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What were the best and worst bolt guns of WW2?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by The Exile, May 17, 2020.

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  1. The Exile

    The Exile Member

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    I've been trying to find information on this everywhere, someone comparing all the various rifles of WW2 to each other but every seems to muddy the waters by only comparing two rifles to each other or making it about all small arms in WW2. Excusing the Garands and the STGs and the PPShs from the conversation entirely though how did the rifles stack up against each other? I have to imagine that they all came pretty close together since many of them have such conventional designs, but how does an Arisaka stand up to a Mauser or a Springfield? Is a Lee Enfield a better gun than a Mosin? Sure there's no correct answer, but it's an interesting topic surely. How would you rank them against one another?
     
  2. 792mauser

    792mauser Member

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    Truthfully they're all about equal.
    Take a soldier from 1914 and give him a bolt rifle from 1945 and he'd be good. None of them were drastically different from the ww1 version each had.
    All save the 6.5s like the Japs, swedes and Italians were overpowered.

    The only "bad" one is the Mosin. And even that is at the low end of the good scale.


    Some might be easier to use and recoil less, but they all fit the same general need.
    Easy-ish to make, powerful, good range, good point blank range, smokeless and easy for the soldiers you conscripted to understand and use.
     
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  3. 792mauser

    792mauser Member

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    And I forgot the most important part. They can all be used as impromptu artillery.
    Aka 1500-2100 yard/meter sights.
     
  4. Mr. Zorg

    Mr. Zorg Member

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    Last ditch Japanese manufactured probably edges out last-ditch everybody else from the examples I've seen.

    Tales of the Gun rerun was showing typical Japanese small arms and light + medium machine guns the other night. Except for the 7.7mm "Woodpecker" medium machine gun they rated pretty much all the Japanese 6.5X50mm firearms and 8mm Nambu & especially "Baby Nambu" pistols pretty low.

    Above that, my guess would be the Italians in general although I admit I've never seen any particular last-ditch Italian WW2 weapons. The 6.5X52mm cartridge was on pretty old legs when they went up against the Brits in Africa.

    I've seen some particularly primitive German last ditch bolt action rifles.

    Best would be based on particular features. Magazine capacity and speed of reloading has to be the UK. There are so many Mauser variants with variable build quality not only from Germany but all the Axis nations plus occupied countries hard to say, maybe G33?
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
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  5. nhcruffler

    nhcruffler Member

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    The French MAS 36 gets my vote for the best bolt action rifle of WWII. It is very well built with a ergonomic bolt handle and heavy claw extractor but the peep sight is what really sets it apart from the others.
     
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  6. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    Best WW2 bolt gun- No.4 Mk1 Enfield

    Worst- M35 Carcano
     
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  7. Monac

    Monac Member

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    The usual answers to the OPs question is that the British Lee Enfield was the best, because it had a 10 round magazine and had a bolt that apparently could be worked faster than a Mauser-type bolt. I have not shot a Lee Enfield, so I only know this from books, but British authors seem to agree on it pretty solidly. The 303 round it used was perfectly adequate by WWII rifle standards although the big rim made it a pain in light machine guns. The Number 4 Lee Enfield made during WWII had a nice aperture sight as well (once again, according to books I have read).

    The other usual answer is that the Italian Mannlicher Carcano was the worst, because it was chambered for a poor cartridge: the 6.5x52mm, which is said to be inferior to the 6.5mm Arisaka and even more inferior to the 6.5mm Swede. It had an awkward en-bloc clip loading system (sort of like the Garand, but without the big payoff of being a semi-auto, and holding only 6 rounds instead of 8). British writers say a number of other uncomplimentary things about it, such as it having a weak receiver (the phrase "bolt in the brain" sticks in my mind) but again none of which I know about first hand.

    The Italians tried to improve the cartridge on the cheap by simply widening the mouth of the 6.5x52mm case to take a 7.35mm bullet. They began making new rifles in this caliber, and converting old ones. Unfortunately, they had waited until about 1938 to start this, and so had not gotten very far by the time they got into the war. They went back to 6.5mm as the standard, and both converted and reconverted some 7.35mm rifles to 6.5mm, and let others just sit throughout the war. Italy was a poor country, and before WWII the Army budget went into things like conquering Ethiopia and backing Nationalist Spain instead of new basic equipment.

    PS - I see NIGHTLORD40K has said exactly the same thing as I have, only with 98% fewer calories. :)
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
  8. JT-AR-MG42

    JT-AR-MG42 Member

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    Hard to disagree with that.

    I recall reading this about WWII shoulder arms (to paraphrase).
    The Americans built a target rifle, and the Germans built a hunting rifle, while the British built a battle rifle.

    JT
     
  9. NIGHTLORD40K

    NIGHTLORD40K Member

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    I forget not everyone has owned and shot (most) all the WW2 rifles as I have, so the xtra details are spot on.

    I really, really wish I could say the M1903 is better than the Enfield, but its not for most combat ranges and duties. Its still a very good gun, especially the A3, but if I had to carry a turn bolt in WW2, it would be the Enfield.
     
  10. Glockula

    Glockula Member

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    The best? The Lee Enfield had superior capacity. I like the O3A3 sights and shoot well with them so the old A3 gets a nod there.

    I despise Mauser sights but my 1943 Swedish Mauser is a light kicking dream to shoot. Its not really a top or bottom rifle though.

    My bottom WW2 rifle is the Arisaka. Doesn't do it for me at all. A distant second to the bottom is the K98. I despise the sights, not a big fan of the 8mm and its heavy. Quality is much better and that is why I rate it better than the Arisaka.
     
  11. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    I don't have the extensive experience of some people with these older surplus rifles, but I have shot most of them. The 03A3 seems top-shelf to me, about equal with the Mauser, except that the Mauser has brutal recoil, IMO. The Japanese rifles I shot were hot garbage. Honorable mention for junk goes to the Mosin, which gets the consolation prize as the best bayonet handle. I've never heard anything good about the Italian Carcanos either. No idea how the French rifles performed. I'm not sure if anyone knows the answer to that.
     
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  12. Ohen Cepel

    Ohen Cepel Member

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    I had my own WWII "shoot off" a few years ago.

    Springfield and Mauser, pretty close to each other. Arisaka was fine (I'm a bit biased towards them) and better than most people think they will be. The high point for me was the MAS36, excellent rifle, light recoil, light rifle, great ergonomics with the forward bent bolt handle, only strike I would put against it is no safety and if we're looking at bayonets it would be a bad option there with that needle (but it is on the rifle) about on par with the Russian screwdriver ones. Neither of those bayonets are useful as a knife in any way.

    The Mosins from the bench were horrible. Had to reach over with my non-firing hand to work the action. Heavy recoil and just miserable. The short (38 and 44) ones are at least more handy but then kick more.

    Enfield is nice, would have to debate if it beats the Springfield and Mauser out. I'm not used to its cocking method but that is me rather than the rifle.

    Did not shoot my Carcano as I didn't have ammo handy that day but I think it would be in the bottom of the pile if someone told me I had to take one of these for actual hard use now.
     
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  13. AlexanderA
    • Contributing Member

    AlexanderA Member

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    I think the dividing line among WW2 bolt guns is the receiver-mounted aperture sight vs. the barrel-mounted tangent sight. That means the standouts are the Enfield No. 4 and the Springfield 03A3. Between these two, the Enfield has the advantage of a 10-round magazine capacity and a slick bolt, while the Springfield has the advantage of a rimless cartridge. In theory, I would give the title of "best" to the Springfield, but in practice that's moot because the Springfield 03A3 wasn't much of a factor in the war, whereas the Enfield was.
     
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  14. P5 Guy

    P5 Guy Member

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  15. 12Bravo20

    12Bravo20 Member

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    I have to agree that they were for the most part close to being equal. Most of the bolt action rifles of WWII were designed during WWI or earlier and there weren't much changes made to them for WWII. I'm not counting any of the last ditch rifles since they were all made in a hurry with inferior materials and workmanship. I have always been impressed with the Enfields especially when a "mad minute" exercise is done.
     
  16. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    Ohen Cepel: "... the MAS36, excellent rifle...[but] ... if we're looking at bayonets it would be a bad option there with that needle (but it is on the rifle) about on par with the Russian screwdriver ones. Neither of those bayonets are useful as a knife in any way."

    Those spit sticker bayonets are about useless.
    I could use my M1 Carbine's M4 bayonet as a general camp knife if I sharpened the blade a bit more.
    My Mosin 91/30 bayonet ... I might be able use it to roast weiners over a fire ... if I could get the cosmoline off it.
     
  17. AMraider

    AMraider Member

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    I'm a big fan of the Swiss K31. Although never truly "Battle Proven" it is a well made rifle in production from 1936-1958.

    k31a.jpg
     
  18. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    BEST- Sniper rifles were hand picked from the lot. These are the most accurate.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2020
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  19. Antihero

    Antihero Member

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    The Mosin is great at what it is, but it is crude, very russian

    The Enfield has the best sights IMO, the magazine capacity helps a lot.

    The Carcano is....meh. the round isn't great, the clips kinda suck and the gun overall is weird. Gain twist rifling is strange.

    I wasn't impressed with the MAS or k31 I handled but I haven't fired either

    Mausers just seem kind of middle of the pack all around.
     
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  20. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    Fixed that for you.

    The Enfield does stand out as being the best of the bunch for bolt actions, even though it’s saddled with a cartridge designed in the 1800s*.

    Worst would be the Mosin as it’s defects hinder it from actually functioning. Rim lock and bolts that require another tool to open them are just completely unjustifiable in a rifle that’s actually issued to soldiers. Plus the Mosin offers the two choices of long and ungainly vs short flamethrower. Even various 8mm Mauser types with their crap sights and heavy recoil are better.

    BSW

    *Although the MkVII bullet does tumblr and have very good terminal ballistics.
     
  21. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    But, from a pure bayonet point of view, the spike bayonet is the best way to convert a rifle into a spear. Attempting to use the cutting edge of a knife bayonet to "chop" is useless, you don't have enough mass at the point of impact to do anything, so the knife edge of no value except to thin the blade down. Spike bayonets can be much larger in diameter for the same or less weight than a blade bayonet so are less prone to breaking, and they enter and withdraw easier.

    This is why the French and the Russians kept them (both of whom were all about the bayonet and the attack), and the British No 4 when to a spike bayonet. Spears are best employed as stabbing weapons.
     
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  22. Antihero

    Antihero Member

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    I doubt rimlock would ever be a problem, once the round is ready to be chambered it's just floating. It's a crude but effective solution
     
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  23. lysanderxiii

    lysanderxiii Member

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    Until you need to do crowd control.
     
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  24. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    Uhhh, bayonets.

    Potentially useful if rifles are out of ammunition and you’re faced with a cavalry charge or guarding prisoners. Militarily insignificant since the rifle musket came out about 1850.

    Grading WWII bolt action rifles by the type of bayonet they used is like deciding what car to buy today based on if it comes with a hand crank for starting.

    BSW
     
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  25. briansmithwins

    briansmithwins Member

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    Although the Mosin does have a interrupter that’s supposed to prevent rim lock I’ve seen multiple Mosin have rim lock and require tools to get back into operation.

    Naturally this happened during a rifle match, on the clock.

    BSW
     
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