The Amazing Persistence of Bolt Action

This winter, hunters across the northern United States are seeking their game, and a great percentage of them are carrying a rifle action that was first designed in the mid-19th Century, and more or less perfected before 1900.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot .22 is a sporter on a target action.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot .22 is a sporter on a target action.

It’s not just Elmer Fudd and his happy band of nimrods that cling to the bolt. Most target shooters, from rimfire competitors to 1000-yard benchrest precision paladins, fire their record groups from a bolt action. (Biathletes are a rare exception). Even the world’s militaries, most of them, find a use for bolt-action rifles, mostly as sniper systems.

The most brilliant engineers and designers the world can produce have repeatedly slain the ancient Mauser turnbolt, and laid its ghost: straight-pulls from Austria and Canada and Switzerland came and went, all the great powers tried (and most failed, except the USA and USSR) to introduce semi-auto rifles between 1918 and 1945. It was only the semiautomatic and select-fire flowering of the late 20th Century that did the action in, as a regular military arm. And yet, it keeps coming back as a sporting rifle and as a special-purpose military arm. That didn’t happen to the rolling block, the falling-block, or the lever.

Technology marches steadily on, yet the bolt action hangs in there, and even attempts to improve it are often shrugged off. If you reanimated zombie Paul Mauser and gave him a half hour to browse the rifle racks at Kittery Trading Post, he’d be screaming for the reanimation of his patent lawyers, too.


Mauser K98k from world-guns-ru

When Paul finalized the Gewehr 1898, the world was a different place: transport was by steam along rails, by the newfangled electric streetcars, and a few hobbyists like Benz and Ford and the Duryea brothers were tinkering with a sort of self-propelled buckboard thing. Most people were born, lived, and died on farms. Two mechanically inclined high school graduates in Dayton, Ohio, were corresponding with Octave Chanute and Samuel P. Langley, who in turn encouraged the young men; but all of them knew well enough to be circumspect about whom they told their ideas for flying machines. Oil from the ground was still replacing whale oil in lamps, and electricity was available in a few cities. The only way to change continents was by ship — steam, or sail; and the preferred way to cross continents was by the high technology of the day, steam-powered train. The other high tech, the telephone, was increasingly available, but you might have to share your line with the people in your street. For business communications, wired cable did the job, if you needed more immediacy than a letter by mail. A long laundry list of infections were still a death sentence, and a significant percentage of women still died in childbirth.

Of all those things, the one that persists is the bolt action. The bolt remains much more popular than its contemporary the lever action, or it’s near-contemporary the slide action. How come?


The answer is simple: it’s that good. The bolt has a number of traits that make it likely to persist for another century, absent a revolution in ammunition of the scope of the cartridge revolution itself.

  • The bolt is simple. This simplicity works several ways: in manufacture, in maintenance, and in operation.
  • The bolt is intuitive. There are no affirmative action drills to memorize. You can teach anyone to work a bolt in under a quarter of a minute. (You will take longer to teach safety and sights, of course, but the basic mechanism is natural, and has no tricks of gotchas for the novice).
  • The bolt is direct. The shooter’s hand works directly on the locking mechanism of the firearm, and the locking mechanism — the bolt — works directly on the cartridge.
  • The bolt is strong. It can, in fact, be designed and built for arbitrarily large sizes of cartridge. The highest-pressure sporting cartridges for dangerous game are at home in a bolt action, as are rounds optimized for one-mile sniping. You could make a bolt-action 155mm howitzer, if you wanted to (but it would be terribly inefficient at that scale, compared to the simple actions that artillery pieces do use). You can even argue that some of the interrupted-screw artillery breeches are really bolt actions, sort of. (We don’t argue that. We think it’s a silly argument. But you could!)
  • The bolt is safe. Nothing is easier than clearing a bolt gun, and its safe condition is obvious to all with a sight line.
  • The bolt is accurate. The simplicity and directness of the bolt lends itself to being manufactured at arbitrarily high levels of precision. Yes, many single-shot actions can also be made to high levels of precision, but…
  • The bolt is versatile. Single shot or repeater, rimfire plinker or belted-magnum Cape Buffalo dropper, annual elk gun or sniper’s office, there’s a bolt for the job.

WWI enfield sniper

  • The bolt is consistent. Whether it’s the Anschutz target rifle we shot in school days, a $250 surplus Mosin that will be under some lucky kid’s Christmas tree, the Gew 98 in the corner of the office (or its younger cousin 03A3 resting in the safe), or a McMillan-stocked Nightforce-glassed Surgeon-action .338 LM widowmaker, it operates the same way.

Like the poor, the bolts are always with us. If anything were ever to replace them, it would have to have all these virtues, or a great majority of them.

And finally, the bolt does answer the call of tradition, which looms large in the legend of the people of the gun. Even that Surgeon .338 connects you to Pegahmagabow,  Hayha, Zaitsev, Hetzenauer, Hathcock and Kyle every time you cycle the bolt. They whisper to you in the snick of the metal: you just have to listen.

A past Remington sniper success: the SF-developed M24 system

A past Remington sniper success: the SF-developed M24 system

52 thoughts on “The Amazing Persistence of Bolt Action

  1. Arturo

    I hear yea. A Mauser is forever it seems. good and bad. The mannlichers have for the most part died off and straight pulls pills are niche to euro, of course just when I have a hankering for a schoenauer and a Ross. The old Mauser actions feel great imho, spoils you to some of the newer copy actions can feel so very sloppy and gritty in comparison .

    I am actually surprised that we don’t see more variety in competition shooters, I would think that interrupted thread would offer greatest accruacy potential with the stacked up bearing surfaces or that the falling block would be easiest of all.


      accuracy does not come from action type alone.
      Single shot rifles. are hard to accurize forward of the action

      and single shot rifles do better with rimmed cases. Modern versions have found ways to solve that problem, but making them accurate to a precision level takes finesse. trust me on that, I tried for years

      1. Arturo

        true, but like I said I would think some actions would lend themselves to be accuraized, like a shorter stiffer action. at very least the bolt throw one can get with interrupted thread should have some adherents plus the strength for the laser beam cartridges.

  2. Larry Kaiser

    I have to add another point. The bolt action is BUDGET FRIENDLY. People who handload or who save their brass for those that do soon find out that it’s hard to find all your empties from an autoloader. Also the brass is in much better shape when it’s from a bolt gun. I notice all the discussions about replacing worn parts from black rifles. In the heyday of the bolt gun, not so much. I have never repaired or replaced a worn part on a bolt action. My favorite rifle is a bolt action .223. After 6000+ rounds the barrel shows no wear and is still as accurate as when I found it’s favorite load Ammo consumption is an obvious area where the bolt gun is superior. Bolt gun shooters think about making their first shot a good one. Many autoloader fans seem to be unhappy unless they crank off 2,3 or many rounds.

    1. John Distai

      Great points. Shooting a bolt gun is also more interesting for some reason. At least for me.

    1. John Distai

      An example of the “tax” for being left handed. Bolt guns, baseball mitts, holsters, and other things.

      1. Wysiwyg Mtwzzyzx

        In hockey, it’s a benefit- you can pick up great lefty sticks super cheap, but righties are hardly in supply, it seems. I’m glad my growing boy is a lefty in that regard.


    Good topic for discussion. Some things have been happening over the last 20 years though that seem to changing.
    the “modern sporting rifle,” is really gaining some ground along side the bolt gun and I never thought that would happen

    the thing about making a bolt action to any level of accuracy. I want to follow up on that. While a bolt gun ( some versions anyway) are easy to start off with pretty good accuracy,. Making one to a high standard of accuracy has become very expensive. While most fudds would never need it or care, true BR level accuracy requires a lot of work on a bolt action and the cost will soar.
    Truing the locking lugs and the action, bedding, the barrel the stock, hand lapped bores, etc the list goes on and on. The level of accuracy that is demanded more and more is making that bolt gun a lot more expensive than its simple action would seem.

    I have spent most of my serious shooting life with custom accuracy bolt actions and when the AR15 started it’s domination a few things became clear
    the average well made AR15 will usually shoot as good or better than any sporting bolt guns from a factory
    Now with a quality barrel and FF rail, and trigger an AR15 will shoot within the human factor of a lot of custom accuracy bolt guns that cost sometimes 3x more.

    RE level guns, for years I have heard the reason the US went big for the bolt action was over WW1 vets coming home after having fallen in love with their service rifles. Maybe but I don’t know if I buy that.

    Level guns had reached their limits with the more and more powerful rounds coming online, as well as the pointed bullets. The savage 99 and Winchester 95 probably taking it about as far as it could be taken.

    I guess it will come to no one’s shock I am a bit of a traditionalist at strange times. and as far as I cam concerned the pre 64 Model 70 action is all the bolt action I need out of life.

    one thing is for sure, the bolt action, the M1911 are as timeless as a claw hammer

    1. Arturo

      surprising to hear bolt action support coming from you with how much work you do with the Ar. I hear a lot of complaints about lock time for the dedicated shooters, doesn’t that become an issue for the ar? Speaking of which, I am surprised solenoids are not in the vogue with the BR crowd or electronically assisted as recently marketed.

    2. whomever

      ” Making one to a high standard of accuracy has become very expensive.”

      What’s your definition of ‘high standard’ and ‘very expensive’?

      I’ve bought a .223 and a .308 Savage in the last couple of years – each was $400 or so. The 308 is shooting 1 MOA[1] with handloads. The 223 is newer – I’ve only put 50 rounds or so through it, all off the shelf commercial ammo. One load gave a 3/4 MOA 5 shot group.

      FWIW, the 308 is a 10FCP and the 223 is a 12FV, both bought on sale at Cabelas. I’ve run into other people who have bought these, and they report similar accuracy, so I don’t think mine are anomalies.

      I find that price/performance to be astounding.

      [1]By ‘shooting 1 MOA’, I mean I can shoot 5 shot groups (off bench and bags, on a windless day, at 100 yds) that are under an inch, on demand. For the 308, you do have to let it cool after a couple of groups or you get fliers out to 1.5 inches or so; I’m working on that.

    3. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      Speaking as a gunsmith who answers customer questions on this very topic, here’s what I tell my customers:

      “Go buy an action from a company that will ship you an action that needs no attention from me. In the end, you’ll be saving money.”

      Defiance Machining, Surgeon, AI, Kelby, Stiller, BAT, etc. Pick one. They’re all Rem700-compatible actions.

      Then pick a single-point cut barrel. Krieger or Bartlein.

      Then pick a trigger group.

      Then pick a stock or chassis system.

      Choose glass to fit, and you’re pretty much done.

      If you choose to start with a genuine Rem700 action, well then, there’s all the work you just mentioned – but that can be done quickly by a ‘smith who has purchased the toolsets from Dave Kiff (PTG) or Dave Manson (Manson Reamers), which can blueprint a Rem700 action without a lathe. Buy a recoil lug that’s already been surface ground for parallelism and you’re there. The toolkits for blueprinting without machine tools might run you as much as $800 when you’re done, so there’s economic sense in it only if you get your Rem700 action at a dirt-cheap (< $300) price.

      The funny thing is, so many people today don't know:

      a) what level of precision is possible (ie, lots of shooters don't know that the record groups in benchrest are under 0.100" at 100 yards),
      b) what level of work is necessary to achieve this (ie, reloading isn't optional – it is mandatory)
      c) what is necessary in a rifle, and what makes a difference in a rifle. (the firing pin and bolt is the best place to put your earliest expenditures).

  4. William O. B'Livion

    > Biathletes are a rare exception

    Are they? Most of the Biathlon rifles I’ve seen are bolt guns.

    I cross country ski, and I shoot, but I’ve never put the two together like that. Looks like fun.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      Most Biathlon rifles are straight pull actions which one might call a variation of bolt action. Sometimes oddities like actuating the action with a tilting pistol grip are seen, but rarely. Most are straight pulls.

    2. Hognose Post author

      At the upper levels there’s a sort of straight-pull action that works with a flick of a thumb. Usually toggle based. Here’s a Russian example (I think this is a Russian invention overall).

      ETA here’s the West European competitor, the Fortner action:

      As you’ll see these actions greatly reduce the amount the shooter needs to disturb his shooting position to cycle a repeater.

      ETA: somebody posted a video of Australian hunters trying subsonic rabbit whacking rounds, and the Winchester rifle they were using had a similar sort of action, that looks like it is at once very easy to manipulate, and very easy to manufacture.

      1. LCPL Martinez USMC

        Hey, @@@ Hognose ,

        Can you do an article on .22 LR Sub-Sonic rounds. I remember reading somewhere , I think it was in Ostrovsky’s “By Way of Deception” (but I think I read it again in Bob Baer’s “Perfect Kill”) where they mention that an Israeli intel officer’s favorite pistol was the Beretta .22.

        Well the other day, there was a guy shooting his Henry AR-7 , US Survival, rifle (Stoner designed) , and it was super quiet, so had to ask him what he was shooting, and it was Sub-Sonics. It was super quiet! Which made me think of the Israeli favorite pistol story.

        I know you’ve written about suppressors, but can you do an article on these Sub-Sonic rounds and their efficacy, ie. ballistics and discreteness. It’s was super quiet!

        If the Israeli’s favored the Beretta pistol, I’m now wondering what the best .22 revolver is now, for more ghostly effect (ie. never happened).

        Here’s a good video I found:

        Thanks, man!

        1. whomever

          Note that ‘sub sonic’ covers a lot of territory. For example, CCI makes the following 22LR loads, all subsonic:

          Standard Velocity 1070 FPS (Muzzle) 908 (100 yds)
          Subsonic HP 1050 897
          Suppressor 970 852
          Quiet 710 639

          Those are all 40 gr loads, except the ‘Suppressor’ which is 45. Barrel length isn’t given.

          Aguila makes a funny 60 gr load that’s subsonic, but I hear many rifles don’t have enough twist to stabilize it. CCi also makes ‘CB long’ and ‘CB Short’ that run 710 FPS and are reputed to be quiet, but are 29 gr loads so presumably slow quickly.

      2. atp

        I’ve long wondered why back in the day, no one designed a military bolt-action rifle with the rear travel area of the bolt completely shrouded, so that when you work the bolt it cannot possibly hit your face. Then you could work the bolt quickly without disturbing your cheek-weld at all, thus giving faster follow up shots. You might need higher sights, more AR-15 like, but that’s not any particular problem. It makes me suspect that improving the speed of multiple aimed shots simply wasn’t a goal of 19th and 20th century bolt-action designers. Or for that matter now, since the Tubb 2000 is the only bolt-action I’ve ever seen with that sort of feature.

        1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

          You’re right, that is an issue, and that very concept, called the “tube gun,” was pioneered by Gary Eliseo a few years before David Tubb designed his rifle.

          The tube gun chassis, which shrouds the bolt as you suggest, is a concept that wins rifle matches; inside the tube chassis is, however, a Rem700-like bolt action.

          David Tubb’s rifle uses a whole new action that is integral to his rifle chassis.

  5. 6pounder

    Great article and I agree they are here to stay. I’ve hunted with all kinds of actions but more bolt actions overall. Out on the farm, more often than not, it’s a Remington bolt action that’s in my truck.

  6. Bill Robbins

    Another benefit of bolt actions is that you do not need to be a lawyer to buy, own, and operate one legally. The bolt-action rifle is the ultimate “featureless” semi-auto. Here in California, the best way to stay ahead of gun laws is to be at least 100 years behind the times.

    1. Hognose Post author

      That will last until Kevin De Leon discovers that it’s a “sniper rifle.” The Fudds think they are not on the antis’ menu; in fact, they are, just not this meal.

      1. DSM

        Something like Ruger’s scout rifle would be a good choice for a bo,t rifle in such places. Fundamentally quite similar to the Soanish FR8 post some weeks back.
        Heck, PTG makes bottom metal for a 223 Rem chambered Model 700 that takes AR mags. I’m sure they sealed up the loopholes but could you get a C-Mag in CA if it was for a bolt rifle?

        1. DSM

          And apparently either me or my iPad is having a stroke based on my spelling above…

          Bolt and Spanish obviously!

  7. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

    Some distinct and unique advantages to the bolt action over all other actions:

    1. The extraction force and the strength of the extractor (in the M98, 1903 Springfield, M70 Winchester pre-64) is without equal. When you lift up on the bolt handle on a 90-degree turnbolt action, the extraction force is so far beyond every other type of action, you can rip the head off the case if it’s really stuck in the chamber. I’ve removed a coupled of such cases from bolt guns.

    2. Likewise, the force you have to put a round into battery is extraordinary. No other type of action gives you the force to cram a round into the chamber such that you see some people cram a .30-06 into a .270 Winchester – and then fire it. The bullet swages down and fires, BTW. The case is good and stuck, tho.

    3. No other action has as many safety features to protect the shooter in the event of a case rupture or primer penetration. The M98 is head and shoulders above all other rifle action designs in handling a gas escape, and mostly due to Peter Paul Mauser’s experience in losing an eye from a ruptured case in a semi-auto design he had been working on before the M98. Mauser added several gas-diversion features to the M98 that make it unequalled in handling a gas event. The sad thing is that almost every other bolt action design since the M98 removes, not adds, safety features. There’s a reason why dangerous game hunters using monstrous cartridges prefer the M98 over all other bolt actions, to this day.

    4. The safety on the M98 (and 1903 & W70) is much better than the “block the trigger from moving” or “block the sear from falling” types of safeties on other bolt guns. The M98 captures the firing pin. After you’ve engaged the safety on a Mauser 98, you can do anything you want to the rifle, including drop it butt-first off the top of a tall building with a live round in the pipe. Nothing will happen, because the firing pin has been captured and pulled to the rear by the safety. The M70’s actual, real improvements to this was to allow a third position, whereby the bolt may be opened and the cartridges cycled out of the magazine, and make the safety swing in the other plane, so as to make mounting a scope far easier. You can mount such a safety on a M98, BTW, too; just call Ed LaPour (a gunmaker/gunsmith) and order his safety for the M98. Presto, you have a M70-style safety.

    Whilst we’re on the subject, there’s one bit of popular gun nostalgia that I feel necessary to correct:

    Peter Mauser wasn’t really responsible for the claw extractor on the M98. He was told to add a more “positive” extractor by the German weapons & ordnance board, and the claw spring steel extractor was the result. Mauser originally was planning for an extractor in the face of the right bolt lug, very similar to the extractor you see on post-64 Model 70’s: a little bit of sliding steel in the bolt lug face that would slip over the rim and then under the rim. It works well and is easily serviced, unlike some other extractors on post-M98 bolt guns I could name (Rem700, cough).

    The claw extractor is also thought to eliminate the possibility of push-feeding (ie, drop a round on top of the follower in an empty magazine and just push the round home). This is true in as-issued M98’s,1903’s and M70’s – but with a little thinning in the middle of the length of the extractor, the extractor will then flex enough to allow the extractor to jump over a cartridge rim in a push-feed situation. The extractor will still work as normal in extraction.

    Downside of the M98 action: It’s expensive as hell to produce. Pull a M98 action, a 1903 action, a M70 action and a Rem 700 or 700 clone action, lay them side by side. Think about how you’d machine them.

    You quickly realize that making a true replica of the M98 action will require you to put in at least double the time – maybe triple for the first one, when you’ll be making some custom tooling.

    1. Loren

      The sad thing is that almost every other bolt action design since the M98 removes, not adds, safety features.
      I’ve seen a split case in a Rem.700 in 7mm mag. through crap into a shooters face. Good to know a Mauser action won’t do that.

      1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

        You’re right – every other bolt action since the 98 removes, not adds, safety features.

        During case failure, the Mauser 98 will try to route gas down into the magazine, but gas that comes down the firing pin center hole will be deflected by the flange of the bolt shroud that surrounds the cocking piece. That’s the reason for the wide flange – to keep the gas out of the shooter’s eye. Now, you might end up with gas in your face, but the jet of gas, being deflected, should leave your eye intact.

  8. Hillbilly

    A good read on bolt actions is a book called “Rifle Accuracy Facts” by Harold R. Vaughn.
    It’s fairly old, but a heck of a good read for anyone interested in a scholarly look at the inner workings of a rifle and what goes into making it accurate.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Its a hard book to get hold of for reasonable money, if it’s the one I’m thinking of.

      For technical info it’s hard to beat Stuart Otteson on bolts.

      1. Hillbilly

        I wish I could remember where I bought my paperback version and how long ago. I might of got it when Precision Shooting was still in print.
        It is more from the engineering point of view with a lot of big words that sent my knuckledragging self to Google a few times.
        I need to pick up the Stuart Otteson book I’ve been hearing about it for a while.

        I just looked up the book on Amazon and those prices are insane.

        Sort of on topic, but another series I can recommend is the one Bryan Litz of Applied Ballistics has.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Agree on Litz. Also, at least two volumes of Otteson are available as an e-Book on CD. It’s a legit product where the creator gets paid.

          1. Arturo

            note: applied ballistics has a black Friday sale for those interested in the aforementioned book/series about 15% off

    2. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      Vaughn’s book on accuracy facts is a very good book, and I have it in my collection.

  9. robroysimmons

    I’d say my Weatherby is interrupted thread influenced, my guess that the bolt throw is partially responsible for it not being able to reliably fire NATO spec ammo

  10. Nynemillameetuh

    When can we lowly Amerikaners purchase Sauer STR-2000 rifles directly from the manufacturer? The STR is the only bolt-gun missing from my battery.

        1. Hognose Post author

          A quick Goog seemed to suggest that this was made as a Nordic nations export gun. The trick for a US importer is estimating the demand right.

      1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

        The STR is the “Scandinavian Target Rifle,” and it is chambered in 6.5×55, with a detachable magazine, cock-on-close action.

        It is as slick a rifle as one could want for 300m target competition.

        If I saw one in a store or collection, it would now be mine. I want one. Badly.

  11. Tennessee Budd

    Kudos, Hognose, for using the term “nimrod(s)” in proper context. Nimrod, in the Bible, was a mighty hunter, if he had other flaws (and oh, boy, did he!).

  12. TRX

    A bolt action doesn’t care how your ammunition is loaded, as long as it’s between “clears the barrel” and “doesn’t blow up.” Autoloaders have to be loaded within specific limits to cycle the action without beating it up.

    Most rifles sold in the US are for target or hunting work, where rate of fire and magazine capacity aren’t very important. Most bolt guns hold five rounds; some four, and some of the Magnums only three.

    Bolt actions are relatively inexpensive to make. Leverguns are more complex and cost more. Pumps are probably a wash, but I’m probably not the only one who finds pump action to be awkward for a rifle.

    For the purposes civilian rifles are most commonly used for, and the legal restrictions they operate under, the bolt provides a good value for the money and suitability for its purpose.

    1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      We should probably qualify which bolt guns are relatively inexpensive to make.

      A Rem700 action, or even superb quality clone action, is inexpensive to make. It starts as a round piece of 4140 that’s been heat treated, and then you center-drill it, broach or wire EDM the bolt raceways, thread the front and you’re on to the issue of ejection/feed ports and possible magazine well.

      There’s over a dozen makers of 700-clone actions in the market now, and some of them are absolutely top-shelf quality machine work, and all of them are available for less than $1400 (and most for under $1200), complete with bolt, safety, etc.

      A Mauser 98 action, however, is a pretty hefty investment of time and machining setups/fixtures/jigs. Almost no one makes Mauser 98 actions any more, and the couple of outfits that make them are asking north of $2500 per, with a rare 98 action in titanium being as much as $6K.

  13. DSM

    I know I’ve said it here before but in terms of focusing mind, body and task there is nothing like cycling that bolt. Call it a spiritual thing or just plain sharpening your mind, you know that shot has to count. Shooting ARs and such is great fun and rewarding in their own right but, for me anyways, sitting at the bench or proned out behind one of my bolt rifles is as relaxing as anything I can think of. It’s those rifles I go full on stupid loading for; sorted, uniformed, reamed, neck turned, you name it, it’s done. On good days it’s nothing but ragged clover leaves but even bad days when ol’ Shaky on the trigger isn’t up to snuff it’s still a great time.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I never owned one until a couple of years ago. And I haven’t owned a 98 in a long time (I have a few 98/22s now as I start to gather stuff for Volume II of the Czech/Czechoslovak book).

      1. Boat Guy

        The non-Mauser sight is one of the best features of the A3 for me. Like the rest of the rifle it’s “plenty good enough”. The other thing I find essential is a USMC-type front sight hood.

    2. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      People have asked me, repeatedly, “if you could have only one gun, which would it be?” They think that the gunsmith will have some esoteric choice of super-high-dollar rifle, or some tarted-up AR platform, or some AR-10 in some super-secret chambering.


      My first and only answer is always my 1903A3. It has a Redfield rear peep on it, shrouded front blade. If it’s inside of 600 yards, I own it. With ball ammo, it prints a little larger group than 1″ at 100 yards. I’ve done nothing other than slick up the trigger a little bit, clean it when necessary and gave the bolt a good cleaning-out when I got it. Oh, and mine has 03 bottom metal instead of the sheet metal stamping.

      Every time I’m out on a range with that rifle and charger clips, kids (even young men who have served recently in the USA/USMC) are standing there, mouth agape, at what an old man can do with a bolt gun, and I don’t consider myself some super-hot shot with the 03A3. I just know how to use the 1907 sling (and it’s a rare young person who knows how to use a sling today), how to load ammo and how to run a bolt gun.

      When asked the “which one gun would you choose?” question any more, I don’t even have to think about it.

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