After shooting the Bannerman Mosin-Nagant conversion recently, the subject of dangerous military rifles came up when I was talking with a friend. And y’know, there are more than a few designs and conversions that are widely considered dangerous…some really are and some aren’t. To name a few:
- Canadian Ross M1910. Yeah, fiddle with the bolt wrong and you can get it to fire unlocked. Most were modified to make this impossible, though.
- Italian Vetterli M70/87/15. This was a conversion of the early 10.4mm black-powder Vetterli rifle to smokeless 6.5mm Carcano. Not uncommon to find examples with cracked locking lugs. Yikes!
- Austrian M1888/24. Similar to the Vetterli, this was the M1888 Steyr straight-pull of 11.15mm converted to 8×57 smokeless. Unlike the M95 family of straight-pulls, the 1888 design used a tilting wedge at the rear of the bolt to lock – not as strong as the later rotating bolts.
- American Winchester 1895 Lee Navy. Smallbore, high pressure, and could be possible to blow the bolt out with a combination of a worn bolt stop and bad headspacing. Sarco’s Glenn DeRuiter was tragically killed by one of these rifles.
- Japanese Type 99 Naval Special. This was a late war rifle that used a cast iron receiver (as well as some other iron parts). The barrel was changed from the standard Arisaka design, though, so the bolt locked into a steel barrel extension. The iron receiver thus saw no pressure, just as an aluminum AR15 receiver doesn’t take any pressure.
- Polish wz.91/98/25 Mosin Nagant. A conversion to 8×57 Mauser, these rifles were equipped with new 8mm barrels and are perfectly safe to shoot.
- French M1915 and M1918 Chauchat machine rifles. This is a case of ignorance – for all the flaws that the Chauchat does have, it is not unsafe. You will often hear that the .30-06 M1918 version was too high-pressure for the design, but this is just outright not true (note that the guns were used in 8×57 and 7.65×53 without any trouble).
- Plus at least a few more that escape me at the moment…
Of course, any firearm can become dangerous with overpressure ammunition or broken/worn parts in the wrong places. But it’s interesting to look at the guns that are teetering on the edge of being unsafe in their issued condition – and also at the quite safe guns that have managed to develop an unearned reputation as dangerous.