Compared: Mannlicher-Schoenauer and
Weatherby Mark V Deluxe Rifles

By Chuck Hawks


Among the most renowned hunting rifles of the 20th Century are the Mannlicher-Schoenauer and the Weatherby Mark V. Both rank among the best factory built sporting rifles ever made and are fine examples of the gunmaker's art.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer was manufactured exclusively by Steyr in Austria from 1903 until it was discontinued due to rising production costs in 1971. The Mark V is still offered by Weatherby, but it too is plagued by rising production costs. Over the years, Mark V's have been manufactured in Germany, Japan and are now made in the USA. Regardless of country of manufacture, Weatherby Mark V Deluxe rifles have always been manufactured to Weatherby's very high standards and are essentially identical. Between us, we on the Guns and Shooting Online staff own several Weatherby Mark V Deluxe rifles and Mannlicher-Schoenauers in both rifle and carbine form, hence the opportunity for this "hands-on" comparison. The Mannlicher-Schoenauers owned by the Guns and Shooting Online staff are the post-war models 1956-MC and 1961-MCA and form the basis for the specific comments in this article.

Most M-S and Weatherby Mark V rifles are found pretty much as they came from the factory. Due to the high initial cost and limited quantities produced, relatively few custom built rifles from independent gun makers are based on the Mannlicher-Schoenauer or Weatherby Mark V actions. They were generally sold only as complete rifles and were never inexpensive. In 1971, for instance, a standard grade M-S carried a list price of $348.95 and the Weatherby Mark V Deluxe listed for $339.50. For comparison, that year a Remington Model 700 BDL cost $159.95.

This article is not an attempt to say which of these two great sporting rifles is best, because a definitive conclusion is impossible to reach. It ultimately depends on personal preference and what characteristics the individual shooter prefers in his or her rifle. My intent here is simply to record the similarities and differences, advantages and disadvantages as I see them to allow Guns and Shooting Online readers to draw their own conclusions based on their personal preferences. First, a brief history of the two rifles.

Mannlicher-Schoenauer

Mannlicher-Schönauer 1961-MCA Carbine
Mannlicher-Schönauer 1961-MCA Carbine w/Zeiss Conquest scope in Redfield mounts.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifle was the product of the design genius of Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher and Otto Schönauer. (The latter, incidentally, is the correct way to write Otto's last name. Since my keyboard lacks the Germanic letter ö, I will use the Anglicized spelling "Schoenauer" for the purposes of this article. Unlike the great majority of turn-bolt actions, the M-S was not based on a modified Mauser design; it was an original creation. Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles were built by Steyr in Austria to very high standards.

All Mannlicher-Schoenauer actions are similar. Recognized M-S models include the Model 1903, Model 1905, Model 1908, Model 1910, Model 1924 (High Velocity Sporting Rifle), Model 1950, Model 1952, Model 1956-MC, Magnum Rifle and Model 1961-MCA. In addition, there are variations of all of these and special models sold only in Europe. Mannlicher-Schoenauer bolt action repeaters were improved in relatively minor ways many times during their long production life, but the two most significant features remained the Mannlicher turn-bolt action and the Schoenauer rotary drum magazine. Among the details that have varied are the length of the action, type and location of the safety, barrel lengths, buttstock shape and various minor changes.

This is a front locking, turn bolt, repeating action. It cocks on opening with a 90-degree bolt rotation and locks with dual front locking lugs; the root of the bolt handle serves as a third "safety" lug. The barrel incorporates an integral sleeve that reaches back beyond the head of the bolt, a feature intended to protect the shooter. The bolt face is not recessed to enclose the cartridge head. It is a safe, strong action, sufficient for modern pressure levels and it was manufactured for American cartridges such as the .243 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 and .358 Winchester. Admittedly, it does not handle escaping powder gases in the event of a blown case as well as most modern actions and it is not as strong as some later actions, particularly the Weatherby Mark V. However, it is strong enough.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer is a controlled cartridge feeding design. It uses a claw extractor inletted flush with the front of the bolt body (rather than external to the bolt body as with a Mauser 98) and a machined ejector on the other side of the bolt head to capture and control cartridges. The Mannlicher's ejector is operated when the bolt contacts the bolt stop at the end of its travel and, unlike a Mauser ejector, does not require splitting one of the locking lugs. The extractor can be forced over the rim of a cartridge fed directly into the chamber and the bolt locked, but it requires extra force to do so. Better to feed cartridges from the magazine except in case of emergency. The Mannlicher bolt can be disassembled without tools in less than 10 seconds for cleaning or repair.

A distinguishing feature of M-S rifles and carbines is their "butter knife" bolt handle. This style of handle lies closer to the stock than a conventional bolt handle, making the Mannlicher easier to carry or transport in a scabbard. On the other hand, the flat handle is harder to grasp than a ball and the design of the action positions it well forward of the trigger guard, requiring the shooter to reach forward to grasp the bolt handle and slowing repeat shots. In addition, the massive striker is driven by a heavy spring and it takes more force to unlock the M-S bolt (simultaneously cocking the action) than to open a Mauser 98 or most modern actions.

A split rear receiver ring guides the bolt handle (which also serves as a bolt guide) as the bolt is withdrawn through the forged and machined steel receiver and this, combined with the Schoenauer spool magazine that eliminates magazine follower drag on the underside of the bolt, makes the M-S one of the smoothest turn bolt actions ever designed. The split rear receiver ring also prevents binding and minimizes the play characteristic of Mauser type actions when the bolt is open.

Cartridges are fed from a five-shot Schoenauer rotary drum magazine. Cartridges in the Schoenauer rotary magazine never touch each other and are fed in a straight line into the chamber. The magazine is filled by pressing the cartridges into the magazine from the top and loading is smoother and easier than with a Mauser type internal box magazine. The contents of the magazine can be quickly ejected through the top of the action by pressing a rectangular button in the upper right wall of the receiver; it is not necessary to remove the magazine floorplate to empty the magazine. If necessary, the entire magazine can be removed from the rifle by pressing in the floorplate catch with a bullet point or something similar, turning the floorplate 90 degrees and pulling the magazine free from the stock.

Another benefit of the Schönauer rotary magazine is that it does not have a follower to drag on the underside of the bolt when the magazine is empty. This is what allows the rifle's fully open bolt to close and lock merely by holding the trigger back and swinging the muzzle down, a neat trick that no other bolt action rifle can duplicate.

The standard trigger supplied in M-S rifles was a conventional single-stage type. This is an excellent trigger, clean, crisp and user adjustable for weight of pull. A popular option on Mannlicher-Schoenauer hunting rifles was a double-set trigger mechanism, and the two types were interchangable. The double-set trigger allows you to pull the rear trigger to "set" the front trigger for a very light release that was externally adjustable between zero and three ounces. The rifle could also be fired by simply pulling the (unset) front trigger in the normal manner, although this required about a nine pound pull.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer's lock time is leisurely by modern standards and the heavy striker slams forward with considerable sound and force when the trigger is pulled. When cocked, the striker protrudes well beyond the end of the bolt and serves as a cocking indicator.

The original M-S safety was a traditional, very positive, wing type that blocked the striker. Unfortunately, this safety would not clear the ocular bell of a telescopic sight, so a second two-position safety was added for use on scoped rifles. On the Model 1956-MC, this was located at the right rear of the receiver, similar to a Weatherby Mark V safety. On the final Model 1961-MCA, the auxiliary safety was moved to an extension of the rear tang behind the striker, where it took the form of a shotgun style slider.

Mannlicher-Schoenauer sporting rifles were produced in conventional 2/3rds stock rifle and full length stock carbine versions. The latter is known to this day as a "Mannlicher stock," regardless of company of manufacture, and it is the signature type of Mannlicher-Schoenauer stock. The purpose of the full length stock was to protect the barrel and prevent its contacting a hard surface when the rifle was fired over an impromptu rest. It is the M-S Carbine with its full length stock that most shooters envision when M-S rifles are mentioned.

Mannlicher-Schoenauer stocks have very slender forends and relatively small diameter wrists; this is true of both rifles and carbines. The curve of the pistol grip is a segment of a circle. Both the forend and grip are oval in cross-section to match the shape of a partially closed human hand; these rifles were clearly designed to be fired while hand-held. Before 1956, Mannlicher-Schoenauer's had straight combs with considerable drop and European style "pancake" cheekpieces that were designed for use with the supplied iron sights. The 1956 and 1961 stocks incorporated Monte Carlo combs with shadow line cheekpieces. The high 1956 Monte Carlo was sloped forward in Weatherby fashion and was intended for use with a scope, while the moderate 1961 Monte Carlo was essentially level and was intended for use with a scope or iron sights.

M-S stocks were typically made from selected, moderately figured, European thin-shell walnut. There were bordered, hand checkered panels on both sides of the pistol grip and wrap-around checkering on the forend. The pistol grip cap and buttplate of the 1956-MC and 1961-MCA models were black plastic and were set-off by white line spacers. The end cap at the carbine's muzzle was blued steel, while the rifle's forend had a black tip. Deluxe 1" sling swivels were included.

Iron sights were standard on all M-S rifles. These consist of a hooded silver (or brass) ramp front sight and a two-leaf, open rear sight. The shorter leaf is supposed to be regulated for 100-200 yards and the taller (folding) leaf for 300 yards. Both sights are mounted in standard dovetails and can be drifted laterally to adjust for windage. There is no elevation adjustment beyond the different heights of the rear blades--in effect two elevation steps. The top of the front receiver ring and the top of the striker, as well as the front sight ramp, are stippled to reduce glare.

After the use of telescopic sights became prevalent, the split rear receiver bridge caused problems because it made scope mounting relatively complicated. Steyr and others offered side mounts for M-S rifles for most of their long production life. Later, after the importation of M-S rifles was resumed following the end of WW II, Redfield offered the SR-MS two-piece top mount. The front base was screwed to the front receiver ring in the conventional manner and the rear base was screwed to the left side of the split rear receiver and cantilevered forward. The Redfield mount accepts STD rings as made by Leupold, Redfield, Burris and possibly others. To my mind, it is the most satisfactory way to mount a scope on an M-S rifle and the Model 1961-MCA was drilled and tapped for Redfield bases.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer is about as close as a rifle can get to being "custom built" and still be produced by an arms factory. Great care and a lot of hand labor was invested in the manufacture and assembly of Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles; for many years they were known as the "World's Finest Rifle." In addition to the standard configurations, a variety of custom upgrades were available by special order, including highly figured wood, engraving and inlays, stock carving, etc.

Weatherby Mark V Deluxe

Weatherby Mark V Deluxe
Mark V Deluxe. Illustration courtesy of Weatherby, Inc.

Roy Weatherby introduced the Mark V in 1959 as "The World's Strongest Bolt Action." It is stronger than any other sporting rifle with which I am familiar and certainly much stronger than the Mannlicher-Schoenauer. The Mark V action has proven capable of withstanding pressures up to 200,000 CUP, far beyond the melting point of the brass case it contains.

The Deluxe was the original version of the Mark V and it remains the "quintessential Weatherby." Mark V deluxe rifles are supplied with AA grade walnut stocks, high luster blued metal finish and a rose wood forend tip and grip cap set off by Maplewood line spacers. There is a trademark white diamond inlay in the pistol grip cap and a durable high gloss finish shows off the wood to maximum advantage. It is a very fancy looking rifle.

The Weatherby Mark V action is a front locking, cock on opening, turn bolt repeater. It has been described as a "modified Mauser 98" type, but it is really a unique action. Instead of using two large front locking lugs that require a 90 degree bolt rotation to unlock, the Mark V uses nine smaller locking lugs arranged in three rows and spaced for a 54-degree bolt rotation. This makes it easier for the bolt handle to clear low mounted scopes and speeds cycling.

To eliminate the play and potential for binding characteristic of Mauser 98 type actions when the bolt is fully withdrawn, the Weatherby's machined, one-piece bolt body (including the bolt handle) is round and nearly the same diameter as the hole through the receiver rings in which it slides. The bolt head is rebated (smaller in diameter than the bolt body) with short locking lugs of body diameter. The bolt is fluted and there is a machined steel shroud at the rear of the bolt to prevent escaping gases from exiting the rear of the bolt into the shooter's face in the event of a blown case. In addition, there are three gas escape vents in the side of the bolt body.

The Mark V is a push feed action. The extractor is a substantial, flush-fitting claw at the front of the bolt and the ejector is of the plunger variety in the bolt face. Whenever it is expedient, you can easily load a cartridge directly into the chamber without running it through the magazine.

The bolt handle is smooth with a round knob and protrudes far enough from the side of the rifle to allow rapid operation. When locked closed, the bolt knob is positioned directly over the trigger. Because of the smoothness of its full diameter bolt, short 54-degree rotation and perfectly positioned bolt knob, the Weatherby Mark V is the fastest bolt action I have ever used for repeat shots.

The forged and machined chrome-moly receiver has a flat bottom and incorporates a large, integral recoil lug. The whole action is built for strength; the bolt and receiver weigh 35.9 ounces. The recessed bolt head, barrel and front receiver ring surround a chambered cartridge's head and constitute the famous "Three Rings of Steel."

The magazine is an internal sheet steel box that holds the cartridges in a staggered row. Cartridge capacity is five for most standard calibers and the .240 Weatherby Magnum, three for Weatherby Magnum calibers from .257 to .375 and two for the giant .30-378, .378, .416 and .460 Weatherby Magnums. The magazine floorplate swings open to dump the cartridges from the magazine without having to cycle them through the action. The floorplate latch takes a good bite on the floorplate to insure that it stays closed under heavy recoil and the floorplate release is mounted in the front of the trigger guard.

The single-stage trigger is factory set for a release weight of four pounds and it is commendably clean and free of creep. It is easily adjusted for weight of pull by means of a small Allen screw in the front of the trigger. It is also internally adjustable for sear engagement. The lock time is commendably fast, typical of modern bolt rifles.

The safety is located at the right rear of the receiver. It is a two position type that locks the bolt closed when engaged, a good feature that can prevent a snagged bolt from opening accidentally in the field. The safety locks the striker, disengages the sear and is very quiet in operation. There is also a cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt so that the shooter can tell at a glance if the rifle is cocked.

The most distinctive feature of any Weatherby rifle is its unique Monte Carlo stock. Perhaps no other stock has so influenced modern rifle stock design. The Weatherby stock was designed specifically for powerful magnum calibers and it handles recoil very well. Its comb slants down from back to front so that recoil moves the comb away from the shooter's face. Weatherby Deluxe stocks incorporate a cheek piece and a small amount of cast-off for quicker and more precise mounting. The butt area is generous and the Pachmayr recoil pad is top quality. The pistol grip has a fairly tight curve and a flared cap for maximum control. The forearm is cleverly shaped and tapers in three dimensions for a very secure grip. The bottom of the forearm is flattened so that it is stable when fired over a rest. Detachable sling swivel bases are provided. The Weatherby stock became the prototype for all subsequent "California" style designs and even Mannlicher-Schoenauer adopted the high, forward slanting Monte-Carlo comb for its 1956-MC models.

Weatherby's wood stocks are reinforced with a steel bar in the pistol grip and steel pins are located throughout the action mortise and epoxied in place to increase structural integrity. The careful observer will note that the inletting and bedding are very precisely done. There are no wood to metal gaps and the barrel is not free floating.

Mark V Deluxe rifles are supplied without iron sights. The front and rear receiver rings are drilled and tapped to accept scope bases and practically every company that manufactures scope mounts makes bases for Weatherby rifles, so scope mounting is simple and straightforward.

Many options are available for Mark V rifles through the Weatherby Custom Shop. These include engraved floorplates, receivers and bolt sleeves; custom stock checkering or carving; inlays in the forearm, buttstock and grip cap; a selection of recoil pads or a checkered butt with a skeleton buttplate; damascened bolt and magazine follower.

The Comparison: specifications

Here are some basic specifications for the Weatherby Mark V Deluxe:

·        Calibers - .243 Win. to .460 Wby. Mag.

·        Barrel length - 26"

·        Trigger - Single, adjustable single stage type; approx. 4.0 pound pull from factory

·        Weight - 8.5 pounds empty

·        Overall length - 46-5/8"

·        Length of pull - 13-1/2"

·        Magazine capacity - 5, 3 or 2 cartridges depending on caliber

·        Stock - Hand checkered AA grade Claro walnut with Monte-Carlo comb; rosewood forend tip and grip cap with Maplewood line spacers, Pachmayr recoil pad

Here are some basic specifications for the Mannlicher-Schoenauer 1961-MCA Carbine [1961-MCA Rifle in brackets]:

·        Calibers - .243 Win., 6.5x54 M-S, 7x57, .270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06 and .358 Win. [Rifle .243, .270 and .30-06 only]

·        Barrel length - 20" [22"]

·        Trigger - Single, adjustable single stage type with 4.5 pound pull from factory; double set trigger with 3 ounce pull optional

·        Weight - 7.5 pounds empty

·        Overall length - 41-1/4" [43-1/2"]

·        Length of pull - approx. 14" to single trigger; 14-1/2" to front trigger with optional double-set trigger

·        Magazine capacity - 5

·        Stock - Hand checkered select European walnut with Monte-Carlo comb; black plastic grip cap and buttplate with white line spacers

The Comparison: user impressions

If the Deluxe is the quintessential Weatherby, it is the carbine that is the quintessential Mannlicher-Schoenauer. These two bolt action hunting rifles almost could not be more different visually, conceptually and in design.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer balances under the middle of the receiver, while the Weatherby balances a little farther forward. Because of this, as well as its lighter weight and shorter barrel, the M-S swings slightly faster. On the other hand, the Weatherby's long barrel and slightly forward balance let it swing and mount more smoothly and settle on the target faster. The slight cast-off built into the Weatherby's stock assists in quickly aligning the scope with the shooter's eye. The two stocks have nearly identical pitch. Both rifles handle well, but the Weatherby stock fits me a little better. Your results may vary.

The single stage triggers provided with Weatherby Mark V and Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles are excellent. There is little to choose between them. They are crisp, clean and user adjustable.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer double-set trigger is another matter. Unset, the front trigger's pull doesn't come close to the light, crisp release of the single stage triggers. Once set by pulling the rear trigger, however, the front trigger can be user adjusted for a release between zero and three ounces. This is lighter than most match rifle triggers, so if you like to fire your rifle by just twitching your finger, the M-S double-set trigger is for you. Personally, I find set triggers of any kind a distraction in the field and, once set, far too light for a hunting rifle.

The Weatherby feeds cartridges from its magazine into the chamber very reliably, but the Mannlicher-Schoenauer's spool magazine and controlled cartridge feeding is superior. It is also easier to load (or reload) the M-S magazine. The Weatherby has the advantage when it comes to loading a single cartridge directly into the chamber.

The Weatherby Mark V Deluxe was designed for magnum cartridges and it handles recoil very well. Its barrel length and weight are appropriate for the Weatherby cartridges for which it was intended and Mark V stocks have always come with rather thick Monte Carlo combs that move away from the shooter's face under recoil and premium recoil pads. At least for me, the Mark V Deluxe minimizes the effects of recoil about as well as any fixed breech rifle can.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer Rifle and Carbine, on the other hand, are lighter than the Mark V Deluxe and come with shorter barrels. They have narrower combs than the Mark V and hard buttplates. They were originally designed for the modest 6.5x54mm M-S cartridge and when chambered for high intensity cartridges such as the .308 Winchester and .30-06, they have a reputation as hard kickers.

The Mark V is superior to the M-S (and most other rifles) for shooting from an impromptu rest or bipod. Due to its weight and slightly forward balance, as well as its very comfortable stock, I also find it better for shooting from unsupported positions (standing, sitting, kneeling, etc.) when maximum accuracy is required. It is usually the more intrinsically accurate rifle and, at least for me, it offers better practical accuracy in the field.

The Mark V action is faster to operate for follow-up shots. While the M-S action is smoother than most bolt rifles, the Weatherby is even better in this regard. The Mark V's initial bolt lift (cocking stroke) requires less effort and its protruding bolt handle and round knob is easier to grasp. In addition, the Weatherby bolt handle's position directly over the trigger is definitely more convenient for rapid operation, particularly from the shoulder, than the Mannlicher's forward location.

On the other hand, hunting is mostly searching and stalking, or patiently waiting in a blind or on a stand, with very little actual shooting required. During a typical deer season, for example, I hunt for days and shoot only once or twice--often not at all. When (and if) the time comes to shoot, the actual shot is at a large target with at least an 8" kill area. Most shots will be at 100 yards or less and my personal range limit is 200 yards. This means that a rifle with which I can shoot 3" groups at 100 yards from field positions is entirely adequate. Seen in this light and for my purposes, the easy carrying Mannlicher-Schoenauer usually gets the nod over the longer and heavier, albeit more accurate, Weatherby.

Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles are easier to carry in the field than the Weatherby Mark V. They are shorter, lighter and their flat bolt handle does not protrude as far from the side of the rifle. For use in a blind, the short M-S Carbine is handier than the M-S Rifle and far handier than the long Weatherby Mark V Deluxe.The M-S Carbine is especially appropriate as a woods or mountain rifle, while the M-S Rifle is an excellent all-around choice. The Mark V Deluxe is at its best as a plains or open country rifle, where shots may be long, or any time a magnum cartridge is desired.

The Mannlicher-Schoenauer and Weatherby Mark V Deluxe are premium rifles and masterpieces of design. They are lovely to look at and a joy to own. There is little to choose between them in terms of quality, fit and finish. Both are excellent hunting tools and either can, depending on the specific situation and the hunter's preferences, be the better choice.

Note: Full length reviews of a Mannlicher-Schönauer 1961 MCA Carbine and a Weatherby Mark V Deluxe can be found on the Product Reviews page.




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Copyright 2009, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.


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