MAUSERS AT DAWN
The Hill End Rifle Club shoot the LERA 2016 Global Postal SMLE Shoot at the world famous Historic Hill End Range
By Brett Anthes.
Once again the members of the hill end rifle club travelled to Hill End for the first shoot of the 2016 calendar year , being summer in the Australian bush the weather was rather warm. Some might have called it boiling , however this did not happen to dampen the enthusiasm of the shooters who arrived on the Saturday for the LERA 303 service shoot.
The has long been a misconception that the Lee Enfield 303 is less Accurate that the Mauser. So we decided that it would be an interesting and fun experience to shoot our 7 mm model 1895 Boer mausers alongside the other shooters using there as issued service 303's. Surely this would be a good test of the Lee versus the Mauser, echoing debates as far back as the Boer war with the bonus that many of those involved in the shoot were all competent service rifle shots thus giving a fair evaluation of the results achieved.
The hill end rifle range is not your average 1000 yard rifle range , there are rocks , dirt , dust and bull ants and we clearly state on side of our club hut that it is " the last of the bush ranges" the range itself is hewn out of the mountain scrub and timber that envelopes the area. It is extremely uneven and rough by range standards today , thus for those unfamiliar ,think the opposite of the manicured Bisley ranges . This however makes the range unique to all those who visit. Unlike LERA shoots elsewhere our shortest range is 200 yards, due to the elevation difference our 100 yd,s is much lower than the targets thus all shooting is done safely from the 200 which runs opposite back up a slope from a creek , this adds a challenge to the LERA shoot which to my knowledge is not accounted on any other ranges.
Loads used in the 7mm mausers were factory PRIV partisan 173gr FMJ , both I. Kates and G. Murgatoyd used there Transvaal (ZAR) m95's manufacture by Ludwig Loewe carrying A and B prefix serial numbers and I used a Orange Free State (OVS) m95 by DWM ( for those interested L Loewe became part of the massive DWM organisation in 1896 thus the name change ) all rifles considering there age are in excellent serviceable condition with brite sharp bores .
Competition would be tough with good 303 shooters. M. Smith put the runs on the board with a good 95 , followed by respectable scores from Stuart with 60 and J Fennell with 54.
It was time for the mausers, the 3 of us knew there was no margin for error with the reloading of the charger clips , something that the 10 shot magazine of the Lee Enfield has as a distinct advantage in the LERA shoot. Both kates and Murgatryd went first. Being left handlers , no doubt the straight bolt handle of the Mauser felt quite alien to these experienced 303 shooters . Both Graham and Ian unfortunately had troubles in the reloading stage costing them valuable points however Kates managed some sterling work to unjam his rifle and get another 3 away in the mad 45 seconds, on seeing this I took stock, for when my turn came I wanted to be extra focused on the reloading.
My 2 sighters went well , together 5 inches to the right of point of aim at 200 yds. just a bit of hold off required, then down to business offhand 10 shots deliberate, it felt good, the rifle being a pleasure to shoot with the recoil I though being noticeably less than my Lithgow SMLE . For those new to the 7mm Mauser it is a good efficient cartridge that can handle a wide range of bullet weights from 120 to 173 grains with ease and possesses excellent sectional density for its caliber whilst it fires a bullet at a more than adequate velocity. Next in I went into the kneeling position for 10 on off on exposures , following through I could see dust from behind the target so I was reasonably confident all was still well and the old OVS was singing its tune. With that finished it was now the mad minute, or according to UK Rules for LERA the mad 45 seconds I charged the rifle with 5 and moved the safety on . The range officer blew the whistle and dropping to the ground prone and moving the safety off I endeavoured to rattle as many through the old girl as soon as the sights became aligned , for me accustomed to years of shooting the SMLE this was a whole new kettle of fish and I really worked hard with the Mauser ,it is no where near as fast as the Lee, the straight bolt handle feeling cumbersome to fast snap type shooting, however I did luckily manage a clean trouble free reload. I only just got my 10 away with a rather hot barrel to the sound of the range officers whistle.
We all gathered round as the scores were tallied and enjoyed the conversation of this interesting experiment, the general thoughts being that in a environment like the South African veldt where the ranges were long the Mauser had the edge with its strong front locking accurate action, it definitely would have had the edge over the MLE at the time with its no provision for charger loading , however it is fair to state there can be no debate among the members of the Hill End rifle club that the SMLE and its variants are the greatest battle bolt rifles ever made , they are the fastest action to operate , are adequately strong enough ,fire an effective round , can be counted upon to work in environments where other designs fall short, carry 10 rounds and have been tested from the mud of Flanders , sand of North Africa , jungles of New Guinea and to the snow of Korea .
This shoot has now become a global phenomenon, with the South African LERA joining in the shoot, and individual shooters posting scores from the UK and Canada. We are now waiting for the UK’s LERA to shoot and post scores. The Hill end Rifle Club welcomes marksmen and new shooters from the NRA and indeed the entire UK.
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