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This re-stocked bolt-action rifle melds old-world class with modern-day design. Bruce Potts is impressed.

Mannlicher-Schoenauer bolt action


Manufacturer: Mannlicher Schoenauer

Price as reviewed: £550

This rifle is one of those items in which classic charm marries with modern-day custom design. The Mannlicher-Schoenauer bolt action is indicative of a bygone era when German Imperial gunsmithing skills were afforded mythical status due to unrivalled levels of quality and demand. It is such that many a custom rifle maker seeks out such actions for inclusion into a prime old-world custom classic.

This is what we have here. A 1903 Mannlicher-Schoenauer re-stocked into my favourite custom thumbhole maker, Harry Lawson. It’s a blend of old-school quality with contemporary design for a superbly accurate hunting rifle with modern looks and handling that is unsurpassed in the industry.

This Männlicher-Schönauer shoots sublimely

This 1903 is almost unrecognisable – but better for it in my view. The action has been re-barrelled to a more acceptable calibre from the 6.5×54 Remington to the modern-day .308 Winchester.

The barrel is short too. Threaded for a ½in UNF sound moderator and shortened to 18in but on a .308 Win, this Mannlicher-Schoenauer shoots sublimely. The action is the best part. It has an excellent lock-up or precise bolt-to-action bolt lug mating. That’s why so many good gunsmiths seek out these rifles for high-end projects.

Yes, it has a slow lock time – that is, the time between trigger release and firing pin striking the primer in the case. But the perfect concentric design of cartridge to bore diameter almost negates the negative slow lock time from this 100-year-old action.

A set of Redfield mounts are fitted that need an amount of modification to allow a good elevation and lateral sighting in profile. But due to the forward and high bolt handle, manipulation is a very good option for a scope mount.

Männlicher Schönauer rifle

1. Barrel. Originally chambered in the 6.5 x 54R Mannlicher round, this classic custom has been re-barrelled with a chrome-moly blued 18in.308 Win barrel.
2. Sights. These Redfield scope mounts work well with the split-top receiver.
3. Action. Superb quality bolt-action design that, though a tad antiquated, still makes a classic stalking rifle.
4. Stock. Originals had typical Bavarian cheekpiece walnut stocks; here we have a Harry Lawson Cochise custom.

Swift bolt operation

The trigger is a double-stage or military specification unit. But actually after the first vague pull, you will have a very precise second let-off that certainly contributes to the accuracy. The best part of any Mannlicher-Schoenauer action is the unique magazine loading and quick-release cartridge system. On the right of the loading port is a small, serrated magazine release lever that, when depressed, pops out the first loaded round from the magazine. This is a great simple safety feature that allows a shooter to ping out rounds from the magazine. Mannlicher also has a very typical bolt design to this marque of rifle, which makes it instantly recognisable. The bolt handle is sited farther along the bolt body, placing it in front of the rear action bridge. It allows swift bolt operation and keeps the hand away from the face when the bolt is fully withdrawn.

Now the stock. Harry Lawson was a stock maker ahead of his time from Tucson, Arizona, and is my all-time favourite custom stock designer. Long retired, he has still infl uenced the modern interpretation of a really good thumbhole stock design. Many modern synthetic stock designers have copied Harry’s ethos but few have achieved a stock as well designed and shootable as his original Cochise stock. This one has all the attributes of Harry’s original design; beauty blended with functionality.

This Cochise design has a short fore-end design that is perfect for a short-barrelled rifle and it has a grade 4 walnut stock made from American black walnut and tipped with rosewood. As with all Cochise designs – and this is where Lawson excels – is the offset pistol-grip configuration. It has to be held to be appreciated.

From a purely practical hunting view, the Lawson design is hard to beat. Its quick target acquisition and steady hold contribute to excellent accuracy. It is the perfect blend between a classic Mannlicher and the newer breed of collectable modern stock designers, making a very nice stalking rifle.



This Mannlicher-Schoenauer shoots sublimely