Ross Mk III-M1910
CANADIAN ROSS RIFLE
1903 MKI* RIFLE
1905 MKII RIFLE
1910 MKIII RIFLE
BRITISH CONTRACT KIIIB
Early Ross Rifle
ROSS RIFLE BAYONETS
Ross M-10 Rifle Bolt Disassembly
Modern Firearms Article
Our National Arm-Randolph Carlyle
Chuck Hawks Article

 

Weapon Dimensions:(Mark III)

Length: 1.284 m
Barrel: 768 mm
Weight: 4.47 kg
Rifling: 4 grooves, lh
Mag Capacity:5 rounds
Production Date:1905-1917

M1910 Open bolt half way back

Background information

Ross's original design was in .303 British and intended to create a superior military rifle. At the time of the Boer War there was some diplomatic discord between Great Britain and Canada. The British Government declined Canada when they requested to be supplied with, or be given rights to manufacture under license, the Lee Enfield service rifle for the Canadian Military. The upshot of this was a decision by the Canadian government to manufacture their own infantry rifle.

Ross had developed a hunting rifle with a straight pull bolt action that was manufactured in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A. He claimed it as his own design, but in fact it had many features in common with the Austrian Steyr straight pull model of 1890, and inherited the design faults unique to that action. Ross was very well connected in upper Canadian society and much politicking resulted in the issuing of contracts in 1902 for his newly formed Canadian company to provide 12,000 Mark 1 Ross rifles to the Government.

The first 1000 Mk. 1 rifles were issued to the Royal NorthWest Mounted Police. Routine inspection found 113 defects warranting rejection. The rifle was found unsatisfactory for many reasons. One of these was a poorly designed bolt lock that enabled the bolt to fall from the rifle and be lost, thus rendering the rifle useless. Another was poorly tempered component springs that were described as being "soft as copper." In 1906 the R.C.M.P. reverted back to their Model 94 Winchesters and Lee Metfords.

The rifle was redesigned to correct the myriad faults and called the MK. 11 Ross. The final design was the Mark 111 or Model 10 (1910). Many changes had been made to the original Mk. 1 Ross that altered the rifle almost beyond recognition.

Despite all of this, it was still a problem fraught design. The Mk. 111 (or Model 10 Ross) was the rifle Canadian troops carried into action in France during World War I, and it failed dismally under combat conditions. Serious problems with reliability included failures to extract a fired case, and constant jamming of the bolt due to field debris. Many troops were killed by the enemy while attempting to clear malfunctions.

Another extremely undesirable fault was that after disassembling the bolt, it could be incorrectly reassembled. In that case the rifle would pick up a round and chamber it, and the extractor would hold the round against the bolt face, but the seven large locking lugs would not be in battery. The striker would be cocked, and if the trigger were pulled the rifle would fire with the bolt unlocked. Several cases are recorded of serious injury or death from bolt blowback.

Regarding the Ross as more of a threat to their lives than the Kaiser's soldiers, the troops threw away their Ross rifles en masse at the earliest opportunity, snatching up Lee Enfields from dead Tommys. The Ross was withdrawn from service in 1915 and replaced by the Lee Enfield.

It did establish a very good record for accuracy, winning the English 1000 yard Bisley Match three times consecutively. Many Ross Rifles also saw service in the Russian Army, and it was used with great success by them in the Olympics in a modified form and caliber (7.62 x 54R) as a moving event type target rifle. It was also retained for several years, with good results, as a specialized sniper weapon by the Canadian Army.



Ross Model 1910 E10
THE ROSS, MODEL IO, 
STRAIGHT PULL SPORTING RIFLE 
From the American Rifle 
by Townson Whelen
This is a Canadian rifle, manufactured by the Ross .Rifle Company of Quebec. It is largely advertised and sold in the United States. It is a bolt action rifle, but differs considerably from the ordinary Mauser type in that in operating it it is only necessary to pull the bolt straight to the rear, no turning up or down of the bolt handle being necessary. The Ross bolt consists of two distinct portions: the bolt itself; and the bolt sleeve, carrying the bolt handle and the safety bolt. 

The bolt is a steel cylinder about 4 1/2 inches long. On the bolt head are the two locking lugs in the shape of interrupted screw threads. These lugs are 3/16-inch deep from the top of the lug down to the bolt. Into the lugs are cut portions of an interrupted thread, 3/32-inch deep. The bottom lug, when the bolt is in its locked position, has three cuts in it, making four segments of the thread to lock into the receiver. The opposite lug has two cuts, making three of the thread segments. 

In the receiver walls are cut corresponding sections of threads into which these bolt head sections lock firmly when the bolt is revolved. The main locking shoulders of the lugs turn down against shoulders in the receiver, forming an additional lock similar to the ordinary system of bolt locking. Along the rear three inches of the bolt spindle are cut two helicoid ribs, terminating at the rear in sections of an interrupted screw. These ribs, working in corresponding grooves in the bolt sleeve, form the means by which the Ross bolt is revolved. Between the two locking lugs of the bolt is cut a gas escape hole, through which gas may escape in the case of a punctured primer. 

The bolt sleeve is a hollow cylinder carrying the extractor, the bolt handle, and at its rear end the safety bolt. It is about 
5 1/2 inches long. Along either side run the guide grooves which engage ribs in the receiver and make the sleeve run perfectly true and smooth. These ribs prevent the sleeve from turning. Inside the sleeve works the bolt proper, the spiral helicoid ribs on the bolt spindle engaging in corresponding grooves on the inside of the sleeve. 

When the sleeve, carrying the bolt, is pushed forward until forward motion of the bolt is stopped by the head of the receiver, the sleeve continues forward, and its grooves, acting on the ribs of the bolt, compel the bolt to revolve, engaging the locking lugs in their corresponding cuts in the receiver. 

Thus a straight pull backward and forward of the bolt sleeve causes the bolt to revolve into and out of its engagement with the locking threads in the receiver. When the bolt and sleeve are drawn together to the rear the extractor on the side of the sleeve, engaged with the head of the shell, draws the empty shell to the rear until the ejector can strike it on the left side of the head, ejecting the shell out on the right side of the receiver. 

A familiar application of this straight pull system is the spiral screw-driver, in which a push forward on the handle compels the blade of the tool to turn, driving in or turning out the screw. Top view of Ross rifle action, showing bolt both closed ands open. The magazine is almost exactly the same as the familiar Mauser magazine. When the bolt is fully pulled to the rear, the top cartridge in the magazine rises slightly and is thus presented in front of the bolt head, so that the bolt in moving forward pushes it from the magazine into the chamber. 

There is a magazine cut-off on the left side of the receiver which operates exactly like the cut-off on the U. S. Model 1903 (Springfield) rifle. When the cut-off is turned down, the magazine is cut off and held in reserve, and the rifle can then be used as a single loader with no reference to the cartridges in the magazine. When the cut-off is turned up, the cartridges feed from the magazine into the chamber as the bolt is worked back and forth. When the cut-off is placed half way between " ON " and " OFF," the bolt can be pulled to the rear completely out of the receiver.

The trigger pull mechanism is very simple and ingenious. There is the usual safety pull seen in most bolt action rifles, the trigger moving to the rear about ?? inch against the pressure of the sear spring. After this is taken up the trigger has a very clean pull of about 3 pounds, absolutely free from creep. In fact I consider the trigger pull on the Ross the best of all the bolt action rifles, as it always comes from the factory in excellent shape and does not require any refining as do almost all other bolt action triggers. 

Many persons have thought the Ross action unsafe because the bolt pulled straight to the rear to open the action, without the familiar turn up and down motions. An examination of the mechanism will show that there is absolutely no foundation for such a belief. There is absolutely no tendency for pressure on the bolt head to unlock the bolt. In fact it is a mechanical impossibility so to unlock it. On account of the size of the various parts, the distribution of metal in the bolt and receiver, and the interrupted screw system of the locking lugs, I consider the Ross to be the safest and strongest action on the market today so far as ability to withstand the explosion of the cartridge is concerned. 

The Mauser system of turning up and down of the bolt causes the first opening movement of the bolt, and its final closing movement, to be actuated by a powerful cam. This cam motion gives great force to the final insertion, and first extraction of a cartridge into and out of the chamber. Should the cartridge stick in the chamber, or should there be a little dirt in the chamber, this power will adequately take care of it and no trouble will be found in the insertion or extraction of cartridges. 

The Ross action is not as powerful in this respect, and therein lies its one fault its lack of power to insert and extract oversized cartridges, or cartridges that stick. In the two Ross rifles that I have owned I have experienced considerable trouble from this source. Both of these rifles have been .280 caliber. The .280 fired shell seems to stick firmly in the chamber at times, and then one has considerable trouble in opening the rifle, due to the lack of ability to apply the same power that can be applied by the Mauser system with its powerful cams. 

The Ross is an extremely quick action. It can be operated almost twice as fast as the ordinary bolt action, and it is very easy to operate it while retaining the rifle at the shoulder in rapid fire. In .303 caliber it works easily and very smoothly, as the .303 shells do not seem to have the same tendency to stick in the chamber that .280 shells do.

This rifle is generally made in two calibers: the .280 Ross and the .303 British.  A few rifles have been made in the .30 caliber Model 1906 and .35 Winchester center fire cartridges.

The .280 Ross, particularity, is a cartridge of extremely high velocity, about 3050 feet per second, and of very flat trajectory.  It is loaded with a 142 grain, pointed, copper-tube expanding bullet for big game shooting, and with a 180 grain, pointed full jacketed bullet for long range target shooting.  The long-range target cartridge has a velocity of about 2800 feet per second and is very accurate, and a most satisfactory cartridge for military target shooting, combining accuracy, flat trajectory, and a minimum of wind deflection.  The sporting cartridge is not a particulary accurate one, groups running from 8 1/2 to 12 1/2 inches at 200 yards.  This is to be greatly regretted as its great killing power, very flat trajectory, and high velocity make it very desirable, particularity for long range game shooting.

A large amount of attention has been devoted to the exterior shape and dimensions of the .280 Ross barrell.  Effort has been made to make its whip or movement when fired such that it will discharge a cartridge with a slight under-charge of powder at a slightly higher barrel elevation, or higher point in its flip, than it does a normal cartridge.  The idea is to start a bullet flying at a slightly smaller velocity from the muzzel at a slightly greater elevation so as to compensate for the lower point of impact. 

In practice it is found that practically all cartridges may vary as much as 20 feet over or under in velocity, notwithstanding the fact that the powder charges weigh exactly the same, and this the Ross Company have endeavored to allow for in the shape and peculiar, vibration of their barrels. The manufacturers claim superior accuracy from this arrangement. I have never seen this actually proved in tests, but at any rate it does not injure the accuracy. 

At the beginning of the Great War the Canadian troops were all armed with the Ross .303 rifle. These rifles have now been all displaced by the Enfield among the Canadian troops in France, the Ross only being used for the purpose of training the troops in Canada before they are sent to Europe. There were several reasons for thus displacing the Ross: 

     First, and probably foremost, was the desire, in fact the necessity, of having all the troops of the English Empire armed with one rifle in order to simplify the matters of supply, repair, and issue of small parts. It is said that the Ross did not stand up well in the trenches in comparison with the Enfield. The bolt is rather difficult to take apart for cleaning, and the whole rifle itself is rather more difficult to keep clean and in smooth working order than the Enfield. This was of considerable importance in trench warfare where the rifles were at almost all times subjected to the maximum of dirt and mud. The power exerted by the mechanism to insert or extract oversized or slightly deformed cartridges, or to operate the action when it was dirty, did not compare favorably with the Enfield. In theory the action is fine, but in practice, particularly under the severe conditions of military service, it could not stand up with the ideal Mauser type of action. 

It is, however, as powerful and as reliable as any of the lever action rifles, and practically the only trouble with it in the hands of sportsmen has arisen from the tendency of fired shells in .280 caliber to stick very tightly in the chamber on occasions. For example, in the firing of 100 rounds of .280 cartridges on the target range under the most favorable conditions, six shells stuck tightly enough to bother one a lot in rapid fire, and four stuck so tightly that it was necessary to place the butt of the rifle on the ground and open the breech by means of the heel of the shoe applied to the bolt handle. 


 

1903 MKI* RIFLE.
Cal. .303 British


 
 

1905 MKII RIFLE
CAL. 303 British.
 

Close-up on the receiver and magazine of the Ross Mark III rifle
 



Sporterized M1905
 

1910 MKIII RIFLE.



M1910 With British Markings
 

BRITISH CONTRACT ROSS MKIIIB

CAL. 303 British.

The 1910 MKIIIB was made in Canada by the Ross Rifle Co. under contract for the British goverment during WW1, it is almost identical to the Canadian Ross 1910 MKIII except for the front and rearsight.

Close-up of the rearsight in the raised position, this sight was only used on the British contract rifles.

Close-up of the front sight on the MKIIIB, it is similar to the sight used on the Pattern 14 rifle.

Ross Rifle Bayonets
 
 

These three examples are of the HMS Canada & Chilean issue Ross bayonets. All are Mk.II bayonets.

1: D.A. 110 Dated 9/13. Right grip has the British stampings of "M" and the # 84. , with the Chilean issue markings of D.A. 110 on the left side of the cross guard. Pommel with pin. Blade profile is that described in the book The Ross Rifle Story. Scabbard with original belt loop missing, with friction fit belt frog.

I would say , and it's my opinion only, that this example was on board the HMS CANADA during the Battle of Jutland, 31st May 1916, evident by the British M 84 stampings. It was after WWI when the HMS CANADA along with the Ross Rifles, were given back to Chile. It was during this period of time that the Chilean stampings were applied to the cross guard.

The next two examples might have been part of a unknown quantity of Ross Rifles and bayonets that the Chilean government purchased after WWI ????? Yet to be proven!
 

2: D.A. 395 Dated 2/16 No British issue markings with the Chilean stamping of D.A. 395 on the right side of the cross guard . Opposite as to the D.A.110 example. Blade profile is that described in the book The Ross Rifle Story. Proper modified Ross scabbard using the locket from the Metford series bayonet scabbards.


 
 
 
 
 

3: D.A. 170 Dated 6/16 No British issue markings with the Chilean stamping of D.A. 170 on the right side of the crossguard . Opposite as to the D.A.110 example. Blade profile is slightly different as that described in the book The Ross Rifle Story. Proper modified Ross scabbard using the locket from the Metford series bayonet scabbards. British Pattern 1914 leather belt frog with the helve carrier strap removed. Only a small portion of the strap and two brass rivets remain.


 
 

Early Ross Rifle



The .280 Ross Rifle, A Fast Shady Lady

By Erin Boyd

I was visiting a friend who has a very extensive array of firearms and their various components. If you needed a part for your 98 Mauser for example, he would fossick about in his armoury and eventually come up with several for you to choose from. Want some rings for your newly acquired Sako Hunter? Another trip into the den and out he comes with a shoebox stuffed to the brim with used scope mounts of all sizes and descriptions. Sure enough, there are several different styles to fit your obsolete darling. For the sake of anonymity we will henceforth refer to this gentleman as 'The Squirrel.'

As to be expected we were soon involved in deep discussion on some firearm-related gossip over an afternoon cuppa. The .280 Ross was briefly mentioned in passing.
"Wait, wait!" exclaimed the Squirrel, leaping to his feet. "Don't panic!" He then disappeared into his warren.

A little while later he emerged with a contented smile on his face and a very long sporting rifle, with a rich red patina, grasped in his hand, "I knew I had one of these around here somewhere." He carefully passed it over for my perusal.

The rifle was slender and well made, with an elegant Schnabel tipped walnut stock that had excellent point pattern, wrap round chequering on the grip and forearm. It had an odd-looking bolt action. It felt right in the hand and exuded that air of quality and mystique that only a pretty lady with a shady past can.

"Ross Rifle Co." and "Canada M 10" was stamped into the large receiver, and ".280 Ross proved 28 tons" into the barrel. It was designed and manufactured by Sir Charles Ross, a Scottish Baronet, inventor, and among many other things, one time owner of the fabled Ngoro Ngoro Crater game park in Tanzania. This strong, straight pull bolt action was to earn itself a very shady reputation indeed.

Some background information

Ross's original design was in .303 British and intended to create a superior military rifle. At the time of the Boer War there was some diplomatic discord between Great Britain and Canada. The British Government declined Canada when they requested to be supplied with, or be given rights to manufacture under license, the Lee Enfield service rifle for the Canadian Military. The upshot of this was a decision by the Canadian government to manufacture their own infantry rifle.

Ross had developed a hunting rifle with a straight pull bolt action that was manufactured in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A. He claimed it as his own design, but in fact it had many features in common with the Austrian Steyr straight pull model of 1890, and inherited the design faults unique to that action. Ross was very well connected in upper Canadian society and much politicking resulted in the issuing of contracts in 1902 for his newly formed Canadian company to provide 12,000 Mark 1 Ross rifles to the Government.

The first 1000 Mk. 1 rifles were issued to the Royal NorthWest Mounted Police. Routine inspection found 113 defects warranting rejection. The rifle was found unsatisfactory for many reasons. One of these was a poorly designed bolt lock that enabled the bolt to fall from the rifle and be lost, thus rendering the rifle useless. Another was poorly tempered component springs that were described as being "soft as copper." In 1906 the R.C.M.P. reverted back to their Model 94 Winchesters and Lee Metfords.

The rifle was redesigned to correct the myriad faults and called the MK. 11 Ross. The final design was the Mark 111 or Model 10 (1910). Many changes had been made to the original Mk. 1 Ross that altered the rifle almost beyond recognition.

Despite all of this, it was still a problem fraught design. The Mk. 111 (or Model 10 Ross) was the rifle Canadian troops carried into action in France during World War I, and it failed dismally under combat conditions. Serious problems with reliability included failures to extract a fired case, and constant jamming of the bolt due to field debris. Many troops were killed by the enemy while attempting to clear malfunctions.

Another extremely undesirable fault was that after disassembling the bolt, it could be incorrectly reassembled. In that case the rifle would pick up a round and chamber it, and the extractor would hold the round against the bolt face, but the seven large locking lugs would not be in battery. The striker would be cocked, and if the trigger were pulled the rifle would fire with the bolt unlocked. Several cases are recorded of serious injury or death from bolt blowback.

Regarding the Ross as more of a threat to their lives than the Kaiser's soldiers, the troops threw away their Ross rifles en masse at the earliest opportunity, snatching up Lee Enfields from dead Tommys. The Ross was withdrawn from service in 1915 and replaced by the Lee Enfield.

It did establish a very good record for accuracy, winning the English 1000 yard Bisley Match three times consecutively. Many Ross Rifles also saw service in the Russian Army, and it was used with great success by them in the Olympics in a modified form and caliber (7.62 x 54R) as a moving event type target rifle. It was also retained for several years, with good results, as a specialized sniper weapon by the Canadian Army.

The .280 Ross Hunting Rifle

"Have you got any rounds for this rifle?" I ask the Squirrel, as he looks intently into my grandfatherly face.

"You just don't know, you young fellows of today, you just don't know how it is, just how much stress you put on an old pensioner like me."

Shaking his head and muttering he disappears yet again into the darkness. When he eventually emerges back into the sunlight, he is holding a couple of cartridge packets and several loose rounds in his hands.

Introduced in the Mk 11 action in 1907 as a sporting round, the .280 Ross is a large semi-rimmed case, bigger and longer than the 7mm Remington Magnum that it preceded by over 60 years. The actual caliber of the projectile is .289" and can be duplicated by bumping up a .284" (7 mm) in a special die and swaging it to size if you want to reload this baby.

The original factory loads were a pointed FMJ 180 grain target round at 2800 fps, and a 146 grain bronze point type spitzer hunting bullet at 3100 fps. This was in 1907 remember, before the word Magnum had been co-opted by the shooting fraternity, and without the advantage of modern slow burning powders. The .280 Ross is not far behind the performance of the excellent 7mm Remington Magnum.

This was truly an outstanding hunting round, and it was widely praised. It was a quick and spectacular killer on deer sized game; unfortunately, foolhardy hunters were encouraged to tackle larger game for which it was not designed.

Bullet types were generally limited to FMJ and soft point styles. The jacketed expanding bullet technology of that time was not developed enough to understand the special requirements of very high velocity. Many soft point hunting projectiles over-expanded and broke up with insufficient penetration when striking large or dangerous game at high velocities.

The case of a refined English gent named Grey will provide an excellent example. Grey and two companions were hunting driven lion from horse back in the African Savannas, early in the last century. Grey was armed with a .280 Ross rifle. The agreement was that if the beaters put up a lion, the riders were to merge together before an attempt was made to take it. The beaters did put up two lions, and Grey's companions were a considerable distance away.

Grey foolishly decided to take the male lion himself with his .280. He rode close and fired a shot into it, wounding but not disabling the beast. Understandably, the lion took exception to this unprovoked assault and charged, knocking Grey to the ground and biting and clawing him to teach him some manners, before bounding off into the long grass.

Although terribly mutilated, Grey did not die straight away. He managed to communicate to his companions that his fate was entirely due to his own stupid actions and not the fault of the beaters. He died several days later in a hospital. The wounded lion was tracked and dispatched by Grey's companions. Such incidents only added to the shady reputation of the .280 Ross as unreliable cartridge in an unreliable rifle.

The Ross Action

The action on this Model 10 Ross sporter is a well engineered, straight pull bolt of robust proportions. To enable locking, the bolt head was manufactured with a helical thread on the shaft and an interrupted thread locking system of seven lugs. The helical thread on the shaft caused the bolt head to rotate when pushed or pulled, screwing the locking lugs into or out of battery in the receiver.

This locking system is very strong and the same as used on heavy artillery pieces. To operate the action the user only has to smartly pull the bolt handle straight back and then shove it forward. This simple movement unlocks the lugs, extracts and ejects the empty case on the rearward stroke, then chambers a new cartridge and locks the bolt closed on the forward stroke. It is very fast and smooth to operate. There is a safety lever conveniently mounted on the top of the bolt handle. A rivet was put into late production bolts to prevent incorrect assembly and solve the bolt blowback problem, but this came far too late. The rifle had already earned its infamous reputation by then.

An idea of the strength of this action can be gleaned from the prominent stamp, "proved 28 tons." This converts to a working pressure of 62,000 psi, higher than any modern magnum by about 7000 psi. Most English sporting rifle manufacturers of the period proved their rifles, at the Birmingham Proof House, to 18 tons psi.

The magazine holds four of the .404 Jeffery size rounds in a staggered formation, allowing the bottom of the magazine to be flush with the lines of the stock. The barrel on this rifle is twenty seven and a half inches long with a very large and nicely shaped reinforce. The barrel twist rate is in the region of 1 turn in 9 inches.

Affixed to the barrel is a curious ramp mounted rear sight, a single folding leaf calibrated out to five hundred yards; a somewhat optimistic vision of the flat shooting capabilities of this century old hotrod. The front sight is a tall ramp mounted blade.

The trigger on the Ross is a two-stage type with a very clean and crisp let off. This is due to using a roller bearing and a conventional sear. There is also a trigger connected lug that locks the bolt in position when the trigger is pulled, to eliminate any chance of the bolt rotating out of battery on firing.

Overall it is a very interesting rifle that was in some ways decades ahead of its time, and with a rather sad history, too. The potential was there for it to become a great rifle had more thought been put into how the bolt was assembled.

There were other rifles chambered for the 280 Ross. One that I know of is a Westley Richards built on a magnum length, square bridge, Obendorf Mauser action.

When I took the rifle back after the photo session, my friend gave me a mischievous grin, "I see you have cleaned and oiled it, as well as linseeding the stock. Did you take the opportunity to sight it in for me?"

"I couldn't see a rivet on the bolt" was my lame reply. "I didn't want the shady lady to take me out."