The sorry state of the American Rifleman


May 21, 2003, 11:48 AM
This article was posted over at Parallax's site:

Click on the "MAY" issue and you'll see an article about "customizing" a Schmidt-Rubin K-31 straight-pull.

Now I see nothing wrong with sporterizing some common Mauser with a shot-out bore, or using an action as the basis for a custom rifle. But what these guys did was downright criminal. What's more disturbing is the way their project reflects on the terrible state of the American rifleman.

They took one of the best and most accurate military rifles ever made and:

--Tore apart the high-quality wood stock and replaced it with a thickly-varnished, shiny thing that, other than a bulge for the action, looks pretty much like every other gun stock out there.

--Tore off the excellent iron sights

--Installed an overpowered scope by drilling into the receiver, and then had the nerve to complain the scope didn't work well with the rifle.

--Ditched the excellent 7.5 Swiss cartridge in favor of a necked-up .308 with limited range.

--Re-finished the metal from nice blue to BLACK, then replaced the crest with a big white signature.

--PORTED the barrel. Don't ask me why.

--Spent $5,000 on a $300 rifle, and in the end couldn't make it shoot straight.

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May 21, 2003, 12:58 PM
Ah, but it was their $5000, not yours or mine, and it was their rifle, also not yours or mine. You obviously wouldn't have done it and I probably wouldn't. But wasn't it some guy by the name of Henry Ford who screwed up a perfectly good buggy by mounting a gasoline engine it it?

May 21, 2003, 01:02 PM
Nice way of putting it, oldfart. :cool:

Andrew Wyatt
May 21, 2003, 01:14 PM

that doesn't say much about the rest of the riflemen out there, some of which own stock number4 mk1s.

May 21, 2003, 03:34 PM
*Raises his hand!!*:D

El Tejon
May 21, 2003, 03:48 PM
I do not understand why people put so much money in hardware and no money into software. I guess it is because everyone, except El Tejon, knows how to shoot and is a crack shot or can at least buy the way there.

However, as old sez, IT'S THEIR MONEY.

El Tejon, proud to be in the "software over hardware" splinter faction.:)

May 21, 2003, 04:02 PM
their money, their gun, their choice. You don't have to like it, welcome to America!

Art Eatman
May 21, 2003, 05:45 PM
I've noticed some folks think highly of these older military rifles. Many folks don't, other than possibly as a platform for some sort of customization or sporterizing.

It's not an issue of good or bad, right or wrong: It's just different opinions about the usefulness or desirability of some item. It's part and parcel of why we have horse racing and poker and hot-rodders and custom guns of whatever sort.

And, for that matter, I remember somebody posting back at TFL that they would never consider doing anything whatsoever to modify any handgun they bought.

Last I heard, all that sort of thing was called "Freedom of Choice".

:), Art

May 21, 2003, 06:34 PM
They can do what they want... and Cosmoline can bitch about it as well. :p

May 21, 2003, 08:15 PM
It isn't the fact of sporterization that really upsets me. It's what was done to the rifle. There is a good way to sporterize a Schmidt-Rubin, but this ain't it. This insane, expensive project simply throws into stark relief most all of my pet peeves about American rifle shooters. For example:

We rely way too much on scopes, and have all but forgotten the old rule to always keep backup iron sights

We port barrels rather than choose a sensible cartridge to begin with. Hell, sometimes we port barrels just because it looks cool.

We like our stocks short and thickly varnished with a glossy shine, which is an open invitation for manufacturers to foist crappy wood on us.

We don't listen to our rifles. We try to make them do what we want rather than bringing out their best qualities. The end result, as witnessed in the article, is a rifle that shoots and functoins below par.

MOST OF ALL--we want every rifle to look like every other rifle. Go into a gun store and look at the rows and rows of basically identical rifles. There are only a few variations from the norm, and they are real standouts. Are we lemmings??

Here's one good way to sporterize a Schmidt-Rubin:

--Retain the 7.5 Swiss, but explore more potent loads for it and loads using larger or smaller bullets as needed. Many Schmidts will do MOA, so it makes little sense to ditch the existing barrel.

--Replace the rear site with Mojo or a nice Daryl's mount and install a scout scope, which would not have created any of the problems the guys in the article encountered.

--If you dislike the existing stock, put a used, pre-sporterized stock on the rifle. There are plenty out there.

For a few hundred bucks, you could create a truly awesome scout rifle. Sadly, the mainstream rifle press only knows about hack n' slash.

El Rojo
May 21, 2003, 08:35 PM
The thing about the Swiss K-31 is there are currently lots of them out there and they are cheap. I wouldn't mind making one a cheap scout rifle. Heck, it is almost worth it to just buy another rifle just to get the magazine. Anyone catch how the mags are selling for over $50 each! Buy a rifle along with it for only $50 more!

May 21, 2003, 08:37 PM

May 21, 2003, 08:59 PM
The charitable "we," not the royal one. ;)

May 21, 2003, 09:12 PM
For $5K, I could've bought several really nice rifles, and they would've shot better.

And I've never spent more than about $1,200 rebuilding a Mauser action into a serioous personal rifle. ... ;)

May 21, 2003, 10:38 PM

I don't believe we rely too much on scopes. I believe we rely too much on garbage scopes. Its pretty common outside the US to hear that you can tell an American by the fact that he has a $1,000 rifle and a $100 scope on it.

I'd like to say thats nonsense but at least at the ranges I've been to thats probably the generality with the most basis in fact I've seen yet.

May 21, 2003, 11:54 PM
I am with you cosmoline. In fact, I agree 100% with your second post.

cracked butt
May 22, 2003, 02:08 AM
I guess a 'fool and his money will soon be parted' summarizes this article. I could have taken a bone stock, off the rack, K31 and shot better groups using surplus ammo than these morons were able to produce with their $5000 monstrosity. :banghead: A goon with a hacksaw isn't going to improve upon millions of manhours of engineering and testing. These people are too stupid to realize that the 7.5 Swiss round was designed for the rifle and the rifle was specifically designed for the cartridge. The Swiss did not arbitrarily pick their cartridge just to be different from everyone else.

Sure everyone is entitled to do what they want and spend money as foolishly as they want, but the last thing I want to see is a '54 Corvette with a blower sticking out of the hood, with bicycle tires on the front and rear tires that are two feet wide, that can barely be driven under its own power and is painted hot pink in color. :cuss: :barf:

Some people my find my post offensive or overbearing, but some opinions are more right than others.

May 22, 2003, 02:51 AM
After reading the whole article(I got bored the first time) I can say that these people are one hundred percent bonkers. The rifle could have been scoped for four hundred or less. Heck, you could probably get a sporterized stock and scope for that.

For five thousand dollars you can buy a load of perfectly fine surplus rifles and handguns. Or several new rifles/handguns. :scrutiny:

May 22, 2003, 04:00 AM
I've noticed that American rifle shooters don't like iron sights. Granted, many iron sights on sporter rifles are rather crude...I mean, they're not even the crisp tangent sights of a Mauser or Moisin, they're kind of rough buckhorns that I at least don't like.

No one suggested that the people in this article should be forcibly prohibited from butchering the rifle as desribed, so I think all of the "it's their money" and "it's a free country" type comments weren't really necessary; that's already a given.

However, the supply of these surplus rifles isn't going to last forever. How many Krag and 1903 riles were ripped apart, butchered, and cut up to make them carbon copies of all those Remington/Ruger/Winchester/Savage/Whatever deer rifles out there? How hard is it to find an ummolested original now?

I have to agree with the notion that if you WANT a sporter rifle, go to Wal-Mart and buy one (or your favorite dealer). Near as I can tell, they're all prettymuch the same, and I can hardly tell them apart from looking.

I'd much rather have an unissued condition surplus bolt rifle than any Remchester hunting rifle out there. But that's me.

And don't get me started on wasting five GRAND on this project. Holy crap, that's a whole semester of college right there. Or, gun-wise, that's QUITE A FEW quality firearms and lots of ammunition. Yikes...

It's true what they say about fools and their money, I guess. :uhoh:

May 22, 2003, 04:42 AM
However, the supply of these surplus rifles isn't going to last forever. How many Krag and 1903 riles were ripped apart, butchered, and cut up to make them carbon copies of all those Remington/Ruger/Winchester/Savage/Whatever deer rifles out there? How hard is it to find an ummolested original now?

This is the real thing to keep in your skull cap when it's time to play bubba.

How many guys after WWII cut up 03A4's or early German mausers for kicks and now those precious pieces of history are no more, or rarer than hen's teeth? In their day, those rifles were "cheap, and everywhere".

These arms are living pieces of history, battle implements carried by soldiers and some fought and died with these guns. Cutting them up is not only financially stupid, but it reeks of a carelessness of the past. I'm sure my old family photo album could be used for lining the hamster cage, but it doesn't show much respect for my past to do so.

These rifles are not an endless supply, and they are the last of the hand-fitted wooden bolt guns - made like a fine piece of furniture, by men who thought alot of rifle-craft. The smell and feel of these old walnut warhorses sometimes can put your mind into the trenches of Verdun just holding one.

Even if it's "your rifle", "your money", and "your right" to go molesting a fine old milsurp, those of us who value their condition and stories see an ignorant fool pissing on a war monument for his own amusement.

Sorry, but bubba is a moron.

May 22, 2003, 08:34 AM
Bubba, at least, does his work with a hacksaw and soldering iron. He doesn't spend five grand, that's for sure.

Art Eatman
May 22, 2003, 09:12 AM
I notice y'all talk money in one breath and knock sporterizing '03s and 98s in the next. Consider this: Right after WW II, you could have your own custom sporterized 98 or '03 for right at the same amount of money as a Super Grade Model 70. For not much more money you could have it in a wildcat cartridge.

Further, you could build your custom gun in stages. You could start out hunting with your $3 rifle and make the modifications as your billfold allowed.

In the 1940s and 1950s you just didn't have manufacturers selling only an action or a barrelled action, the way it came to be by the 1960s/1970s. If you wanted a custom rifle, you either started with an ex-military critter or showed the strength of your billfold by starting with a Model 70 or equivalent. Most folks just didn't have the money to throw around, the way we do today.

The deal with the afore-mentioned Corvette derives pretty much from the same arena. The '54 Corvette was a dog, insofar as performance in either a straight line or in corners. So, why not make it into something an owner liked better? Your particular taste may not run to pink, but so what?

And it's not just cars and guns which have become "collectible". I'm regularly using an anvil, and the antique dealer lady got real upset when I told her that I specifically needed it as an anvil. At that time I paid less than a new one would have cost, so I was happy as could be. :)

But it will be all frozen over down below before I spend five large on an ex-military anything. :D


Joe Demko
May 22, 2003, 10:18 AM
Those "precious pieces of history" are valuable collector's items today specifically because they are rare in "unmolested" condition. They were "molested" originally, as Mr. Eatman already pointed out, because the market was awash in them and they were accordingly inexpensive. In the end, they are nothing but tools. If it pleasures you to fondle your tool and keep it in a box just as it came; fine, it's your tool. Other people have differing ideas about how to handle their tools, please be polite enough to leave them to their enjoyment.

Art Eatman
May 22, 2003, 11:09 AM
Yeah, there was that time when a Model T was a po' folks' flivver. Now, it's a rare and valuable collector's item. So go buy a clean used Honda Civic or some such, put it up on blocks, and wait fifty years.

Times change. Perceived desirabilty changes, and therefore perceived values--monetary or emotional.

But I still get bent out of shape when paying over ten or fifteen cents for a cuppa cawfee. It used to be a nickel.

:D, Art

May 22, 2003, 11:22 AM
I hate to see a good vintage rifle get butchered too, however, the only thing you (we) can do just is sit back and smile, because our original, mint condition one(s) just became even more rare!

Life is to short to sweat the stupid stuff (people).


Desert Dog
May 22, 2003, 12:07 PM
So, Art... Mr. Eatman,

You wouldn't spend $5K for a good used M2 Browning? :rolleyes:

:D :D :D :D :D


Art Eatman
May 22, 2003, 01:12 PM
:D I think that Browning Ma Deuce might be a half-price sale or even better, at a "mere" $5,000.

Funny how all that goes. When I was a kid in the Philippines in 1949, folks were still acquiring BARs and Tommy Guns for a carton or two of American cigarettes and a few bucks. Before the 1986 ban on machine guns, when there was generally less interest in them, you could buy a BAR for around $1,250, and a brand new Thompson was $700 or so.

I think that before I put several thousand dollars into an existing rifle, I'd take the money and buy a lathe and a mill and do it myself. :)


May 22, 2003, 01:38 PM
My 1/50th of $1...

I prefer to keep my Mil-Surps as working pieces of history, doing nothing more than making sure they are safe and functional, and cleaning them up as needed.

If you want to spend $5K or so 'customizing' your K-31, Mauser 98, Mosin-Nagant, fine with me....knock yourself out. Your rifle, your choice, your bucks. Not my "cup of tea", thanks.

May 22, 2003, 02:24 PM
As I pointed out earlier, Henry Ford 'bubbaized' a perfectly good buggy and now we're up to our armpits in the fallout. Obviously, he came up with a winner.

But what about his earlier tries? If he was a normal tinkerer, he probably put together a few lemons on his way to success. We don't hear much about them though, just as we seldom read about the boo-boos that Paul Mauser made. I doubt John Browning walked into his shop and turned out an M2 in an afternoon either.

We all make mistakes-- hell, that's what we learn from. The people who bubbaized that Swiss rifle made_several, not the least of which was writing about what they did. I've got a Mosin in my closet that I screwed up but this is about the only mention you or anyone else will ever see of it. While that Mosin is a dog now, I did learn something from the experience and won't make that mistake again.

Andrew Wyatt
May 22, 2003, 04:20 PM
I read the article, and it's actually a good looking rifle, and the article made no mention of accuracy problems or any of that.

were i them, i'd have rebarrelled it in .308, and made it into a scout rifle.

May 22, 2003, 05:42 PM
Guess I'm one of those illiterate clods who butchered those priceless relics of our glorious past - the M1903A3 Springfield. Let's see, I rebarreled one to .270, another to .30-06 (liked the Douglas barrel countour), and a third to .338/06. Am I sorry? Nope, not even a little. I paid for every one, and I guess I subscribe to that quaint old idea that if I paid for something I can do what I want to with it. Do I care if anybody approves of my having done this 40 years? Not in the slightest.

By the way, I still have the .338/06 which sports a great looking American walnut stock and will shoot into 1" regularly. Another 03-A3 resides in the security vault in 100% new never-issued condition. Guess I'm doing my bit to preserve our heritage after all. Of course, it could serve as the basis for a project I have in mind to build a .25/06.

May 22, 2003, 06:07 PM
Norm and Rocky Chandler are people who seldom take "no" for an answer. And they do have the money to make one-off sporterized K-31's.

They may have, in fact, done that gun and article just to play on people's sensibilities. There was a firestorm created when they did an article about the "new" Designated Marksman Rifle. They got the last laugh, because they're known in the business for building accurate M14 variants, too. ;)

cracked butt
May 23, 2003, 01:42 AM
If it pleasures you to fondle your tool and keep it in a box just as it came; fine, it's your tool. Other people have differing ideas about how to handle their tools, please be polite enough to leave them to their enjoyment.

Whatever people do in their own bedroom is fine with me, as long as they are respectful of others and don't go into intimate details on what they do with their tools.:D :neener:

Sorry, that quote was too perfect not to comment on.:evil:

Joe Demko
May 23, 2003, 07:27 AM
Sorry, that quote was too perfect not to comment on.

As well it should have been, since I put some time into wording it. Congratulations on being the first one to notice my smarmy double entendre. Great minds must work alike...

May 23, 2003, 07:44 AM
We have a fully transferable M2 at our store... however we're asking somewhat more for it then $5K. ;)

Cosmoline, I'm not sure the "we" your talking about but my last rifle purchase was a Steyr Scout. Ifin I had $5 to spend I would have also picked up a Blaser K95 in .308 to go along with it.

Why .308, well it will do everything I need it to do on the type of game I usually hunt if I place my shot and use an appropriate bullet. If the game is at longer range then I feel I'd be comfortable trying with the Scout (say over 250 yards) I'd just take my precision rifle or, more likely, stalk closer.

But that's just me.

4v50 Gary
May 23, 2003, 10:49 AM
I let my subscription lapse after a year or so when it stopped being The Tactical Rifle. Just not as fun anymore. As for converting military guns to sporting arms, that was the big thing of the '50-'70s. Use to be a lot of articles on it and in the '90s, we started going back towards preservation. Me, I'm a preservationist - unless the gun has already been butchered.

May 23, 2003, 03:17 PM
I'm not attacking the idea of sporterization. I actually like a lot of old sporters, done by someone who knew how to listen to the rifle. This hacking of a K-31, though, is something very different. As I said, it throws the sins of the American rifleman into stark relief.

I would have been far happier if they had done something genuinely radical with the rifle. Some new approach that utilizes the potential of the straight pull in some new and interesting way, even if it destroyed the existing rifle. But as it is, they just tried to make it look and function just like every other rifle. Standard scope, ported barrel, standard stock. Same old, same old.

What a waste!

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