Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mosin 91/30 rifles.... Tula and Izhevesk compared in photos


If my knowledge of the Mosin family was what I wished it to be, this would be a long and detailed article explaining the minutia of Mosin 91/30 rifles.

It's not, so this won't be.

What it is, is a short display in images showing the differences between 91/30 Mosin rifles made within a year of each other at two different soviet armories.

Pictured are a 1943 Izhevsk and a 1944 Tula. The Tula happens to be an Ex-sniper in a laminated stock, but is not otherwise special in any way. Both have been refurbished by the Soviets at some time, and both have been detail stripped and cleaned by me.

I will confess..... I refinished the wood as well. While the purists are swooning and taking out contracts on my life, I'll plead a certain uncaring attitude towards respectfully and carefully bettering a rifle that cost me less than $100, and found on a stack of one hundred brethren at a gun show. These are MY Mosin's, and I shall do with them as I will. The way you see them pictured here is the way I choose to have them. They shoot extremely well, handle nicely, get consistent Oooh's and Ahhh's at the range..... and I love them muchly.

In this case, they are prime examples of what can be expected from each maker. The Izhevesk displays rough machining and less attention to detail. The Tula is more nicely finished with more pleasing lines.

That said.... they both shoot and function amazingly well. Accurate, easy to use, and easy to service. I actually fixed one at the range using a cartridge and a small rock. While the Mosin family has a rugged beauty that grows on many collectors and shooters, I'll admit it can take time. So much time, it flat out misses many folks altogether.

These photos should show the old soldiers in a good light... and make them easy to compare. The Ishy is rougher and wears Beech furniture, while the Tula is more smoothly machined and is fitted in the laminate stock.....

(Excellent information on the Mosin family of rifles can be found here, possibly the best source on the internet.)

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And just for fun, a few more photos showing the normal accessories that often come with these old war horses. The typical long spike bayonet which Soviet soldiers were rarely allowed to take off the weapon, and the ammunition pouch set that will hold thirty rounds of 7.62x54 on stripper clips or loose.

I have also included some images showing how the bayonet is attached.
Quite simple and robust.

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Another day soon.... and more in depth articles will follow. I hope this wets the appetite.

G'nite friends!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Swiss Karabiner K-31 in 7.5x55


I like Mosins, and love Mausers. To me the model 98 Mauser style is the epitome of military bolt action rifle design. Perhaps because of this bias, I put off buying a Swiss K-31 rifle. No matter how much people swoon over the rifle from chocolate land, I just never warmed up to the straight pull design.

This held until I saw something never seen before by mortal man….. a good deal on used rifles at Cabelas. In fact, a good deal on two rifles…. both Swiss K-31 carbines in decent condition. The marked price was just under wholesale before shipping costs, so I snapped them up pretty quickly as an investment.

This left me with two rifles unfired by me, a situation totally unsatisfactory. Therefore ammunition was ordered and a range day set.

It’s undecided if this was a mistake or a blessing, as it resulted in two rifles no longer considered an investment in terms of money, being instead a challenge to my skill as a rifleman. To make a long story short, the Swiss K-31 is one of, if not the finest shooting rifle I have ever owned.

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There is a lot of information available to collectors regarding the Karabiner 31, much of it easily accessible on the Internet. Good sources include the swissrifle.com site and surplusrifle.com, as well as surplusrifleforum.com. I’ll not try and top the learned folks on these web sites, but simply offer a condensed and concise run down on the K-31.

The K-31 is the last descendant in a line of straight pull bolt-action rifles used by the Swiss armed forces. Its ancestors include the models of 1889 and 1911. Each new design refined the breed, till the model 31 reached it’s zenith. After the k-31 the Swiss made the jump to modern assault rifles with the STGW-57 and finally the STG-90.

Compared to normal turn bolt rifles, the straight pull design is seen rarely in military rifles, and almost never on civilian rifles. The Austrian Manlicher and the Canadian Ross are two other examples of military straight pull actions commonly seen today.

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The K-31 shoots a 7.5mm bottlenecked cartridge, as did its older cousins. In the case of the K-31, the cartridge is loaded with a pointed bullet designed for excellent long-range ballistics and extraordinary accuracy. This is in keeping with Swiss military philosophy that each soldier is a trained marksman.

The 7.5x55 round is practically a match for both the 7.62x51 Nato round (.308 in civilian clothes) and the 30-06 of American military use. Soldiers fed the removable box magazine on the K-31 via an unusual stripper clip made from waterproofed cardboard and stainless steel. While visually a bit odd to someone used to a Mauser or Enfield style clip, it proved sturdy and very fast in use.

The photo shows a 7.5x55 round flanked by a .308 to the left and a 30-06 to the right.

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I took some of the Swiss GP-11 military ammunition apart and examined it in this article found on Surplusrifleforum.com. It's of incredibly high standard and is considered to be match ammunition right from the military box.

To settle the fears of Americans not used to metric caliber designations, the 7.5x55 Swiss uses a .308" bullet and is no harder to hand load than any other .30 caliber bottlenecked cartridge. Mine shoots remarkable well with Speer 168 grain match bullets in .308 diameter.

The K-31 stores it’s ammunition in a six round detachable magazine. Its serial numbered to the rifle and not usually detached while in operation. In fact, the rifle is faster to load with the stripper clips than by replacing an empty magazine with a full one. This is no slight on the magazine design, but a positive comment on the excellent stripper clip.

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The bolt is quite carefully machined and very smooth in operation. It’s best worked with a smart slap by the palm to open and an equally sharp slap to close. A common cause of a misfire with a K-31 is the bolt not being fully closed, often just a fraction of an inch. If operated correctly it almost never happens.

The safety is one of the most unusual visual features on the rifle. The ring on the rear of the bolt can be pulled back and rotated about 45 degrees to the right. This prevents firing but allows the bolt to operate normally. Rotating the ring 90 degrees to the right and dropping it into a slot will lock up the bolt solidly as well as preventing firing. It’s a large ring and easily worked with gloved hands.

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The Karabiner’s sights consist of a square notch open rear with adjustments graduated from 100 meters to 1500 meters. Rifle competition in Switzerland starts at 300 meters, but lucky for us Americans the 100-meter set is near perfect for our 100 yard ranges. The rear sight is of precision manufacture and quite suitable for target shooting use. The Swiss also make very fine diopter sights for competition use on this rifle.

The front sight is a square blade protected by sturdy ears. It handles windage adjustment by the unusual means of a diagonal slot cut for the front blade. Moving the blade front to back will make fairly precise adjustment right or left. There is a fine thread sight adjustment tool that does this handily, or one can be made easily from a bolt-cutting tool. When all else fails a small brass punch and a hammer do well as a backup.

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The rear band is secured by a leaf spring, while the front band opens like a clamshell and fastens with a machine screw. The front band also has a mount for the bayonet and a stacking rod built in.

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The rear band holds a sling swivel to the left side, while the rear sling mount is a bar inletted and screwed into the left side of the buttstock.

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Topping off the action is the Swiss crest, a cross on a shield. It’s simple but elegant, pointing to the strength and dignity of Swiss society.

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The K-31 is built with one of the finest shooting triggers found on a battle rifle. Invariable they are found to be smooth and consistent without excessive play nor harsh let off. With nothing more than cleaning and lubricating, they are often of match quality right off the shelf.

Furniture is found in either a straight grained and light colored beech or darker walnut. The stocks are numbered to the rifle, although the stock is the one part sometimes found with the serial number changed. The butt plate is smooth steel curved to fit the shoulder, and often hides a nice surprise. Since it was (and still is for now) customary for a citizen/soldier in the Swiss military to take their weapon home with them, often keeping the rifle their entire lives, under the butt plate is frequently found a slip of paper with the name, address, and unit of the soldier. (Both of my personal K-31’s had this).

With everything else the Swiss Karabiner model 31 has going for it, I have saved the best for last.

These rifles shoot, and shoot straight. The Swiss culture venerated rifle skills and most towns had their own rifle ranges. Competitors used their military issued rifles in regular competition, especially as ammunition was supplied by the military for practice.

While the straight bolt pull design was foreign to me at first, there simply is no arguing with the results on the target. The average K-31 seems match ready right out of the box, and mine puts even my Mosin sniper to shame in it’s own territory; accuracy.

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This article might seem to be all favorable, with no negatives at all. If there is any issue to be found with the Karabiner 31, it’s the unusual straight pull bolt design. That is no flaw with the rifle, but only in the experience of the shooter. After putting just a few rounds down range I concluded the Swiss K-31 is a fine piece of military history, excellently designed and of the highest quality.

I now use mine regularly in match competition and will not hesitate to take it hunting as well. It’s a joy to shoot and….. did I mention it’s accurate?


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Yugoslavian M48B Mauser rifle


Last year I was fortunate enough to acquire a Mauser rifle in excellent condition.

This specimen is a fine example of a Yugoslavian M-48B 8x57 Mauser type bolt action battle rifle.


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Following WWII, the Yugoslavs moved to rearm themselves with an eye to self-reliance. They had production facilities left over from the Nazi occupation, and large numbers of captured German weapons. Many of these were reworked and standardized in Yugoslavian armories.

In the early ‘50’s Yugoslavia designed the model 1948 Mauser type rifle, otherwise known as the model 48. It eventually had several variations on a theme, with most staying quite true to the original.

The M48 was a fairly faithful copy of the German K-98, with some changes. Chief among these was shortening the action to an ‘intermediate’ length, which stiffened it considerably and made it faster to operate (although just barely).

The origins of the design are made clear when looking at the front bands and bayonet mount, which are pure K-98 to the eye.

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The bolt was bent down, although not in the usual American sense. As built it will not clear a traditionally mounted scope. It is bent enough to make handing more efficient and operation quicker.

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The sights are the simple Mauser style, with a front upside down V blade on a hooded ramp and the rear a typical ramped military Mauser sight graduated to 2000 meters. The rear notch is V shaped and quite small, making close aiming difficult at times.

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The stocks are usually found made of elm and beech, which confused many people used to seeing walnut on a rifle. Much of the nicer walnut having been used during war production and on the 24/47 Mauser, the Yugoslavians used what they had in abundance, that being other hardwoods such as the beech and elm. On rare occasions walnut stocks have been noted, as have oak of all things.

Many of the early M48 rifles did sport walnut furniture, and left over 24/47 walnut stocks as well.

The elm furniture is often mistakenly labeled Teak, but that is incorrect. A small run of M48 barreled actions was run off for a nation that then installed their own wood, and was sometimes actually teak, but the Yugoslavian M48 and M48A was never mounted in teak by the Slav’s.

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American collectors encounter the M48 in four main variations; The M48, M48A, M48B, and M48BO. The M48 being the first model, and having a milled floor
plate, the M48A being a bit later, and the M48B (also marked M48A) having a stamped steel floor plate to decrease production time and costs, and the slightly mysterious M48BO.

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The M48BO is often mistakenly called the ‘Egyptian’ model after a run of rifles built for sale to Egypt, but canceled when the war with Israel broke out. In reality, many M48 rifles were built as BO models, and are notable by having no markings other than serial numbers. These were made for sale to nations that wished to maintain plausible deniability as to the weapons origins.

Many M48 rifles are found complete with bayonets, sheaths, frogs, ammunition carriers, and cleaning kits. The bayonets are standard German style fare and are not in the least rare.

Original Yugoslavian 8x57mm ammunition was a glut on the market for quite some time, but has now dried up. It proved to be decent ammunition, but is noted for having rather hard primers, and rifles with weak firing pin springs have issues with it.

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There are many of these fine little Mauser style rifles available on the market, in varying condition. The intermediate action makes it suitable for custom rifle builds, and quite a few have gone to those projects. The bulks of those seen are in decent condition and make excellent shooters.

There are a fair number of M48 rifles that were built in the mid 1950’s and went into storage at once, the market for bolt action battle rifles having dried up. The rifle shown here seems to be one of those, with a very late serial number and no signs of wear at all. It appeared unfired when purchased, but that soon changed.

As the target shows…. it’s a decent shooter. Experience has proven it o be reliable, accurate, and of excellent quality.

The Slav’s had a nickname for the M-48, which translates roughly as ‘Old Reliable’.

I see no reason to disagree!

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Those wishing to learn more about Yugoslavian Mausers could do worse than to purchase the book ‘Serbian and Yugoslav Mauser Rifles’ by Branko Bogdanovich.

The author is the historian for the Yugoslavian arms industry and most knowledgeable on the subject. He is alive and well, and as this is written available by E-mail for questions regarding the subject.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A nice morning at the range with one of the heirs..




We enjoyed some range time today, just #2 heir and I. It was low stress and kinda fun.

Nice weather, a range bay to ourselves, fine pistols, lots of ammo..... What's not to enjoy!

The 'boy' stands over six feet and weighs about as much as the $400 in groceries he eats each month, so of course he had to spend some time with the .44 magnum.

It's a Ruger Bisley with custom birdseye maple grips that fill the hands nicely.

He liked the powder puff cowboy target shooting loads, but the heavy loads interested him much more.

These were loaded as bear protection ammo for a Maine fishing trip.... and were never really intended for extended range shooting. While I was busy elsewhere, he shot them all up!



I never thought of using the video function for this before, but it works great. We worked on flinch with him, and having the video to review worked wonders. His group size shrunk in half within fifty rounds.

I had him video me during some reloads.... which is down right embarrassing.
The best I can say is.... all the rounds were in the bull at fifty feet, even if I was about as jerky as Algore doing his weird non-victory dance after the election.



Naturally, as I am a charter member of The Brotherhood of Brass Scavengers, we had a little pickup party after shooting. The haul was about 400 cases in addition to the 200 we fired. An excellent morning!

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