Letter Re: Purchasing an Antique Firearms Battery

In a previous post you mentioned that Chilean 1893 Mauser rifles were not safe to fire [standard commercially-loaded] .308 [Winchester] because of excessive chamber pressure, but that these were safe to fire 7.62x51mm NATO. In your Antique Firearms FAQ you reference antique Mausers that have been converted to .308 [Winchester]. Can you recommend some antique Mausers that are safe to re-barrel for .308? I ask because I’ve had a difficult time finding 7.62x51mm hunting rounds.
Thanks, – Dylan F.

JWR Replies: The rifles that I used for those .308 Winchester,. 6.5 x 55, and .257 Roberts conversions were Turkish contract Oberndorf Mauser Model 1893s, that had been deep re-heat treated, back when they were arsenal converted to 8×57 in the 1930s. That brought them up to higher pressure specifications. Around 1994, I bought 60 barreled actions or rifles with cracked stocks–most with dark bores–for between $29 and $59 each. The Turkish contract M1893 Mauser action is still one of the strongest and least expensive of the legally antique bolt actions available. They can often still be had for under $125 each. (Yes, I know that Model 1898s are much stronger, but just try to find a pre-production “German Army Trials” Model 1898 action that is of pre-1899 manufacture. Those are practically “Unobtainium.”)

The Turkish contract Model 1893s were marked with 1930s dates when they were re-arsenalized, but the ATF letter (with PDFs linked in my Pre-1899 Cartridge Guns FAQ ) confirms that they are still confirms that they are still antique even if rebarreled and/or sporterized.

The least expensive way to make 7.62x51mm NATO hunting rounds is to pull the bullets of military surplus rounds with a collet-type bullet puller, and re-seat spire point soft nose bullets of identical bullet weight, with a seating die. (Typically, these are around 150 grain bullets. Use a powder scale to weigh both the originals and their replacements, to be sure.) This “Mexican Match” process does not cause any significant change in chamber pressure, and will yield practical hunting loads. It is a process that even a novice handloader can handle.