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Thread: Metal, wood, and cordite: WWII Reunion

  1. #1
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    Default Metal, wood, and cordite: WWII Reunion

    Recently several friends and I got together with some WWII veterans. Not real life living and breathing veterans, but metal and wood veterans. What started out as an impromptu day of shooting with one of my shooting buddies who said, "Hey, do you want to shoot our military rifles?" ended being a great day of fellowship and fun with other shooters.

    Kevin and I had arrived at the range just after 10:00AM. The weather was as perfect as you would want. The temperature was in the low 70s, the sky was clear, and there was little to no wind. There were a few folks there already, mostly sighting in deer rifles. A father with his son and daughter showed up soon after we did to do some plinking with a .22. Kevin and I started unloading our gear; gun cleaning kits, spotting scopes, targets, eye and ear protection. Then came the rifles.

    I had decided to shoot my military bolt-action rifles while Kevin had brought his military semi-autos. That was all well and good, but I was really looking forward to shooting Kevin's 1903-A3, in .30-06. The last time I shot it I had a 3/4 inch cloverleaf group at 100 yds using iron sights. It is one of the nicest vintage rifles I have ever shot. For this trip to the range I brought my Lee-Enfield .303 British, No4 MkI sniper rifle (1942); my Czech BRNO, prewar Model 98/22 in 8mm mauser; My K31 Swiss in 7.5x55mm; and my Mosin-Nagant M1938 Carbine (1943). Kevin brought a few variations of the AK47. As you can imagine going to the range is alot more complicated than grabbing a gun bag, some ammo and eye and ear protection. When we go to the range it is an event.

    After getting our "stuff" set up the other shooters took a break and went "cold" making it safe for Kevin and I to go down range to set up targets. We set up several targets with 4" bullseyes and returned to the firing line. That is one of the great things about the people you meet at a firing range. They are polite, well mannered and patient. When you are not actually shooting it is common to have someone meander over to your area to "see whatcha shootin'." Then you go see what they are "shootin'". Because of the friendliness of my fellow shooters I have been able to shoot $10,000 sniper rifles, a rare Reising .45ACP sub-machinegun, a M1928A1 Thompson .45ACP sub-machinegun, Uzis, Mac-10s, and all kinds of pistols, rifles and shotguns. Funny how the nicest people on the planet are also the most heavily armed.

    I decided to start with the 98/22, which a friend gave to me, using ammunition manufactured in 1953. Kevin was spotting for me. I sighted in on the red 4" target, took a breath and let out half as I pressed the trigger to the rear. When the rifle went off I was reminded of a quote about some other high-powered rifle, "It kills on one end and cripples on the other." The recoil was fairly heavy. The stock not only pushed back into my shoulder, it hit my right cheek pretty good too. Then I hear Kevin say, "Umm, I don't see a hole." Great! Ok, let's try again. Same result. Kevin suggest I aim low. I aim at a spot about 18" below the bullseye, more or less. This time I actually hit just outside the bullseye. It seems that my front sight is too short. The rear sight is already as low as it will go. Using my "best guess" aiming point I am able to shoot a decent group. After about ten shots I ask Kevin if he wants to shoot. I can use the break. My shoulder and cheek are taking a beating. Kevin shoots 5 rounds and decides to sight in his AKs. While he sets up his gear the line goes cold again so some new shooters can set targets.

    When the line goes "hot" again, I spot for Kevin while he sights in his rifles. He shoots, I call in his hits, he adjust the sights. We repeat this routine several times until he is happy with his groups. While he is busy with his AKs I get my .303 British ready. My dad bought this particular rifle 30+ years ago for $15. The previous owner had butchered it while attempting to sporterize it. He probably didn't realize what type rifle he had. Lee-Enfields were manufactured in the millions, just like the K98 Mausers, the Mosin-Nagants, and 03A3s. It was common to pick up a mil-surplus rifle and change the stock, the barrel, just about everthing. Today, the rifles that survived in their military issue condition are at a premium. My .303 isn't just a common infantry rifle. It is a sniper model which had been converted at Holland and Holland in England. Fortunately the H&H proof marks are still on the butt stock, which had not been changed. I restored the fore stocks to military configuration. In it's restored condition the rifle is worth much more than the $15 my dad paid for it.

    Once I am ready to shoot Kevin takes a break and spots for me. The ammuntion I am using was made the same year as my rifle, 1942. Having used this ammo before I have an idea of what to expect, not too accurate, the smell of cordite, and the occasional hang-fire. A hang-fire is when you pull the trigger, hear a click, but not a bang. At least not when you expect to hear a bang. I have had delays from 1/10 of a second to a little more than a second. Old ammo makes for an interesting shooting session. My .303 has a nice trigger and will shoot 1" groups with good quality modern ammo. Even so, I get some good groups with the 42' ammo as well. Unlike the 98/22 the .303 only beats me up at the shoulder. The raised comb on the butt stock makes a big difference. After shooting three 5-shot groups I change places with Kevin.

    As we are taking a break a few of our other shooting buddies show up. Al, James, and Chris. I thought Kevin and I had a lot of stuff until I see what these guys are unloading. All three of these guys are serious mil-surplus shooters and collectors. They unload about a dozen variations of Mosin-Nagant and K98 Mausers (WWII production) onto two tables. Kevin and I go to see what they brought. To me it looks like a dozen copies of the same gun. When I ask Al what he has out he gets like a kid in a candy shop. Al, James, and Chris start explaining about the different variants, the changes, the manufacturing dates, etc. Later, when Al came and looked at my rifles he was able to give me a lot more history about them, particuarly the 98/22. He told me I had some very nice rifles. That always makes you feel good.

    It was time to get back to the shooting. My next selection was my K31 Swiss. The K31 is unique in that it has a straight-pull bolt action. Instead of raising and pulling the handle back as you would on a standard bolt-action, the K31 has a cammed bolt which rotates when the bolt handle is pulled straight to the rear and then pushed forward. My ammo for this rifle was modern 7.5x55mm FMJ. The Swiss made rifle is a great shooter with a really nice trigger. It also kicks like a mule. Of course it may have been the 98/22 and .303 I'd been shooting earlier that made it only feel like a mule. While shooting the K31, two more guys showed up who were friends of Chris. They brought a few handguns and a SKS carbine to shoot. There was now seven shooters in our group. Of the seven, Kevin and I are US Air Force veterans, the two new arrivals were active duty US Navy, Al is a US Navy veteran, and Chris was US Army, and a Iraq/Afghanistan veteran.

    We were a group of veterans shooting rifles which had been carried by WWII veterans almost 70 years ago. In addition to getting to shoot some great rifles we all made new friends, shared stories of being in the service, and exercised our right to keep and bear arms.

    I really enjoy shooting military-surplus rifles, but what I really enjoy is learning the history behind the rifles. After shooting these rifles you develop a greater level of appreciation for what it would be like to carry one every day and to use them to defend your country.

    WW II Rifles 2.jpg

    Top to Bottom: British .303 (1942); Czech 98/22, Mosin-Nagant M1891 3 line rifle; German K98 Mauser (1940); Mosin-Nagant M1938 Carbine (1943); a rare Mosin-Nagant M1891 Dragoon with 27" barrel.
    Al, Scott, James, Chris.jpg
    Al, Me, James, Chris
    Last edited by Sgt T; 11-13-2009 at 03:12 PM.
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  2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Sgt T For This Useful Post:

    dnola (11-13-2009), rkbartley (11-13-2009), Rossi (11-13-2009), UGA (11-13-2009)

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    ASD Senior Member dnola's Avatar
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    Interesting stuff Sgt T. Got a question though. Does your Enfield .303 put the little kink in each shell like most of them did? I had shot my old jungle carbine many times without noticing that each casing was bent very slightly when it was ejected due to the bolt flexing in the receiver. I was told that you should never reload the .303 brass because of this. Don't know how true that was but it kind of made sense. Though I didn't think much about it at the time, today I really regret selling that rifle. I've haven't seen one like it since!
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    What a great day! Thanks for sharing with us Sgt. T

    rkb
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    Wow, you sent me on a blast down memory lane. I'd love to see the #4 Lee-Enfield.

    Don't want to highjack, but a quick story. I'm a small unit instructor at the Jungle Warfare School at Balboa, Canal Zone. In for instruction at another part of the school was a Rhodesian Light Infantry trooper with a sniper L-E. Don't know if it was a #4. I didn't get to shoot it, but we had a great afternoon sharing sniper techniques and our respective rifles.

    Side note: Recently, I had come into a bayonet for the Lee-Enfield. Checking the net, I learned that there were millions made....even prior to WWI. I gave it to an associate, but heck, I'd have given it to you. No scabbard, had light surface rust, but restoreable.

    Anyway, again THANKS for the blast.....very interesting post.

    Rossi
    Last edited by Rossi; 11-13-2009 at 10:41 AM.

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    dnola,
    The only problem I ever have with the brass is that it sometime splits at the shoulder. This is more an issue with the brass than the rifle. I don't have that problem with modern brass. I comes out of the chamber looking fine.

    Rossi,

    I have a spike bayonet with a scabbard. Thanks.

    303 from right rear.jpg

    303 from side.jpg
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