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Discussion Starter #1
Marshal et al,

I went into the local shop and found a beautiful old Mannlicher Shoenauer in 6.5x54 that won my heart.  I researched the round on the web an found it to be a popular 'tween the wars cartridge.  Load data seems to be that it pushed a .256 160gr slug (.328sd!) out at 22-2300fps/1880ftlbs.  It was known as a serious penetrator (small bore style).  The gun is a pre-'24 1903 carbine in perfect condition.  It looks like it would be a good deer/hog rifle.  

Any recommendations or stories on these rifles and cartridges?

Infatuated,

  -  Charlie Z.
 

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Over the last forty years I have various M-S, rifles and carbines. Their quality is top notch!!!! The 6.5x54MS is almost, if not, identical to the 6.5x53 Mann-Carcano. The cartridge was made famous with long RN bullets, having deep penetration. Norma makes the brass, as you know. It excells with 140 and 160 grain bullets.....160 gr Hornady with 39 grs H-4350 @ 2050 '/"...140 gr Nosler Partition with 40.5 grs IMR 4831 @ 2200'/" are old standby loads from my records. Some knock the split rear reciever, long firing pin fall, and bolt handle too far foreward.....To me, these are small when dealing with a Classic rifle, whose design is almost 100 years old. The Greek military MS made up into some nice sporters. With the spool mag it's hard to change calibers. If the firearm is not set up for a scope now, it can be expensive for mounts. All in All. it's a fine classic firearm!!
Best Regards from the Hammock....James
 

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Hi, Charlie:
  Handloader's Digest had two, I think, articles on the M-S in 6.5x54 a couple of editions ago. They could have been in two different editions. I can get them down from the attic tomorrow if you want them. I won't mind having one of those little fellows myself.
Bye
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the information, gentlemen.  

It would be useful to know which Handloader's  Digest(s) cover the 6.5x54MS.  The ballistics offered seem to put it in the the 30-30 class and perhaps a little lighter than the Carcano, which is a little disappointing, though not enough to discourage me.  I'm a sucker for workmanship and handiness.  

 - Charlie
 

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You have a very nice rifle that has killed game all over the world and all over the map as far as body size. From Sheldon in the Yukon and Alaska to many in Africa this rifle and cartridge has been in use. Stick to the original concept of long and heavy bullets and it will continue to work quietly and efficiently. Don't need a scope, this is a hunters rifle. Use your legs, lungs and good binoculars to get within range. Good luck!!!!  
 

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Hi, Charlie:
  Handloader's Digest, 15th Edition (1996) is your best bet. 6.5x54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer by Ray Ordorica, page 54. Apparently a lot of the old one had oversize bores, up to .269. Start with the 160 gr. Hornady, lighter bullets don't like the loose bore and fast twist. He also liked the 140 gr. Nosler Partition. He used 33.0 gr. of 4320 with both bullets and the Norma SPBT FMJ. I get good accuracy with .308 Partitions in a .303 British. I suspect the open base is slugging up to fit the bore.

  Handloader's Digest, 12th Edition. A vist with the 6.5x54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer by David A. Webb, page 154. The rifle was a custom Mauser`91 with a new barrel, so the data may not work with your old M-S.

  Gun Digest 50th Edition (1996).  The Big Little Mannlicher-Schoenauer by Don A. Henry. I'ts mostly historical, with no reloading data.

  Bolt Action Rifles by Frank de Hass, 3rd edtion. A complete mechanical discussion, as you'd expect. Don't even think about recambering them.    

Have fun!
Bye
Jack    

(Edited by Jack Monteith at 12:17 pm on Feb. 4, 2001)
 

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Ken Waters also covered it MS in 6.5x54MS in his Pet Loads. He also ran into oversize bores and used Barnes bullets. Like eveyone said...stay with the heavies.
Best Regards from the Hammock....James
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the help all.  

Guess I'll have to measure the bore.  Rather than go to Barnes, I rather talk to Marshall about a 160gr that fits.

If you're still interested, the only useful site I found on the web was:

http://discover-net.net/~kanotex/mannlicher/

 - Charlie
 

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Marshall,

I just got a copy of "Pet Loads" (wow) and I seem to have the same bore size as Waters' Mannlicher -- .2665 groove/.256 land.  Seems some of the old Austrians thought .003 oversize was good.  

Been looking at your 135gr 6.5 bullet.  What swaged size do you recommend?  

I was hoping to find a longer (1.26-1.29), heavier 160gr RN bullet.  Mannlicher's seem to need the bullet length for feeding w/o bashing the case shoulder and to minimize the free-bore.

I believe I'll try your 135grs and ask you about making up a fatter 6.5 if that doesn't work.  (I could poll and troll the MS website for more gather more interest).

- Charlie Z.
 

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Charlie,

What a tremendous find! May I ask what the shop asked for this weapon?

It may come as a surprise to many here considering his penchant for big bores, but no less than Elmer Keith thought the 6.5 M-S an excellent woods combination. If I may quote him from his BIG GAME RIFLES AND CARTRIDGES from 1936:

<i> The 6.5 Mannlicher, loaded with its very long 160 grain bullet, has for a great many years proved a very reliable cartridge. It has been used successfully on all American and about all African and European game. The velocity of 2300 feet, is not high enough to disrupt or blow the bullet, and owing to its great sectional density, in the 160 grain soft point load, is directly responsible for its great popularity as a short range or medium range, timber load...For game of our deer size and class it is a mighty fine little cartridge. I have several friends who have claimed it very reliable in all their reports and all insist it to be a much more reliable load than the .30-30... I have only seen the cartridge used on mule deer, but it killed very well, and the long soft point bullet expanded perfectly, broke both shoulders of a large buck and went on through the animal, tearing a two inch hole at exit...The rifle is best fitted with the Lyman swinging arm, peep sight on the receiver. So equipped, it makes a very light and handy little brush rifle...</i>

In addition to the several articles others mentioned in this thread, Dr. Sam Fadala wrote "Romance of the Mannlicher-Schoenauer" for the 1997 GUN DIGEST. Immediately following that article is a second in as many years for that publication by Don L. Henry, "Cartridges for the Mannlicher-Schoenauer."

Let us know how this little gem performs for you. By George, that's my kind of rifle!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
My only problem is finding one of Keith's Lyman swinging peep sight (#36, I think).  

All accessory sighting mechanisms for the gun are bizarre.  Swing and dropping peeps, "claw" scope bases, sweat-on scope mounts, etc.  

Tomorrow is the first day out.  I was able to get 2 boxes of 160gr ammo from Old Western Scrounger this week.  Looks like Hornady 160 RN in Norma brass.  He set them too far in though, they're shorter than the original 150gr Remingtons (3" COL) by a lot.  

Next step is to call RCBS, Norma, Hodgon's, etc.   Could use an oversize 160 from Marshall....

Got a box of 150gr Remington 'Kleanbore' ammo with the gun.  Later, I read somewhere that Remington hasn't made 6.5 MS ammo since 1940, so I'm going to donate it to a museum.

I've heard Keith's comments, but haven't read them. Thanks for the reprint.  

  - Charlie
 

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Hi, Charlie:
  I should have mentioned this in my 2nd post. Ray Ordorica had a problem with excess headspace, about .018", in his rifle. After checking around, he concluded that American dies didn't match Austrian specs. It wasn't just his rifle or his dies. Be careful that you don't bump the shoulder back too far.

  I've got a Dominion and 2 WCC cartridges in my collection. All are 3 inches long.

Bye
Jack
 

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When addressing headspace in the 6.5x54 MS, some background is in order. The ancestor og the MS is the 6.5x52 Italian Mann-Carcano, disigned in 1891, followed by the Greek 6.5x54 MS in 1900. Stange as it my seem to American shooters the designers overseas like to make things work in other guns. The Carcanos could and did shoot the Greek ammo. I have shot 6.5x54 MS military in them. While visiting the plant in Italy, while  working for the Fiocchi, I found the specs over there are strange. Most of the so-called 6.5x54mm MS were in fact 53mm. Otherwords half way between the 6.5x52 MC and the 6.5x54 MS.Also this is maybe why the Austrians set the groove deeper to be on the safe side with pressure. The Swedes are 180 degrees from this with their specs! The way to set up diaes is to screw to FL die done until the sized round chambers easy. Then with a good set of feeler gauges measure the space between the shell holder and base of the die. Record that for future setups, simply screwing the die done on the shellholder with the handle down.
Best Regards, James
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Hmmm.  Good info.  On Jack's recommendation,  I did buy Handloader #15 1996 and Water's Pet Loads.  I also read somewhere that if I send a fired case to RCBS, they'll make up a die set to match for about &#3625.

I also plan on only using the neck sizing die, not the full length.  I won't need to share the ammo with another gun.

The plan is to use Norma brass (will have 40 empties by tonight <!--emo&:)--><img src="http://beartoothbullets.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif" border="0" valign="absmiddle" alt=':)'><!--endemo-->, which sounds like the best still available.  Waters recommends using only standard primers.  He also recommends H-4350 as the best all-around powder, so I'll start there, too.

Bullets are the booger.  The bore slugs .2665, as it did for Waters.  I'm going to try Hornady's 160gr RN, Sierra's 160gr SMP and Marshall's alloy 135gr GCs (which, I fear are too small @.266; really need about .268).

Thanks for the advice and interest guys!

 - Charlie Z.
 

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Something I forgot on my last post. After the war there were many thosand of new Italian Carcanos sent to Greece.The Greek Civil War was raging and there were Russian arms coming into the Commie rebels. Western (read WW) and Fiocchi sent tons of new ammo in for the Carcanos and remaining Greek MS's. It was all supposed to be a hush-hush deal. The ammo that Oswald shot Kennedy with was Western ammo and no one has figured how he got hold of it. None came to the States. Somewhere along this time the specs between the Carcano and Greek MS got foggy? I went back a pulled out some de Haas data that said the MS specs were .265/.266" in the groove on both cartridges. American loading are undersize, but I don't have original Austrian bullet specs.
In my W.GLASER-WAFFEN-ZURICH-1938 catalog it lists AUSLANDISCHE PATRONEN No.118 @ 6,5x53 MS with 156 gr softpoint and full metal jacketed loads. Note they called it 6,5x53. The rifle was also made in 9x56 MS (sbout the power of our .35 Rem).Don't worry about the dies, just adjust your sizing die as stated. Best Regards, James
 

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Just fired off those 40 rounds.  Good new/bad news.  

Good news: accuracy is way better than I thought it would be.    

Bad news:  the bullets are tipping at 100yds.  Also, all rounds had sooty necks and 2 got sooty to the rim.  Those 2 also had pronounced expansion rings.  Note: that the 2 smokers were fired after a 3-4 rounds were fired immediately before and the barrel was hot.  Before and after, I was pacing myself trying to keep the barrel cool, but I got away from myself.  So, I'm wondering if the chamber didn't get a little bigger when hot?

Recommendations?
 

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Hi, Charlie:
  Bullet tipping at 100 yards might not be a problem. Those long bullets need some time to stabilize or as the benchrest boys say, "go to sleep". If your groups at 200 or 300 yards are good, you're laughing. If half of them hit the target sideways or miss it completely, it's back to the drawing board.  For more info than you've ever need, see:

http://www.fulton-armory.com/fly/

   I'm in over my head, and I think we need Mr. Gates expertise here, but those two sooty cases have me worried. A sooty case is a sign of low pressure, but a pronounced expansion ring is a sign of high pressure. Combine them and we've got the signs of an incipient detonation.  We know that guns can blow up with very light charges of slow burning powder. A popular theory is that the primer blows the bullet into the lands but doesn't get the powder burning properly. Then the powder burn does get up to speed, but the bullet sticks in the lands long enough for the pressure to get out of hand and the gun comes apart.

 The primer blast isn't enough to seal the case mouth against the chamber, so soot from the initial partial burn flows back around the case. Pressure gun data shows a drop in pressure between primer ignition and the final burn in these cases, so the case mouth seal might be lost at this time.

  If these cartridges were loaded down out of concern for older guns and and an unsuitable(too slow)powder was used, you could be where you don't want to be. If you buy any more of that stuff, I'd advise you to pull the bullets and dump the powder, then reload them with data from a reliable source.

  Did you chrongraph those sooty shots? The velocities could be a clue to what's happening.

Take care
Jack
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Jack,

I don't have a chrono, yet.  I think the groups were just luck... flinching at the right time or something.  I got one 1 1/4" group and the others were between that and the big group of 1 1/2. (Benchrest @ 100yds).  I took the scope off and got 3-3 3/4" (bench) and 4-6" (offhand) with the leaf sights. It's a fun gun to shoot; light recoil, too.

After a thinking it over, I think that the loads were all standard, but as I mentioned Old Western had the 160gr RN seated way deep -- giving 2.75 COL or so.  The artifical freebore and the undersized bullet probably led to a little gas rush that was sealed off at the shoulder as the neck expanded to match the chamber(?).  I calipered the inside of the neck and it's now .266.  Water's mentions the expansion rings coming about from poorly sized 6.5MS ammo.  His pictured case's exactly match my experience on those 2 cases.

Anyway, I'm going to roll my own from now on.  That was a little spooky.    Love that little gun.
 

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O.K.....I have followed this with great interest and can comment on a couple of things. First, I am very skeptical as to this 40 rounds of ammo. I don't think there is anything wrong with the rifle. The chamber can be checked with a sulphur cast. Lets talk about smokey hulls. You find this to be caused by too thick of brass or UNDER presure causing the hulls to not expand to fill the chamber, most tomes the later. If these bullets were seat as deep as he mentions, I don't think it is factory. It sounds like someone's jury-rig to me. These small case need medium burn rate powders. I agree with Ken Waters that these small cases and HEAVY bullets need a burnrate about IMR 4320, but that's a powder I steer away from. The original RWS load was with a flake powder called R1. The Italians and Greeks loaded their military rounds with it, or a clone. The German flake was grey, whereas the Italian was yellow. Flat powders pack well. The closest powder I know of that would duplicate the original ballistics would be VihtaVuori N140. If that is unavailable I would, unlike Ken Waters, use IMR 3031.
Now let's talk about these rings. These are nor expansion rings as such, they are more like "stretch rings and are nornally caused by a chamber too long or a case too short. We ahve already discussed that this round has gone yhrough many changes since these rifles were built. It is my opinion that this ammo he's shooting was sized in a die that's too short! With the smoke on the neck, I think this is the scenario...the primer fires, but the heavy bolt/firing pushes the case forward, as the presure builds, there blow by...then pressure mounts and the front of the case is held, while the rear stretches back against the bolt face. Ergo..Smoked necks and "stretch rings". Sometimes, if you lightly wipe off the smoked necks, you will see tiny dents where the case expanded over the smoked area.
What would I do?...Since this is not a run of the mill firearm, but a Classic! I would buy 40 rounds of Norma empty cases...Prime them and drop 5 grs of Bullseye, or a little more Unique. Push a soap bar DOWN on the necks. Wipe the cases with Breakfree or RCBS sizing grease. Go outside, fire the rifle up. Clean the cases. Now....set up your sizing die with the die all the way down on the shellholder. Then turn it back 4 full revolutions. wipe some sizing grease on the hull. Then, with a candle or oil lamp with the shade off, smoke the neck and shoulder, but not the rest of the oiled case. Size the case with the die turned as told. Watch the smoke be removed, as you tuen the die down, until you are precisely at the point of the shoulder. Wipe off the case and try in the rifle. You cant take the MS bolt apart like the Mauser, since the bolt head is separate, so it will be harder to tell if the case is snug. If it is too snug, regrease the case and turn the die down one half revolution. You have now "Adjusted" the headspace with your sizing die. AsI said before. Use a good set of flat feeler gauges and check the space between the die and the shellholder. Record. The next time just spin the die dowm on the feeler gauge between the die and shell holder. If the rings still appear, back off on the die one half revolution.
Best Regards, James

We need to get Marshall's comments on this problem!!!!

(Edited by James Gates at 7:32 pm on Feb. 25, 2001)
 

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Anything new on this yet?  I am looking at a nice 1903 Mannlicher carbine and was wondering what I can expect for accuracy.  Thanks.
 
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