donít think it is any secret that many of our favorite hunting
calibers have a military heritage. The .223, .308 Winchester,
.30-06 Springfield, and the .45-70 are just a few. The 6.5
Swedish Mauser, 7x 57 Mauser, and 7.65 Argentine are others. I
have always enjoyed collecting and shooting older military
rifles, but sometimes it can be a pain to locate ammunition and
loading supplies. This is no longer the case with many of the
older calibers, thanks to Hornady Ammunition and Graf
and Sons. Recently, Graf and Sons entered into an agreement
with Hornady as the exclusive agent for several hard to find
calibers, including the 6.5 Carcano, the 7.65 Argentine and the
7.7 mm Japanese, and others.
These calibers are produced with the famous Hornady
Custom quality. We no longer have to rely upon indifferent
surplus ammunition or be scalped, price-wise, by foreign makers.
This is a great boon to the shooter versus the collector.
The collector doesnít fire his guns but the rest of us just
love to see what the old iron will do. This is now possible.
Sure, there has been pricey ammunition in some of these
calibers available from time to time but few of us will be
willing to pay forty-seven dollars for a box of twenty rounds of
rifle ammunition - but that is just what I was asked for a box
of 7.65 Argentine recently.
The ammunition is no better than Hornady as far as
quality control and accuracy goes, but the Hornady loads use a
bullet that offers good expansion and penetration potential. In
other words, the old rifles are now shooters and hunters!
Hornady is operating at a fraction of the volume they operate on
in other calibers. I
would not be surprised if the margin is very slim on these
cartridges, as it is but a few dollars more than the .30-06.
We should be thankful we can get the ammunition! I am
seeing quite a few old guns come out of the closet these days.
I own and fire quite a
few older shooting irons. Some of them are remarkably accurate.
A common thread in these rifles is that they are pleasant
to fire. Somehow, our ancestors got by with the 7x57mm Mauser
and the .30-40 Krag and did not need a heavy loaded 7mm Magnum
or a .300 Magnum. Most of the rifles are more accurate than we
realize, although the sights can be a limiting factor.
Everything I write presupposes you have had your rifle checked
out by a competent gunsmith. Some of the higher pressure
cartridges occasionally cracked a bolt, and the locking lugs in
the 1890s types are subject to wear.
Just the same, quite a few early bolt action rifles are
very accurate, safe to fire, and pleasant shooters. Always be on
the lookout for caliber confusion. I was once sold a 7x57mm
rifle that turned out to be an 8mm - and I almost touched off
the wrong cartridge in the chamber!
Find a sensible gunsmith with gray in his hair with
practical experience, not all book learning and you will be
fine. Those old coots are getting to be more and more rare so
appreciate him when he is found.
look at some of the more common old war horses and how well they
perform in the field. Since they have been around for many
years, their performance is pretty well known.
I wont get into a knock down drag out on the relative
merits of the 7.7 Japanese versus the 7.65 Argentine, as both,
and the .30-40, are pretty similar. Rifle barrel lengths differ
and a good handloader can make any of them talk Ė for
practical purposes, many of these cartridges are in the same
of my friends told me I would ruin my reputation even talking
about the Carcano. Comments range from "It's only good for
a tomato stake" to the more complimentary comment that
"It may make an adequate fencepost". The Carcano will
not win any beauty contest; it is finished in a dull,
utilitarian manner. But the rifles are easy to shoot, kick
lightly, and have some historical significance. The 6.5 Carcano
must be used with a special clip that holds the cartridges and
falls out the bottom of the magazine when the last round is
fired. These clips
are available at a modest price from Gun Parts Corporation.
This is a dated system, but it works well enough. I appreciate
Hornadyís new load. The
Carcano actually won a couple of NATO shoots, so the rifle is
accurate enough for hunting. For small hogs, this is a fifty yard cartridge. Ammunition is
a Graf and Sons exclusive.
is a different rifle! The 6.5 Swedish Mauser is one of the most
accurate and pleasant to fire cartridges ever made. A once-inch
100-yard group is not uncommon with a rifle in good condition.
Hornadyís Light Magnum loading makes short work of North
American game. While paper ballistics are not impressive, the
sectional density of this cartridge and its long for the caliber
bullet offer excellent penetration and effect on game.
The rifles are long and heavy, but modern rifles are also
chambered for this timeless cartridge. An excellent but
effective cartridge for a small-statured young man or for a
small-framed woman, this is a classic cartridge. My handloads
use the Hornady SST and Accurate Arms powder. They are
is a powerful cartridge that offers good accuracy without a
harsh blast or kick. Many modern rifles such as the Ruger
M 77 are chambered for this cartridge. Hornadyís Light Magnum
is the strongest factory load produced in this winning caliber
Argentine / 7.7 Arisaka
of the Argentine Mausers are the best fitted and finished Mauser
rifles of all time. Even my little engineerís carbine is
accurate, smooth, and well finished. The 7.65 Argentine runs short of the .308 Winchester in
power, at least in common loadings. This is an adequate
cartridge for most North American game, given good shot
placement. There are a number of experienced shooters who feel
that the Argentine is a grand cartridge, among the best-balanced
made. For ammunition, Graf and Sons is the ticket once again.
The 7.7 Arisaka, often called the 7.7 Japanese, is basically a
rimless .303 British. As such it is powerful enough for most
hunting needs. I have never warmed up to the Arisaka rifle but
it is a common war trophy and a few custom hunters have been
made up on this action. Again, Graf and Sons on this one.
Krag is an elegant old rifle that is possibly the most
underrated military rifle of all time. I have often read of how
the 7mm Mauser gave the US Army a surprise in Cuba. I am sure
soldiers armed with the single shot .45-70 may have thought they
were badly outclassed, and in fact they were at a considerable
disadvantage. But most Spanish and Cuban soldiers were armed
with the .43 Spanish, a single shot Remington rifle less
powerful than the .45-70. Only
a few elite units used the Mauser. The Krag was a good rifle,
arguably the best for its time, as it first appeared in the
early 1890s. By
1898 the í98 Mauser offered considerable improvements. But
remember, the Krag soldiered on until well past the introduction
of the Springfield 03A3 in 1906, serving with National
Guard units until the 1920s and perhaps beyond. The Krag is a
very smooth rifle and an accurate one as well. The ballistics of
the .30-40 are a 180 grain bullet at 2300 fps. It is unwise to
attempt to approve upon these ballistics. When loading lighter
weight bullets, the point of impact in relation to the point of
aim is affected, so best to stick with 180 grain bullets. The
roundnose bullets are best, pointy bullets can hang up on the
Krag's feed way. I
have used Hornady 180 grain bullets designed for the .30-06 with
good results, but the 170 grain bullet designed for the .30-30
also responds well to hand loading. Accurate Powder has
given fine results in this classic caliber.
The .308 Winchester or
7.62mm NATO is now an old warhorse, having served for just over
fifty years. The .308 is a well balanced cartridge. This is
probably as powerful a cartridge as we need for North American
game. With a choice of bullets from 110 to 220 grains at
velocities of up to 3,000 fps, this is a powerful cartridge. The
165 grain Hornady JSP at 2500 fps is just about right.
The Hornady Light Magnum is a great choice. In keeping with the spirit of the article, I tapped my CETME
semi auto rifle for a firing demonstration. Loaded with the
short "hunterís clip", this rifle is not too heavy
and offers excellent handling characteristics. Unlike
hunting-designed autoloaders, this is super rugged rifle that is
reliable in all conditions. The safety is easy to manipulate,
and our friends at Century Arms International check each
rifle for reliability.
sights are ideal for firing at a quick-moving boar hog. And, who
knows, with the world situation the way it is, with crime ever
more dangerous, keeping your hand in on mastering a 20 round
.308 caliber semi auto rifle may be a good thing! I find the
CETME at least comparable to the HK G 3 it spawned.
(H and K magazines fit the CETME.)
This is a good rifle, a ball to fire, and very accurate.
From a bench rest, I was able to fire several two inch 100 yard
groups with the Light Magnum loads. If you handload for this
rifle or any other semi auto, then be certain to full-length
resize the cases and take extra care in load practice.
I used Forster head space gauges to be certain my
CETME was properly assembled and headspaced, an important step
with older rifles. All is fine with this rifle, and it is an
important part of my shooting battery.
years ago, a friend of my fatherís returned form a hunting
trip with his Garand. A former Marine, the man had chosen the
Garand based on long familiarity. But he remarked that he had
forgotten how heavy the rifle was! He got his animal. The Garand
is perhaps the most important rifle in American history, the
rifle that gave our men a great advantage over the evil empires.
Unlike many military rifles, including bolt actions, the Garand
feeds jacketed soft point bullets well. In order to insure
proper function, a 180 grain bullet is best. My personal Century
Garand is a parts gun but it works just great.
I have fired several two-inch 100-yard groups with the
Hornady JSP loads, but in close rapid fire is where the Garand
excels. I will admit the Argentine engineerís carbine is much
handier but the Garand is more pleasing to own and use.
military rifles, especially the relatively compact short bolt
action rifles, are well suited to hunting in brush. But there is
no reason not to give others in the battery a work out. The
Russian Mosin Nagant sniper rifle or the Lee Enfield
.303 have plenty of power for hunting boar.
Use a suitable powder (the Accurate reloading
manual is a must) and Hornady 174 grain .312
inch bullets and you will have a winner. And you will do
so on the cheap, with a bit of history thrown in to boot.
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