Myth and Reality of the Ross MkIII

This video took a bit longer than planned to put together, but it’s here at last…

There is a long-standing urban legend about the Canadian Ross rifle, a straight-pull bolt action that was used in lieu of the SMLE by Canadian troops early in World War One. The story is that the Ross would sometimes malfunction and blow the bolt back into its shooter’s face, with pretty horrible results. Well, I wanted to learn “the rest of the story” – could this actually happen? What caused it? How could it be prevented? In short, what would a Ross shooter need to know to remain safe? And if I could get some cool footage of a bolt blowing out of a Ross in the process, all the better.

Well, reader Andy very generously provided a sporterized Ross for the experiments, and I started reading into what the issue really was. Turns out that the legend was quite true – you can put a Ross MkIII bolt together the wrong way, and it will allow you to fire without the locking lugs engaged, thus throwing the bolt back out of the gun at high velocity. However, the issue was recognized fairly quickly, and the vast majority of Ross rifles were modified with a safety rivet to prevent this from happening. It is also quite easy to determine if a Ross is assembled correctly, once you know what to look for. So sit back and relax as we examine:

The Myth and Reality of the Ross MkIII

As you see at the end of the video, there are some folks I need to acknowledge for helping out with the experiment:

  • Andy for generously providing the rifle
  • Andrew Tuohy (who runs an excellent site at Vuurwapenblog) for helping out with high-speed footage
  • Aaron and Karl for camera and setup assistance (and the ballistic soap that we tried to use)

Thanks, guys – your help was invaluable!

For what it’s worth, I think the next such investigative project will be a followup on the safety of a .30-06 Bannerman Mosin-Nagant conversion, using strain gages to see if we can get some empirical evidence on the matter. So stay tuned!