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Bolt Action Rifle Comparison: A look at Three Standards

Bolt Action Rifle Comparison: A look at Three Standards

In Today’s post, we’ll take a look at a few styles of bolt action rifles. The three that we’ll review are all considered standards. Those styles being the Mauser, Mosin-Nagant, and the Straight Bolt. All three being standards for bolt actions is just where the similarities begin. Below we’ll look at some others as well as some key differences.

One glaring similarity between the three and ultimately defining of a bolt action is that the bolt is cycled by the operator manually. All three rifles are also cocked during the bolt cycling, though the particular phase at which this occurs varies. Finally, all these rifles are similar in that they are magazine fed.

Model 1889 Serbian Mauser Photo Credit : Wikipedia
Mosin Nagant Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Straight Pull Bolt Action Style Photo Credit: Heritage Auctions

As for differences between the styles, there are quite a few, and they vary among them and even further among models of the same style. The Mauser and Mosin-Nagant are both cock on open systems whereas the straight pull could be either cocked on open or close depending on the particular model. One of the most identifiable differences between the three models is the bolt handle with which the operator cycles the bolt. The Mauser and Mosin-Nagant utilize a straight handle with a ball that is rotated vertically and pulled/pushed while the straight-pull style is located inline with the receiver and only requires a pull/push action. The actual bolts and locking on the three weapons vary as well. The Mauser utilizes a singly body bolt that rotates to lock in the chamber. The Mosin-Nagant also rotates to lock in the chamber; however, on the Nagant, the bolt is composed of a two-piece head/body style. The straight-pull does have some models that also rotate and lock the chamber, but on others employs a much different bearing lock system. The Mauser stands out among the three in that besides the forward locking lugs it also incorporates a redundant lug by the handle allowing it to handle high powered loads easily. Finally, both the Mauser and Nagant utilize receiver mounted ejectors whereas the Straight-Pull most often uses bolt mounted ejector.

There are numerous ways to identify between the three visually, but I believe the simplest formula is as follows. First, look at the bolt handle. If it doesn’t rotate, it is a Straight-Pull. If it does rotate, look at the bolt. If It’s a single body, it is a Mauser, and if it’s a dual body, it’s a Mosin-Nagant. Of course, part two of this formula only works if those are the only two options. For instance, if you throw the Lee-Enfield in the mix, you’ll have to look better at how the bolt rotates to discern between it and the Nagant.

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Modern Warrior Disclaimer: At the Modern Warrior Project we value the benefit gained by leveraging various experts in the field. One of the many ways we do this is by sharing post from a number of guest authors on our site. Like most things our opinions may vary on different topics, techniques, and various other things in which most of us hold deep opinions. While we may not always share the same opinion of any given author we think it is important to let it be heard and let the reader determine their position on any given topic of discussion. Provided the material does not fundamentally go against our values or we consider it to be ‘Bad’ advice we will alway lean towards publication. Bottom line: The opinions and statements expressed in our blog are those of the author unless clearly stated it is an MWP  positon on the given subject. 

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