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Old July 5, 2006, 10:04 AM   #1
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Bolt Action Rifles, Types of Actions?

Hello to all the gunsmiths out there.

I'm looking into getting a nice bolt action rifle, and I am one of those wonderful left-handed folks. So far, all my rifles are either automatic or lever action due to this constraint.

I am going to buy an inexpensive surplus Mosin Nagant in the next week or so and find out if I can shoot a right-handed bolt gun easily, but I have the following questions for you guys here.

What is the difference between the different types of actions? Mauser, Model 70, Model 700, Savage, Tikka, etc.?

I hear people talking about controlled round feed... what is that?

I have also heard that Remington actions are a bit more fragile than Mauser or Model 70 actions. Is that true?

Which action has the best extraction reliability?

Is there any difference in accuracy based on the action?

My goal is to ultimately find a left handed bolt action rifle chambered in .308, set up to varmint or start competing in long range target shooting (medium-to-heavy barrel, bipod, 20MOA base, etc). If I have to go semi-custom, I will, but I'd prefer to find a company that makes this already.

I don't have any illusions of the Mosin Nagant being good for this, especially at about $75 that I am going to pay for it... it's just a cheap way to learn to shoot right handed if I can't find what I want in a left handed offering.

From what I've picked up so far, I think I want a mauser action... they are reputed to be very strong, feed reliably and have large extractors to pull on more surface area of a hot or stuck case. Am I off-base here?
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Old July 5, 2006, 10:37 AM   #2
Jim Watson
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Are off base, that is.
Mauser is not a good choice for a target rifle unless you are able to do the work yourself.
What you have defined for a long range rifle will put you in F/TR class shooting. Your best chance for a usable factory rifle there is probably a Savage or a Remington. Both make lefthanded rifles but I don't know which if either makes one of suitable style. I have seen a number of southpaws shooting F class with righthanded actions. The weight of the gun is on the bipod so all you have to do is bring your right hand up from whereever you have stored it and work the bolt and reload. In fact, there are a lot of benchrest and target custom actions with left bolts for right hand use that way.
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Old July 5, 2006, 11:08 AM   #3
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Thanks, Jim.

If the Mosin Nagant experiment works out well, I will probably just shoot a right-handed bolt and be done with the idea of a left handed bolt. It is very aggrevating to try and find the same type of gun, reversed. That, and I will never be able to sell a leftie rifle.
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Old July 5, 2006, 11:35 AM   #4
Jim Watson
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I think I'd get a good .22 bolt action instead of a rough surplus rifle to learn on. CZ is nice but Marlin and Savage make decent .22s too.

I shoot a Savage 12 BVSS-S .308 for F/TR competition and am not alone.
They don't make the single shot just like that any more, but the repeater is OK, you just get a single shot adapter to go in the magazine. NRA Long Range is all shot single loading.

There are a number of other Savage variants that will get you by and the Remington PSS is a popular factory rifle for the event.

By the way, controlled feed means that the cartridge comes up out of the magazine under the extractor so that if you short-stroke the bolt, you don't generate a double-feed jam. Mauser, Springfield, and some Winchesters - Pre '64 and Classic Model 70s are the most usual examples.
Push-feed rifles just run the cartridge into the chamber and the extractor snaps over the rim. Most other current rifles are push feed, to include Remington, Savage, post-64, non-Classic Winchesters, Sako, Tikka, Howa, Weatherby, etc. The Moisin-Nagant is a push feed design but has an extra part, the cartridge interrupter, to keep an excited infantryman from double feeding.

I wouldn't worry about extraction power. The dinky looking Remington design does not keep the US Army, USMC, and most SWATs from using it in sniper rifles.

I don't think there is an inherent accuracy difference in action types. The Remington is common because it is readily available and is easy for a gunsmith to work on. Serious accuracy improvements call for custom actions or major gunsmithing on stock models.
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Old July 5, 2006, 12:08 PM   #5
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Mauser-style rifles are very reliable and strong, in addition to being accurate. They have very positive extraction and ejection, due mainly to the fact that the extractor claw is very large and solid and the force of ejection is provided by the speed of the bolt at the rear of its range of travel. In over 30 years of shooting Mausers and Mauser-style rifles, I have never seen a failure to extract or a broken extractor. Not that it will never happen, but it is very rare.

Now for the good news: Mauser-style rifles are a lot more common than you might think. There are several very good quality right- and left-handed Mauser-styles currently available. Winchester Model 70s are Mauser-style actions, as are Ruger 77 MkII, and both can be had in left-handed configurations. Montana Rifle Company makes rifles on a Mauser/Model 70 type action for very reasonable prices, and they shoot very well.

Controlled feed is a term that means the cartridge slides under the extractor claw during feeding and so can be caontrolled easily at any point in the feeding cycle. You can cycle the action on these and extract cartridges without closing the bolt on the round. Push feed actions feed the round out of the magazine by being pushed by the edge of the bolt face, but the round is not being held by anything other than friction with the feed lips and feed ramp until the bolt is closed on the round in the chamber. If you try cycling the action to extract the shells, you must fully close the bolt on a live cartridge to force it under the extractor, which is a tiny spring riveted into the bolt face.

Which shoot more accurately? There are an awful lot of benchrest shooters that shoot Remington 700 type actions. They are round and bed easily, are fairly rigid, and are capable of fine accuracy. Mauser-style actions tend to be less rigid, and harder to bed because of their flat bottoms, but still turn in some spectacular accuracy if properly accurized. A lot of the myth that Mausers are not accurate comes from many years of sporters built on military actions without truing the actions. I have built Mauser rifles that would consistently shoot 1/4" 5-shot groups at 100 yds. Not benchrest accuracy, to be sure, but very fine accuracy and better than most shooters wil ever be able to shoot.

If you want to build a target rifle on a Mauser-style action, avoid old military actions, have the action trued by the best gunsmith you can find, then buy the best barrel you can afford, mount it in a fiberglass stock made by a good reputable stockmaker (like Lee Six or Brown Precision, not one of those you can buy at WalMart), get a good scope, and learn to reload well enough to shoot to the rifle's full potential. Then enter as many matches as you can and take on your competition head to head. Remember: beyond a certain point, it's the man behind the rifle that matters, not the rifle.
Never try to educate someone who resists knowledge at all costs.
But what do I know?
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Old July 5, 2006, 01:19 PM   #6
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For someone just starting on bolt rifles, the M-N may be the world's worst. That short bolt handle has less leverage than most for cocking and is hard to work even for many right-handed shooters.

Southpaws have worked out several ways to work a bolt rifle; one is to work the bolt with the right hand (the easiest); another is to reach over the action with the left hand. Some have welded to the bolt handle a "U" shaped rod that comes down under the action and can be used by the left hand to operate the bolt. While the only person I have ever seen do this seemed at home with it, I thought it awkward and of course it added bulk to the rifle.

Before anyone asks, converting a regular bolt rifle to left hand use is possible; Sedgley used to do it regularly with the Springfield M1903. But it is very costly and (IMHO) not too practical.

Jim K
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Old July 6, 2006, 07:47 AM   #7
Harry Bonar
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Dear Sir:
I think the Savage is No. 1 for your purpose. They are first-line rifles, avaliable in left hand and out-of-the-box are very accurate and very reasonably priced!
Harry B.
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Old July 7, 2006, 06:21 AM   #8
dale taylor
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Mr. Bonar Do you remove barrel and use Wheeler jig to drill and tap mauser for scope base? THANKS [email protected]
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Old July 7, 2006, 09:19 PM   #9
Harry Bonar
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Dear Dale:
No I have never removed a Mauser bbl. to drill and tap. I'll give a post soon about the how - don't have time tomite.
Harry B.
Just call me Harry.
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Old July 8, 2006, 12:03 PM   #10
Boyd Allen
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As a left-handed shooter I feel qualified to answer this. IF you are shooting off of a bipod or some other type of rest, I believe that a right-handed action is an advantage over the left-handed configuration. I own both. One of the better writers for Precision Shooting did an article that featured a custom rifle that was ordered left bolt and port (like a factory left handed action) to be used for tactical type competition, by right-handed shooters (a similar situation to our using a right handed action). A highly qualified instructor who was used as a resource for the article was convinced of the superiority of the left handed configuration (after trying it for the first time) for that purpose (with forend supported, loading from magazine, speed as well as accuracy being important).

Relatively accurate rifles can be built on a variety of actions, but the Remington's advantage is the availability of the best triggers, Jewel for one. There are others. Many aftermarket stocks are also available for this action, which tends to dominate the area of "one step down from real Benchrest" gunsmithing and shooting.

It is always a good idea to attend one or more matches that involve the type of shooting that you are interested in to learn "from the horse's mouth" as it were. Have fun, and good luck.
Boyd Allen
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Old October 11, 2006, 12:42 AM   #11
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The best book I have read on the subject is
Bolt Action Rifles (Paperback)
by Frank De Haas (Author), Wayne Van Zwoll (Author)
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