Bolt Action Rifles Ross MK to AR-15

Standard

Ross Mk.II

Type Bolt-Action Rifle
Barrel Length 711.2mm
Rifling 4 grooves, LH
Magazine Capacity 5 cartridges
Caliber .303 British
Muzzle Velocity 790 meters/second
Country of Origin Canada

The Ross rifle was a strait-pull, bolt-action design that was adopted by the Canadian Army in 1903. At least 85 different variations of the complicated and delicate mechanism were made over a relatively short period.

Invented in 1896 by Sir Charles Ross, and patented a year later, the Ross bolt-action rifle employed a locking system based largely on that of the Austro-Hungarian Mannlicher rifles. Sir Charles Ross was a wealthy Scottish landowner who was also an engineer, businessman, agriculturalist, and inventor. He was also apparently incapable of leaving a design alone for his AR Receiver. His original design featured a bolt locking on an interrupted thread. The rifle featured the ‘Harris Controlled Platform’ magazine, which had a thumb-operated depressor behind the rear sight on the forearm. When this was pressed, it allowed cartridges to be dropped directly into the magazine. Releasing the depressor placed the cartridges under the spring tension. Like many military repeating rifles of the time, the Ross also included a magazine cut-off.

Ross had initially tried to interest England in his rifle design but, although British military authorities acknowledged the rifle’s fine accuracy, they found it unsuitable for the rigors of warfare. The British Commandant of the Small Arms School at Hythe summed up the military opinion in his 1910 report of the Mk.II**:

It seems clear that this rifle is designed as a target rifle pure and simple, without regard to the requirements of active service or the training of large bodies of men of average attainment.

They were right. Despite this opinion, the Canadian Army of 1914 went to war with the Ross, and they discovered that the Ross was particularly susceptible extraction problems under muddy trench warfare conditions. When the rifles jammed at rather inappropriate moments, the Canadian troops threw them away and rearmed themselves with more reliable British Lee-Enfield rifles found on the battlefield.

Another serious problem of the Ross was that it could be fired even after being reassembled incorrectly. This could result in the bolt being blown back out into the shooter’s face. In 1916, the Ross rifle, in all its many configurations, was withdrawn from active service.


After World War I, the Ross military rifles that weren’t left in the mud of France were relegated to training units. In 1940, many were taken out of storage and issued to the Royal Canadian Navy, coastal units, and training camps. Some went to the U.S.S.R (now Russia) in the early 1940s, and were re-barreled to that country’s 7.62mm x 54R rimmed cartridge.