Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Praxis Questions: Length of pull on a bolt action rifle & how truly important is it to be able to manipulate the bolt while the rifle is seated in your shoulder?

A reader asks, and although I have my opinions, I'm wondering what you readers have to say. Remember to look at it from two points of view, from the big shooter forced to deal with a weapon with too short length of pull and a small statured shooter using a weapon with too long a length of pull.


Anonymous said...

You do pose an interesting "dilemma", Mike !

After some pondering, I'll offer the following:

(1) Shooting a bolt action rifle means the ready/precise movement of trigger hand to bolt handle. Unlock, ejection and reload bolt cycling are part/parcel of "riding the recoil" in rapid fire. Witness the "mad minute" of British infantry fame.

(2) My feeling/experience indicates a too short LOP inhibits this "natural flow" of movement due to the constricted nature of the shooting position.

(3) OTOH, a "too long" LOP may affect POA, but IMHO, is less likely to effect bolt operation as the slightly extended arm position may actually facilitate adroit bolt manipulation. >MW

Anonymous said...

If shooting from a rest or bipod, it's nice to be able to cycle the bolt without breaking cheek-weld or unseating the recoil pad from the sweet spot, but this isn't the only reason length of pull is important, as incorrect fit effects the sight picture and general handling too.

Anonymous said...

Answer the question with a question: How important is it to be able to execute a follow-up shot?

The Trainer said...

The question as posed requires a follow-up question in order to come to resolution:

How important is the ability to put a second shot out?

Anonymous said...

In my experience it is much easier to shoot well with too-short LOP than with too-long.

I dunno how essential timed or rapid fire from the shoulder with a bolt gun is, but I still practice it.

IMHO if you cant do it, your skillset tool box has a BIG empty slot.dst

thedweeze said...

This is two separate questons which are linked together. If the rifle fits the shooter properly one is more likely to hit the intended target, making the fast manipulation of the bolt less critical. Proper fit also reduces felt recoil, although it obviously has no effect on the actual recoil. When there are multiple targets technique is important: use of the sling, plus (assuming both a right-handed shooter and a Mauser-style cock on open action) one tilts the rifle clockwise while turning the bolt which will make the whole process faster and easier.

As for importance, that depends: if the bad guys are 200 yards away, perhaps not. 20 yards? If you intend to walk away, it's vital.

This can be mastered during dry-fire practice. You will always devolve to the level of your training when the stress gets high enough. For the record, both of my milsurp parts Mausers have had extensions put on the butt to make the rifles fit me. Hard rubber, ground to fit, from Brownell's.

Anonymous said...

If you can't manipulate the bolt with the rifle shouldered and also simultaneously reaquire your target- you are not sufficiently familiar with your weapon, and have no business taking a second shot at game (most likely the first shot either!). If your target is capable of retaliating, either by returning fire, hoofs or teeth- you may die.

If the length of pull is not correct, you're never going to be comfortable, quick and accurate with a weapon.

Kevin said...

If the stock is too long you are pretty hosed. If given a choice short is much better than long. Too long just sucks.

You can end up with insanities like trying to shoot a child's cricket, but baring that it will work just fine.

If you want to be able to shoot a rifle while wearing body armor it is going to be "too short" when not wearing armor. It's easy enough to stick a recoil pad on it to lengthen it a bit too.

It's important to be able to work the bolt while having the rifle mounted and looking at the target. You should ideally be able to reload the rifle mag (at least a few rounds) with the rifle mounted and looking at the target.

Anonymous said...

The Brits effectively nailed it by issuing different buttstock lengths for the Lee-Enfield rifles, and spacers for the SLR/L1A1.

Fit the rifle to the man and the rest will work itself out.

Shy Wolf said...

The questioner has some practice to do. IMO, it isn't so much the LOP in the stock, but the position of the head and cheek weld. With open sights, the cheek will be lower on the stock (barring an in-line/straight stock) and the eye will be closer to the bolt as it opens. In this case, the shooter will lift the head to avoid an eye poke. A longer stock will negate this novement somewhat.
With a scope, the head is held higher, the cheek weld becomes a chin weld (barring use of a straight-line stock) and the bolt coming back is aimed more at the lips than the eye. Again, the shooter will lift his head to avoid the bolt.
From prone positions, these are aggravated due to being unable to articulate the head as well as in other positions.
As well as LOP on the stock, the action length will also come into play: long action 30-06/8mm/etc V a short action .308 or a shorter action .223.
But as to the question itself: the ability to operate the bolt with the weapon in the pocket is dependant upon the percieved need for speed on follow-up shots, and a skill worth learning.
At distance, the speed won't be as valuable as closer ranges. That said, a bolt action is not ideal for CQB ranges. If they're that close and speed is of the essence, grab your pistol. Or get a semi auto.

Anonymous said...

LOP matters more than keeping the rifle shouldered during the bolt stroke and LOP matters less if you shoot a short-action rifle having a forward-mounted scope e.g., Ruger's Gunsite Scout.

Rifles chambered for "magnum" cartridges like the.338 Winchester require a somewhat longer stock. Not only will this help to attenuate the magnum's punishment, it will also keep the eyebrow from being struck by the scope during recoil.

A long bolt throw coupled to a short LOP is somewhat cramping and may lead to short-stroking.

This would not matter too much if the opportunity for a follow-up shot never occurred but you never know what may result from your having just pulled the trigger. Practice rapid reloading because there are a few scenarios where your target may take violent exception to your actions.


LFMayor said...

Don't try to make your bolt action a semi auto.

Form follows function boys. If you need quick 2nd shots, then carry a semi. Or get an a gunner or spotter to be your best pal and have him carry a semi. Think of the combo teams the Marines used in SE asia.

Most importantly do your job and put accurate aimed shots down range.

Anonymous said...

Much ado about nothing. Learn to use what you have the way it is without modifying it.
A time may come when adapting to what's readily available is the norm.
Unless of course you're certain that you can hold on to the same weapon indefinitely, through thick and thin, after the current facade of civility finally crumbles.

The Trainer said...

The Brits were able to pull off 20aimed shots a minute with the Lee Enfield short mag rifle in 1914. See "The Old Contemptibles" history.

Their method was to use the thumb and index finger to manipulate the bolt and use the index finger to depress the trigger.

It's all a matter of training...and sizing the rifle to the man, as has been said earlier.

Which, again, underscores the question:

How important is a speedy 2nd shot?

Kevin Wilmeth said...

Jeff Cooper said many times that it is relatively trivial to manage a short LOP, and considerably difficult to manage one that is too long. (Those familiar with Cooper will understand that this was always, always with the understanding that an instant chamber reload was a given, period, end of story. :-)

I modify all my rifles to an LOP of about 12" or so, including any buttpad, and I always take pains to severely round the top of the buttplate to avoid snagging during the mount. I'm a bit over six feet, with long arms, and the short length poses no problem with me. For anyone who is considering the concept for a fighting rifle, consider that a "precise" stock fit when you mount the rifle in the gunstore in your T-shirt, may become a much bigger problem once you have bulky clothes, impaired mobility and constrained shooting positions to deal with. How's that stock fit prone with a winter parka? How about when looped up? Snapshots? Simply put, if you've got a choice, go for the short. If it's too long: cut it down.

Regarding followup shots: anyone who doesn't believe that a bolt-gun can run with a semiauto for its first magazine, simply has not seen anyone who can really run a bolt-gun. And if the bolt gun is what you have, or what you prefer, you really need to work the bolt-snap until it's second nature. Trigger breaks, run the bolt. Always. Every time. Even (especially) dry fire. Become your very own "auto-loader".

One potential pitfall there, which others have noted here already, is the length of the bolt throw. It may well be that if you have a properly short stock on a .375 H&H, you might have to break cheek weld in order to run the bolt effectively--but if you're physically able, there's no excuse to break the mount out of your shoulder. Lift head, lower head.

As far as glass goes: if you have a rifle that puts you at risk of the half-moon eye gouge, you may have a rifle of questionable fighting utility. Also, the close eye-relief scopes (usually high magnification) are very easy to black out in at high speed--something that may not be a problem in every fighting scenario, but if it becomes a problem in a fight, it's likely gonna be a BIG problem. I'd much rather go with ghost-ring irons than a traditional riflescope, for a deliberate battle rifle...and my real druthers is one of the intermediate-eye-relief "scout scopes", on quick-detach mounts and backed up by ghost-ring irons. That absolutely will not crease your eyebrow, and more importantly allows full binocular vision for snap shots, while remaining fully effective for precision shots out to as far as I can effectively engage.

I know what I can do with my Steyr Scout (turnbolt), with its short LOP, IER scout scope (2.5x fixed), and Ching Sling. It's more accurate than I am, but it's so friendly that I can make effective use of it out to as far as I can shoot.

If a bolt is what you've got or want, just learn to run it (from the shoulder), and be happy. If you can afford two rifles--and you DON'T need to drop a lot of coin to acquire a useful rifle--make sure at least one of them is either set up with good irons (again, the ghost-ring apertures are the way to go) or an optic more suitable than the traditional hunter's variable.

(Of course, the resourceful can make any gun work, if necessary. But if you can do better: do better. :-)

Gunny G said...

LF Major nailed as did Anon.

I can cycle the bolt on my 03A3 while maintaining sight picture and good sight alignment. Practice makes perfect.

Anonymous said...

Mike, don't know about lop . I shoot a stok m-1903mk1, think of a MOTB as a single shot rifle, aim EVERY shot, and how you work the bolt gos out the window.( hint,IF you can hit a 1L bottle at 400 yards , cold bore, ya' got it right)

The Trainer said...

History would differ with the position taken of not attempting to make a bolt action into a semi-auto, e.g., having a rapid rate of fire, say 20 to 30 rounds a minute.

WRSA coincidentally posted this: http://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/old-contemptibles/

"Frank Richards, who had gone on the Reserve in 1909, could get off 25 aimed shots per minute, while some could manage 30; he recorded that 'to good pre-war soldiers that kept their nerve, ten men holding a trench could easily stop fifty who were trying to take it advancing from a distance of 400 yards'."

"By the Army Manoeuvers of 1913 a French observer could report how the British infantry 'makes wonderful use of ground, advances as a rule by short rushes and always at the double, and almost invariably fires from a lying position."

There's something to be said about a man who can use a bolt gun fast and accurately.

Zorba said...

Its about as important as arguing over whether to put the toilet seat up or down after your through using it.

Anonymous said...

Well as usual lots of good comments (and opinions) - here's my take - if a person is not constrained by time, money or caliber, they could probably find (or have built) a 'perfect' bolt action rifle - for them. It would not necessarily be 'perfect' for someone else but would be usable.
But for most of us those constraints mean we would have to find the best available,(a functional compromise). Proper training could alleviate to a large degree any limitations for a particular individual (see above comments regarding stock spacers etc).
In other words, find the rifle that you prefer and Practice!

Skip said...

The way got it figgerd is when you put the butt in the crook of your arm and the pad of your trigger is centered on the bang switch, your LOP is good.

Dedicated_Dad said...

If you can't work the bolt without breaking your cheek-weld, then you need a longer stock -- otherwise you're either going to poke yourself in the eye or have to choose between sloppy shots or re-finding your proper mount every time.

Properly-fit bolt-gun in the hands of a practiced shooter can approach semi-auto shot-times.

In an emergency you use what you have, but if you're using your gun and it doesn't fit, YOU'RE AN IDIOT~~!!!

Paul X said...

The tube gun folkks are very, very fast, and they use extremely short LOP. But then, they don't have to worry about a bolt hitting them in the eye. On the other hand, they shoot pretty mild calibers. A longer LOP is supposed to help with heavy recoil.

It always makes me wince to see someone pull a bolt gun off the shoulder to cock it.

Ryan said...

It is important if you want to use the gun for practical defensive purposes. If you want to target shoot or hunt it doesn't matter so long as you can otherwise accurately shoot the gun.

Instead of adapting the shooter why don't we fix the equipment. Put one of those recoil pads on if the LOP is too short. Assuming we are talking about an old MILSURP rifle stocks are not THAT expensive. Buy a spare stock and start trimming it down 1/4 of an inch at a time.