2-Gun Match: WWII Snipers (Video)

This month for the 2-Gun Action Challenge Match, Karl and I square off with WWII snipers’ rifles. I have a No4 MkI (T) Enfield sniper with a 3.5x No.32 scope, and Karl has a Mauser K98k with a 1.5x ZF41 designated marksman’s optic. Both rifles are authentic, although both scopes are reproductions. The question is, will the ZF41 allow Karl to shoot faster, or will the greater magnification on the Enfield provide a bigger advantage?


  1. Watching the ‘shootage’ by parts – there is lots of material to cover – it seems that Karl has lead at short range while at “longish” he looses pace quite a bit. My first thought would be the excessive eye relieve might add to difficult target alignment… just a guess.

    • The field of view and the limited magnification of the ZF41 made it very difficult to find the smaller mid-range targets.

      As we discussed in the video, we don’t paint and these targets really do blend into the background.

      When I found the target in the optic, it was clear and very identifiable…once I found it.

      I think I would have shot that stage faster with irons than with the scope, actually. However, that wasn’t the point of this match up so I intentionally used glass the whole time.

      The ZF41 really does have some viable field use but dynamic movement (time pressure) w/hard to see targets isn’t really its strong suite.

      • Famous sniper Simo Häyhä used Mosin rifle with iron sights. Note that during WW2 snipers also shoots on the much shorter distance than in modern day for example Vasily Zaytsev during Battle of Stalingrad shoots on the shorter distance, due to urban environment with many covers and hideouts.

    • It’s interesting that the No4 T series had the mounts set up to return the scope to within seconds of angle of parallel to and vertically above the bore. Mounting offset to the bore introduces a whole lot of variables in sighting.

      The fitting and setting up of the mounts was carried out by top London gun makers like Holland & Holland and Purdy.

      I think that the scope had originally been intended for the BREN. I’m not sure of its full origins. Britain had a problem at the start of the war with optics, as the optics industry was largely German.

      Quarrymen were transferred from Ballachulish slate quarry to the remote coastal village of Loch Aline, to begin a mine for sand suitable for making optical glass. Pilkingtons (who’ve recently re-opened the mine after a few years of closure) got to work out how to process and leach the sand to clean it, G H Alexander were given the job of cloning Deckel milling machines and pantographs to make the dies for punching out the leaves of iris diaphragms and shutters, companies like BCA were set to work cloning boley jig borers, and vickers were given the job of cloning Leica and ziess microscopes, cameras, binoculars, periscope prisms etc.

      • What the British High Command thinks about snipers? Did get the selected soldiers with superior marksmanship additional training?

          • One of Wilbur Smith’s doorstop-thick South African historical novels – not sure which one, might have been “A Sparrow Falls” – opens in the trenches of WW1 with a South African sniper with a scoped Pattern 14 Enfield. Wish I could remember which of Smith’s novels it was (they kind of blur together) but later in the book it’s a pretty good look at the SA labor movement in the 1920s, which involved trade unionists seizing the armories and the army being called out.

            For a really good read (and a damn well researched and written bit of modern lit) I recently re-read David L. Robbins’ “War of the Rats” which is the best account, “fictional” or not, I’ve ever read about the sniper war in Stalingrad.

      • Pilkingtons… that moves mid to SUSAT, which was a flop of sort. Is there any military (rifle) optics industry in Britain right now?

        • I’m not sure.

          There is a little community of scientific imaging companies, located in the Weald of Kent and Sussex, which also produce military night vision and cameras, but I think that lenses tend to be Japanese, German and Austrian.

  2. Interesting to see one of the range masters with long hair and the same hat as you. Congratulations on becoming a style guru.

  3. Hi again;
    Not that I do not enjoy these comparisons immensely, but it’s just not right to label these shooting matches as contests because Karl is so much better shooter than you are. You can tell the diferance buy both the time taken to aim and fire each shot and the ratio between hits and misses between you.
    This diferance between the two shooters makes it impossible to compair the weapons fairly. Which, if I am not wrong, it part of the excersize. I do not know how to fix this easily. The only way I can see it being done well is to have many people shoot each weapon under test, or possibly to have the same person fire half of the course with each weapon for time. I say half because shooting the same course would give the second run through an advantage? But buy shooting half with one then the second half with the other in sequince; two first halves then two second halves with the order of fire reversed, might make it more a contest of weapons and less a contest of shooters? But stil not a pure contest of weapon types.

    • Just because Karl is a better shooter than me does not render all data useless. For example, consider that I won stage 3 by a significant margin, despite the difference in our shooting skills. That makes a good case for the practical superiority of the Enfield and its scope in that situation. Frankly, it is very unlikely that we will ever do a thorough version of a match where we both shoot the course using both rifles, because (a) it’s a live match environment and we don’t want to disrupt it by taking multiple runs, and (b) we are pretty dang tired by the end of one run through, especially in the summer. These match videos are intended as entertainment with the possibility of making some insights, not as scientific study.

  4. These two-gun matches are really enjoyable to watch. The videos are very well done and the narration/discussions by you and Karl are interesting. Good job, guys!

    • In some cases, sure, but I think people make way to big of a deal about that. You can see in stage one that my rate of fire standing is actually faster than Karl’s, for instance. In most cases, I believe that a shooter’s level of practice is more significant than being left- or right-handed with a bolt action.

  5. Interesting video, Ian. By the way, what do you think of the high-power? After, trying out double-stacks, I have a hard time going back to single-stacks.

    • Speaking as someone with small hands – I can get a perfect grip on a K-frame Smith, but not an N, and the 1911 fits like a glove – the 1935 is the only wondernine I’ve ever been comfortable with. For me, a Glock or 226 SIG is like shooting skeet with a Barrett, but the Browning I can get an instinctive out-of-the-holster grip on.

    • I like the High Power. It has some weaknesses in comparison to modern pistols, but it was a pretty outstanding design for 1935. I owned one for a while, and need to add one back into my collection.

  6. Looking at the rifle sections, I think Ian’s slowness is primarily due to having to work a right-handed action while shooting left-handed. Watch him shift his grip each time he has to cycle the bolt. I have the same problem…

    It also looks like Karl is having some problems with the Mauser; he’s giving the bolt handle an extra thump quite often to get it all the way down.

    • Yep. This K98 is not in optimal condition and I have to whack the bolt sometimes to get the extractor to jump over the rim.

      It’s a beater but it works and still groups sufficiently well enough for the task at hand.

      • The cartridge is supposed to feed up the bolt face and under the extractor as it is stripped off the magazine. A Mauser extractor should never snap over the rim; they’re made square in the front to prevent just that. For some reason, dropping a loose cartridge into the breech and closing the bolt was vetboten. Some commercial Mausers and Mauser-esque actions like the 1903 Springfield, P14 and P17 Enfield, etc. have beveled extractors so they’ll close over a chambered tound.

        Your extractor might be bent, or there might be something weird like a ding or burr on the bolt face. You might want to pull the bolt and make sure a cartridge slides easily under the extractor.

  7. So one other thing I wonder about – how much are the results affected by the level of practice each person has with that particular rifle?

    That is, it might be that a person “off the street” would find that rifle A was better than rifle B, but somebody who practices a lot would find B better than A.

    Don’t know how to judge that – and one presumes that combat soliders of any army would get lots of practice with the particular type of rifle they were issued.

  8. I think a fairer match would have been at 300x plus.. The No 4, although designed as a value engineered SMLE, is quite a sophisticated rifle with a floating barrel and capable of sub MoA if set up correctly. The much older Mauser action never got close..

    The Lee action is, as a “cock on closing”, capable of much faster operation than the K98 which is “cock on opening”. I don’t doubt your corrie handed shooting ability Ian, but I would suggest it really does make a difference with a Lee which needs a good long right hand loading stroke! (Maybe worth a trial sometime?)

    ..and yes there are times when Mr Browning’s 13 round mag WSYSA (will save yore sorry a..)

    • Sub-MOA may be possible, but was definitely not typical. The minimum allowable accuracy for a No4 (T) was to put a group (10 rounds, IIRC) onto a 3″ x 3″ square at 100 yards – and that’s about what mine will do with me behind it (with South African surplus ammo).

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