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1995 The poor mans Sniper rifle

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1995 The poor mans Sniper rifle

#1 Post by 72 usmc » Tue Dec 05, 2017 4:22 pm

1995 by Dan Boone, The Poor Mans Sniper rifle, Desert publications
see Amazon looks like it's still in print.

Raindogs17 REPOST of old REVIEW 1995 The poor Man's Sniper Rifle

The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle - 14 Years Later

Below is a chapter-by-chapter summary of a book I picked up in 1995 titled "The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle". Upon seeing it, I was immediately attracted to the idea: take an old military surplus rifle and accurize it.

To quote the book:

"Highly accurate rifles are commercially available in the United States at the present time, but they typically come at a very high price (frequently over a thousand dollars). It is my belief that most people in the US do not have a couple of thousand dollars to lay out for a highly accurate rifle system, but many would like to have one. This manuscript describes how such a highly accurate weapon might be produced at a nominal cost."

After 14 years of kicking the idea around, I find I still like it and think I'll undertake the project. Below is a
chapter-by-chapter summary of the author's concept.

Is it still a viable idea in 1995? Yes and no. A lot of the cheap surplus has dried up, so you're not going to buy any more $60 SMLEs. But if your budget is a few hundred dollars, then this is still a viable idea. However, the main reason to do a project like this is the fun of building up an accurate rifle, not to save money. Even if the rifle was free, the gunsmithing supplies, scope, mount, etc. put you at $500 or more.

Thre are a few problems with the book to discuss up front...

(1) The author does not define "sniper rifle", which is a key failing ;-) Is a sniper rifle sub-MOA? Simply something better than the typical battle rifle? By some definitions, Lee Harvey Oswald's Carcano was a "sniper rifle" (the shot was 88Y, btw), but I think most people think of something more accurate when they hear the term. The author doesn't discuss his shooting results - another key failing. We're talking
about bolt-action rifles and they certainly have potential, but unfortunately there's no data in the book. How accurate CAN you get a Mosin-Nagant?

(2) I think if you are looking for a true "sniper rifle" in the definition of "sub MOA," then you'd be better off buying a new commercial rifle. For example, you can get a nice sniper rifle package for less than $1000:

(No affiliation, just something I googled).

(3) The economics were more compelling in 1995. Most of the rifles the author discusses are no longer available to "poor men" (e.g., the 1903). On the other hand, he was writing at a time when 7.62x54R was not domestically produced and was under an import ban. Today it is plentiful.

(4) The ballistics inherently limit you. The rifles he discusses fire 7.62x54R, 6.5x55, .303 Brit, 7x57mm, and 8mm (I'm leaving .30-06 out, because the rifles involved are no longer for poor men). Those are reasonable cartridges out to 200Y, but we're not talking .338 Lapua here. 8mm loses power very quickly
and drops like a rock at distance ;-) In fact, looking at Winchester's ballistic tables, I see they zero .303 Brit and 8mm at 150Y instead of 200Y.

And now on to a summary of the book...

The Poor Man's Sniper Rifle
by Daniel Boone

Copyright 1995
135 pages

Desert Publications
ISBN 0-87947-098-4


Surplus military sniper rifles are available but very expensive due to their rarity. Commercial, accurized rifles are expensive because they're brand new and someone has already done the work. This book
is designed to demonstrate the conversion of a military surplus rifle - the hand-building of a sniper rifle.


- Barrel quality. Milsup rifles typically do not have match-grade barrels, however some rifles have extremely high-grade barrels that approach match-grade.

- Barrel length. 25-26" is ideal. Below that is not desirable, beyond that doesn't add much.

- Caliber. The author opines that .223 isn't big enough, and very large calibers aren't desirable due to their rainbow-shaped trajectories.

Rifles to avoid:

- Blackpowder, such as the 1873 trapdoor Sprinfields, British Martinis, rolling block Remingtons, old Sharps, etc.

- Italian Carcano, both 1891 and 38. Inappropriate caliber, barrels too short, crude action, etc. Those converted to 8mm are dangerous.

- Austrian Steyr-Mannlicher model 95. Obsolete ammo, typically short-barreled when found as surplus.

- Type 54 Chinese or type 44 Russian. Carbines and barrels too short for use. Author state that 7.62x54R is hard to find. It probably was in 1995; obviously, not the case today.

- French 1936 MAS. 8mm Lebel is not common and its bolt action has poor ergonomics and poor accuracy.

- French 1886 Lebel. Barrels are innately not accurate, "inappropriate ammunition"

- Model 93 and 95 Mausers. Manufactured without gas vents machined into the bolts, so gas from ruptured primers will come back into the shooter's face. Author says these are not safe to shoot.

- Mannlicher-Berthier: Obsolete ammunition.


These rifles would normally be qualified out because of their small caliber, but because of extraordinary accuracy, might be considered:

- Japanese Arisaka type 38 in 6.5mm Japanese. Author tells some interesting stories and goes into detail about how to select an Arisaka.

- Model 1896 Swedish Mauer in 6.5x55mm

- Mosin-Nagants: Russia 91, Finish 91, 27, 28, 28/30. Author mentions the difficulty of getting 7.62x54R.
I suspect he'd write differently today. He highly recommends the Sako-barreled Finns (in reality any of
the Finns are good). Avoid .30-06 rebarrels.

Rifles recommended:

- Springfield 1903-A1 and 1903-A3, and 1903 (without the A) if Springield s/n > 800000 or Rock Island
s/n > 285507.

- Enfield Pattern 17 in .30-06

- Mauser in 7mm or 8mm, generally the 1898s. Israeli K98k, Venezuelan FN 7mm target, Brazilian 1908 7mm.

- Pattern 14 British Enfields in .303 Brit. Author notes the commercial Remington model 30, 30S, and
720A are essentially the same gun.

- SMLEs in .303 Brit.

Bolt-action is what you want, so he won't be discussing guns like the Dragunov (not that they're cheap anyway ;-)

2009 Thoughts

Most of these rifles are no longer available at anything like what you could buy them in 1995. The author mentions he bought a SMLE #4 for $61 in 1995 and passed on a $35 Mosin-Nagant ;-) I looked through a recent Shotgun News and the only SMLE #4 I saw went for $350. Pattern 17 Enfields are $800+. Ditto for 1903s.

Also, consider the ammo. In 1995, .303 British could still be found in surplus. Today? Not so much. 6.5x55, 8mm, 7x57, etc. is all a lot more expensive now.

Of course, the flip side is that the Mosin-Nagant is still pretty cheap and 7.62x54R is now plentiful and cheap
(by 2009 standards).

I think if the author was putting a project together today, his short list would probably be:

Mosin-Nagant (7.62x54R) - $80-130, though the Finnish M-Ns that the author likes are $300+. I'm not sure this is really the best rifle for this project. They don't take a scope naturally, and the ammo generally can't be reloaded from milsurp. There's a limited range of ammo choices, though that's true for a lot of these calibers.

Czech vz24 (8mm) - $210

Brazilian Mausers (7x57mm) - $160

Yugo 24/47s (8mm) - $150

Turk Mausers (8mm) - $150

Those are prices from a bit of googling. GunBroker, etc.

The Arisaka 38s have climbed in price, but the 99s are still reasonably priced, though you're dealing with
late war last ditch production.

The Russian Type 44 is another possibility.

The Swiss K-31 (25" barrel, 7.5mm Swiss) are unfortunately in the $300 range already. If you accept $300 as "poor man's" territory, then you can probably add the SMLE to the short list.

Springfields, Pattern 14, Pattern 17 - sorry, the window has closed.

How to Find a Rifle:

He discusses buying a milsurp - normal Shotgun News-type procedures. Stuff you all know ;-) Interestingly, he doesn't discuss antique guns - there are plenty of guns whose receivers were made in the 1890s that are even less hassle than a C&R.

You're looking for a hand-select milsup. Once you receive it, perform the following steps:

(1) check the barrel. Some of this info is given later in the book

(2) check headspacing - he talks about the general procedure, but there is better info on the net today. (i.e., he doesn't mention no-go, go, and field gauges but instead talks about a shim procedure).

(3) strip it down completely and get the cosmoline out. Books such Gun Digest's Firearms Assembly/Disassembly can help.

If the gun has problematic headspacing or the barrel is pitted or the rifling is shot, it's best to return it and select another, as the cost of fixing these problems is high.


The author describes pushing a lead plug through the barrel and measuring lands and grooves (alas, no illustrations). If there is not good rifling, send the rifle back. Ditto if the bore is pitted.

Next, check the muzzle crown. If necessary, recrown. The procedure is described...in 1995, I might have tried to follow the directions. Today I'd look for a video on the net to see the procedure ;-) The author also discusses cutting the barrel length and crowning it.


This is out of place, but the author now jumps to ammo selection. The author discusses things quite a bit, but it boils down to using ammo in this order of prefence: match, handloaded, milsurp, commercial hunting.

Conversion, Con't

The author is using a SMLE #4 as his example weapon. In 1995, he bought it for $60, and passed on Mosin-Nagants for $35 ;-)

The author discusses the excentricities of the SMLE at length - the British groove diameters, the excessively large chamber diameters, etc. He notes solutions for handloaders.

I wish the author had provided this depth of information on all rifles, but his example SMLE is described in much greater detail than anything else in the book. You could learn a few interesting gunsmithy things about the SMLE by reading this book.

Now on to the wooden stock and problems of warping, vertical stringing, etc. The author describes three solutions: synthetic stock, free floating the barrel, and glass bedding. Changing to a synthetic stock adds costs (opposite of his concept). He favors glass bedding over free floating, though notes the latter is
obviously cheaper.

He discusses two methods of free floating - one being the typical stock scraping, the other putting rubber scrap over the recoil lugs to create space.

Glass bedding is described for many pages with illustrations.

I didn't see anything in either the free floating or glass bedding sections that wasn't common gunsmithing info, though it is well-described. Again, I'd probably look for info on the net or buy a book with color photograph illustrations.

Next up is the trigger. Generally, he recommends a trigger between 2# and 4#. Discussion of trigger and accuracy, then a look at options. His main recommendation is a Timney for some models, or a bit of gunsmithing for others. For the SMLE, he goes into the gunsmithing details to reduce trigger pull.


Six types of sights: iron, peep, electronic floating dot, laser, night, and telescopic. Floating dot, laser, and night are dismissed for cost/effectiveness reasons. Iron and peep are discussed, including info for adding them, using the SMLE as an example.

The author goes into depth on scopes and seems to really love the Shepherd's Scope. But at the end of his discussion, he admits they cost $500-600! He discusses getting scopes cheaply at garage sales, Wal-mart, milsup shops, and pawnshops. Ultimately, this is the weakest part of his concept - a good scope is going to
cost no matter what you do.

He discusses military mounts (e.g., S&K Instamount). He has some interesting ideas for a Mosin-Nagant scope mount - there are other ideas available today for googling. He also briefly mentions "scout rifle" configs - this could have been fleshed out a little bit more.

He discusses scope rings, and then describes the scope system he chose for his SMLE.

Final Touches

He discusses laser rangefinders, lace-on-cheek pads, and recoil pads.


Overall, the procedure is:

- buy a milsurp from a list of good candidates
- examine bore carefully to make sure it promises accuracy
- examine headspace
- degunk
- recrown if necessary
- free float or glass bed
- improve trigger
- mount a scope

Not rocket science. I plan to buy a milsurp (haven't chosen which one yet) and go through these steps. I'll record my pre- and post-accurizing results.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

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Re: 1995 The poor mans Sniper rifle

#2 Post by Rapidrob » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:59 pm

Got to love "Those converted to 8mm are dangerous." when he was talking about Carcano's. Obviously he never shot one. Just hype.
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