One Good Gun: My Sporterized Mauser

A picture of the author at his 200-yard shooting bench. He was pleased with the appearance, balance and accuracy of his converted Yugo Mauser.

A picture of the author at his 200-yard shooting bench. He was pleased with the appearance, balance and accuracy of his converted Yugo Mauser.

As for sights on my new rifle, I wanted iron sights only. I felt they would better suit the type of rifle that I had in mind. Besides, to me there has always been a certain added degree of satisfaction that comes when hunting with iron sights that is not present when the rifle is equipped with a scope. And I liked some of the early hunting pictures of Jack O’Connor and his wife, Eleanor, armed with scopeless rifles that were equipped with receiver aperture sights. Consequently, I made contact with a Texas dealer who specializes in old, out-of-production iron sights, and was able to locate exactly what I wanted: a Lyman 48M receiver sight, designed specifically for the Mauser 98 action. (The famous Lyman 48 receiver sight was in production continuously from 1911 until 1974. My 48M sight was the third edition of that sight, introduced in 1947.)

Using levels, a small machinist’s clamp and the drill press on my Smithy, I drilled and tapped the Mauser’s receiver for the old Lyman sight. That job was completed without a hitch, and, to me, the sight complements the look of the rifle.
The front sight that I chose to use was the N.E.C.G. “Masterpiece” Banded Front Ramp. This is a ramp sight that attaches to the barrel by means of a barrel band. It is sold in conjunction with several different interchangeable front sight inserts. The insert I chose was a post with a sloping, brass face, reminiscent of the old Redfield “sourdough” front sight.

I found an unfinished, semi-inletted stock blank for my 98 through Bob’s Custom Gun Shop of Polson, Montana. To ensure that the stock’s holes for the guard screws would properly align with my “intermediate” length Yugo action, I shipped the action to them, and they cut the blank using the Yugo action as a guide. Once the action and stock were returned to me, I found the stock’s wood to be a nicely-figured grade of dense, dark walnut. Also, per my request, the folks at Bob’s had fitted a steel grip cap and one of the checkered-steel Neider buttplates to the stock, saving me many hours of labor. But there was still a lot of work to be done on my part before the stock would be completely fitted and finished.
To ensure that the stock would be tightly fitted to the action, I finished inletting for the barrel and action using the old lamp-black method. Simply put, I “smoked” the barrel and action over a kerosene lamp. (Actually, my kerosene “lamp” was a small, glass baby-food jar with a metal lid; I punched a hole in the center of the lid and slid in a round wick. The jar was then filled with kerosene and the wick was lighted and adjusted to a higher-than-normal position to allow it to smoke. This is much smaller and handier around the workbench than a regular kerosene lamp.) The action and barrel were held over the lamp’s wick and, once sufficiently blackened, were then carefully placed in the stock, and tapped lightly with a rawhide hammer so that smudges would be left by the lamp black where the metal came into contact with the wood. The action and barrel would then be lifted from the stock, and a scraping tool was then used to remove the black marks that had been left on the wood. This process was repeated many dozens of times before the inletting was complete, but the result was an inletting job that was as perfect as I felt I could achieve.

I chose to “float” the barrel in the stock rather than have it bedded to contact the stock’s forend. Floated barrels have given the best accuracy in my target and hunting rifles and have proven to give less change in the point of impact of the bullet in differing atmospheric conditions. Consequently, when the inletting was finished, I removed some of the wood of the stock from the flat under the front receiver ring and from the recoil lug recess to a point in the barrel channel about 1-1/2 inches ahead of the action. This allowed room for the bedding compound; I used Brownells’ Acraglas Gel. After the Acraglas bedding process was completed, I then removed just enough wood in the remainder of the barrel channel so that a dollar bill could barely pass between the barrel and its channel in the stock. As a result, the only place the stock’s forend and the barrel made contact was the first one and one-half inches ahead of the receiver ring.

I wanted my rifle to have the look of some of the older American and European bolt-actioned sporting rifles, so I cut the forend of the stock to a shorter length than is commonly seen today. I did not intend to use a “shooting” sling on this rifle; rather, I wanted only a carrying sling. The front swivel for that sling would attach to a stud that would be part of a barrel band that would be mounted about three inches in front of the tip of the forend. I located such a barrel band swivel stud (manufactured by Gentry) in the Brownells’ catalog and ordered it.

When the remainder of the stock-shaping was accomplished, it was sanded to a smooth finish using 200-grit sandpaper and then #00 steel wool. The last stock work prior to applying the finish was to lightly moisten the stock with a damp cloth to raise the grain and sand it smooth again with the steel wool. This last process was repeated 4 or 5 times until the grain of the wood could no longer be raised.

2 thoughts on “One Good Gun: My Sporterized Mauser

  1. Johndoe

    Should you sporterize a Surplus Mauser?

    No, decent sporting rifles are available in most calibers for almost the same price, sometimes even cheaper, than surplus military rifles. Why destroy a piece of history to have a cheap hunting rifle when you can go down to walmart and buy a Savage Arms Axis Rifle .30-06 for under $300?

    1. williamjreid

      The Yugoslav Mauser is “a piece of history” only insofar as that it is old. We are not talking a Purdy shotgun here.

      Is it really possible that you read this article and came to the conclusion that it is about building a cheap hunting rifle? Really?