05 September, 2005

My Favorite "Military" Round
"Reclining Venus, With Rifle" --Thanks to Kit

Kitara (drink me.) posted her latest from the shooting range on 3 September, 2005.

She and her "Darling John" were running what looks to be a glass stocked Remington .308 calibre bolt action through its paces.

Pardon me, I had only scanned the post...a closer read reveals that the long gun is a CZ550, stoked with hand loads : Speer 165 grain BTSP, new Remington brass, C.O.L. 2.8", Rem 9.5M primer, 46.0 Varget (#43 setting on the Redding BR-3 competition powder measure.)

Her discussion started me thinking about older, proven military rounds that continue to live in the hearts and hands of shooters across the world, including my all time favorite:

The 7mm Mauser (7X57)

"Contrary to what most cartidge books say, it (7mm Mauser) was not introduced in 1893. it was actually introduced in 1892 and used in a limited number of Model 1892 Mauser Rifles, a modification of the Belgian-Mauser pattern of 1889. In 1893, Mauser introduced an improved bolt action rifle in 7X57 calibre that was officially adopted by the Spanish military."
Cartridges of the World - 7th Edition, Revised and Expanded - Frank C. Barnes, DBI Books, 1993, pg.268

A couple of tangential paragraph are in order here:

Twenty years ago I took up shooting firearms as a serious part of my life. And that beloved, is another tale for another time. Suffice it to be said there was a lunch conversation at work one hot July day. It centered on hunting and fishing. Queries were made concerning the upcoming hunting seasons. I flatly stated that, although I had fished my whole life and enjoyed eating wild game, I had never hunted. I went on to say that I could probably hunt and kill birds, (a childhood dream of mine) but I was not sure about harvesting any big game. One co-worker, a big ol'farm boy with a heart of gold, threw down a gentle gauntlet. He brought out the daily paper and pointed to an advertisement that proffered a Winchester 1300, 12 gauge, with three chokes and a slug barrel for some ridiculous price...perhaps $169.00. He layed out the bait, stating: "Buy the gun, I'll provide you some ammo, clay pigeons and a place to practice."

I snapped at that bait like a voracious Great Northern Pike. A month passed and lots of bruised shoulders, broken clays and spent shells later, I went on my first dove hunt. The rest of the story is a twenty year love affair in the pursuit of wild game.

Back to the Mauser as it relates to above tangent. A couple of years passed. One soft summer evening, I began a discussion about big game hunting with a policeman bud of mine. He had grown up in Wheatland, Wyoming and had hunted his whole life. I asked him about a quality big game round that wasn't too strong in the recoil department. I am not a big man, 5' 10" and160 lbs. soaking wet. I was concerned about dealing with the kick of some large calibre hunting rounds. Shooting a few rounds through a friend's .300 Weatherby quickly taught me that lesson.

Now, beloved, you must understand one thing about"Q", as I will call my policeman friend. He is a wheeler-dealer, horse-trader from the get go."Q" raised his eyebrows, and a wicked Cheshire cat smile crept across his countenance as he said:

"Have I got a deal for you!"

He had recently provided a written appraisal and purchased most of an estate belonging to a older gentleman who could no longer hunt. In that estate was a large ring 98 Mauser, chambered for the 7X57 cartridge. It had been sporterized with a custom stock, but retained the original 20 inch stepped barrel. The gun needed some cosmetic work on wood and metal but the action was strong and tight, cycling like silk slithering across bare skin. The old gentlman had installed an aftermarket trigger (Timney, I believe) and had the receiver drilled to accept scope rings. The whole deal came with RCBS dies and a bunch of brass.

If my recall is correct, I paid about $250.00 for the lot. "Q" and I immediately took it it all apart, cleaned it and sent the action and barrel out to be refinished... bead blasted and blued. I did some work on the stock and added a new recoil pad. While waiting for the metalwork to be completed, "Q" and I spent more than one evening in his shop as he taught me the fundamentals of handloading.

The action and barrel returned and were wedded to the refinished stock. I did a bit more horsetrading with "Q" and finished off the little beauty with a 6X Redfield "Bear Cub" scope that had ultra fine crosshairs.

With my neophyte knowledge of handloading, I prepared 100 rounds of Winchester brass with CCI magnum primers. I stoked 50 rounds with 52 grains of IMR 4831 topped with Speer 130 grain Spitzers and the remaining 50 with 48 grains of the 4831 topped off with Speer 145 grain boattails. The little 7mm was boresighted and I was "range ready!"

Saturday a.m. --

I stuffed in the first round and touched the three pound trigger, the fouling shot. Five more rounds and the scope dialed to zero at 50 yards, I moved to the 100 yard bench. I settled in and touched off three rounds of the 130 gr. Spitzers. I stood up, shaking a bit from the adrenaline and looked through the spotting scope. There were three holes about three inches high in a pattern about four inches diameter. "OK!?!" I mused, "chalk it up to beginner's luck." Three more rounds touched off with basically the same result. I took a deep breath, adjusted the scope downward a few clicks and ran another group of three rounds. Once again I found about a four inch pattern, only this time about a half inch lower.

I adjusted the scope downward again, changed targets and tucked the stock against my shoulder, ready to see if I could tighten up the group. I took a couple of long breaths, stopped and touched off a round and for the first time I really felt the recoil. I had shot close to 20 rounds and my shoulder was beginning to whine at me. I pushed the pain aside and concentrated on breathing and sque-e-e-e-zing the trigger through two more shots. The spotting scope told the tale: four inches, more or less.

I stopped, had a smoke and another cup of "group tightener"...strong, black coffee. Back to the bench and three more shots. The group opened to 5 plus inches. I was beginning to flinch...pulling the shots off to the left hand facing side of the target.

However, oh beloved, I was hooked! I knew that I could learn to handle the sharp recoil. Three years of shotgunning had proven that theorem. Only time and practice would tell if I could get to the point of shooting tight, consitent groups from the bench.

And that, beloved, is another tale for another day.