BOLT-ACTION RIFLES
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BOLT-ACTION RIFLES

BOLT-ACTION RIFLES




      

BOLT-ACTION RIFLES


BOLT-ACTION RIFLES

The bolt-action, usually termed the military bolt, is by no means the modern invention that many suppose, the mechanism of the arm being in fact a gradual evolution, as is true of other styles of rifles. The patents of Dreyse, of Prussia, issued in 1838, contain the first idea of the breech bolt, his patents practically covering the needle gun adopted by the Prussian army in 1842. The American patents of Hall & Day, dated 1839, were the beginning of the bolt in this country; in principle their gun was the same as that of the Prussian. The Winchester Company began building a weapon of the bolt-action type in 1878 which they termed the Hotchkiss. It had the magazine located in the stock after the fashion of the Spencer, and was a neater appearing gun in consequence than the present box magazine Springfield, but never became popular, being finally abandoned. Game hunters in this country paid little attention to the bolt-action until it was adopted by the United States army in the shape of the foreign Krag-Jorgensen sometime in the early nineties. Even subsequent to this period the weapon was comparatively unknown outside of military circles. With the coming of the New Springfield, however, and the revival of target practice by the National Guard, this type of arm began to appeal to hunters as well as soldiers. The improvement of the .30-40 ammunition in 1903 and 1906 led to the further popularity of the gun and charge. At present the military action threatens to become a fad among hunters, something readily accounted for. The modern Springfield is a sterling piece of work, and so wide is the interest in military shooting at this time that many sportsmen are affiliated with the militia, hence from preference carrying their familiar weapon into the woods. Moreover the New Springfield and similar rifles have undoubted merit as sporting weapons. The advantages of the Springfield are: it is one of the most accurate rifles made; its trajectory is the flattest of American rifles; it is powerful enough for the largest of our game; the piece will bear more rough usage than other styles of repeating rifle, being almost proof against rust and sand; the mechanism can be dismounted for inspection and cleaning without the use of any tool, while the gun is compact and of about the right weight for a hunter's weapon. The military sling strap of this arm is the correct thing for carrying a rifle, besides being a positive advantage in off-hand shooting. The Springfield, too, is made of better than ordinary material, and, under certain restrictions it is sold by the Government to individuals at very moderate prices, about one-third of what would be asked for a similar arm built in Europe. Of late the army Springfields are being remodeled by private gunsmiths in accordance with the lines preferred by sportsman, the weapon restocked with fancy wood, pistol grips hand checkered with reduced length of fore-end, and so on. Thus altered, the arm is as handsomely designed a rifle as can be found anywhere, while at the same time the weight has been materially reduced. The Springfield was used in Africa by Roosevelt with much success, and other Americans, now hunting on that continent, are following his lead. Some go so far as to maintain that this weapon and its cartridge are powerful enough for any African game, but they are misled by a limited experience and over-enthusiasm. Notwithstanding the truth of what has been said above, I doubt if the bolt-action is the correct thing for the average hunter, especially if he has become accustomed to a faster mechanism. The bolt is decidedly slow since the hand must be removed from the grip to catch and work it, and most men will need to drop the butt from the shoulder in doing this. Then the motions in ejecting and reloading are complicated; first the bolt-handle has to be raised and then drawn back, shoved forward, and again turned down to original position. It is conceivable that circumstances might arise which would make a faster action extremely desirable. Greener says that the bolt-action is too slow for charging game, animals certain to fight, like lions and tigers. Moreover, while it is admitted that the bolt guns are superior when it is a question of long range and an extended "danger zone," as the military have it, yet I believe that the old principle that an extremely long range rifle is not needed for game shooting still holds. Ninety-nine per cent of American game is killed at distances under three hundred yards, and no sacrifice of other essentials should be made in order to acquire an arm that is especially qualified for work at a thousand. Among English and Continental sportsmen the bolt rifle is displacing the double barrel to quite an extent, but at this time, in Europe, the tendency is to discard the .256 and .303 in favor of larger bores like the .333 and .404. The velocities of these last named cartridges range from 2,200 to 2,600 feet; the bullets weigh from 250 to 400 grains, and the striking force of either is about two tonsódouble that of the .30-40-220. I need hardly add that such weapons are unnecessarily powerful for any game we have, with the possible exception of Alaska bear, while the recoil in a light bolt gun is very severe. The matter of recoil in proportion to weight of arm will be mentioned later on. To sum up the case of the bolt-action rifle, the arm is strong, reliable, accurate, high in velocity, flat in trajectory, chambered for the most powerful ammunition in use in a repeating rifle, but the weapon is slow. Few would consider it adapted to use in the woods or for running shots.

Askins, Charles. Rifles and Rifle Shooting. New York: Outing, 1912. Print.

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