How Does It Work: Push Feed vs Controlled Feed

In a controlled feed rifle design, a cartridge slips under the extractor as soon as it is released from the magazine. This means than if the bolt is retracted before being locked into battery, it will pull the cartridge back out as it retracts. On a push feed action, the extractor does not capture the cartridge rim until the bolt is locked into battery. Thus if a push feed action is retracted early, it will leave the cartridge mostly in the chamber, potentially setting up a double feed malfunction.

On the other hand, push feed actions generally use plunger extractors, which are able to eject an empty case after a shorter travel, where a controlled feed must be opened completely to eject. This makes a controlled feed action more prone to unintentional short-stroking.

In practice, neither of these issues is really a significant concern and the hype over the difference is meaningless for the vast majority of applications.


  1. Well, with push feed I attempted some times to double feed and with FMJ pointed bullets ans sometimes pushing hard, nothing occured luckily but I dislike strongly and I hate the spring loaded ejectors which throw away very far the cases at the range.

  2. Now we want to know what cartridge Ian’s MAS is chambered for!

    Controlled feed was always touted as a must for dangerous game bolt actions back in the 80’s & 90’s (and in the earlier literature) when I was just learning the differences.

    • It seems Ian had no proper 7.5 French dummies at hand, so he used .22 LR adapter cases intented for the small bore training version of the MAS36.

  3. While ramming home the second round on my Winchester Model 70 PUSH FEED the cartridge got sideways and landed up on the ground. This was while shooting a nice sized black bear. I wasn’t concerned for myself but it was still an unexpected event that I didn’t want to repeat so I sold the rifle and got a controlled round Model 70.

  4. “Not of great importance”?!?

    That’s what a fanatic, push feed zealot like Ian wants you to believe. Don’t buy the lies.


  5. One often-overlooked advantage of controlled feed is that if the rifle is canted or even upside down, the round will still go into the chamber. Because the extractor keeps it from literally falling out of the action.

    On a dangerous-game rifle, this can come in handy in nasty circumstances. Like diving to one side as the hippo tries to make a doormat out of you.

    I would point out, however, that the vast majority of self-loading rifle actions are push-feed types. Yes, even the legendary M1 Garand.

    Perhaps their reliability is due to the greater force applied to feeding by their actions.

    Also note that a Mauser-type external non-rotating extractor is not a guarantee that the action is a controlled-feed. The Ruger Model 77 has just such an extractor, but careful viewing of the action in motion reveals that it is a push-feed, through and through.

    As for the Winchesters, the Model 54 and pre-1964 Model 70, and the more recent Model 70 Classic, are all controlled-feed types. The post-1964 Model 70 and all model 670s are push-feeds.

    Remingtons from the 600 and 700 series are push-feeds. But the old Model 30 series is controlled feed because it was developed from the M1917 Enfield, a Mauser-type action.

    Generally speaking, all Mauser 93, 94, and 98-type actions are controlled-feed, regardless if they say “Mauser”, “FN” “La Coruna”, or whatever on the side. After the Model 1888 Commission rifle, Mauser did it their way, and never changed.



    • “… as a hippo tires to make a doormat out of you…..”
      Seems perfectly logical from the hippo’s perspective.

  6. According to contemporary German literature, some Gewehr 88 double feed incidents led to ignition of the front cartridge with very serious consequence for the user. More serious than forgetting the bolthead during re-assembling the Gewehr 88, if these descriptions are correct.
    This was the origin of the controlled feed we see in the Gewehr 98 and the later model 98 designs, like the one used by Ian. He could also have used a M1903 Springfield, by the way.

  7. Push feed bolts with spring loaded ejector would eject free from short stroke but would not ensure positive feeding. But if controlled feed bolt ejects, it will feed.

    Most early military pistols with extractors on top, used push type feed or in other case, extractor hook would push the case back downward during extraction, causing malfuncion. Browning tilted barrel lock seems not permitting this feed system but there are some Russian service pistols in this category using push feed.

  8. Ian’s probably right that it’s not that important, but for bolt action rifles, operated at the speed of human hands, I feel more secure with the controlled feed/blade ejector. But it’s personal preference, not a fanaticism for me.

  9. Mauser got it right, everything else is cost cutting or someone doing it wrong out of stubbornness.

    I thought Ian was too smart to discuss religion. 🙂

  10. Is it known, why fell out of favour the controlled feed action in regard to the precision bolt-action rifles? Is it in connection with the necessary open bolt shroud?

    What are the experiences with the Winchester’s Controlled Round Push Feed action? (Unfortunately, I cannot find its patent.)

    • The major factor was cost; controlled feed requires more precise engineering.

      The second factor was patents. Few countries wanted to end up on the wrong end of DWM’s legal department the way the United States government did over the M1903 Springfield.

      And of course there was national pride to consider. One reason for the resistance to the Enfield Pattern 14 was that it was based on the Mauser (with royalties paid on the design). Meaning, to the British government it suffered from “Not Invented Here” syndrome.

      The SMLE, by comparison, was considered “all British”- never mind that the magazine was designed by James Paris Lee, a naturalized Irish-American.

      And in fact the entire action was basically developed by Lee in 1878-79 while working for the Sharps Rifle Company, and was first used on the U.S. Remington-Lee Model 1882 magazine rifle in .45-70;

      That part somehow never got into the Drill Manual.

      It still amazes me that the developed Model 1885 version, which was tested in .30-40 Govt. by the Army, was rejected in favor of the much inferior (and decidedly weaker) Krag-Jorgenson.



  11. I’ve seen a push feed jam once when someone else was shooting, and I had a jam once with one myself. Never had a jam with a claw extractor bolt gun.

    Have never seen anyone short stroke a bolt gun under stress.

    If someone is shooting targets, or doing high-volume shooting like varmint hunting, what is the occasional jam? If I shoot a bolt gun these days it would be in a once-a-year type of hunt, and a jam could be disastrous. I’ll stick to controlled feed in bolt guns.

  12. “It still amazes me that the developed Model 1885 version…was rejected in favor of the much inferior (and decidedly weaker) Krag-Jorgenson.”(C)

    The bolt assembly of this Remington-Lee Model 1885 rifle looks weak.
    Perhaps, on the new gunpowder, there were problems.
    Should have been.
    With Krag-Jorgenson, the locking appears noticeably harder.

    • The problem with the Krag is that it has only one locking lug. This is why every handloading manual says that loads for it in .30-40 must never exceed 40,000 PSI. In a Winchester M1895 lever-action, it’s better to keep them under 35,000 PSI.

      By comparison, the Remington-Lee/SMLE action safely handles the 42,000 to 48,000 PSI of the 0.303in, and even the 60,000 to 62,000 PSI of the .308 Winchester/ 7.62 x 51 NATO.

      Even with its rear-locking action, the Lee bolt design is far stronger than the Krag. And almost infinitely stronger than the Winchester ’95.



      • “…the Remington-Lee/SMLE action safely handles the 42,000 to 48,000 PSI…”(C)

        And what kind of rifle is this “Remington-Lee/SMLE”?
        I don’t know that …
        If SMLE, then I don’t see which side they touch.
        If Remington-Lee, then which one, 1885 or 1889?
        Did we seem to be talking about the 1885 model?
        It was designed for 45-70, so I doubt very much that its bolt is able to work normally with military cartridges on nitropowder.
        The receiver is relatively thin and “lace”. The confusion should be stomping on Berdan No.2. which, if not even destroyed by more powerful cartridges, could not function normally.

  13. Colt 1911 is the well known example of controlled feed application among pistols. It is so adviced that attepting push feed direct to chamber would easiest way to break the extractor.

    In fact, extractor breakage should be the result of inside lay out and not caused from the feeding application… Some slightly enlarged case back should force the extractor hook inside its recess out of its elasticity causing breakage… IMHO.

    • This is why Browning and Saive moved to an external extractor on the Hi Power and most moder semi-auto pistols follow this. S&W actually added an external extractor to their 1911s

  14. IMHO, in the sense of reliability, there is no fundamental difference between the two types of extractors.
    The determining factor is adherence to technology in the manufacture. Deviations in the dimensions and properties of the material have a significantly greater impact.
    In this sense, an extractor like Mauser 98 has an obvious advantage, since it is much less susceptible to these influences.

  15. Eon. James Parris lee was scottish borm at Hawick (pronounced, Hoik, and which still has a pretty good rugby team) on the Scottish/English border. Gwyn

    • Agreed on JP Lee as being a borderer. There are still Lees in that lovely part of the world. I’d also disagree with the characterisation of the P13/14 and the SMLE. Reading the contemporary sources the SMLE was much disliked and derided in Britain by “Informed Opinion” as being full of “Military Defects” and “Mechanical Anomalies”. The Mauser system was believed to be superior. The problem with the P13 was excessive barrel wear – which was noticed as “bad” after as few as 1000 rounds. Check out “Arms and Explosives” magazine from the period, and the Small Arms Committee minutes, made available to Patrons of the wonderful”Vickers MG Research Association”

      • It was the long-range riflemen of the British version of NRA who disliked the SMLE, claiming it wasn’t “inherently accurate”. While the Mauser-type Pattern 14 was probably more mechanically accurate than the SMLE, the difference in actual combat use was probably indiscernible.

        The troops were quite happy with the SMLE, due to its rapid-fire capability and its 10 round capacity vs. the 5 rounds in a German 98 Mauser.

        What really sank the P-14 before the war began was its .276 (7mm) cartridge. Like the American 6mm Lee Navy (ancestor of the .220 Swift) it was a hot load that burned out barrels quickly, especially in the leade. Stellite lining of barrels was still in the future at that time, but even hard chrome (as the Russians used in the Mosin-Nagant M1891 in 7.62 x 53R) might have solved the problem.

        And of course the British weren’t about to change rifle and MG calibers right when a war was starting. Instead, the Pattern 14 was redesigned to use 0.303in (in British service) and .30-06 (in U.S. service).

        It’s worth noting that most P-14s used by the British forces in 0.303in in WW1 were made by Remington in the U.S., at the same time that they were making the U.S. version, the M1917, in .30-06 for the U.S. Army. The postwar Model 30 Remington was basically a “sporterized” Pattern 14/M1917.

        BTW, Sgt. Alvin York won his Congressional Medal of Honor with an M1917, not an M1903.



        • Agreed – the .276 as it was first proposed was the real issue. The January 1914 testing summary suggested that fixing the problems would require “a new steel” for barrels as well as changes in propellant and bullet composition. The troop trials also reported problems with excessive pressure when chambers got hot, extraction issues and excessive flash “visible for a mile at night” as well as the “loud report” which was “likely to tire firers in collective work”. When I was a kid the received wisdom was that it was just stick in the mud generals stopping the new wonder rifle but they made the right decision at the time. I sure as hell would have preferred to be issued an SMLE!

          • “I sure as hell would have preferred to be issued an SMLE!”(C)

            The design of the Mauser 98 is more durable and durable. Also, perhaps more accurate than SMLE.
            But by such a criterion as cost/effectiveness, SMLE is probably the best WW2 rifle.

    • Lever guns tend to be push-feed; the round lies on the lifter until shoved into the chamber, and the extractor only engages the rim or etc. once the bolt is fully in battery. Even rotating-bolt types like the Winchester Model 88 or the Sako Finnwolf are push-feeds.

      The Lebel is also push-feed, as are the Kropatschek and the (box magazine) Berthier. The latter has a Mannlicher-type bolt similar to the Austrian Mannlicher-Schoenauer or the Italian Carcano.



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