Mannlicher-Schönauer Model 1952 .270 Carbine
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
"The World's Finest Rifle" was introduced in 1903 and manufactured without fundamental change until 1971. The action was designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher and the famous spool magazine by Otto Schönauer. The Model 1903 military model was adopted as the standard service rifle of Austria and Greece, chambered for the 6.5x54mm M-S cartridge. Model 1903 civilian versions were offered as rifles or carbines. Rifles came with typical sporting rifle half-stocks and 23.5" barrels, while carbines were supplied with slender full length stocks and 17.7" barrels. Throughout its long production life Steyr of Austria owned the rights to manufacture the rifle.
The 1903 Carbine was manufactured only in 6.5x54 caliber and became the inspiration for what are today known as "mountain rifles." Its full length stock gave rise to the term "Mannlicher stock," which is still used today to describe a sporting rifle with a full length stock.
There were numerous detail changes, including the shape of the buttstock, over the years. These changes accounted for the various models, which included the pre Second World War Models 1903, 1905, 1908, 1910 and 1924 (High Velocity Sporting Rifle). There was a gap in the production of Mannlicher-Schoenauer sporting rifles extending from the late 1930's to 1950, due to Adolf Hitler and World War II. Post war models included the Model 1950, Model 1952, Model 1956-MC, Magnum Rifle and Model 1961-MCA.
The signature Mannlicher-Schoenauer cartridge was always the 6.5x54mm, but over the years the rifle was also chambered for many other cartridges. The early actions were sized to the 6.5x54mm cartridge and were not long enough to accommodate the Mauser "57mm" cartridges (7x57, 8x57, etc.) or the even longer .30-06 Springfield and its descendents. As these became the dominant sporting cartridges around the world, the M-S action was lengthened to accommodate them, hence the Model 1924, introduced in 1925 as the High Velocity Rifle.
The rifle that is the subject of this article is a Model 1952 Carbine in .270 Winchester caIiber. In the U.S., Stoeger Arms Corporation was the official Mannlicher-Schoenauer importer and Steyr worked closely with Stoeger to produce rifles suitable for the American market. Our Carbine is marked, reading from front to back, "Made in Austria / Original / Mannlicher / Schoenauer / Mod. 1952 / Kal. .270" in six lines on the top of the front receiver ring. The right side of the front receiver ring is stamped with the serial number, as are the right rear side of the barrel and the underside of the bolt handle. "Stoeger Arms Corporation New-York Sole U.S. agents" is stamped in a circle on the bottom of the magazine floor plate, above a small Steyr logo. The left front of the receiver and left rear side of the barrel show proof marks and the left side of the receiver is stamped, "Steyr - Daimler - Puch A.G., Steyr" followed by the bullseye Steyr logo.
The Model 1952 was the last M-S with a straight comb designed for use with open, iron sights. The comb is high and thin with quite a bit of drop at heel, in the European style. The Model 1956-MC introduced a high Monte Carlo comb designed for use only with telescopic sights. The final Mannlicher-Schoenauer, the Model 1961-MCA, wore a lower, compromise Monte Carlo stock that was intended to allow the use of either the supplied iron sights or a scope. In 1971, due to rising production costs, production of Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles ceased. Because of its traditional style stock, absence of stripper clip receiver cuts, steel safety lever at the right rear of the action (which became a plastic tang safety on the 1961-MCA), swept back bolt handle (introduced with the Model 1952) and availability in modern calibers, some Mannlicher-Schoenauer fans consider the Model 1952 to be the apex of the sporting rifle series.
The Mannlicher-Schoenauer action has been described in previous articles, but we will review it here. The M-S is a cock on opening, controlled feed, turn bolt action with dual front locking lugs. Bolt rotation is approximately 90-degrees. The extractor is a large claw mounted at the right front of the bolt, while the sliding ejector is mounted at the front left side of the bolt. The ejector flips the fired case clear of the action when it contacts the husky bolt stop in the left side of the split rear receiver ring. The force of ejection depends on how hard and fast the bolt is operated, so fired cases can be thrown well clear of the action or deposited gently in the hand, as desired.
The M-S controlled feeding system is completely different from the familiar Mauser 98 system also used in Winchester Model 70, Kimber 84 and similar modern rifles. The machined M-S extraction/ejection parts are smaller, tidier and probably stronger, but more expensive to fabricate and fit. As with a Model 98 Mauser, cartridges should normally be fed from the magazine, not single loaded directly into the chamber, although the extractor is beveled enough to allow it to over-ride the rim of a chambered cartridge if the bolt is closed smartly.
The Schoenauer rotary magazine is easily removed, without tools, for cleaning. It holds five .270 Winchester cartridges and is loaded from the top, through the receiver's generous ejection port. Its design positively retains each cartridge in place, preventing the battering of bullet tips due to recoil. Cartridges are fed from directly below the bolt in a straight line for optimum feeding reliability. These magazines are machined for a specific cartridge, in this case .270 Winchester only. A button at the top right side of the receiver's ejection port allows ejecting all of the cartridges from the magazine at once.
The bolt release is a convenient lever at the left rear of the receiver. Bolt disassembly can be accomplished without tools, merely by removing the bolt from the receiver and turning the cocking piece. All screws, even the rear sling swivel screw, are indexed and this was done throughout the entire production life of M-S rifles and carbines. The barreled action, including the bolt, wears a highly polished, blued external finish, while the interior of the contoured barrel is hand lapped to a mirror finish. After 1952, the bolt handle was polished and left in the white.
All models came with a flat "butter knife" bolt handle that was located well forward of the trigger guard. This was due to the design of the action, which has a split rear receiver ring through which the bolt handle passed as it was drawn back. This mostly eliminated the bolt wobble that plagued the Mauser 98 action. However, the split rear receiver ring was to cause trouble later, when the use of telescopic sights became widespread, as it prevented the use of conventional scope mounts on top of the receiver. Scoped M-S Rifles and Carbines are usually fitted with side mounts or, later, the specially designed Redfield top mount.
The buyer had the option of an externally adjustable double set trigger or an internally adjustable single trigger. (Stock removal is required to adjust the single trigger.) The double set trigger was the more popular option. The single and double set trigger models came with different trigger guards. Our Model 1952 came with a single stage trigger that was set to release at a clean four pounds, so we left it alone.
Like all M-S rifles, there is a wing safety at the back of the bolt that blocks the striker. In addition, the Model 1952 has a scope friendly, two position "shotgun" safety at the right rear of the receiver. The bolt's wing safety locks the bolt closed when in the safe position; the receiver safety does not, allowing the magazine to be emptied with the safety on.
The front receiver ring and the top of the striker wear very fine stippling to break-up light reflections that might interfere with using the open sights. Both the front and rear sights are dovetail mounted, allowing great latitude for drift windage adjustment. Index marks allow centering both the front and rear sights. There is a second, hinged, taller rear sight blade, which is all the elevation adjustment provided. The taller of the two rear sight leaves is marked "300," supposedly indicating yards, but no load is specified.
Like many European sighting systems, a great deal of innocent ignorance on the part of the shooter is assumed by this vague range marking. We discovered at the rifle range that the lower rear sight leaf put the 145 grain bullet from the Federal Fusion Light (low recoil) cartridges (MV 2200 fps) that we were testing about 1.0" below the point of aim at 50 yards, which is tolerable. The high (300) blade printed about 5.5" high at 50 yards with this load.
Unlike almost all modern rifles, Mannlicher-Schoenauers were supplied with European walnut stocks that do not need slenderizing. The forend and pistol grip are oval in cross section and petite in circumference. The three panel, hand checkering is cut at around 20 lines per inch and wraps around the forearm. The hand finished stock incorporates a shadow line cheek piece, fluted comb and a moderately curved pistol grip with a black cap. 1.0" sling swivels are supplied. Our test rifle's original black butt plate was replaced by a ventilated, white line recoil pad for a rather short 13-1/4" length of pull. We used a Pachmayr Decelerator slip-on pad to increase the length of pull to 14-3/8" during our time at the range.
· Type: Bolt action repeater
· Model: 1952 Carbine
· Caliber: .270 Winchester
· Magazine capacity: 5 cartridges
· Barrel length: 20"; hand lapped bore
· Trigger: Single stage, adjustable; 4 lb. pull
· Metal finish: High polished bluing
· Sights: Dual leaf "U" notch rear, ramp mounted silver front bead; removable side plate for side scope mounts
· Safety: Dual,
· Stock: Full length stock of European walnut w/cheek piece; hand checkered with high luster oil finish
· Weight: Approx. 7 lbs. (empty)
· Overall length: 40.5"
· MSRP (1955): Standard grade $205.75; Deluxe grade $245.75; Super Deluxe grade $345.75
The standard grade M-S Carbine was generally equivalent to a deluxe grade modern rifle. Special stock dimensions to order could be supplied on the standard Model 1952 for an additional charge of $35. Not without reason was the Mannlicher-Schoenauer known as the "Gentleman's Rifle" and the "World's Finest Rifle." However, true high grade Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles and carbines were available with factory engraving and stock carving in Deluxe, Super Deluxe and Custom grades (the latter to customer supplied patterns, including gold and silver inlays at extra cost). The Super Deluxe grade included essentially 100% engraving coverage on the receiver, magazine floor plate, bolt handle and trigger guard.
The retail prices for these fine Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles seem absurdly low by today's inflated standards. However, it should be remembered that in 1955 the Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in .270 caliber carried an MSRP of $120.95 and a Remington Model 721A was only $79.00. Things were different in the years immediately following the Korean War! The Thirty-Third Edition of Fjestad's Blue Book of Gun Values (the current edition as of this writing) quotes the used price of a Model 1952 Carbine as $2000 in 100% condition and $1300 in 95% condition.
Reduced Recoil Ammunition for Lightweight Rifles
Our intention with the .270 M-S Carbine is to more or less equal the killing power of the 6.5x54mm M-S cartridge, which is known around the world as an effective deer and medium game cartridge, as well as for its soft recoil. Since our rifle is chambered for .270 Winchester, not 6.5x54mm, we requested Fusion Lite ammunition from our friends at Federal and Managed-Recoil ammunition from the good folks at Remington. The Federal Fusion Lite and Remington Managed-Recoil .270 Winchester factory loads essentially duplicate the power of the classic 6.5x54 M-S cartridge for which M-S Carbines were originally intended.
Modern reduced recoil ammunition is intended for shooting deer and general Class 2 game out to 200 yards. These low recoil factory loads are excellent for use by young shooters, new shooters or anyone who prefers not to be belted around by their deer rifle. They are especially appropriate for use in a lightweight rifle like our classic Mannlicher-Schoenauer 1952 Carbine, or any of the lightweight hunting rifles chambered for high intensity calibers (.270 Win., .308 Win., .30-06, etc.) that are popular today.
Examples of such rifles include the Browning X-Bolt Micro, CZ 550FS, Kimber 84L, Remington 700 Mountain SS, Ruger American and Compact, Savage Lightweight Hunter and Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight. Fired with full power hunting loads in powerful all-around calibers, such as .270 Winchester, these rifles are frankly uncomfortable to shoot. For hunters who shoot factory loads, the answer to excessive recoil in lightweight rifles is Federal Fusion Lite and Remington Managed Recoil ammunition. Experienced reloaders, of course, have quietly been tailoring reduced power loads to their rifles for decades, which is one reason why reloading manuals always list lower pressure, as well as maximum, loading data.
Both the Federal Fusion Lite and Remington Managed-Recoil loads use bullets specially developed for the purpose. The Fusion Lite .270 load uses a 145 grain Fusion bonded core bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2200 fps. The muzzle energy is 1560 foot-pounds and the remaining energy at 200 yards is 1070 foot-pounds. The Remington Managed-Recoil .270 load uses a 115 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2710 fps. The muzzle energy is 1875 foot-pounds and the remaining energy at 200 yards is 1161 foot-pounds.
Both of these loads are entirely adequate in power and trajectory (zero between 170-175 yards) for shooting deer and general Class 2 game out to 200 yards. For comparison, the Hirtenberger 6.5x54 factory load launches a 140 grain bullet at 2250 fps with 1575 ft. lbs. muzzle energy.
The reduced recoil .270 factory loads may be satisfactory for 200 yard shooting, but our aging eyes are not. 200 yards is well beyond our capability with iron sights, so we shot our recorded groups from a bench rest at our usual iron sight test range of 50 yards, using a sandbag under the forend.
As usual, we did our shooting at the Izaak Walton range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor facility offers covered shooting positions, solid bench rests and target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards. The summer weather was partly cloudy with a high temperature of 75-degrees F and up to a 15 MPH cross wind. Guns and Shooting Online's Chuck Hawks and Rocky Hays did the shooting, using Hoppe's Slow-Fire Pistol Targets. We fired three shot groups for record.
With full power ammo, the muzzle blast and recoil would have been much worse from our M-S Carbine's 20" barrel, but with the mild Fusion Lite and Remington Managed-Recoil loads it was very pleasant to shoot. We judged the recoil to be similar to that of an eight pound .243 rifle. Anyone can shoot more accurately with a rifle that kicks less and it is correct bullet placement, not raw power, that produces quick, one shot kills.
This time out Chuck shot the smallest and largest groups, using Fusion Lite ammo; both were probably attributable more to luck (good and bad) than skill. If we deleted these two groups, neither of which are representative, our average Fusion Lite group size would have been 1-1/3", which we regard as pretty good for our eyes using iron sights. Ditto our results with the Managed-Recoil ammo, which delivered consistent accuracy from our test rifle.
Like all classic Mannlicher sporting rifles, the Model 1952 Carbine feeds ultra reliably from its Schönauer spool magazine and the bolt travel is exceptionally smooth. It is also very easy to load and unload. We wish that all bolt action rifles incorporated this superior magazine system.
We could not find much to criticize about this .270 carbine. The European style stock fitted Rocky better than Chuck, who found the comb to be too high and too thin. The M-S action has a comparatively slow lock time by modern standards, but that is more of a theoretical, rather than practical, consideration. The sling swivels are of the permanent type, installed by the factory, rather than the detachable sling swivel studs common today.
The handling of Mannlicher-Schönauer Carbines is legendary. The short overall length and slender stock design definitely contribute to fast handling and sure pointing, as does the little gun's excellent balance. It is a rifle designed to be fired offhand. The crisp trigger system, whether single or double set, is a definite aid to accurate shooting.
Anyone who has owned a classic M-S rifle understands the appeal of this fine firearm. No hunting rifle is perfect, but the Mannlicher-Schoenauer comes as close as any. Its bolt action is the smoothest ever made. It is the only bolt action we know of that will close and lock itself if the muzzle of an empty rifle with a open bolt is swung down to point at the ground while the trigger is held back. This is partly because of the outstanding workmanship put into these rifles and partly because the Schoenauer spool magazine does not drag against the bolt, as does the follower in the box magazine of a Mauser style rifle. Shooting a classic M-S rifle transports one to an earlier, more gracious age.
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
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