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Subject: Accuracy of old bolt action rifles
YelliChink    3/25/2007 4:10:25 PM
I just wonder how those WWI and WW2 era bolt action rifles shoot? What accuracy can they achieve? Modern bolt rifles have precision barrel, floating bedding and very thick barrel as well as match grade or hand load cartridges for sub-MOA accuracy. How will, say, a Karabine 98K does in accuracy with mass produced 7.92x57 rounds?
 
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Yimmy       3/25/2007 4:45:55 PM
Mass produced WWII rifles are a gamble for accuracy.  You can get as good as 1 MOA or better, or as bad as 4 MOA or worse.
 
I would expect, when new, most rifles would average about 1.5 MOA, but then that is just a guess.
 
 
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YelliChink       3/25/2007 6:20:54 PM
Thanks Yimmy. I presume that you're talking about Lee Enfield mostly. Is there anyway for average British citizens of lower class to possess vintage Lee Enfields?
 
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Horsesoldier       3/25/2007 9:45:14 PM
I'd guess that a military surplus bolt action rifle firing standard ball ammo should hold inside 4 MOA assuming it is in like new condition.  Like Yimmy said, it may do a good deal better, with much depending on the individual rifle and batch of ammo, even when both were brand new (keep in mind, for instance, that up through WW2, sniper rifles were usually just service rifles that seemed to group well during factory proofing, with no other modification except a scope mount).  That does assume, however, that the weapon in question is in good mechanical order, the barrel is not shot out, it's not been left with corrosive ammunition residue in the barrel and bore, etc. 
 
In terms of actual mil-surp bolt guns you might pick up at a gun show or gun store here in the US it can be a real crap shoot.  The Swedish 6.5mm Mausers are nice in this respect as the Swedes were obliging enough to gauge their barrels, bores, etc., and record that data on the individual rifle, so you can often find their rifles with wear information attached (unless some jacka$$ was nice enough to remove the brass disk with that information).  The Swiss were, likewise, nice enough to make insanely high quality rifles that generally have held up insanely well, mechanically speaking (their ammo being of the highest quality also helped in that respect).  I'm not a huge mil-surp collector or authority, but my understanding is that those two tend to be the highest quality one consistently sees these days (which is not to say a Kar-98K or SMLE or M1903 cannot give them a run for their money, just that condition of those weapons tends to vary more from example to example).
 
Getting real one MOA or sub-MOA performance out of those old rifles is quite possible today, if one is willing to put the $$$ into getting them there, which may entail things like new barrels, glass bedding stocks, etc.
 
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Zerbrechen    load   3/26/2007 12:58:54 AM
One can also obtain wondrous results by developing a load for the rifle.  For example, I shoot a lot of cast bullets through my Enfields (No1, No4s and No5).  It has been found that slightly oversizing the cast bullets (.315 vs .312) has tightened a group considerably.  My father's Ross rifle gets .75 inch groups at 100yards, but it took some playing around with the load.  Just make sure you check the condition of the rifle (if possible) before purchasing. 
 
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Rasputin       3/26/2007 1:06:50 AM
Say if one were to purhchase a vintage WW2 rifle, is it advicesable to replace the barrel for safety, or if it does not show excessive wear, one can continue to use it?
 
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Yimmy       3/26/2007 6:33:47 AM

Say if one were to purhchase a vintage WW2 rifle, is it advicesable to replace the barrel for safety, or if it does not show excessive wear, one can continue to use it?

Unless there is sign of cracking or denting in the barrel it will be perfectly safe.
 
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Horsesoldier       3/26/2007 9:30:54 AM

Say if one were to purhchase a vintage WW2 rifle, is it advicesable to replace the barrel for safety, or if it does not show excessive wear, one can continue to use it?


What Yimmy said.  Barrels tend to be pretty sturdy, and the overwhelming majority of the time (like 99% of the time, I'd guess) rebarrelling is about improving accuracy, not rendering the weapon safe to fire.  (One would hope that if the barrel of a weapon were dented, bulged, etc., any retailer would have it clearly marked as a parts gun, not to be shot, etc, either for the simple moral and ethical dimension of that, or, if nothing else, the legal liability issues selling something like that would entail.  Were it me, and I had the facilities, I'd just pull the damaged barrel off the weapon to ensure no one buying it from me would later blow themselves up.)
 
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Yimmy       3/26/2007 9:41:19 AM
I have heard rumours of a few old SA-80's blowing themselves up on the range.  The reason in the rumour, was due to the barrel being fixed to the breach of the weapon by only a half turn rotation, which soldiers would losen up in removing the forward handguard for cleaning, resulting in the slack chamber failing on fireing or somesuch.  At the same time as the rumours, skill at arms lessons all of a sudden became very keen to teach soldiers to inspect the barrel for cracks during cleaning.
 
If you ask me, the real reason is probably some halfwit put his muzzle in the dirt, and then fired it.  Simplest answer is normally the real one and all that.
 
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