Bolt vs. Falling block, which is more accurate?


July 11, 2004, 03:30 AM
I know, the answer is always "it depends" :rolleyes:

But would like some more insight into each system.

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cracked butt
July 11, 2004, 05:15 AM
I would guess bolt- about the only thing used for serious benchrest competitions.

July 11, 2004, 10:23 AM
I hope some competitors chime in because I'm not an expert here and am relying on a rapidly dwindling memory. All things being equal (which they won't be), a falling block rifle has a faster lock time than a rolling block rifle. A bolt action rifle should have a faster lock time than a falling block. (I'm talking about the time lag between pulling the trigger and the firing pin striking the cartridge.) That should give the theoretical edge in accuracy to the bolt action.

July 11, 2004, 10:57 AM
from my understanding, a falling block is basically a bank vault.. I would think the lockup is stronger??:confused:

4v50 Gary
July 11, 2004, 11:03 AM
Two-piece stock allows for more shifting.

July 11, 2004, 11:32 AM
The theoritical advantage in locktime on the falling blocks ( if it exists I just don't know ) would be negated by the negatives of the two piece stock design.

For very accurate rifles the best judge as to what works is to look at benchrest match results and see what is winning. Focus on two classes the all out unlimited where the only real restriction is wieght, and the Hunter Class which is a box stock factory rifle, no modifications of any sort allowed.

In the unlimited class custom bolt actions rule, names like Hall, Stoole, BAT and Farley are in the winners circle. Very rarely will you see a reworked Remington 700 or 40X action, although the current 1000 yd record is held by a Savage action. The factory actions are not even close to stock and have had extensive work on them. Bottom line none of these are falling block actions all bolt actions.

Moving to the Hunter Class there is one dominate force Remington, either a 700 or a 40x, with Savage starting to make interesting headroads. Right now big green wins about 80% of these matches with various rigs, the only real competition is coming from Savage lately and the last year or two the Savage rifles have really started to come on strong and won matches ( about the time the accu-triggers became available). Winchester is odd man out here, seldom do you see a Winchester in the winners circle. I think there are a couple of Winchester that could compete like the new FN sniper rifle but I think cost of the rifles is an issue, not capabilities of the rifle. Other rifles seen on occasion are Varmit Tikka's and Sako's, I don't ever remember seeing a Ruger being on a winners list. I am not saying the other manufacturers rifles can't compete and some do, I am just saying using anything besides a Remington right now you are definately fighting the odds, although I do believe that cost is a deciding factor, cheapest out of the box accurate rifles are Remington and Savage.

The Hunter class is what to me represents what can be expected when you buy a rifle, again I emphasis no modifactions are allowed on these rifles to compete.

I should note that both of the above are tough competitions. A straight hunting class rifle usually can't compete because the barrel profiles are too light and when shooting five round groups quickly the barrels heat up and start to string the last couple of rounds. Varmit rigs fair better because of the heavier barrrels and the Police versions of these rifles do very well.

I think you could work a falling block design to get .5 MOA but I think that would be the limit and would take some serious working on it to get there. I recall reading about some parts needing to be changed out which tension the barrel to the action, but this won't correct the two piece stock, which in the accuracy game is a whole set of factors that would need to be dealt with. Most really accurate rifles today are free floated and the barrel and stock don't come into contact. Time and money could probably correct this but my guess is it would require a lot of both to really get down into the numbers required to win. Just for reference the current record for a 5-5-100 ( five shots, 5 groups. at 100 yds ) is .1283", and no it wasn't done with a factory rifle.

July 11, 2004, 11:35 AM
As they come from a factory a bolt will on average be more accurate than a falling block due to the bolt gun having a one piece stock. If you wanted to build a super accurate rifle you could use either and get there thru forend hangers, sleeves etc, I think it would be too close to call. Falling blocks were not popular when I was building rifles, so I don't know much about the rigidity of the breech or what the lock time is like, if they use an internal hammer, I would go with the bolt for sure to get the straight line motion of the striker.

July 11, 2004, 01:28 PM
I agree with the above posts concerning competition shooting - if ALL the competitors are using bolt actions that should answer your question.

July 11, 2004, 03:31 PM
I grew up around east coast guys in the mid 50's shooting benchrest with FB's chambered to .22donaldson Wasp ect. They got moe and more trounced by 722 Remingtons chambered to .222 until they gave up and switched!:D

July 11, 2004, 10:55 PM

Thanks for the insight!

I'm not too worried about sub MOA, as that's usually a bit beyond what I am able to do. Most of the time, the gun is more accurate than I am.

July 12, 2004, 12:58 AM
that while bolt actions have swept the benchrest competition matches,

there are no bolt actions with the 'soul', the 'character' or the ambidexterous friendliness of the fallingblock.:D

And don't forget the lovely symmetry of many fallingblock actions,
and the shorter overall length (for a given barrel length) of any fallingblock vs. bolt action rifle.;) limits on cartridge length with a fallingblock.:)

Of course, I could be biased..:eek:

July 12, 2004, 05:19 AM
Being left handed, I have to say that's a +1 to the falling block, and -1 to the bolt.

Haven given myself a bloody lip from racking the bolt and forgetting to move my face, that's a -2 on the bolt..

Oleg Volk
July 12, 2004, 10:45 AM
My only complaint about the falling block is that is seems harder to clean. I suspect that extraction of bad ammo would also be less reliable. But it is certainly a viable choice for a leftie, and it has style.

Dave R
July 12, 2004, 11:23 AM
I have a Martini Cadet--smaller version of the rifle in your picture.

Very easy to clean. Remove one screw and drop the action. Clean the bore. The action vitals are all visible to clean.

Hmmm, mine also has a hole in the back of the receiver to allow a cleaning rod to pass through to the borefrom the rear. Might make mine a bit easier than a normal falling block.

But its certainly no harder than a boltgun.

Relative accuracy of falling block vs. boltgun? I think any difference would be in the theoretical realm. Not enough to measure in the real world.

July 12, 2004, 07:22 PM
Extraction of dirty or damaged ammo is the downside of most single shot systems. Even those with a slightly sloping boltway to cam the case into the chamber cannot make use of the reverse effect for extraction.

Please permit me to be pedantic and suggest that the Martini is not a true 'falling' block action, but rather a 'hinged' or 'swinging' block*,
as the Martini block pivots on the pin at the rear of the receiver instead of dropping or 'falling' as a unit.

*Frank deHaas "Single Shot Rifles and Actions" P.37

Dave R.:

Those little Martinis are real jewels! Most of them are made to tolerances only found in custom guns today.


I'm left-handed as well, and was taught to work a bolt action over the receiver.

While all that motion is going on it is easy to forget to move our face!:eek:

July 13, 2004, 12:13 PM
I remember the first time I shot my bolt action, at the range, everybody stopped to watch me, I mean the whole line!

I first noticed, because the only gun shot I heard was mine..

People seem mesmorized by the fact that I swing my face away to rack, and I do so smoothly and quickly. Most thought I was eyeballing where the brass went, but the brass pops out the other side. A few even came by to ask.

I've tried shooting with the left hand and racking with the right:what: Caught a thumb slicer once, and that ended that..

July 14, 2004, 08:10 AM
"I've tried shooting with the left hand and racking with the right Caught a thumb slicer once, and that ended that.."

For the 15% or so of us who are left-handed, the right-handed bolt action is a sort of torture device.:(

If you keep the left hand safe, everything is clumsy and slow.

If you try to speed up the cranking in the above method, those sharp bolt bits will find your flesh sooner or later.:eek:

And then there is the further disadvantage that if a right-hand bolt action (or case within) lets go while a left-hander is shooting it, the face is on the "wrong side" of the receiver wall.;)

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