These guns have their roots in target shooting and was designed for full-bore target shooters in an era when surplus war rifles such as the Lee–Enfield, Lee–Metford, P14 and others were used. The Musgrave facility (located in Bloemfontein, Republic of South Africa) where they were built housed a giant gunsmithing concern. RSA actions and earlier hammer-forged barrels were manufactured at Lyttelton Engineering Works.
By 1989, Musgrave employed 220 people and produced 6,000 hunting rifles per year over a ten model range. Musgrave's product range diversified to include shotguns, sporting equipment, fuel locking devices and other items.
Though Musgrave was an ARMSCOR subsidiary since 1971, the name finally disappeared under Denel control, in August 1996. The end of this era came about when Musgrave's Bloemfontein facility was closed down and some of the equipment and personnel relocated to Lyttelton Engineering Works (LEW) where hunting rifles under the "Vektor" (Vector) name were built for a short while, alongside the R4 assault rifle, Z88 pistol and other small armament which forms DENEL's main focus.
The dormant Musgrave name was revived by a private owner and new semi-custom built Musgrave rifles from the town of Ermelo, Mpumalanga, RSA entered the market.
The Musgrave RSA Target Rifle
The single-shot Musgrave RSA action (sometimes marked "Lyttelton RSA") is based on Mauser's design and feature a controlled feed (claw) extractor. The actions have a large flat bedding area underneath and a short case extraction port which contribute to its stiffness. The original Musgrave target rifles were fitted with 26.5" barrels and designated "7,62" (7.62×51mm NATO or .308 Winchester).
The top part of the fitted hammer forged barrels (until c. 1975) from Lyttleton, were encased by a handgueard, while M&S 1/3 MOA rear sights were installed. Parker Hale 1/4 MOA rear sights were available as an option. Stocks were made of unimpressive, but dense and strong beech wood. The handguard is absent from later models, which had significantly bulkier fore-ends to allow for an open barrel with effective cooling while still reducing potential fliers due to contact between the free floated barrel and the shooter's fingers. Accurate Musgrave-manufactured button rifled barrels (with a slightly longer, parallel nox) were usually matched with these stocks.
Musgrave triggers were mass-produced and designed to work reliably to around a minimum of 2 pounds of pressure. Various bolt stop configurations exist on these extremely hard actions—it will damage machining tools carelessly applied.
Musgraves were proofed by a recognised Proof-House. The SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) stamped the metalwork on a proofed rifle with two proofmarks in the shape of a capital letter "T" within "Springbok horns", one on the action (receiver), the other on the barrel. These two marks are normally in very close proximity to one another, and horizontally aligned. A notable exception is the early Bloemfontein Musgrave RSA Rifle, which carries only one SABS proofmark.
A SABS inspector fired a high pressure round through every rifle manufactured on Musgrave's site and signed off. Musgrave's quality control department did a rigorous functional test on every rifle, testing the trigger, safety catch, firing pin protrusion, extractor and headspace against strict standards while evaluating the rifles accuracy.
The SOUTH AFRICAN BISLEY UNION site states:
- "With the advent of the new RSA rifle and thanks to better sporting-type rifles in general, which were used for the first time in South Africa during the 1971 National Championships at Cape Town, record totals began tumbling headlong. In 1972 South Africa, shooting in Salisbury, shattered the spectacular Rhodes Centenary Match record of 1845 points by a staggering 81 points."
Musgrave hunting rifles
- Surplus rifle conversions
Many .303 rifles were available in South Africa after the 2nd Anglo-Boer war, and conversions of these served well as hunting rifles. For plains game, a flatter shooting alternative was found in the 6 mm Musgrave, which is basically a .303 cartridge case with a 6mm projectile. The performance of this calibre is slightly below that of the 243 Win, due to the lower pressure that these actions could handle. In later years, Musgrave had a section focussed solely on these conversions.
- Production Rifles
- Features highlighted below as characteristics of the various models are not exclusive, as many variants exist.
Three models of Musgrave hunting rifles for which the RSA action served as platform were manufactured from 29 May 1970, namely the
- "Veld Model"
- "Vrystaat Model" (Mk I)
- "Presidents Model" (Mk II)
Several other models followed, including:
- Mk III & Mk IV (Mod 98 based Santa Barbara actions and barrels - Serial numbers start with "R-")
- LP 1000's
- Mod 80
- Mod 83
- Various Mod 90's
- Mod 2000
- .22 Rimfire
- Ambidex (Straight-pull action with bolt handle which can be reassembled to accommodate left-handed shooters)
Some Musgraves were exported to Europe and the USA, either as complete rifles or components.
A range of unique rifles from Musgrave's custom shop includes beautiful custom rifles that were built according to customer specifications, usually sporting high quality metal components, beautiful high grade wood, inspiring engraving and metal inlet work, and fine checkering.
The Musgrave Custom Shop housed capable smiths, of which one mainly focussed on barrels and three were engravers.
Historic rifles were refurbished or rebarrelled here and a number of "prototype" hunting rifles built.
Some limited series runs, e.g. a run of "Plezier" Mausers with octagonal barrels, were commissioned. Custom artwork including engraving by Armin Winkler and others appears on the series of 7×57mm rifles commissioned by the war museum to depict different battles.
A number of the talented gunsmiths from this custom shop are still building rifles across South Africa.
- Over and under: Some Beretta components used - similar to the Beretta 686 O/U shotguns.
- Pump Action: Musgrave 12, similar to the Beretta RS 200, also a version for the South African Police Force.
- Semi-Auto: Essentially a Musgrave-barelled A300
Pistols built by Musgrave include:
- Varan PMX-80
- Musgrave Pistol
- http://historicalstudiesuct.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/7-bernhard-schlenther.pdf[permanent dead link]
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-07. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
- C.I.P. decisions, texts and tables (free current C.I.P. CD-ROM version download (ZIP and RAR format))