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Classic Test: 1891 Argentine Carbine

Classic Test: 1891 Argentine Carbine

The first Mausers to offer the superb 7.65x53 smokeless were the Model 1889 Belgian rifles and full-stocked carbines.

1891's 7.65x53 Mauser was the first smokeless saddle gun to rule the Pampas.

The first Mausers to offer the superb 7.65x53 smokeless were the Model 1889 Belgian rifles and full-stocked carbines. Orders from the Ottoman Empire followed, and in 1891 the economic powerhouse of Argentina ordered this exotic flower. At the time, this South American agricultural juggernaut was the 12th largest economy on earth and had testy relations with neighbors Brazil and Chile.

With endless windswept plains and long vulnerable borders, Argentina was big on cavalry, resulting in a high percentage of carbines to rifles. For most of their service life, these rugged carbines bounced around well protected in leather cases, bagging the odd alpaca, border smuggler, or river pirate. They were not phased out when Argentina upgraded to the robust, charger-fed Modelo 1909--one of the best Gewehr 98 variants ever made--but continued in parallel service until the late 1940s and '50s.


Provenance
Wisconsin's Recon Ordnance (www.reconord.com) stumbled on a quantity of mixed 1891 rifles and carbines and is offering them for sale. Alas, without the guts for the bolts. A couple were floating around the Peoria office about the time my annual Marine Corps stipend arrived, and I was weakened by the innate coolness factor of the classic full stock with the funky ears on the nose cap. Out came the wallet.


Getting bolt parts required going to Numrich (www.gunpartscorps.com) and Poppert's (www.poppertsgunparts.com); the parts showed up in a week. When I took the rifle to the range, there was no screw securing the nose cap--which is now in the deep grass on Dick Metcalf's farm, somewhere between 30 and 50 yards forward of the firing line. Jerry Prasser at Recon Ordnance hooked me up with a replacement. During last August's writers' roundtable I left the Loewe-built carbine out on the line with a box of Hornady's best, and suddenly all the gun writers and industry techs lost interest in the high-end ARs being showcased.

Mechanicals
The first generation of smokeless Mauser, the 1891 has the signature twin-lug rotating bolt and striker firing system that we've come to know and love. The safety is the now-familiar three position on the striker assembly, but this action lacks two refinements that would make the later Model 98 into a world-class favorite.


Specifications
Model:Mauser 1891 Carbine
Type:Bolt-action repeater
Caliber:7.65x53
Magazine Capacity:5 rounds
Barrel:17 in.
Overall Length:37 in.
Weight, empty7.5 lbs.
Stock:Walnut
Length of Pull:13 in.
Finish:Oil
Sights:Ladder rear, post front
Safety:Three-position in cocking piece


Missing, or rather not yet developed, are the 98's giant claw extractor and the charger-fed, double-stack magazine. Less easily noticed is the absence of multiple gas vents and blocking designed to turn away brass shards and gas in the event of a case rupture--a common event in the early days of cartridge manufacture.

The five-round, single-stack magazine is removable, but only with a coin or screwdriver to unlock it. The lips are thin, spring steel, allowing single cartridges to be easily snapped into battery.

Due to the original load being a long, roundnose bullet, when loading modern spitzers, there is almost a quarter-inch of surplus at the front of the magazine well.

The action cocks on close, which I prefer, and is exceedingly smooth, with the tiny spring-loaded extractor snapping daintily over the rim upon full chambering. Oddly, the wooden handguard is actually wired to the barrel.

Everything else is conventional for a military rifle of the age, including superb fit and finish, just a hint of fiddleback in the stock, and typically horrible Mauser sights. These consist of a rear ladder graduated to an optimistic 1,300 meters and a delta-shaped front post. Zeroed to 300 meters, the front post and rear V-notch are slightly wider than the nose hair you just pulled and flicked away. My half-century-old eyes were no match.

The screw holding the nose cap on has very poor purchase and recoil inches it off.

Ballistics
All loading data for 7.65x53 is generated using either 24

-inch test barrels or 29.25-inch rifle barrels from 1909 rifles. The carbine's stubby 17-inch tube gave up several hundred feet of velocity, and the short sight radius produced some fat-girl-at-the-dance groups.

As this T&E was conducted while I was relocating to Kingman, Arizona, I enlisted the help of local Ted Hartman, who works at my favorite gun store, On Target Enterprise. Ted helped me reload and then test-fire on his personal range.

I bought a factory box of Hornady and several boxes of 1981 Argentine mil-surp as test-beds.

Ted and I team primed and built each cartridge using a single-stage RCBS press and charged with an RCBS ChargeMaster Combo. After some fussing with setup, this yielded absolutely perfect charges, with no overs or unders. The dies were provided by Brownells--always the first stop for tech assist--while cases were Serbian Prvi Partisan from Hornady and primers were Federal 210 Large Rifle.

Reloder 15, a medium rifle pusher, was the initial choice, but this excellent propellant turned out to be too slow for the carbine.

Ted dug out a can of IMR-3031, a popular choice for .30-30 carbines, and after consulting a half-dozen sources, we decided on 39.5 grains for an intermediate load.

This 1891 Argentine lacks the monster extractor and stripper feed of the later signature Mausers.

Some sources recommend .312 and some .311 projectiles. Robert Forker says, "The irregularities in the rifling are deeper than that." So I split the difference with 150-grain Hornady .312 InterLock softpoints as well as 174-grain Sierra .311 MatchKings.

Rangetime
Armed with a razor-sharp steel butt, it turns out that the 1891 is a double-edged weapon. As I write this, my right shoulder is mottled purple. Perhaps time should have been invested in digging out the Lead Sled, or at least a pad, from storage.

After popping a quantity of rounds through Ted's Chrony, we set up a large target array at 103 (Leupold verified) yards to ensure that something was "on paper."

I started with the factory Hornady. Hornady's Dave Emary told me, "Research told us that there were more 1891s in the U.S. than stronger 1909s, so our load is gentle."

Best accuracy was had with Hornady factory ammunition. The 150-grain softpoint performs about the same as the .300 Savage.

I then worked through the 150s into the 174s and finished with the mil-surp "no-corrosivo" ammo, which suffered some click-bangs.

For giggles we produced some plinking loads using 174s over 10 grains of Alliant Unique powder producing no recoil whatsoever: tin can paradise.

The carbine is a dream to handle, and firing offhand through the Chrony was painless. But bag-and-bench was punishing, and I must confess that groups got wider as my yelps got louder.

All rounds grouped about 12 inches above point of aim, not prairie dog capable but certainly minute of fleeing Paraguayan river pirate or Canis latrans. It's now officially my truck gun, in permanent residence in the back of my '94 Blazer.

Shooting The Argentine Mauser 1891
BulletPowder TypePowder Grs.Muzzle Velocity (fps)Extreme Spread (fps)Standard Deviation (fps)103-yard Accuracy (inches)
7.65x53mm
Hornady 150-gr. SPB IMR-3031 39.5 2337 109 26 6.75
Sierra 174-gr. MatchKing IMR-3031 39.5 2337 26 7 5.88
Hornady 150-gr. SPB Factory load Factory load 2666 53 18 4.75
Mil-Surp 174-gr. FMJ Factory load Factory load 2305 161 45 9.75
WARNING: The loads shown here are safe only in the guns for which they were developed. Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors, Inc. assumes any liability for accidents or injury resulting from the use or misuse of this data. NOTES:Accuracy is the average of five-shot groups fired from a sandbag benchrest. Elevation was 3,500 feet; temperature was 62 degrees F. The handloads used Prvi-Partisan brass and Federal 210 Large Rifle primers.

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