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Short vs. Long action

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Squeaky Wheel, Feb 6, 2012.

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  1. Squeaky Wheel

    Squeaky Wheel Member

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    I've seen in numerous discussions of M1 Garand vs. M1A mention about advantages of shorter action (in this case the .308 being advantageous compared to .30-06). I own a .30-06 (1903 Springfield) and a .308 rifle (M1A), so I know that the .30-06 cartridge is longer/taller than the .308. And I know that it takes more distance of working a .30-06 bolt as compared to a .308 bolt. My question is this -- in what ways do shooters consider the shorter action to be an inherent advantage for a rifle? I realize that a taller/longer cartridge takes up more space and weight for carrying ammo, but I'm primarily interested in the pros and cons of short vs long action on the rifle itself. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. nastynatesfish

    nastynatesfish Member

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    about the only thing i could think of is the short action being stiffer? i have both short and long action rifles and cannt really see anything that would be a con to either, well the long actions tend to cost you more to shoot them lol.
     
  3. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    6 of one, a half-dozen of the other. Short action rifles are about 3-4 ounces lighter. That's it. The "stiffer action" mumbo jumbo is just that.

    The military created the 7.62x51 because their requirements for performance did not necessitate the powder capacity of the .30-06. Originally, the .30-06 was designated the .30-03 with the 1903 Springfield rifle, and was loaded with a 220 gr. bullet. In 1906, the 150 grain spitzer at 2,700 FPS was adopted. From 1926 to 1939, the .30-06 was loaded with a 172 gr. bullet at 2,640 FPS, then back to the 150 gr. in 1940. By WWII, the powders available could reach the requisite 2,700 FPS with that bullet in a smaller case, but there was so much stockpiled .30-06 ammunition that the M-1 was so chambered (M1 was almost .28 caliber, BTW). The change was finally made when the T44 (M14) was brought into service and the M60 replaced the aging and very heavy M1919s.

    The .30-06, however, remained in service for some time as a sniper round.

    It is, of course, still the most popular sporting round in America, and is one of the more popular rounds in Europe, too.
     
  4. WNTFW

    WNTFW Member

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    You also get a shorter throw on the bolt. Not that big of a deal. SA vs LA is not a consideration for anything I do.
     
  5. Water-Man

    Water-Man Member

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    IMO, not enough of a difference to matter.
     
  6. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    Every weapons minimum size and weight is dictated by the length of the cartridge, the action, and the power of the cartridge.

    Using a shorter cartridge simply lets you make a smaller and lighter weapon.

    BSW
     
  7. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    If you are trying to build a smaller, lighter rifle designed to work around the cartridge it is huge. The shorter actions means less metal and less weight. For example Kimber has spent a lot of time designing rifles as light as possible for the cartridge

    Their 8400 is designed around 300 mag length cartridges and weighs 6 lbs 13 oz.

    The 84L that is sized for 30-06 size cartridges weighs 5 lbs 10 oz.

    And the 84 that is sized for the 308 family of cartridges weighs 5 lbs 2 oz.

    If you want a standard size and weight rifle then I see no real advantage to a short action bolt rifle, but if you are trying to buy a really lightweight for carrying in rugged terrain it makes sense to save the weight.

    There is also some evidence that says the short action rifles are stiffer, thus more accurate. This may be true, but the difference is so small that 99.99% of shooters probably can't shoot well enough to take advantage of the difference in my opinion.

    FWIW, I prize accurate, lightweight rifles, and all things considered I like short actions and the cartridges they come in. But I understand that for most guys the difference is so small as to not be a factor.
     
  8. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Stiffness for better accuracy only shows up in competition shooting at targets. For hunting accuracy there is no useful difference for short vs. long.

    A savings of four or so ounces in an otherwise seven- or eight-pound rifle is a small percentage of the total, in and of itself. It's an appreciable increment when designing the lightest feasible rifle.
     
  9. Picher

    Picher Member

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    1. I also don't think there's a practical difference in accuracy. The extra stiffness of a short action may not manifest itself in a free-floated barrel situation because the shorter action length may work against stability between action and stock by reducing the contact length/area. (It's like the accuracy difference between short-barreled and long barreled handguns.) Any movement between action and stock during recoil can be greater with a short action. That motion may be a greater factor than the action stiffness because wood or plastic in a stock is much weaker than a steel action.

    2. Scope mount separation is also greater on long-actioned rifles.

    3. Given equivalent barrel lengths, rifles with a short action bring the muzzle distance closer to the ears, hence increased (perceived) muzzle blast. It's not as important in a range rifle as for a hunting rifle, when ear protection isn't often worn.

    4. Some rifles balance better with a long action.

    These may or may not be factors that affect everyone, but something to think about when choosing a cartridge/action length.
     
  10. joed

    joed Member

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    I've wondered the same exact thing. Some people on here talk about a long action like it's evil. I own both in bolt action rifles and prefer the long action. I've never had problems with a long action when using long/heavy bullets. And I don't buy into the short action being stiffer.
     
  11. Beagle-zebub

    Beagle-zebub Member

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    Here's one thing that can't be denied: you can chamber a long action in a short-action round, but you can't chamber a short action in a long-action round.
     
  12. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    Where did you find those specs for the 84M? I find it at 5 lbs 6 oz in the super-light 22" montana variant. The long action 84L Montana is correct at 5 lbs 10 oz (24" barrel) and the 8400 Magnum Montana (26" barrel) is also right at 6 lbs 13 ounces.

    So the long action is 4 ounces heavier, which includes a 2" longer barrel. The magnum could be lighter, but would you really want to fire the .300 WM or .338 WM (the two chamberings they offer) out of a rifle weighing under 6 lbs?

    BTW, their long action "mountain ascent" model tips the scales at 5lbs, 5 oz. It also comes in .280 AI :D

    Anyhow, I maintain that all else being equal, a SA saves a mere 3 or 4 ounces at best. If you want the cartridge that comes in that rifle, it's a small perk. But it would be rather foolish to base your decision solely on a candy bar's worth of weight difference. A pound or two matters when humping a rifle through the woods, but a few ounces? That's a negligible difference in CCW handguns that often weigh less than a pound to begin with. The more important aspect with hunting rifles is how they balance in your hands and how they carry on a sling.

    I am definitely a proponent of the lightest gear possible, but that's more about what's being carried in your pack, when a 3 or 4 ounce difference is multiplied by 15 or 20 items and it adds up to pounds. I don't think anyone can actually perceive the difference in weight of their rifle from a full magazine in the morning to what it weighs after having fired two rounds and sent 3-4 ounces down range/out of the ejection port.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
  13. mdauben

    mdauben Member

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    Personally, I don't really consider it an issue in a hunting rifle, unless perhaps you are striving for the shortest, lightest "bush rifle" you can make. For range work or probably 90% or more of hunting, I don't think it makes the slightest difference.
     
  14. D*N*R*

    D*N*R* Member

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    I file it under the same catagory as talking about 'scope weight' when carrying around a rifle??? Just nothing left to talk about. Long action just gives you more flexibility in case capacity.
     
  15. CB900F

    CB900F Member

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    Squeaky;

    In the real world, the barrel contributes far more to the accuracy equation than the length of the action. As far as the speed of cycling the bolt to get a second shot off, well, hit the critter with the first shot and it's a moot point.

    900F
     
  16. kaferhaus

    kaferhaus Member

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    The biggest advantage is the scope mounting...rings are closer together which allows you to move the eye piece closer OR further away from your eye without having to crane your neck one way or the other. Even with offset rings the long action scope mounting is still an issue for many people.

    They are lighter. If you're walking/climbing those few ounces mean a ton. Most folks shoot out of a shooting house or tree though so it matters little.

    I highly prefer short actions. But that hasn't stopped me from also buying 270s, 30-06s etc.

    But, a 308, 7-08 etc will take anything you can hunt on this continent without issue. Both obviously work in short actions.
     
  17. valnar

    valnar Member

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    In a bolt-action? Probably not much. The big seller of one particular short action cartridge though - the .308 - means it can be used in some semi-auto rifles. If having a common round or brass is important for your M1A or SCAR-H then that may be a deciding factor. If you go with a .308 variation, like the 7mm-08, then that difference means a lot less...or nil.
     
  18. desidog

    desidog Member

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    Well, YMMV, but for me, I can keep cheek-weld and eyes on target with a short-action, and can't with a long action. But that's my bone structure & ergonomics...possibly not yours. Also, my rifle manufacturer of choice, possibly not yours.

    In a semiauto, the bolt travels farther, therefore longer, so i think getting on target for a followup shot may be impeded...but the make and model of gun count for far more.
     
  19. dprice3844444

    dprice3844444 member

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    weight savings to you young bucks may not matter,but to us old farts,it does
     
  20. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Direct from www.kimberamerica.com and my postal scales comfirm this. I don't always trust printed specs. They are quite often wrong but not this time. You probably looked at the specs for the 204 or 223 which show 5 lbs 6 oz, but in 308, 5 lbs 2 oz is correct. A bigger hole in the barrel makes a difference. I'm at 5 lbs 15 oz including a Leupold 2.5-8X36 in Talley Lightweight mounts.

    At one time this would have been a true statement, and with many rifles it still is. If I were considering a short action that was just a shortened version of the same rifle in long action, then I'd agree with you and just buy the long action in a different chambering.

    But many companies, Kimber, NULA, Mossberg Lightweight hunter, Remington 7, etc they are building lightweight rifles on short actions that are anywhere from 1/2 lb to 2 lbs lighter than comparable rifles in long action. Even if they could find a way to build a 30-06 the same light weight as a 308, no one would want to shoot it because of recoil. The lightweight 308's recoil about the same as a standard weight 30-06.

    I understand this is not important to everyone, I have both long and short actions. There are lots of things that can be done with a short action that a long action will not do. You just have to get past 1950's mentality.
     
  21. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    I stand corrected.

    Since this whole discussion seems to be that, rather than specific rifles, that's the premise of my points.

    If you take a standard Remington 700 CDL and compare the 7mm-08 SA model with the .270 Win or .30-06 LA model, both with 24" tubes, there is a whole 2 ounces difference (7 lbs 8 oz and 7 lbs 10 oz). The magnums gain another 2 ounces, but it's in the extra 2" of barrel, since 700s use the same action for .30-06 class and the big boomers.

    The lighter 700 mountain is 6-1/2 lbs across the board (all 22"). I suspect they probably use only a LA, though, even in 7mm-08 and .308. Of course, this is the exact same weight as the 20" model 7 synthetic, unless you opt for the 18" barrel, which is 6 lbs. 2 oz.

    What I'm trying to point out here is still that action length has very little to do with gun weight. I mean, we've got a 24" barreled long action kimber that is almost a pound lighter than a synthetic stocked 18" short action Remington.

    I don't have anything against short action rifles. Heck, I love my 673 .350 RM (not exactly a light weight, which is a good thing in that chambering). What I have a problem with is people spouting garbage in the form of non-existent "advantages" with a short action just because .308 or .243 or some short mag is their pet round.

    Oh, it matters to me, too. Just not when we're talking 2, 3, 4 ounces. 2, 3 or 4 pounds hanging on your sling is a different story.

    Pretty much all of my hunting rifles curb ~8.5-9 lbs with scope, mounts & sling. I cannot feel the extra 2 ounces from the 26" barrel of my .375 RUM vs. my 24" 700s. Anyone who says they can feel a difference between 136 ounces and 139 ounces I would call a liar to their face.
     
  22. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

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    Bench rest competitors probably have done a lot more R&D than any of us, comparing accuracy down in the arena where a few hundredths is the difference between winning and being an also-ran.

    So what do the top competitors use? And if they tend toward short receivers, do they talk about stiffness? I dunno.

    As far as weight, I went totally chicken: A 700 Ti in 7mm08. 5.25 pounds, bare. My tired old legs went to hollering, "Thank you, Lord!" :D
     
  23. joed

    joed Member

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    Me too, I own both short and long actions. But in all honesty the long actions work better in most cases when you start using long heavy bullets.

    I keep seeing someone ask about a chambering and someone comes in with "That's a long action stay away from that chambering." Why?
     
  24. nastynatesfish

    nastynatesfish Member

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    i own a 308 and a 7mag i dont see any difference. i put one piece bases on them anyhow. again, i dont think there is any difference to be noticable unless your shooting 1000yrd for a paycheck but then your action is probally worth more that my truck lol
     
  25. HKGuns

    HKGuns Member

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    I think it boils down to a faster throw of a short bolt and less displacement of your limbs to pull it off, therefore much faster to throw the bolt on a short action rifle. Probably won't matter hunting, but for other uses could make a significant difference. I can manipulate a short bolt a lot faster than a long bolt. With practice there would likely still be a difference, perhaps negligible.
     
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