Mannlicher-Schoenauer Improved Model 1952 Deluxe Carbine
By the Guns and Shooting Online Staff
Regular Guns and Shooting Online readers probably realize that the classic Mannlicher-Schoenauers are among our favorite rifles and the Carbines are our favorite M-S models. They are so beautifully manufactured and finished, not to mention extremely accurate, it would be hard for any serious rifleman not to appreciate their quality and performance.
Many Mannlicher-Schoenauer aficionados consider the Improved Model 1952 (as it was officially known) to be the premier M-S sporting rifle. Heavily influenced by the US distributor, Stoeger Arms Corporation, the Improved Model 1952 was the last M-S with a straight comb stock. Its features included the absence of the military inspired stripper clip cuts in the receiver, steel safety lever at the right rear of the receiver (in addition to the traditional wing safety at the rear of the bolt) and swept-back bolt handle.
Improved Model 1952 carbines were offered in calibers .257 Roberts, 6.5x54mm M-S, .270 Winchester, 7x57mm Mauser, .308 Winchester (new 1953) and .30-06 Springfield. Full length rifles were also available in 9.3x62mm. The 6.5x54 came with an 18-1/4 inch barrel, the other calibers with a 20 inch barrel. Of these, the .257, 6.5x54 and 7x57 are our particular favorites, because they are highly effective hunting cartridges and their moderate recoil and muzzle blast make them particularly suitable for use in a carbine.
Our copyright 1954 Stoeger Shooter's Bible shows the Improved Model 1952 Carbine's list price as $205.75. This seems absurdly low by modern standards for a rifle with a full length European walnut stock, carved cheekpiece, hand checkering, high luster bluing, contoured barrel, mirror polished bore, adjustable trigger, rotary magazine, controlled feeding, timed screws, hand fitted and polished action. However, bear in mind that same year a Winchester Model 70 Super Grade rifle carried a $179.45 list price.
In addition to standard grade rifles and carbines, Mannlicher-Schoenauers were available in Deluxe and Super Deluxe grades from 1952-1955. Custom guns, made to measure, were also available to special order. These high grade M-S rifles and carbines are seldom seen and naturally command high prices on the used market today. In 1954, the Deluxe Carbine that is the subject of this article carried a list price of $245.75, or only about a 20% premium for a hand engraved rifle with upgraded walnut. Those were the days!
M-S Deluxe models were advertised as featuring unusually fine, select grained walnut. Light English style scroll engraving was found on the receiver, bolt, bolt release, magazine floor plate, bottom tang, trigger guard and all screws. This hand engraving was very well executed on our rifle; we were impressed.
Stoeger summarized the Deluxe model this way, "Where a man not only wants the finest in a firearm, but also something which he can enjoy as a thing of unusual beauty, we offer the Deluxe model." Today, M-S Deluxe Carbines are so rare that four hours of online research for this article failed to find even one for sale. Fjestad's mentions the Deluxe models, but does not include prices for them.
The example featured in this article was discovered at an estate sale. The deceased owned an extensive firearms collection and Guns and Shooting Online Gunsmithing Editor Rocky Hays was enlisted to help evaluate the collection, which included several M-S rifles, including this Deluxe 7x57mm Carbine.
The Mannlicher-Schoenauer action
The Mannlicher-Schoenauer action has been described in previous articles, but for those who are not regular G&S Online readers we will review it here. If you are familiar with the M-S action, feel free to skip down to "Specifications."
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. The machined M-S extraction/ejection parts are smaller, tidier and probably stronger. 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. Depress the recessed, steel button with a cartridge tip (or something similar) and rotate the magazine floor plate 90 degrees, then lift the magazine out.
It holds five standard diameter (7x57mm in this case) cartridges and is loaded from the top, through the receiver's generous ejection port. Load in a straight line downward, not in staggered fashion as with a Mauser type box magazine. The rotary magazine's 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. Schoenauer rotary magazines are machined for a specific cartridge, in this case 7x57 Mauser. They are not "one size fits all."
A button at the top right side of the receiver's ejection port allows ejecting all of the cartridges from the magazine at once. Depressing the button allows the rotary magazine to spin backward, ejecting the cartridges from the ejection port.
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.
Mannlicher-Schoenauers were known as, "The Gentleman's Rifle" for a reason. All screws, even on standard models, were 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 stepped barrel is hand lapped to a mirror finish.
All models came with a flat "butter knife" bolt handle that was located 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 Mauser 98 pattern actions.
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 1952 Carbines are usually fitted with side mounts, of which there were several available.
Our Deluxe came with a Paul Jaeger side mount that is rigid, detachable and extremely cleverly designed. It holds the scope low and centered over the top of the receiver.
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 and this is how our Deluxe is equipped.
The set trigger is externally user adjustable for pull by means of a screw and we set ours for the maximum pull weight, which turned out to be 1.5 pounds per our RCBS trigger scale. (The set trigger can be adjusted so light the weight of the trigger itself will fire the rifle if the muzzle is pointed up!)
Like all M-S rifles, there is a wing safety at the back of the bolt that blocks the striker. Mounting a scope blocks this safety, so the Model 1952 also has a scope friendly, two position "shotgun" safety at the right rear of the receiver.
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.
The open rear sight has a low, fixed blade and a taller, folding blade, which is all the elevation adjustment provided. The taller of the two rear sight leaves is marked "300," supposedly indicating yards/meters.
Mannlicher-Schoenauers were supplied with European walnut stocks that do not need slenderizing. The fore end and pistol grip are oval in cross section and petite in circumference. The three panel, hand checkering wraps around the forearm on both standard and Deluxe models.
The hand finished stock incorporates a shadow line cheek piece, fluted comb and a moderately curved pistol grip with a black cap. There is a grooved, black bakelite butt plate. 1.0 inch sling swivels are supplied.
Finding a Riflescope
Our Deluxe Carbine came with a low Paul Jaeger scope mount, but no riflescope. Scopes were very different in the early 1950s. In particular, they typically had much smaller objective and ocular bells and the Jaeger scope mount on our test rifle was designed for such scopes, rather than the bloated models popular today. We were unable to find a modern riflescope with an ocular bell of sufficiently petite diameter to clear the bolt handle when the bolt was cycled.
Fortunately, we had an old Bushnell Sportview 3-9x32mm variable that we had pulled from another rifle. This inexpensive scope barely cleared the bolt handle, but it worked, so we went with it.
As it turned out, the Sportview's windage and elevation adjustments worked properly and the optics were entirely adequate, as long as the magnification was not increased above about 4.5x. Above that level, the optical clarity rapidly degraded, which is typical of vintage zoom optics. Fixed power 4x scopes were the best sellers when this rifle was manufactured, so we set the Sportview to 4x and left it there for all of our test shooting. 4x magnification is, in fact, appropriate for almost all big game hunting.
Shooting the M-S Deluxe
This Deluxe Carbine is a collectors' rifle, but we believe fine things (and especially fine firearms) should be used. High grade Mannlicher-Schoenauer rifles were meant to be used and enjoyed.
Consequently, we looked forward to getting the Deluxe Carbine to the range. We did our shooting at the Izaak Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor range offers target stands at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards and covered bench rests. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Rocky Hays, Jim Fleck and Bob Fleck were present to shoot the M-S Deluxe.
After optical bore sighting, we refined the rifle's zero at 25 yards. This took only three rounds to accomplish. We then moved back to 100 yards for final zeroing and to see what this Deluxe carbine could do. As usual with centerfire rifles, we fired three shot groups, allowing the barrel to cool between groups.
For most of our 100 yard shooting we used a Lead Sled DFT and Redfield Precision Sight-in targets. We also fired a few groups using just a Caldwell sand bag for support.
The factory loaded hunting ammunition we use for our personal 7x57 rifles is the Hornady Custom load using a 139 grain BTSP bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2700 fps. Since this is the ammo we had on hand, it is what we used in the little Mannlicher.
From the very beginning this rifle shot tight groups. The average three shot group size was about 1-1/16 inches, but half of our groups were under one inch at 100 yards. This is superb performance, especially for a carbine manufactured in the early 1950s. The Deluxe actually out-shot a new Weatherby Mark V Sporter we were reviewing at the same time.
The Mannlicher's accuracy can be attributed primarily to a beautifully made barrel and the superb double set trigger that makes accurate shooting easy. A super clean 1.5 pound trigger certainly makes it easier for experienced shooters to get the most out of a hunting rifle!
The 7x57 is a relatively mild, although potent, cartridge. Its moderate recoil and muzzle blast allows shooters to do their best work. Although slender and compact in overall length, the M-S Carbine is not particularly lightweight. With a sling, Bushnell Sportview scope and mount it weighs 8 pounds 5.3 ounces (empty). We enjoyed shooting the rifle directly from the shoulder, without the Lead Sled.
As is typical of classic Mannlicher sporting rifles, the Model 1952 Carbine feeds very reliably from its Schoenauer spool magazine. It is also easy to load and unload. We wish that all bolt action rifles could incorporate this superior magazine system.
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-Schoenauer 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 Mannlicher-Schoenauer bolt action is the smoothest ever made and even when fully retracted there is very little bolt wobble. It is the only bolt action we know of that will close and lock itself if the muzzle of an empty rifle with an 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. As we commented in an earlier M-S review, shooting a classic M-S rifle transports one to an earlier, more gracious age.
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