Best Years For Rifles

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Robb

Well-Known Member
By getting totally disenchanted with the build quality of things these days was there ever a period when the quality of Rifles was at its peak ? Being new(ish) to the world of Centre Fire guns I keep getting drawn to the older type rifles where they seem to be more like - GUNS if that makes any sense ? I pick up an older Sako for example and it just feels different, wether it was better made is another thing, I don't know, were they ? I cut my teeth when I was young on Air Rifles, I picked up an newish Weihrauch the other day and compared it with one from the 1980's, Well there was no comparison, Was the 80's a good year for Rifles in general or is it better now than its ever been ?
I am genuinely interested.
 

PointBlank

Well-Known Member
By getting totally disenchanted with the build quality of things these days was there ever a period when the quality of Rifles was at its peak ? Being new(ish) to the world of Centre Fire guns I keep getting drawn to the older type rifles where they seem to be more like - GUNS if that makes any sense ? I pick up an older Sako for example and it just feels different, wether it was better made is another thing, I don't know, were they ? I cut my teeth when I was young on Air Rifles, I picked up an newish Weihrauch the other day and compared it with one from the 1980's, Well there was no comparison, Was the 80's a good year for Rifles in general or is it better now than its ever been ?
I am genuinely interested.

I think you are probably comparing "over-engineering" with economical engineering. The same is with most things, the better the software, design, engineers and quality control then the lighter and "cheaper" items feel.

Old "stuff" was heavier and stronger built because they had no idea how light they could get away with ;)
 

8x57

Distinguished Member
A good many people would actually say 1898 (Mauser and Mannlicher) and the next twenty odd years. Others would probably mention other periods depending on their fondness for various makes and models.
 

Robb

Well-Known Member
I think you are probably comparing "over-engineering" with economical engineering. The same is with most things, the better the software, design, engineers and quality control then the lighter and "cheaper" items feel.

Old "stuff" was heavier and stronger built because they had no idea how light they could get away with ;)

Yes maybe your right, and in a way I hope you are, I have seen the quality of Blueing on some new guns and it is shameful compared with some old Rifles, the same goes for the quality of wooden stocks, although saying that I have seen some lovely pieces of walnut on new CZ's, maybe its horses for courses as they say, Plastic Trigger components is another one - Good or Bad ? A lot of people hanker after Older Actions for custom guns - Why ? Better Quality ? I would still pay more for a older well kept gun than a newer model for the same money - Maybe its just me and I've got it wrong ? I really don't know.
 

swarovski

Well-Known Member
Its hard to say really , its down to personal taste, for me when i saw a real difference when tikka 595s and 695s were discontinued and t3 took its place, materials and quality defo looked as if it all went down hill but they shoot as good as any rifle ive had or seen
 

M275

Well-Known Member
I'd say that accuracy improved greatly through the 20th Century but workmanship declined slowly, so the crossover point would probably be around 1990 IMHO. I've settled on a Sako L691 which has reasonable wood, good blueing, an excellent trigger and shoots as well as anything since. Probably the best workmanship would be a pre-1972 old-style Mannlicher Schoenauer but scope mounting is difficult and I haven't persuaded mine to shoot groups yet, although it's terribly elegant. The other factor is cost, those well-finished solidly built rifles from the 1980s are less than half the price of the new ones.
 

CWMMAN3738

Well-Known Member
I have a Tika M65 shoots better than most new rifles and build quality is top, bluing show no signs of wear either a real quality gun with nice wood built by craftsmen not machines.
 

Klenchblaize

Well-Known Member
In my lifetime the 70's if talking about the luster of factory blueing and timber quality:


HNT.jpg

K
 

jamross65

Well-Known Member
​Couple of points, and I have owned quite a few popular makes of rifles, several Remingtons (including from the 80's), several Sako's (original Foresters, Finnbears, 75's and 85's), Krico, Mannlicher (90's) and Tikka 695...

I think to some degree we equate the weight or movement (action) of a product (objects specifically designed to save weight aside) with quality. If you handle something that feels solid you feel like you are getting strength, build quality, even the amount of material to make it worth it. I agree that a few years ago some of the factory rifles came with stunning wood, but I managed to crack a stock on a new Sako 75 when it really should have absorbed the relatively minor impact. I was told by a dealer that there had been a few issues with the timber as apparently the high demand for that line of rifles was causing stocks to be fitted with less than perfect wood with regards to seasoning or whatever. I don't know if that was true or not but they replaced mine regardless.

As for accuracy, I have never owned an inaccurate factory rifle, old or current model. In fact the last Sako 85 I bought in .308 mad a mockery really of going to the expense of a custom built rifle.

I think the comments above regarding development in machining techniques, materials etc are right meaning that rifles can be churned out quicker with CNC, they arejust as accurate to shoot as older models but to the owner there is something perhaps missing? Just that feel of quality maybe but with no lessening of usability or accuracy...

For me a rifle is a tool first and foremost. I no longer care for a nicely figured stock or deep bluing. I want it to be comfortable to shoot, impervious to the weather, reliable and accurate. With the availability of Cerakote and similar nowadays, fibreglass stocks, stainless barrels and actions and so on, rifles IMO are better in that respect than they were 25 years ago...
 
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Brithunter

Well-Known Member
The quality of build and components will vary greatly depending on make and when it was made. Not all makes declined at the same time it may also be said that some then improved. Certain makes have been in steady decline for many years with production being constantly cheapened.

As mentioned in a other post in this thread Tikka took a dive when Berretta got control and the T3 is the result. It was designed to be cheap to make. As the same company also own Sako this is also the case in point that their production has also been cheapened. Sadly the 75 is not up to the same standards of build as earlier models.

This cheapening of production is not a new thing. BSA suffered very badly at the hands of the accountants and if the information in Knibbs book is correct the Gun division was actually propping up the loss making Motor cycle division. Parker-Hale suffered several periods of dropped quality which funnily enough coincided with take over of ownership.

Winchester (USRAC) did a ghastly job of cheapening their rifles in the 1960's and then had to steadily improve the new design to make it acceptable to all by the dye hard fans of the marque. However mostly the sales folks spin the cheapskate measures to make them desirable features so we have bead blasted finishes instead of proper polishing ............................. the spin is that it makes it anti glare and some even charged more for this finish and fools bought into the idea :rolleyes: . Plastic stocks were hyped up butt ehr eal reason behind them is cost. The cost a fraction to make compared to reasonable wood........................................ plus of course it appeases the oil companies. The life time of such plastics of course is not known.

before someone starts about military rifles and plastics lets make it clear the post was asking about our sporting or hunting guns ;) and I very much doubt that the same type of plastic or even manufacture is used for the normal hunting rifle stock to those fitted to battle rifles but even then rifles like the SA80 were cheapened to the point of being virtually useless. With cheap imported steel being used for some parts like the sight rail. The trigger on the SA80 had to go through about 5 types to improve it's strength as they kept breaking off. Oh and yes I have first had experience of these parts having made thousand of them along with other parts for this awful bull pup. The steels for the "D" shaped tube piece that is the safety retainer was bought in from South Africa for instance................................ as if it could not have been made here in the UK :rolleyes: .

When comparing build quality one must also take into account other changes for example the American institution SAAMI periodically reviews things and has changed specs for things. Later some seize upon this to claim that soem rifles are not built to specifications. So one needs to check what specs were in force at the time of build and also remember that CIP specs are not always the same as SAAMI.

Many times and mostly in American media I see it claimed that Stery Mannlicher made its barrels with over sized grooves especially in 6.5mm calibre. Of course to the Americans rifles grooves are only made at 0.004" depth and they completely forget that even their famous maker Remington used other depths for their rifling at periods in their history. During the paper patched era they cut their grooves at only 0.0015" deep once again it was to save money. Many European cartridges design specs call for deeper grooves and in Steyr's case their grooves often are nearly double what the Americans would consider normal. Stery was not the only one to cut deep rifling grooves. Husqvarna did so as well and not only for the 6.5mm calibre ;) although I only own one example of theirs it being a 1935 vintage Model 46 in 9.3mm calibre the rifling grooves best i can measure are 0.007" deep. The two 6.5mm Steyrs I own also have this depth of groove. The bore is correct for calibre at 0.256" but groove diameter is 0.268". Funnily enough the Swedish Mauser of about 1905 Vintage I own also has the same bore and groove size as the Steyr's yet time and time again one reads about their over size bores!

So when considering build quality one must also factor in these changes in specs and also peoples perceptions. There are some very fine quality rifles being made today of course just as there are some truely horrible ones but again one must also consider that not every views quality in the same way. What some on these very forums rave about leave me dead cold and even move me to say I would not give the rifles they are raving about house room. Others no doubt feel similar about the very rifles that I like and cherish.

It does bring the comment:-

There is nowt queer as folk

to mind
;) .
 

Muir

Well-Known Member
Just a comment on the Steyer groove depth. You have it wrong. You re talking about the depth of the rifling lands. That was never an issue. What was an issue was the combined depth of the grooves resulting in an over sized groove dimension. Like many, I tried shooting cast bullets in several of these 6.5x54s and could never get a mold that was large enough to cover the generous groove diameter. At the widest point, one of mine was around .270" another was .268 inches. Frankly, the .268 dimension was no worse than tens of Swede Mausers I've slugged and back in my day, these two rifles were well liked but considered some of the toughest to shoot cast bullets from. If the Steyrs had .007" deep lands and a .264 bore, everyone would have been happy.~Muir
 

ejg

Well-Known Member
Bought a new CZ 223 blued and timber stock a few years back, at first she seemed stiff, gritty unrefined and timber was not great.
After two years she was a slick and smooth rifle with improved timber as she was worn in nicely.
We can now build better rifles than ever before, question is...can we afford them?
edi
 

Robb

Well-Known Member
Some very informative posts there and some good reading, I suppose that when it comes down to it as was said a rifle or gun is only a tool to do a job and as long as it does that job then that is all that really matters, I think my perception is that things are not made to last these days which might be a little unfair on gun makers that still make quality guns.
Could be time for a rethink.
 

6pt-sika

Well-Known Member
Hmmmm let me see ,

Winchester Model 70 from 1936 to 1963

Remington Model 721/722 from 1948 to 1962 or so

Remington Model 700 from 1962 to about 1990

Mannlicher Schoenauer MC/MCA from 1960 to about 1970

Sako in the 60's to the 80's

Ruger #1 from inception until about now

Marlin 336/444/1895 from 1948 until about 1979

Cooper 52/54/56 for about the last 10 years

Savage bolt guns for about the last 10 years

I am finding the older I get the more I like guns made in my youth to slightly before I was born !
 

Brithunter

Well-Known Member
Just a comment on the Steyer groove depth. You have it wrong. You re talking about the depth of the rifling lands. That was never an issue. What was an issue was the combined depth of the grooves resulting in an over sized groove dimension. Like many, I tried shooting cast bullets in several of these 6.5x54s and could never get a mold that was large enough to cover the generous groove diameter. At the widest point, one of mine was around .270" another was .268 inches. Frankly, the .268 dimension was no worse than tens of Swede Mausers I've slugged and back in my day, these two rifles were well liked but considered some of the toughest to shoot cast bullets from. If the Steyrs had .007" deep lands and a .264 bore, everyone would have been happy.~Muir

Ahhh Muir the bore diameter of the 6.5mm is 0.256" which is why it was known a the .256" here in the UK. They were known as the .256 Mannlicher in the early days when both rimmed and rimless were popular at the same time the customer probably just said Flanged/Rimmed or Rimless.

I made up a brass plug gauge with steps of 0.001" from 0.254"-0.260" and all three 6.5's I owned had bores of 0.256". Bore diameter of course is the diameter of the hole. Groove diameter is the overall diameter of the grooves. Interestingly enough the new Steyr made barrel now fitted to my Model 1903 Schoenauer also has the correct bore size of 0.256" and groove diameter of 0.268" ................................................ the suggestion seems that Steyr cannot seem to make their barrels with the correct internal dimensions!......................... Something I doubt severely!

Even the Americans used to use the true bore measurement which is why the 30-06 is called just that and not 308-06. For instance the .50 cal browning round has bullets of .510" I believe yet is a .50 and not a .510"......................... now why is that I wonder?

I once again ask whom decided that 0.004" was THE groove depth. Somehow I believe this has more to do with swaging the rifling rather than cutting it. I doubt that they could get the proper depth when button rifling so they settled on 0.004" which they can do. Of course button rifling cannot produce the correct groove dimension for the 303 Enfield as it also has tapered depth grooves being 0.0075" at the breech and 0.0055" at the muzzle. I am unsure as to if the correct and deeper depths, those deeper than 0.004", can be made using Hammer Forging but suspect that it can be done using this method after all it was developed to make barrels for the German MG42 in 7.92mm (8x57).

Paul Mauser and the Swedish designed the 6.5x55 cartridge and Paul Mauser developed the rifle to shoot it and he specified the groove depth/diameter and bore size. Somehow I have a feeling that he knew what he was doing.
 
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Muir

Well-Known Member
Brit. You're back to this same bore diameter/cartridge designation thing which has nothing to do with what am talking about. You must lose some serious sleep pondering the 220 Swift, 219 Zipper, the 218 Bee, 256 Winchester, 351 Self loader and the 307 Winchester. ;)

I am saying that the Steyrs (and the Swedes) have oversized groove dimensions. In my Steyrs I was shooting a .264" bullet through a .270" barrel. Many of my Swedes had the same affliction. It did nothing for accuracy. I love both rifles, but they can be a PIA to fit a bullet to.

As far as Paul Mauser's specifications goes: Every body raise their hands who have found many post WWI military Mausers that have a .323" groove diameter. Most range into the .325" -.327" dimension which is why I love the commercially barreled Husqvarna 648 sporters from the 1940's. All of mine are .323" on the button.~Muir
 

Heym SR20

Well-Known Member
Bought a new CZ 223 blued and timber stock a few years back, at first she seemed stiff, gritty unrefined and timber was not great.
After two years she was a slick and smooth rifle with improved timber as she was worn in nicely.
We can now build better rifles than ever before, question is...can we afford them?
edi

+1 on this. Many of the older rifles have had years of being polished by every day use. Custom builders spend hours polishing and honing the action parts to make sure they fit perfectly. Given modern labour rates can this be afforded. I found the other day an old copy of gun mart from the mid 1990's. what struck me is that the price of a rifle then is not a lot different to the cost of a rifle today, even though all manufacturing costs have gone up hugely. I paid £1,300 for my Heym SR20 in 1996 - it was 2nd hand but pretty much new and unused. I don't think I would have to pay a lot more than that for a SR21 of the same age and condition.
 

Tim.243

Well-Known Member
It would be interesting to see how many people would rely on a vehicle of the same age to get themselves to their stalking ground...:rolleyes:

Tim.243
 
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