Rifle Reliability Issues

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
16,644
1,361
Rather than distract any further from the thread about the nice new .375 H&H Weatherby, I thought I'd start one on rifle reliability. As shooters and handloaders, we're often fixated on rifle accuracy but seldom is there a single word about reliability... So, here are some observations, over the decades. Stuff I've seen or experienced in person:

Marlin 336 lever action .30-30: Action locked up, open, when the loading gate screw backed out a bit. That surprised me! At least it was a simple fix: screw the danged thing back in, tighter!

Ruger Number One, 7mm magnum: extractor failure. Rifle would shoot just fine, but wouldn't extract the fired case. Local gunsmith unable to fix. Ruger replaced the extractor quickly and for free.

Remington 700 trigger/safety issues including firing when NO FINGER is on the trigger. Ya, I've seen it. Fix the danged trigger! Replace it or just keep it real clean and check it out. I have Remington triggers on my four Remington rifles, and have no problems despite very hard use on one of them. Worth remembering that Remington 700's remain in very wide use in our various branches of the military, in harsh conditions.

Accuracy International: The "heavy duty" British built rifle that many SWAT teams turned to after the Remington trigger issue was publicized. Good rifle, but we found that operating in a real dusty environment, the bolt would cease to function rendering this Very Expensive bolt action rifle inoperable.

Winchester Model 70: Feeding issues... Ya, I've seen this on several, all of which were the vaunted "controlled round feed" version with that big ol' extractor. In each case, tuning the extractor helped, as did paying close attention to holding the handloads very closely to factory spec overall length. Interestingly, the push-feed version of the rifle never gave me any problems. Might also be of interest that famous African hunter Harry Selby used a .458 Win mag, Winchester Model 70 push - feed for many years, with no complaints. That was his stopping rifle for dangerous game. At least that's how I recall the story - but no - I wasn't there for that! :wink:

Mauser 98 and commercial versions: Again, safety and feeding issues... Similar to what I've seen on the Winchester Model 70... Plus, there are some really clunky safeties on some of those, and no, I'm not enough of a Mauser guy to know which safeties the problems were with.

Mossberg - the newish bolt action they're making. Sling attachment point in the synthetic stock broke when it fell over, as my buddy took it out of his gun safe. He brought it to me, but I couldn't fix it. I believe Mossberg gave him a new stock for it.

Reliability is crucial, in my mind, more important than accuracy. Most rifles are reasonably accurate, but if it doesn't go BANG... We've got a problem.

In some forms of competition, rapid fire strings and fast reloads are required. I'm thinking NRA Highpower and PRS as well. During those stages its common to see shooters racking that bolt hard and fast, over and over and over....

With Dangerous Game - it is of course imperative that the rifle be 100% reliable or... the hunting guide probably isn't getting a tip when his hunter gets trampled or eaten! :shock:

In war... I think we all understand. Rifles MUST work. BTW, in my time in The Corps, our M-16's proved superbly reliable. I understand that there were problems in Vietnam days, but.. from my pretty heavy experience in desert, jungle, mountains... the M-16 has grown up and become a very reliable rifle.

For law enforcement/SWAT - I think we all understand that the rifle absolutely has to work. At a hostage situation, it's imperative that the shot not go off until it is necessary, and that when it does, it's accurate and another shot is rapidly available.

Heck, even for us hunters, after deer or elk or whatever... We want that rifle to work perfectly!

What do you do to make sure your rifle works? And what reliability issues have you seen with rifles?

Thanks! Guy
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
It used to be relatively common in heavy guns that the stock bolts weren't installed properly and magazine latches weren't up to snuff.

The stock bolts would batter the stock to bits after a box of rounds or the magazine catch would release under recoil making the magazine go "Bombs Away!"

I still shoot with a fully loaded magazine- even from the bench.

I have broken a safety, but the tumble down the mountain did that more than the operator...unless you count the operator falling on it!
 

elkhunternm

Handloader
Jan 10, 2017
526
0
To add...

Had extracting problems with a Cooper .22/250 single shot. Cooper sent the new part to the gunsmith and replaced it.

Feeding issue with my .35 Whelen,being it was a Mark X Mauser,switched cartridge carrier from my other Mark X,no more problem.

Bad scope on a .338 Win,missed a cow elk with it. After switching to another rifle I did get a elk.

Anschutz would fire with the bolt being closed,no finger on trigger.

Remington 700,IIRC it would not eject cartridge,the ejector was dirty? This one was 20 years ago.

Stock cracked in the tang and trigger area.

Mauser would not fire,then upon opening bolt it went BOOM! Replaced the trigger.
 

DrMike

Ballistician
Nov 8, 2006
35,224
1,789
Hate it when you are expecting "BANG!" and you hear "CLICK!" The only thing worse would be when you are expecting "CLICK!" and you hear "BANG!" The sole cure is to work with your rifle and the ammunition you will use as much as possible before you need it in the field. I do recall a grizzly hunt in which the fifth round went "CLICK!" The bear was already down with the first shot and had already received three more in rapid succession as insurance, so no big deal. But, what if that dud round had been first, or required during a charge? I discovered a weak spring in the firing mechanism that hadn't been noted previously. I did do some repairs rather quickly after that experience.
 

gerry

Ammo Smith
Mar 1, 2007
6,117
10
My original Sako 35 Whelen jammed on me when shooting a black bear, took the shot and the second round hung up on the end of the barrel. Turns out at home I could repeat it, it was a protected point 225 gr Trophy Bonded. Spitzer bullets worked great but I never could trust it after that which is why I have a custom Remington 700 35 Whelen now that works perfectly.

So far the Tikka 6.5x55 has been flawless and the Sako 85 270 Win as well. The Ruger's I have had over the years (a 6.5x55, 30-06 and 375 Ruger) have all been perfect too. My Remington 264 WM bobbled a bit at first, the second round would occasionally pop out when feeding slow but that worked out pretty quick and was great after that, must have been a burr or something like that.
 

elkhunternm

Handloader
Jan 10, 2017
526
0
DrMike,I was calling coyotes when it happened. A coyote was coming in and I pulled the trigger CLICK! The coyote heard that and was running off when I opened the bolt BOOM! That day,I took the rifle to the gunsmith and ordered a Timney,issue solved.

Live and learn.

Have a load for a Winchester M 70 .270 Wby that shot great,when I took it out to make sure of accuracy and sighting,it shot terrible. Finally figured out the factory bedding was to blame, it was dried up and cracked (This was when Winchester used some kind of glue for the bedding in the recoil lug recess). Had it re-done and now shoots like it is supposed too.
 

truck driver

Ammo Smith
Mar 11, 2013
6,911
242
M70 magazine follower in my 7RM was causing feed problems and jamming. I replaced the poly carbon follower with a metal one and solved that problem. The Ruger M77 Hawkeye needs the magazine follower polished so it doesn't cause extraction problems when cycled slowly.
All my hunting ammo gets the full length sizing treatment so there are no problems with feeding do to an over size or over length case.
 

DrMike

Ballistician
Nov 8, 2006
35,224
1,789
I replace the butt pad on almost every rifle I buy. I assuredly replace the hot glue that passes for bedding on all my Winchester rifles, and almost all rifles will be pillar bedded just to avoid problems. I check the crown on each rifle as well before ever pulling the trigger. Even so, it is almost inevitable that I find things that must be addressed during the workup.
 

Darkhorse

Handloader
Mar 14, 2014
752
19
Keeping that walker trigger clean on the M700 doesn't always make it safe. I cleaned mine every year or so and it wasn't used in harsh environments. One evening I was checking some freshly sized, but unprimed, unloaded, brass to make sure they all chambered. The rifle was pointed down with the barrel on a towel. I chambered a round and as I closed the bolt I noticed the firing pin slide forward. I checked it a few times and it repeated.
To make that trigger safe I had to really increase engagement. Besides the transfer bar there are a couple more problems in that trigger I've found over the years. For one, the springs lose strength and with it reliability. Also the holes in the trigger block were not reamed from the factory to smooth up the drilled holes. This allows the spring to catch on the ridges created by the bad finish.
Best thing to do is just buy another trigger.
 

elkhunternm

Handloader
Jan 10, 2017
526
0
DrMike,I shoot the rifle first then take it from there. Mostly it's just adjusting the trigger. Every once-in-a-while it's feeding,bedding or some other little problem that needs to be addressed.
 

SJB358

Ballistician
Dec 24, 2006
31,355
656
I agree, I will give up a shade of accuracy to have a rifle that handles rounds each and every time. I like the P64 and Classic trigger and safety a lot. So far I haven't broken too much stuff. An extractor on a 700 and a couple of Remington triggers that I didn't feel comfortable with.

Feeding is very important for me and it's probably likely I put a few 100 rounds through any rifle before it goes hunting. I pretty much always load magazines fully while on the bench. It has helped me identify problems pretty quick.

On another note, my M70 6.5x55 is probably the pickiest feeder of my bunch. It will hang up going into the chamber if I run it slow. Run it full speed and never a problem. I will polish it up a little and I bet it'll be fine. It's actually the last rifle I thought would have that problem. Such as most Classics, some are great, some were projects in a box.
 

Guy Miner

Master Loader
Apr 6, 2006
16,644
1,361
Anyone else make or buy dummy cartridges and use them to practice or teach loading, unloading and cycling the action?

I've found they're real useful when either I'm trying to really learn a new rifle, or I'm teaching a new shooter.

Guy
 

elkhunternm

Handloader
Jan 10, 2017
526
0
I use dummy rounds if I'm using a seating die for more than one rifle in the same cartridge. For instance,I have two 7x57 Mauser,one is a Featherweight and it has a normal throat and the other is a CZ,which the bullet can be seated way out yonder.
 

Elkman

Handloader
Apr 4, 2010
4,551
1
Guy "Reliability is crucial, in my mind, more important than accuracy. Most rifles are reasonably accurate, but if it doesn't go BANG... We've got a problem".
I believe the same. In my lifetime of rifles I have found the following issues. A 722 Remington that fired when the safety was disengaged. A push feed Model 70 that would not feed the second round, it jumped out of the rifle. The Remington was in the early 60's and Remington fixed it.The latter was recently and I changed the bottom metal and replaced with a clip, as no factory parts were available.
That's it, guess I have been pretty lucky.
 

Africa Huntress

Handloader
Feb 14, 2012
461
1
SJB358 said:
I agree, I will give up a shade of accuracy to have a rifle that handles rounds each and every time.

Scotty, I agree and will add I am even willing to give up shooting at extreme distance's. in exchange for reliability. I admit that I was weaned on doubles and therefore my opinion is probably a bit bias. However, I have a 300 H & H Flanged that has never given me an ounce of trouble. Admittedly, it is heavier than you like at 8 lbs and 12 oz, the distance of 200 yards is less than you would want to hunt at, and even the accuracy at those distances is less than you like, but the reliability has been excellent.

Guy, this is very unscientific but we have had less drama with double rifles than bolts, regardless of the manufacturer of the rifle. My father, tinkers with them ( mum and I hunt with them ) and he once stated that he has had fewer problems over the years with pre 64 model 70 rifles than the mauser 98's and the 98's are "clunkier"--his choice of words. Overall, we have found doubles in general to be more reliable, mechanically speaking

Hodgeman, loved your post and sense of humor

Best Regards

Jamila.
 

salmonchaser

Handloader
Dec 13, 2013
3,452
806
Absolutely, it's amazing the weird and dangerous stuff people do with a rifle trying to load it. The surprising thing to me is how many guys have never loaded a rifle but that it's set up on the bench.
I've witnessed the Remington issue a couple of times. Seen the magazines spring open a few times, had a used Ruger 77 in 300, the whole claw extractor came off as I was running the bolt. I think it should be just about impossible for that to happen, but it did.
Had my horse go down on a tough trail, rolled over the saddle scabbard. Broke the stock. Thankfully I was leading the horse, loaded with my elk. Had a stock made for the princely sum of 350.00 in 1978. Magnificent piece of walnut. Had it ready about two days before hunting season, 100 yard zero. Shot a buck in the butt at 300, missed a bear and shot my elk in the head. Dad paced off 150 yards or so at camp and we discovered the barrel was bent.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Polaris

Handloader
Dec 16, 2009
1,223
0
As a competition shooter, using both a modern National match AR-15 and also various bolt action military rifles and the M1-Garand, I have encountered several malfunctions even with these vaunted designs. They often revolve around ammunition, especially bullets and COLs outside of original design parameters. I've come to use a time-honored technique to ensure first round function. Visually inspect the cartridge on magazine lip for proper alignment prior to closing bolt. Visually and audibly inspect feed and lockup as the cartridge passes over the feed ramp and into the chamber. Visually inspect for full lockup after chambering. This has saved me many a "click instead of bang" moment over years of competition and hunting with these rifles.

I've noticed a few common ones over the years.

Mauser/feed ramp. The feeding system on these rifles is a tad fussy on Overall length and bullet shape and tip profile. Differs from individual rifles. My Swedish mauser does best with long sleek bullets and a sharp metplat. My Mauser 98 in .280 prefers a somewhat more blunt metplat, preferably a protected point. Will occasionally ride over rim of the round with a more streamlined metplat causing a nettlesome stoppage. Never had a sear/safety issue that couldn't be solved with a few file strokes or replacing a badly worn part.

Swiss K-31 and AR-15. Very sensitive to round position in magazine. Round must be seated to the rear. If it's not perfect, bolt will ride over round or bump it up causing a stove pipe. Magazine springs and lips must be kept clean and in good condition.

M1 Garand. Remarkably fussy in general. Feed only milspec ammo or sharp metplat match bullets loaded to spec length. Individual chargers can be problematic, test all before field use. Sometimes they'll run for hundreds of rounds, then inexplicably start hiccupping, then run hundreds again. I suspect worn or out of spec parts as most of these rifles are Frankensteins.
 

Polaris

Handloader
Dec 16, 2009
1,223
0
As for selecting reliable rifles in general, I tend to stick to military designs. They have stood the test of time, infantry grunts, combat and ordinance boards. Their flaws are well known and remedies are available. Just need to stick to cartridges that will work in your particular rifle.

Incidentally, the one rifle I have never, ever had any sort of malfunction with is my M1917 sporter. That's why this one comes out when the weather or the game get a bit hairy.
 

SJB358

Ballistician
Dec 24, 2006
31,355
656
Polaris":e0xe55cs said:
As for selecting reliable rifles in general, I tend to stick to military designs. They have stood the test of time, infantry grunts, combat and ordinance boards. Their flaws are well known and remedies are available. Just need to stick to cartridges that will work in your particular rifle.

Incidentally, the one rifle I have never, ever had any sort of malfunction with is my M1917 sporter. That's why this one comes out when the weather or the game get a bit hairy.

And exactly the reason my P64 338 is my main battle rifle. It always works. Never a bobble...
 
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