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Bill Black

The test rifle was originally built by the Hesse Arms Co. of Minnesota (now defunct). The rifle was based upon a Mauser 98 receiver, which had been rebarrelled to fire the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. The barrel was not marked by its manufacturer. Overall length of the barrel was approximately 26-inches, including the attached muzzle brake. The barrel diameter was approximately 1 ½-inches. The stock which was issued by Hesse Arms, consisted of a wood laminate in an alternating black and grey color pattern. The forearm area of the stock was machined with air ventilation slots. A ¾- inch thick rubber recoil pad was installed on the butt. No sling hardware had been provided by the factory; however, the rifle’s receiver had been drilled and tapped to accept Weaver scope base mounts.

The rifle scope, which was premounted onto the rifle, is imported from Russia by the American Technology Network Corp. of San Francisco. This particular scope was a 6-18 power by 65mm, with the main body tube measuring 30mm in diameter. The scope rings were the ‘High Base’ type and were too high, as I had to raise my head quite a bit off of the stock comb in order to see through the scope properly. I also had the distinct feeling that the scope base mounts might not have been mounted exactly parallel, as there was a slight, but noticeable, variance when I checked them with a straight- edge. After bore-sighting the rifle, it was time to head to the range and see what it could do.

For maximum stability, all range firing was done from a bench supported position. For my first round of testing I used 147grain Lake City military ball (FMJ) ammunition. The distance to the target was a measured 50 yards. The Lake City ammo produced a 2-inch diameter shot group which was about 6- inches to the right of the point of aim. For my next test series I used 148grain Wolf ball ammo. This shot group also impacted 6-inches to the right of the point of aim, however, I was a bit surprised to see the Wolf produce a 1-inch diameter shot group. At this point in the testing I had become aware of two things: 1) The bolt was extremely hard to close on any of the test ammo, and would not close at all when I had tried to chamber a round of M852, 175grain military match ammo! (2) To bring the scope into coincidence for ‘point of aim’ equals ‘point of impact’, I had to adjust the windage approximately 80- clicks left, which reinforced my suspicion that the two individual receiver bases for the scope, were in fact not perfectly parallel with each other. The reticle in the scope was intended for pure target shooting, as both the verticle and horizontal ‘cross-hairs’ were extremely hard to define in bright sunlight and would disappear completely when I shifted my field of view into the nearby tree line. In my opinion this type of reticle is totally unsuitable for hunting duties.

I quickly found out why the bolt had been so difficult to close on all of the testing ammunition. Upon checking the rifle’s chamber for proper headspace, it would not close the bolt on a Forester (1.630) ‘GO’ gauge! Time to pull the barrel out of the receiver and do some serious lathe work! After rechambering the barrel with my trusted .308NATO match reamer, the bolt would now close perfectly on the Forester ‘GO’ gauge. So, what was the original problem with the chamber? It was obvious that when Hesse Arms had done the original chambering job, they had missed the proper chambering depth in the barrel by exactly 0.017-inch too short. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in the chambering business that equates to about 10-yards on a football field! While I was in the shop, I recontoured the receiver rails so that the ammunition would feed better from its magazine and I also recontoured the bottom surface of the rear scope base so that it was level with the height of the front scope base. Time for more range testing.

For this test series, I switched to a well trusted Simmons Model-1074, 6.5-20 by 40mm hunting scope with a very well defined duplex ‘cross-hair’ reticle. Distance to target for this test was 100-yards. My first three shot group was in an old and familiar area 5 ¼-inches to the right of my point of aim. After 40-rounds and much cranking of left windage, I was finally able to bring the shot group into coincidence with the point of aim. Good progress, but something was still seriously wrong with this rifle. Back to the shop we go.

At this point in time there were only a few problem areas which could still exist in this rifle. The first thing was to remove the factory installed muzzle brake. Once that was off of the barrel it was easy to see that Hesse Arms had drilled the ‘thru-hole’ on the muzzle brake off center in relation to the bore. Back to the lathe to put a recessed target crown into the barrel! Next came glass bedding of the stock to the receiver/barrel assembly. Back to the range we go.

With another well trusted Simmons Model 801-057, 6.5-20 by 40mm, MIL- DOT reticle scope mounted and bore-sighted to the rifle, it was once again time to see what the rifle would do as before, distance to target was 100- yards. For my first group I used 147grain Lake City FMJ/Ball ammo. My group was 5 ½-inches right of my point of aim, the group size had shrunk down to a respectable 1 ½-inches in diameter. Not a bad start, so I ran some 168grain Federal Gold Medal Match ammo through the rifle. My average group measured 2 ¼-inches in diameter! Did this rifle not like the 168grain projectile? To test my theory I next fired some hand-loads that I had been working up using a 168grain Sierra Hollow-Point Boat Tail, being pushed by 45. grains of Varget powder, over a Federal #210 primer. Interesting, once again my shot group was a respectable 1 ½-inches in diameter!

After all of the above, where are we with regard to this Hesse Arms rifle? Well, THIS Hesse Arms rifle is now capable of holding a 10-inch group all the way out at 700-yards, with the right ammo and a good shooter. As for other Hesse Arms rifles, as this one, save your money!

Bill Black is a distinguished rifle and pistol shooter; #60 in the United States Navy. He graduated from the Colorado School of Trades (Gunsmithing) in 1984. He builds match-grade rifles specializing in M1A and M14.

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