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Old August 5, 2012, 05:26 PM   #1
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When do Rifles Wear Out?

My dad has a 1917 Enfield which has been in the family since he sporterized it in the 60's. It has hunted most years since then. The last time I shot it, it would put 3 30'06 rounds in 1".

It is ugly, has some pitting and generally should probably be given the once over. When will it just be wore out?

I'm kind of afraid to do a new stock, convert to a 280AI, trigger job and rebuild the thing, if there is some chance the steel is on it's last leg or something.

How will I know? I'll just guess it was unfired when he got it and we have put 2000 rounds through it.
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Old August 5, 2012, 06:24 PM   #2
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When they stop shooting accurately-Minute of Pie Plate is one definition I have seen. The more knowledgeable will point that the condition of the crown is very crucial, Those in the Know about the M-1 Garand will discuss factors such as bore erosion and readings in the gauges they use to measure
that condition. I have an M1917 Enfield and a 1943 P-38 that both have pitted bores but shoot fine. Factors such as age of the steel, vintage of the rifle-I have read that late WWII Mauser 98s are often on the soft side, andke Trapdoor Springields do not care for jacketed ammunition. Some rounds-the 220 Swift for example-are hard on bores. If yours is still shooting accurately-and 3 rounds into 1" is MOA in my book-then you have nothing to worry about.

Last edited by SIGSHR; August 5, 2012 at 06:29 PM.
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Old August 5, 2012, 06:40 PM   #3
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Just to add a tad to what SIGSHR said- There's no countdown timer on firearms of course, noting or deciding on when a rifle has run it's course may be different for different folks up until the rifle does something unsafe. Do your fired cases look any different from any other fired cases, such as head separations, backed out primers, splits anywhere? Can the rifle's sear be released by whacking the buttplate with a deadblow hammer? Does the bolt ever ride up upon firing? These things will be some indicators that something is afoul. I don't think you'll ever see the receiver or barrel turn into a hand grenade on that model, it'll stretch before it blows... but probably not in your lifetime.
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Old August 5, 2012, 06:42 PM   #4
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It's not really a life/death issue. It's very true that a rifle will drop off in accuracy as it wears and that is the primary indicator that wear is taking place.

There are some ways to breathe new life into the rifle. If the chamber throat is worn, match shooters have the barrel "set back"...screwed in farther into the receiver. That makes the chamber short so they rechamber with a chamber reamer. It's not a real easy fix and requires some expert machining but it's routine maintenance for match shooters.

The muzzle is another issue. Wear occurs there from rounds fired and may also occur from improper use of steel or segmented cleaning rods. The muzzle crown may also be damaged by other mechanical means. The muzzle end can be cut then recrowned and it gives the barrel some more life.

Eventually, you rebarrel.

Hope that helps.

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Old August 5, 2012, 07:13 PM   #5
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In slow fire, which is almost a given with a Model 1917 bolt action, the barrel can be expected to last at least 5000 rounds, maybe twice that with moderate power hunting ammo. The bolt/receiver will last a lot longer.

In other words, Nathan, you can do what you want with the rifle, but I don't think you can use a worn out barrel as an excuse.

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Old August 5, 2012, 08:35 PM   #6
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In the NRA Handloaders Guide ( Out of print, I believe) the Frankford Arsenal did a test on barrel wear. After tens of thousands of rounds in 10 different rifles, the accuracy was still improving. This was obviously with cut rifling and tougher steel (Like your '03) than most new barrels today.
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Old August 5, 2012, 08:37 PM   #7
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Lets assume that you replace barrels when they wear out. I consider barrels consumables.

Each barrel will be given a new headspace. Any receiver set back, and there will be some set back, will be adjusted for in the cutting of the new chamber.

Due to lack of spare parts there are rifles that are dead in the water once you break a firing pin or extractor. By the 70's, people were having to modify M1917 extractors to use in pre 64 M70 actions, the parts supply for original M70 claw extractors had dried up. I have a pre 64 257 Roberts that had one of these ersatz extractors.

Extractors, ejectors, firing pins, they will break over time. They can be replaced for your rifle as there are still M1917 parts on the market.

Even if a bolt lug cracks you can replace it.

I believe the mechanical lifetime of your rifle will be determined by the receiver. If and when it ever develops cracks.
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Old August 5, 2012, 09:52 PM   #8
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Thanks for the responses. I will have to look it over for cracks when I look at it again.
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Old August 11, 2012, 12:14 AM   #9
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Worn out I will give you $50 for it .....

That WW1 rifle must be unsafe ,it is 95 years old...

Being a nice guy like I am I will safely depose of it for you

Just to show what a nice guy I am I will cover the cost of postage

The action will at last all of us reading this post. Build it up the way you want and have fun with it. No matter what you do to it will always be your Dads rifle and as a family heirloom it will be priceless in the years to come...
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Old August 11, 2012, 04:20 PM   #10
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There's wear from shooting it, and then there's wear from ignoring it. My dad had a Marlin 30-30 for many years and he was not ever in the mode of cleaning the barrel (or any other part of it). I guess the barrel lasted about 25 years of rust and rain and shooting and dirt before it finally gave out. We were sighting it in for Dad just prior to deer season and at 50 yards you couldn't hit a washtub. It had worked fine 10 months prior to that, so I guess the last few molecules of steel on the lands must have disappeared over that 10 months. I suppose that my point is that a barrel will last a long time, and the life depends on how many rounds you put through it and what kind of care you give it.
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Old August 11, 2012, 06:18 PM   #11
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FN49 in .30-06 was shot with corrosive ammo and not immediately cleaned. Bore looks crummy but the rifle is still as accurate as when bought nearly new in the late 1960s. Keep shooting.

Shot a 50 BMG M2 in the military. Gun was kept clean and well maintained but the tracers tracked like my tee shots: into the adjoining fairway. The barrel was worn out causing bullets (every 5th round was a tracer) to spiral, hook, and slice. Amazing sight. Time to replace the barrel.
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Old August 11, 2012, 06:36 PM   #12
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depends on the rifle as well as kind of rifle and how it is cared for also
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Old August 12, 2012, 08:00 PM   #13
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Thanks again for all the responses. The rifle has been reasonably well cared for by us, but as I consider where to go from here, I realize I have an older rifle which has some pitting, is an excellent shooter and was originally sporterized by my dad.

I'm thinking I should degrease, clean up the exterior the best I can and spray with some miracle finish in a can. Maybe change to cock on open, cut the barrel to 22 - 24", recrown and grind off the last round hold open device. . .or not! Then bed it properly in a laminate, fiberglass or refinish the original sporter stock(damaged by my artificial hand when young) and throw a 10x scope on it.

Now, it has some kind of normal looking scope base on it. Does anyone know what scope bases it was commonly machined for? Rem 700?? Win 70??
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Old August 12, 2012, 10:59 PM   #14
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I would see how that rifle is shooting, if you still get 3 rounds at 1" at 100 yards I wouldn't touch anything. Just my. $.02.
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Old August 12, 2012, 11:23 PM   #15
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An awful lot of the rifles I own are in excess of 130-140 years old and I can still shoot lethal hits in a 1/2 sized body target at 100 yards. If my eyes were better, I'm sure these rifles would easily do better at even 200 or more.
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Old August 12, 2012, 11:29 PM   #16
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Nathan- Has your rear sight already been milled down or sawed off? That has a lot to do with getting a base on there. If not, here's this:
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Old August 13, 2012, 07:50 AM   #17
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Winchester and Remington 1917 actions are reportedly quite stout and can be easily rebarreled without issue. In fact, using the P1914 bolt, it's quite common to see these rechambered as magnums.

Eddystone actions, on the other hand, are reported to trend towards being overly brittle, and I used to know more than a few gunsmiths that refused to work on an Eddystone due to the likelihood of causing or revealing front ring cracks during the process of breaking the old barrel free.

Here's a thread that talks around the potential issue with Eddystone's:
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Old August 13, 2012, 08:23 AM   #18
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rifle wear-out!

A rifle will, with proper shooting and care will virtually NEVER wear out!
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Old August 15, 2012, 09:17 AM   #19
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Harry claims:
A rifle will, with proper shooting and care will virtually NEVER wear out!
That usually depends on how many rounds fired before one notices accuracy dropping off to unacceptable levels. But the actions last for several barrels.

Competitive shooters sometimes wear out a barrel every year after 500 to 3000 centerfire rounds (depending on cartridge) are through it. Some of them have put 40 to 50 barrels in their Win. 70's and the action's still working like new,

Even people on the Olympic Team rebarrel their .22 rimfires after about 30,000 to 35,000 rounds and that happens every 3 or 4 years for them. And these shooters take the best care of their rifle's bores.

USA military rifles such as the M1 and M14 wore out their service barrels at around 10,000 rounds.

Last edited by Bart B.; August 15, 2012 at 04:00 PM.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:23 PM   #20
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When do Rifles Wear Out?
Generally about 1 month prior to deer or elk season. This is how it happens: the owner of a Never Miss Magnum is at the sporting goods store to buy some much-nneded supplies for his upcoming adventure to The Wild Back Woods in search of the wiley deer or wapiti of his dreams. While there, he decides to eyeball the local goods in the Department Of Firearms. Suddenly, he is transfixed by the Absolutely Never Miss Super Magnum with the flashy hang tags. At exactly that same moment, through the miracle of hyperspace, his Never Miss Magnum fails drastically and totally and needs to be replaced immediately if his adventure is to be a success. The owner of the previously never-failing rifle that has suddenly gone bad realizes it will be a great sacrifice to part with his trusty old friend, but reluctantly takes up with the interloper and abandons his old rifle in its hour of agony.

But never fear! Before you shed that bitter tear, hear, hear!! Through the magic of Gun Shop Man, the rifle is suddenly reborn into a never-failing masterpiece of technology at a significant investment of technology known only as Gun Cleaning Kit, and returns to the gun rack to mystify and mislead another hunter within days. Oh, glorious day! Happy ending!! (birds twittering and chorus singing as the light fades).

In other words, most rifles don't wear out.
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Old August 15, 2012, 05:25 PM   #21
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Yeah, I worry every day that my 1951 (est.) vintage Mauser is about to fall apart.....just because of it's age. Heck, I am about to fall apart (in part due to age) why not the rifle ?

The fact is, a properly designed, well built rifle, well cared for and used with loads below the maximum for the cartridge (thus, reducing barrel erosion) CAN last more than a lifetime. How much longer should it last ?
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