Putting a 60-year-old Schultz & Larsen M54J Rifle to the Test
by Mike Garman
In previous articles I’ve discussed the need for a good long-range rifle, one like the Savage Model 111 LRH can cost thousands but with money tight for most everyone. I’m always on the lookout for a good deal on a firearm, and during a recent visit to Joe Luhn of Crazzy Joe’s, he showed me a Schultz & Larsen M54J that was made in the late 50s, Buying an older firearm is not without its risks. Some are chambered in very odd or rare calibers and during a zombie apocalypse ammunition can be impossible to find. I strongly believe that having a good large-caliber long-range rifle in your safe is an absolute must have.
Schultz and Larsen is a Danish rifle manufacture established in 1889 by Hans Schultz, also known as the Otterup Rifle Company. S&L is well-known for competition target rifles they also produced some of the finest hunting rifles ever made.
The M54J, was made from 1954 to 1956, the J is for Jager, meaning Hunter. These rifles were chambered in 7 x 61 S&H. The S&H is for Sharpe and Hart. The 7x61mm S&H is a Magnum cartridge developed by Philip B. Sharpe and Richard (Dick) Hart in the 1950s. After Sharpe traveled to Denmark in the early 50s. Schultz & Larsen decided to chamber the M54J in Philip Sharpe’s new cartridge.
The Schultz & Larsen M54J rifle was imported into the U.S. by Sharpe & Hart, and sold for $150, According to a book by Philip Sharpe the M54J was only made in the 7 x 61 S&H, but according to the factory they were produced in several other calibers.
The 7 x 61 S&H is an outstanding cartridge but even in the 50s it was expensive and hard to find. The introduction of the 7mm Remington Magnum in 1962 pretty much doomed the 7 X 61. Today they are almost impossible to find but cases and bullets are available, and custom loaders like Ron Reed of Reed’s Ammunition & Research, LLC in Oklahoma City, offers the 7 X 61. Ron kindly provided me with an inert round for testing and later a box for a very reasonable cost.
Many M4Js were rebarreled with the most common being 30.06. This particular M54J was re-barreled in 7mm Remington Magnum and is marked as such on the barrel, more on this in a minute.
The M54J uses a unique bolt and cocking mechanism, the lugs on the bolt are at the rear instead of the front as in modern rifles. This makes it a very strong short action rifle. Another unique feature is that it is cock on lock, meaning that when the bolt is pushed forward and locked the firing pin is cocked. The bolt is spring-loaded and it takes some effort to seat the round and lock the bolt.
One of the problems with purchasing a nearly 60-year-old rifle is the condition of the barrel action, and in some cases not knowing what it is chambered in. Before firing an older weapon ensure you inspect it closely for any problems. If you are not confident in your gunsmith skills, then take it to a professional as I elected to do on a recent trip. I took it to Accuracy Gun Shop in Las Vegas, where “Doc” inspected the rifle for the proper head spacing and chamber size. He even test fired it and confirmed that it is indeed chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum.
The first thing that you notice when you handle the M54J is that it’s heavy, weighing in at almost 11 pounds. It’s no light weight AR, and the fit and finish of the receiver and bolt is outstanding especially when you take in to account that this is a 60-year-old rifle.
I mounted the only scope I had that would fit the M54J’s rings and off to the range I went. Shooting the Schultz & Larsen M54J rifle is a joy; the trigger is smooth and crisp with a very clean break. After some adjustment rounds we were shooting 3 round groups of less than 1 inch at 100 yards, which is pretty good for the age of the rifle and using factory ammunition.
The M54J would make an excellent deer or big game rifle, it’s well made and has already put in years of service and looks to ready for many more years of hunting and shooting. This economically priced rifle will also make a good investment, I would expect it to hold is value and probably increase in value.