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MichalS

Best pre-1950, mechanical sights long range rifle?

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I want to take part in "History" class at a national level long range competiton. The rules say the rifle has to be built before 1950 and have mechanical sights (diopter). What would You choose for the job?

Michal

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Are you talking about dedicated target rifles or possibly a military design?

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Sounds like an interesting project. Are there different classes within this 'Historic' category?

If it is indeed 'Historic', I'd imagine that your choice of sight would be governed to a great extent by your choice of rifle. One would expect appropriate contemporary sights to be allowed which would generally be iron, whether open or aperture.  There might also be classes for optical sights, as these existed well before 1955.

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There are 2 "History" classes:

- open - rifles made pre 1950, mechanical sights based on pre 1950 designs; You're basically allowed  to use a diopter and circular (globe) front sight in open

- military - only original military rifles produced pre 1950, with original sights; only post sight allowed at the front.

The distances are 100-200-300m. .222 to .458 calibre.

I'd like to compete in open so basically looking for a pre 1950 target rifle...

Michal

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My 1948 Springfield Model 1903-A3 National Match has the purely American Lyman Model 48 Long Slide rear sight and matching globe front with interchangeable front inserts. THis is the correct sight for this kind of rifle. I'm thinking that the type of target rifle you choose to build will dictate the 'correct' sight.~Andrew

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I'm not an expert in this area, but I suspect that the overwhelming majority of centre-fire target-shooting done in this country before the death of SRa and SRb in ?the late '60s would have been done with military rifles. I suspect that, because the point of the exercise was to improve civilian marksmanship with military weapons - just in case...

This link might be useful with repsect to sights http://www.rifleman.org.uk/PH_Service_sights_Main.htm#

Looking at some old Parker-Hale catalogues, .303 military rifles and centre-fire target-shooting are pretty much the synonymous until 7.62 starts to appear, and with it transitonal target-rifles such as the No4-actioned 7.62 T4 around 1970

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I don't know. I spent a stupid amount of money for a vintage target sight for a Lee Metford so it can't just be a 60's onward thing? I also have target sights for the No1 MkIII and No 4's as well.~Andrew

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You'll find it very difficult (and expensive) to find such a thing. Basically, pre 1950 rifle shooting was overwhelmingly with 'as issued' (but often tweaked) military rifles, with military-target sub disciplines such as the GB Service Rifle (b) that allowed SMLEs and LLEs etc with diopter sights, heavy barrels and bedding work. The latter though was tiny compared to the primary discipline and confined to a handful of relatively rich shooters.

Many years ago I had three such rifles over different periods - a BSA LLE (copy of the 'Territorial' pattern which in service form were rebuilt long Lee Metfords or or LLEs with updated sights, small front sight-protector ears, and a charger bridge brazed on) but built by BSA as a match rifle from scratch with a folding down full-house rear diopter sight. This could have been used in either plain SR or in enhanced target classes despending on use of the rearsight; a rebuilt SMLE by BSA with the full works (heavy barrel, match sights, new handguard and no tangent rearsight, coil springs and barrel pillars under the hanguard to put downwards pressure on the barrel and force it down into the forend); a Swedish M1896 with a turned down sniper model bolt handle and the receiver drilled and tapped for the Swedish Soderin 600M diopter rearsight, and from marks on the blueing obviously having had one previousaly in situ. The rifles were bought quite cheaply - as being non-standard, demand was actually poorer for such beasts back then, and a s/h Soderin rearight and front tunnel kit was bought for the Mauser for £50. Back then in those far-off days my local dealer York Guns had a big box full of brand new P-H no gunsmithing diopter rearsights in their original brown cardboard packaging for LLEs/SMLEs and No.4s for £25 each, all protected with a grease coating

The 303 Enfields were both shot out as was nearly always the case with use of cordite Mk VII; the 6.5 Mauser was an amazingly good shooter and only sold when my eyes couldn't cope with iron sights anymore.

Such rifles at modest prices, or rearsights at £25 or £50 now? Forget it! They are all like hen's teeth now and when you do find one, especially one known to shoot well, cost a small fortune. They're often not advertised when they change hands as some fellow club member will have 'first chance' on a sale.

There are many otherwise standard No4s and SMLEs with the bolt on rear match sights around and these are the easiest to find and the obvious choice for a military-match class rifle if you can find a good shooter. The Mark III (M1910) Ross straight-pull 303 also comes with a match style rear aperture with windage adjustments and falls within the standard military historic rifle classes (although IIRC the rules say the rearsight windage must be used on its central setting only and not changed to suit wind conditions).

So, good luck in your quest. I hope you have deep pockets!

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2 hours ago, Laurie said:

The Mark III (M1910) Ross straight-pull 303 also comes with a match style rear aperture with windage adjustments and falls within the standard military historic rifle classes (although IIRC the rules say the rearsight windage must be used on its central setting only and not changed to suit wind conditions).

So, good luck in your quest. I hope you have deep pockets!

I'd forgotten about the Ross. I have a 1910 that is in fine shape but I have only shot cast bullets through it. Accuracy was superb and the sights are quite good.

Deep Pockets, indeed. That folding sight for the LLE you mentioned? I just saw one for $550 US. Gone are the days when you could buy such items for the cost of lunch.~Andrew

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I had a superb Ross maybe 25-30 years ago with excellent wood and metal finish. Some Canadian (Ontario) Regiment name was impressed into the buttstock, but it looked as if it had never been issued and maybe privately owned from new. With original bayonet (very collectable in itself I believe albeit it lacked a scabbard), I paid IIRC £200 which even taking inflation into account was cheap by today's standards. This was a one-off from a museum or private collection, but a few years later a number of refurbished M1910s came onto the surplus market - not nearly as nice looking as mine with a 'Parkerized' type matte black metal finish and very dull timber. They cost more than I'd paid for my nice example and for a few years before Swedish Mausers took over, the Ross was the rifle for historic military arms long-range shooting.

I liked my Ross and it shot very well, but with its length, weight, relatively poor balance was as the British ordnance authorities in Woolwich Arseanl kept saying a barely militarised target rifle not a sensible tool to be manufactured and issued en masse to troops who had to be trained in a hurry in a major wartime call-up. ....... and that of course was before actual battle experience brought out the action's problems during WW1.

As a range rifle, the only issue I had with it was the rearsight windage adjuster was a slack fit on its threaded bar and moved under recoil. I couldn't understand why my shots were wandering off to the right on my first outing. After the penny dropped, I either had to recentre the windage every three or four shots, or as I did later squeezed some gloopy general purpose glue onto it to hold it in place. I later heard this was a common feature with the rifles.

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My Ross is in excellent shape with a deep "1917 " stamp in the buttstock, along with "Quebec". The fellow I bought it from said that is was sent to the US as a trainer. Mine also has the bayonet and like yours, is missing the scabbard. IT also has a sling.

The pristine bore on this 1910 prompted me to shoot well-fit cast bullets in it and in that capacity it shoots extremely well. I never noticed any wandering of the rear sight but with that coarse worm thread it wouldn't surprise me. I need to get into the back of the gun room and pull that Ross up for a second visit. It really was a pleasure to shoot.~Andrew

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On ‎9‎/‎9‎/‎2018 at 4:26 AM, Andrew said:

I don't know. I spent a stupid amount of money for a vintage target sight for a Lee Metford so it can't just be a 60's onward thing? I also have target sights for the No1 MkIII and No 4's as well.~Andrew

That's what I meant, really. I think centrefire rifles for target-shooting in the UK (perhaps I should limit this comment to the 20th century?), until the invention of what we know today as 'Target Rifle' in the late '60s, were overwhelmingly military - hence the availability of target-type sights for those rifles.

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55 minutes ago, Dalua said:

That's what I meant, really. I think centrefire rifles for target-shooting in the UK (perhaps I should limit this comment to the 20th century?), until the invention of what we know today as 'Target Rifle' in the late '60s, were overwhelmingly military - hence the availability of target-type sights for those rifles.

I started fullbore shooting at Bisley, at the age of 13, in 1963. All target rifle shooting was carried out with service rifles of some type, various Mk's of Enfield or P14's and only in .303. On a Bisley day for, say, an inter-county shoot, you would turn up and walk into the NRA pavilion where there would be rows of tables. Find the table marked Sussex, and there would be your named match score cards and a box of ammunition. A brown cardboard 50 round box with two missing - four shoots, 300, 600, 900, 1000. 2 sighters and 10 to count.  - At that time the ammunition was subsidised by the government, I believe we were paying something like a penny a round. The fore sight was a post and the targets at 300-600 were half round "tin hat" but full rounds at 900-1000.

In about 1966 there was a lot of concern about the switch to 7.62mm - various meeting going on and talk about how it would end target shooting. The most common rifle converted at that time was the No. 4, fitted with a heavier barrel and a strengthening bar brazed along the side of the action. The wood fore stock was often cut  back and a pistol grip stock fitted along with a re-calibrated Parker-hale sight and aperture fore sight as, at about that time all the targets became full round.

The re-barrelled P14 was considered the best option for the longer ranges while the No.4 was considered better at up to 600. Fultons must have done a roaring trade fitting these kits to thousands of rifles, Bisley was really busy then with hundreds turning up at the weekends and dozens of local home guard ranges in every county.

I believe it was around 1968 that ammunition was no longer routinely supplied along with your entry fee and the rules were changed to allow any rifle, not just service rifles.

This is just from memory and I was a young lad at the time so this may not be accurate - however, it certainly bought back a few memories and how much things have changed on the shooting scene since I started.  

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Thank You for all the suggestions. I'm based in Europe, so British rifles are not very common. Some people use Enfield's with success, but we don't see the less common models - I will a look at them. Swedish Mauser's dominate...

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Sounds almost like LongShot history class rules, am I right? Took 3rd place with a 1896/11 Schmidt-Rubin a year ago. The 300m target is tricky for the older guns in that windy environment.

Swiss guns are hard to beat for the task. For Military/Open sights category, a bog standard k31 will do, or you can grab a G11 type rifle for longer sight radius. In open, a diopter and closed front gives advantage. K31 with a target diopter is admissible, I believe, but be warned that WaffenFabrik Bern original sights are more expensive than the rifle itself. Otherwise in past years we´ve seen good targets shot with 1903 Springfields, Garands, P17s and a BAR, actually.

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If you go down the pre-45 service action type rifle, I would say either a 7,5x55 Schmidt Rubin K31 with dioptre or a Swedish M96 in 6,5x55 would be good places to start and they are both fairly sensibly priced and shoot well. I shoot a CG63 again in 6,5x55 built on an action dated 1898 however it was re-built by the factory (Carl Gustaf) in 1974 with early 60's sights so arguably not acceptable, you would need to check. The other rifle that is always a good starting point is anything built on a P14 and still chambered in .303 as they were incredibly accurate rifles out of the box. Mine fitted with the WW1 pattern fine vernier rear sight shoots very well. I did shoot a No1 Mk3* with a Central rear sight which was OK and such sights are available for the No4's as well and you can always stuff on a LW barrel with a CIP chamber on for accuracy. I fitted an original SA barrel to a No1 Mk3 last year and it was blindingly accurate, luck of the draw I guess :)

Sadly your date range excludes the transitional rifles.

It will be interesting to hear what you opt for.

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