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Product review: Boyds Prairie Hunter gun stock for Swedish Mauser

Sometimes you find a winning combination. Something that just works for you. This has been my experience with the Prairie Hunter rifle stock from Boyds, combined with my 1943 Husqvarna Mauser – a dream come true. What makes this such an epic combination? There are several factors that combine to make this gun incredibly shootable, but for now, let’s look at the fancy piece of wood it’s sitting in.

The looks

The old Mauser looks perfectly at home on the range in its Prairie Hunter stock.
The old Mauser looks perfectly at home on the range in its Prairie Hunter stock.

The Prairie Hunter is a good looking stock, no doubt about it. The first time this rifle was on the range in its new configuration, an old time shooter said “such a pretty stock for such an old rifle!” And he wasn’t the only one. Laminates are known for being hardy, heavy and beautiful in an age of synthetic rifle stocks.

In the looks department, this stock was certainly helped along. Boyds provided this specimen with a nice, thick Limbsaver recoil pad and synthetic caps for the nose and grip. What adds to both the functionality and visual appeal of the rifle, is an adjustable cheek piece. The adjustments are made from the top, with an allen wrench, which means no adjustment knobs on the side of the rifle.

Full profile picture of the Boyds Prairie Hunter stock with adjustable cheek rest. This picture is here especially for Zach.
Full profile picture of the Boyds Prairie Hunter stock with adjustable cheek rest. This picture is here especially for Zach.

Final fitting needed

Boyds does advise that their stocks are made to their house actions (imagine how many actions they have!), so final fitting may be needed for your rifle. For this particular project, I received my stock in ‘unfinished’ condition. This means a final sanding and some polyurethane are needed. The reason for this, is that old Mausers come with several different bolt configurations, depending on the life they’ve had. This means that the channel that the bolt handle fits into should be determined by the end user, depending on their particular model. With a bit of work to do, Boyds doesn’t send you a finished stock, that you will then have to cut into and sand down anyway. Makes sense.

Some relieving of matriral was needed at the front of the mag well.
Some relieving of material was needed at the front of the mag well.

The bolt handle notching was easily done, and is covered in my series of articles on bedding and finishing stocks. With this particular stock, I found that the floor metal was a couple millimetres further back than I needed it to be. All I needed to do was to relieve some material from the front end of the mag well to get the metal sitting where it should, and mating up to the action.

I chose to bed my action, which was a bit more work still, and instead of polyurethane, I opted for a hand-rubbed finish, using Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil and Stock Sheen and Conditioner. The oil even gave a nice gloss to the plastic bits on the stock as well. Learn my lesson without doing the hard yards though, tape off the recoil pad if it’s rubbery. The oil will make this super sticky, and you will get all sorts of fluff on your butt pad for a while. You will eventually be able to rub it all off.

The Tru-Oil immediately brings out the character in the laminate.
The Tru-Oil immediately brings out the character in the laminate.


Oh what a joy. I couldn’t be happier.

And that’s not sarcasm!

The 6.5×55 is not known to have heavy recoil, but if you have a shortened barrel and sporterised stock, you feel every bit of it. Having purchased this rifle second-hand with the intention of restoring it, I was happy enough with the home-made sporter stock, but it was certainly made for a shorter person, and the lightweight nature of it didn’t do much to tame the kick of the old service round.

The extra weight associated with the laminate stock meant all sorts of recoil-reduction. I would definitely recommend going for this or a walnut stock over most of the synthetic options out there. The normal-person-sized length of pull also helped, along with the 1″ recoil pad. Don’t get me wrong, the stock isn’t overly heavy either. With a hollowed out barrel channel for free-floating and weight reduction, the balance and weight is nice. Most of the heft is around and behind the action – where you need it most.

Tall scope mounts are no problem with the adjustable cheek rest.
Tall scope mounts are no problem with the adjustable cheek rest.

Combining this with my MAE 6-30 ST suppressor, recoil concerns are now a thing of the past. So much so, that I can shoot off the bipod with my off-hand under the grip as a stabiliser, instead of holding down the fore end to stop myself getting a scope in the face, as I had to do with the synthetic-stocked Mossberg ATR a month or so ago.

Shooting with this configuration and my wife’s Vortex 4-12X Diamondback with BDC reticle, my wife and I were hitting 9’s and 10’s at the 300 metre Swiss Club shoot a couple weeks ago – even a 10.1! And this is with factory loads (Norma-Sierra 144gr).

Adjustable cheek rest

One of the major selling points of the configuration I now have is the adjustable cheek piece on the Boyds stock, and I would highly recommend this option on the next stock you buy. Below are a few of the reasons I love this feature:

  • easily adjust for different users and eye-relief
  • raise your line-of-sight for scopes that are mounted high due to large optic bells, iron sights or bolt handle clearance
  • quickly lower the cheek piece when needed for cleaning rod access
  • ensure proper cheek-weld to maintain repeatable, accurate shot placement

Overall impressions

There is a lot to be said for keeping old military rifles in their original condition. However, if you’ve bought yourself a bit of a project, or inherited a less-than-perfect specimen, a great place to start with your customisation efforts is a replacement stock from Boyds.

You can get a stock that is more suited to varminting, target-shooting or tactical-style precision matches than the military wood. These old stocks were made to be shot with full winter clothing, and to be light as well. As such, they transfer a lot of recoil to a normal-size shooter. You can also help your sweet Swede look as good as it shoots. With a nice-looking stock, like the one I have in a Nutmeg finish, you won’t feel out of place next to the Howas and Tikkas on the range.

The Boyds stock completes the set up, along with an MAE suppressor and BOLD Trigger unit.
The Boyds stock completes the set up, along with an MAE suppressor and BOLD Trigger unit.

Bear in mind, when you order a stock from Boyds and you are not in the States, you have to keep your order under $100 to avoid costly permits which make the process impossible. If you or someone you know is making a trip to the USA, take advantage. Or get friends and family over there to help you out. Worst case scenario, you can still get an amazing stock, but you may have to forego some of the bells and whistles.

Mossberg 100 ATR 7mm-08 Review

The Mossberg 100 ATR gets its initials from the phrase ‘All Terrain Rifle’. To be honest, if that’s what you’re after, this fits the bill. An inexpensive rifle that is rough and ready, but with a couple features that do stand out, the ATR is not a glamorous 1000-yard shooter, but a simple hunting tool.

Affordability is…

I do a fair bit of reading and research when it comes to shooting, and I remember one thought that really stood out when reading on barrel metallurgy. While steel prices have increased noticeably over the last decade, rifle prices have remained relatively static. So, if the cost of raw material is increasing, how are prices not rising accordingly?

This can be partly answered with advances in manufacturing techniques and the use of polymers and synthetics in place of wood and other expensive materials. However, it can’t be ignored that even some of the most expensive rifles show a bit more roughness around the edges compared to their 80’s or 90’s ancestors.

Opening up the Mossberg box for the first time was a mixture of anticipation and nerves - how good would this rifle be?
Opening up the Mossberg box for the first time was a mixture of anticipation and nerves – how good would this rifle be?

Mass production has resulted in cheaper rifles, while some advances in tooling, assembly and technique have resulted in relatively consistent levels of accuracy.

The Mossberg ATR is the ultimate expression of these cost-saving measures. It has the features you want, and some extras that you’ll enjoy – but it does feel cheap.

On the plus side

Undeniably, the most positive thing about this rifle is its price point. It’s affordable enough for the beginner hunter to make their way into the sport, and even cheap enough for the seasoned shooter to justify buying one just to try a different calibre out.

The ATR has been around for a fair few years, and has been supplanted in the States by the Patriot series of rifles – which seems to be a step up from the old ATR. However, with quite a bit of stock floating around New Zealand, there are still plenty of brand new rifles and packages floating around. You can expect to get a rifle for around $600 – $700, and packages including mounting system, rings, a scope and possibly a couple extras for between $700 and $900. A few good examples are here, here and here.

Features abound

The half cock and side safety are features which will excite some.
The half cock and side safety are features which will excite some.

Working in its favour, the Mossberg has a few features that you would expect to see on a more expensive firearm. Some that immediately spring to mind are the easily adjustable trigger, half cock on the bolt, side safety, a slick feeding action and fluting on the barrel.

  • LBA – Lightning Bolt Action – trigger system. The trigger on the ATR is fully adjustable, down to a mere 2 pounds. I found the 3 pound trigger pull from the factory to be light enough, especially for a hunting rifle, and even let one round off a bit too soon, as I expected more resistance from such a stock-standard rifle. Similar in appearance to the Savage Accutrigger, the LBA has a a thin piece of steel that nestles into the centre of the trigger. It’s pretty light and wiggly, but behind that is a rock solid single-stage trigger. The effect is similar to a two-stage trigger as the blade locks up the sear until fully depressed.
  • The half cock feature is something that a lot of hunters like. it allows you to be chambered and ready to go, with a simple push down on the bolt when you sight your prey. I personally prefer a bolt closed on an empty chamber, but the half cock is undeniably popular. The side-safety is easily reachable and operable, without shifting from your shooting position. You can easily manipulate it with the thumb of your shooting hand, but again, this isn’t something that is make-or-break for me.
  • The action is smooth as butter. In fact, probably one of the smoothest bolt actions in my safe. With two locking lugs and only a negligible bit of wobble when it travels, the bolt is well balanced. It’s a push-feed (as are most modern rifles), and picks up its rounds easily enough. I would buy this rifle all over again simply because it is so easy to work and feed.
  • The fluting on the barrel is a nice touch, and makes the rifle appear a bit more classy than its price tag would indicate. Aside from that, I can’t see much use for it. The weight saving couldn’t be too much, given it’s only have the barrel. And to be honest, this rifle could use a tiny bit more weight to absorb some recoil. However, it does make you feel less cheap when you’re at the range sighting in next to a Howa or a Remmy 700.
  • Already equipped with Weaver-style bases, the rifle is ready to mount your favourite scope too. It seems the bases are loctited too, as after over 50 rounds, these didn’t work loose. It’s also worth pointing out that the drop on the stock is pretty near perfect, lining you up nicely with a low-mounted scope.

It’s not all candy floss and daisies

It would be great to say we’ve found the cheapest, bestest rifle in the world. But you know how it goes. Cheap, accurate, reliable – choose two.

There are some aspects to the rifle that don’t float my boat, but at the incredibly low price, these are things I can generally handle. This rifle will end up being a good short-range (100 – 300 yards) shooter, for taking out goats, pigs or deer that present themselves nicely. It won’t be my go-to rifle, nor will it be my trusty long-range shooter.

Here are some of the detractors, which limit the rifle’s appeal in my opinion. Some of these are down to cheaper manufacturing, and can be expected.

  • It’s noisy. The ATR has a flimsy plastic stock that is hollow. If you knock the butt of the rifle, it lets out a hollow clunk. When you close the bolt you can hear it riding over the plastic follower and the bolt handle lets out another hollow-sounding tone when closed against the side of the stock.
  • The floor metal is… plastic. If you go for the walnut stock, you’ll get proper floor metal. However, the synthetic version comes with plastic moulded sling mounts, trigger guard and blind-magazine floor plate, I say floor plate, but it is completely sealed and inaccessible from the bottom of the rifle. This will all limit your ability to swap out the stock at a later date (without buying floor metal), and may interfere with some mounted accessories, such as bipods.
  • The recoil is dramatic. The 7mm-08 is not known to be a heavy recoiling round, however, with no mass to absorb the backward motion of the action, most of that recoil is going straight into your shoulder. Even with the inch-thick recoil pad equipped, there was noticeable kick. I did have a light grip on the fore of the rifle on the first shot I took, and after copping a scope to the face, I quickly tightened up my grip to arrest the rearward motion of the firearm. The walnut stocked version will probably deal with this recoil more appropriately.
  • The look of it. To be honest, it’s not that bad, and as mentioned above, the fluted barrel helps in the looks department. However, the obnoxious Mossberg branding on the bolt looks like lipstick on a pig. Without it, it would look like a good, basic rifle. Rather than a tarted-up cheapy.
The Mossberg's floor metal - or lack thereof.
The Mossberg’s floor metal – or lack thereof.

Accuracy and the deal-breaker

I decided to test this basic hunting rifle with basic hunting loads. A week ago I took a drive down to Waiuku Pistol Club and spent some time on the 100 yard range testing out the following cartridges:

  • Winchester 140 gr Super-X Power Point
  • Remington 140 gr Express Core-Lokt
  • Highland AX 140 gr SPBT
  • Hornady 139 gr American Whitetail

I have read a few other reviews on this rifle, and note that one reviewer achieved sub-minute groups with some expensive ammo, while another was happy enough with his 2+ MOA groups.

A good sampling of 7mm-08 hunting ammo was used for breaking in and sighting in.
A good sampling of 7mm-08 hunting ammo was used for breaking in and sighting in.

This is the realm my rifle was printing in. The average group size across all four brands (3-shot groups) was 2.53 MOA. Surprisingly, the budget brand Highland AX achieved the best groups, just over 2 MOA, while Winchester (favoured by many 7mm-08 shooters) achieved just under 3 MOA.

At the end of the day, a 2 or 3 MOA rifle at this price is about what you would expect, and is still delivering consistent kill shots out to 300 yards (if you’re using a load closer to the 2 MOA range).

And I could forgive many aspects of this rifle’s construction if it ended there. The very tilty magazine follower, the hollow stock, the spartan looks and short length-of-pull.

All of this could be forgiven, if the barrel fouled a little during break in.

Barrel with no fouling

I know breaking in a rifle barrel is an oft-debated topic, but here it is, I do practice barrel break-in, especially for cheaper rifles, which stand to gain the most from a bit of polishing in the bore to relieve some rough machining. The process I use has nothing to do with achieving X amount of shots, cleaning in between each Y amount of shots. Rather, I take a similar approach to what Nathan Foster describes here. Visually inspecting for copper fouling, and masking sure you are getting a nice, slow build up, which will help maintain accuracy over a decent amount of shots, before fouling becomes excessive.

Two things that can indicate poor barrel manufacturing are excessive fouling after each shot, or no fouling at all. The latter is what I experienced with the ATR. After putting through 51 rounds, not a single trace of copper was seen. Plenty of powder residue, but no hint of the lands hugging the bullet enough to produce some slight copper swaging.

What does this mean? The bore is slightly over-sized. So slight, almost imperceptible. But it makes a massive difference. This barrel will never achieve a sweet spot after a few fouling rounds. The first clean shot will always be the best, and it will only go downhill from there until it is cleaned. Not only this, but the wear on the lands will mean that it has a greatly reduced barrel life, maybe 5 – 20% of what you would expect from your average barrel.

I’m certainly not saying that every ATR is like this. I am saying that this one is. While yours may be great, mine is a shocker. It will be good enough for casual goat hunts, where you might be using between 2 and 10 rounds in a trip. It will probably be good enough for at least a dozen or so trips like this. However, after this, the gun will rapidly start to lose accuracy and usefulness. Not having an action worth re-barrelling, in a few years, this particular rifle will not be worth much at all. However, given the price I paid for it, I feel like I will have achieved sufficient use out of this firearm in that time to justify the expense (and then some).

It’s also been a treat to be able to buy a cheap rifle simply to try out the 7mm-08 calibre. A more thorough review of the ammo used will be coming up soon.

Final thoughts?

If you want a cheap shooter in a new calibre, something to throw on the quad to take around the farm, or an inexpensive bush gun that can take some knocks, the All Terrain Rifle lives up to its name. If you’re under any allusions as to buying cheap and shooting 1/3 MOA groups all day, think again. You may luck out and get a great barrel, you may not.

At the end of the day, the rifle is worth every cent you pay for it, and a little bit more.


Three shot group on smallbore target

Rifle resources

There are so many places around the web that you can visit to become more informed about your chosen shooting sport or firearm. However, some resources stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. Here’s a quick break-down of great places to to do a bit of digging.

Cartridge research and long-range accuracy

Terminal Ballistics is not only the home of Matchgrade Bedding Compound, but is also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to… well… terminal ballistics. The study of terminal ballistics is the study of what a bullet does once it impacts the target.

Nathan Foster does a lot of wound research and load development to help shooters figure out which cartridges will suit their desired application. If you’re thinking of trying out a new calibre, this is a great place to start.

Terminal Ballistics also provides long-range shooting advice, both on the web, and in books and other media. If you’re interested in hunting or target-shooting at extended ranges, make sure to give these a go.

Community opinion

Sometimes what you really want to know, is what other users think of a product. Sites like The Gun Rack provide product reviews and other useful information, but if you’d like to get a variety of opinions or start a poll on a certain subject, a forum may be the best place to do that.

In New Zealand we have and many, many more. Often you’ll find that forum members are across multiple sites, and you’ll soon figure out who really knows their stuff.

Advice on reloading and other topics is plentiful on online forums.
Advice on reloading and other topics is plentiful on online forums.

Technical reviews

While I try and provide thorough reviews from a user’s point of view, sometimes what you want is a very technical investigation into a certain issue.

A website you can’t look past is Full of comprehensive tests and healthily objective comparisons, this is a site that I could get lost on for hours (and sometimes have).


Some of the services that rifle shooters need are just not advertised in the way makeup or used cars are. To find out where to get your stock repaired or get a barrel threaded, you probably shouldn’t rely on Google.

Theirs no better resource for this than your fellow shooters. Aside from checking out forums, or the other resources listed above, joining a hunting or shooting club is an invaluable way to make contacts in the community/industry, and find out where your local gunsmith or hunting spots might be hidden.

Product review: MAE 6-30 ST Suppressor

Before the NZDA Prize Shoot earlier this month, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a brand new suppressor from MAE. I didn’t get a chance to shoot with it before the day, so I must admit I was a bit nervous – but it was well worth it in the end.


MAE are a New Zealand suppressor manufacturer, based out of East Tamaki in Auckland. These guys are not only part of what keeps New Zealand’s shooting community ticking, but they are able to actively engage with their customers to discover new needs and develop better products. Some of the models and cutaways that I saw at the shop were incredibly impressive – include a suppressor that tightens itself on the thread as you fire.

Suppressors in New Zealand

Unlike the USA, suppressors can be had without any legal hoopla or extra taxes. They are seen as practical accessories that improve the shooting experience, control noise on the range or farm, and make it easier to destroy pests or hunt game.

Suppressors help to reduce felt recoil, as well as decibel levels.
Suppressors help to reduce felt recoil, as well as decibel levels.

There are many – many – types of suppressors on the market, include muzzle forward (muzzle cans), over-barrel (reflex) or full-barrel (integrated). There are many produced here, and as much come in from overseas. Price-wise, you can expect to pay anything between $300 and well over $1000 for a centrefire suppressor. A decent rimfire silencer can go for as little as $55 on Trademe, and up to a couple hundred bucks if you want better performance. Again, the more you spend, the more you get. I have seen some impressive .22LR setups with full-barrel or over-barrel suppressors.

6-30 ST Muzzle Can

The 6-30 ST suppressor is the cheapest (brand new) centrefire suppressor I have seen in New Zealand recently. Don’t let this fool you though – it’s damn good.


The positives

  • It does what it says. This suppressor greatly reduces felt recoil and muzzle climb. It was infinitely easier to shoot with this suppressor fitted, especially with a light (and short) stock. For modern hunting rigs in large calibres and light stocks, one of these should be on your radar.
  • It’s a solid unit. Literally. It doesn’t come apart for cleaning and is joined at the muzzle end with some very neat TIG welding. This means there are no bits to lose or break.
  • Long life expectancy. With a 5000 round minimum service life according to MAE, you can expect this suppressor to last as long as the barrel on your rifle. For the price, it’s definitely worth it.
  • Solid stainless. The 304 stainless means it’s heavy as hell, and you certainly notice the balance shift. However, the heavy material absorbs more sound and makes for a more solid unit. The 304 will also be less prone to corrosion than other materials. For a range rig, this is ideal. For a hunting rig, you may want something that reflexes over the barrel to spread the weight a bit better. MAE offers a 5 year warranty, so you know they’re built like a brick sh…
  • The price. At $250 for the stainless finish or $290 for the matte black, it’s the cheapest you’ll find on the market (at least as far as I can see).
  • The versatility. If you have multiple rifles with the same thread but in different calibres, this silencer is for you. Good for anything between 6mm and right up to the 300 magnums, you can have one suppressor for your rifle, your partners, and the three she doesn’t know about.
The suppressor is built for anything between 6mm and .300 RUM. The 6.5x55 above shows how much room there is left over.
The suppressor is built for anything between 6mm and .300 RUM. The 6.5×55 above shows how much room there is left over.

The negatives

  • Weight. Although I like the weight of this unit, at almost half a kilo, it could be off-putting for those after a bush-ready rig. If you want a long-range shooter or a tactical sniper set-up, then this won’t deter you at all.
  • The price. Some people just don’t feel like they’re getting a good product unless they have to have their wallet surgically removed through their nose. In my opinion, this suppressor does what much more expensive ones do (without skipping a beat), at a much lower price. If this bothers you, I imagine your gun safe is full of some pretty expensive stuff. If you do want to spend more money, I’m sure MAE will have something to fit the bill.
  • Um…… I can’t think of anything else to be honest.

Range shooting

I must admit, I had a pretty poor shoot at the NZDA, but that was me, not the rifle. However, the one thing I did get out of the day was an immense satisfaction with my new suppressor, as well as the BOLD Trigger from Boyds Gunstocks.

The brushed stainless finish stands out and looks great. Although, for hunters a matte black would be better.
The brushed stainless finish stands out and looks great. Although, for hunters a matte black would be better.

I chose to leave my suppressor as brushed stainless. Not only did it keep the cost down, but it looks cool with my rifle and the other polished metal bits on it (the Mauser-style extractor and the cocking piece). Having had a look at the paint MAE use (Gun Kote 2410F), I knew I had a pretty good match at home if I wanted to paint it myself later. In fact, it would then perfectly match my barrel which I did with the same paint.

The 6.5×55 is a pretty mild-recoiling round, however, in the short, light-weight stock mine is in, it has quite a kick. Not enough to make it uncomfortable to shoot, but after 50 rounds, you’d definitely feel it. The first thing I noticed was an immense reduction in recoil. Not only does this get rid of the instinctual flinch you might develop over time, but it means you are right on target for your next shot. Previously I would find myself pointing two targets over to the left after each shot.

Shooting amongst a bunch of bare-barrel .308s and .223s all day, I could certainly notice (and appreciate) the significant reduction in noise from my old Swede. Ross, whom I shoot with regularly at the Howick Smallbore club, remarked several times throughout the day that he was incredibly impressed with how quite my gun was – he was sitting next to me and expecting a pretty big blast. Another shooter from our club noted that the rifle sounded “pretty cool” – which I must admit, it did. If you play Battlefield 4, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I was even approached by a complete stranger who said he would love to get one himself.

With the grand sacrifice of $250, and a little weight on the end of my rifle, I improved my shooting experience greatly. And the rifle did do really well on the day in the end, as my wife placed top of Division B with it.

Some caveats

When I got my suppressor I was given two bits of advice. Firstly, use a lubricant on the threads to ensure you can get it off after you shoot (nickel-based is good, copper-based is bad). Secondly, take the suppressor off after you shoot, or the stainless will attack the barrel.

Anyone who is familiar with the concept of sacrificial metals will quickly grasp that last one. I would just add one last piece of advice. The burnt powder and gunk that is on the crown of the barrel when you remove the suppressor – wipe this off immediately. I waited until I got home and cleaned my rifle, and it had hardened and become very difficult to remove.

My overall opinion is that this is a product which will help you enjoy shooting more – especially larger calibres, and will improve your accuracy. If those are two things you would like to do, and at a reasonable price too, then this is the suppressor for you.

Check out for more of their range.

NZDA Auckalnd Branch range target boards.

Where to shoot in NZ: Auckland Branch NZDA Range

The New Zealand Deerstalkers Association is one of the organisations that helps shooters and hunters in this country by providing facilities, as well as speaking up for us collectively when there are political issues that may affect our sport. With branches all over New Zealand and a culture that is inviting, it’s always worth checking out your local branch to see if membership is for you. However, if you’re just after a casual shoot or you need to sight in your rifle or test your reloads, the Auckland branch has a fantastic range you can access most weekends.

Access to the Auckland NZDA Range

The Auckland Deerstalkers Range is located in a working forest, and is accessible only at certain times during the day. This makes it essential to check the range calendar to find out when general practices are on, and what time the gates will be open. If there’s an organised shoot on, you will be turned away – so save yourself the hassle by checking the NZDA website or getting in touch with them.

The NZDA Auckland Branch is an ideal place to test reloads.
The NZDA Auckland Branch is an ideal place to test reloads.

There is a morning session and an afternoon session. I would recommend aiming for the afternoon timeslot, as there are generally fewer people around, which means more shooting for you. It’s still a busy range though, and safety is the number one priority. There are a few range officers on at any given time, and they are give you very clear instructions.

Shooting at the Auckland NZDA range

Shooting at this range is a real pleasure and is ideal for sighting in or testing reloads. There are a row of benches to shoot from, with plenty of room to store your gear. There are also gun racks behind the shooting line if you have more than one rifle. If you want to shoot prone, sitting, kneeling or standing, you can shift your bench over a bit and go for it.

Because the range is located in a working forest, there is no smoking at all – so keep that in mind if you’re fiending for a smoke after a couple hours, because there are controlled entry and exit times and you’ll just have to hack it. This also means no tracer rounds, and obviously no incendiary rounds or anything crazy like that. The backstop for the targets is a pile of old tires – about 14 tonnes of rubber – so setting that alight would probably be a bit of a problem…

The shoot is quite organised, with a detailed safety briefing beforehand. There are 25, 50 and 100 metre ranges that run at the same time. The 50 and 100 metre targets are shot off the same mounds, while the 25 metre range is separate. There is also a 200 metre mound, but when this is in operation all of the other ranges have to be shut down as it is behind them.

Shooting is done in ten-minute sets. You set up your targets, get ready and when everyone has their ears on, the range is ‘live’. You then have ten minutes to do your damnedest, after which ceasefire will be called. At this point everyone makes their firearms safe and steps away from the benches. The ROs check the rifles and when everything is deemed clear, shooters can go forward to assess and patch their targets. There are targets available for 50 cents each if you don’t have your own, and there are generally staple guns floating around. Try and take your own stapler if you can. For anyone intending on spending a decent amount of time at the range, a staple gun is a good investment. I use duct tape when I don’t have one on hand, but it’s not nearly as quick.

The afternoon (or morning) continues in ten minute increments until time is up – which seems to be much sooner than you want, but hey – time flies when you’re having fun.

A chamber safety device (CSD) is compulsory on the range.
A chamber safety device (CSD) is compulsory on the range.

The cost and experience

The NZDA range is located about 25 mins outside of Auckland city, and it took me just over 40 mins from East Auckland. The cost is $20 per shooter – a very reasonable sum. Bear in mind, this is not an organised club shoot, but rather an open practice day. Don’t turn up without a rifle expecting to shoot. If you don’t have your own firearms and would like to give shooting a go, you can get in touch with the NZDA via their website and arrange attendance at a club shoot. Otherwise, there are plenty of clubs in Auckland where you can give shooting a go. If you’ve never fired a rifle before, try starting off with smallbore first to get your bearings.

The range officers at the NZDA are friendly and knowledgeable, and very safety conscious. All of this adds up to a good shooting experience in my books, and I would recommend this range to anyone looking for a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The shooting mounds are covered, so weather isn’t a huge factor. If it is pouring with rain, your targets will be worse for wear. The rest of the facility is outdoors though, so unless you are shooting or on the benches behind the shooters, you’ll probably have to sit in your car to stay out of the weather. While it doesn’t have all of the trappings of an indoor range (like plumbing or coffee facilities), it’s certainly a good way to enjoy shooting.

If you’d like to tell us about your experience at the NZDA Auckland Branch range, or would like to find out about other shooting facilities in Auckland, leave a comment below.


PPU 7.62X39

Product review: Prvi Partizan ammo

Prvi Partizan ammo has been on the market for years – decades even – but has only just started to make an impact in New Zealand. Or so you thought. Abbreviated to PPU, Prvi Partizan as we know it today has been around since the 1940s, although the company traces its roots back to the late 1920s and has had a few different names as wars and politics have shaped Europe.

My Serbian friend tells me it’s pronounced “pr-ah-vi”, not “privvy” as most people sound it out. It translates roughly to “first partisan” and gets its name from the long and thing rifles produced for partisan forces by the factory in earlier years.

War – what is it good for?

Well, most of the sporting arms and ammunition we enjoy today share their history with their military counterparts. A tonne of the most popular hunting and sporting cartridges today are military cartridges from the past 100 years or more, including:

  • 7.62×51 NATO (.308)
  • 5.56×45 NATO (.223)
  • .300 AAC Blackout
  • 7.62×39
  • 7.62x54R
  • 6.5×55
  • 7.5×55
  • 7.92×57 Mauser
  • 30-06
  • .303
  • .338 LM
  • .50 BMG
The price of PPU makes it hard not to stock up.
The price of PPU makes it hard not to stock up.

Not to mention the endless array of pistol ammunition too. Of course the search for bigger, better and boom-ier things has led to a surge in development in the cartridge market today, much of which is driven by shooters who demand a high level of accuracy. Ammunition that used to only be available to wildcatters for varminting or bench rest shooting is now common place in the USA and is making its way over to New Zealand as well. Rimfire is also growing in leaps and bounds with the .17 WSM making waves in the shooting community.

But what about those stalwarts of scrub hunting and cheap and cheerful plinking? The cut down .303 bush guns and the semi-auto fun-makers in 7.62×39? Well, PPU is your knight in shining armour. For those that love shooting their military calibre rifles without breaking the bank, the ammunition produced by Prvi Partizan is worth your consideration.

On the plus side

While you might think Prvi hasn’t been in the New Zealand market for a while, it actually has. If you’ve shot Highland ammo, you’ve shot PPU. It’s the brand they’ve been using down here. In terms of military cartridges, Highland hasn’t been the cheapest, but it’s a step up from the dirty steel-cased stuff from Russia. It’s certainly better than putting corrosive ammo through your firearms, especially if you’re not that thorough with your cleaning.

Annealing marks on .303 and 7.62x39 PPU factory rounds.
Annealing marks on .303 and 7.62×39 PPU factory rounds.

Prvi Partizan ammunition is brass cased and generally considered to be good brass for reloading. Many Swedish Mauser fans rate the 6.5×55 PPU brass behind Norma and Lapua, but ahead of the American-made stuff. In terms of how soft or long-lasting it is, I can’t personally say. I’m on my second round of firing with this lot of brass and haven’t seen anything untoward yet, but we have a ways to go before anything should be cropping up. When I do get my brass into the higher firing counts I’ll post again to let you know, but considering I have over 140 cases for 6.5×55 alone, I doubt that will be any time too soon.

Considering how good the brass is, it’s certainly worth the price. This is especially the case with calibres like the .303 where you might only have a few options, all of which are more expensive. Not only do you get an acceptable level of accuracy out of it, but you have (I’m guessing) between 6 and 10 more reloads out of them – if not more.

What is the cost? I’ve seen the blue boxes cropping up in a few stores around the country and they’ve ranged in price from $31 to $36 for big rounds like the .303 and 6.5×55. The 7.62×39, which I’ve bought for a reloading experiment, runs at around $30, but if you go to the right Hunting & Fishing, you can pick it up for $25. Most stores will give you a bulk discount if you buy a few packets anyway.

How accurate is it? Well, how long is a piece of string? How accurate a particular round is will be determined by many contributing factors, not least of which are shooter skill and the particular firearm in question. The picture below shows PPU 139gr FMJ 6.5×55 three shot test groups, one is about 1.5 MOA and the other is 2.6 MOA. These are shot from my cut-down 20.5″ barrelled Husky M38. The other target, for comparison, is another reasonably priced brand, Sellier & Bellot 140gr SP, at 2.4 MOA.

PPU 139 gr FMJ and S&B 140 gr SP
PPU 139 gr FMJ and S&B 140 gr SP


This is not bad, considering many are happy to get 3 or 4 MOA groups with milsurp rifles and cheap ammo. However, you don’t get many people bragging about S&B brass for reloading. The picture below shows the S&B group with an unfired round for reference. Bearing in mind that the orange circle is about the size of a kill zone on a deer, this is very reasonable accuracy. If these groups were zeroed in, every shot would be a clean kill.

S&B 2.4 MOA group with unfired 6.5x55 round for comparison.
S&B 2.4 MOA group with unfired 6.5×55 round for comparison.

The negatives with PPU

Well, no one on the range is going to look at your ammo tin on the range and think your other car is a Porsche. But, if you don’t mind that, there’s not much to gripe about with Prvi Partizan. So far I have only shot .303, 7.62×39 and 6.5×55 in PPU and each has performed better than I would expect budget ammo to. I also find it to be quite clean, generally speaking.

However, if you’re wanting superb accuracy without hand loading your own ammo, this may not be the ammo for you. I would suggest trying it – your rifle may love it – but you may be better off paying one and a half or two times the price to get match-grade ammo.

0.64 MOA group shot off a bi-pod with PPU brass, Federal Match primers, 142 gr SMK HPBT projectiles and 34.7 grains of AR 2208.
0.64 MOA group shot off a bi-pod with PPU brass, Federal Match primers, 142 gr SMK HPBT projectiles and 34.7 grains of AR 2208.

There may also be variations in weight of brass and even wall thickness or hardness. This is pure, untested speculation. The only reason I say this could be possible is that the low price indicates that the machinery that produces this brass may not be as thoroughly regulated or maintained as those operated by Hornady or Lapua. The staff may not be as well compensated. But who knows?

What you may wish to do is individually weigh up the clean and empty brass out of a box or two, and see what the variation is between cases. Some spread is to be expected, but too much could have an effect on reloading. You could also see how much water each case holds to determine case-wall thickness and internal capacity. Anyway, I’ve been managing to get smaller than 1 MOA groups out of this brass, so I’m not complaining.

Overall, I think it is well worth the purchase. The accuracy is good enough for hunting ammo if you get the soft point variety, and there’s certainly a place for it in the safe if you just want plinking ammunition or a source of cheap brass.