8 degrees below zero rifle performance


January 21, 2008, 03:37 PM
I know most of the posts down here are focused on MOA or the latest and slickest new cartridge or scope out there. But for the heck of it, I thought I'd throw in a post about a totally different flavor of rifle work ...

FWIW, last Saturday the Illinois State Rifle Assn. had our annual Winter Wars outing. There were somewhere around 38 "riflemen" that turned out for it dressed in everything from WWII re-enactor uniforms to full farm coveralls and ski masks.

The rules were simple, WWII era vintage Mil Surps only, at 200 yards. No bench rest, no scopes, no gadgets, just iron sights from prone and sitting/kneeling. (No offhand this year to shorten the time we were exposed to that wind). We each shot 3 "battles", appropriate to the rifles we brought. e.g. the Arisaka versus the '03 Springfield for "Wake Island" etc.

With an air temp of 8 below and a wind chill of 23 below every rifle there, functioned flawlessly. I hope I work as near as reliably as they do when I'm closing in on 70 years old.

Before anyone asks; no, no one had to pee on their Garand to make it cycle. But we had several people offering to, just in case. I think they wre a little disappointed.

There was a good representation of Garands, M-1 Carbines, Springfield '03's and '03A3's, Mosin-Nagants 91-30, 38 and 44 models, several flavors of Mauser, Enfields, An Arisaka or two, K-31 Schmidt-Rubins and I heard somebody had a Carcano.

Between relays we were all talking about how it makes you truly understand, appreciate and respect the kind of men that carried those through Europe the first time around and what they went through in places like Stalingrad and Bastogne in the dead of Winter.

Now, as soon as I get the feeling back in my trigger finger, I'll be all set to start cleaning them up.

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Float Pilot
January 21, 2008, 04:07 PM
Do you have any scoring information so we could see how the rifles stacked up against each other? See how any Swede Mausers did?

January 21, 2008, 04:21 PM
Don, thanks for pointing out that shoot, I had a blast!

I have to clarify that a bit. My rifle functioned absolutely flawless (Garand) until the last rapid fire stage where the firing pin froze solid. To it's credit I think it froze because early in the relay there was light snow and I had some rounds on my shooting mat. I wonder if some of that snow might've made it into the firing pin hole when the gun heated up and then froze when I was waiting out the sighters before the last stage. (I was low on ammo)

Have a good one,

January 21, 2008, 04:32 PM
Luckly it doesn't get quite that cold here in NC. Though I had my WW2 surpluses out in the snow at 21 degrees, and a windchill of 10 degrees. There is nothing more fun than shooting those old rifles in the snow. I'm glad you went out and had some fun. I myself was using the No1 Mk3 and No4 Mk1* Lee Enfield, a Swiss Schmidt Ruben M1911, a Mosin Nagant M91/31 and the old SKS. I wish I had a Garand to play with in such weather.

January 21, 2008, 06:47 PM
"To it's credit I think it froze because early in the relay there was light snow and I had some rounds on my shooting mat."

See what you get for relying on those "newfangled semi-auto thingies" Dave! My old '03 worked fine all day. Hah!

I actually had a really good time too. A very friendly and helpful bunch of guys that show up for it every year. Last year I had one guy that shoots at Perry pretty regularly give me a handful of hard to find nibless fast feed stripper clips for my '03 that he uses in competition. This year I gave the guy next to me a spare ECI flag I had in my bag when he forgot his.

Colder than all heck, but a good time. I wound up winning the senior division for "Wake Island" with the '03. Mostly dumb luck for me and the '03 always shoots better than I do anyway.

I didn't do as well with my Garand for "Battle of the Bulge", but I think that had more to do with my gut getting in the way of a good prone position. I was actually shooting better scores in the kneeling than from the prone. There were a lot really good Garand shooters there Saturday.

I shot my Inland M-1 Carbine for "D-Day" and was all over the target. I still need to get over to Willow Slough or Jasper-Pulaski in Indiana and zero it in. I'm still guessing at the elevation settings.

As for the scores Float Pilot, they will have them posted online later this week and I think they will list the rifles and the scores with the names. I'll keep checking the web site and cut and paste them when they go up.

I wouldn't put too much stock in the scores of one type of rifle over another though. At that temperature it's all you can do to not shudder with the cold laying on the ground with a rifle that's been out in that cold for a hours. My triggers were actually freezing to my fingers when I took my gloves off.

I hope the ISRA is going to do the "Carbine/Pistol" match again this year. That was a lot of fun and they did the pistol as combat shooting at 25 to 35 yards instead of bench rest pistol. That way a guy like me, with a box stock 1911 had at least a decent chance against guys with tricked out race guns. The carbines were shot at 100 yards.

Next event like that we'll have to figure out how to meet up and say howdy to the other board members that turn up.

January 21, 2008, 06:52 PM
Don if you could, please keep us informed of any events like this! I'd love to swing down with one of the carcani!;)

January 21, 2008, 06:53 PM
I think you have to move into *real* cold to start to choke up most quality war rifles. The problem typically comes when you bring a freezing rifle into a warm, moist cabin and the wet drops condense on the steel. Then you take it back out and it's frozen hard as a rock.

Barring that, you'd likely have to get to some temps so extreme they start changing the dimensions of the steel parts and cutting into tolerances. The coldest I've ever shot was at about forty five below zero a few winters back. We shot down some trees with a SAR-1 AK clone, a Mosin and IIRC a Mossberg. They worked fine but you wouldn't want to operate them without gloves.

January 22, 2008, 05:42 AM
Don, I think we need some sort of special handshake or something like the Stealth Bullet Society has for CAS. :) I know that somehow some stealth bullets got mixed up in my Garand clips on Saturday.

I haven't seen my score sheets as I had to leave after we finished the second relay, but the guy who was operating the pits for me said that on my first round I shot 10 with 2 hearts so I was pretty tickled. I know it went downhill from there as I could NOT build a solid shooting positing from seated while wear Pac boots and 2 layers of long underwear ... .hell I could barely cross my legs let alone lock in my ankles nice and tight. :)

That range at Bonfield is really nice. I didn't know we had ranges that nice here in Illinois. I think I'll be going back for the April shoot and maybe even try to make some of the Tuesday night matches.

Have a good one,

January 22, 2008, 06:59 PM
I'll keep an eye on the ISRA calendar for any upcoming open events. As they come up I'll post them here in the appropriate section. Then we can figure out whether we all need to wear a Molon Labe baseball hat, put a rose behind one ear, or find some other way to recognize each other.

I'd love to sign up for the Tuesday Night High Power shoot but I know I'd only be able to get there 50% of the time, if I was lucky.

They put together some fun and interesting shoots though and, as I said, it's a really nice bunch of folks (men and women) down there.

We had one lady running the combat pistol segment of the carbine/pistol match last year and she really knew her stuff. I watched her field strip one younger guy's jammed 1911 in nothing flat and he was having trouble just finding the slide lock. She was very polite and helpful, and never made the guy feel clumsy, but really knew what she was doing. I wished she would have had a chance to shoot, I have a hunch she was probably pretty handy with a 1911.

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