Saturday, September 29, 2012

Three Most Successful Military Rifles

From left 8 X 57, 303 British and 7.62 X 54 Most Successful Rifle When I am referring to the most successful I mean the most widely distributed military rifle that was used from the late 19’Th century through WW ll. It would be something that was used by several countries over a period of time and perhaps the design was copied by some commercial rifle makers. Of course it will be a good design that withstood the test of time. I have three that could qualify. There are other good military rifles but they didn’t enjoy as wide a use as these three.
303 British Military Rifle The first candidate is the outstanding rifles chambered for the 303 British Round. The rifle came out in 1887 and adopted in 1888. It was invented by James Paris Lee an American, incidentally. Originally loaded with black powder they switched to smokeless and a pointed bullet using Cordite powder. The one used the most was a 174 grain flat base bullet at about 2400 FPS. Cordite powder was used for many years in the 303 as well as British sporting arms. The rifle saw use in both WWl and WWll not to mention many other smaller wars and skirmishes. It is popular in many of the former British colonies including Canada and Australia. As a military rifle it had few peers and some folks feel that it is the best pure military rifle of the period. It was powerful enough for the job at hand and reliable. It cocks on closing which is liked by some because it would help a little in getting a stubborn round out of the chamber. It also was capable of rapid fire for a bolt action a desirable feature during war time. It has provisions for escaping gas in the unlikely event of a case rupture. Many of them have oversize chambers which was done on purpose to be able to chamber and fire dirty or deformed ammo. That causes case separation especially when handloading so look out for bulges in your chamber when examining fired cases. To counteract that problem set your sizing die to just enough sizing to where it will fit in the chamber. Accuracy can be outstanding in one that is in good shape. They have a two piece stock which is disliked by some. Another plus is that they are readily available and fairly inexpensive unless it an odd model. The MK 4 which was brought out in the 1930’s was a stronger and simpler version of the older models. The fact that it was used by the Brits for 70 years would indicate that it is a strong and reliable rifle. Since they were used until 1957 there are a lot of variations out there. The ammo for it is still relatively available and brass is sold at various locations. The bullet is a 311 diameter which can be found easily. Since it is a rimmed cartridge it might turn off some folks but it functioned with great reliability in the weapons it was designed for. The magazine protrudes below the stock which might make it more difficult for a hunter to carry though the balance is forward of magazine. The 303 round loaded with a good hunting bullet is capable of taking most big game animals out there. Some folks compare it to the 30-40 Krag but due to higher loading pressures it will out do its American competitor. The Krag was commonly loaded to 40,000 PSI while The 303 rifles were designed for pressures of 45 to 48,000 PSI though some of the newer ones were chambered for the 308 which can go to 62,000 PSI which would suggest that it was a strong rifle. At one time it was chambered in a few sporting a rifle such as the Winchester model 95 but that is no longer true. No one to my knowledge makes a clone of the Lee Enfield rifle today. It can be sporterized to an extent but it might not be worth the dollars required to make that happen. That is something that the owner would have to determine. You can mount a scope with a side mount which will enhance it accuracy and with a good barrel it may very well be worth the bucks. Adding a sporter stock would enhance it looks if that’s important to you.
Russian Nagant Carbine Another widely distributed rifle was the Russian Nagant. It was adopted in 1891 using a round nose bullet however in 1909 a 150 grain spitzer was employed. At about 2800 FPS it is in the same class as the 30-06. Like the 303 it was adopted and used in many of the satellite countries controlled by the Soviet Union. Like many things Russian it was plain and rugged and gave good service. Many of the actions looked crude though they were reliable. The ones made by Remington and Westinghouse were better looking and finished. There are no provisions to route gas away from a shooter in the event of a case rupture which can be a problem with old ammo. In all honesty that event is very unlikely with good ammo. However during the 1920’s some Russians were rechambered for the 30-06 cartridge to make them easier to sell. The problem with that was the barrels were not set back which meant that it was extremely dangerous to fire it in the Russian because the base wasn’t supported. If by a small chance you have one don’t even think of shooting it as the results will be catastrophic. The safety is difficult to use though it works. In fact the 7.62 X 54 cartridge is still being used in some sniper rifles and machine guns making it the most long lived military cartridge still in use for the last 119 years. If you buy one and want the best accuracy then you need to slug the bore. They run from 308 to about 316 so a bullet that matches the bore will produce the best accuracy. With the properly matched bullet accuracy can be very good. When handloading ammo keep in mind that they are designed for 45,000 PSI and if you have an older one keep that in mind. Factory and military ammo are fairly easy to find and are commonly loaded with a 310 diameter bullet. Cases are available as are 308 & 311 diameter slugs. It is a flexible cartridge capable of handling cast bullets and reduced loads. If you need a larger slug then you might have to get creative or use an oversized cast bullet. With good ammo it is capable of most hunting situations that most people will encounter. They come in many models from various countries so there are differences in them. One odd feature is the firing pin can be adjusted with a supplied tool. I have fired quite a few of them and never saw a need to do so. I have a WWll sniper version but the trigger is lousy, making it hard to get all of the accuracy it’s capable of. Some of the others I own have decent triggers. You might be able to polish the trigger parts to improve it but if you don’t know how best leave it to a gunsmith. There is a no gunsmithing mount for the Mosen Nagant in case you want to scope it which is a desirable feature as you can return it to original. I mounted one on one of my rifles and it took only a few minutes with simple tools. They have a black composite stock for someone who wants a sporter looking rifle. A real desirable feature for this rifle is they are inexpensive, in most models, and commonly available. Many magazines sell them sometimes for less then a C note. Gun shows and many gunshops are a good source for these rifles. If you want to collect low end military rifles this might be a good place to start. Parts are also plentiful.
Mauser Rifle The third candidate is the justly famous model 98 Mauser. It came out in 1898 with a 318 diameter bullet which was changed to 323 in 1904. It was originally adopted by Germany but many other countries used it during both world wars and many other conflicts both large and small. Like the others they were produced in several countries and many variations. They also were produced in several calibers including the 7.65 X 53, 8 X 57, 7 X 57 and the 30-06. All of the common chamberings including the 8 X 57 are capable hunting rounds and components are easy to find. The chambering depended on which country was buying them. There were other less common chamberings that may be encountered. The Mauser action is the most copied in the world because of it’s strength and safety features. Many manufacturers still produce close copies of the 98. Among them are Ruger, Parker Hale and even Remington produced a Mauser clone recently though they dropped it. The old model 70 Winchester and some of the newer ones follow the 98 design. The action is strong and safe and one produced prior to WWll is almost a work of art. The extractor is one of the most desirable features that sportsman seek. Although I have never has a problem with the newer types such as the Remington’s I do like that large extractor. However in an original it prohibits you from loading single shot unless you put the round in the magazine first. A gunsmith can fix that however. The Springfield fixed that problem though it is essentially a Mauser action. In fact the US paid Germany royalties prior to WWl because it was such a close copy. It has two large locking lugs plus a safety lug which sets it apart from the earlier Mauser rifles. Like the other two they are common and inexpensive in many models. For a less common one or a sniper version you will pay a lot more. Since many millions were made and used for decades that would indicate a high degree of reliability. For gunsmithing purposes the Mauser is head and shoulders above the others. You can install a scope easier not to mention the many verities of mounts and other accessories produced for that rifle. Rebarreling it is easier then the other two plus it can be modified into many calibers not practical in the other two. That would include magnums from the 264 through the 458. While possible I wouldn’t recommend full length cartridges such as the 375 H & H because you have to weaken the receiver where the lower lug is. They do make a magnum Mauser action for the long rounds. The Brevex action was made for the larger cartridges and the recent Remington was made in the 375 H & H magnum. The magazine can be shortened for such offerings as the 243 and 257 Roberts. There is a rimmed version called the Siamese which will handle large rimmed cases such as the 45-70. However they are not as common and I for one would not modify one in original condition.
2.5 PU scope on Nagant So which one is the best: Much of that would depend on who is shooting it. All three have many desirable features and if you leave them original there is not one that is better then the other. If you sporterize then the Mauser is the easiest way to go though you can spiff up the others. There are other rifles not listed that are as good as the three in some respects but they weren’t as widely distributed. The French, Japanese, and the Dutch, Italians and Greeks among others had good rifles that may be preferable to some individuals. I have shot them all and there isn’t one that I dislike though there may be some undesirable features found on all of them. At a later date I will go into them.
303 British loaded with Cordite powder

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hunting With The Mossberg

The Mossberg Goes Dove Hunting With dove coming up I needed a shotgun for this season. A fire claimed my other shotguns a few months ago. I have been wanting to test the Mossberg model 930 semi-auto for some time so this was my chance. I contacted Linda Powell from Mossberg and she sent me one for testing and evaluation.
Mossberg is at home in the dove fields One refreshing thing right off hand is it has a wood stock as opposed to the composites found on many guns made today. Yes, I know that composites are durable but they are ugly. The wood along with the nice bluing job makes it a handsome gun to look at. Like many shotguns made today it has the screw in chokes. Among it other desirable features is the barrel is ported and it has a raised ventilated rib. It is also drilled and tapped for a scope and it has swivels for slings. In other words it is ready to go on a hunting trip for a verity of game. I browsed through their website and am amazed in the verity of shotguns they have. If you can’t find something there that you like then you didn’t really want a shotgun as the selection is that varied. The prices are very reasonable considering what you get. I have used Mossberg shotguns for many years and they always served the purpose and didn’t break. In fact my first shotgun was a Mossberg bolt action 12 gauge. My previous favorite dove gun was a model 500 in 20 gauge. Its light weight and feel enabled me to harvest many doves not to mention various squirrels and rabbits. I had a couple of 12 gauges in the model 500 which always served me well. For info on Mossberg’s extensive line of products you can go to They have been around since 1919 and with their fine products I expect that they will be around for many years. Based on my rather extensive experience with Mossberg products I can highly recommend them.
Mossberg comes with three chokes I picked up some Federal loads that were 1 & 1/8 oz. of 7 & ½ shot which is ideal for doves in my opinion. Anyway I wanted to try out the new gun to see if there were going to be any issues with it. Functioning was perfect and balance and trigger pull were superior. My shooting buddy and fellow gun writer also was favorably impressed with it. I am anxious to try it on some doves. Dove season opened and the 930 did its job even if I didn’t. The gun swings well and if I did my part so did the shotgun. It has there chokes an improved cylinder, modified and full. A wrench is provided and is easy to use. I went with the improved for the hunt which was a good choice. Later in the season I will go to a modified as the doves will be more wary and shots may have to be taken at longer ranges. You can select the choke to suit your needs. Since they take up very little space you can bring them along in case you want to change in the field. There were no jams but the safety was difficult to release though a little working back and forth cured the problem. Due to it’s light weight and balance it should prove to be a good quail gun when the season opens. The 930 has 2 & 2/4 and 3” chambers which also enhances it’s utility.
Guns and ammo used for dove hunt Anyone who has hunted doves has gotten a lesson in humility. They fly at 30 MPH or so and are good at dodging especially when they get educated. More often then not you shoot behind them. The season starts in Arizona on Sept 1 which is still hot in this part of the country. Early morning isn’t too bad but once the sun comes up it can get brutal. Water and shade are tow of your best friends. However if you have a good spot and can shoot you should have your limit by 7 Am or so. There are some large dairy farms in this area and they attract the doves in droves. Water holes are also good places to hunt though the trees might be a problem. They will roost in them and if you shoot a bird and it falls in the trees that might turn out to be an issue as they can be lost. The water stinks so you want to avoid dropping them there if possible. The best times to hunt them is in the morning and late afternoon. If you find a good place to hunt chances are there will be some other hunters in the area. If everyone is courteous and safe all participants will have a good time and harvest some birds. You need to be aware where everyone is and never shoot horizontally as that can injure some that may be some distance away. Even at 75 to 100 yards a horizontal flying pellet can put out an eye. You should shoot over the treetops to avoid injuring someone. If the pellets fall in a vertical trajectory they don’t have enough energy to hurt someone except in a rare instance when you might be looking up. Glasses will prevent that. Anytime firearms are involved safety is always first and foremost. A bird just isn’t worth someone getting hurt. If you are new to dove hunting be sure to study the regulations in regards to the seasons and species limits. There are various species and in some areas there are limits on which type you can take and how many. Having a game warden explain that could be a costly mistake. Dove hunting is a fun and challenging sport and I would encourage everyone to try it. You will find out how good a shot you are. After spending some time afield with the Mossberg 930 I can give it a two thumbs up.
Dove hunting

Monday, September 17, 2012

The 9.4 Dutch Revolver

Two sizes of the 9.4 Dutch The 9.4 Dutch Revolvers Brought out in 1873 as military and service revolver it was used through WWll to some extent. Both the police and military used it to some extent. There doesn’t seem to be any records showing that it was offered commercially. Officially it was replaced in 1911 by the 1903 model Browning but it saw some use through WWll. That generally true with most military hard ware. It was produced by the de Beaumont company. The old (OM) model has an octagon barrel while the newer (NM) one is round. It has one unusual feature that isn’t found on few if any other revolvers. The lanyard ring doubles as a safety. A quarter turn will lock hammer preventing the gun from being fired and the cylinder from turning. In this day of political correctness I am surprised that it isn’t on some modern revolvers. It is a typical double action holding 6 rounds of ammo though the empties have to be pushed out with something as it doesn’t have a extractor. You either solved your problem with 5 or 6 shots depending on which model you have or be able to out run your antagonist. Like many of its contemporaries the double action trigger pull is so heavy that accurate shooting would be impossible though the single action is fairly decent for its time. Like other guns of the period it appears to be a quality item with a good finish.
9.4 Dutch being fired Ammo for it isn’t available nor is there any info on how to make it. I have an original box of the stuff which gives you an idea on how it looks. The bullets are very blunt probably to make the maximum use of the case capacity. Also blunt bullets can be more effective and this cartridge needs some help in that department. The bullets have dates on them an unusual feature. The case is tapered about .017 from the base to the top. That makes it harder to make ammo for it. The bullet diameter is 380 according to my measurements by slugging the barrel. Naturally there are no commercial bullets available. No other handgun that I am aware of sports that diameter. There are a couple of rifles that have that bullet but they are too heavy for the little revolver. As I have done in the past I made my own bullets & cases. The 41 magnum case shortened is the best case to use and the bullets I use are swaged. I obtained a set of dies from CH Tool and Die. They put a little neck on the case but that causes no problems. I imagine it was easier to cut them that way rather then with the slight taper of the original case. I had some 135 and 180 grain projectiles to start with. I swaged them down from 40 calibers which seems drastic but they work fine. No one to my knowledge makes them and if you were to order a mold it would be very costly and probably have a long waiting time. There is no reason to make or use jacketed bullets as they wouldn’t benefit you in ant way. You should not shoot loads hot enough that would expand them and cast lead bullets provide plenty of accuracy. With 2.5 X Herco the 180 were ok though slow. The 135’s were loaded ahead of 3.5 X Unique but the load was too light. The bullets barely came out and in fact one stuck in the barrel. I started on the conservative side as to not risk damaging the gun. At this time I have no way of know exactly when the gun was made. My revolver is the KLM model which is the small version with a 5 shot cylinder and octagon barrel. Apparently is was made in Belgium as far as I can tell. I wanted a few loads that were safe and accurate. My wish was to shoot the gun but not make a magnum out of it. The purpose of shooting such guns is to relive history and for the enjoyment. Ah Yes there is the challenge of making ammo and bullets for this weird gun. For self defense it would be barely adequate with the top loads though better then poking someone with a stick.
Disassembled 9.4 Dutch LOAD BULLET VELOCITY COMMENT 4.5 X Herco 135 grain copper plated 852 accurate 4.5 X Unique 135 grain copper plated 720 consistent 4.5 X Herco 140 grain lead 614 ok 3 X Herco 180 grain lead 541 light 3.5 X Herco 180 grain lead 712 good load 17 X FFFG Goex 180 grain lead 509 slow
9.4 Dutch with ammo Shooting the gun is about like shooting a small framed 38 with lighter loads. Recoil isn’t a bother with any of the loads tested. It does shoot very high especially with the 180 grain bullets but once you get the measure of the sights it isn’t too bad. It isn’t a power house by any standards with the 135 grain load at 852 only produces 217 ft lbs of energy. I have access to a full size model but unfortunately it doesn’t fire on a reliable basis. Since the double action trigger is so heavy the only practical way to shoot it is single action. Doing that the hammer only falls part way when the trigger is pulled then comes down to rest when the trigger is released. Not sure at this time what the problem is but haven’t been able to shoot the gun much. It has the octagon barrel and has an 1898 date stamp on it. There isn’t a lot of info on these fascinating guns in English but I understand that if you read German you might find something on the web. No one to my knowledge make ammo for it on a commercial basis but that’s what makes it interesting.
Factory and reloaded ammo