The Husqvarna lightweights

The Husqvarna lightweights

F G Pace

We are inclined to think that lightweight rifles came out of nowhere in the 1980s with short-actioned, synthetic-stocked arms like the Remington Model Seven. and that the rifles of the 1950s all were bin. heavy, squarish guns, often made on surplus actions like the Model 1917 Enfield.

In fact, one of the first successful lightweight bolt-actions dates from 1955 and weighed little more than today’s Remington Model 700 AS, despite its conventional wooden stock. And it came from Sweden.

The Husqvarna Lightweight Mauser is a rifle that has been almost completely forgotten, except for a hard corps of owners. You almost never see one for sale because Husqvarna owners won’t give them up.

The Swedish armsmaking industry was established by King Charles XI at Huskvarna (the spelling of company and town are different) in 1689. The site was selected to take advantage of the power provided by a 90-meter waterfall. Sweden, in contrast to its present pacific image, was in the 17th century one of Europe’s most powerful and aggressive nations.

Husqvarna continued to make armaments for the Swedish government through most of this century until the gunmaking functions were transferred to state-owned FFV. Today, it is primarily known for its small gas engines and related products like chainsaws. From the beginning there was much overlap between military and commercial lines, first with rifles and shotguns made using a rolling block action and, later, rifles that utilized the Swedish Model 1896 Mauser bolt-action. The firm also made more conventional double guns, rimfire bolt-actions, Nagantstyle revolvers, Browning-type autoloaders and Lahti pistols.

The Mauser Model 98 action began to be used in the late 1930s for the 9.3×57 mm, with 6.5×55 mm, 7.92×57 mm and 9.3×62 mm calibers added during the course of World War II.

After the war, the firm continued to sell Mausers, both those it made itself and rifles made from military arms obtained from Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Germany on a barter basis during the war. Husqvarna guns were briefly imported in 1947 by Firearms Int’l Co. of Washington, D.C., in 7.92×57 mm and later by Associated Manufacturers Agencies of Savannah, Georgia, in .30-’06 and .220 Swift. The postwar U.S. market seemed an Eldorado for every European manufacturer, and Husqvarna was no exception. By 1952, the firm offered Mausers in .220 Swift, .270 Win. and .30-’06 in addition to 6.5×55, 7.92×57 and 9.3×62.

Demand was large enough that, according to former American Rifleman Technical Editor Ludwig Olson’s Mauser Bolt Rifles, the firm used commercial FN actions to assemble rifles that were imported here by the Eric S. Johnson Co. of Chicago and by Tradewinds, Inc., of Tacoma, Washington.

Had the firm stood pat with the 98-type rifles, Husqvarna Mausers would be no more interesting than dozens of others, some of which are imported to this day. Instead, Husqvarna introduced a new rifle in 1955 that represented a distinct advance on previous models, both in features and in reduced weight. The HVA (Husqvarna Vapenfabriks Aktiebolag) Model 4100 was available in .270 Win. or .30-’06, both with 20X”barrels. The former weighed 6 lbs., 6 ozs, while the ’06 was a mere 6 lbs., 2 ozs. The oil-finished European walnut stock had an unusually modern look for the day, with a downward-sloping comb to minimize the effect of recoil on the cheek, a subtle rounded cheekpiece and schnabel fore-end.

While the Mauser was the baseline for the new rifle, there were many changes that were or weren’t improvements, depending on the eye of the beholder. These.according to reort in thesepages(June 195I p. 66), were made in response to a tour of this country bv a Husavarna design engineer in the early ’50s. It is clear that he must have been shown the Winchester Model 70 as an example of good design, since the new Husqvarna followed that rifle in several respects.

First, the inner receiver ring collar of the 98 is dispensed with in favor of a style similar to the M1903 or pre-’64 Model 70, though with a flat, rather than cone, breech. The receiver ring itself is of 1.29″ diameter, in contrast to the 1.41″ of most 98s, and 1.3″ for “small ring” military guns like the Czech Model 33 rifle.

The ring and bridge are the same diameter, allowing a streamlined receiver profile, especially since there are no clip or thumb slots. The bridge is grooved to engage a guide rib on the bolt body that limits side play. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting, and a pair of drilled and tapped holes on the right side of the receiver allow installation of an adjustable peep sight.

A Model 70-style ejector extending up into the bottom left of the bolt face eliminates the need for a 98-type slotted locking lug. The ejector is integral with the bolt stop, which is operated by a small button on the left side of the receiver. Pressing it down allows bolt removal.

Gas handling was something of an obsession with gun writers at the time the new Husqvarna was introduced, and its system came in for some carping. A single gas-relief hole in the bolt body opens into the left locking lug raceway in the receiver. In case of a pierced primer, gas passes out against the left side of the bolt sleeve, directing it away from the shooter’s face.

The wing-type safety lever of the Model 98 is replaced by a sliding safety at the right rear of the receiver. When pulled to the rear, it blocks the sear and also interposes an arm in the path of the bolt’s third safety lug, locking the bolt.

The first Lightweights have a trigger guard assembly with a spot-welded steel magazine box. The hinged floorplate is latched by a simple spring steel piece in the front of the guard bow. Later rifles have a one-piece aluminum guard with a hinged floorplate latch.

The trigger is essentially a military Mauser type, though with a single-stage pull rather than the well-known two-stage Mauser pull. A typical pull weight is 5 lbs., which in that pre-liability-suit time was thought heavy. Tradewinds offered an easily installed adjustable trigger for those who wanted a lighter pull weight.

The same receiver was used for all calibers, but different bolt and magazine configurations were designated by number. The No. 501 action was for cartridges in the .30-’06 class. The No. 502 was for .308-sized rounds and differed from the 501

only in having a shoulder stop to hold the ammunition rearward in the magazine. No. 503 designated a magnum-sized bolt face.

Barrels were hammer-forged, and it is interesting to note that a 12″ twist was specified for the .30-’06, in contrast to the more common 1 in 10″.

While the Model 4100 had a straight stock and schnabel foreend, the similar Model 4000 had a more typically 1950s Monte Carlo. The 4100 listed for $139.95, while the 4000 cost $145.50. The two versions also differed in sighting equipment. The Model 4100 had a hooded, ramped front sight and elevator-adjustable rear sight. The 4000 had the front sight, but no rear sight. An adjustable receiver sight could be mounted in the holes on the right side of the receiver, or a special “Snap-Shooter” peep sight could be screwed into the scope mount holes. This consisted of a round aperture dovetailed into a disc-shaped base. The aperture could be moved left or right in its dovetail for windage adjustment.

It is hard for us to imagine that a retail price difference of $ 10 would be worth the introduction of a separate version, but that apparently was the case in 1959, because Husqvarna added an economy-model Lightweight, the Norrahammar. The new rifle was named for a town near Huskvarna and differed from its predecessor only in small details and a retail price of $129.95. The Norrahammar had a straight buttstock with a rounded, rather than schnabel, fore-end. The bolt sleeve was polished rather than blued and barrel length, curiously, was listed at 2020 1/4 rather than 20 A”. Calibers were .243 Win., .270 Win., .308 Win. and .30-’06.

At about the same time, Mannlicher stock fans were catered to with the Models 456 and 458. The former had a straight buttstock, while the 458 had a Monte Carlo. The catalog bragged that the forestock was glued to the main stock rather than being screwed to the barrel, ensuring better accuracy. Calibers were the same as for the Norrahammar.

The next addition to the HVA Lightweight was the economical Model 5000 “Husky” in 1963. The Husky was unremarkable in configuration-it had a Monte Carlo stock with schnabel fore-end and a fixed open rear sight and was initially available only in .30-’06 at $129.95.

What was remarkable was the speed with which Husqvarna adopted the thennew 7 mm Rem. Mag. cartridge; it joined the line in 1964. At 6 lbs., 9 ozs., the Husky was certainly one of the lightest rifles available for that fast-stepping round. Huskys in .243 and .270 also began coming off the line in that year. The next year saw the 6.5×55 mm join the caliber roster. Amateur and professional gunsmiths could buy HVA actions at $82.50 or barreled actions for $108.70.

While the Lightweight had been a step forward in the early ’50s, it and all other bolt-actions based on the Model 98 Mauser were showing their age by the late 1960s. Just as Winchester put its pre-’64 Model 70 out to pasture, European makers looked for modem designs better suited to modern production techniques.

Before Husqvarna introduced a replacement for its Mausers, it took on a second U.S. importer, Smith & Wesson. Beginning in 1968, the Swedish rifle maker supplied S&W-marked Mausers, while retaining the old connection with Tradewinds, which sold substantially the same guns under the Husqvarna trademark.

The S&Ws were designated by a simple letter system. The Model A had a 23 3/4 barrel. The Model B was the equivalent of the Model 4000, with Monte Carlo stock, while the Model C matched the Model 4100 with straight comb. The Model D was equivalent to the Model 456, with straight comb and Mannlicher fore-end, and the Model E was like the Monte Carlo-stocked Model 458.

Available cals. for all S&Ws were .243 Win., .270 Win., .308 Win. and .30-’06. Prices ranged from $192.50 to $225.

The end of the line for the HVA Lightweights came in sight in 1969 with the introduction of the Model 8000. It completely dispensed with the most visible Mauser features like the claw extractor and substituted an interesting dovetailed lug arrangement to limit side play. Tradewinds had the rifle first, but it quickly replaced the Lightweight Mauser in the S&W line, too, though the previous letter codes and price structure were retained.

The Model 8000 went on to have a very successful career in Sweden, where it was known as the Model 1900. Most of that success, however, was not to benefit Husqvarna, which left the arms industry in 1970. Gunmaking operations were transferred to FFV, a state-owned enterprise in the city of Eskilstuna that manufactures arms for the Swedish army.

Many would argue that light weight wasn’t enough justification for 15 years’ worth of Lightweights. Loyal fans never forget to mention that the hunter is more effective when less fatigued by the combined weight of all his equipment.

The weight of a scope, rings, slings and ammunition adds up, and the lighter a rifle is, the more likely it is to be held at the ready. The heavier it is, the more it will be cradled along a forearm, slung over a shoulder or leaned against a tree.

The HVA Lightweight Mausers were intentionally the most streamlined rifles of any true Mauser design. Modern market trends seem to reaffirm Husqvarna’s emphasis on light weight. The first of these accomplishments was overdue, while the second was ahead of its time. Perhaps with a little different timing or a little more luck, there would have been even more loyal Husqvarna fans.

The author would like to thank Irvin Walentiny of Tradewinds for providing original photographs and catalog art. Parts for Husqvarna Lightweights are generally unavailable, but Hansen Cartridge Co., 244-246OldPost Road Post Rd., Southport, CT 06490, has a very limited supply.

Copyright National Rifle Association of America Apr 1997

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