2-Gun Action Match: England Versus Germany

Once again, we have video today from the monthly 2-gun Action Challenge Match. This time, I thought it would be interesting to do a bit of a historical matchup, and look at the oft-discussed question of how much of an advantage a shooter with an Enfield has over one with a Mauser. So, with the help of my friend (and match co-director) Karl, we made this both a competition and an experiment. I brought a pair of Enfields (No1 MkIII* Enfield, made by BSA in 1916 and a 1942 No2MkI** revolver) and Karl had a pair of Mausers (German K98k scrubbed and remarked by the Yugoslav army and 1930s C96 Broomhandle). Karl is definitely the better shooter between us, so the question was:

To what extent does my faster rifle action allow me to make up for my inferior shooting?

You can watch the video to see, or skip past it and read my conclusions…

Conclusions, in Brief

Having a fast action will not make up for inferior shooting, at least in a course of fire that requires movement, careful aim, and multiple targets.

Conclusions, in Depth

After watching the video, one is tempted to say that my Enfield and I could have won several of the stages if not for loading trouble, malfunctions, and the target order goof on stage 2 – but Karl and his Mauser also had several easy opportunities to do better, like his missed shots at the end of stage 3. If we want to judge the two rifles against each other, we have to accept all the variables involved.

  • Magazine. The Enfield does have twice the capacity (10 rounds), but it is also slower to reload and always prone to rimlock if the shooter doesn’t make sure to load his clips properly (rounds 2 and 4 sitting atop the rims of rounds 1, 3, and 5). The Mauser may only hold 5 rounds, but it is faster and smoother to reload and less susceptible to malfunction. For courses of fire between 7 and 10 rounds, the Enfield magazine is a definite advantage, but beyond that point things even out pretty quickly.
  • Bolt speed. The Enfield is definitely faster, and it can pretty easily shoot circles around a Mauser if the game is a single target and single shooting position (like the famous “Mad Minute” drills).
  • Reliability. Granted this was a 1-sample test, but the Enfield was definitely more vulnerable to problems from grit. The cock-on-opening Mauser provides better leverage for extracting a sticky case and more controlled feeding of cartridges. My speed advantage on stage 4 (firing 5 rounds into a paper target from a static position) was nullified by the sticky first round that I had to bring the Enfield off my shoulder to clear.

Really, the most significant variable was shooter skill. The ability to make first-round hits, get quick sight pictures and smooth trigger pulls, and transition quickly between targets while moving and under stress was much more important than a speed or capacity advantage in anything other than a static target range scenario.

Secondary Conclusion

If you have the opportunity to shoot a practical type of match with an older type of military rifle or pistol, I would strongly encourage you to do so. You will learn a lot about the gun that you won’t likely ever discover from simple target shooting. The No2 Enfield, for example, is a pretty mediocre range gun, but I am finding myself with a much higher opinion of it as a practical weapons after running this match. It’s reliable, durable, and gets the job done without any fuss, and it takes a match like this to bring those qualities to the surface.

49 Comments

  1. So, unless you’re shooting under conditions in which the Chauchat would win over a Bren or BAR, the whole “Enfield is faster than the Mauser” myth is busted.

  2. This competition, was fougt in the first World War:
    If a german soldier and a britis, faced eatch other, with an empty chamber, the brittish woyld winn, he could reload in just 2/6 of a second; messured by the germans in 1915, so it is proberly true. One of just two danish WC recivers(unkel and Nefu )The uncle Thomas Dinesen, was hated by his supirior officers for his posh manners, was orderd singlehanded to go in and clean up a german trench, he was an experiant hunter, so he lifted his hat and thanked for the nice hunt on Jerryes, he had just been given. Then he went in, tom return some time later to ask for more cartridges. An houeror so later, he returned, to report that the trench, was clear. Then they gave him the Wictoria Cross. He later complaind, tat he never tryed a bajonet atac, he would hawe liked to try the cold steel.He was trained in shooting dearin the woodsso he could use the Lee Enfields good pointing abiletys. This was a wictory for the Lee Enfield too

  3. I admire Karl’s accuracy and shooting ability with the C98 Mauser pistol.
    Mine always shoots high as the action is far above my hand and finger (less stable platform).
    I can’t hit anything beyond 20-25 feet!
    I assume Karl was shooting 9mm.
    Thank you, great video.

  4. Good shooting, boys, and a great video! (I’m making a note here, HUGE SUCCESS…) Ian, I’ve got no idea how you cycled that bolt so quickly left-handed.

    Glad to know it’s not just me who gets umpteen stoppages with the Enfield, too.

  5. I wonder if the heat affected the Enfield ? You did say it was over 100 degrees. Is the Enfield built to finer tolerances?

    • Yeah, as Joel said the Enfield (especially a late-ish WWI manufacture one like what I was using) is made with larger clearances than a K98k Mauser. I should have taken the time to clean it out between stages 3 and 4, but I was getting pretty exhausted and didn’t.

  6. Did Karl’s K-98 get any sand in the action? If it did, I would expect problems with ammo feed and bolt binding. I disagree with Ian and believe his being left handed effected SMLE performance. I also think Ian proved a two handed pistol hold is superior to one handed stance. I don’t believe Ian really stiffed Karl on the ‘Cake’!

    • Yes, the K98 did get sand in it as well but I have no idea how to compare the severity of the sand in one action or the other.

      They both got tossed in the dirt and both had sand in the action.

  7. Ian,
    I have found that for quick reloading of the Lee Enfield via stripper clips (chargers) a slightly different technique may be used then the traditional method. Instead of grasping the bottom of the rifle with you fingers and pressing down on the cartridges with your thumb; grasp the charger between you trigger and middle finger. Insert the charger into the gun, take you thumb and press down as close as you can to the base of the cartridges, while using your trigger and middle fingers to pry up slightly on the top cartridge at the bottle neck. If you try this method I’m sure you will find success. It also allows for the shooter to become aware of and quickly diagnose a rim-lock condition.

    Thanks for the excellent video! Now back to the science.

  8. I think it would have been a more fair test if both shooters were right-handed and the Enfield had been a 7.62 Ishapore. Ian is considerably ahead of Karl up until he gets what looks like rimbind twice. I’m very familiar with this malfunction, it’s due to loading the magazine with strippers incorrectly (which is very easy to do if you’re on the clock).

    For your next test you should do a Mauser vs. Garand course. *wink*

  9. I use my janitor lady as candidate.
    She is not well educated; never touched a firearm in her life before.
    I give her a Mauser rifle with 5 dummy rounds, asked her to load it, without any instruction. Took her a little while to figure out, but she managed to load all five rounds CORRECTLY, and able to cycle all five rounds flawlessly.
    Then I asked her to do the same on a Mosin Nagant rifle, and I SPECIFICALLY pointed out that the rim cartridges must be stack correctly. I even slowly demonstrated twice before she starts. After she “squeezed” five dummy rounds into rifle, and try to cycle them. The rifle was jammed on the 2nd round!

  10. Potential for rimlock is a defect in the system.

    If the simple artificial stress of a shot timer in a match environment, coupled with a little physical exertion can result in this issue manifesting then we can conclude that it’s something to consider. This is nothing compared to the fluster a shooter would be subjected to on a bidirectional range.

    I’ve run this match for ~ 6 years and I can tell you that the minute you have a “if you don’t do this or that right then the gun with fail” situation then THAT very thing WILL occur at the match almost without exception even if it never shows up while plinking or at a relatively sedentary and static NRA High Power style event.

    These issues do not become noticeable until you couple the test with physicality and a timer; they just do not.

  11. I didn’t do slow motion timing analysis, but it appears that the major difference was that with a rifle Ian takes a much longer time sighting while Karl would snap off a round much sooner. However when it comes to pistols, Ian will snap off a shot more quickly than he would with a rifle. It’s not just this match where I noticed this either, so I don’t think it’s due to the characteristics of the weapons (SMLE and Enfield revolver) used in this match.

    One thing that is particularly notable is that Ian would throw the muzzle of his rifle up into the air before working the action, and then catch it on the way down again with his right hand. The muzzle of Karl’s rifle on the other hand moved very little between shots. This difference in technique would probably make a significant difference in how long it would take to acquire a target after each shot from a stationary position.

    One other thing about the SMLE is that the technique you use when re-loading the rifle can make a difference in the likelihood of getting the rims caught on each other. I’m far from an expert on these rifles, but I have heard from experienced users that it takes practice to get the drill right but once you have enough practice it all works much more smoothly. So, familiarity matters.

    As far as getting dirt in the action goes, that’s something that is really hard to quantify. One thing the Lee-Enfield action has going for it though is that it’s easier to clean as everything is easier to get at.

  12. First off, that looked like loads of fun. I really wish we had a large enough vintage firearm community in my area to run such matches. Alas, it’s pretty much AR’s and Glocks around here…

    Count me in as one who thinks left-handedness may have hurt the Enfield’s performance. As MG noted, there was a lot of rifle movement with each bolt manipulation. Karl, being right-handed, was significantly smoother in operation with the Mauser.

    Finally, while Karl wins the Cool Gun trophy for his C.96, Ian wins the Style award for the JMB t-shirt. 🙂

    • This match is predominantly modern guns, AR15s and Glocks being the most common.

      We just encourage people to experiment as well as our courses of fire aren’t designed as to only be applicable to a “3-Gun” style match AR15 and a race gun.

      The physical elements, target placement and stage design intend to incorporate more realistic scenarios of engagement.

  13. I had no idea that being born in your right mind was such a life deficiency that it means you should given deference in a competition as such a handicap.

    This match really treats everyone equally, women, men…even the wrong handed. 🙂

  14. Karl won the cake fair and square! A Baskin Robbins cake too with those temps! Great video. Thanks for the great website.

  15. don’t forget, Mauser rifle was the most widely distributed rifle in the whole world until AKM came along. That fact alone speaks for itself. I am willing to put my life on Mauser system over Enfield or Mosin.

  16. Looks pretty good and even realistic. Part absence of anguish of being killed, of course. Also, should you have a bucket of mud on scene it would add to realism of Western front.

    Clutter of horns is bit distracting, but I do not want to be nitpick. Pretty good effort!

  17. It was quite obvious the Lee Enfield bolt was cycling faster, but the left handedness took more time to get back to the firing position.

    I started using the Lee Enfield in the 60’s, when we had them in our school cadet unit, and still use them for hunting and Service Rifle competition (we are not allowed to own semi-autos here in Australia.)

    Loading those clips correctly becomes second nature with a little practice, as does clearing overlapping rims, by pressing down on the second cartridge in the magazine.

    That was a great video, but for me Lee Enfields forever!

  18. Karl, after you pushed the rounds into Mauser rifle, you do not need to pull out the stripper clip, simply just close the bolt, the bolt will kick the clip out.

    • Yes. I know.

      I dropped them specifically where we could find them again and/or throw them sometimes into my dump pouch as I don’t have infinite clips.

  19. Regarding the multiple people who state you do not need to remove the Mauser stripper clip manually:

    This is true, however, not the case with all weapon systems….such as the C96 I was also using in the match.

    Or a SVT40, or a Mosin-Nagant, or the Enfield, or a Hakim, or a Ljungman, or a Steyr 1912, etc.

    I tend to practice iterations of things that work on ALL systems, not weapon specific.

    So there’s more than one reason for this in that a few instances I retained them, but more importantly, it’s consistent for any other manual of arms based on other weapons.

    • You can knock out the clip by closing the bolt on the Lee Enfield too.

      We were told not to as it supposedly damages the bolt face, but I’m not sure how.

  20. I think the biggest factor that slowed Ian down was, like others have said, his reload technique. Throwing up of the muzzle added considerable time to each shot by increasing the time it took to re-aquire his sight picture.

    It is too bad Lord Kitchener did not get his way. If he did, Ian could have shot this match with a left handed SMLE.

    P.S.,
    Never fib about cake.

  21. Plenty of folks have said it: LEFT HANDED! And the reload technique.

    But more importantly…CAKE!!

    Ian, did you make it up to Karl later and come good on the cake promise?

  22. As a left-hander, I have always found the Lee-Enfield to be the only right-handed rifle with which I can clean a rapid fire string. The further to the rear the bolt handle is, the less difficult it is for a left-hander to operate a right-handed bolt. Keep the rifle level as you manipulate the bolt and shift the rifle horizontally left to gain enough room to operate the bolt with your left hand. You can also add a little counterclockwise twist around the bore axis (as viewed by the shooter) if you need to get adequate clearance with your face. The real trick here is keeping your sling loop in place on your upper right arm (install a tractive pad on your shooting coat right sleeve where the sling resides).

    I am a little slower than the right handers, but not by much. The best ever issue grade Lee-Enfields for target shooting by left-handers are the Australian Lithgow WW II vintage Number 1, Mark III*s. They shoot minute of angle with the proper loads and have excellent barrels, parts fit, and triggers. Charger loading is never a problem for left-handers with the Number 1, Mark IIIs, but left handers generally have problems getting the charger in front of the rear sight on the Number 4s.

    The Swiss made a ‘linksriegelgerate’ left hand conversion for the Karbiner Model 1931 which was officially authorized for left handed soldiers. You can still get these from Switzerland and install them on a conventional K.31. These are the best option for a left handed shooter competing in a vintage rifle match, although the rifle inspectors usually give you a hard time. I have the Swiss Army booklet on the LRG in French which I wave at the inspectors!

  23. Nice job on the video with editing both shooters to show side-by-side.

    That Mauser handgun has some snap to it. Ian’s time was just a bit slower with those slow moving revolver slugs (joke).

    • Actually, on the first stage the revolver was quiet enough that the shot timer didn’t actually hear it – I estimated my stage time after the fact using the video. 🙂 I consider myself fortunate that it had enough oomph to knock the plates off the Texas Star. Still, the really light recoil was nice.

  24. Interesting piece..

    The dynamics of “cock on opening” and “cock on closing” would be affected by left handed operation I would think…

    Oh, and I’m sure you meant to label this “Britain v Germany”!

    Och Aye!

  25. It isn’t true that this comparison includes the mauser 5 round versus SMLE 10 round magazines.
    Just watched the first stage, at which Ian was ahead until he had to load for the final three shots. But with only 6 shots fired at that point, the only reason for loading more ammo would be to meet the match rules, not because the SMLE needed to be reloaded. The 10 round capacity enables the SMLE to shoot the 9 shot stage without doing any reloading at all while the mauser would need to be reloaded to finish the second position of the stage.
    If you really want to compare the two rifles, I think that you need to have much longer stages with much more reloading, at least 30 rounds on a stage in order to compare the relative magazine capacities. And you also really should be using stripper clips for both rifles as I believe that was the standard way to pass out ammo in both the German and Commonwealth armies.

    • This match isn’t/wasn’t designed specifically for these two rifles.

      The stage design called for 2 magazines loaded with 6 rounds each with an obviously mandatory reload.

      The mandatory reload existed for both the Mauser and the Enfield as well as every other modern gun shooting the match that day.

      If I had installed Trench Magazine on the Mauser I would have had 20 rounds of capacity, so what?

      Reloading on the clock, even when artificially forced to do so, is reloading on the clock and it is evident that the K98 stripper clips and rimless rounds provide a much easier and faster reload even if the Enfield may start with higher capacity.

      Please note that not all stages required such downloading, stages 2 and 3 started with all rifles fully loaded.

      Stage 4 only allowed 5 rounds total, (limited), so capacity was irrelevant – it was about speed of manipulation and quality of the hits acquired.

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