Greatest Bolt Action Battle Rifle in History...

Greg Langelius *

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Hitler used his experience in WWI as the armature around which he would personally ordain the means and the methods for winning. He got a number of those means and methods dead wrong as a consequence. Mainly, he was a politician who micromanaged the process when his own generally accepted as highly capable General Staff could have been more than equal to the task. Like all defeats, it was, at its heart, a political one. Hitler's cronies were crucial to his taking domestic power, and equally crucial to his wasting it away from home.

Britain was crucial to either side's potential victory. In dropping the objective of destroying the RAF prematurely during the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe allowed the wolf to gnaw away at its innards, and ultimately crashed on that rocky little atoll.

Britain became the ultimate unsinkable aircraft carrier, which wasted tens of thousands of Allied and Axis lives trying to turn massive bombardment into a terror weapon. It failed at that utterly, and didn't do much better at destroying industrial might until it was fully clear that the crossing of the Channel had already decided the outcome. Whichever side did that was going to achieve final victory.

Following the Invasion, Britain served as the materials marshaling yard that keep the invasion rolling.

Thee is no question that most of the rifles employed were bolt guns. Those who fully employed the semi's and full autos (Garand, PPSH-41, etc.) won the war. Halfhearted weapons employment gave halfhearted results. Like those here who wish to to be adept and effective, it's really as much the Indian as the bow or the arrow that really counts. The bolt rifles, even the M-N 91/30, were all excellent enough, in numbers, to be effective firearms. But choosing the best among them is choosing from the also-rans. Post-War, bolt guns were winding down in a crash dive; the semi- and fully-auto-capable rifle dominated from then on.

Germany used gas chambers because bullets were too expensive; when their generals warned that the Sturm Gewehr/Assault Rifle was too wasteful of ammunition, for them, it was a damning criticism. The Allies used overwhelming firepower in the fire and maneuver basic squad tactic that finally made the Stuka actually obsolete, and demonstrated conclusively that the bolt rifle was no longer a viable main battle rifle. No objective came without an accompanying gush of blood; it was the balance of firepower which decided which side bled more. In Germany, the intricacy of its weapons meant there would be fewer of them. In the USA, it was the industrial clout that made the Garand possible as an across the force implement, instead of the rare and exquisite mademoiselle that the SVT-40 and the StG-44 were doomed to become. Keep it simple, or keep it numerous. Tanks to rifles, it was the industries that kept them coming in numbers that made inferior models, like the M-4 Sherman and the T-34, to overwhelm and invalidate the Germans' exquisite technical superiority.

Patton was right about the Garand, but without the industry to build it in vast numbers, and keep it fed, it was just another interesting historical curiosity. Stalin put it simply enough, "Quantity has a quality all it's own...").

The Second World War was simply the First World War continued to its proper ending, with the Germans demonstrating again and finally that they are great at starting wars, and equally great at losing them. When the mounds of rifles piled up at the surrenders across Germany, they were bolt guns. IMHO, on the question about which of the bolt action main battle rifles was the best, my answer is, none of them.

Greg
 
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sandwarrior

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Fire up the Lancasters boys!

This is a huge pet-peeve. The M4 Sherman was a brilliant tank and definitely superior to German tanks that couldn't make it to battles without setting themselves ablaze.



And "exquisite technical superiority" pretty much repeats ad ifinitum. Tanks that set themselves on fire. Or using 30 tons of potatoes to fuel a rocket to deliver 1/7th of a Lancasters payload to the vicinity of London. It's should all be soundly mocked for how hillariously poor conceived it was.
I think you have it backwards. American tanks were well known to be set on fire in combat. So badly so, they got the nickname "Ronson Burners". And, yes, Ronsons were made and sold/given to GI's in WWII. They light every time was an ad logo used back then, referring to what 88's did to American tanks. And, we lost a shitload (that's SAE, Assload is metric) of American tanks. Not only to German tanks, but Panzerfausts and other anti-tank gunnery as well. Yeah, we had quantity, and some of what we built in quantity were the best.

But, to the original topic, Greg, you make my point well. Firepower means a lot. Strategy and tactics probably mean more. But, in a singular fight, functional firepower means as much as anything. the Lee Enfield has that advantage.

So, to my first paragraph, What made great quantity in WWI were the P14's and U.S. 1917's. They are a great rifle. But, they still don't hold as much ammunition nor can they shoot it as quickly as the Lee-Enfield. I will disagree that the P-13 would have even been a good rifle, because if you were to shoot that cartridge out of a modern rifle, you'd still have the same problem they were having. It's too much cartridge for both man and rifle. ANY rifle. And, do note, the British didn't go back to that drawing board when WWI was all done, they decided they didn't need a Mauser type rifle after all. The effective piece in the Boer wars puzzle was the cartridge, not the rifle.
 

Greg Langelius *

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I liked the way my Ishy ran, but it was too shot out to shoot tight.

One time prone on the 1000yd line with 175's, just for S&G's, I managed to attain a first class shoulder/butt kickin' and got all of two rounds ontarget.

No mistake is worth repeating...

LOL!

Greg
 

sandwarrior

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Jesus christ just watch the video. It goes into the whole Ronson myth pretty soundly, as well as Belton Coopers "Death Traps" book, and how the idea the Sherman was a bad tank became popularized. Nicholas Moran does it better than I ever could typing up a post on my phone.

The British were still looking at different rounds during the Inter-war years as well. This slideshow is from a presentation from HBSA and shows some of what the British desired between World War I and World War II. Note the slides about the Improved Infantry Rifle, the Ainley Rifle from 1939, and cartridge drawings as well.

https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/tcattermole/british-small-arms-development-the-inter-war-years

The 7mm Enfield as it existed in 1913 was not a sound design due to recoil. However the British probably would have settled on a lighter 7mm or even .25 caliber cartridge if development had continued after 1913.
I saw the video. I also read most of the comments about it saying it's bullshit. The bearing maintenance issue was a big one for the Germans though. I knew a number of WWII vets. Without going into detail, they all said the Sherman was notorious for catching fire. Gas is much worse for fire than diesel. I also know there were more than 4-5 engagements between Shermans and Tigers. The entire Battle of Hurtgen Forest (6 months, multiple conflicts) had us facing Tigers.

I included the comment about the Ronson myth. They were there, and that's what they called Shermans. It took superior numbers and good tactics to beat one. They did tend to get overextended and need maintenance though. Not a good thing, even if your army is there to protect the mechanics performing the maintenance.

As far as the P-13, P-14 and U.S. 1917, I'll have to rest my argument on the fact the British did not go back to the Mauser design after WWI. they even sent all their P-14's back to us. As they were "Not Made in England." That's what the stamp on my P-14 said.
We began R&D into a semi-auto rifle. As you mentioned, had they continued research they would likely have gone with a more suitable round for a Mauser action. Which, I will agree, can handle a more powerful cartridge than the Lee Enfield.
 

Greg Langelius *

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Postwar Panzers in the Golan Heights...

The PzKW IV was the dominant German Tank of WWII. It formed the backbone of the Syrian Army's armor brigades.

The Isrealis built their initial armor brigades around the M-4 Sherman, continuing the late WWII sequence of upgrades to produce an even more effective fighting vehicle.

In 1967, they faced off against the Syrian Panzer IV's in the Golan to a general stalemate until the UN forced a cease fire. When hostilities resumed, the Isrealis had swapped out the M-4's for postwar Centurions, and they trammeled the Panzer IV's.

The later war versions of the Sherman, especially the 76mm Firefly versions, were outstanding tanks for the time, but they were also seriously upgraded from their debut early in the war. When the Pershing showed up, it was almost over, but the high velocity 90mm gun it brought to the table put a genuine scare into the German's remaining Panzer and Tiger operators.

Greg

PS, since all of the tanks of the day employed single shot main armaments, I guess we could say they were all bolt actions.

FWIW, the LVTH-6 105mm Howitzer Amtrac in my old unit employed an automatic loader with a second round onhand, and were basically 105mm machine guns for two round bursts.
 
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BangBangBlatBlat

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Firefly was the Sherman with the 17 pounder. It was a British creation. The 17 pounder is a different cannon than the 76mm. The 17 pounder really was too big for the small turret on the Sherman.

The late war M4A3s had the 76mm and a larger turret to accomodate it. The US came up with stronger steel so they could make a smaller cannon for the same weight as older designs.

The 76mm was taking an old heavy design and making it basically half the weight and the 90mm was making a bigger gun for the same weight as an older one.

Pershing was not that great of a tank because it wasn't strategically mobile, and didn't have a large enough engine to power it.

Note the Syrians used the Panzer IV; a medium tank design that was generally reliable. Not the Wunderwaffe Panther and Koeingstiger.
 

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Can anyone explain how the 1903A1 sights are supposed to be used? Ie when you flip up the rear sight, what/where are you supposed to line up the front post with? Its gotta lot of stuff going on but apparently is quite precisely made..

AFA the OP, hard to argue against the No 4 Enfield. But there was a reason the P13/P14 was developed, so I'd have to say the P14/M1917, 03A1/03A3, Swede Mauser, and 1909 Argentine are in the running somewhere with the No 4 in no particular order. There's a strong case for the M39 and other Finn Mosins as well, super high quality job the Finnish did on those Mosins by all accounts.

IMO another interesting one, mentioned by Mr Greg, is the PPSH-41 & PPS-43 using the 7.62x25 Tok round. These were basically PDW's before their time. A ~10" barrel 7.62x25 running some full house hot loads will run circles around 9x19 and especially .45 ACP subguns ballistically. If the .30 Carbine had been a little bit shorter bottlenecked case, I'd reckon we'd a seen several more weapons chambered in it. A .30 Carbine Grease Gun or Thompson would've been awesome IMO.
 
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sandwarrior

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I'll still argue the P-13 was not viable as the round was too powerful. And thus CANNED! There really isn't a way to make a battle rifle with a round more powerful than the 30-06. Cartridges that big just don't make a firearm last. So, as to toning it down, it would eventually be less powerful than the .303. So, what's the point of a new round? It wasn't just shelved because WWI was just around the corner. It was shelved because rifles didn't last. Funny how the Brits didn't try to replace the .303 between the wars. Some common sense at least prevailed.

And other things pointed out in the previous posts, like volume of ammunition stored in the magazine. They didn't think it mattered pre-WWI. They sure found out it mattered during WWI and WWII. So, much so that all modern firearms now have high capacity mags.

Really, the whole thing is we are attempting to put our opinion on it now, but, look at where we progressed to. We don't use high power rounds. That was a fallacy brought about by "opinionaters" in the Gov't that thought what was right. NOT people who really knew. Even still tactics, far outplays what we use for a cartridge in importance. Volume of fire actually means what it should today. The bean counters back then didn't want the men "wasting" ammunition. Accuracy in a battle rifle is only still as good as someone can get down, get supported and take an aimed shot. The best whiz-bang rifle in the world won't aim itself and be accurate unless the shooter can do his part.

Honestly, after posting through this thread and seeing what we have now, that could have been available back then, I'd have to say "THERE WASN'T ONE."
 

BangBangBlatBlat

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@sandwarrior

The Brits were still playing with .276 Enfield in the interwar years. Replacing the Enfield and .303 British was still in the cards but it also wasn't super pressing because they had just got done fighting the war to end all wars.

I'm pretty sure I linked to the slides from a historical group in the UK that covers small arms development in the interwar years.

My bet is that .276 Enfield would have ended up like 7mm Mauser or 7mm-06...and last I checked 7mm bullets have higher BCs than 30 cal if you keep the weight the same. There's no way it would have been less powerful than .303 British.
 

Dan M

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Can anyone explain how the 1903A1 sights are supposed to be used? Ie when you flip up the rear sight, what/where are you supposed to line up the front post with? Its gotta lot of stuff going on but apparently is quite precisely made...
With the M1905 rear sight elevated, there is an aperture with an index mark running through the center. Line up the index mark with the appropriate range marking and with M2 ball you should be there. Above the aperture there is the Field of View (triangle port). at the base of the Field of View there is an open notch sight. The indexing line for the Field of View comes off the base of the triangle... line it with the desired range and you should be GTG with M2 ball (basically the same as the M1906 ball the sights were indexed for).

There is another notch on the sight slider (if I remember correctly, minimum 1400 yard) and some have a 2850 yard notch on the top of the sight... I don't know anyone that shoots using those.

The battle sight with the sight laying flat is set for 547 yards (500M)... and it is spot on.

Windage adjustment is another story.

With ammunition other than M2 YMMV.
 
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I'll still argue the P-13 was not viable as the round was too powerful. And thus CANNED! There really isn't a way to make a battle rifle with a round more powerful than the 30-06. Cartridges that big just don't make a firearm last. So, as to toning it down, it would eventually be less powerful than the .303. So, what's the point of a new round? It wasn't just shelved because WWI was just around the corner. It was shelved because rifles didn't last. Funny how the Brits didn't try to replace the .303 between the wars. Some common sense at least prevailed.

And other things pointed out in the previous posts, like volume of ammunition stored in the magazine. They didn't think it mattered pre-WWI. They sure found out it mattered during WWI and WWII. So, much so that all modern firearms now have high capacity mags.

Really, the whole thing is we are attempting to put our opinion on it now, but, look at where we progressed to. We don't use high power rounds. That was a fallacy brought about by "opinionaters" in the Gov't that thought what was right. NOT people who really knew. Even still tactics, far outplays what we use for a cartridge in importance. Volume of fire actually means what it should today. The bean counters back then didn't want the men "wasting" ammunition. Accuracy in a battle rifle is only still as good as someone can get down, get supported and take an aimed shot. The best whiz-bang rifle in the world won't aim itself and be accurate unless the shooter can do his part.

Honestly, after posting through this thread and seeing what we have now, that could have been available back then, I'd have to say "THERE WASN'T ONE."
Fair point. .276 is a barrel burner and considering at the time that they wanna use the same round for rifles and MG's, it wouldn't be a good choice.

Anyhow, figured this pertained to the discussion pretty well:
 

sandwarrior

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@sandwarrior

The Brits were still playing with .276 Enfield in the interwar years. Replacing the Enfield and .303 British was still in the cards but it also wasn't super pressing because they had just got done fighting the war to end all wars.

I'm pretty sure I linked to the slides from a historical group in the UK that covers small arms development in the interwar years.

My bet is that .276 Enfield would have ended up like 7mm Mauser or 7mm-06...and last I checked 7mm bullets have higher BCs than 30 cal if you keep the weight the same. There's no way it would have been less powerful than .303 British.
Yeah, and immediately post WWII they got THE PERFECT SIZE, the .280 British. Which, fed better than the .280/30 British, which was also quite a viable round. Very much lighter and YES, the perfect bullet diameter, 7mm.

Added:
While I think it's a very interesting video, it's not a tell all of what the issues either shooter would have. It pretty much shows, Ian is not the equivalent shooter of Karl. You could see clearly when going right how Ian was faster with the Enfield, but lost time fighting the rifle. The rifle was not known, and neither was the Mauser for that matter, as a rifle you had to fight with to work it. Ian is "wrong handed" and fights his rifle. Like ALL rifles, bolt or semi-auto, the loads have to be loaded right to go into battery. The cock-on-close/cock-on-open comment Karl makes at the end has nothing to do with Ian not being able to manipulate a stripper clip. Ten smooth shots were clearly better than five or six.
 
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samnev

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I think Germany very likely could have won the war if Hitler waited to attack Russia until after Britain had been knocked out. Germany then could have focused on Russia without having to split its forces. If they'd done this and if Hitler hadn't decided to deviate from the established plan, German forces likely would have rolled over Russian forces before they'd had time to dismantle and move their industrial capabilities to the isolated East. This would have prevented Russia from being able to build up the necessary tanks and material resources needed to beat the German Army. Zukov was not a great Commander, but he was competent and after Russia was able to build up the forces necessary (usually more than twice what the Germans had in any given battle) he was able to win on sheer numbers alone (tho the T-34 was an amazing tank).

Again, it always comes back to Hitler making stupid decisions that had disastrous consequences down the road.
The Nazi's could have wont battle of Britain and had the RAF on the ropes when they were attacking the radar installations and airfields. Then Goring switched tactics and started bombing Londdon. The RAF had time to recover building more Spitfires, Hurricane and training more pilots . The tide turned and thee invasion of England was called off. If you have the DVD collection of World at War look at the Episode of the Battle of Britain and listen to the comments the RAF Command make regarding what pitiful shape they were in were saved by Goring's switch of bombing tactics. Who knows what would have happened if the Nazi's had won the Battle of Britain.
 

sandwarrior

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The Nazi's could have wont battle of Britain and had the RAF on the ropes when they were attacking the radar installations and airfields. Then Goring switched tactics and started bombing Londdon. The RAF had time to recover building more Spitfires, Hurricane and training more pilots . The tide turned and thee invasion of England was called off. If you have the DVD collection of World at War look at the Episode of the Battle of Britain and listen to the comments the RAF Command make regarding what pitiful shape they were in were saved by Goring's switch of bombing tactics. Who knows what would have happened if the Nazi's had won the Battle of Britain.
I would say that was a factor. However, some of the "post facts" of the Battle of Britain were misconstrued by people not on the strategic level. At the low point of the Battle of Britain, the Brits had Spitfires, and even better ones on the way. What they lacked were pilots trained in the tactics to beat the Luftwaffe fighters. That too was catching up.

Even still, the Germans did not have enough overwhelming air domination over The Brits. An even bigger factor was they were going to need sea power to get material across the channel. They simply did not start the war with enough ships to reach across open water and support invasions by sea. They not only didn't have dominant sea power, they didn't have enough resupply cargo capacity.

No matter what rifle your army is packing, it's not enough without sufficient ammunition. Thus why the Germans decided the English Channel would be a barrier enough with the "Atlantic Wall" being put into place on the French side. Many historians consider it as big a mistake as invading Russia and declaring war on the U.S.
 
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sandwarrior

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The Battle of Britain was never really close. We know that now by looking at the records for both sides. It basically comes down to the Brits believed the Luftwaffe was bigger and better functioning than it really was.

Even if the Luftwaffe was successful the Royal Navy would have just laughed as the river barges the Germans planned to use as landing craft capsized and sunk in the channel.

Sealion would have been one of the top 5 best fuck ups in military history. Like you know the scene in the acclaimed hit "Adversary at the Entrance" where "one man gets a rifle...the other some ammo"...well the Germans were going to actually do that with river barges...one barge gets a motor and the other barge gets pushed into the beach.

You want to see some funny shit? Look up Operation Wikinger on Wikipedia.
I agree. The invasion would have been possible had the Germans built up for it. They did not. In the end, it was as much a lack of resources that would spell the end for Germany in WWII. As much if not more so than tactics.

And, while I love this thread, it should also be said, the choices by various countries of their main battle rifle didn't have a huge outcome on the end of WWII. WWI, more so. Not so much WWII

Are you talking "Enemy at the Gates"? That kind of piggybacking wasn't going to work. You can't send in your troops hoping they will be able to pick up the dead man in front of them's rifle. It's one thing if it's your homeland and you have supply there. Another if it's across and open body of water.
 
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Yall got it all wrong.. best bolt action by far. Puts all that old shit to shame

Who'd a thunk the Brits would've come up with the best bolt action battle rifle in history? Get em while ya can fellas :p
 

pmclaine

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Yall got it all wrong.. best bolt action by far. Puts all that old shit to shame

Who'd a thunk the Brits would've come up with the best bolt action battle rifle in history? Get em while ya can fellas :p
Lets see what they come up with to cut your steak when they ban knives next.