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Thread: I Never Thought I'd Buy a Hunting Rifle But....

  1. #1
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    I Never Thought I'd Buy a Hunting Rifle But....

    ...... I'd never walked into a shop and seen a vintage Mannlicher Schoenauer with such a beautiful patina hanging on the wall. Although I have the deepest respect for the sport, I personally don't hunt so why would I buy one? So, I was casually aware of these old Steyr rifles and I also knew that they were expensive and held in the highest regard when they were in production. Also, I had seen pictures in books but I'd never actually laid eyes or hands on one. And let's face it....I'm not what you'd call a "cultured" guy nor do I spend my time with those who are so where would I have run into one? Still, I DO have the ability to appreciate fine things and I'm not such a Neanderthal that I don't recognize a gem when I see it. As soon as I spied that full length European Walnut stock and the flat bolt handle, even though it was 30 feet away, I knew what I was looking at. Literally the moment I took it down from the wall, I knew I was holding the rifle equivalent of a Rolex. After just a minute of perusal, it was obvious that the rifle had seen a generous mixture of use, care and outright love. The bluing was worn to bare metal in places but absolutely none of it had turned brown. The stock bore only the most minimum number of indentations and had nearly perfect checkering. The scope, a Weaver K4-F (made in the 1960's) was still crystal clear with near perfect glass. It was abundantly clear that this rifle had seen MANY hours of use but ALL of them had passed with the utmost care. The rifle had been used for it's intended purpose and not simply hung on a wall. Man.....the stories this old rifle could tell! Wellllll, the combination of History (albeit unknown) outstanding Quality of execution, gorgeous stock, patina and just pure Beauty of the thing pushed me over the edge. I had to have it. And now I want to share it with you. This isn't going to be an in-depth article on the rifle but it is going to photographically document some things I couldn't find decent pictures of online. I might write a longer one later but for now, lets just have some fun and take a brief look at what I consider to be a well used yet well preserved example of a Steyr Mannlicher Schoenauer Model 1956 with factory installed scope mounts and a vintage Weaver K4-F telescopic sight.


    First up are the right and left side general views of the rifle:





    Next up are some markings starting with the manufacturer on the left side of the receiver:



    From left to right on the barrel left side we have an inspection stamp, nitro proof stamp and year of manufacture (1957):



    On the front left of the receiver we have an inspection stamp and the year of manufacture again:



    On the bottom of the magazine we find the STEYR logo and the importer/US distributor, Stoeger:



    At the top front of the receiver, there are more markings but the scope is in the way so it's difficult to get a good shot of them. Fortunately, this rifle was ordered with factory installed, quick disconnect scope rings. So let's get the scope off to get a look at those markings.
    We start at the left rear of the receiver where we find this curious little mechanism (rear is to the right):

    Notice the blued rectangle in the center of the frame with a "U" cut out of it. This is side of the mounting block for the rear scope ring. The block is held fast to the receiver with two slotted screws, one of which you can see to the left. There is a slot cut into this block from above to allow for a bare steel piece that also has a "U" cut in it. This piece slides back and forth and is held in place by two pins, the heads of which are visible on either side of the "U" cut. Additionally this sliding piece is pushed to the rear under spring tension and can be seen sticking out from the rear of the mounting block, forming a push button. To remove the scope, simply press forward on this button with the finger or thumb of one hand (thus lining up the "U" cut in the sliding piece with the corresponding one in the mounting block) while grasping the rear bell on the scope with the other hand and swinging it clockwise when viewed from above.

    Once the bottom of the scope ring is free of the mounting block, release the push button and you have a situation as shown below:

    Notice that there is a slotted screw on the ring where it fits into the mounting block. There is one on the other side too. These screws allow you to both make course windage adjustments and perfectly fit the ring to the mounting block so that there is zero side to side play.


    Next, continue to swing the scope in a clockwise arc until it is positioned 90 degrees relative to the rifle:



    Then you simply lift straight up on the scope to remove it from the rifle entirely. You may have to wiggle it a bit because it's such a perfect fit.
    Here is the mounting lug on the front ring:



    And the front mounting point on the rifle:

    notice the raised areas to the rear of the mounting lug hole and on the right side of the mounting point. These are slotted and engage with lugs on the scope ring to lock it down as you swing the scope into the mounted position.


    An above view of the rear mounting point with scope removed clearly showing the retention and release mechanism:

    At the rear and similar to the front mounting point, we have a raised area with a slot cut to lock the scope ring down. This system locks the scope on as tight as if it were screwed to the rifle and guarantees a perfect zero no matter how many times the scope is removed and replaced. I mean it is rock solid.


    And now that we have the scope out of the way, we can get a look at the markings on the front receiver ring:

    Notice how perfectly struck the lettering is. SCHWEET!! Also notice the fine stippling applied to reduce glare when using open sights. To a guy like me used to military grade firearms, this stuff is pure Art!! These were available in various calibers, some of which are a real pain to get these days. While I would have bought this thing no matter what caliber it was in, .308 was a nice bonus since I have a number of rifles in that caliber already. Back in 1957, .308 Winchester was a pretty new thing!


    Next, we'll take a brief look how you remove the magazine and the magazine itself once removed.

    Here we see the bottom of the magazine when mounted into the rifle, front being to the left:

    Notice the total loss of bluing forward of the STEYR logo. This leaves no doubt as to how the owner held this rifle. He must have had similar sized hands to mine because I noticed that when I aim using this same hold, my second finger just touches the right side of the receiver ring. I didn't take a picture of it but sure enough, the bluing is rubbed off in that spot. I live for little details like that. It's History literally imbued into the firearm itself!
    Alright, back to planet Earth.....
    At the front of the magazine base plate is a little circular hole through which you can see bare steel. This is the dismounting catch. Insert the tip of a cartridge into this hole and press down slightly while rotating the base plate in either direction. Below, we see the process just started with the base plate rotated enough that the catch has been disengaged:

    It's important to note that the dismounting catch does not secure the magazine to the rifle; that is accomplished by tongues at the front and rear of the base plate engaging slots cut into the bottom of the action. Rather, the dismounting catch only secures the base plate from rotating.

    Now continue to rotate the base plate until the aforementioned tongues are clear of the slots in the action (rotating 90 degrees as shown is best):



    Now, use the base plate as a handle and lift the magazine out of the stock revealing the inside of the receiver and the bottom of the bolt:

    Lots of interesting things are going on up in there but that's a subject for a different time.


    A left rear 3/4 view of the removed magazine:


    And a right rear 3/4 view:

    If you aren't familiar with the Schoenauer magazine design, you'll be baffled at this. That's because it's not a box magazine but rather a rotary 5 round design. as you load them from above, they spool around the central axle. There is no follower in the traditional sense and none of the rounds touch each other when the magazine is loaded. It's a complicated but elegant design that is reliable and efficient. It is also part of the reason the action on these rifles is renowned for how smooth it is in operation. Normally, there is no reason to remove the magazine from the rifle unless you want to clean it. Unloading of a fully or partially loaded magazine is achieved by opening the bolt and pressing a button which then allows the cartridges to spill out from the top. Never unload a magazine by removing it from the bottom. It won't be pretty and you may end up damaging something.

    If you wish, the rotor can be removed from the magazine by pushing the rear of it forward and then lifting:


    Because these rifles could be ordered in multiple calibers, magazines are specific to the cartridge being used. The rotor is caliber marked:



    The magazine body is also caliber marked on the inside:



    Here is a top view of the action with the bolt to the rear:

    The lozenge shaped checkered button is used to empty the magazine. Simply push it and whatever is in there comes flying out the top. For such a refined design, it sure dumps out the rounds in a most undignified way but it is fast so it has that going for it. A keen eye will also see the rotor. There are a few other things going on but this is just a brief overview so we'll leave it at that. However, I do want to point out how beautifully finished everything is. Most of what you are looking at is in the white yet there isn't even a hint of discoloration after 63 years. That's a combination of extremely good steel and extremely good maintenance!


    That's it for this evening. Tomorrow, we'll look at some more stuff that I think is neato and wrap this up. I hope you're enjoying reading this and I also hope you're enjoying Life! Until then.......May God save the Republic! Good night.
    Last edited by Combloc; 09-08-2020 at 01:38 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Veteran Berlin's Avatar
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    Wow!

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    Senior Veteran jbruney's Avatar
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    I've had two of those in my hands before belonging to friend's fathers, which I drooled over. Both were sold after their passing, as I thought 'greedy fools'. One in 7x57 & one in 8x57.... immaculate safe queens which drew copious $.... Still you've managed to acquire a beautiful rifle which I'm certain shall impress you even more with how it slings bullets in a very sophisticated manner.
    Joe
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  4. #4
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    Wow is right! What a beautiful rifle. I would have been lusting on it too. Quality piece for sure. That scope looks so "beefy".

    First time I have seen detailed pics of one. Great job on that as always. Looking forward to more.
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

  5. #5
    Senior Veteran jbruney's Avatar
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    On those old Weaver scopes I've got three: K-6, K-4, K-3. The optics in all are excellent after all of these years and all hold 0. Don't know what they're like after the early 60's but the old ones were very good.
    Joe
    COG#1453

  6. #6
    Senior Veteran Silvera's Avatar
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    makes me reminiscent of my hunting on the Zimbabwe flats for Buffalo and elephants and lions....

    or just dream of it


    yeah.......dreaming again

    nice rifle....
    "Listen With Your Eyes"
    Wit, Grit, Courage and Determination

  7. #7
    Senior Veteran The War Wagon's Avatar
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    That's a clean machine, there.

    You're ready to be the BAD GUY, in an episode of "In the Heat of the Night" now!

    What flavor of venison you got in your AO, to try it out on?
    We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other. - John Adams, 2nd U.S. President -

  8. #8
    Senior Veteran Sturmvogel's Avatar
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    When I was younger, a friend of my fathers always came deer hunting with us. He had the exact same rifle in 7x57... an absolute thing of beauty to a young man.. actually, a thing of beauty still to an older man today.

    When he started to slow down, I made him an offer on that rifle when his hunting days were done. He thanked me and stated that it would go to one of his two sons, which made perfect sense to me.

    Fast forward 40 years and I spoke to this man for the first time in 30 years, during the course of the conversation I asked him about the rifle. Well, the sons weren't interested, so he'd sold it... reminded him that I would have bought it.. said he'd totally forgotten, which is understandable.

    Still, there you are with one of the most beautiful rifles in the world that I had drooled over as a boy... I'm still drooling...

    Enjoy it!! Oh... and if you ever do decide to sell it... please send me a PM...
    COG # 1066

  9. #9
    Senior Veteran Combloc's Avatar
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    One of the things I enjoy most about this rifle is the hand checkering and the fact that it's still in such good shape is a testament to the value placed on this rifle by its former owner. I've seen checkering being applied in the past and it's a very laborious task; one that is only acquired with a generous helping of patience and experience.
    The forend:


    And the pistol grip:

    Very nice!


    The cheek rest shows nice detailing too. The way it is carved makes it look like a separate piece of walnut but it's not:

    This rifle, the Model 1956, is the first one to sport the "Monte Carlo" style stock. If you do research on this model, you may read that the raised portion of the stock makes the iron sights unusable. That is not true. They work just fine. I think some people find this stock offensive because it was a change from the traditional design so they want to talk smack about it. The fact is, by the time this rifle was built, most hunters were using an optic so Steyr adopted this design to accommodate the new reality. It worked because when you pull this up to your shoulder, the scope comes perfectly to your eye.


    Fortunately, the almost ubiquitous rubber butt pad was not installed and the original butt plate was retained:

    I would not have bought this rifle had that been done. Some don't like that Steyr used the white line between the plate and the wood but that was in vogue at the time so they gave the customer what they thought was wanted. Personally, I think it's goofy (remember, I'm not a hunting rifle guy) but that's how it was made so that's how I want it.


    More evidence of extended use is found on the tang behind the trigger guard:

    While the trigger guard retains almost all of its deep blue finish, the tang has been worn to bare steel. Good stuff!!


    I took the next two pictures to illustrate how perfectly the wood conforms to the profile of the steel:



    I did not take the action out of the stock nor do I plan to but as far as I can tell, the barrel is free floated. Regardless, there is essentially no gap between the steel and the wood. Where one stops, the other begins. Under close scrutiny, you will find imperfections and evidence of hand fitting but the overall impression is that the builder really, really cared about his craft. In my view, the abundant evidence of the human hand at work is what really makes this rifle come alive.


    The rear sight has two settings. 100 (I assume meters):


    And 300:

    Notice the fine stippling on the rear of the sight to reduce glare. The 300m sight cannot be flipped up with the scope mounted.


    On the left side of the receiver, the stock is relieved for a bulge in the action:

    Steyr did this in case the customer wished to use a side mount scope. If my research is correct, what you are looking at is a removeable steel plate. With the plate removed, the stock is now relieved so that you can drill and tap the action for a side mount scope mount. Stoeger sold several options or you could provide your own. As already illustrated, the original owner of this rifle opted for the factory installed quick disconnect option instead. Below is a page from the Stoeger catalog of that time illustrating the mount used on this rifle:



    When the Mannlicher Schoenauer was originally designed, it used a typical flag safety which was so common at the time. This safety worked well and was a fine design element as it both blocked the striker from falling and locked the action closed. However, it was useless with an optic because unless the scope was raised abnormally high, the safety would impact the rear bell housing on the scope, preventing the user from applying the safety. On rifles made prior to WWII this was not really an issue as the vast majority of hunters used the supplied iron sights. After WWII, the landscape changed and optic became the norm. Rather than completely redesign the bolt assembly, Steyr simply added a second safety in the form of a trigger block and they mounted it on the right rear of the receiver.
    Here, we see the scope removed and both safety applied:

    In practice, both would never be applied. In fact, with the addition of the trigger block safety, I assume that most people would consider the bolt mounted one as something of an appendix; something that exists but has no real use anymore. Whatever the case, notice that the flag safety has a red "S" on it. This lets the user know that the safety has been applied. Also notice that the receiver mounted safety has two red dots; one on the lever and one on the receiver. When both are lined up, the safety is disengaged.


    Here, we see that both safeties are disengaged:

    Keep in mind that this is NOT a Mauser action. On the Mauser, the safety flag has three positions. When pointing to the left, the safety is disengaged. When pointing to the right, it is engaged. When pointing straight up, the bolt can easily be disassembled. On the Mannlicher design, there is no pointing up for disassembly position. There is only left (fire) and right (safe). Without going into unnecessary detail, the picture below should clearly illustrate that the Mannlicher bolt design on this rifle is considerably different than the typical Mauser design:



    Going back to a previous picture, notice that the top of the bolt assembly is stippled to reduce glare. Steyr was doing everything possible to assist the hunter in putting meat on the table:





    We're nearing the end of this mini tutorial but I want to take a quick look at the front of the rifle because it's perhaps my most favorite part. It's an interesting combination of futuristic and traditional. It's sitting still but it also looks like it's going a million miles per hour. It's sleek and classy. It's just wonderful:

    Dig that nose cap. Dig that sight hood. Dig that bare steel crown. Dig that European Walnut extending all the way to the muzzle. Dig that Austrian perfection! There is just soooo much to love here and nothing to hate!!


    Another view showing the front sight form the rear:

    Note the checkering on the sight ramp to reduce glare and the bare steel site blade with rounded finale. Steyr.....classy to the last. I paid $1130 out the door for this rifle. I have absolutely no idea of the market value for this rifle but I consider that price a steal when I consider the modern cost of producing such a fine rifle. If you think I paid too much, let me ask you, what would a new rifle produced today cost with this level of craftsmanship and attention to detail? I guarantee you it would be considerably more than what I paid! That fact alone is enough to satisfy me with regards to this purchase,



    We'll finish up with the scope. It's a Weaver K4-F. As far as I can tell, this unit was made from 1960-69. While made in USA, the F model represents a slow decline in Quality from Weaver. Still, it's considered to be a first class unit for its day and cost around $37-40 when made. It must not be too badly constructed because it's still crystal clear after all these years and judging by its patina, I assume it's been on this rifle since it was new.
    The markings on the body:


    And the duplex reticle:

    It's a simple 4x design without all the modern and fancy range finding and bullet drop compensators. As Obi Wan would say....."A more elegant weapon......for a more.....civilized age". You set it to the range you expected your game to be at and used Kentucky windage from there. This is the world I understand. Today, this same scope sells for about $75. The world has moved on to much more intricate designs. We are much worse off for it and I weep when I bring it to mind.



    Okieodkie, that's all for now. I hope you have enjoyed this short trip down memory lane. Today, this rifle is a derelict and pointless design. But todays thinking is wrong. In my eyes, it represents something completely different. It represents a time before automated machinery......a time when craftsmen mattered and the human hand held sway over the future. To me, the Steyr Model 1956 represents Tradition, Quality and Craftsmanship. It represents a time now past yet necessary if we are to have a future worth living in. It represents Hope.


    As always, thank you Mom for providing me with the tools necessary for making sense of the life I'm living. Thank you for loving me and thank you for caring what I became as a man. Thank you for being you!! And to the reader, thank you for your time and attention. May God bless you and keep you from harm. May He guide you to the light at the end of this life and may He provide for all your future endeavors.
    Last edited by Combloc; 09-10-2020 at 08:03 AM.

  10. #10
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    Awesome! I really like that thing. Outstanding craftsmanship!

    I think you did fine on price as well.
    14EH AIT Instructor-PATRIOT Fire Control Enhanced Operator/Maintainer

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