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It's All In the Claw - Ganyana
A shot from a fellow hunter felled the already mortally wounded buff, but the young hunter was left gazing at his rifle and babbling to his co-hunter about the misfeed, (for there was no round in the breech) which had caused his acute adrenaline rush. The older hunter said nothing, but walked over to where the youngster was standing and picked up a live round from the dirt near his feet. With a patronising smile the old hunter commented "I saw the round fall out as you were reloading. You were watching the buff like you should have been, but your rifle has one of those new fangled actions. I told you to buy a Mauser". Standing further back I laughed at the expression on the young man's face as he stared at the round his mentor was proffering him.

Next let us consider the "modern action" as typified by the Remington 700 series, the Sako and the Weatherby. All of these are basically post-Second World War designs and although very different in their manufacturing technique, they all incorporate the same fundamental features. The bolt lift has been reduced so that a 'scope can be mounted very low over the action; action strength beefed up to handle the hottest cartridges on the market (and even the most enthusiastic reloaders overload) without stretching; lock time has been shortened so that the delay between pulling the trigger and the bullet leaving the barrel is at least 50% quicker than a Mauser and probably twice as fast as a Lee; and lastly, they all incorporate a push feed/plunger ejector system. In the same manner as the Lee Enfield, the cartridges are pushed from the magazine by the front of the bolt. As the bolt is closed, a small spring loaded extractor claw slips over the rim of the cartridge to facilitate subsequent extraction. The ejector is a spring loaded plunger set into the bolt face, rather than a fixed pin or arm as on earlier designs. The aim of this loading design is "strength and safety".

All the modern designs fully enclose and support the case head. If a cartridge is overloaded and "lets go" the case is fully supported and there will be minimal gas/debris leakage back towards the shooter or down into the magazine. Most modern cartridges are rimless or belted designs so the movement of the extractor to slip over the rim is considerably less than that needed by a Lee extractor to get over the big flange on a .303. Consequently the strain on the extractor spring is considerably less, and I have never heard of a Remington or Sako extractor spring breaking. (To be fair to the Lee Enfield though, none of the Remingtons, etc. are 80 to 100 years old, and spring making technology has improved remarkably since 1914). The disadvantage of the system is that a cartridge is simply pushed out of the magazine by the bolt face, and not gripped by the extractor until the cartridge is actually in the chamber. This means that it is all too possible for the round being chambered to fall out if the rifle is being moved violently during the reload or is held at some funny angle.

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One nice feature though, is the spring loaded plunger type ejector. With this system the empty cartridge is always positively ejected. With the older type fixed post ejectors, such as are found on the Leeís and Mausers, if the bolt isnít brought back far enough, sharply enough, then the case may not be cleanly thrown clear of the action and a jam may result. Personally, Iíve never had the need to reload quietly or with slow gentle movements, but many people like to be able to do so, particularly if they carry one bullet style in the chamber and another first in the magazine so as to cater for different game that may be encountered (eg a soft on top for lion, and solids in the magazine for elephant or follow up shots on buff). In summary then, all of the "modern" actions are designed to provide maximum safety to the user, even if he insists on reloading them at maximum loads too often, and does so in an accurate system that is easy to bed, economical to manufacture and generally are supplied with well thought out, ergonomically designed safety catches.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.6 December 1999
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