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Rifles

A Great Dane

by Terry Wieland   |  September 23rd, 2010 9

The almost-forgotten Schultz & Larsen from Denmark was once a prized sporting rifle.


It would be going too far to describe Philip B. Sharpe as an eccentric genius. The dwindling few who remember him (or know people who knew him) describe Phil Sharpe as a strange little man who used a cigarette holder, appeared in public in a British Army sun helmet and consorted with such luminaries as Harry Pope and Maj. Douglas Wesson.

Sharpe was a writer and ballistician, an army ordnance officer, an experimenter, a sometime hunter and all-the-time shooter, and–perhaps most of all–a dreamer. He returned from a tour of duty in Europe during the second world war with a dream for a new cartridge and an entirely new, ultra-accurate bolt-action hunting rifle to shoot it.

The cartridge would be the first modern commercial 7mm magnum, based on an experimental French military round he saw while prowling the armories of Europe. Ultimately, the cartridge saw the light of day as the 7×61 Sharpe & Hart, developed in partnership with Richard Hart.

And the rifle? Well, the rifle was another matter.

Phil Sharpe was extremely well-connected. A personal friend of Doug Wesson, he is credited with developing the .357 Magnum in the 1930s, which Wesson then turned into a commercial success. As the author of The Rifle in America, every gunmaker’s door was open to him. He looked around the U.S. and did not see a single rifle design with the potential to be what he was looking for.

Sharpe wanted his rifle to be highly accurate, modern and finely made: a luxury item for the cognoscenti, a rifle of long-range power and accuracy for the continent-hopping big game hunter.

Since this was 1947, Sharpe’s dream bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a man on the other side of the continent from his home in Pennsylvania: Roy Weatherby in California. Weatherby’s company was then in its infancy, and his cartridges were still wildcats, but the stage was set for the destinies of the two to become intertwined.

During and after the war, as he traveled around Europe investigating small-arms development by allies and enemies alike, Sharpe met Eric Saetter-Lassen, a champion rifle shooter and director of Madsen, the Danish machine-gun manufacturer. When he came home from Europe, one of the rifles that accompanied Sharpe was an unidentified but highly accurate .22 of unknown Scandinavian make. On a visit to Sharpe’s home a year or two later, Saetter-Lassen identified the rifle as a Schultz & Larsen.

Schultz & Larsen of Otterup, Denmark, began business around 1900 making target barrels and grew into a small shop making complete target rifles and later pistols. During the war, it made sniper rifles, under duress, for the Wehrmacht. According to legend, the company managed to make its products almost unusable, without having the faults traced to its workmen.

Come 1945, the fine old German firms were shredded and much of Europe’s gunmaking landscape had been devastated by the war. Schultz & Larsen was an exception; it was one of very few functioning makers of fine firearms in Europe.

As his plan for the 7×61 cartridge developed, Phil Sharpe met with Amund Enger of Norma Projektilfabrik. Enger became interested and agreed to produce factory brass and loaded ammunition. Sharpe sent details of his best load (a 160-grain Sierra bullet, at 3,100 fps from a 32-inch test barrel) and asked Norma to duplicate it.

The 7×61 Sharpe & Hart was now a factory cartridge. Philip Sharpe and Richard Hart formed a company, Sharpe & Hart Associates, to import rifles and ammunition from Europe, and early Norma cartridge boxes are so stamped.


The author with a 65DL (7×61 S&H) in the mountains of the Yukon, hunting Dall sheep and grizzly bears. The other most popular chambering is the .358 Norma.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Amund Enger met with Neils Larsen, head of Schultz & Larsen, and persuaded him to develop a hunting rifle based on the company’s Model 54 centerfire target rifle. Larsen built two by hand, both chambered for the 7×61 S&H. One was sent to America while the other was used by Larsen himself on an elk hunt with Eric Saetter-Lassen. The latter wrote a glowing report to Sharpe about the new rifle and cartridge, reporting that his own rifle had been “completely outclassed.”

The first Schultz & Larsen sporting rifle debuted in 1953. The S&L Model 54J (J for Jaeger, or hunter) was built on a massive bolt action. The bolt had four locking lugs, located at the rear, which was both extremely strong and allowed a low bolt lift.

The receiver was a solid steel tube in which the bolt slid with a smoothness that must be felt to be believed. The receiver was very rigid, with few openings to weaken it, and the bolt face completely enclosed the cartridge head.

By any modern standard of aesthetics, however, the rifle was distinctly odd. Its in-line magazine was quite deep, giving the rifle a heavy-bellied look that was exaggerated by a schnabel fore-end. The trigger guard was a shotgun-style loop, the buttstock a Monte Carlo.

The rifle was undoubtedly strong, however–so strong that when Roy Weatherby introduced his gargantuan .378 Weatherby in 1953, he built the first commercial rifles on Schultz & Larsen actions.

There are two parallels with Weatherby. Later, when Roy Weatherby designed his famous Mark V action, it incorporated many of the principles used in the Schultz & Larsen, such as its smooth bolt, multiple lugs, low lift and gas-escape holes.

As well, when he sought a manufacturer to produce Weatherby factory ammunition and brass, he turned to Norma. To a great extent, Sharpe broke the ground for Weatherby, so it was ironic that throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Schultz & Larsen’s major competitor for the glamour-rifle dollar was Weatherby.

Early on, Sharpe realized there were problems selling the Schultz & Larsen to Americans. The major one was aesthetics. It was big and ungainly. With Sharpe’s advice, Schultz & Larsen undertook a redesign that led to the first real Americanized rifle, the Model 60.

As you might guess, it appeared around 1960 and got rid of many of the more unpleasing aspects. Gone was the shotgun-style trigger guard and schnabel fore-end. The magazine was converted to a staggered design that made t
he action shallower and the stock more streamlined.

The stock itself followed the lead of Weatherby’s “California” look, with a cheek piece and Monte Carlo, and white-line spacers on the ventilated recoil pad and grip cap. The fore-end in profile was triangular rather than round. The grip cap was rosewood, like the Weatherby.

According to prices listed in Gun Digest from those years, the Weatherby Mark V and the various Schultz & Larsens were always priced around $265, at a time when a Winchester Model 70 Deluxe could be had for about $100. In terms of quality, the Schultz & Larsen products were every bit the equal of the superb Mark Vs made for Weatherby by J.P. Sauer & Sohn in Germany.

Unlike Weatherby, however, which settled on one design, Schultz & Larsen refined and changed its rifles continually. The Model 60 was followed by the Model 65 and then the 65DL.


The Model 65’s ejection port is vaguely cartridge-shaped, narrowing at the front. The gas vent-hole design was later incorporated into Weatherby’s Mark V.

The principal change was the safety on the bolt shroud. The safety was never the same twice, from one model to the next. On the Model 54J, the safety was a two-position wing on the bolt shroud that swung from back to front; on the Model 60, it became a three-position wing, shaped like a latch, that swung forward and back similar to the Winchester Model 70.

With the Model 65, this was changed back to a two-position wing. The 65DL safety is a two-position wing that moves up and down, and the 68DL safety rocks up and forward, similar to the Weatherby Mark V. In all the designs, the safety locks the bolt, trigger and sear.

The first chambering for the Schultz & Larsen was, of course, the 7×61 S&H, and probably more of those rifles exist than any of the later cartridges for which it was offered. When Norma introduced its two superb belted magnums, the .308 Norma and .358 Norma in 1959, those chamberings were added for the Model 65.

When Phil Sharpe began work on his 7mm around 1947, there was nothing readily available in that caliber except the 7×57, and his dream was of a genuine 7mm magnum cartridge with a straight case, sharp shoulder, and large powder capacity.

The 7×61 S&H caught on with custom gunmakers, who produced, according to Sharpe “tens of thousands of rifles” chambered for it. It was carried to the far peaks by such well-known hunters as Clyde Ormond and Andy Russell. It became particularly popular in Canada, and when the Schultz & Larsen rifles appeared on the scene, many of them ended up in the Yukon, where it established a solid reputation.

All of this was not lost on the big American manufacturers, and in 1962 Remington unveiled its 7mm Remington Magnum. The cartridge outperformed the 7×61 S&H, and Remington rifles and ammunition were available in any gunshop at a fraction of the price. The 7mm Remington Magnum was the death knell for Sharpe’s dream, and he died a year or two later under rather mysterious circumstances. Today, very little information about him is available.

Although Sharpe was gone, Schultz & Larsen did not give up on its rifle nor did Norma give up on the cartridge. Both brass and loaded ammunition were available until very recently, and Norma-Precision (Norma’s U.S. subsidiary) became the Schultz & Larsen importer.

With the 7×61 overshadowed by the Remington, and the .308 Norma up against the new .300 Winchester Magnum, Schultz & Larsen knew it would have to change its rifle to survive. The 65DL incorporated several modifications. As well as a new safety, the ejection port was opened up slightly, and the rifle was chambered for about a dozen cartridges, from the .22-250 up to .458 Winchester Magnum–including all the major belted cartridges.


Although the basic Schultz & Larsen design is more than 50 years old, it still has a sleek, modern appearance. It was originally intended to chamber the 7×61 Sharpe & Hart.

One final model change became the last of the line: The Model 68DL was modified in several ways that owe something to the Weatherby Mark V, including a solid shroud, redesigned safety and floorplate release.

This rifle was available into the early 1970s, at which point spiraling labor costs in Europe spelled the end for an entire era of fine gunmaking. By 1971, the 68DL was priced at $485 (compared with $340 for a standard Weatherby Mark V).

The following year, Schultz & Larsen pulled out of the American market and has never returned. Ironically, at the same time, high costs forced Weatherby to abandon Sauer and switch production of the Mark V to Japan.


The Schultz & Larsen’s four rear locking lugs make it an extremely strong action. They allow a rigid receiver and smooth bolt, and a very low bolt lift.

All together, Schultz & Larsen made perhaps 20,000 rifles in the various models and calibers. Most you encounter are 7x61s, followed by .358 Norma. Owners of .358 Normas are reluctant to part with them, especially in the Yukon where there exists, today, a small but rabid cult of S&L lovers.

Starting with the Model 60, through the 65 and 65DL, to the 68DL, the Schultz & Larsen high-powered rifles offer a fantastic opportunity for anyone who loves quality and fine craftsmanship in a rifle.

The bolts slide back and forth with a smoothness you won’t find this side of an $8,000 custom job (and sometimes not even there); they are comparable to the legendary “buttery smoothness” of the Austrian Mannlicher, and like the old Mannlichers they are as finely finished inside as they are outside.

Barrel length on the 65DL is a puzzle. It is listed variously as 23 inches or 24 inches, yet my 65DL barrel is 25 inches.

As well, the Schultz & Larsen rifles are as accurate as many current custom rifles for which accuracy is the raison d’etre. My Schultz & Larsen 65DL in 7×61 S&H will shoot alongside my Kenny Jarrett .257 Weatherby, built on a pre-’64 action, group for group with some loads. Not all, but some.

Because of its rear locking lugs, the main criticism of the Schultz & Larsen has always been case stretching. T
his criticism is valid, but only partly. In my experience, case stretching only becomes a concern when you push pressures beyond a reasonable point. Since my rifle is most accurate with loads below maximum, I am happy to keep pressures comfortable.

Another criticism of the rifle is its cramped “loading port” that makes it difficult to charge the magazine from the top. The fact is, it is an ejection port. The rifle is intended to be loaded as follows: Drop a cartridge through the port onto the follower, then close the bolt and put the safety on. Turn the rifle over, open the floorplate, drop in three cartridges (staggered but in any order, since the follower is ambidextrous) and close the floorplate. You now have four shots available.

Once you know how it is done, the routine is quickly learned and even more quickly appreciated. By comparison, loading a Mauser seems awkward.

Today, more than 60 years after Sharpe began work on his dream, he is little known and the rifles are almost forgotten. This works to our advantage, because when a Schultz & Larsen does come onto the market it is invariably priced as a bargain–$1,000 or less, depending on model, condition and caliber.

For any serious rifleman, they are an opportunity to see what a high-end production rifle used to be, and never will be again.


The safety on the 68DL is a lever that swings up and forward into the Fire position. Like all Schultz & Larsen safeties, it locks the bolt, striker and trigger.

  • http://n/a Lorence Toffolo

    I have had a 7×61 Schultz&Larsen since about 1970. It is a model M60 and is the greatest Rifle I have ever owned. It has a 26" Barrel and a 1/12 twist. I cannot find a way to shoot any bullet over 130 gr. so that it shoots extremely accurate. the best bullet I use is a Sierra Match King 130 gr HPBT. I can consistently cover 4 shots at 100 yds with a quarter. A 140 Gr Nosler Part will give about a 3" group at the same distance. The Sierra really does a job. It comes out at about 3160 and carries very well. I shoot anything up to 400 yds and it is very accurate.

    Have a good day!!!

    Lorence

  • John Nye

    I owned a Schultz & Larsen .243 in the 1960s, hunting small game in the Great Dividing Range of South Eastern Australia. From rabbits and hares to foxes, dingos and small deer, and a few snakes. A well placed shot would cleanly take the head off a rabbit or snake. It was the most accurate rifle I have ever used. Not only was it extremely accurate but beautifully engineered and crafted. There was no traditional sighting device on it, simply a rail to hold a telescopic sight. I fitted it with a large Bushnell scope. The bolt action was exquisitely designed. It did however come very close to killing me in a freak accident.
    One afternoon I was fine tuning the scope using a target on a fallen red gum eucalyptus tree at 100 yards, these are very dense hardwood. The bullet entered the side of the tree and came whizzing straight back passing just above my head. It must have been spinning end over end, the noise was incredible.

    A really great rifle, many happy memories.

  • Graham Barr

    My dad and I hunted for many years together. He with his S&L 7X61 and me with my 6mm Remington as a young kid and later my Ruger M77. What I always appreciated, especially when I was first starting out was how quiet it was when he shot. He would always chide me when I shot the 6mm about how "loud that damn gun is." I always thought my dad was an expert marksman as he took many elk and deer with one shot even with them moving. The accuracy of the S&L is remarkable. I am blessed that since his passing I now have the S&L. I have not shot it yet as I have not hunted in years and bullets are in short supply. The gun needs a little work and will have it gone over before I take it out. Have a friend who will do some reloads as I have some brass dad saved when he knew Norma quit making bullets. Plan also to acquire some more brass from sources. It is my inspiration for getting back to nature and hunting for that big one.

  • Grant

    I have one in a model 60 (7×61)and its been a pain to find bases and mounts for…I cant say what it shoots like but the wormanship is outstanting..

    • Ernest Arbon

      Try Huntingson in California..they have lots

  • BluMtn

    My dad owned a 60 in 7×61 that he bought right after they came into the US. He used it one year and then he rechambered it to 7mm remington. That is the rifle he carried his whole adult life. Hunted deer and elk. Shot more of each than I can remember. I on the other hand was always looking for the next great gun. He passed on right after Elk season this year and I will miss my father and hunting partner. I do have his S&L now and plan on using it this next elk season, if only to make sure that father is on the mountian with me. When I was growing up I would shoot it everynow and then sighting it in and always marveled at how smooth it was and how classy it looked. Never ask my dad what he paid for it.

  • Robert

    I had a model 60 in 7×61 and three things where to quite right with it. One, case streching and two, the two stage cocking of the fire pin. 75% of the cocking at oppening of the bolt and 25 % at closing against a very strog firing pin spring. I loaded at pressures comparable to the 300 Weatherby Magnum which, supposetly were safe for this gun. Roy used this action for his guns at the beginning. The third was the barrel twist -1:12….to slow for heavy bullets. I was confined to 140 grains for best accuracy. Every thing else was a dream.

  • Willie

    I am buying one. A .458 Win Mag. Will let you know how it shoots

  • claude

    When I was in my late teens, I was working with a gunsmith who was very knowledgable about rifles. That was around 1968 and his opinion was that no hunting rifles in the world were better made, more accurate or more solidly built than a Shultz & Larsen. An article in the 1970 Guns & Ammo Annual ( page 298-299) shows pictures of a rifle and fired cases that were “tortured” to 129,000 psi by the H. P. White ballistic laboratories. This did not damage the rifle in any ways except for a bent bolt handle. The head of the case literally melted down and the bolt had to be pounded open. After the test, the rifle was as acurate as before and the groups were simply fantastics for a production rifle.

    I purchased my first S & L in 1969, a M68DL in 7 mm Rem. Mag. I have used this gun for over 40 years and still, it is near new. I hunted around the world with it and took a fair number of big game heads with it, including a 47″ moose just two days ago. With reloads, I easily obtain 3 rounds groups under 1/2″.

    Since I love guns and shooting, I also obtained then, a M65DL in .264 Win Mag. and this gun is just as accurate as my 7 mm. It is pure dynamite on woodchucks.

    When my friend the gunsmith passed away, I inherited from him a Weatherby M56-A in .378 Weath. Mag. These rifles were made by Schultz & Larsen and are true beast. The recoil of that rifle with full loads is so sharp and ferocious that my .505 Gibbs is tame beside it. No wonder that I never use it. I only keep it as a memory.

    Finally, it would be a story to long to tell here but a few years ago, I found and bought a fourth S & L, a mint M65DL in .308 Norma Mag. The gun is unfired, and for me it is a beautiful jewel, a piece of artwork. I never put a scope on it and I do not plan to ever use it since I have 3 other .300 Mag. I bought it simply to look at it.

    I have many many rifles, the best money can buy but in my opinion, Shultz & Larsen rifles are the best bolt action hunting rifles ever made, anytime, anywhere, period. Those who do not agree have never seen and never shot them. Seeing is believing.

    Best regards

    Claude

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