The Skinny on Fat Bolt Knobs

This is the second of a 2 part review of the KRG Bolt Lift. Part 1 outlines my first impressions, which reads like a typical gear review.  If you haven’t yet read it, don’t bother. 

Re-Impressionated:

I wrote the previous section of the review in May but didn’t get the video done.  It was based on my observations from when I put the Bolt Lift on the Remmie in December.  I don’t shoot the Remmie quite as much, but enough to maintain a good level of familiarity with it. 

To do a good comparison, I needed to remove the Bolt Lift and get the feel of cycling the bolt without it.  After removing the Bolt Lift, I took literally about 20 seconds to get the feel of cycling the bolt. I discovered that it was much easier than I remembered to work the Remmie with the stock bolt knob. I guess I have gotten a little better since then.  I finally did the video and this was what I discovered:

 

I shot the first section of footage, then put the Bolt Lift back on, which took about 30 seconds.  I found that it wasn’t any faster.  It almost felt like something was in the way.  Just for completeness, I did a section with the Sako 75 the next day.  Even with the longer bolt travel of the Sako, it’s a bit faster.

What the video appears to show is that the Sako 75 is the fastest, followed by the Remington without the Bolt Lift, and the Bolt Lifted Remington being marginally slower still.  It also appears that the Bolt Lift allows for slightly greater economy of motion than the standard knob.  It is evident to me that because I spend a lot of time with the Sako, it works better for me.  The Sako does have a shorter bolt lift and less drag than the Remington, which in my mind more than makes up for its longer bolt travel.

Reflectionation:

I have been on a bolt speed obsession since before I started the blog.  A quote from a July 2011 article explains it: “My goal is to run my bolt such that I will not be at a disadvantage to a wussy semi auto shooter”.   I think I can remove the chip from my bolt gunning shoulder and relax a bit now. 

After reading back on all my thoughts on bolt work in the past year, I noticed an emphasis on speed at the exclusion of pretty much everything else.  What I’ve noticed about the time it takes to work the bolt is that it’s not really a big deal at the distances and for the applications for which a bolt gun is useful.  Even when I did moving targets at close range, getting hits required taking enough time to execute the fundamentals properly.  The bolt technique probably accounted for a minor proportion of my split times.  

There’s something that’s more important than speed: Reliability.  If it doesn’t work, then speed is a pretty uninteresting and insignificant attribute.  This bears indirectly on the specific topic at hand, but since it’s the epiphany of the day I thought I would mention it.

Another important attribute that can outweigh speed at times is precision.  Reduced motion and effort are good things in terms of precise rifle shooting (again, I have to insist that “precision” is not an adjective).

The direct question of the topic at hand is “Are the big bolt knobs good for anything?”  Here’s my take on the pros and cons:

Big bolt knobs:
          Pros:           
               Everyone who is cool has one (not a good reason)
               The motion needed to cycle the knob is reduced.
               There seems to be less effort (strength) needed to work the knob through its
                    range of motion.
               The hand is farther from the scope when cycling the bolt.
               They are faster and easier for the novice.
               There is less chance of missing it, especially under stress.

          Cons:
               They stick out a little more.
               With certain rifles and low mounted scopes, there could be clearance issues.
               To my eye they are not as elegant in appearance (maybe some of them look

                    alright).
               They are not faster for someone who puts the time in with the standard knob.

Small bolt knobs
          Pros:
               You don’t have to buy anything that didn’t come on the rifle.
               Understated looks will cause people to underestimate your great powers.
               They don’t stick out as much, which minimizes clearance issues with scopes.
               Just as fast as the fat boy, if not faster.
               
          Cons:
               Small bolt knobs are easier to miss.
               The hand is closer to the scope when cycling.
               More motion is needed to work the bolt.

In the final calculation the choice in bolt knobs really doesn’t matter.  Once a requisite level of quality of gear is met, if you practice enough you will get good with what you have.  The gear is more of a reflection of your personal preference than of a tangible advantage.  At this point I don’t think it would matter which type of rifle I used or what sized bolt knob.  Again, I find that practice is going to make the biggest difference. 

Would I recommend the Bolt Lift?  If you like the looks of it, have plenty of cash and want to try it, then yes.  If you would rather spend your limited resources on something more useful, then no.  I did leave it on the Remington for what it’s worth.  I wouldn’t spend my money on it to replace it if for some reason I didn’t have it anymore.
Clear as mud?

7 thoughts on “The Skinny on Fat Bolt Knobs

  1. Hi RS,
    Have been enjoying your blog quite a bit; saw the link over in the scoutrifle forum. Quick bolt work has been an interest of mine as well. I was inspired by Randy Cain to take a carbine class with my M70, try to keep up with the ARs and M1As; haven’t had to work so hard and had so much fun in a long time. I found a long bolt handle with a small knob to work very well. Likewise, an excessively swept-back bolt handles proved to be a negative as the bolt would slam back against my trigger finger if I’m trying to maximize speed with a loose grip. Keep up the good work. Ray

    • Ray,

      Randy’s classes look very interesting to me. I check his class schedule often to see if he’s ever going to come out my way, but so far no luck.

      Are the bolt knobs you speak of stock on any particular rifles?

      How is your speed coming with the M70. Is yours a CRF? New or old? I’ve been eyeing the new FN M70’s and am curious to get some feedback.

      Thanks for reading and for offering your insights.

    • RS,

      I believe “precise” is the adjective, and “precision” is the noun. As in, “Rifleslinger loads his ammo and fires X’s with precise precision”.

      Or something like that.

    • I just notice the word “precision” used a lot as an adjective, especially in reference to guns.

      I would love to fire X’s with precise precision. Sounds like fun.

  2. Okay real questions for you to answer, would you sell yours since you don’t think you would buy one to replace it when gone? And would you feel guilty having effectively raised the GDP on a product you don’t feel added value? I wasn’t going to buy one, anyway. KISS, Earl!

    • Leave it to you to get right down to it.

      I’m not sure if I would sell it if I bought it myself because I’m not much of a wheeler dealer type. It was also a gift so that makes me even less inclined to sell it.

      If I wasn’t lazy and antisocial, and if it weren’t a gift I wouldn’t feel guilty. If someone thought that it was worth what they were paying then good for them.

      I don’t think it’s a bad product at all, just maybe not a factor in the long run.

    • Hi RS,
      Unfortunately the bolt style isn’t standard. I’ve handled some custom mausers with it, but haven’t the money and time to get something built yet. The Kimber 84s are close.
      I managed to keep up with the guys shooting M1As through about the 4th round, but fell way behind once I had to load the bolt rifle. Guys with ARs were faster past the 2nd round. My M70 is an old ’54 model that I cut down both barrel and stock to fit me. I find a short LOP to allow the rifle to stay in the pocket when shooting rapidly and across multiple targets laid out horizontally.
      Ray

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