Rifle Archives -
February 25th, 2020 by AmSJ Staff

Lever-Action Jurassic Thumper

Big Horn Armory’s Model 89 Chambers The .500 S&W Magnum For Really Big Game

 

Story and photographs by Dave Campbell

Ever since the .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum came on the scene in 2003, there have been a bunch of folks trying to figure out how to cram this über-powered revolver cartridge into a rifle – especially a lever-action rifle. It’s been an American obsession ever since the cowboy days: A guy “needs” to have a lever-action rifle chambered for his handgun cartridge. Whether that need is real or not can be debated elsewhere, but the perception remains steadfast. Most of the popular revolver cartridges – from the .32-20 to the .45 Colt – have been made in a lever-action rifle. But there’s another advantage with the .500 S&W Magnum. In a rifle the .500 S&W begins to crowd the .458 Winchester Magnum in performance. Problem is, the .500 S&W Mag has a few dimensional issues to fit it into an established platform.

Model89 Rear sight

In terms of real-world practicality the Model 89 is something of a niche rifle. It most certainly is not the all-around deer, elk and pronghorn rifle so popular in the West now. Rather, it is a rifle designed to deliver a solid punch to large, tough animals at moderate range — say, 200 yards or less.


Frank Ehrenford, owner of Big Horn Armory, was one of those who dreamed of a lever gun in .500 S&W Magnum. In 2008 he partnered with Greg Buchel, master machinist and engineer, to see the project come to fruition. They tested a variety of lever-action rifles from the Marlin 336 to the Model 1895, but none were deemed suitable. So a year later they decided to build their own rifle from the ground up.

As a starting point they chose the Winchester Model 1886, the Browning-designed lever gun that features dual-opposing locking lugs to contain powerful cartridges. The Model 1892 is the same action scaled down to handle pistol-caliber cartridges. Unfortunately, the Model 1892 is too small for the .500 S&W Magnum.

Ehrenford, Buchel and Dan Brown, their machinist, decided to upsize the Model 92 to harness the new chambering. One regular complaint about the Model 92 is the dinky loading gate. Especially with larger cartridges like the .44-40, .44 Special/Mag and .45 Colt, it can become downright painful to load the magazine more than a couple of times a day. To address that issue, the team decided to adapt the loading gate design on the Model 86 to the new action. Loading the Model 89 is not as challenging as it can be with a Model 92.

DEAD FOOT ARMS

What they ended up with is a rifle about halfway between the size of an 86 and an 92 Winchester, hence the moniker Model 89. Parts for the rifle are made by stock removal on CNC machinery. There are no investment cast parts in this rifle, nor are there any forgings. As the company gets on its feet parts are made by an outside contractor located in the United States. Receivers are manufactured in Wyoming, and the stocks are made in Texas. Big Horn Armory began shipping completed rifles in 2011.

Lifter

My range time showed me that a careful shot with superb eyesight might be able to stretch the range to as much as 300 yards, but for most of us mere mortals, two football fields should be considered max. I was able to hit an 18-inch square gong at 300 yards about four shots out of ten from a benchrest. A younger shooter with better eyes probably might pick up perhaps three more of those dingers at that range.

My sample Model 89 showed superb workmanship throughout the metal and wood. I had some initial concerns that the curved lever might prove painful under the stout recoil of the big .50 caliber, but those concerns proved meaningless. There’s plenty of room even for my bratwurst-sized digits in the loop, and the pistol grip helps greatly in controlling the rifle. The otherwise traditional look and lines of this rifle are melded with a couple of modernizations to help in its handling.


First, the traditional two-piece walnut stock is shod with a 1-inch-thick Pachmayr decelerator recoil pad. As a traditionalist, I normally tend to favor the old crescent-style steel buttplate – wickedly beautiful and equally wicked on the shoulder. Here is where good sense trumps tradition: the substantial recoil pad allows one to run this rifle without bludgeoning one’s shoulder into a massive hematoma. Too, a Marble receiver-mounted aperture sight replaces the traditional buckhorn or semibuckhorn sight usually seen on a lever action. This one is threaded in case you want to add a smaller, more precise peep to it, but the ghost-ring sight picture is perfect for this kind of rifle.

There are two basic versions of the Model 89 – rifle and carbine. Interestingly, because the rifle has a half magazine and the carbine is full length, the carbine holds two more rounds than the rifle. On the company’s website, BHA offers a plethora of options and upgrades. Buchel even showed me a prototype receiver with color case hardening for those customers who demand the most beauty in their guns.

Cut out hunter black carbine #1 walnutCROPPED

Model 89 – Rifle


Hunter black carbine #1 walnut

Model 89 – Carbine

As lever actions go, the stock on the Model 89 is straighter than on most other lever-guns – noticeably straighter than on a Model 94 Winchester, for example – and this helps with handling recoil. The drop at the comb is but ¾ inch. Nonetheless, the Model 89 turned in a respectable average of 2¼-inch groups at 100 yards. That’s plenty good for the brush where 100 yards is a long shot.


The 7¾-pound weight isn’t too much of a burden to pack, considering the power this rifle delivers. If I were traipsing around bear country in Alaska, the stainless-steel version would be a very comforting companion. Last year Big Horn Armory added a couple of new versions of its flagship rifle, the Model 90 in .460 S&W Magnum and the Model 90A in .454 Casull. For more information and an exhaustive list of accessories and upgrades check out bighornarmory.com. AmSJ

About the author: Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s, eventually graduating to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s Shooting Illustrated magazine.He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as an “editor in recovery.” You can keep up with Campbell at davecampbelloutdoors.com.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , ,

January 31st, 2020 by AmSJ Staff

With the MSR-10 rifles for hunting and long-range shooting, Savage Arms gives shooters some excellent choices.

Story by Craig Hodgkins | Photos by Savage Arms

Savage Arms’ line of next-generation semiautos comes to the marketplace with an attitude – the company has cleverly co-opted the MSR acronym for branding the guns, using the tagline “MSR now stands for Modern Savage Rifle” – but the guns are poised to deliver in the field and on the range as well, with everything from expanded caliber choices and badass designs to a full suite of custom upgrades packaged as standard features.

The new MSR-10 Hunter is part of a four-gun family of next-gen semiautos from Savage Arms. (Inset) The Long Range ships with one 10-round magazine (foreground) and the Hunter uses a 20-rounder.

Although the four-gun family includes two MSR-15 models in 5.56mm (the Recon and Blackhawk), our focus here will be on a dynamic duo of aptly named, hard-hitting MSR-10s, the Hunter and the Long Range. And while the company’s slick new AR-15 rifles are already gaining a reputation as straight shooters, the chance to zero in on building a better AR-10 was a perfect fit for Savage – offering opportunities to play to the brand’s strengths, including longrange accuracy and innovation.

SAVAGE MAY BE BEST KNOWN for its extensive collection of bolt-actions for hunting, competitive shooting and plain old plinking, but the company has also been in the AR business, off and on, for years, quietly creating custom barrels for other manufacturers.


Simply put, the AR-10 platform offered Savage engineers a chance to innovate. According to Al Caspar, president of Savage Arms, “One of the stumbling blocks to unbridled creativity with the AR15 platform is the nagging need for conformity – in other words, keeping the rifle compatible with a variety of accessories. With AR-10s, there are far fewer such constraints. Savage engineers were able to think outside the box to bring gamechanging features to both the MSR Hunter and MSR Long Range.”

While developing its modern, precision AR-10s, Savage also addressed other longstanding shortcomings of MSRs designed for larger cartridges.

“For example,” Caspar added, “AR10s have traditionally been heavy, bulky and unwieldy. We tackled these issues head-on, shaving off unnecessary weight and trimming size with a smaller, lighter chassis that strikes a perfect balance between performance, fit and function. As a result, both the MSR-10 Hunter and MSR-10 Long Range feature a compact AR-10 design that feels and handles more like an AR-15.”

The buttstock on the MSR-10 Long Range is a Magpul PRS Gen3.

“Savage’s AR-10s also feature custom-forged uppers and lowers for a look unlike anything afield or on the range, plus a free-floating forend that locks down so tight you can bridge a scope mount from forend to receiver with no loss of accuracy. Tactical Blackhawk! grips, buttstock and flip up sights are also standard.”

Professional 3-gun competitor Patrick Kelley knows a thing or five about the needs of long-range shooters, and he knows the Long Range model well, having been involved in early testing of the gun.

“It’s got all the cool features that a free gunner would want in one package,” said Kelley at the recent SHOT Show in Las Vegas. “A longer gas system, 5R-rifled barrel, Melonite coating, 22-inch barrel length for 6.5 Creedmoor, 20-inch in .308 Win. An M-Lok hand guard.”

Dead Foot Arms

“The upper and lower are both proprietary,” Kelley added, “and shorter in length, which allows us to make the gun more compact, bring the center of balance back closer to the center line of the shooter, which makes for better handling. The bolt carrier group is also lighter than a standard bolt carrier group. Again, less reciprocating mass means a lower recall impulse.”
“It’s got every feature in it it should have,” Kelley concluded, “at a price point that will make you smile and make you want it all the more. (This) rifle has all the cool features that little boutique gun makers can do, but in one rifle from a large manufacturer: Savage Arms.”

A closer look at the muzzle of the Long Range model.

BOTH MSR-10S ARE AVAILABLE in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor chamberings, each of which offers applications in hunting and long-range shooting. The .308 Win. is a fine all-around choice for big game, not to mention a top traditional pick of snipers and other long-range shooters. A relative newcomer, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a long-range performer developed for target shooting but perfectly capable in hunting applications as well.

The nonreciprocating side charging handle on the Long Range model.

Savage tailored barrel length to caliber and purpose. The .308 Win. version of the MSR-10 Hunter sports a 16-inch barrel (and weighs just 7.5 pounds), while the 6.5 Creedmoor Hunter carries an 18-inch barrel. MSR10 Long Range barrel lengths are 20 inches for the .308 Win. and 22 inches with 6.5 Creedmoor.


Regardless of length, all barrels are button-rifled and paired to their particular action with Savage’s obsessive attention to precise headspace control. To further enhance accuracy while reducing fouling, the bore features innovative 5R rifling. And to extend barrel life, Savage applies an ultradurable, Melonite QPQ surface hardening treatment inside and out.


Although the MSR-10 Hunter hit the market too late for extensive range testing before our monthly print deadline, American Shooting Journal columnist (and current cover boy) Mike Dickerson enjoyed obvious success with the brand-new gun on a recent west Texas hog hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)

With roughly 10 million modern sporting rifles already in the hands of American gun owners, there’s no denying the platform’s appeal for a variety of uses. And, after talking to thousands of shooters online and in person at ranges across the continent, Savage knew exactly where to aim with their new line. The company is convinced that both new MSR-10s will quickly find a place in the hands and hearts of discerning shooters, and with early results trending so favorably, it would be hard to argue otherwise. AmSJ

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , ,

January 30th, 2020 by AmSJ Staff

Despite the continuing impact of inflation, you can still find some excellent hunting rifles that won’t break the bank.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY MIKE DICKERSON 

Progress and the march of time can be very hard on the wallet, especially when it comes to hunting rifles. Consider, if you will, the classic Big Three of American hunting rifles. According to a 2004 gun-value reference in my collection, you could at that time buy a new Remington 700 BDL rifle for about $500, and the ADL model went for even less. A new Ruger Model 77 All-Weather rifle could also be found for less than $500, and the same could be said for a Winchester Model 70 Black Shadow.

In testing, the Mossberg Patriot in .25-06 Rem. produced sub-minute-of-angle best groups with five factory loads.

Today, the latest incarnations of these flagship models of American hunting rifles all have a suggested retail price of close to $1,000. In little more than a decade, these iconic American rifles have essentially doubled in price.

Not everyone can afford to lay out that kind of change for a hunting rifle. The Even fewer can afford semicustom or custom rifles, and if you have to ask the price of, say, a fine European double rifle, you may want to be sitting down when you hear the answer.

Of course, gun makers are well aware of this economic reality and have scrambled in recent years to produce more affordable guns for the masses. Many of these guns won’t win any beauty contests. Some may be described as downright ugly. Actions may be less than silky smooth, and stocks may bend in a stiff breeze. They’re often described rather euphemistically as “budget-friendly” or “entry-level” rifles. These are, of course, handy phrases when you’re trying to avoid using the word “cheap.”

Rifle

Have the manufacturers cut corners on these guns? You bet they have, but they had to in order to make the guns less expensive to produce and offer them at what are, by today’s standards, crazy-cheap prices.

TODAY, VIRTUALLY EVERY MAJOR mass-manufacturer of hunting rifles has added an inexpensive rifle to their product lineup. While some have derisively called this a race to the bottom, I don’t exactly see it that way. Sure, I’m fond of guns that have richly figured walnut stocks, elegantly engraved receivers, and fit and finish reflective of old world craftsmanship, but those guns won’t smack deer into the freezer any more effectively than most of today’s more affordable rifles. Advances in manufacturing processes and materials now enable gun makers to offer inexpensive rifles that resist the elements, work reliably and shoot tight groups – and that’s all many buyers, especially first-time buyers, are looking for in a hunting rifle.

ABR Rifle

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the more popular inexpensive rifles currently on dealers’ shelves. Since there must, I suppose, be rules to the game, I’ll limit this discussion to rifles that you can buy at a real-world price of $500 or less.

Remington Model 783

Remington’s entry in the bargain hunting rifle category is the Model 783, which has a free-floated, button-rifled barrel and pillar bedding. (REMINGTON)

Consider, for example, the Thompson Center Venture rifle, with which I’ve had a fair amount of experience. These rifles feature a free-floated barrel with 5R rifling and pillar-bedded action. I used the Venture Compact model chambered in .308 Win. on a memorable Texas deer hunt, dropping two whitetail bucks and two does with four shots guns over two days of hunting. Several other outdoor writers did the same. I didn’t subject that rifle to accuracy testing, but I did test an identical gun chambered in .22-250 Rem. Five of six factory loads shot sub-minute-of-angle best groups, easily living up the rifle’s MOA accuracy guarantee.

I was impressed enough that I bought a Venture Predator rifle, chambered in .204 Ruger, and it regularly shoots half-inch groups with its preferred load. That’s more than can be said of many more expensive rifles. You can find the Venture for less than $500, but if that’s too rich for your blood, you can look for the no-frills TC Compass rifle for less than $400.

The TC Venture is one of the author’s top choices in bargain-priced hunting rifles.

Another $500 rifle I’ve had some experience with is the Winchester XPR rifle. The one I tested, chambered in .30-06 Springfield, put six different factory loads into groups averaging 1.3 inches, but that’s only part of the story. It dropped a 165-grain Federal load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets into average groups of 0.58 inch and a best group of just 0.31 inch. This gun is quite similar to the Browning AB3 rifle. Both have decent triggers, a boltunlock button, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazines. Both are offered in a variety of configurations and calibers, and if you shop around, you can find either one on sale for about $500.

One of the most aesthetically pleasing and feature-rich offerings among the bargain-priced rifles is the Mossberg Patriot. This rifle’s lines are very much in a classic configuration, and you can get it with stocks that are walnut, laminate, black synthetic or synthetic Kryptek Highlander camo. Standard features include drop-box magazines, fluted barrels with recessed crowns, a spiral-fluted bolt and adjustable trigger system. I tested one in .25-06 Rem., and five different factory loads turned in sub-MOA best groups. Surprisingly, I’ve seen the basic black synthetic model retail for less than $300.


The Winchester XPR rifle in .30-06 shot tight groups for the author using a Federal Premium 165-grain load with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets.

ANOTHER POPULAR ENTRY in the value-priced category is the Ruger American Rifle. I haven’t tested one yet, but have just received the Predator model, chambered in – wonder of wonders – 6mm Creedmoor. I plan to give this one a thorough workout as soon as I can obtain enough ammo to put it through its paces. Available in several configurations, this rifle has an adjustable trigger, cold hammer-forged barrel and a tang safety. It utilizes an integral bedding block system to free-float the barrel and has a removable rotary magazine. The one-piece bolt has three locking lugs and a 70-degree throw to allow ample room for mounting scopes on the bases supplied with the rifle.

According to Big Green, also known as Remington, the bargain-priced Remington 783 is “not dressed to impress, it’s dressed for work.” With a MSRP of $399, the 783 has freefloated, button-rifled barrels mated to receivers that are pillar-bedded to a high-nylon-content synthetic stock. The rifle is equipped with an adjustable trigger and, notably, detachable steel magazines. The bolt has two locking lugs and a 90-degree lift.

The author reports that the Winchester XPR rifle has a decent trigger, 60-degree bolt lift and detachable box magazine.

The main thing going for the Savage Axis rifle is the fact that it is, well, a Savage. That usually means you can expect good out-of-the-box accuracy. With an MSRP of around $368 and a real-world price of around $330 for the basic model with a black synthetic stock, you’ll get a rifle that uses the classic Savage locknut approach to set headspace set to minimum.

Dead Foot Arms


This has always driven some purists mildly nuts, but it significantly contributes to the accuracy Savage rifles are known for. Barrels on the Axis are button-rifled. The two locking-lug bolt is unusual in that it uses a floating bolt head design, which theoretically also contributes to accuracy. Detachable box magazines are part metal, part plastic, with metal feed lips. Triggers on the Axis models I’ve seen aren’t overly impressive, but at a cost of about $450, you can step up to the Axis II rifle and get the Savage Accutrigger and a Weaver Kaspa 3-9×40 scope.

The Ruger American Rifle has quickly become one of the most popular of the economy hunting rifles. (RUGER)

Savage rifles, including the budget-friendly Axis and Axis II (shown) models, are known for their outof-the-box accuracy. (SAVAGE)

These rifles and others like them may not be your firearms cup of tea, but taken as a group, they fill an important gap in the marketplace. They give people who might not
otherwise be able to afford a decent rifle an affordable entry point into hunting. If we’re going to preserve our cherished hunting traditions in this country, we’re going to need their participation – and their votes – in the years ahead. That’s worth thinking about the next time you bypass the bargain-rifle section of your local gun store. AmSJ

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , ,

January 24th, 2020 by AmSJ Staff

Everyone needs a Good .22 – The Savage A22 impresses with its Accuracy and Volume.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LARRY CASE 

Dotzie was telling me to hurry. Treed at the base of a big white oak, my little mountain cur barked impatiently to inform me there was a squirrel up above that required my undivided attention. Out of breath from hurrying to her side, it took me several minutes to spot the gray squirrel pinned to a limb. Still a little shaky, I pulled a miss on my first shot and the squirrel darted through the upper limbs to begin his high-wire act.

I settled down by the third shot, and after I squeezed the AccuTrigger on the Savage A22, the bushytail tumbled out of the tree. I was happy, and more importantly, Dotzie was happy.

savage22 & dog

IN MY MISSPENT YOUTH, I knew an old codger who I thought of as my mentor when it came to rifles. He had survived Korea and a battle that took place in a location now called the Frozen Chozin. He had a house full of guns, and was always shooting, reloading, or doing something with a rifle. I tried to learn as much as I could from him, while staying out of his way at the same time.


“Boy,” he told me, “everyone needs a good .22 rifle, if for nothing else than just to shoot.” By “just to shoot” he meant target practice, can plinking, hunting small game, pest control, and anything else a body would need a rifle for in a caliber below a .3030. To him, a dependable .22 was a tool much like an axe or a wrench; and when you needed one, it had to work and work well.

Long known for their brand of no-nonsense firearms, Savage Arms (savagearms.com) has returned to the forefront in recent years with high-quality rifles that work well when you need them to. Savage wowed the rimfire world a couple of years ago with the introduction of the A17, the first high-performance semiautomatic rimfire specifically designed for the .17 HMR cartridge. They followed that success up with the A22 in .22 WMR (Winchester Magnum rimfire). Now, Savage is adding another new model to the A series: the A22 in (you guessed it) .22 Long Rifle. Here are some thoughts on this nifty little rifle, and why I think my old long gun mentor would approve.

Like the A17 and A22 Magnum, this rifle features a thread-in barrel with zero-tolerance head space, much like Savage builds their centerfire rifles. The barrel is “button” rifled and recessed on the business end, which is going to save on accuracy over time by protecting it. This is important if you are as hard on guns as I am, hauling them around in vehicles, getting knocked around while carrying them and the like.

The A22 comes equipped with a Savage AccuTrigger that outdoes many triggers in the centerfire line. No pulling the trigger housing or disassembly required. A small, simple tool, supplied by Savage, is inserted through the trigger guard and turned one direction to lighten the trigger pull, and  the other to make it heavier. This could easily be done in the field if necessary. The trigger is the most important element of any rifle and the AccuTrigger is a good one.

The A22 is equally at home on the range. (SAVAGE)

The A22 has a smooth-cycling, straight-blowback action that reliably feeds a variety of .22-caliber ammunition from the magazine to the chamber. This little rifle ate every kind of .22 ammo that I fed it, including CCI Mini Mag, Federal Hunter Match, Aguila Sub Sonic and Super Extra, and Remington Gold Bullet and Target rounds. The A22 chewed them all up and spit them out without fail. That in itself is no small feat for any rimfire autoloader.

With a weight of just over 5.5 pounds, the A22 is an easy-carrying rifle for all manner of small game.

COMPANY LITERATURE TELLS US that Savage engineers did some exhaustive factory testing, and it appears they were successful across the board. The 10-round rotary magazine reliably fed the rounds every time the trigger was pulled. The magazine is flush mounted, and two other hunters besides myself who carried the A22 liked this feature.

For those times when you may want more ammo on hand, Savage also partnered with shooting accessories supplier Butler Creek (butlercreek.com) to increase the rifle’s ammo capacity by creating a 25-round, spring-fed aftermarket magazine. I haven’t got my hands on one of these magazines yet, but that is definitely my plan.

At the risk of sounding like the typical prattling gun writer, I must say I was very impressed with the A22’s accuracy. Hole touching groups did not seem to be a problem out to 50 yards, which I deemed far enough for squirrel shooting. The rifle comes equipped with adjustable open steel sights, so it’s ready to shoot right out of the box, but it is also drilled and tapped for scope mounts, allowing shooters to easily add their favorite optic.

The ten-round, flush-mounted rotary magazine is another fully functional design feature on the A22.(SAVAGE)

The rifle I tested had a Bushnell 3.5-10x A22 Rimfire Optics scope mounted on it, and at first I thought this was too much scope for a .22 rifle. But after shooting this rig for a few days I really began to like it. This optic has a turret calibrated for high-velocity .22 ammo, and you can have a lot of fun with this system out to 125 yards. You can check out more info on this particular scope and many others by visiting bushnell.com.

I do herby proclaim the A22 to be a shooter, both in accuracy and proficiency of putting rounds down range. At a suggested retail of 281 American dollars, I doubt you can find a .22 rifle that is this much gun for less money. I think my old rifle guru would approve. AmSJ

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

December 6th, 2019 by AmSJ Staff

For Half A Century, This Unassuming Rifle Has Made It Easy For Owners To Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY TOM CLAYCOMB

I’m convinced that the Ruger 10/22 is the most popular .22 rifle of all time. Not only is it a great little rifle right out of the box, but there are probably a million aftermarket items available that enhance its functionality even further, making it the most “trick-out-able” gun on the market.

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.

To determine which item helped my accuracy and how much, I shot first with the plain 10/22 and economical scope, then I added the VX2 Leupold and shot it again, added the Timney trigger and shot, and then the Brownells barrel and Boyd stock. At each step I measured groups.

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?

TRICKY, TRICKY

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.

Installing a Timney trigger is very easy. Remove the one screw holding on the stock and remove the stock. Many times the pins holding in the trigger will fall out, but if not, push them out. Install the trigger, replace the pins and remount the stock. That’s it.

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
TEST PARAMETERS:

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.

The Leupold Custom Shop matched the pattern of this Boyd stock.

SUMMARY:

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.

The famed Ruger 10/22 was already a great little rifle before author Tom Claycomb tricked it out using parts shown here.

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. 

Here’s a different take on whether getting a Ruger 10/22 is worth it by Youtuber GunGuyTV.

AmSJ

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

November 18th, 2019 by AmSJ Staff

The German Mauser Karabiner 98 Kurz

Story and Photographs by Alex Kincaid
“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.

The K98k was one of the final developments of the Mauser line.

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?

Weimar Eagle proofing stamp (Beschußstempel) on the author’s K98k rifle. This combination of stamps and a few other features on this rifle provide some evidence of where and when it was originally manufactured. She determined that this one is a 1939 Sauer & Sohn-manufactured rifle.

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.

The famous Mauser claw extractor firmly holding the 8mm (7.92 x 57mm) round in place. This demonstrates a control-feed bolt-act ion versus an open-feed bolt action with three Nazi proofing stamps (Waffenamt stamps).

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.

Alex Kincaid settles in on a target with her 1939 German Mauser Karabiner 98 kurz, manufactured by Sauer & Sohn. (OLEG VOLK)

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 every time. 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 StG 44, or the Sturmgewehr 44, introduced in 1943, was the first modern assault rifle.

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.

The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, is a German recoil-operated air cooled machine gun, first tested in 1929, and introduced in 1934.

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.

Eight millimeter (7.92 x 57mm) rounds in the quick-loading stripper clip.

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. AmSJ

Posted in History Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

March 19th, 2019 by AmSJ Staff

Magpul Expands Into Traditional Rifle Stock Offerings, Including A Model For The Remington 700

REVIEW AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICHARD SHARRER

Magpul Industries has long been known for manufacturing superior rifle (and now pistol) magazines, as well as improved stocks for ARs. The company has now expanded into more traditional rifle stocks and is taking them to new levels.

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.

The Magpul Hunter stock makes an excellent after-market addition to a Remington 700 short-action series rifle.

Here’s what others are saying bout 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

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