Push Feed vs Controlled Feed

So which type is better?
Rifles

Push Feed vs Controlled Feed

Table of Contents

Push Feed vs Controlled Feed Video

Bolt actions in rifles essentially come in two flavours: push feed and controlled feed. The major difference between the two is how the cartridges are loaded into the chamber.

So which type is better?

Personally, I prefer bolt action rifles with a push feed system. I find that they are easier to reload and they tend to perform better in dirty environments. However, some people swear by rifles with a controlled feed system because they say that they are more reliable also.

Enter the great push feed versus controlled feed debate!

Push Feed

A typical Push Feed bolt face
Push Feed Bolt Face
Push Feed

The bolt does not have complete control of the cartridge in a push feed action, the bolt picks up the cartridge and simply rams it into the chamber.

Typically when you push the bolt forward on a push feed action, the cartridge is collected by the bolt face. If you stop before the round is chambered and move the bolt rearwards, the cartridge is left in where it is.

The push feed bolt has an extractor “claw,” but it does not grab the cartridge until the bolt is completely pushed forwards.

Push Feed Bolt Face Extractor

When the bolt is pushed home, the extractor moves away from the base of the round until the cartridge is chambered snugly.

Push Feed Extractor retracted

The extractor, which is spring-loaded, slips over the rim of the cartridge, locking onto the base.

This allows the empty case to be pulled from the chamber after firing, ready for ejection. 

Push Feed extractor
Pro's
Con's

Controlled Feed

A typical Controlled Feed bolt face
Controlled Feed Bolt Face
Controlled feed

Paul Mauser, the German firearm designer / manufacturer developed the controlled feed bolt action with the Gewehr 98 and later Karabiner 98k (Kar98k).

With a controlled feed, the bolt face pushes the round forward, releasing it from the grip of the magazine housing.

Controlled Feed Round pickup

As the cartridge is pushed forward it slides upwards and into the grasp of the extractor. The the rim of the cartridge slides behind the extractor and then the round is essentially attached to the bolt wherever it goes. 

Controlled Feed Round pickup

This means that the cartridge can be pulled back from the breech shortly after it is picked up. Regardless if the case has been chambered or not. The empty case or unfired cartridge can be pulled back and ejected at any time.

Controlled Feed Round locked

 

Once chambered and fired, the bolt is pulled back and a stationary piece of steel located near the back of the action slides down the ejector slot on the side of the bolt. This is the ejector and when this protruding piece of steel strikes the base of the cartridge, it ejects the case from the rifle.

 

Pro's
Con's

Example brands and makes

Push Feed

Controlled Feed

Summary

I, personally, do not think that it is a factor one way or the other.

If you are staring down a razorback at short range, that has the size and attitude of a school parent in a Prado picking up their little darlings. Then you may not want the chance of a double feed, if your first round just served to piss it off. But then, a better question might be why you got yourself into that position in the first place.

If, however, your prey is a furry feral the size of a footy 100m away, you may survive the encounter, double feed or not.

If you have your scope mounted on a one piece picatinny rail then feeding in single rounds may be too hard anyway. More on that here: Rifle Scope Rails.


As is so often the case it is personal choice. Ask around if you like. We don’t think it matters one way or the other.

You might find an argument at least ;).

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