Q: I recently purchased a sporterised Carl Gustav M96 Mauser in 6.5x55mm for $200. It has a good bore and came with mounts to which I fitted a Bushnell Trophy scope. I intend using it for back-up rifle in case my .270 CMC Mountaineer breaks down while I am away hunting. I bought some Amercian ammunition and also some Sellier & Bellot, which I believe is made somewhere in Europe. The rifle shoots OK with the US-made ammo, but better with the Sellier & Bellot stuff with most groups around one MoA. But what worries me is bolt lift and extraction is a bit stiffer compared with the American ammo. Do you think this ammo is safe to use in the 1925 Model 96, or is it intended for modern rifles only? Also, I’d like to reload some 100 or 120gn bullets. Can you suggest some loads that may get close to 3000fps to gain a flatter trajectory? Or, maybe the old Mauser won’t stabilise light projectiles?
A: American-made ammo for the 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser is loaded to fairly low pressure and muzzle velocity, whereas the European stuff is loaded to give slightly better ballistics. For example, Winchester lists a 140gn bullet at 2550fps whereas Sellier & Bellot loads a 140gn bullet to 2670fps, but it should be safe to use in the M96 Mauser. If the bolt handle is only slightly stiffer to lift with S&B ammo, I wouldn’t worry about it as long as the primers aren’t excessively flat and cratered. Those old Mausers have a very fast 1:7-1/2inch twist, which actually over-stabilises light 100gn bullets. But in my experience spinning ’em faster never ruined accuracy. My own favourite load for the M96 with the 100gn Hornady is 42gn of AR2208 for 2950fps in a 610mm barrel. That works just fine in goats and pigs, but for deer I prefer the Barnes 120gn TSX and 45gn of AR2209 for 2785fps. Those loads shoot well in my gun, but work up from two grains below in your rifle. Just a thought: the cartridge length of that S&B 140gn loading is 75.3mm. Why not seat the bullets a tad deeper – say to 74mm – and see if the bolt handle is any easier to lift?