Mauser: The Most Important Rifle

Marking on standard German K98k of WWII vintage, circa 1944.

Marking on standard German K98k of WWII vintage, circa 1944.

Springfield Sporters (Penn Run, PA) brought in most of the Model 98 Mauser supply from Yugoslavia. These were mostly rebuilt in Yugoslavia, and to very high standards. There were several variants, including the enormous quantity of VZ.24/G.24t rifles captured from the Waffen SS; K98ks and refurbished G.98s from the same source; Yugoslavian-built pre- and post-World War II rifles; Czech contract rifles from the late ‘20s and the ‘30s; and oddments of other Central European Mausers captured by the Yugoslavians.

These rifles, in addition to being well-maintained and beautifully rebuilt, contain more of the “if this rifle could talk” history collectors appreciate than most other hardware on the market and genuinely deserve a place in any European Mauser collection, despite — maybe because of — the applied Yugoslavian markings.

They’re also good actions for conversion, although most bear mint-like 8mm barrels, and throwing them out would be foolish. Century International Arms supplied virtually all the Latin American Mausers pictured within this article. If the close-ups reveal anything, it’s that the “export” guns were often made to higher standards than those for German domestic consumption. And why not? Foreign contracts were open to competitive commercial bid and nothing was locked in automatically. Most were made to very high standards, like the best sporting rifles of the period. And since I had an opportunity to compare directly with German rifles of the same years, it was pretty obvious that finish quality was higher on the DWM, Steyr, and even Mauser/Oberndorf guns for Latin America. What was interesting was the shooting quality delivered down-range.

Before developing that data, however, let me note that every Mauser I shot that’s pictured here was in the very best available condition. This cost me extra; it’ll cost you extra, but it’s dollars well spent. It always pays off. Of course, this caution does not apply so much if you’re doing a full-house sporter conversion; Century sells actions in various conditions, already stripped of their barrels and wood; often, complete rifles in fair to good condition cost less than the actions. But if you mean to do any shooting as-is, get the best condition available. If you’re a collector, this is especially true. Pay the extra money, and it’ll always be reflected in the gun’s long-term value. It also always costs much more to restore a clunker than to purchase a better rifle in the first place.

It’s also wise to shoot the best ammo you can. Surprisingly, the quality of surplus ammo is now very high. The FN Belgian 7.65mm Argentine and the San Francisco (Argentina) 7.65 shot as well as any military ammo I’ve ever shot. Yugoslavian PrviPartizan and Yugoslavian surplus 8mm, also from Century, performed beautifully and very accurately, as did the Yugoslavian 7×57.

This article is an excerpt from the Greatest Guns of Gun Digest. Click here to get your copy.

5 thoughts on “Mauser: The Most Important Rifle

  1. GarandMan2

    The M98 has THREE lugs, not two. And it’s not a “forerunner” of the modern rifle, it’s the prototypical modern rifle, and is still in production in German, the Balkans, Spain, and probably a half dozen other places. Moreover, it isn’t in many ways as quick a combat rifle as the Enfields and Lee-Enfields (the Number 4 is NOT a “Lee-Enfield) but it is vastly more versatile. The numbers are even easier to grasp. The rifle was the standard of over half the world, including Germany and China, through two world wars, and for about half a century. M98′s were designed to service sporting and military customers from the get-go, and the cartridges were likewise world beaters and trend setters.

    Yes, I wrote this article twenty years ago.

  2. GarandMan2

    Actually, the Model of 1898 Mauser is not the forerunner of the modern bolt action. It IS the modern bolt action. They’re still being made, 115 years later, in Spain, Germany and Serbia and elswhere. And the ’98 uses THREE locking lugs, not two.

    To understand the numbers–which, by the way, I didn’t get from some clown in a magazine article, but from China, Germany, and elsewhere, including the original “manufactory” in Oberndorf–all one needs to know is they were the standard of China and most of Europe for about half a century, including BOTH WORLD WARS.

    The Enfields are definitely slicker actions, ten rounds in the magazines, too. But overall, the Mausers lasted MUCH longer. And they’re much more amenable to updates, modernization, lightening, and so on. They were planned, from the very beginning, as both commercial and military rifles, which is why they are still so common.

    Yes, I’m the guy who wrote this piece, Jim Thompson.

    I am still a tad befuddled why my old account here won’t work.

    Perhaps someone hacked it and changed the password.

  3. Observer82AB

    The Mauser design is the forerunner of the modern bolt action. The Mauser 98, the strongest, as it uses two lugs, while the earlier used one. Hey, just like reading the article!

  4. 1911David

    As I am not a student of the ’98 but certainly aware of its historical provenance, I had no idea of the sheer number produced. We of the “modern” age would have thought that the Soviets had produced many more AKs but that just shows myopia, I suppose.

    I might argue that the even older Lee-Enfield SMLE and NO. 4s were better combat rifles than the ’98, but wouldn’t state that they are better for everything else.

    Garry James said it best: “Only arms made before 1920 are interesting.”

    1. GarandMan2

      The Mauser M98 is NOT out of production, obviously. It hasn’t been for 115 years as I write this.

      The M98 has THREE lugs, not two. And it’s not a “forerunner” of the modern rifle, it’s the prototypical modern rifle, and is still in production in German, the Balkans, Spain, and probably a half dozen other places. Moreover, it isn’t in many ways as quick a combat rifle as the Enfields and Lee-Enfields (the Number 4 is NOT a “Lee-Enfield) but it is vastly more versatile. The numbers are even easier to grasp. The rifle was the standard of over half the world, including Germany and China, through two world wars, and for about half a century. M98′s were designed to service sporting and military customers from the get-go, and the cartridges were likewise world beaters and trend setters.

      Yes, I wrote this article twenty years ago.

COMMENT