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Author Topic: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound  (Read 667 times)

arizona

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Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
« on: April 01, 2021, 03:55:29 pm »
Some disclaimers: I am not generally talking about abusing a correct model milsurp in the dust, sand, mud, etc. I wouldn't hesitate to bring one afield. I wouldn't try to abuse it but wouldn't baby it either.

Somewhat new to the forum, though a bit of a lurker. I have an admittedly well-beaten horse of a question with regard to comparing milsurps, sporter or not, to modern hunting rifles as a first bolt action rifle for me. The purpose would be for medium/large game within 300 yards, some varmint/predator use with reduced loads, and general plinking and load tinkering.

I have a very limited budget ($400 max), a medium-light tolerance for recoil, and don't want to heft around an 8+lb gun. I am also conscious about ammo availability, as all are right now, and component availability. Parts availability is another thing I am considering. The feel and durability of the rifle matter, as I have handled and don't really prefer the McDonald's-Happy-Meal-toy design of Remington 783 and similar. I don't have anything against plastic itself, just the way that gun felt. I wouldn't want the bolt handle to sheer off because I was trying to chamber a round or clear my chamber either. I could get over the feel if it was a bit more sturdy.

Side note on accuracy. It is very important to me to be able to make good, ethical kills. I also recognize that most guns are more accurate than I am. With new guns, this part is generally no issue and warrantied. Older guns its more of "guess and hope it works out" kind of deal.

I have an M1916/1893 small ring Spanish Mauser rechambered in 308 Win dimensions currently and have components to properly load for it. Yes, it is one of those that aren't safe to shoot factory loadings in. Didn't do the research beforehand because all I saw was 308 Win and paying $218 after tax. Headspace checked out good and bore is good. Original sights so it could be "rescued" back to original configuration with work. I plan to shoot it a bit soon to see if I want to keep it or trade for something that will serve me better.

These are my thoughts in some kind of order.

For new:

If I were to buy new, I would try to stick to 308 because it still gets made in shortages like this. It doesn't end up being 2$ per round for cheap stuff. Components are *generally* common because of the NATO chambering and we, Americans, love our 30 bore. Cast bullet loadings are very common and a lot of powders work well.

If I did not have to consider any of the above, I imagine 243 or 270 or 7mm08 would get the nod for the recoil reasons.

Savage Axis or Ruger American would be my top two though they aren't remaining well within my budget right now. My impression is that these all are roughly equivalent in accuracy and function with slight variations in some operations like releasing the bolt or the safety. They work for their purpose and I can't complain about that. They are around 6-6.5 lbs. They also are well-supported when it comes to magazines and parts.

For used:

I could stay with what I have and just load it under 46k CUP. This would likely limit me to 250 yards if I keep speeds between 2500 and 2700 for a 150gr projectile or I can run pistol powder cast bullet loadings after I get a mold or some 30 carb/32 cal pistol bullets. Jacketed for larger game and cast/30 carb bullets for all else.

I have also considered the less popular Arisakas and Carcanos for their price and history. Ammo is a concern but doesn't feel THAT different than all ammo at the moment. I do handload so that makes it easier. I already have dies for 7.7Jap and brass can be formed from 30-06 ($0.5/case) or bought commercially ($0.8/case). 6.5 Arisaka and Carcano are more problematic. They can be converted to one or the other but neither are available nor is 220 Swift available. Parts would be annoying and expensive. They are both well built gun types and offer rather ingenious designs. A Chinese Arisaka in 7.62x39 would be great though a tad short range.

There have been a number of other Mausers that I have come across as well. Usually they are 7mm or 8mm, sporterized, with fair to sewer pipe bores. Prices have ranged from 220-250. I still kick myself for passing on a sporterized Chileno in 7mm about 16 months ago that was $150 in a local pawn shop. Beautiful, handy, and had a great leather sling. I wasn't anywhere near as educated on the topic then as I am now so I can't fault myself too much.

The metal and wood sturdy construction to these are really appealing because I don't feel like I am going to break anything by using the rifle. It was intended to be used and redesigned for such a purpose. Sporters have some advantage with scope mounts because I usually need a scope to see well at distance.

I think that's about all I have going on in my brain on this topic right now. I am just curious about others' experiences or thoughts. If you made it this far, thanks for being quite the trooper!

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    coelacanth

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #1 on: April 01, 2021, 08:32:24 pm »
    Good post.  You've clearly thought this through and asked some pertinent questions.   :thumbup   All rifles are a series of compromises and its up to us to decide which of them are most important.   

    Milsurp rifles are getting both harder to find and more expensive to acquire and so is the ammunition to feed them.  Gone are the days when you could usually find a decent shooter and a few boxes of ammo for three or four hundred bucks.  Spare parts availability is also going to be a problem going forward - particularly for some of the less widely distributed guns - and gunsmithing one when you have to fabricate parts is difficult and also prohibitively expensive.  Don't get me wrong - I love the old warhorses but I accept them for what they are, warts and all.

    The plain fact of the matter today is that it is difficult to find a milsurp rifle that will shoot anywhere near as well as a modern gun.  Some will but they are invariably heavier and harder to pack around in the field.  Sporterized versions tend to sacrifice accuracy and reliability in the quest for a lighter, handier gun and usually still fall short of the better, post -war, modern designs.  A few notable exceptions exist and most are built around Paul Mauser's timeless design or some variant of it. 

    I can't argue with your choice of the bolt action repeater as a first rifle.  They are the single most popular and widespread design world wide for a reason.  Today's soldier on the  modern battlefield may have need for more than the bolt action battle rifle can deliver but
    short of that those rifles can still deliver the goods.  As noted above, a Mauser action or some variant of it has been the mainstay of commercially produced hunting rifles for generations and with modern manufacturing techniques they are still about as good a rifle as most of us will ever shoulder. 

    As new rifles go I can't fault your focus on the Savage and Ruger lines.  Very well made for the money.  I would also consider Mossberg and Howa in the same general category and roughly the same price range.  There's a lot of competition in that class and the decision might well come down to who has your favorite features at the best price.  Aftermarket support would be pretty good from any of them so that is probably not a factor.  Caliber selection is also pretty good for basic North American hunting rifles.   It is still possible to find these rifles gently used for a significant discount from the new, MSRP prices so that might factor in as well. 

    Used rifles can be great bargains but it requires the buyer to be knowledgeable about a larger universe of guns than just shopping what is new today.  It can take some time to acquire that knowledge and also some time to find that one gun that is just right but the payoff is getting a great rifle for a bargain price.   Once you expand your potential market to millions of guns produced over decades it requires you to narrow it down to what is best for you in terms of features to look for.   

    Perhaps it is no surprise that the some of the same manufacturers you look to for possible new guns are the ones you might turn to for a great used on as well.  Older Savage and Ruger rifles tend to keep working well year after year given just routine maintenance.  The older ( pre Accu-Trigger models ) Savage 110's sometimes look like hell on a stale cracker but often outshoot prettier, more expensive rifles.  The same goes for the Savage bargain rifles like the Stevens 200's which were built in the same factory on the same tooling but just given even less attractive stocks.  As recently as six months ago I saw examples of both of those rifles that looked to be in very good shape in the $300 - $400 range.  A decent scope and maybe a Rifle Basix drop in trigger can have you shooting into an inch at 100 yards with most calibers if you do your part.  Handloading can also increase performance and accuracy if you are so inclined. 

    Rugers will be a little more expensive but are still generally within reach.  The older 77 series has proven the equal of "classier" rifles like the Winchesters, Remingtons, Brownings and Weatherbys and, of late, their prices have begun to reflect that.  The later Hawkeye series is an improved design that still can be found for reasonable prices used.  I never really liked the Ruger integral scope ring mounts but many have used them without complaint - YMMV. 

    If you decide to stay with the most popular calibers for ammo/reloading component availability going forward I recommend the 7mm's or the American 30's.  Any .308 diameter will always have bullets made for it in this country whether it is the .30-30 Winchester, The .30-06 Springfield or the .308 Winchester.  Brass is always going to be available somewhere at some price. Powder and primers may get iffy at times but will usually be available somewhere at some price.  As for loaded factory ammo - the market for the .30's is just too large to ignore and will be catered to long before other calibers that don't sell as well - even if the gun writers love them.   :facepalm

    Everything I just said about the .30's applies to the 7mm's but to a slightly lesser extent.  The .270 Winchester is close behind that group and the .243 Winchester is as well.  There are just too many rifles out there and too many people shooting them for that market to be completely ignored. 

    If optics are required you are going to be much better off with a commercial rifle than any milsurp you can name.  Period.  Milsurp rifles equipped for and with optics are heavy, expensive and generally not suited to schlepping around the game fields for hours or days on end - particularly at altitude. 

    Learning to get the most out of your old Spanish Mauser sounds like a fun project and a rewarding one until you find another suitable rifle and even then it is always a good idea to have a back up in case the wheels fall off of plan A, eh?   :whistle
    « Last Edit: April 01, 2021, 08:36:47 pm by coelacanth »
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    armoredman

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #2 on: April 02, 2021, 09:01:04 am »
    May i also interject that HP White labs tested some of those 1916 Spanish Mausers to destruction and they were quite good. However, i use cast loads only in my own 1916 simply because it's over 100 years old, :)

    arizona

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #3 on: April 04, 2021, 10:36:44 pm »
    All rifles are a series of compromises and its up to us to decide which of them are most important.   

    I greatly appreciate the seasoned advice. It means a lot to have someone of your caliber respond. This ^ seems to be the lesson in my life regarding many things (places to live, jobs, SOs, etc.) right now. Likely I need to learn this and accept the results.

    Fair enough on the old warhorses. They are a cool historic item but have long-term supply chain issues. Reloaders and smiths do a darn good job of keeping some strange things alive also. For the fun and not profit of course.

    I think your assessment of modern guns and old guns is very very fair. I may be better off, for what I desire, to go new or slightly used in the future when availability of rifles and ammo is a bit different. I am likely to make do with what I have now. Lots of "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" these days.

    I didn't say it was my ONLY rifle... I do enjoy one black rifle but have a desire for more oomph and a different flavor.

    Thank you for the detailed and well-documented rundown on new and used rifles and brands. I will have to spend some time handling whatever I can and find what fits me the best.

    The ordering of 30s, 7mm, 270, and 243 is about right. I definitely seen 7mm projectiles everywhere I've looked as of late and LRPs were the last to go off the shelves locally. In the future, I'd like to be much better stocked on components and ammo. Powder and primers mainly because the rest can be cast, bought, or found for free or not much.

    That was my assessment as well on the optics situation with modern/old rifles. I may benefit greatly from a new pair of glasses (18mo old prescription) but that doesn't solve all problems. See below for 1916 Mauser range report...

    You are exactly correct on making use of this rifle regardless. Having a backup is a really good thing in general. Plans fail! It can be made to work and I did a bit of that today with some load development using Win 760, LC brass, and PMC mag primers. Ran from 46-49 grs. 49 is too much but 48 seemed about right. I was working at 50 yards with the sight set to 4 or 500 meters I believe. Seeing the target and flinching were my main issues beyond the cumulative effect of recoil. Ended up using my jacket as a secondary recoil pad on top of the one I had slipped on. Green Dot and Unique  reduced loads seemed interesting though. I can't complain about group size too much since it was about as good as I am at 35 yards with a Daisy 880 and "irons." Roughly 5-6" so minute of deer at 75 maybe and minute of coyote at closer ranges.

    May i also interject that HP White labs tested some of those 1916 Spanish Mausers to destruction and they were quite good. However, i use cast loads only in my own 1916 simply because it's over 100 years old, :)


    I did actually look this up, not the easiest task, and you are correct. My concern, which has been shown in lots of these, is recoil lug setback. I don't want to have my now-good headspace to become dangerous. Secondary concern is my shoulder. Recoil was bad enough with what I did today... I would like to make it lighter but still effective. Regardless, what mold are you using? PC'ed? Gas-checked? Paper-patched? How's your groove diameter?

    Thank you both so much!


    coelacanth

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #4 on: April 05, 2021, 12:05:45 am »
    A couple of older rifles i still shoot benefit from cast bullets, some gas checked, some not, depending on the bullet and the rifle but I always keep the velocity low.  I am looking for best accuracy out the rifle and not the ability to drop an animal at extended range with one shot.  The .303 British out of No.1 MkIII SMLE with a 180 grain bullet at about 1800-1900 fps makes for an enjoyable afternoon of shooting. 

    I started the load development out at maybe 1500 - 1600 fps and worked up gradually.  Recoil and muzzle blast from a rifle/ammo combo ramps up sharply once you get above 2000 fps in my experience.   When I first got the old rifle the only reloading equipment I could afford was a Lee Loader in that caliber so it was slow going but even at that I could assemble passably good ammo for hunting deer sized game at 100 yards.  I could hit a coffee can at that distance when I did my part and that was good enough to put an animal on the ground if it was well hit.   

    The biggest problem is hunting with the old iron battle sights - not very good in most actual hunting situations and near useless on running game beyond thirty or forty yards.  A dab of white-out applied with single hair from a paint brush seemed to help some as it was a tiny white strip down the face of an otherwise black front sight post and a tiny dot of the same stuff just below the bottom of the notch on the rear sight was also added.  Frankly, a rifle equipped with a battle sight marked to a thousand yards and designed for volley fire is not a precision instrument but we run what we've got, no? 

    In my experience .308's can be made to run pretty well with bullets as light as 125 - 130 grains and at moderate velocities approximate what you can expect from the 7.62x39mm - which means the recoil is considerably reduced from full power levels.  It might take a bit to find what your rifle likes but sometimes you get lucky and hit a good on early.  At any rate loads like that won't beat you up too bad and they can still be useful on game used within their limitations.  If you bore looks like the surface of the moon Hawk Bullets makes some very soft lead bullets in odd sizes that can keep you shooting.  A little pricey but sometimes the only way to go.   :hmm

    Another powder you might want to take a look at in the reduced loading category is Alliant 2400.  I've had good luck with it in the past back when it was made by the old Hercules company.  I think I was running maybe 16 - 17 grains of it behind those 180 grainers in the old SMLE and they were very soft shooting loads. 
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    arizona

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #5 on: April 13, 2021, 03:37:37 pm »
    I am sorry for the belated response.

    Thank you for sharing those experiences. Yes, we certainly do run with what we have! My rifle does have some while nail polish on its front and rear sights but that seemed to make it more difficult to find on paper so maybe I'll remove what she came with and put red or some other clear color.

    I plan to do some additional testing as I can. Projectiles are limited and I would feel a whole lot better with a mold to crank out some cheap shooters. I may have to work on that 7.62x39/300 savage type loads soon. I did increase the variety of my powder stash with a few more partial bottles from an LGS. Looking forward to testing them and seeing what works with the small amounts I've got. 2400 and Accurate 5744 are in my periphery. I aim to try some 5744 soon.

    As with anything, I will end up with some dedicated hunting rounds and some plinking rounds. I then have to be super clear about the ballistics and limitations of each.

    I just tried my hand at reforming a 30-06 case to 7.7 jap and that seemed to go well. I've seen some sporters locally for cheap that maybe need a closer look to make sure they are in 7.7 and not 300 savage, 30-06, or another common rechambering.

    I really appreciate the chatting and expertise. I like to meddle about in cheap, substandard equipment, fix it, make it work well or just within its limitations, and then discover I could have skipped to the end and gotten what would have fit the bill exactly. However, that removes all the fun of learning, skill-building, and all of the messing about that happens. And all the wasted cash... But maybe that's why its a hobby and not a business? :)

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #6 on: April 13, 2021, 08:55:02 pm »
    My son got my last hunting rifle in 308. I went in a slightly different direction with a Ruger American Ranch in 7.62x39. Lighter recoil and cheap ammo at the time. I did stock up. Rifle weighs 5.9 lbs + the scope. It uses the same mags as the Mini 30 which I have so 5-30 rounds available. I prefer 10. 25 meter zero = 200 meter zero. Hold over for 300 meters with no fancy reticles required. 1 MOA with good ammo. Silver Bear does about 2 MOA. Wolf  2-3 MOA.

    arizona

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #7 on: April 13, 2021, 10:40:55 pm »
    a Ruger American Ranch in 7.62x39.

    That's a solid option and one I intend on considering. I did enjoy shooting a friend's CZ 527 in the same caliber, though I wasn't prepared at the time for the recoil in a 5lb gun.

    I'm sure the rifle prices were better when you got it. Cheapest Ruger Americans I've seen have been $500 plus. 40cpr isn't terrible right now for rifle rounds. Sounds like it fit into your system rather well. I do plan to integrate as best as I can, so long as laws allow, between future semi-autos and future manual guns.

    Have you hunted with it at all? I did a check with a ballistics calculator and it suggested that it is more of a 150yds and in gun, like a 30-30, for deer anyway. I realize that real-world mileage varies quite considerably.

    Accuracy-wise, that seems very respectable given the ammo you are running. If you reload, I have sometimes seen boxer primer cases at scrap yards. As recent as today in fact. $2.5/lb roughly, up to $5.

    coelacanth

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #8 on: April 15, 2021, 08:54:45 pm »
    Definitely a hobby.  At the rate I'm going if it were a business I'd be in double digits in terms of bankruptcies filed .  .  .   :facepalm

    But, as you say we enjoy ourselves.   :yes   Over the years I've goofed around with a lot of calibers but I keep coming back to the various thirties because they are easy to work with and generally a pretty forgiving bunch.  At one time or another I've fired just about everything imaginable from a thirty caliber rifle case - from .30-40 Krag to .303 and .300 Savage to .30-30 Winchester to .30-06 Springfield to .308 Winchester.  Add in a few military oddballs like the 7.5 Swiss and the 7.65 Argentine and the .303 British and it seems like I've been paddling around in the same pond most of my adult life.  What can I say?  :shrug  I like them.   :thumbup 

    It doesn't hurt that for most of that time components were cheap and plentiful and the rifles were as well.  I also can't fault the Ruger American rifles.  The whole series seems to be pretty well thought out and well built too.  My current heavy game rifle is a Ruger American in .30-06 that has been monotonously reliable and more accurate than the operator most days.  I find the current crop of heavy .30 caliber bullets designed for subsonic use in suppressed SBR's an interesting development.  Hornady's recent 190 grain SubX looks promising for a .30-06 reduced power load inside 200 yards.   :coffee

    As for hunting Arizona with such a thing - there is lots of terrain here that doesn't require something that will shoot across a canyon with the trajectory of a laser beam.  Steep, rough country where you could sell both sides of an acre and covered with brush is usually close quarters work.  Pinon, juniper forest land like that whole area between Chino Valley and I-40 is more open but the thickness of the growth keeps long shots a very occasional thing.  Heavy timber like a lot of the high country above the rim and many river bottoms and big washes with stands of oak and cottonwood will also have you hunting fairly close. 

    I guess, for me, the bottom line on hunting is not about whether my rifle and I are capable of a clean kill at 500 yards - most days we aren't - but whether I can get within maximum point blank range so I have a higher probability of making that clean kill. 
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    arizona

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #9 on: April 28, 2021, 10:48:56 am »
    I can't believe its been two weeks!

    I know what you mean about the bankruptcies. Too many flights of fancy that flew in and flew out at the same speed, with junk left behind from each.

    That assessment of the 30s seems to be pretty consistent from my readings on other forums. Not usually stated as such but it seems to come through in the posts. Hey, if somethings works and well, then why change it? Other than to ask and answer oddball questions by experimentation... Probably why I am so hard on things. I can't leave well enough alone.

    I handled some commercial rifles lately. The budget stuff still bothered me though I haven't shot it so maybe that can change. The CVA bolt action offering around $500 seemed promising. I can't bash on plastic too bad. Its good material and can do really well in a larger variety of environments than wood. Lighter too! I don't bash on it when an airgun has it or an AR or a pistol so why here? This debate will rattle around in my head for a while I think.

    I did also handle and inspect an Arisaka sporter that needs work but is available locally for $90. Needs buttplate (24$ shipped with screws) and front sight leaf (50$) or weaver mounts for the tapped holes in the receiver and a scope ($100ish). Plus any later replacement part issues and the usual ammo availability issues. It was in worse shape than I remember and got a pass from me unless the shop drops the price to $50 (unlikely).

    I'm finishing up law school so finals and Bar exam are going to make hobby stuff difficult for a few months. I don't need another project, I keep telling myself, not now...

    I bought a mold finally for 30 cal adventures. The Lee CTL312-165-2R 2cav is on the way with Lee case trimmer shellholder and length gauge parts for my 308 and a 7.7 jap trimmer set for the dies I have. Probably going to wait, as best I can, for a sweet deal on a better condition T99 sporter or original.

    Lee sizer is next. I think 309 is what I'm after. I couldn't get a good pound cast out of my Mauser yet but the grooves seem to be 309. Forgot to say I grabbed calipers finally. Sorting out so many issues now with those, no more guessing!

    Final note on the accuracy problems I was experiencing when I took the Mauser out. I found out I forgot to tighten an action screw in my excitement when I pulled it all apart when I first got it home. That screw is tight now and I hope groups correspondingly improve. Got some Hornady 150gr FMJs to try while reserving the SPs for other purposes.

    On your hunting notes, the terrain point is fair. My concern was with being able to deal with muleys down in the flats as well as coues up in the mountains where I might have to shoot a fair distance because they are so spooky. Like you said, I much prefer close work because I can be cleaner in killing and fairer to the animal. I don't want to injure anything more than I have to. Even when I do my best, stuff happens. Reducing the chances of that are very high on the priority list.

    Yep, I am leaning towards and working on MPBR in almost all of my rifles. Even the lowly Daisy. I should have an inch of MPBR out to about 30 yards with it and about 3-4 FPE at the target at that distance.

    coelacanth

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #10 on: May 01, 2021, 12:27:59 am »
    Yup.  The thirties are a lot of fun to play around with and just seem to work.  I never thought to ask you about the action screw in your rifle .  .  .   :facepalm

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    armoredman

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #11 on: May 02, 2021, 01:06:05 pm »
    Ditto to sorry about late response - my 1916 was a beater play rifle for a gunsmith, so NOTHING is original on it except the receiver. It was re chambered in 8mm Mauser with a 70 year German barrel. The mold used for that caliber I don't even own, but it seems to like the 216 grain bullet te most. The bullets came with the gun, and I shoot it very rarely.
    Interestingly enough, I DID just start trying cast in .308, with a buddys rifle, and we are having extremely good luck with the Night Owl Enterprises 129gr .314 mold, gas checked, powder coated and sized down to .311. Using the data from Lymans Cast Bullet handbook we are using pistol powder, (Unique, 700x), t get some nice short range accuracy and fun with cast loads.
     

    arizona

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    Re: Milsurps vs Modern rifles: Nuances abound
    « Reply #12 on: May 02, 2021, 05:21:44 pm »
    That’s pretty interesting about your 1916. I have been seeing a ton of PPU and old surplus 8mm nearly everywhere.

    That’s also cool with what you are getting with the NOE mold. Took me a bit to recognize the name because I always see it written as NOE and not spelled out! Did you size the throat beforehand on that rifle or did you just keep trying something until that worked? I have to agree on the fun aspect of cast loads. Slightly more economical now but even more so with cheap primers and powder. Any varminting use planned for that load?

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