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Josh Wayner

So you’ve decided you want to compete in Civilian Marksmanship Program matches, be it at local clubs or with me at the national matches at Camp Perry. It all starts with the rifle. This article will explain the criteria for selecting a rifle that will give you a competitive edge in the matches and allow you to maximize your abilities . . .

There’s a lot of ground to cover here whether your looking for a Garand or a Persian Mauser. The selection process isn’t as simple as grabbing the nearest old gun off the rack at your FFL. You’ll need to be careful and pretty particular about what you are looking for because no two old military rifles are alike, even if they are the same model. You’re looking for an individual, not a species. Esti Ginzburg is a woman, but not all women are Esti Ginzburg, you know what I mean?

The first feature to look for in a rifle is the condition of the bore. If you’re at a gun show and the owner refuses to show you the bore, walk away and forget about him. There’s a reason he wouldn’t show it to you. You’re looking for a bore that’s virtually perfect. The rifling must be crisp and clean, but the bore doesn’t have to be shiny like a mirror. I’ve seen many old guns that shoot great that have what people call ‘dark’ bores.

Right after examining the barrel, look at the action. In particular, check the locking lugs and firing pin. If you’re serious about a rifle, have the owner or salesperson take it apart for you. Firing pins break and they are seldom checked when a gun is taken in at a store.

Josh Wayner
Mauser bolt face. Note the firing pin is visible and clean

The lockup on the rifle should be tight with little to no play and the firing pin should be clean and show no signs of filing or tampering. Don’t fret too much about the springs inside the bolt. If your lock time is a bit slow, it could be that there’s grease or old cosmoline in there.

Next, gauge the overall exterior condition of the rifle. It should ideally be clean and dry. There shouldn’t be too many dings or dents in the wood. Wood condition varies wildly, but luckily it’s the easiest thing to replace if you decide the barrel and action are worth owning.

Next come the sights. Makes sure you have both a front and rear sight. The sights need to be crisp to your eye with no signs of modification or filing. Sights are easy to replace if necessary.

Josh Wayner
How sights should look. Crisp and clean.

The sights should also move freely and adjustments shouldn’t be sticky. This really applies to only rear sights, as most front sights are only drift adjustable.

Josh Wayner
Not all sights are the same. The M96 sights elevate by moving the mechanism reward up a stepped surface, unlike most any other military rifle.


Josh Wayner
Crisp and clean sights. Note the sharp edges and square profile. This sight has never been tampered with.

Look for little accessories that comes with the rifle, too. Things like sight hoods and muzzle caps often are lost over the years. If you find a rifle that still has other goodies, be sure to grab them.

Josh Wayner
This rifle features a thread protector, sight hood, and original cleaning rod. It also has an original bayonet! (not pictured)

If the gun passes all those tests, hand over the cash. This is where it gets interesting. There’s more that you’ll want to avoid than accept when it comes to these old rifles, so pay attention here. What I’m about to tell you isn’t meant to make anyone upset or rile the masses. What follows is my honest opinion about what you’ll need to get into the sport.

That said, don’t fall in love with your new gun. To be able to do well you’ll need a rifle that will print groups that have a radius of about 2”. All your shots should drop into a 4-inch circle at 100 yards and into about 8-inch at 200. That’s not optional. If your gun won’t do that, sell it. These things either shoot or they don’t. I’ve bought and sold dozens of ‘good’ rifles over the years and haven’t shed a tear over any of those I’ve passed on. These guns are sports equipment for playing a game, nothing more.

Hands down, you will want a rebuilt M1. The M1 is the favorite rifle of an entire generation, but it’s also a sorry old oar that was obsolete before it was even invented. Many praise it for being revolutionary, but keep in mind that it was the result of government criteria last to what they believed an infantry weapon should be. The Nazis were light years ahead of the US government in terms of arms design and even John Garand knew it. We’re still living in the Sturmgewehr era, which should tell you something.

The M1 is nothing but a curio these days. While well-loved and functional, they’re ill suited for anything except the competitions designed around it. I’m not being facetious, either. The M1 is only relevant today because we as a community have chosen to make it so and that affects the price and quality of the guns you’ll find out there.

On that note, understand that the M1 needs to be rebuilt to make it competitive. The M1 isn’t a terribly accurate rifle to begin with. It’s quite literally the sum of its parts. You will need to check every single piece of that rifle and tune them all to your shooting style to make it work for you. This isn’t really a beginner’s task in all honesty. Sure, you can get an M1 that shoots, but if you’re reading this, you are probably looking for an accurate one. That takes time and expense.

New stocks are available from a number of manufacturers and allow you to do away with that greasy board that was on it when you bought it. New barrels are also available and are a must if you want to do well.

Sights are next. The rifle must have solid and repeatable sight adjustments. Many M1s I’ve seen have a slippage issue where the sight will walk down. People sometimes put clear nail polish in the mechanism to freeze it in order to maintain zero if slipping occurs. Just be careful of this and test the adjustment knobs out while pressing on the rear ghost ring. You shouldn’t feel it moving, even under pressure.

Accuracy on a Garand is 50/50. Many people assume that M1 rifles are really good because it’s what Gramps carried across Europe. In reality the practical accuracy is about the same as that of a good AK. I saw a skilled, expert level big-talker shamed by a guy using an Arsenal SLR series AK in 7.62×39 in a national match course of fire. He may have beat every other M1 shooter, but fell short of the AK guy. He didn’t just lose, he lost badly. At 200 yards. Oh and I wasn’t just present that day, I was the guy with the M1.

The Garand shoots well for a 1930s era semi-auto, but it isn’t great by our modern standards. Expect across-the-board accuracy to be about 5 to 8 MOA for an off-the-shelf rifle. A rebuild with a new barrel and stock will bring that down to 3 to 6 MOA. You can do better with a custom build and match ammo.

All that is to say that the M1 is not a beginner’s rifle. If that’s the way you want to go, fine. Just have realistic expectations and be prepared for lots of frustration.

Garands in various degrees of quality range in price from $700 to $2000. There is no telling what you’ll get as far as accuracy in that price range. I’ve seen quality guns go for $600 and garbage sell for over $1500. A good rebuild on a Korean War receiver will run about $1200 these days.

There’s a winning combination that I see used over and over again at both my local ranges and at Camp Perry. Unlike the M1 where accuracy is willy-nilly even with a rebuild, the 1903 can be made into a tack-driver with little effort.

Like the M1, you will want a rebuild. A 1903A3 action is ideal. The stamped metal parts are junk, so ditch those. What you will want in place of the WWII-era stampings are the earlier milled parts common to the original 1903. These are a thicker and better design and provide smooth surfaces to grasp while shooting offhand. That will also add a bit of weight to the gun, making it a hair more stable in the right hands.

The 1903 is blessed with a Mauser action, but it does much to insult the innate beauty and perfection of the German designs. It’s a Mauser knock-off, but it’s a good knock-off and as such, the feed is smooth and reliable. If it’s not, you are likely in possession of a parts build on a refinished drill rifle. Those rifles can be identified by distorted metal coloration on the magazine switch assembly and a gritty action.

You can find professional level rebuilds on drill rifles. In fact, some of the best rifles are done this way. You can actually buy completely rebuilt rifles as I’ve described right at Camp Perry. They’re fully re-parkerized and competition ready in most cases. Expect them to run in the $800-1200 range.

There are a variety of 1903 stocks available that are legal for competition. There isn’t anything wrong with the straight stock, but the C stock is by far the best. It allows for easier indexing of the hand and relieves wrist fatigue.

Lastly, replacing a barrel on a 1903 is easy and can be done just like any other bolt action rifle. Many fine replacement barrels are available and will produce exceptional groups with match quality ammunition. Expect accuracy to be about 2 MOA. These are solid and accurate rifles when you do them right, but are sadly nowhere near the quality and aesthetic beauty of their European counterparts.

Picking a vintage military rifle some of the most fun you will have in CMP, trust me. There’s something so invigorating about hunting down a rare or mint bolt action rifle and seeing what potential lies under the wood. Our domestic rifles are soulless clubs compared to their foreign counterparts.

There are three rifles that dominate the top rungs of CMP and only two (discussed below) that are worth a damn to most people. The one that I have a great hatred for, though, is the 1917 Enfield. This rifle is a disappointing combination of Mauser genius and breathtakingly crude engineering.

Do you sense some animosity on my part? You should. I hope the guys running the CMP read this because I’m just saying what all of us are thinking. The 1917 doesn’t belong in competition against foreign military rifles. This rifle belongs in a combined match against the 1903 or hanging on a wall. Preferably the latter.

I’m not saying this to upset anyone. The 1917 isn’t a beginner’s rifle and will not let you shoot well. I’ve coached and competed for over a decade and I’ve never had a good time with these guns. Out of a dozen students I’ve coached that started with a 1917, none kept them longer than a competition season. I’ll tell you because I know. This is not a beginner’s rifle and you will have difficulty becoming proficient with it.

I’ve shot with these rifles and find them to be the least comfortable and accurate available today. I’m convinced that the 1917 was designed to cause headaches. It suffers from a poor trigger and nasty ergonomics. The shape of the stock is problematic for match shooting and makes the shooter assume an unnatural head position to look through the sights because of where they’re located on the receiver. I’d describe the entire rifle as ungainly. Is it a good collector’s rifle? Yes. Is it a good gun for someone looking to begin in competitive shooting? No.

Why then is it a top rifle in the Vintage match? It’s because the ones that shoot do so very well in the hands of an expert. Out of 100 rifles, only one is worth it. The guys who found those few have held onto them and make good use of their accuracy. Expect 1903-level accuracy on a good one, but Mosin-like 10-14 MOA sprays from the rest. Last year at Perry, both the highest and the lowest scoring shooters shot 1917 rifles.

If you want one, you’ll be hard pressed to find a quality 1917 for under $1200 these days. Many junk builds or parts guns are floating around out there in that price range. I strongly recommend anyone who is looking for a CMP rifle to steer clear of 1917s.

There only two rifles that you should consider seriously if you want to shoot in the Vintage matches. First is hands-down the best and most accurate CMP rifle out there. It will out-shoot anything and everything and on average is one-third the cost of the others. I’m talking about the Swiss K31. These rifles can commonly be found in excellent condition with either a walnut or beech stock.

Josh Wayner
Mint condition walnut-stocked K31, dated to 1942.

K31 triggers are among the very best available, putting even modern versions to shame. The triggers are two-stage and break like glass. I’ve not found a better trigger on any service rifle. It isn’t just my own rifle, either. Every single one I’ve handled has the same pull, courtesy of Swiss craftsmanship.

The K31 takes the 7.5x55mm cartridge. This can be found as surplus occasionally, but modern ammunition is common and readily available. You’ll want to reload for this round if you can. It takes any commonly available .308 bullets and most standard powders like H4895 or Varget. My own K31 has shot into 1 MOA territory using match handloads and has accounted for two golds and two silvers at Camp Perry.

K31’s fall into the $400 range and can typically be had in unmodified condition. The sling on the K31 is meant to be mounted on the side, which some shooters find distracting. It’s CMP legal to switch the barrel band to the older K11 style that features a bottom sling loop.

The next rifle is arguably one of the most beautiful ever made. The Swedish M96 Mauser is an excellent rifle to get into CMP competition on. The rifle is well-balanced and has a very long sight radius. Much like the British Lee-Enfields, the M96 is a cock-on-closing design. For reference, the 98 Mauser cocks on opening. The cock-on-closing feature allows rapid bolt manipulation and smooth cycling.

Josh Wayner
A mint condition 1914-dated M96 Mauser

The M96 benefits from being chambered in the 6.5x55mm. The weight of the rifle combined with the low recoil of the smaller 6.5 bullet means that you can practice without worrying about being beaten up.

These rifles go in the $400-600 range and are sadly the common victims of sporterization. It isn’t often worth the cost of repairing one to do so. Look only for rifles that are in shape and unmodified in any way.

The 6.5x55mm cartridge is easily reloaded and uses about 1/3 less powder than its .30 cal peers. Even a hot load is pretty mild with this round. Modern high quality match bullets are readily available and will allow you to wring the best accuracy out of the gun. Anything .264 will do. If you already load for 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5×47, or .260 Rem, you will be right at home with the 6.5×55.

I got into match shooting with a pedestrian Mosin 91/30. It was a cheap way to start out and was a fun gun. Mosins are often thought of as accurate rifles and they are. They’re just not accurate enough for competition and the modifications made to make them more accurate are illegal for CMP matches. The sling setup isn’t good for match shooting and the triggers are typically terrible.

The only Mosin worthy of CMP is the Finnish M39. It’s a good rifle and all were tuned at the state arsenal in Finland. I shot one of these for couple years and then sold it. They’re solid rifles, but just aren’t able to produce the kind of accuracy common to the K31 or the M96.

British rifles have a number of problems in general and are best avoided. The various Enfield pattern rifles may have been fine for fighting Nazis, but sadly aren’t very good for competition. The days of quality British surplus are over and most of what’s being imported now are leftovers or discards.

I’ve shot Enfields and find them to be of poor quality when compared to other available options. The lack of match reloading components and poor bores plague this otherwise solid rifle family.

There are a large number of Mauser derivatives available for under $300 today and most aren’t match-quality. Yugo 8mm rifles are cheap now, but aren’t match level guns.

German Gew 98 rifles are typically of good quality, but are rare and expensive. Nazi K98k rifles can be had in nearly new condition and are usually pretty good for match shooting. The only problem is their sling setup, but that can be fixed with a little effort and sling modification.

So now that you’ve read my opinions on rifle selection, what do I actually recommend? Well, if I were you, I’d skip the US service rifles to start. I don’t hold the M1 or 1903 in very high regard for this sport because of their high buy-in cost and the fact that they take a good deal of work to make accurate.

If I were in the market for a rifle today, I’d hunt down an M96 or a K31. I’d likely pick the M96 if I had to choose only one.

Wait. Why? You said earlier that the K31 was the very best, right? The M96 is an easier rifle to learn on. If you only shoot in one match, make it the Vintage at Camp Perry. When compared to the 7.5×55, the 6.5×55 is just plain easier to shoot. If you reload, it uses less powder and can fire lighter bullets.

Josh Wayner
(L) New Hornady 178gr ELD-X, an ideal all-around bullet for use in a K31. (R) The 6.5×55 cartridge loaded with 140gr ELD Match bullets will bring home the medals.

If you happen to be a woman or small-statured, the M96 just makes sense. It has the recoil of a .243 and doesn’t require a great amount of physical strength to use. The cock-on-closing action doesn’t require rough cycling and is easier to use than a straight-pull action or a Garand en-bloc clip.

In short, you’ll be hard pressed to find a CMP rifle that offers all the benefits of the M96 purely as a game gun.

Before you laugh me off and lovingly cradle your M1, take into account that this series is aimed at beginners. M1 thumb is enough to make anyone reject CMP. For those who don’t know, you must stick your thumb into the M1 action to load it and the bolt can and will close on you. It can rip nails off in some cases. It’s happened to me. Recoil on a 1917 or 1903 is punishing. Thirty rounds in a match of 120gr 6.5 is nothing compared to 30 rounds of 175gr .30-06.

Remember that this is a game, nothing more. You aren’t going to go fight in the trenches or punch a Nazi. You’re going to play a game using old guns. Pick something that will allow you to do your best and have fun. Even if you don’t go to Camp Perry, this is still a blast and will give you hours of enjoyment. The CMP culture is lots of fun and the majority of people in it are very willing to help and share in the good times.

Next time, we will discuss rifle set-up and accessory selection. Good luck finding your rifle!

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  1. Oh, this should be a fun, fun thread to watch!
    (grabbing popcorn, setting back, and fondling a well-loved M1 Garand, while whispering to it, “it’s ok, darlin’, he didn’t mean it like it sounded”)

  2. Have you tried the semi auto version of 6.5 mm the Swedes brought out in 1942?
    Is it legal for your competition?

    Used a friends a few times at range and very nice. Even has rubber buffer to protect ejected cases to make them easier to reload

    • Typically, in a vintage military match, foreign rifles must be of bolt action design. US semi-automatics, M1 rifles (their own classification) and AR-15 rifles (modern military class) are the only semi-autos allowed in “as-issued” CMP competitions. The only exception for a foreign semi-automatic that I’m aware of is vintage sniper class matches, where the German G43s are allowed. There are open classes which would allow for this rifle, though.

  3. Can anyone point out an online resource that shows photographs of what a good vs bad rifle bore looks like?

    • Without a borescope, you can’t really tell much about a rifle’s barrel by looking down it. Oh, sure, you can see if the bore is “nice and shiny,” or “cloudy,” or badly corroded, but you can’t tell how well it will shoot. You can’t tell much about what the toolmarks look like, whether the throat is eroded, what the rifling looks like.

      The way the US military armorers (and other military armorers) tell whether a rifle barrel is in need of replacement is to use gages without any moving parts. The .30-06 rifles had issue throat and muzzle bore erosion gages for the armorers to use for this – you can find them from various service rifle suppliers. Throat erosion and muzzle erosion (and crown damage) are what predict rifle inaccuracy in service rifles.

      • Holy crap, borescopes are not cheap.

        The kind I’m familiar with, the fuzed bundle fiber optic type start at $500 and go up from there.

        *Way* up from there.

        I see some cheapo Chinese-made video borescopes on eBay, but I’m assuming they are next to useless.

        On the upside, Brownell’s has the throat erosion gauges for about $40…

        • There are cheap(er) borescopes now available:

          But the standard in resolution and quality is still the Hawkeye unit:

          The problem with telling shooters to “get a borescope and look at your barrel,” is that it is about like telling them to go to Egypt, read the stuff scribbled on the 4000 year old temple walls and recite history from it. The rare tourist might be able to do something useful and recognize a cartouche here or there, but they’re going to be rare. Same deal with most gun owners looking down a borescope: the odd one might be able to see throat erosion, or crown breakdown, but they’re going to look at the bore and say “OK, what now?”

          The two things that tell you a barrel is well and truly done for, and further that a gunsmith will be trying to haul rabbits out of a hat to improve anything, will be throat and (especially) muzzle erosion. Those you can gage, and need only gages to perform. Those will cost you maybe $50 each to obtain.

        • OK, thanks, you’re right, I wouldn’t know what I was looking for.

          Best course of action on a mil-surp is to pay a competent ‘smith for their opinion on the condition of a particular rifle…

        • Well, you could do that, but another method is to look very carefully at the gun. Bring reading glasses – seriously. Sometimes, when I’m looking at guns for sale, I bring my Optivisor headset – and that’s’ when you see some gun sellers start to really sweat.

          Bore and throat gages are great because they need no power, they have no moving parts, they can’t lie, and if used properly, they’re fast and reliable.

          The condition of the rest of the bore? Well, that’s a tough thing to tell from looking down the barrel. There are many barrels that look rough in a borescope that shoot just fine. They might foul more quickly than a pristine barrel, but they’ll shoot.

          After all, these were service rifles – designed for, and sometimes used in, wars. War ain’t pretty, it ain’t neat, and it can be highly abusive of weapons. Just look at the condition of Russian captured Mausers – you can tell they were heaped up outdoors and left there for some time by the deep pitting under the wood line.

  4. Garands are fun and nostalgic. But it’s true I wouldn’t use one for serious shooting. What really bothers me about them, is you can’t put just any 30-06 ammo through them. You need special garand safe 30-06.

    • This is true. I will get to this in an article to come, but you will want to stay below 170 grains and in the middle of the safe range on most powders. You can bend the op rod of damage other parts of the rifle with modern hunting ammunition.

      • Can’t you get and adjustable gas plug that can mitigate the issue? My understanding is that the gas plug limits what you can use.

        • What about .308W Garands?
          I shot them in the Army and own one since quite a while.
          Never had any issues, but I heard about what you’re talking about.
          Is it only on 30-06 or even on .308?

        • Adjustable gas plug would not be legal per CMP as issued rules. It’s ok for NRA service rifle, though.

        • Yes, you can get an adjustable plug, or get a “ported” plug (
          Most 308 garands with criterion barrels do not have enough gas for the ported plug due to the size of the gas hole.
          The ported plug just has the inside hollowed out to be able to handle more gas volume and avoid the pressure spike.
          Without the adjustable plugs, the general rule is “nothing faster than imr 3031 and nothing slower than imr 4320”. The heavier bullets can cause oprod problems as has been stated.

  5. “Many M1s I’ve seen have a slippage issue where the sight will walk down.”

    That goes for the M1A, as well. Dunno about the Garand, but the M1A has a screw in the center of the elevation knob which tightens the mechanism and prevents the walking down. But I’m not sure that’s a bug or a feature, I found out about it in a long-range class at Perry, shooting at 800 yards while being coached. Walked the hits in until I was in the 10 ring, thought I was hot stuff, checking the wind, recalculating, rechecking, let off another one and its 3 feet below the last one. So I rejigger, adjust and fire again, back in the 10 ring. Next shot, 3 feet low again. And despite changing winds, I was keeping all of them on the center laterally. I got a LOT of practice adjusting to move impact where Iwanted it, instead of just firing more rounds. Finally I was frustrated enough to ask the coach why my shots seemed to be dropping lower with each shot. He said “I don’t know. Unless …” and he reached for my rear sight and just shoved it right down to zero. ZIP! I got him to show me how to tighten the piss out of it, and then it was time to move to 1000 yards. Since I did not have an 800 yard starting point, I never did cut paper at 1000 until I came back the following year.

    Still, hitting a target at 1000 yards had been on my bucket list for 30 years by that time, what was one more year?

  6. Sight slippage on a Garand or M1a is just a new sight cover spring or screw adjustment fix. Garand thumb is an overrated concern. For the life of me I don’t know how anyone could do It loading a full clip. Not enough room. Now closing on an empty chandler is a different story.
    The peeps on a Garand or 1903A3 are much easier for some people’s eyes (mine included) than the sights on a Mauser, K31, etc. I have a K31. I like it. Great rifle. Just harder for me to use the sights.
    that said yes the Garand is an outdated rifle. Still a blast to shoot though.
    I think the first post in this series mentioned this being a series on how to be competitive but I think that really misses the point. Grab the gun you have and are comfortable with. Get your 200y zero and go shoot a match. Have fun. If you decide to start chasing points then upgrade.

  7. M1 thumb is an issue going from inspection arms to port, ask any 8th&I Marine. If you got your finger caught after loading a clip you may have been day dreaming at the time. The action is not that fast when stripping a round. I too speak from experience.

    • On my Garand I can press down on the loaded En Bloc and the bolt will do absolutely nothing. I keep the blade of my hand on the op rod to prevent it from going forward, but I’ve never had it go forward. I have always had to pop the op rod. I think M1 thumb is way overblown if you load correctly and don’t finger frack the action without an en bloc loaded.

  8. Any advice for lefties? I’ve considered cmp matches but don’t know anyone else who does it and getting in and out of the sling and running the action on many of these rifles seems like a pain. Should I consider AR service matches instead?

    • can you load it with your left hand? If so, just reach over and slap the action forward after loading with your left hand. The sling would be on your right arm.
      I shoot lefty too due to an eye issue, even though i’m right handed.

  9. I earned my first ribbon at a CMP event by asking a club member which rack gun should I take? The 17 year old volunteer pointed me to the most beat-up Garand and I outshot my friends who were/are far better shooters than me but I got my hands on the one that was dialed in from the start.

  10. My garands are better than 5-8 moa, and I haven’t done anything to them. They are not precision rifles, I definitely agree with that. I don’t think it’s valuable to “accurize” them either.
    They are very fun though! I thought about doing cmp matches, but I got way too far into pistol matches instead. No time for cmp these days

  11. I’ve seen plenty of lefties shoot a Garands and ARs well. They said it took a little more effort but they did fine. Not sure about bolts.

    • Google “Rick Crawford Camp Perry”–the man is a master of the K31, and a southpaw to boot.

  12. Tune in tomorrow when we discuss how J.M. Browning was a crackpot and the 1911 was dead on arrival.

    Now where did I put my asbestos thong….

    • I wish people would stop worshiping Browning like they do. For all you know the guy was a crackpot. Maybe he hit women or had a severe gambling or drinking problem. Hell, Steve Jobs did a huge amount to influence us today and he was a whacko for the most part. The guy invented a gun that happened to stay in our arsenals because we were too cheap or poor to invest in other things, not because the 1911 is the best thing ever.
      Garand and Browning both had their time and to shine and they did good things.

      Also, you should probably get checked for cancer because of that asbestos underwear. Just sayin’.

    • Like what? A well-known and experienced match shooter offering his free advice on how to do well in a sport? Yeah, seems really fishy.

      Pardon me, but I really learned alot in this article and it changed my views on this. I have five Mosins between me and my brother and will likely sell some after this. I usually shoot at paper plates off a bench and the front sight post is easily as wide as the plate at 100 yards. I know a CMP bull is smaller than what I shoot at and I agree that out of five mosins we average 8″-10″ ten shot groups with any ammo.

      I can’t imagine shooting one offhand and having it be steady or able to hit the plates. It is hard to shoot standing like in the matches. I can inderstand how the triggers on a mosin are bad. Mine are really heavy pulls and are gritty.

      Plus, most of the guys at my club that have mosins don’t do better than me. One guy has a Finn mosin and its really accurate, but still not better than 5″ at 100.

      Based on what I read here, I wouldn’t have bought any of my mosins or even some of the mausers but I don’t shoot those because I don’t know where to find good ammunition for a 1909 Argentina Mauser.

      • I guess his point about old rifles being individuals is true. My $100 moist nugget shoots 10 rounds 2.5″ groups at 100 yards all day long. Hand loads 150 grain hornaday soft point with H4895 powder. Might not be Camp Perry material but could hold its own in local matches.

      • I say “fishy” because most service rifles will meet a 5moa standard. Double and triple that means you will likely miss a man sized target at 100-200yds. Even the Soviets would have been upset with that. The Finns would have rejected them straight away!
        I’m sure there are 14moa Mosins out there, but that is due to abuse or neglect, not factors inherent in the rifle.

    • There is a reason that there is no shooter with an M91/30 or other Russian Mosin in the top 300 shooters in CMP Vintage at Camp Perry last year.

      Out of the 100 top shooters, 56 had either a K31 or an M96.

      I can’t speak for an individual rifle, but in general Mosins are terrible match rifles and cause bad habits like trigger jerking and flinching to develop. The triggers are just so bad that my eyes water thinking about them.

      But remember, it is only a game that we play for fun. That’s all.

    • I have three Garbage Rods. My first 91/30 has a 5.5lb trigger, wonderful counter bore, and shoots amazing 10 inch groups at 100 yards. My ex sniper will do sub 4″ from what I can tell. It’s getting drilled for the scope again and I already installed the bent bolt handle. It pulls at 3.5lbs and is really nice for a Moist Nugget. My M44 pulls at 7lbs, but I haven’t shot it for groups at 100 yards yet. It always seemed more accurate than the 91/30 at 25-50 yards. So yes, you can have really poorly grouping Mosins.

    • I’ve bought 91/30s a case at a time and shot them all. I’ve had bores that ranged from .308 to .314. And I’ve had groups that go from 1MOA to 8MOA. They can be radically different from rifle to rifle.

  13. I sadly have to forgo my enfield. you are right most are not superb shooters and ammo selection is limited.

    • Fine. I have a couple and am a southpaw. Fire, rotate slightly counter-clockwise with support hand, run bold with firing hand, rotate back, engage . Straight pull makes it easier IMO.

      • Actually I am left handed and use the LH oprod on my K31. Since the LH oprod is a legal mod for service rifle competitions in Switzerland it is de facto considered legal also here in Italy, Dunno about the CMP.

  14. What’s the take on Arisaka type 38s? I have one rattling around my safe that can be relied on to shoot 3-5 MOA at shorter ranges…

    • If I’m recalling correctly, the 10 ring is about 3 MOA across. If your rifle can’t hold 3 MOA all day long, you’re giving away points if you’re playing to win.

      If you want to shoot an Arisaka in a match because you like it, go for it, I say. It’s a game, play it your way.

      (Also, FYI, MOA is an angular measure- range doesn’t come into it. If it’s “3 MOA at short range,” it’s not a 3 MOA rifle.)

      • At long range (400+ yards) it becomes difficult to hold tight groups because of the irons.

  15. I really enjoyd this article. Does anyone know who designed the 03 I cant find it on the net. John Paul Mauserfield?

    • Springfield Armory, (the real Springfield Armory, in MA) licensed some patents from Mauser (for the princely sum of over $200K at the time), designed other features of the 1903.

  16. I wouldn’t buy a K31 without knowing, a priori, that when you eventually need parts for it, you will have to either hunt a fair bit, or listen your local gunsmith as he asks “So… how much would you like to spend?” They’re just not as high in number as other milsurp rifles. Maybe the way to look at the K31 is “Well, it’s about half the cost of a 1903A3… so why not buy two of them?”

    The K31 is an excellent rifle – of the highest quality production. The straight-pull action is slick as greased weasel snot, but unique among service rifles. I’ve not rebarreled a K31, but I’ve looked at one, turned it over and decided that if one comes into my shop, I’m passing on the job.

    It isn’t that it is impossible to re-barrel. But because it isn’t similar to the Mauser-pattern rifles, which are very large in number (in the 10’s of millions), it’s not worth my time and capital to tool up. There are some smiths out there who do work on the K31’s, but not many of them.

    The Swede M96 has far more parts available here in the US. For gunsmiths, the M96 isn’t anything special or unique – it is just another Mauser pattern rifle, just executed better than many other Mausers. I’ve always been impressed by the quality of Swedish arms. On my shopping list for “some day” is a CG63 or CG80, which were very nice target rifles built off m/96 receivers.

    Further, for shooting competitions, I’d take the 6.5×55 hands-down over just about any other milsurp rifle round. Brass for the 7.5×55 is more expensive than the 6.5×55 or .30-06. Some of the 7.5×55 ammo is Berdan primed, and not easily reloaded. As I’ve mentioned on other threads, there are excellent bullets available for 6.5mm rounds now.

    The 1903A3 in good condition is a 2 to 3MOA rifle, better with better quality ammo. I own and shoot one. The two groove barrels are slightly more accurate than the four groove barrels – and somewhere in my files, I have a government report from the 40’s showing the results of testing 4 vs. 2 groove barrels. The 2-groove barrel was a wartime expediency, at first thought to compromise accuracy, but later found to increase accuracy slightly. With a new barrel, it is a 2MOA rifle with some work on the trigger and possibly the stock. The cheap 1903A3’s of 20 years ago are all gone, and now the price for an 03A3 is well up there, easily over $800. I occasionally see reworked 03A3’s with a new barrel for $900. Parts are plentiful for the O3/O3A3’s, and relatively inexpensive. They’re easily rebarreled, with new barrels of very good quality available from quality barrel outfits like Criterion, who sells barrels that are short-chambered, already threaded and timed.

  17. Nice article.
    I agree with most things, not with everything though.
    Enfields: I’m currently shooting very well with a nice No.1 Mk3* Dispersal gun, 1943. I like it all around. It is smooth, the sights are the way I like them and the 4 grooves barrel is very, very good.
    I also shoot a Canadian No. 4 Mk1 with 6 groove barrel. The rifle, ex Italian Navy surplus, was expensive but is as new, with matching numbers and a very good trigger. It’s just the sights….. Too wide peephole to be accurate, so I’m thinking about some old time diopters. A guy frequenting my same guns shop uses it in competition and is currently on place 2 in the North Eastern league here in Italy. So, if you get the right one, they can be amazing. A few old guys laughed at him the first time he showed up with an Enfield where everybody had K31 and M96, but now there is much less humor around him and his rifle.
    What I really find amazing is my K98, Yugo “prisoner”, 1943. From the very first time I shot it (with S&B standard ammo), it got right smack center. Also the sights, very often criticized, are perfect to me. I have tried it only two times, but am under 3 MOA with these commercial ammo and the front sight still way out of center. I guess we’ll be very good friends soon.
    I’m now looking forward to buying a K31 or a Carl Gustafs (M96 or 38), but these rifles have not been used in war, and somehow they just don’t appeal to me. I fired the K31 in Switzerland in a few competitions for reserve officers, and the “piece” is amazing. But still……. I have had a few chances at both, but I never get beyond my idiosyncrasy towards “neutral” stuff. Only “The Charly” has seen some combat in the hands of Norwegians, but not really as issued rifle I guess.
    Another rifle I consider great (don’t lough at me, please) is my Carcano 91. It is a special edition one, dated 1931, given to my grandpa in 1932 as a prize for winning a competition. It has the crossed rifles over the bullseye and a trigger that is really match. The accuracy is unbelievable. The limit there is me and my eyes that just don’t like to focus on the very thin blade of the front sight. I can put a few shots into the bullseye and then find myself 4 inches above or under, as sighting with the Carcano system is very difficult.
    I also shoot Mosin, and it is fun, punishing but funny. But not really at the other’s level. Only my Finnish M27 is ok, but it has been tinkered with and so I can’t get to love it really.

    Well, that said, again great article an I really wish there were more about Milsurp!
    They really trigger my passion for rifles.

    I wish everybody here a great week-end!

    • Occasionally, a K31 will pop up on gunbroker in the $400 neighborhood–just be patient. The furniture on the K31 is usually beat to hell from years of the troops running drills with them–they will be scratched and dinged, but just make sure wood is sound with no structural cracking. The action and bore, if the rifle has been well cared for, should be near immaculate, though.

      • I have a Swiss-issued manual for their troops’ use on the K31. I was amused to find therein instructions to “not use your rifle as a hammer.”

        They showed someone beating a post into the ground by hitting it with the comb of the stock.

    • jwtaylor,

      Simpson, Ltd ( has a large stock of K31’s. Price for the best of them is $325 + $25 shipping to your FFL. They have several hundred on their website with detailed descriptions including bore measurements. They are very good about indicating whether the stock is cracked. They are also up front about whether the serial numbers match (the rifle, bolt, and box magazine are all serialized).

      I got a nice one from them last year – just before the last known 480 round case of factory ammo was sold. Prvi Partizan makes the 7.5×55 in both FMJ and HP for about $0.75/round. I think Hornaday also loads for it.

  18. Man I wish I picked up a K31 when they were $120 a pop shipped.

    I’ve had excellent accuracy out to 200yds with my K98 even with shitty Turkish surplus. I’ve since stopped firing surplus through it because I tired of cleaning it thoroughly every time I shoot it. I’m looking forward to hopefully extending the range out to 500yds this summer and dumping all my surplus ammo through the Hakim I picked up. You want to talk about making M1 thumb look like a kiss on the cheek…

  19. “The M1 is the favorite rifle of an entire generation, but it’s also a sorry old oar that was obsolete before it was even invented. Many praise it for being revolutionary, but keep in mind that it was the result of government criteria last to what they believed an infantry weapon should be. The Nazis were light years ahead of the US government in terms of arms design and even John Garand knew it. ”

    As long as your definition of “arms design” doesn’t include the ability to make only one rifle per day due to it being so freaking complicated and expensive to manufacture.

    What makes the M1 Garand revolutionary was the efficiency and simplicity of its manufacture. Many other semi-autos produced before and even after it, though more technologically advanced, now have starring roles on Forgotten Weapons because of this. The genius of the Garand lies in its ability to be produced quickly and efficiently and be accurate enough and reliable enough. Not sexy, but still revolutionary.

  20. I am going to blow your minds. I got high bolt in an NRA sanctioned match with a…….enfield no1 mk 3 1917 manufacture. How i don’t know, but it happened.

  21. I’ve got a Garand problem. The clip ejects after firing three rounds. I’ve replaced the the clip retention pin spring and replaced the clip retention pin. After replacing the spring the problem was fixed for a few hundred rounds. When it started happening again I replaced the spring again with no results. Just replaced the pin and it’s still consistently ejecting the clip after the third round fired on every clip I try. My next step is to order a spring replacement kit from Fulton Armory. Any ideas or suggestions?

  22. So what is the maximum number of remade/new parts you can put on a rifle before its is no longer a “vintage” rifle?

  23. As much as I’d love to get into this sort of thing and already own rifles that would be good “starter” guns for this, none of the places around me that are involved with the CMP can be joined. They’re either for kids or they’re full. Some of the clubs for adults have a waiting time to join of over 10 years!

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