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Old September 22, 2012, 07:09 AM   #51
Mike Irwin
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Join Date: April 13, 2000
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 35,702
Let's talk about why the British looked to adopt a rifle based on the Mauser design, in large part based on their experiences in the Boer War...

It wasn't because of any major and inherent deficiencies in the rifle... It was because the 7mm Mauser that the Boers were using had better long-range trajectory and ballistics than the Mk. II ball cartridge (215-gr. or so grain blunt round nose, rather short and lacking in ballistic coefficient).

The British response was, over time, and based on developments in France and Germany, to adopt the Mk VII bullet in 1910, a 174-gr. flat base that showed, excellent long-range accuracy and ballistics.

At the same time, though, Britain was working on a "solution" to the pesky Boer long range problem -- the .276 Enfield and the Pattern 1913 rifle.

The .276 cartridge specifically built for long-range aimed, and accurate, fire. It had a wonderfully profiled bullet that gave it excellent long-range ballistics.

Couple of problems with that concept, though...

1. The cartridge as it ended up had a 165-gr. bullet and ballistics that put it damned close to the 7mm Remington Magnum. Recoil was pretty stout and troops were not happy, especially cavalry troops who were sometimes required to fire from horseback. In fact, earlier versions of the cartridge used bullets up to 190-gr., making recoil really objectionable.

2. Muzzle blast was also substantial and was noted as a potential issue during troop testing. I bet the horses were even less thrilled...

3. The heavy charge of cordite (nearly 50 grains, or something like 20 grains more than the comparable .303) heated the barrel quickly and excessively, leading to major issues with wear and excessive pressures.

4. Long range accuracy was considered to be very good. Why have I listed that as a problem? Because this, combined with the sheer power and long-range ballistics of the round, indicate very clearly that British small arms thinking was ONLY on long-range battles in the desert, or similar relatively flat terrain when already there was more than ample indication that combat was not a long-range affair between superbly trained marksmen... It was close up, which the trench warfare of World War I proved in spades.

You may be wondering just why the British decided to go with the Mauser-style action instead of the Lee-Enfield when looking to adopt the .276...

There were a number of issues, some of which I've noted above, primarily a "we need to buy a bill of goods," and "MOMMMMMM! Everyone else has Mausers, and I want a Mauser too!"

First was the Lee's rear locking action. While more than adequate for the .303 and capable of excellent accuracy, when combined with the extreme ballistics of the .276, it wouldn't have given the desired accuracy and it probably would have given long-term durability issues.

Additionally, due to the extreme nature of the .276's loading, it's likely that the Lee-Enfield action would have had to have been significantly redesigned, including being lengthened (which would have exacerbated the "whippiness" of the bolt).

Realistically, it simply wouldn't have been suitable for a cartridge developing those power levels.

In that sense yes, the Mauser-style action is superior. But was it a superiority that the British truly needed?

No. The .276 was a cartridge that was designed to address a problem that, when World War I came, didn't exist, and which in any event had been largely mitigated by the adoption of the Mk VII bullet in 1910.
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