Most accurate issue bolt-action rifle/round

Discussion in 'Weapons, Equipment & Rations' started by Alsacien, Feb 19, 2008.

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  1. Alsacien

    Alsacien LE Moderator

    Got chatting last night about the most accurate bolt action rifle and ammo combo ever issued to soldiers (without considering limited run sniper or accurised specials).

    Came up with a shortlist and order of candidates:

    1. Swedish Mauser M96 in 6.5 x55
    2. Swiss K31 Schmidt-Rubin in 7.5 x 55 Swiss
    3. German K98 in 8 x 57 IS
    4. Lee Enfield No. 4 in .303 British (also known as 7.7 x 56R in Europe)

    I also propagated the arguement that most K98's and No.4's have seen a lot of service - everyone I ever laid hands on was well used. Whereas the Swedish and Swiss rifles only ever did range time and guard duty....

    Nobody suggested any septic rifles, but I have no idea how good a Springfield etc would be in the illustrious company above.

    How does the list shape up with our resident shootists?
  2. How does the SMLE compare to the No4? I seem to remember something about the retreat from Mons in WW1 where the Hun were mighty impressed by the standard of marksmanship from the BEF and thought they were facing numerous machine guns due to the number of killed/injured they were suffering.
  3. I think you will probably get a consensus around the Swedish Mauser in 6.5x55. Ballistically superior to the others and well made items manufactured in peacetime conditions.

    As to the best battle rifle - surely no contest!
  4. I wouldn't disagree with your selection of the Swedish Mauser, as it seem to be a good all round performer, however I would put the Ross M10 in .303 before the Mausers for accuracy even if not particularly soldier proof. The .280 Ross would have (and did in the target shooting world) wiped the board, but was never adopted by the military.

    I don't think you can group the No4 with the other three however. The No4 has a fully floating barrel, aperture sights and is capable of some quite remarkable shooting if set up correctly. The other three are fully stocked designs dating from around the 1890s. The No4 was designed after WW2.

    This is why the No4 is classed as a "Veteran" by the HBSA, whilst the others are classed as "Classic".
  5. Also missing from that list is the P14 (.303)
  6. Alsacien

    Alsacien LE Moderator

    Cannot support the P14, but the Ross M10 is v. interesting if a little hard to come by.

    Other option of interest is the Krag-Jørgensen of Norway and US manufacture.
  7. i would say the Lee Enfield no.4 in .303,must have been good as it went on to be re-chambered and remained in service as the L42A1 in 7.62mm for quite a while
  8. Swedish Mauser in 6.5x55 probably the most accurate out of the armoury rack, followed by any of the other Mauser actions/calibres including the P14/M17, with the No4 in there somewhere as well.

    A good No4 with standard military stocking up can be capable of 1 moa with service cordite ammo; thats very close to to what modern shooters get with their 6.5x55 hand loads.

    By far the best overall military bolt rifle as a balance of accuracy, reliability & firepower.... has to be the No4 followed closely by the No1. Everything else a long way behind.
  9. The 1903 Springfield is definitely a contestant. Can beat the Lee Enfield most of the time. Or try the Swiss straight pull action rifle in 7.5 Swiss, shoots very well.
  10. Alsacien

    Alsacien LE Moderator

    Criteria is calibre <8mm, iron sights and on general issue no later than 1963. Range is 100mtrs (5cm bull) and 300mtrs.

    What would a top condition no. 4 (and which variation) be capable of with a .303 handload?
    How might that compare to a Ishapore 2A no.4 in 7.62 (which I think just about squeezes into production date restriction) with target ammo?
  11. The acceptance test for No4s off the production line was to group within a 3"x4" marker at 100yds, or roughly about 3-4 moa. This was the minimum, and most rifles fired from a test rig would do a 2" group or better. Given that there were c.4 million made, its not hard to find a No4 of any vintage - from 1930s trials to 1955 Mk2 - that shoots very well. Accuracy arises from a suitable combination of decent bore, square action, and good fit into the woodwork. About the best you can get off a sandbag using handloads (but no other accurising such as glass bedding or barrel packing) is about 1" at 100yds - ie better than most shooters can achieve with any weapon. Funnily enough, handloads are often not a lot better than decent service ammo - because of the way cordite was cut to length, the rounds came out with much greater consistency than with nitro powder-filled rounds.

    Designed to be short-range Police rifles, 7.62mm 2A1s were never optimised for accuracy - the barrel behaves completely differently to a .303 version, but the complex .303 No1 bedding system was retained. I've tested about 20-30 2A1s, and they are usually good for 2-3" at 100yds using RG 144gn ball. RG varies a lot by batch, so the rifles are sensitive to the type. The barrels (as with other 7.62mm Enfields) are optimised for 144gn NATO ammo, and thus show little improvement with 155gn or other match ammo. 2A1s often need tweaking to improve accuracy, and you can get groups down to about 1 1/2" on some rifles.

  12. IMO it'd be the the pre-WW1 rifles; when rifles were designed and warfare was expected to take place with riflemen shooting at each other from 1000yards.

    My vote goes to the Mauser (basis for the modern bolt-action rifles; the M1903 can be considered a variant). However the better rifle (all round usage) is the No4.

    Collector on youtube:
  13. That was because it was cheap, and loads of war surplus spares to build them were lying around in bins at the Enfield factory. The L42 was accurate, but at around the time they were introduced, there was better designs available.
  14. Mr PL of the Warminster Collection (who lurks here occasionally) can tell the very interesting story.

    Yes - the L42's good shooting performance was a lucky accident, as the rifle was derived from a series of the most ridiculous penny-pinching incidents you ever heard.

    The army was only forced to move away from the .303 No4(T) and develop a 7.62mm sniper rifle in 1969/70 (ie 15-20 years after it adopted a 7.62mm service rifle...) simply because the bean-counters had stopped production of .303 ammo in 1955, and thus the supply chain showed nil returns.

    The trials of No4 and No4(T)s equipped with a 7.62mm barrel were a failure (the barrel was the same profile as the .303 item, but behaved differently due to the change in calibre, thus negating the bedding system), but by chance Warminster/ ITDU came across some civvie P14 target rifles with heavy 7.62mm barrels. By copying this barrel (there is no record of any royalties) Enfield had a lucky strike in producing the excellent hammer-forged barrel they went on to use on the L39, Envoy, etc.

    The telescope, already a re-cycled design for the Mk1 Bren, was further recycled by replacing its range drum slipping scales. Thousands of Mk1 & 2 telescopes were not adopted, as this would have involved spending money on conversion.

    The rest of the L42 was cobbled together out of whatever was available on the shelves in depots - reworked No4 wood, No4 parts, a mag from the failed Enfield project to convert the No into the L8, etc.

    Perhaps the most farcical element is the tale of the rearsight. During trials, it was discovered that the range graduations on a rearsight off a No5 jungle carbine happened to perfectly match the 7.62mm ballistics of the L42 (the No5 has different range graduations to the No4 because of its shorter sight plane). Hence the No5 rearsight was a perfect choice for the L42 iron sight. Unfortunately, since the No5 had been declared obsolete and surplussed off, most of the spares were in the hands of dealers. As you can imagine, No5 spares in the 1960s were cheap as dirt (even now when they are "collectible", you can easily buy them in bulk for £5 each). "Dirt" was too expensive for the MoD, so they decided to use a No4 rearsight - which they had in stock - and simply instructed snipers to "remember" the appropriate range settings on the sight. Unbelievable, if it wasn't quite so believable......!
  15. Swedish Mauser; I think the scores we see at the HBSA confirm that, best battle rifle? As exstab says, no contest it has to be the Enfield.

    Regarding the L42 and how farcical the project was; it got just as bad when it was sold off, the bean counters took away the chamber sticks because they could be useful when the next rifle was issued!
    What on earth did they cost to produce then......50p?