Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sick dogs can be expensive

So last week, poor Murphy was under the weather for a few days so I took him to the vet. The cost for that visit was a little over $450, proving that it's expensive to take car of a dog.

Of that expense, it's only fair that I disclose that at least some of it was spent on a new rifle that I found in a shop nearby while I was waiting on the vet to check the oil and rotate the paws. Why do gun stores and vets have to be so close to each other?
The rifle is a Belgian Mauser, Model 1950, one of the last bolt-action Mausers ever produced. This one was made in 1952 and bears the Belgian crown over a letter "B" for King Baudouin, the monarch of Belgium.The letters "ABL" stand for Armee Belge-Belgisch Leger, or "Belgian Army Rifle" in both French and Dutch.

This rifle, unlike most 98-pattern Mausers, was factory chambered for the U.S. .30 M2 cartridge, better known as .30-06, instead of the European standard 8mm. The reason for this is because after the war, the United States was giving anyone and his dog about as much surplus .30 as they wanted. (We had a lot at the end of the war, and we were nothing if not generous.) Note the small notch cut into the receiver ring below the crest. That's so that the slightly-longer .30 cartridge can be pushed down into the magazine on stripper clips without the bullet tip hanging up on the receiver.

This rifle was made at the Belgian state-run arms complex, Fabrique Nationale de Herstal.
Many of you know, of course, that the Belgians has a really neat semi-automatic rifle known as the FN-49 that was, alongside the M-1 Garand, representative of the new era of military rifles on the horizon. So why, why this design ready to go, would FN still be making brand new bolt-action Mauser rifles that were better suited for the battlefields of the First Word War? Probably for the same reason that we made 1903 Springfields right up through 1944--there was a need and the machinery was already in place and ready to go.

The FN plant, again as many of you know, fell into German hands when the armies of the Reich swept into the Low Countries in 1940. The Germans were never ones to waste a good thing, so they put the plant into operation making their Model 98 Mausers for the duration. At war's end, the Belgian government needed new rifles and wanted the FN-49 but the plant wasn't set up to make them in sufficient number yet. However, the plant was still able to make Model 98 Mausers, so FN just made those for three years until the FN-49s were able to supplant them in Belgian military arsenals. As it was already known that the Belgian FN-49 was going to be chambered in .30-06 thanks to US largesse, these Mausers were also made in .30-06 to ease the transition. Coming from FN, they were very high-quality rifles, and this one is rock-solid tight with a smooth bolt action and a trigger that breaks better than many commercial rifles today. It has the smooth gray European parkerized finish, a dark walnut stock, and the serial numbers match, receiver, bolt and stock. This rifle is not import-marked, and the barrel is bright in pit-free. The shop had it tossed in with a couple of lackluster import-stamped Yugoslav M-48 Mausers and priced similarly. I don't think that they realized what this one was, but I did because I've been looking for one for a while. It was priced quite a bit less than I would have paid for it, but because this shop's owner is known for sharp dealing and hasn't done me any favors, I haggled another 15% off the price.

Here it is in the Mauser section of the gun room, at far right with the only straight bolt in the bunch. (Yes, I know...I need more Mausers.) The others are, right to left, World War 1 German K98A, World War 2 German K98K converted to 7.62mm by the Israelis, Post-war Czech K98K.

Today I took it out to the range for a test. Fodder was some M2 ball that I'd loaded up, and the targets were, as usual, a couple of paper plates stapled one above the over at 100 yards. I wound up sharing the range with a couple of bench-rest shooters, which sucked for all of us to some extent as the bench-resters at this club are pretty snobby and elitist.

For those not in the know, bench-rest shooters fire custom-made rifles with huge scopes. They fire the rifles from special rests that hold them absolutely still, and only shoot a shot every few minutes because they want the rifle to cool to ambient temperature for every shot. Their goal is to put all of their bullets though that same hole. Me personally, I've never gotten into the idea of sitting in a law chair next to a rifle locked in a vise on a concrete bench and pulling it's trigger every now and again, then swabbing the bore completely clean before the next shot. But hey--if that's your thing...

These guys typically hate it when someone like me (someone who shoots, you know...normally) shows up, because we tend to actually shoot and want to go downrange to change targets. I knew that it was going to be a fun time with these two when after seeing me set up on my firing position, they didn't even bother to offer to stop shooting to let me post targets. Instead they ignored me as I stood there, target backer in hand, waiting for them to stop, as basic courtesy dictates. After they fired a few more shots and showed no sign of stopping, I announced that I needed to go downrange and asked them if they'd mind. This did the trick, and I went down and hung my target.

On my return, after thanking them (because I'm courteous even to jerkwaters), I settled in, sighted on the lower plate, and touched the trigger. BANG!

AR-15s are ok, but I love that roar and recoil from a real .30 rifle. You can keep those little .22's.

I discovered that this rifle hits about ten to twelve inches high at 100 yards, otherwise it's dead on for windage. A solid hold on the center of the lower paper plate put a nice hit in the center of the plate above it almost every time, and the grouping was pretty tight. I experimented with different holds, and a six o'clock hold just below the edge of a plate will put one in the upper half of that plate every time. it's not perfect, but then there weren't point-of-aim match rifles. next time out, I'll see what it does at 200 yards. I didn't have enough time today as I had a lunch date waiting.

My bench-rest pals weren't exactly pleased with that .30 going off again and again and again, 3-4 times a minute, right down the line from them. And of course I was doing what I tend to do when bench-resters are present--We're seated beneath a corrugated metal roof and the rifle muzzles normally protrude out past the roof when the shooter is properly seated at the bench. I've been known to sit back just far enough to bring the rifle muzzle back under the metal, with the result that it's blast echoes clear down the line and rattles everyone's dental fillings.
(Oh, did I do that?)
This often gets rid of bench-resters, even if they merely retreat to their clubhouse behind the line until I'm gone. These guys were no exception. They went back and sat in one guy's SUV and waited me out.

For my part, I only fired 36 rounds, and I was done in about ten minutes. Still, when I finished shooting and went to get my targets, one of them had to snark at me when I came back up.
"Where do you think you are? Leningrad?"
"Nah," I smiled back. "Paper-plateistan."

I may not be able to cover all my shots with a half-dollar like they do, but between my two plates I could account for all 36 rounds fired and that made me more than a little happy with this rifle.

I've always wanted to ask one of these bench-resters how they plan to get any terrorists or zombies that they might encounter to stand right in front of their gun vise at a known distance and remain stock still until they can get all settled and comfy in their lawn chair beside the rifle. And if there are TWO bad guys down range, how do they plan to get the second one to just loiter around while they swab the bore and wait for the rifle to cool down again after the first shot? Silly bench-resters...

So this is what you do when I'm being tortured to death at the vet?


  1. That's ok. I bought a .357 yesterday and when I got home, my dog was very glad to see me. I think she appreciates my taste in firearms.

    I'm convinced your purchase helped your dog get better.

  2. LOL! Been there, done that! I SHOOT just like you. We have a what I call a "country Club but with guns" here. Went once. That was all it took.

  3. Great news! and I 'love' the impact on the BR elitists :-)

  4. Now I want one. I had avoided Mausers, not wanting to pick up another caliber, but if I can have one in 30.06, well, I'm looking.

  5. @ ASM: Look for Columbian Mausers, too. Many of those were converted to or built as .30-06 rifles, again because of all the free US-supplied ammo after the war.

  6. Great score on a sweet rifle, I've been looking for one myself for the last twenty years or so. I did snag a VZ24 with an intact crest though and placed it with my Enfield's and FR-8 so it fit right in. Sorry to hear about Murphy being sick, did the vet say if it was serious or not?

  7. Murphy apparently picked up some bacteria from a packaged cow bone that I got him at the pet store. He's ok now, but for a few days, he was sick as a--

    Well he was sick.

    But he's much better now.

  8. Very nice!

    While my version of vintage is Rolling Block, lever action, or [someday] Trapdoor or Sharps, my club has a very active contingent of 1903, 1917, and Garand shooters.

    The bigger danger, if you were at my club, would be that they'll talk your ear off about the oldies and you'll run out of time to shoot...


  10. It was very hard for me to pronounce Armee Belge-Belgisch Leger when I first had to face it in my firearms training school. As the time passed I became comfortable with the guns and now I can shoot 31 different types of firearms.

    MA Firearms School