Are Bolt Actions Inadequate?

This is a discussion on Are Bolt Actions Inadequate? within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; A lot of defensive, hunting and SHTF rifles are semi autos. A few bolts actions and some lever actions, too, and every once in a ...

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Thread: Are Bolt Actions Inadequate?

  1. #1
    Distinguished Member Array randytulsa2's Avatar
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    Are Bolt Actions Inadequate?

    A lot of defensive, hunting and SHTF rifles are semi autos. A few bolts actions and some lever actions, too, and every once in a while a pump.

    Has anyone out there ever experienced a situation with a bolt action rifle where it was inadequate re: engaging multiple targets/follow-up shots?

    I'm just curious, due to the prevalence of AK, AR and SKS rifles out there. I've never been in a combat situation, but I have hunted a lot of deer (including being legally permitted to shoot more than one at a time), and I have NEVER had a problem getting a quick second (or third, or fourth) shot when needed.

    About the only real advantage I can find is that you don't need to reload as often.


    I understand modern infantry combat doctrine is different- there is some value in being able to throw a lot of lead toward the BG's, even if you don't hit them, it'll make'em keep their heads down.

    I also understand that some of us just LIKE the other weapons, and that's more than cool by me- - to each his own.

    Anyway, if your story isn't like 30-pages long, I'd like to hear the details of any actual firepower inadequacies you've encountered vis-a-vis a bolt-action rifle that should have been non-issues with a semi.

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  3. #2
    Member Array bones's Avatar
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    I figure the answer to this question in two directions. I have two
    7.62X51 NATO (.308) rifles. A Springfield M1A Scout Squad Semi-Automatic and an Ishapore Indian Enfield 2A1 Bolt Action.
    My primary of the M1A is extremely fast to shoot, accurate at long range during this fast to shoot, holds 20 rounds, loads fast by magazine and will load directly by stripper clip as emergency.
    My backup of the Ishapore is fast to shoot, not as accurate during this fast to shoot, holds 12 rounds, loads slower by stripper clip.
    "There is no such thing as too much ammo. Unless you're swimming!"

  4. #3
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    Almost everything is down to time - time between shots and time needed for reloads. Thing is - are we needing suppressive fire? Chances are most often we are not.

    The Enfield bolt action is well known for its slick fast operation - and i like that, so, ten rounds available to deliver quite fast.

    The Mauser bolt OTOH is for me sloppy and sluggish by comparison. For fast bolt shooting give me the Enfield over Mossin or Mauser.

    Then there is the distance aspect. The average carbine like AK, SKS etc is pretty much for IMO 100-200 ranges. The FAL, CETME etc will get us easily out to 400-500, but ............. most bolts will efficiently make a platform for the longest reach - 600-1000, depending on cal and model.

    Never do down bolt actions - thay have their place but as ever there will be that choice of ''best tool for job'' and bolts definitely still have their own spot.
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    Member Array joker581's Avatar
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    Not too many people outside of combat have occaision to use a rifle for defense so you may not get too many personal accounts.

    It is worth noting though that Army and Marine Corps snipers, arguably the best in the world with a bolt rifle, are issued M-16s for defensive use. M-24s even have back up iron sights, which would allow use when the scope was damaged. This alone would allow the rifle to be used defensively if it was up to the task.
    Last edited by joker581; December 3rd, 2006 at 11:12 AM. Reason: rephrase for clarity

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    There is nothing like a bolt action if you want to "reach out and touch someone". However, if you have that human wave attack coming at you................
    Rick

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    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randytulsa2 View Post
    Has anyone out there ever experienced a situation with a bolt action rifle where it was inadequate re: engaging multiple targets/follow-up shots?
    Certainly, a bolt-action has its place. Mostly, that job is against slower-moving, single targets (ie, game animals), though it could certainly be used for longer-range targeting of faster-moving, multiple targets. Trouble is, the amount of lead put out there is significantly below that of semi- or full-auto machine pistols or rifles.

    Haven't experienced one myself, but the situation of defending a home, property or business against multiple attackers would be just this sort of problem. IMO, a bolt action is designed for sniping or one-off hunting of game, despite the ability to put a few follow-on shots out there. However, a bolt action simply cannot toss enough lead to matter against a fast-moving, multi-person attack. That's a huge disadvantage. There's a reason that urban warfare situations handled by LEO's, SWAT or SEALs are engaged using HK MP5, AR/AK and similar format equipment.

    Non-field setting (ie, urban), multiple attackers, particularly if fast moving? I'd much prefer a non-bolt solution with 750rpm+, any day of the week.
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  8. #7
    Distinguished Member Array AKsrule's Avatar
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    Everyone should own at least 1 mil-surp bolt rifle in .30 something ,
    and several hundred rounds of inexpensive surplus ammo
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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    This kind of begs the question, inadequate for what? There are situations in which a bolt gun is superior, and situations in which a semi-auto is superior, so really it depends what situations you're envisioning using this in.

    I'm generalizing quite a bit here, but bolt action rifles are usually more accurate, cheaper, lighter, and less likely to break than their semi-auto counterparts. SA rifles have faster repeat shots, greater magazine capacity, and are quicker to reload after a mag is emptied. I'll stick with bolt action and semi-auto guns in the same caliber for this comparison, if we get into comparing .308 bolt guns with .223 SAs then a lot of the differences would be due to the ammo, rather than the action.

    For defense against intruders in your home, quick follow-up shots and a big magazine are potentially big advantages. Indoors, extreme accuracy doesn't come into play, and light weight doesn't matter very much. The bolt-action's only real advantage in this situation is that it's likely to be less costly. I'm generally willing to splurge a bit on defensive equipment, so the semi-auto rifle seems the obvious choice for this role but your views may differ.

    For a major disaster SHTF situation (something like Katrina), priorities are a bit different. Depending on your situation, ranges may be a bit longer, but probably not far enough for a bolt-action's potentially greater accuracy to matter. Law and order may be out the window for a moment, but after they've been reasserted you still need to be able to make a valid case for self defense. Kind of hard if you shot someone from 300 yards. In a situation like this, I'd really want to have my rifle on hand all the time, so weight becomes a much more important factor. Being less likely to break is another advantage of bolt-guns in this situation. Based on Katrina, some people were on their own for weeks, and not really in a position to take their rifle to a gunsmith. Just how big an advantage this is depends on whether or not you can afford a spare rifle and how good your own gunsmithing skills and spare parts supplies are. Semi-automatic rifles retain their advantages of quick repeat shots, big mags, and easy reloads. I think the SA rifle still has the advantage, but the scales are much more closely balanced in this scenario.

    Finally, an end of the world as we know it SHTF situation (nuclear war, plague, etc.). Here ranges may get long enough for a bolt action's superior accuracy to matter, especially if the gun is being used to acquire food, as well as defense. Reliability is also much more important, and one backup or a few parts may not be enough to keep a SA rifle in action over the long term. Light weight remains important, since a rifle should probably be a constant companion in this situation. Fast shooting and lots of ammo are still advantages, but they don't matter if the rifle doesn't work or isn't being carried when it's needed. Here, the bolt-action has some real advantages over semi-auto.

    So, is a bolt action inadequate? It depends what you're preparing for. The best solution may be to go ahead and get both. After all, you know you want another gun.

  10. #9
    Distinguished Member Array SixBravo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKsrule View Post
    Everyone should own at least 1 mil-surp bolt rifle in .30 something ,
    and several hundred rounds of inexpensive surplus ammo
    Ne'er a truer statement. Just my .02cal, but I'm on a mission to find myself a nice Yugo K98. Good condition stock, and parts that look as close to new as possible. Only problem - these can go for as much as an old M1 Garand.
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  11. #10
    Member Array Hekkenschutze's Avatar
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    I figure a bolt action is good for longer distances but up close and personal you'd want something more to the automatic tune. Nothing wrong with carrying a fine bolt action rifle and a same caliber carbine rifle geared towards faster and up close shooting.
    BUT choosing ONE SHTF rifle you'd definatly want something with more firepower than a bolt action. No combat experience? That is ok, look at history instead --> Germans had the Mauser, Americans had the M1 Garand and the BAR! The only bolt action American G.Is had in WW2 was the 1903 Springfield and it was designated for longer shots!
    Take care and keep up the good hunting! :D

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    VIP Member Array Redneck Repairs's Avatar
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    I live out on the plains of colorado and for me shtf rifle is more bring home the meat than repell boarders , that being said i have about 8 or 10 of them rangeing from ruger 10-22s thro pre 64 mod winchesters . the fal , ars , sks's , and ak's fall somewhere in the middle . Why limit your choices , pick up a couple of cheap identical ones so if one goes down likely you can use it for parts ,select where to start from the most likely need of a rifle , not the most rambo , then start building from there . I really cannot forsee any shtf to hit my area , but i do have some ammo , and storeable food , batterys , tp , ect laid in in case of a couple of months of spotty supply .
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    VIP Member Array Blackeagle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HotGuns View Post
    It really a matter of having the right tool for the job. In one case, the semi auto Remington 7400 did the job, in the other case the Remington 700 bolt did it. Both guns adequate for their intended purposes.
    Seems like the differences in your stories at least as much to do with how the rifles were (or weren't) scoped than the actions. Sure the 700 might not have been able to make the quick followup shots in the first story, and the 7400 may not have had the long range accuracy needed in the second instance. However, in both cases, the rifle's sighting system prevented the action from ever being an issue.

    They're definitely good examples of why you need to tailor your optics (or lack thereof) to the expected shooting situation.

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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackeagle View Post
    They're definitely good examples of why you need to tailor your optics (or lack thereof) to the expected shooting situation.
    I keep a 1.5-6x26 Burris EDot on my bolt, for that reason. Spitzer knockdown with red-dot speed, in the yard; "refined targetting" out to 300+, on a good day. A 10 round DBM doesn't hurt, either.

  15. #14
    Distinguished Member Array randytulsa2's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the responses.

    This one is right on the money!

    "So, is a bolt action inadequate? It depends what you're preparing for. The best solution may be to go ahead and get both. After all, you know you want another gun. "

    I guess I'll be getting that SKS paratrooper (if it's still at the local gun shop) or a Romak (to help make a dent in those 12,000 rounds of 7.62 X 54 ammo I've got).

    Thanks again, folks!

  16. #15
    Senior Member Array gregarat's Avatar
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    I also vote for the bolt & auto combo.

    I have a Kel tec Sub 2000, w/h 2 31rd mags in a "Bug out bag" with my spoting scope, rangefinder. To go along with my bolt action.

    Everyone should own at least 1 mil-surp bolt rifle in .30 something ,
    and several hundred rounds of inexpensive surplus ammo
    Darn, I dont have a .30 bolt action. My main bolt is .264.

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