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Old October 31, 2013, 10:15 PM   #1
btmj
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question about older military rifle stocks

Looking at early 20th century military rifles with wood stocks, such as the 1903 Springfield, the 1917 Enfield, the Mosin Nagant, K98 Mauser, the M1 Garand... One thing I notice about all these rifles is that the forestock covers the barrel on the top and the bottom.

No modern bolt action rifle covers the top of the barrel. Why did the designers of these weapons choose to cover the top of the barrel? It must have been a good idea at the time, since the above listed weapons were some of the finest of there era, and it seems ALL of them had this feature.

Jim
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Old October 31, 2013, 10:28 PM   #2
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it's all a matter of progress. many military muzzle loaders had wood that ran most of the way to the muzzle, this served to give a sturdy place to put your ram rod ad gave you something more solid to hold onto should you have to switch to hand to hand combat.

when bolt actions started coming out a lot of generals still had the muzzle loader mindset(as late as 1900 there were still phalanx charges) so as bolt actions were developed they had a lot of the same design features as muzzle loaders. but since smokeless cartridges tend to heat barrels more soldiers would be prone to burn their hands on hot barrels during charges or hand to hand so they started placing wood over the top of the barrel as well(hence the name hand guards).

you also need to understand that many of those rifles(except the garand) are either mausers or based on mauser designs. the M1917 is loosely based on the 1896 mauser while the M1903 springfield was loosely based on the 1898 mauser. many features of those rifles carried over to the rifles they were based on, much like the arisaka which where also loosely based on early mauser designs.

modern bolt actions don't have these because they are worthless for civilian or modern military application. all they do nowadays is add weight.
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Old October 31, 2013, 10:35 PM   #3
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Why did the designers of these weapons choose to cover the top of the barrel?
Heat from sustained fire.
Quote:
No modern bolt action rifle covers the top of the barrel.
Bolt actions have been replaced in military usage by full and semiautomatic rifles. AKs and AR15 style rifles still have upper handguards.
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Old October 31, 2013, 11:21 PM   #4
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you also need to understand that all of those rifles(except the garand) are either mausers or based on mauser designs.
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you also need to understand that many of those rifles(except the garand) are either mausers or based on mauser designs.
Fixed it for ya!

The wood (or plastic/metal) covering the barrel, or portion of the barrel is called the handguard. (unless you are a certain idiot politician, in which case you think it is the "thing that goes up...")

You may note that all modern military rifles also have handguards. Its primary purpose is to protect the hands from hot barrels. Sometimes it adds strength & rigidity, to a greater or lesser extent. It always adds weight.

Basically the stocks on those old military rifles are heavier and thicker than the stocks on sporting arms. That is because, besides the obvious durability benefit, they were intended for men to fight with. As in hand to hand combat fight. Bayonet lunges, block & parry beat the enemy's head in type fight.

No sporting arm is, or needs be built to survive that. So the first thing(because its easiest) that goes away when you sporterize one of the old milsurps is the upper handguard.
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Old October 31, 2013, 11:50 PM   #5
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it looks gooooood

its usefull

it adds weight to the front half of the rifle wich for me really helps with ballance and recoil control
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Old November 1, 2013, 12:16 AM   #6
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Helps protect the barrel.
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Old November 1, 2013, 09:09 AM   #7
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Its a simple matter of being able to grab the rifle from the barrel area. It protects both the barrel and the hand. If you notice, even the new military semis have a hand guard over the barrel. When you are under fire, you grab your rifle any way that you can. The barrel area is usually the first place that you reach for.
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Old November 1, 2013, 10:21 AM   #8
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sorry 44, missed the mosin nagant reference.
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Old November 1, 2013, 10:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Quote:
Why did the designers of these weapons choose to cover the top of the barrel?
Quote:
Heat from sustained fire.
JHansenAK47 hit the nail on the head. I made the mistake of curling my fingers into the opening on the bottom of the upper hand guard of an M1 Rifle after sustained firing in Basic Training. Burned my fingers. It was common for the heat of sustained fire in a target rich environment (Korean human wave, mass attack), to actually char the wood on M1 Garands.

Also, military rifles (unlike sporters), are used with bayonets, the use of bayonet requires a forward grip that would never be used by someone handling a sporting rifle. The wooden hand guards protect a soldiers hands from the hot barrel, without them, a soldier would be loath to assume the proper bayonet position when his rifle was hot.
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Old November 1, 2013, 11:16 AM   #10
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Basically the stocks on those old military rifles are heavier and thicker than the stocks on sporting arms. That is because, besides the obvious durability benefit, they were intended for men to fight with. As in hand to hand combat fight. Bayonet lunges, block & parry beat the enemy's head in type fight.
Best Answer.

Without a full handguard it'd be darn hard to even attempt a bayonet lunge or a buttstroke if the barrel is sizzling hot from a "mad minute" ..... and with a 40, 60, or 80 round basic load, you might need that blade on the end of your now smoking but silent thunderstick .....

The Generals that ran these early 20th Century Armies suffered from a terrible case of institutional inertia, and were trained in Military Schools that spent much more time on Close Order Drill than investigating new ideas ..... they saw the infantry rifles as little more than much improved muskets- a pike that could soften up the enemy from a distance, just from a greater distance and faster ...... It was not the Cavalry that came up with the Blitzkrieg- Heinz Guderian was originally a Signal Officer and then trained in Military Intelligence, Transportation and Supply. New ideas did not come from the established schools - new schools were created for new technologies, and these new schools produced the leaders with the new ideas.
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Old November 1, 2013, 07:01 PM   #11
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Thanks !

I just never considered that to use the bayonet, one might be holding the smoking hot barrel.

I SHOULD have thought of it... I have shot my AR to the point where the barrel is very hot, and been thankful for the handguard.
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Old November 1, 2013, 07:27 PM   #12
tahunua001
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it's not something that occurs to most people. I never really thought about it until I started collecting milsurps and once I started looking at some that were sporterized and actually started wondering why something was there in the first place and what was lost when it was removed.
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Old November 1, 2013, 07:33 PM   #13
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Having shot sporting rifles to the point I wish they had wooden handguards , I understand why they had them in combat rifles.
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