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Madsen Lightweight Military Rifle

Madsen M47 Lightweight Military Rifle

The M47 Madsen “Lightweight Military Rifle” was the last military bolt action rifle designed to be a primary infantry rifle, and it is a bit hard to see just who Madsen thought they could sell it to. The rifle was designed in the late 1940s and was available for sale in 1951, evidently marketed to countries in South America and Asia without the financial resources to afford any of the semiauto rifles that were clearly the new standard for effective military forces. The Madsen was obsolete when it first hit the drawing board, and there were loads of surplussed bolt action rifles available from the post-WWII drawdown to compete with it on price.

Not surprisingly, the gun was a commercial flop. The only country that decided to purchase them was Colombia, which bought a few thousand (in .30-06 caliber, with 5-round magazines) and ended up never even issuing them. They went into storage until being sold to the US civilian surplus market, although some may have been used for ceremonial purposes. As a result, they tend to be in very good condition when you can find them, and are quite good shooters.

Madsen was willing to make the rifles in any full-size cartridge (they specifically included 7.62mm NATO as an option), and in your choice of a couple barrel lengths, 5- or 10-round magazines, with or without optics, and would likely have accommodated any other special request from someone willing to place a substantial order. Mechanically, the rifle is a two-lug bolt action with the lugs on the rear half of the bolt, locking into the back half of the split-bridge receiver. The bolt handle acts as a third safety locking lug. The safety is a tab on the back of the bolt much like a Mauser, but the “safe” position is vertical, where the tab blocks view of the sights as a reminder that the gun cannot be fired. The rear sight is a leaf with a large aperture and is click-adjustable for windage, while the front sight is a typical hooded post.

Madsen M47 rifle components

Madsen M47 rifle component parts

The rifle is pretty comfortable to shoot standing despite its potent cartridge, thanks to an integral muzzle brake (in the form of three row of small holes on either side of the muzzle) and a rubber recoil pad installed at the factory. It’s a pretty easy rifle to hit with for a competent marksman, and is a very effective rifle for a bolt action. Unfortunately for Madsen, the good work by the Engineering Department was let down by Marketing, as there was very little demand for this type of rifle when Madsen decided to build it.

We have a copy of an original Madsen flyer/manual for the rifle, which you can download here:

Madsen Lightweight Military Rifle manual (English)

Madsen Lightweight Military Rifle manual (English)

 

33 comments to Madsen Lightweight Military Rifle

  • Earl Liew

    The Madsen certainly looks like a well-made and nicely-balanced rifle. It also has aesthetically-pleasing lines, at least for me.

  • Mike111

    Hasn’t the rubber pad hardened over the years?

  • Chris Brosnahan

    I’ve got one!!! As you say it’s difficult to imagine who the hell would want it…even the Colombians had loads of Mausers in 7mm that were later converted to .30-06 – I had one of those also…(the rifle was used as a walking stick because the buttplate was partially corroded and caked with almost petrified dried jungle mud). The ONLY reason (I believe)the Danes were able to sell to the Colombians must’ve been the barrels of Aquavit and the hot Danish babes that accompanied the Madsen sales reps to Bogota. Except for the three or four boxes of ammo the seller put through the rifle, mine is in practically pristine condition. By the time these M47s were delivered, Colombia had already purchased a bunch or FN-49s in .30-06 and no longer needed/wanted the rifles, so, IIRC, Sam Cunningham bought the lot of ‘em.

    CB in FL

    • Earl Liew

      Lucky guy! I’m assuming yours is also chambered in .30-06 — what’s your personal take on it? I’m not doubting Ian’s evaluation at all, it’s just that two different users can have differing opinions of the same gun.

      • Chris Brosnahan

        Haven’t shot it yet – it’s been a closet queen since I got it (courtesy of the wife. )Still can’t fathom WHY the Danes went to all the trouble to design and manufacture a rifle that was obsolete YEARS before they began…especially in a world awash with surplus bolt action rifles..it looks more like a sporting rifle than a military one….will hafta take it to the range one of these days – I’ve got a huge supply of Greek surplus .30-06

  • Mu

    Well,in 1946 the traditional suppliers of rifles for South American and elsewhere were just dismantled or disappeared behind the iron curtain, so they might have anticipated a market niche. They just didn’t predict the FAL would come out at the same time as their new creation and corner the market.

    • Magus

      That would’ve been a reasonable expectation, if not for the fact that vast quantities of war-surplus rifles were hitting the market. So for anybody that couldn’t afford the FAL, surplus Mausers were surely a cheaper yet equally viable option compared to a new-production Madsen.

      • Mu

        Surplus Mausers would have been 8×57, not a caliber popular in South America. So at minimum they would need refurbishment with a new barrel.

        • Chris Brosnahan

          Colombia rebarreled it’s stock of Mausers to .30-06 – I had such a one that my bud and I cleaned & restored for a fellow club member. As i posted previously the rifle had been used as a walking stick in the jungles of Colombia – the stamped steel butt plate was partially corroded and caked with practically petrified mud that took us days using solvents to break apart. The roll marking on the receiver indicated that the rebarreling procedure was done in house at the State Arsenal, The M47 is an interesting oddity in the history of firearms, kind of similar to the Webley-Fosberry Automatic revolver – an idea whose time had passed, is intriguing for collectors, but remains a footnote in the design of firearms,

          CB in FL

  • Gary L Larson

    Is it a long reach for the bolt handle? Looks like it is too far forward for fast shooting.

  • Ian Hutchison

    Bad timing seems to have unfortunately been a recurrent problem at Madsen. Many of their products were innovative, and all of them were well made, but they always arrived at the wrong times.

    • Earl Liew

      Good observation. As noted in other posts before this, the history of firearms is rife with many examples of bad market timing that has prevented otherwise deserving weapons from achieving the sort of success they really deserved, so this isn’t surprising.

  • I knew emailing you about my friend’s Madsen would spur you to the range with yours!

    I might have to make him an offer now.

  • Chris Brosnahan

    As I’m fond of saying to my C&R buds re: the M47, Aquavit and Hot Danish babes will get you far in the useless rifles sales business, especially in South America!!! This has got to be one of the funniest sales deals in the entire post war period…by the time the first M47s were delivered, the Colombians had their FN-49s in .30-06 and must’ve laughing at the Danes…at least I got a nice, nearly pristine M47 out of the deal…saving one piece of forgotten history at a time. This is something you simply CANNOT explain to those who despise both guns and gun owners…you have to be a ‘Gun Guy’ to understand our fascination with the thought, engineering and fabrication processes that made these artifacts of history that would otherwise be lost in the clouds of time.

    CB in FL

  • Aaron

    My friend has one of these that his grandfather gave him. I’m jealous, but try not to let my bitterness show. I really like shooting it, but unfortunately he doesn’t shoot it anymore. A little metal tab broke on the magazine floor plate and he hasn’t been able to find a replacement. Anyone got a line on a spare Madsen floor plate?

  • R. Aballe

    Thanks for the good-humoured presentation, Ian. Really nice! I always wanted one of these M 47 Colombian contract Mausers. I have seen many in such pristine condition that even gun buffs addicted to modern, black plastic rifles can get envious… and I am all for old school wood and steel!
    As for the rifle, it certainly was the last, military bolt action rifle to be designed, but certainly not the last to be produced. I think the last MAS 36 batches were being churned out by French arsenals at about the same time as the Danes were marketing their “obsolete but new rifle” to prospective Latin American clients. The same should apply to the last Belgian and Czechoslovak Mausers and, of course, the Yugoslav M 48.

    @ Mu: despite what might be said about former suppliers of bolt action rifles for South American countries disappearing behind the Iron Curtain, the Czechoslovaks continued their brisk rifle selling activities abroad(refurbished and newly made Kar.98k look-alikes, based on the Kriegsmodell pattern) for a while, to the Israelis for instance, at least until they exhausted stocks and/or when the whole operation became economically unfeasible. FN also continued to sell Mausers abroad for a while after WWII and if my memory serves me well, they still scored some sales to South American nations in the late Forties, but not in 7×57 Mauser (I think the last FN Mausers sold in that part of the world were all or almost all in .30-06).
    The Yugoslavs also sold numbers of their M48s (mostly in the Middle East). Both new and refurbished ones (M24/47s, I guess, not to mention several variation of the basic M48, the M48bo batch made for the Egyptians in the 1st half of the 50s being a good example), but of course, all in 8×57.

    • Magus

      FN was selling .30-06 Mausers to South America because that had become the caliber of choice in the immediate post-war era. Many nations were converting their existing 7mm Mausers to .30-06 as well, to take advantage of the influx of American military aid ammo.

      • R. Aballe

        Yes, that’s correct. Mexico did that also with the locally produced Mausers after the war. In South America, Brazil is an obvious case too, with Itajubá churning out both converted and new rifles in .30-06. As for the Argentinians, they clung to the 7,65×53 till the early 60s, despite a short intercession by the .30-06 (courtesy of the 30,000 M1 Garands supplied by US in 1954); they loved the M1 to the point of considering a local, licensed version to be manufacturer by the local arsenals (but chambered for the 7,65×53!). A few prototypes were actually made for trial purposes, but the idea was rejected in favour of the FAL.
        My point wasn’t centered on the caliber, but on the fact that newly made bolt-action Mauser rifles continued to be sold to South American nations for a good while in the post-war era, so the Madsen wasn’t so strange from that point of view. What is strange Madsen’s commitment to the design of a new rifle of such kind at so late a date… As Ian said, twenty years before it could have been a very successful venture but not in the early 50s.

  • Myles

    Looks like it is a lovely, elegant, comically obsolete military weapon. I am surprised they went with the split bridge rear receiver at that late a point in history.

    • R. Aballe

      Yes Myles, the choice of a split bridge rear receiver (very similar to the Mannlicher system produced six decades before) at such a late is puzzling to say the least and has also dumbfounded me… They probably went that route in order to keep production costs as low as possible.

      • Myles

        Thanks, some years ago I was talking to a gunsmith friend about what the ideal, cheap to produce bolt action rifle would be and he proposed something like a lee/enfield with some refinements to the receiver to make it cheaper to produce. Rear locking lugs seem to allow a considerable rate of fire and more than acceptable accuracy.

        Of course if it were me I would go with the new Mcmillan Alias rifle or a 50 cal, but I don’t have $10,000 lying around. :(

  • Earl Liew

    As Myles said, perhaps a comically obsolete military weapon ( due to bad timing and marketing ) ; but nevertheless a lovely, elegant, beautiful and aesthetically superb rifle that would still be very, very practical for hunting and other “civilianized” activities while making acquaintances green with envy, eh?

  • brian

    well I originaly had one in 2000 but sold then I ran across the same rifle I sold in 2007 and was able to buy her back and now she home and enjoying her safe time and shooting time only difference ive seen on mine is a medalian on the stock but other than that she is in pristine shape

  • Mike Thomas

    hi… thanks for this thread and information. I ran across a Madsen M G1A in a local gunshop. I didn’t know what I was looking at. The rifle was in pretty good shape at a low price so I bought it. I’m assuming the “G1A” is the same model as discussed here – the M47? it looks like it by the pictures I’ve seen.

  • Tim Miller

    Hi Guys! … Was looking for a current thread, glad I found you.

    My dad bought two brand new M1958′s / M47′s,when I was 5. I am now 55, and when he passed I got his personal one (my brother had been using the other for deer hunting for 15 years and filling his tag every year). I love this rifle, and I’m a bit of a stickler on this point, if a rifle was intended to be used with open sights, I have a hard time drilling into it to place a scope on it. When I need a scoped rifle, my Remington 700 is my baby (I blame uncle sam for that). When I can use the open sights, my Madsen is the only choice i want. The best thing, it is so easy to keep clean, it takes some of the after range drudgery out of it.

    Glad to know there are fellow enthusiast out there!

  • […] one link: Collecting and Shooting the Military Surplus Rifle – Surplusrifle.com and another link: Madsen Lightweight Military Rifle I do not have the bayonet. The rifle is in very good shape. Looking like not shot much. From the […]

  • Josh Goodman

    I have an M47 that I got from my father-in-law, but the stock is broken. A friend of mine is considering modifying a composite Mauser stock if it will work, but I would still like to find an original stock. Has anyone heard of one available anywhere?

  • John Sears

    I have one, not only in pristine condition, but when I bought it, it still had cosmoline oil on it, and I have never fired it. Also have the bayonet.

  • Jeremy

    I have one of these M47 that I got from I grandpa a few years ago, just recently got interested in trying to find more information on these but there seems to not be a lot out there about them. Any way you could post pics or a video of the disassembly of one?

  • Jim Yahnke

    I understood the rear peep sight came from one of Madsen’s Machine guns. Saw one at a gun show in Fairbanks, AK in the late ’80s for $150. Alas, I was a poor college student at the time. The memory has haunted me a quarter of a century.

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