On Bolt Actions for “Battle”

Bloke on the Range, Mike, and InRange, Karl, sit down to talk about why the old Enfield, Mosin, 1903, or bolt guns of all shapes and origins are not optimal choices as general purpose rifles. Sometimes they may be the best of limited choices but that is an entirely different conversation.

Your first choice for a fighting, home defense, personal defense, and survival weapon should be among the best of available options. It’s the reason I use the SCAR, AR’s, and the like before platforms I may enjoy for a myriad other reasons. Bolt actions are obsolete as a general rifle.


They aren’t the only ones. Lever action rifles nearly equally poor choices, in some cases probably worse, in others better, depending on caliber when it comes to selecting a fighting rifle. That doesn’t change a thing about how much fun they are and it won’t make me sell my Marlin 336 .35 Remington or stop taking it deer hunting every now and again.

Specialization is accomplishing a very select task or series of tasks. A bolt action can be an exceptional and simple hunting platform, hunting isn’t fighting. A bolt action can be a very precise tool for long range to extreme range target engagement, that isn’t fighting either. Snipers? Sure but they work in teams and their backup guy has an M4 or something similar. If the mission looks like there’s going to be rounds going back and forth (something snipers don’t want, that’s for the teams with automatic weapons they are observing for and supporting) the sniper teams will likely bring semi-automatic precision platforms.

Specialization is the tool for the specific situation. Bringing the .338 for a known extreme distance observation and shot or a high likelihood of one based on terrain. But those guys are going to move around with a general fighting rifle, like an M4. It’s infinitely better for getting into that unknown parameters fight.

“Better than nothing.”

Yes, you are correct. A napkin is better than nothing for picking up dog crap if you didn’t bring bags. A sweatshirt is better than nothing for going outside in extreme cold and wind. Better than nothing is a really broad range of ‘at least I have a mild improvised advantage’, but you probably aren’t pulling a table in front of your door at night instead of turning the deadbolt.

Best “within limits”

If you are legally, financially, or otherwise physically limited to a given toolset then that is simply the way of it. We get that, we can appreciate that. If I were in an area where the AK platform, or another domestic system, or yes even an obsolete bolt action, was the standard of the region and in a total ‘it’s all turned to shit’ emergency that is what I grab, it’s the best within my limits.

We need to be sure we don’t falsely equate a best within limits system with extra powers that it just doesn’t have. Especially on a field where the force disparity could be huge and unpredictable.

Keith Finch
Keith is the Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. A Certified Instructor since 2009, he has taught concealed weapons courses in the West Michigan area in the years since and continues to pursue training and teaching opportunities as they arise.