Mauser: The Most Important Rifle

A composite “Kar.98b,” made in 8mm to approximate the interwar German specification, bearing parts from at least six countries, but primarily comprising a Greek-issue FN 24/30 action, German M1936 “Olympic” target barrel and Argentine stock, with fittings from Turkey, Austria and elsewhere. Shoots well.

A composite “Kar.98b,” made in 8mm to approximate the interwar German specification, bearing parts from at least six countries, but primarily comprising a Greek-issue FN 24/30 action, German M1936 “Olympic” target barrel and Argentine stock, with fittings from Turkey, Austria and elsewhere. Shoots well.

Several of the rifles shot very close to MOA, and the Peruvian M1935 7.65 — which looked quite rough but sported a superb bore — actually delivered a 7⁄8-inch group at just over 100 yards. The 7mm long rifles also performed exceptionally, especially the two M1935 Brazilian Mausers, one of which was the proverbial gnat’s eyelash below the Peruvian gun in on-target performance.

The Chilean Steyr M1912 was not far behind. Even the ugly M1954 Brazilian — as rough a rifle as I’ve ever seen and dared to fire, but sporting a pristine bore and perfect head-space even by commercial standards — performed right up to the standards of my National Match M1 in 30-06. The Yugoslavian PrviPartizan 7mm 175-grain loading shot to point of aim in the Brazilian M1935 at 300 yards, but with the sights set for 100 meters. The trajectory suggested high velocity and excellent power, but I determined — since there were no signs of high pressure — chronographing was unnecessary.

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

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

The little Argentine M1909 carbines — one an Argentine-built DGFM, the other a DWM from Germany — delivered 1½-inch groups at 100 yards. Those are five-shot groups. I fired three rounds of Norma’s excellent softpoints per gun and did a little better.

Again, as noted early on, these were best groups. No Model 98 sight is quite discriminatory enough to deliver this sort of accuracy anyway, except from a rest, and even then, eyesight limitations and the hard realities of real shooting don’t allow the shooter to do that consistently. But the potential is there. I’ve lately been recommending B-Square’s long eye relief scope setups because they don’t demand anything be drilled or ground up, and the military Mausers thus retain their collector’s value. Also, the stripper loading capability is maintained, and the bolt handles need not be modified.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tradeoff equation with high-powered rifles. That is, the little 6½- to 7½-pound carbines are light and handy, but the Mauser buttplate is downright abusive, and short barrels generate serious muzzleblast.

The 29-inch barreled long rifles are cumbersome, but sweet to shoot and easy to balance, even over long sessions. The 22- to 24-inch barreled guns, as one might expect, are about midway between the two. Military ammo in 7mm and 8mm is loaded stiffer and shoots better than most American commercial ammo; in fact, I recommend RWS or Norma factory loads in 7.92×57JS (8mm) or handloads. American 8mm is so underloaded that European publications list it as a whole different caliber.

Paul Mauser died in 1914. But you can bet on it: Come 2014, his last major rifle design will be alive, well, and living almost everywhere.


Resources for Mauser Collectors

Mauser Military Rifles of the World, 5th EditionMauser Military Rifles of the World, 5th Ed.

Mauser Pricing Download

Mauser Long Guns Exploded Gun Drawing Download

Mauser 1898 Assembly/Disassembly Instructions Download

Standard Catalog of Military Firearms, 6th Edition

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.

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