SHED news for 2017- we are adding GTAW and Cerakote.

2017 here at the SHED sees some useful new additions to the portfolio of production process we have in house, namely GTAW and Cerakote. Yup, well that sounds good however you may well be wondering what it actually means.

GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding) Is better known as TIG welding and for us it means we will have the ability to weld a wide range of materials from mild steel through stainless steel and Titanium to non-ferrous metals such as magnesium and 6082T6 Aluminium in house. TIG welding is ideal for fine detail repairs and fabrication and will be a significant addition for us.

Luckily I already have a solid understanding of manual and automated welding process and the transition to TIG seemed like a logical step for us.

We will also be offering Cerakote ceramic coating finishes in house in a limited range of colours and for our own products only. What this will mean is we will be able to apply a thin hard coloured finish to items such as our own rails, bag riders and sight brackets to better match your rifle system. Colours currently held include Graphite Black, Mil Spec O.D. Green, Flat Dark Earth plus a few less standard colours such as Crimson. Cerakote finishing can improve a variety of factors including abrasion and wear resistance, it gives a thin yet robust barrier against corrosion and finally it looks great.

The Viking will primarily be responsible for the Cerakote side of things so initial questions should be directed towards her.

Reloading the Mannlicher–Schönauer 6,5x54M-Sch

Having cleaned and checked over the Mannlicher–Schönauer next job had to be getting some rounds loaded and the rifle down the range.

I had around me 20 new unfired Norma cartridge cases and around 130 once and twice fired RWS plus a couple of hundred Hornady 6,5mm 160 grain RN expending bullets so no excuses well none other than where to start with the powder load and even more important, which powder would I use. After some research followed by extensive theoretical testing with QuickLoad I opted for H4831SC which seemed to give a slight pressure advantage over my original choice of N160, plus we have a few tubs of the H4831SC as it is used for the Vikings 22-6,5×47

First job was confirm the build length and out of curiosity I stuffed my OAL gauge complete with a 160 grain bullet into the chamber and carefully pushed the bullet forward until I could feel resistance, locked the thumb screw off and withdrew the gauge. Hmmm… the throat was a long way forward however that was really just an exercise to satisfy my curiosity and I loaded 5 test rounds without powder or primers, slowly bumping the bullets in, at 77,5mm OAL  I had loaded rounds would both feed and cycle through the rotary spool magazine. 77,5mm is a tad shorter tan the CIP 77,8mm however at CIP length they seemed to drag ever so slightly through the spool and reducing the OAL by 0,3mm/0.012″ made enough difference with the Hornady bullets for me to stick with it.

Powder start load was to be a conservative 36.0 grains with groups of 5 going up in 0.5 grain increments, quite a coarse increment however I was basing everything on my self imposed maximum of 39 grains which I had no intention of getting near on the first outing.

I opted to use the RCBS full length sizing die followed by the Hornady seater and the cases were de-capped to start followed by a thorough cleaning in a LEM stainless micro pin cleaner.

Once I had sized with the RCBS I cleaned the cases a second time to remove some minor surface marks and tested the shoulder datum to case head length of the now sized RWS brass versus the remaining un-sized RWS and the reference Norma brass and noticed quite a difference, in fact the now sized cases were shorter than the fired cases by around .007″ although it is fair to say I was using a 6,5×47 Lapua shoulder bump gauge as I am yet to build a gauge specifically for the 6,5x54M-Sch. Actual difference is only a few thou so I was not overly worried at this stage regarding accuracy of reading however I was confirmed that I had just set the shoulders back so far and with hind sight I would have worked down to the length needed which would have been chamber length less a couple of thou. The joys of working with 115+ year old rifles, it is so easy to forget when you working with a rifle with such a slick action and pleasing appearance.

One issue I noticed with the Hornady dies was the less than ideal bullet run-out with the first couple of rounds I built, being in excess of .010″ – I had been seating and rotating followed by seating in a couple of goes however I thin moved to inching the bullet in followed by a slight twist over a few stages and run-out reduced to .005″ ish. The reason I had opted for the Hornady over the RCBS was because the seater stem face was designed for a spitzer type meplat whereas the Hornady was more round nosed bullet however I had already decided to machine new seating stems for both and test for best accuracy after the initial load development.

I finally ended up with 5x 36 grains H4831SC, 5x 36.5 grains, 5×37 grains and 5×37.5 grains which would suffice for test purposes.

 

 

We had already decided to had out to the range on Christmas day with some rifles so this was added for testing purposes and a suitable target chosen, namely an A3 sized copy of the WDM Bell book cover ‘The Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter’

You can find it free for Kindle on the webynet and it is an interesting read, plus Bell shot a .256 Mannlicher for a while whilst hunting elephants, apparently accounting 300 Bulls with the cartridge so a fitting target in my mind.

Distance to shoot was a modest 25m however I was more interested in the rifles function than distance. Also once we arrived at the range I realised I was wearing the wrong contacts so the front sight bead which is minute by anyone’s standards was  blur and the target being a mass of varying shades of grey, despite this the first 5 rounds were within a 2.5″ group at the bottom of the paper and careful inspection of the brass revealed nothing of concern. No excessive sooting around the neck, in fact the necks were clean and the cases in perfect condition however with the most minute evidence of the  primers backing out, the cases were definitely too short for the chamber when full length sized with the RCBS and the load was probably too low. After some consideration I decided to continue and shot the following 3 groups of 5 over a few minutes with less primer issues with the final 5 shots being centre mass as I had aimed which when looking at the drops for the round at the predicted 2200fps would suggest this would put the sights on or around a true zero at 100 yards. I did not chrono the loads during these early stages which I rather regret now.

So what have I found out? Well the rifle functions flawlessly with the 37.5 grain load and it is certainly one to test at 100 yards, the other good news is I have since tested the sight picture with the new multi focal contacts I have and I can see quite clearly, in fact they are a bit of a revelation and I will be using them full time in the new year.

I need to test the true shoulder to case head length when full length sizing with both the RCBS and Hornady dies and in adjust set-up dependant on my final choice.

Shooting a Mannlicher–Schönauer 6,5x54M-Sch on a Christmas day is something everyone should do given the chance, the rifle despite its light weight is a delight to shoot and recoil is very modest. I can see why WDM Bell advocated the use of the .256 Mannlicher cartridge and it was only ammunition failure that led him to move to the larger Mauser cartridge.

 

The Steyr M1900 Mannlicher–Schönauer

We were out and about viewing rifles many years ago when I spotted a Steyr M1903 ‘Butter Knife’ Mannlicher–Schönauer Stutzen chambered in the superbly elegant 6,5x54MS cartridge and both the Viking and I will instantly taken by the sheer beauty of the rifle. Sadly the rifle was sold which was probably a good thing at the time. From time to time we still talk about the rifle and I have always held the idea of owning one in the back of my mind.

All of a sudden I received a ‘phone call, could I supply ammunition for a .256 Mannlicher, well yes I am sure I could however it would be good to check the rifle first of all so it arrived a couple of days later. I had been expecting the somewhat obscurer 6,5x53R however a quick check revealed that the rifle was in fact chambered in the rimless variant, the 6,5x54MS. At this point you might be wondering how you can tell the difference without access to gauges or brass, very easily really, you could always make a chamber cast with wax or low melting point alloy, or alternatively does a .303 British or .308 Win cartridge fit the bolt face? They are good approximations for the rimmed and rimless cartridges the Steyr M1900 and M1903 were usually chambered with. A careful measure of the length of chamber to the shoulders is also a reasonable indication and if there is still some doubt make a chamber impression.

With the owner of the rifle gone and the rifle safely locked away in the armoury I set to the task of sourcing some factory ammunition and once a source had been confirmed I sat down wit a coffee and mused over the chance opportunity to handle one of these fine rifles again after such a long time. To own one would be something rather special so I did some searching and identified an M1900 chambered in ‘.256 Mannlicher’ however a quick call soon confirmed the rifle was in fact the rimless variant however it was also provisionally sold and eventually it transpired that no amount of discussion was going to change things so somewhat disillusioned I went back to searching and it was at this point that the Viking pointed out another possibility.

A possible candidate in Scotland however without pictures although the shop did eventually manage to get some pictures up so I knew what I was looking, they also said the bore was looking a bit grim which left me wandering if this was such a good move until l looked a bit closer at the somewhat grainy images and spotted a thin vertical silver line through the stock just in front of the receiver. Jackpot, a take down model (Have I mentioned just how much I like any form of take down rifle?) We discussed a few further details and I asked if there were any identifying names on the receiver, yes there were. Steyr Modell 1900 on the front ring and George Gibbs Saville Row on the top of the barrel.

That was the clincher for me however there was still the matter of money so the Viking was called in, what was her opinion of the rifle and its value, I must admit to trusting her judgement in such matters as she usually has a keen grasp of market values of the more obscure sporting rifles. Her opinion was exactly half of the asking price however nothing ventured nothing gained so I suggested the price and the shop said they would check as it was a commission sale.

A few minutes later and the deal was agreed and we agreed to have the rifle collected by our courier after the weekend and here it is:

You can clearly see the take down point in the forend which is removed by removing a single screw at the front underside, the front section is then lowered at the front and pulled away from the main stock section to clear a small alignment pin. I am yet to remove the barrel, something for a spare moment as we are still flat out trying to fullfill all of our customer orders in the run up to the Christmas break.

 

One feature that caught my eye is the gold ‘SAFE’ lettering on the safety flag, a subtle touch, also I noticed a very fine vertical line at the front of the 100 yard express sight to draw your eye to the gentle V shaped cut-out, the front sight is a very fine white bead of unknown material, I will need a magnifying glass to see that one!

 

Something I had doubts about was sourcing ammunition and reloading components for the 6,5x54MS however I very quickly sourced some new Norma brass, a bag of twice fired RWS, both RCBS and Hornady dies and a couple of hundred Hornady 160 grain .264″ round nosed bullets so that is everything covered, I have a good selection of powder here and will probably start with a moderate load of Viht 160 keeping MV’s to sensible levels and work up using the sights to tell me when I am in the right area.

I guess this means I have had my Christmas present early and I will report further on the rifle when things quieten down 🙂

 

EDIT – The rifle taken down.