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« Melissa Learns to Shoot, and Reviews of the Buckmark Camper and Ruger 22/45 | Main | A QUESTION FROM A READER »

November 06, 2003

TO BE ALIVE UNDER A PERFECT SKY

Two versions of the .30-40 Krag are available. Which one is right for you?

We've been having really wonderful weather around here lately. My roommate, Dave, and I went out to the range during one of those 70 degree days.

I was tired, tired. Two hours of sleep a day, working nights, school afterwards in the morning. I didn't want to drive 45 minutes each way just to punch holes in paper. I was thinking of slipping my ear protection on when we got to the range and snoozing in the car while Dave expended some ammo.

But that changed when I got there, just like Dave knew it would. Perfect day. Clear sky, no clouds, just a hint of wind to blow the smoke away. I climbed out of the car and just stared straight up. It looked like I could see forever into that blue.

I couldn't do that for long. There was progress to be made. I hauled the guns cases out of the trunk and set up while Dave signed us in and fetched the ammo.

We were firing Krag-Jorgenson rifles, guns that were made for the US military over 100 years ago. After they were replaced by Springfields soon after 1900, they were sold to the public. The NRA cut a bunch down and stuck light stocks on them for sale to hunters, and both versions are availbale for reasonable prices at most gun shows.

Dave was firing one of these, the full sized military version. I own one of these, the shorter sporterized model. We were going to put them through their paces and see what they could do with some handloads I had worked up.

Both guns were fired off-hand, without bracing or sandbags. We were firing at targets set at 100 yards.

The first thing that's obvious about the guns is that both liked antique rounded bullets much better than modern pointed versions. They just wouldn't feed the pointy stuff very well, with the points hanging up in the odd magazine that the Krag has. We soon gave up on trying to feed the newfangled lead through the magazine and just single loaded it until it was gone. When we started on the rounded stuff the guns were much happier, and so were we.

The military version was equipped with a standard Partridge style military sight. It could be adjusted to a very optimistic 1,000 yards, but don't let that fool you. None of these old rifles are accurate much past 400 yards, if that. But it was very capable of 2 inch groups at 100 yards even when it was unsupported. This was probably more due to Dave's skill than anything since he's an exceptional open-sight rifle shot.

Me, I just barely get by. The shorter and lighter version of the Krag was sporterized by having a few inches of barrel cut off, a lighter stock fitted, and some truly bad post-and-bead sites welded on. (Can't find a pic of the post-and-bead sight, probably because everybody who's ever used one wants to forget that they were ever invented.) The very best that I could do was 3.5 inches at 100 yards. Dave didn't do much better with his 3 inch group.

Because of the different weights and lengths they had a very different feel. The larger military model ate up recoil. It was very comfortable to shoot no matter what monster lead it was throwing downrange. It would be a bear to haul around, but if you were parked at the range with a table to hold your stuff it was alright.

The lighter sporter version was easy to handle and comfortable to carry, but less so to fire. I only needed to put 50 rounds through it before my shoulder started to get rather sore. Still, I could see myself packing one of these over hill and dale some cold fall morning on a deer hunt. All it needs to be a nice little deer gun are some decent sites.

One last thing. If you decide to pick one of these old warriors up you should keep in mind that they're rather old. Have them thoroughly checked by a competent gunsmith before you load your first round. Keep the loads in the moderate range and don't try to use really hot rounds.

In other words, please show some respect for your elders.

Posted by James Rummel