Gunfight Friday: ’03 Springfield vs. 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer

Two classics from 111 years ago duke it out today: a sportertized (Weatherby-ized, really) ’03 Springfield vs. a 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer … Continued

Two classics from 111 years ago duke it out today: a sportertized (Weatherby-ized, really) ’03 Springfield vs. a 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer complete with an oh-so-Continental full-length stock and butter knife bolt handle. Both rifles have taken piles of game over the last century and change, and these two examples still shoot. Sporterized ’03 Springfields have gone everywhere and shot everything, while the 6.5 Mannlicher was popular among African professionals including Karamojo Bell, although it never caught on here.

In light of Dave’s recent list of people who he wouldn’t hunt with, it’s an interesting footnote that both rifles have Ernest Hemingway (No. 1 on Dave’s list) connections: Hemingway himself favored a sporterized Springfield and took it with him to Africa. And, in his famous story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” set on safari, Margot Macomber wields a 6.5 Mannlicher with deadly precision.

Enough literary digression. Here are the rifles:

Lance Larson’s 03 Springfield

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This is a sporterized Springfield 03-A3 in 30/06. My father did all of the gunsmithing work back in 1962. He used a lathe to buff out the steps in the military barrel. He buffed and polished all the internal parts of the action. The stock was total carved by hand in a stock blank of beautiful fiddleback walnut he picked from the Reinhart Fajen company back in the day when everyone got their stocks from Fajen.

Dad shaped the stock to copy a Weatherby monte carlo stock. He did the inlays by hand with ebony and ivory piano keys and a diamond of solid silver in the buttstock. And, of course he glass-bedded the stock. I have used it many times over the years. In fact, the first time I shot it on a deer hunt when I was about 12 or 13, I crept on the stock and the scope got me in the nose real good. This was the rifle that cured my tendency to creep on a scope. The scope is a Weaver K4 with Weaver mounts and rings. I brought it to the range a few months ago and at over 50 years old, it still shoots 1-inch groups. Since I lost my father this year, this rifle means even more to me.

Harold’s Mannlicher-Schoenauer

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This is my 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer. Like all 1903 Mannlichers, it is chambered for the 6.5×54 M-S cartridge. Fortunately, Norma still makes brass for it and my hand loads get right about 2500 fps with a 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip out of her 17.5-inch barrel. The set trigger breaks at a half-pound and was probably set that way at the factory in Austria when she was built in 1920. Naturally, she has the silky-smooth action, rotary magazine and high level of workmanship that made these rifles famous.

My guess is that she was imported right after production OR she was a bring-back from World War II. Whoever first had her put on a cocking-piece ghost-ring peep sight. When I do my job right she will group three shots into about 1.5 inches at 100 yards and would undoubtedly do much better if scoped. So, because of my old eyesight, I keep my shot to those less than 150 yards. You may notice that I refer to “her” in the feminine mode. Due to her petite build, gentile curves and old age, I refer to her as “Granny.” By the way, Granny can still bite! She’s helped me take two deer, both one-shot kills.

There are your choices, and they are dandies. Thanks to everyone who responded to the Pledge Week plea for more guns. You’ll be seeing more of your rifles, handguns, and shotguns in the coming weeks, and it’s a whole lot easier to put on good gunfights when I’ve got lots of good guns to choose from. Meanwhile, vote and comment below and keep the gun pictures coming to fsgunnuts@gmail.com.