I’ve owned expensive rifles from top-end gun makers like Rigby, Jeffrey, and Griffin and Howe, but rifles don’t necessarily have to feature superb walnut, skilled engraving, or lots of hand work to be functional and pleasing.
I recently bought a little sporterized Model 1898 .30-40 Krag carbine for about as little money as you can spend these days and obtain a rifle that shoots.
What prompted this particular purchase was a lot of Krag carbine shopping on on-line Gun Auction sites in order to replace an old NRA Krag carbine my father acquired decades and decades ago. That old Krag must have a shot-out barrel because it produces 2-foot groups at 25 yards.
I have tried cleaning it and then shooting it again several times, but its accuracy didn’t improve. I have often thought of getting rid of it, but its action is so smooth, its carbine length is so handy, and the whole ensemble has a historic charm so potent that whenever I handle it, I can’t bring myself to part with it.
I thought of getting it sleeved or rebarreling it, but it seemed obvious that I could go and buy replacement Krags all day and spend less money. So I decided to buy another Krag carbine.
This one is sporterized, i.e. someone removed the upper handguard and the military ladder sight, then added a Redfield 102 aperture receiver sight which required no drilling. The Redfield just inserts into the hole used by the magazine cut-off and then locks into position with a set screw.
It’s probably my specific age that causes me to find guns from the period of the early 20th century, a few decades before I was around, terribly romantic and evocative. These old Krags were very popular out West. Krags shot best with round nosed 220 grain bullets and made good rifles for elk and bear.
The Krag gets a bad rap in the literature. The conventional wisdom is that the Spaniards’ 7×57 Mauser was the better rifle. And people generally find the Krag’s box magazine, sticking out on the right side, unprepossessing. Myself, I seem to have a weakness for the Krag action. Sure, Mausers and Springfields are better, but the Krag is slicker. That action may be weaker, but the fewer the bolt lugs, the smoother it works. And the action is certainly strong enough for the cartridge it was built for.
As to the box magazine, I absolutely love the crisp, military sound it makes when you snap it open or slam it shut. It is not the most intuitively obvious or logical magazine design, I will admit, but I suggest looking on it as a luxury item. Can you even begin to imagine what it would cost to get that magazine manufactured today, all that milling, all the hand-fitting?
I watched this amusing video yesterday. You know, there is a certain distinctive PING! associated with working the action of the Krag.