Weapons and Gear => Rifles => Topic started by: MTK20 on July 19, 2018, 06:31:21 pm

Title: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: MTK20 on July 19, 2018, 06:31:21 pm
This is a topic for discussion (and my own curiosity) regarding the evolution of the bolt action rifles that fought in the world wars and then those advertised to hunters in the years thereafter. Firearms such as the Springfield, the Lee Enfield, and Mauser were all firearms meant to be accurate, withstand rugged outdoor conditions, and chambered in adequate calibre, so why did the rifles of sportsman in the next few years after seem to deviate from what seemed to be perfectly suitable military counterparts? Why did the rifles of sportsman take the path they have?

below is an ad from circa 1955

One thing I might think is ease of optic mounting, but even the firearm in the ad has open sites. When did scopes become popular and standard fair on all sporting guns?

I'm curious how today's open sited Savage model 10 is better for a hunter than a Mauser  :hmm . Just a topic for fun  :cool .
Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: cpaspr on July 19, 2018, 09:09:05 pm
Don't know that much about a lot of it, but one thing I do recall.  As the war progressed, some of the barrels got a two-land/groove rifling, rather than four lands and grooves.  It was quicker, and cheaper for the manufacturers, and for the war effort, quicker and cheaper meant it got to the front quicker, where it could do the most good.

Popular?  Probably when all those ex-GIs turned hunters started getting older and needed help seeing the sights.  My first hunting rifle had a scope mounted when I received it as a college graduation present, but it also had iron sights.  Made in 1959.  It was a family gun, the previous owner having died seven years before at the age of 70.  As I said, old eyes needed help.

When did scopes become the standard method of sighting?  Probably sometime in the 80s to 90s. 
Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: sqlbullet on July 20, 2018, 11:40:32 am
All the features of a good military rifle were not applicable to a good hunting rifle.

For instance, military arms had provisions to be rapidly reloaded via some kind of stripper clip.  Clearly needed for a soldier in a fire fight.  But for a hunter who's target would disappear and not come back if he missed, not so much.

And, that rapid military firing resulted in a hot barrel that could burn hands.  And that is bad.  Reloading, bayonet/CQB fighting and even trying to find a position that gives you cover and a shooting position could result in burning yourself on exposed barrel metal.  So, the barrels were fully enclosed in hand guards.  Hunting?  Not likely to get the barrel that hot.  And you don't need cover; concealment is fine.  And you can pick you concealed position so as to provide a good shooting position.  A "prepared" position.  As a result, the extra weight and potential accuracy penalty of the fully shrouded barrel is not needed.

Speaking of accuracy...The military cares about minute of man out to about 500-600 meters.  You don't have to kill the enemy to remove them from the fight.  In fact, there is doctrine that indicates a wound if better since it removes not only the fighter, but his buddies that drag him off for aid.  So pin-point accuracy for a quick, humane kill is not needed.  Either from the sighting system or overall precision of the platform.  But a hunter is interested in killing his prey.  And the faster, the better.  Shot placement is king in that world, so overall precision of the platform is very important, and a sighting system that allows you to use that precision is needed too.

And, what about all that CQB stuff.  Not much need for a bayonet when you are after bambi.  Yeah, I know there are those crazy guys that hunt hogs with a knife, but that is not the norm.  So, the sporting rifle can lose the bayonet mount.

The military needs to size the rifle so the GI's can use it.  And a tall guy can use a short rifle, but a short guy might not do so well with a rifle that is just too big.  So, military stocks tended to be on the small/short side.  And since they put a cleaning kit in the butt stock in most cases, a recoil pad that adjusted length really wasn't an option.  Not that they wanted it anyway, since they wanted you to be just as effective with whatever rifle you were handed.  But a sporting rifle benefits from being adjusted to the shooter.

And cleaning.  No need to haul a steel cleaning rod around in the woods as a part of the weapon system.  If you barrel gets blocked that badly, go back to the truck or camp and clean it. That action is less feasible in a fire fight.  And you typically don't spend weeks or months on end camping with minimal supplies when on a hunt.  But that was a reality for a soldier.  And logistically it made sense to put all the needed gun stuff on/in the gun if possible.

I am sure guys smarter than me can add a bunch to this list.  And there may be more fundamental reasons for some of the changes.  But that comes to my mind right off.
Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: exiledtoIA on July 20, 2018, 04:24:33 pm
Weight was also a factor.  Generally the bolt action military rifles were considerably heavier than their civilian hunting equivalents.  I leave out the bench rest long range toys.
Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: coelacanth on July 20, 2018, 11:04:48 pm
Good commentary so far - I agree with most of it.  Just because you can use a military bolt action repeating rifle for hunting game doesn't mean its a good choice.  Most modern bolt action rifles are variations on Paul Mauser's masterpiece and virtually all of them owe a tip of the engineering cap to it.  It is really hard to beat the bolt action repeating rifle for simplicity of manufacture and effectiveness in the field.  That said, you can make it specifically for target applications, hunting applications or some combination of the two and usually come up with a better rifle than one that has combat effectiveness as one of it's design parameters.

The military bolt action is the "Crescent wrench" of rifles - especially in the first half of the twentieth century.  Designed to be tough, reasonably accurate and suitable to a wide variety of conditions and mission parameters it was also the the cheapest mass produced, combat effective weapon in history.  They are simple to operate and also to keep in operating condition under battlefield conditions.  Not until the widespread use of the U.S. M1 Garand rifle was their combat effectiveness seriously challenged. 

Building on the design genius of Mr. Mauser's invention but incorporating changes that made the guns more suitable for civilian target and hunting pursuits, commercial manufacturers soon flooded the market with analogs to the ubiquitous military battle rifles.  Unless you were in a branch of military service you no longer had to make do with the "Crescent wrench" but could find something much more suitable for your specific application.  Just as a good toolbox contained all manner of wrenches, pliers and other tools - so did the well stocked gun cabinet have different tools for different jobs. 

Advances all across the board in firearms technology came fast and furious in the period after WWII.  Metallurgy, manufacturing techniques, sighting systems, ammunition - all had the potential to launch a company on the cutting edge to prominence in the marketplace.  Telescopic sights were relatively crude even in the post-war period and many civilian users swore off them because of lackluster performance in the field for all but the most technically advanced designs.  Unfortunately those designs also priced many would-be users out of the market despite the fact that they were the only way to extract maximum performance out of their rifles.  Again, technological advances began to make inroads not only in manufacturing but in public perception of what was possible instead of what was thought to be "good enough".  By the 1970's a scope sighted rifle was no longer a curiosity in a hunting camp.

To answer your final question, a scope sighted Savage model 10 in 6.5 Creedmoor is shorter, lighter, recoils less and hits harder at 500 yards with greater accuracy than any wartime Mauser with the possible exception of a Carl Gustav Swedish Mauser in 6.5x55mm set up as a sniper rifle.  And it would still be shorter and lighter than the Swede with roughly the same recoil impulse in a better designed stock with a better trigger.   :shrug   

Don't get me wrong - I love me some old milsurp rifles.  I own several.  That said, when I get drawn for a hunt those rifles stay home and the hunting rifles go in the field with me.  At my age I don't enjoy hauling a nine or ten pound rifle with open sights all over God's creation - especially if I'm hunting at 6000' - 7000' above sea level.   Yes, I COULD take a game animal with one - but only if I can stalk inside of 200 yards which is about my limit with iron sights.  ( None of my milsurps wear glass )  The aforementioned Savage model 10 could stretch that range to nearly 400 yards depending on my quarry and the prevailing conditions.  A 300 yard shot on a deer sized animal with a rig like that is clearly feasible even for me. 

Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: MTK20 on July 20, 2018, 11:39:02 pm
Great info, guys  :thumbup1.

I still need to get myself a bolt action quarter bore at some point  :cool . I've been curious about the 25-06, but they all interest me.
Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: coelacanth on July 21, 2018, 10:13:42 pm
The .25/06 is a great cartridge.  It was one of the first wildcat cartridges to be legitimized as a factory produced round and its about as good as a person could want for hunting animals up to deer size. It can be deadly out to 400 yards if the hunter does his part.  Recoil is considerably lighter than its parent cartridge ( .30/06 ) and the trajectory is flatter even with heavy for caliber bullets ( 120 grain ).   

I personally watched a 180 pound, eight point, Kentucky bean field white tailed deer dropped at 300 yards with a Nosler 115 grain Partition bullet out of a rifle chambered in .25/06 and the animal was DRT.  Never even took a step.  It dropped so fast it might as well have been struck by lightning.  Very impressive performance, IMO. 

The .257 Roberts was kind of the darling of the medium bores right after WWII.  There were some really nice rifles chambered for that round and it is very close to the .25/06 performance wise.  If anything it might be a slightly more efficient cartridge but with heavy bullet weights the .25/06 has the edge due to increased case capacity.  The .257 Roberts has slightly less recoil and muzzle blast particularly with bullet weights of 100 grains or less.  It is a very nice performing caliber as long as you respect it's limitations. 

Probably the undisputed king of the quarter bores is the .257 Weatherby .  Way more rowdy than its smaller relatives, it is a full on magnum cartridge with the recoil and muzzle blast to remind you if you forget.  Flatter shooting than any other quarter bore, if properly sighted in it can allow you to simply point and shoot without adjusting for elevation to ranges beyond 300 yards.  It also suffers less wind deflection since its speed translates to less flight time to a given range than the other .257 calibers.  The downside is the expense of the rifles and ammunition, relatively short barrel life and spotty availability of factory ammo in most places. 

I think all of the quarter bores benefit from 24" barrels to get the most performance from them and given the long actions necessary to house them the rifles are slightly heavier than many of the current medium caliber rifle and cartridge combos but its not a deal breaker for folks who have come to love what they bring to the table.
Title: Re: Bolt Guns: War and Game Guns.
Post by: MTK20 on July 21, 2018, 10:43:27 pm