever will that it helps accuracy if you lap the bolt lugs in.
There are two ways to finish ream a chamber. You can use a pull-through reamer or a standard reamer. The easiest (and only way for semi-autos) is with a pull-through reamer, which is turned from the pilot at the tip by a slender rod that extends through the barrel and out the muzzle. You improvise a handle at the end of the rod at the muzzle to turn it. A donut-like bearing slips over the back of the reamer, which is engaged by the bolt face. You put forward cutting pressure on the reamer by pushing the bolt into the battery.
The reamer itself is dimensioned to the exact size of the go gauge. Thus, when the bolt closes, you’ve cut the headspace perfectly to the minimum dimension…at least in theory. To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t ream it all in one pass. Stop with the bolt about 1/16 inch from lock up, clean everything up and check the headspace with the go gauge. There’s only .005 inches of difference between the go and no-go. There’s no downside to a pull-through reamer.

So why doesn’t everyone do it this way, you ask? The tool costs more. sells the Clymer pull-through reamer, rod and bearing for $190, compared to $105 for a standard reamer. A quick online check of mail order three-day rental prices showed around $65 for a pull-through setup and $29 for a standard reamer. By the way, go and no-go headspace gauge sets cost $58 to buy from but only from $7 to $9 to rent. All these prices exclude shipping costs. You can find rental pull-through reamers in the U.S. martial calibers, but I’ve yet to find a firm renting a caliber outside of those. For this reason I chose the standard reamer, available in all calibers, to demonstrate a technique that will work on any bolt action. Regardless of the reamer you use, you need sulfur-based cutting oil to lubricate the tool and chamber. You’ll also need a means to clean the chips of metal off the reamer and out of the chamber at numerous intervals so you can take accurate headspace measurements. I suggest shop air pressure and a blow gun, but spray WD-40, a toothbrush, cleaning patches and a cleaning rod will get the job done. A small magnet you can reach into the receiver ring with is also very helpful to retrieve your headspace gauge. A standard chamber reamer is pushed and turned from the chamber end of the barrel and requires careful use to prevent cutting an oval chamber by tilting it off center with the bore axis while turning. The use of some sort of bushing to stabilize sideways movement of the driving extension is preferred, but skilled hands have finished chambers perfectly without bushings.

BY GOOD LUCK, I found an old 6-inch long 3/8-inch ratchet extension rod with a .694-inch head diameter. My Springfield bolt body measured .695 inches, so the extension was a near perfect fit. All bolt actions have a little play between the bolt body and the receiver to allow for a sliding fit. To take up that slack, I wrapped a single lay of shiny Scotch tape around the ratchet extension head to bring the diameter out to .698 inches and take up the play.

The extension rod head is supported on three points of contact in the bolt way and needs to be held against them by hand during reaming. To support the rear of the extension rod steady and on center with the bore, I made a bushing on my lathe that fit in the rear receiver from a 7/16-inch nut and then chucked up the bushing and burnished the threads to fit the rod body with the rod itself. The bushing is held in the right place on the extension rod with a tight rubber O-ring.
Keep in mind that the maximum amount of metal you are removing from the chamber of a short-chambered Criterion M1903A3 barrel amounts to no more than .010 inches. That’s not quite the thickness of three sheets of printer paper. Cut with great care because if you overdo it, you can’t undo it. The barrel might be salvaged by cutting back the shoulder and re-profiling the breech and extractor cut, but that’s a lot of work and requires a lathe and mill. The main disadvantage of using a standard reamer by hand is that you don’t know how far you have cut until you check the headspace. In fact, this method is often referred to as the “Guess and Check Method.”
Establish your starting point by checking the clean, uncut, short chamber with the headspace go gauge and a clean, dry, stripped bolt, noting the position of the bolt handle. You might want to take a picture of it with your cell phone, looking at it from the rear as if you were shooting. Where on the clock face is the bolt handle when closed on the gauge? How much it moves clockwise after your first cut will give you an idea of how much metal you are taking off with each turn. Obviously, you need to keep the pressure consistent too. When checking headspace with the barreled action held vertically, the headspace gauge can be easily retrieved with a magnet. When I hand-finish ream a chamber, I clamp the barrel vertically between wood blocks in a bench vice because it’s easier for me to see what I’m doing and flush away the chips after cuts.
The oil and chips run down the barrel onto a piece of cardboard on the floor underneath, not back into the chamber area. Before inserting the reamer, it and the chamber are doused wet in cutting oil. The driving extension rod is then connected, followed by the rear bushing. Adjust the rubber O-ring so the rear support bushing is visible in the receiver’s cut-off slot.
A reamer doesn’t need much forward pressure to cut and it is only turned clockwise. You are either cutting or standing still. Never go backwards or you will dull the tool. Proceed carefully. Make your first turn/cut with gentle pressure and withdraw while turning. Remove the whole driving tool from the receiver so you can put it out of harm’s way on a clean piece of cardboard on the bench while you inspect. Look at the reamer and the chamber. There should be small metal shavings (chips) from the cut on the reamer’s shoulder and in the chamber shoulder. Blow or brush the chips off the reamer with a toothbrush and flush clean with WD-40; set it aside again.
Next, clean the chamber and inside of the receiver ring of all chips and dry it. The oil film can add .001 inches to your measurements, so it has to go before inserting the go headspace gauge and your dry stripped bolt again. See how far the bolt closes now. The new position of the bolt handle will give you a feel for how far you have cut and how far you still have to go. Then douse the chamber and reamer with cutting oil again, reinsert it along with the driver and bushing, and make another cut. Repeat the oiling, cutting, cleaning, checking process until the bolt just closes on the go gauge. At that point, you have set your rifle up with minimum headspace and you are done.
Complete M1903 Rifle-ReBarrel
The process is more tedious than complicated, the most challenging aspect being devising the extension and bushing needed to drive the reamer in-line with the bore for a perfectly concentric chamber. If this seems like too much trouble, there happens to be another very economical option in the specific case of the M1903A3 Springfield. The CMP offers the best deal in town to people qualified under their program as part of their commitment to support competitive shooters. Their shop will sell you a brand new Criterion barrel, installed and headspaced on your functional and serviceable receiver for a total of $275 plus $29.99 shipping. Visit their website at for the details on that.

A Jewel among Rifles

Why to consider adding a military surplus M96 Swedish Mauser to your Collection.

Always considered a jewel among the many fine Mauser rifles made, the Swedish M96 is a real treasure. This gun has the same action as the M94 carbine that preceded it. I was delighted when Hunter’s Lodge sent me a M1896 Swedish Mauser made by Carl Gustafs for review. These super accurate rifles still see much target competition in Europe today. The M94 and M96 guns feature some significant advances over the M93 and M95 Mausers.
Left_Right M96 Swedish Mauser
The internal guide rib, which runs along the left locking lug raceway on the M93 series, was replaced with a 2½-inch long guide rib that is part of the bolt body and moves through a slot in the top of the bolt bridge. When the bolt is moved forward and locked, the rib rotates to its spot beneath the rear of the extractor.
The M96 also has two holes on either side of the extractor collar to vent gas from a pierced primer or ruptured cartridge case and a thumb cutout to further direct the gas away from the shooter’s eyes. This thumb cutout is often mistakenly assumed to be there just to facilitate stripper clip loading. It is a vital safety feature and personally I don’t want a modern Mauser action that doesn’t have it. Modern commercial versions of the M98 action typically omit this critical feature, putting their customers at increased risk.

The change recognizable at a glance was the upturn with the grooves on top added to the cocking piece, enabling the striker to be safely lowered or hand-cocked to have another try at a misfire. The cocking piece first appeared on the Norwegian Krag rifle and was carried over to America on first the U.S. Krag rifle and later the M1903 Springfield. The Swedes obviously appreciated the idea of their nextdoor neighbor and incorporated it into their gun. Ammunition quality worldwide did not reach today’s standards until the 1920s, so this feature saw considerable use.
The M96 Swedish Mauser’s safety withdraws the firing pin away from the primer when it is put in the vertical midway position so that a blow to the back of the cocking piece cannot fire a chambered cartridge, yet the safety can now be removed much faster. Centuries of dealing with wolves and bears in the thick Swedish forests had taught the Swedes the importance of getting a weapon in action fast. Really fast.

There is a cleaning rod under the barrel and the bayonet lug has a hole for attaching a monopod for more accurate shooting. The factory and date of manufacture are stamped on the receiver, along with the Swedish coat of arms. The bolt handle sticks straight out on this model. Mauser produced 45,000 Swedish Mausers at their Oberndorf factory and the Swedes produced them under license at the Carl Gustafs and Husqvarna factories. They were still making them in 1943.

IN RECENT YEARS, many were converted to 7.62 NATO by Carl Gustafs and Norma for target shooting. These guns were known as CG63 Competition/Target Rifles and they remain very popular for that today. Those acquired by the Swedish Army were called Gevar 7 and later models were the CG73, CG74 and CG80.
Husqvarna made sporting rifles on the M94 carbine action in 6.5×55, 8mm Mauser, 9.3×57 (286-grain bullet at 2,070 feet per second), and the powerful 9.3×62 Mauser. The 9.3×62 shoots a .365-inch-diameter 286-grain bullet at 2,360 fps. Compare this to the .375 H&H Magnum, which shoots a .375-inch-diameter bullet of 300 grains at 2,500 fps, and you see that the vaunted .375 H&H Magnum is only .01 inch greater diameter, 14 grains heavier, and 140 fps faster than the 9.3×62.
Only a ballistics lab can tell the difference. The game sure can’t. So much for armchair experts who claim any pre-M98 Mauser action rifles are unsafe for 7.62 NATO. Many African professional hunters preferred the 9.3×62 to the .375 H&H because it would work in a standard length action and had consistent bullet performance, unlike the .375 H&H Magnum, which has had many bullet jacket failures even in recent years, no thanks to poor bullets at various times. The 9.3×62 is considered the best caliber possible for Swedish moose hunting and Husqvarna’s M94 action guns in this caliber have always been very popular for moose hunting in Sweden.

Husqvarna also made rifles on the M94 action in caliber .220 Swift, .270, .30-06, and any other caliber requested by the customer. Husqvarna rifles built on the M94 action have a perfect safety record and are highly prized by knowledgeable Swedish hunters today. In more recent years, Husqvarna also made rifles on the 98 Mauser action but these are not under discussion here.

WHEN IT COMES to valuing quality and precision workmanship, no country surpasses Sweden. They expect things to last far longer than other countries do. The actions are made to Best Quality bolt-action standards and over the years British gunmakers built many custom Best Quality rifles on these actions in whatever caliber their customer desired.
The famed Swedish steel came to the forefront in the Swedish-made Mausers. Dolf Goldsmith, famous author of the books on the Maxim, Vickers and Browning machineguns, machinegun authority and Class 3 machinegun dealer, once had three 6.5 but after 15,000 rounds out of each of the three barrels, the Swedish barrels were still good and the accuracy was the same. It still shot the same 4-inch groups that it did in the beginning.
Dead Foot Arms

Dolf says these barrels never seem to wear out. Having known Dolf and his love of shooting for years, I can tell you that if anyone can wear out a gun barrel quick, it is Dolf. Swedish steel is carefully refined from some of the purest ore on Earth. The lack of the usual amount of microscopic slag inclusions, where microscopic cracks start in steel, seems to be the reason for this long life. The same quality steel and the high standards of workmanship have kept these guns going strong into the 21st century. The careful Swedish maintenance is well apparent in most examples.

Swedish Mauser barrels converted by a machinist to Vickers machinegun barrels in caliber 6.5 Dutch, as he had bought a large quantity of that ammo cheap. This was Germanmade steel-cased ammo made for the Dutch Schwartzlose machinegun and marked “FUR MG.” It was superbly accurate and Dolf was getting 4-inch groups at 100 yards fired full auto from the Vickers machinegun. Even in a watercooled gun, the maximum life of a machinegun barrel is 15,000 rounds, but after 15,000 rounds out of each of the three barrels, the Swedish barrels were still good and the accuracy was the same.
It still shot the same 4-inch groups that it did in the beginning. Dolf says these barrels never seem to wear out. Having known Dolf and his love of shooting for years, I can tell you that if anyone can wear out a gun barrel quick, it is Dolf. Swedish steel is carefully refined from some of the purest ore on Earth. The lack of the usual amount of microscopic slag inclusions, where microscopic cracks start in steel, seems to be the reason for this long life. The same quality steel and the high standards of workmanship have kept these guns going strong into the 21st century. The careful Swedish maintenance is well apparent in most examples.

THE SPECIFICATIONS OF the M1896 Swedish Mauser Rifle are as follows:

  • Weight: 9.06 pounds;
  • Overall length: 49.5 inches;
  • Barrel length: 29.1 inches;
  • Sights: Front sight is an inverted V
  • Rear sight is a U-notch leaf graduated from 300 to 600 meters when down and 700 to 2,000 meters when up;
  • Length of pull: 13¾ inches
  • The muzzle was threaded on this gun for a blank firing attachment designed to shred the wooden bullets in the blanks, since these had been found to not always break up on their own.
    I had 220 rounds to fire through the Swedish beauty, consisting of:
  • 20 rounds of Norma 158-grain
  • Oryx SP, which grouped in 1 inch at 100 yards
  • 60 rounds of Federal 140-grain SP, which grouped in 1 inch at 100 yards
  • 60 rounds of Federal American Eagle 156-grain FMJ, which grouped in 1 inch at 100 yards
  • 80 rounds of Prvi Partizan 139-grain SP BT from TR&Z USA Trading Corp., which grouped in 1 inch at 100 yards.

  • I set out a target at 100 yards and began firing. Trigger pull was flawless and the gun hung steady and was easy to hit with. These long-barreled military rifles are exceptionally steady. It was quick handling and fast on target. Not many guns really are to this degree. Firing it was pure pleasure. I just wished I had more ammunition. It is important to leave these rifles in their military configuration. It would not have held as steady or been as easy to hit with if it had been butchered by so-called “sporterizing,” and the addition of a narrow, unyielding rubber recoil pad on a “sporter stock” would have changed a gun without felt recoil into one with a kick.
    The finger groove on each side of the stock was a big help. Those turn-of-the-century rifle designers really knew what they were doing. It’s a pity these grooves went out of style because they really are a help to accurate shooting.

    THE GOOD LORD was with me that day and I managed to get the first two shots fired offhand with Prvi Partizan ammo into 1 inch at 100 yards. I stopped there because I know from experience that the heavy, long barrel that hung so steady for the first two shots would start to work against me after that and each succeeding shot would double the previous group size.

    Trying to find the right place to hold off on aiming at 100 yards with sights set for a minimum of 300 meters meant that getting the groups in the black was too much to ask. The different trajectory of each different type of ammo tested didn’t help that either. I truly hate sights that don’t start at 100 yards. There are scope mounts available for this rifle that require no drilling, tapping, or permanent alteration of the gun.
    That would be the easiest solution to the problem. I was able to get two separate two-shot groups of 1 and 11/8 inches with Norma 6.5×55 Oryx 156-grain ammo. These were also fired offhand at 100 yards.
    After this, fatigue set in and I was unable to duplicate these groups. Over the next couple of days, I still could not repeat the results of that miraculous day and had to resort to a bench rest to get 1-inch groups out of the two types of Federal ammunition tested.

    Most rifles are not capable of the accuracy of this Swedish M96. I believe it would have shot even tighter groups had I been capable of doing better. This was not even a new rifle with a pristine bore. It had some roughness in the bore and had seen long service since it was made in 1898.
    If you want to learn to hit well shooting offhand, you must train the muscles to be steady. I have a semi-auto G3 with a scout scope and it weighs 12 pounds with a loaded 20-shot magazine. Every day I practice holding it on target until I can’t hold it steady anymore. You cannot let up on this daily practice, no matter how big and strong you are. I don’t understand people wanting to do all their shooting off a bench rest.
    There has never been a bench rest available anywhere I needed to make a shot. Since I always seem to end up having to shoot offhand and shoot fast, that is the way I practice. The Swedish 6.5×55 cartridge has a superb reputation for accuracy and has always been a proven performer in the hunting field. The Swedes even use this caliber for moose in their country. I regard it as the best of all the 6.5-caliber cartridges, bar none.

    AFTER FIRING, THE gun was cleaned with an M1 Garand M10 cleaning rod from Hunters Lodge with an extra section added for the longer barrel length. For those of you who are missing the tip of your cleaning rod, just go to Otis Smart Gun Care and give them the thread size of your cleaning rod.
    They can sell you a new brass tip. I put three rods dating back to World War I in service again thanks to them. All thread size. The rifle was cleaned and lubed with an oil used on it in Sweden since the early 1900s, German Ballistol oil. This oil was developed for the German Army in 1904 as the one oil for all of a soldier’s equipment, whether it be steel, wood or leather. It forms an emulsion with water and as long as it is at least 5 percent Ballistol, the water will evaporate off without rusting the metal.

    A mixture of 10 percent Ballistol and 90 percent water is used as a bore cleaner for corrosive primers because the salt in corrosive primers is only soluble in water. A mixture of 30 percent Ballistol and 70 percent kerosene makes an arctic gun oil that will work in the coldest arctic conditions. Some of the Swedes will insist that they invented cold, but the Norwegians and the Finns dispute this claim. The wood was dry on this gun so I finished it with Birchwood Casey oil finish. As always, I was well pleased with the results.

    The Swedish 6.5 Mauser is a jewel among rifles and because it is a surplus military weapon, the price is very affordable. Otherwise the standard of quality would put the price of this gun out of reach of most people. It certainly makes all the current factory production rifles look cheap by comparison. If you really appreciate quality weapons, you owe it to yourself to get one of these fine rifles.

    Story by Jim Dickson