Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Mausers

It was the best of guns, it was the worst of guns...

Actually that's not true. Cheap Dickens paraphrasing aside, The old Mauser rifle was pretty much basically the best of guns back in it's day. Paul Mauser hit one right out of the park with his Mauser actions upon with countless millions of military and sporting arms have been based. But today, we're just discussing two: the Model 1893 Mauser, this one a Spanish-produced rifle chambered for the 7x57mm cartridge (7mm Mauser), and the model 1898 Mauser, this one Turkish, chambered for the 8x57mm round (8mm Mauser). These two showed up together here today so before I start breaking them down and scrubbing them up, we'll look at the and talk about them for a bit.

First, the Spaniard.

No, not that kind of Spaniard. This kind: (click on the pictures to enlarge.)

This one was made in 1931 at the Spanish state arsenal "Fabrica de Armas" in Oviedo, Spain.

It may or may not have seen service in the Spanish Civil War ( root for the Communists or the Fascists...tough call there.) and it obviously missed the fate of many of it's brethren that were cut down into short carbines and re-chambered for the 7.62x51mm round in the late 1960s/early 1970s. This one retains it's full-length 29-inch barrel, straight bolt, ladder-style rear sight, and (OH NOES!) a bayonet lug.

(Someone revive Dianne Feinstein please...or not.)

This rifle, with it's five-round magazine, gave a solid accounting of itself in the hands of Spanish troops and guerilla forces in Cuba against US troops in the Spanish American War. (Our guys still toted obsolete Trapdoor Springfield single-shot breech-loaders and Krag bolt-action rifles, both of which were firing black-powder cartridges instead of the nifty new "smokeless propellant" cartridges that the Mauser used.) Post-war evaluation of this superior rifle as against our Springfields and Krags led directly to the development and adoption of our own US Rifle, Model 1903, or "'03 Springfield", a rifle which was basically a Mauser, so much so that the US Ordnance Department finally agreed to pay Germany's Mauser royalties to the tune of $200,000 back in 1909 to settle patent-infringement claims.

A slightly-changed version of this rifle, the Model 1895 Mauser, helped the Transvaal and Orange Free State Boers kick some serious English butt on the battlefields of South Africa during the Second Boer War as well. Infantry arms were undergoing revolutionary changes back before the turn of the 19th century and the then-new Mauser rifles were state-of-the-art with their strong, fast bolt actions, five-round magazines and smokeless cartridges. Their reliability and long-range accuracy caused them to be much sought-after and many of these old soldiers were still slugging it out on World War Two battlefields half a century later.

Judging by it's condition, this one seems to have either missed most of that sort of use and abuse, or been arsenal reconditioned afterwards.
(Actually, on close inspection, this rifle appears to have been hot-bath reblued at least once, probably an arsenal job. My hunch is that the wood was refinished or replaced then, too. This rifle's seen use of some sort; it was just reconditioned very professionally afterwards. I wish it could talk, because it's probably got stories.)

After all those years, the smooth, sleek lines of this old rifle are still something to behold. I can't wait to get my hands on some 7mm ammo and see what it can do.

Spanish Mauser specs:

Caliber: 7x57mm Mauser
Overall Length: 48.6 in.
Barrel length: 29.1 in.
Weight: 8.8 lbs
Magazine: Five-round, charger-loaded box
Sights: Inverted V-blade front; V-notch fixed for 300 meters with fold up rear leaf adjustable from 400 to 2,000 meters.

And then there was the Model of 1903 Mauser that was initially purchased from Mauser, Oberndorf, Germany for Turkey.

About 200,000 of these were made between 1903 and 1905, and they were originally chambered for Mauser's new 7.65x53 cartridge. It's basically an 1898 style Mauser with a few minor changes, and the Turks jumped to order these after seeing the 1893 (above) in action. These rifles were subsequently converted to 8mm when the Turks got smart and standardized all of their various rifles to one common caliber, and that's why you see the notch cut out of the receiver ring ahead of the bolt. The old 7.65m action was a bit shorter so the cut had to be made to allow the new 8mm round to clear.

Markings here are: T.C., ASFA, Ankara,. "T.C" means "Turkiye Cumhuriyeti", or "Republic of Turkey". "ASFA" and "Ankara" are for "Askari Fabrika Military Factory", which is in the city of Ankara. The 1939 date would have been when it was rebuilt last in Ankara.

Like the 1893, the rifle is long but graceful and very well-made. The machining and fitting that went into these old rifles, especially the German-produced ones, was such that the rifles would be cost-prohibitive to manufacture today.

This one has a bolt-disassembly tool built into it's stock.

Unlike the Model 1893's ladder rear sight, the Model 1898 and variants thereof have sliding rears, also calibrated to allow shots out to 2000 meters. (They were pretty optimistic in those days.)

The straight bolt was still the norm though, as opposed to the nearly-universal curved or "turn-down" bolts that we see today on almost every bolt-action rifle made.

Me personally, I like the straight bolts. as a leftie, they are easier for me to grab and operate as I reach across the rifle.

And again, a bayonet lug is visible below the cleaning rod that this rifle (and the 1893 above) still sports.

But I hate steel cleaning rods with a passion due to the cumulative wear and damage that they inflict on muzzle crowns, to these, like on every other rifle of mine that still has one, are for looks only now. I use one-piece coated Dewey rods on all of my bore cleaning.

Turkish Model 1903 specs:

Caliber: 8x57mm Mauser
Overall Length: 49.0 in.
Barrel length: 29.1 in.
Weight: 9.2 lbs
Magazine: Five-round, charger-loaded box
Sights: Inverted V-blade front; rear siding leaf adjustable from 100 to 2,000 meters.

Sometime in the coming days, after I take these two apart and inspect them and clean them, I'll take them out for range testing and evaluation, with blog posts to follow. If I like them, they'll take their places in the gun safe. If not...back on Gunbroker they go. Hopefully they shoot well, because while 5.56mm and other current military calibers are pretty much unobtainable at anything remotely resembling a reasonable price, so-called "obsolete" calibers like these guys fire can still be had, and at a fair price. And of course there's also the reloading bench and the fun of working up new loads for these guys, especially the 7mm that I've never loaded for before. Between tinkering, shooting and loading, These two ought to keep me occupied and thus out of trouble for a while.

"How you gonna keep me outta trubble, Boss?"


  1. I love my 7x57 or 275 Rigby built by Rigby in 1939 it is a delight to shoot with 130grn or 145grn not so much with PPU 174grn factory its a very light gun.I am looking for a Spanish Mauser that has not been Bubba fied, also i have a 1943 Husqvarna Model M38 Swedish in 6.5x55
    which is a great rifle.

  2. Nice ones, and looks like a couple of GOOD finds!

  3. Very, very, nice!

  4. Three cheers for Inigo Montoya!

    And those bayos will come in handy for removing digits of six-fingered slimeballs.

  5. A minor quibble, the .30 Army, aka .30-40 Krag was the U. S. Army's first smokeless rifle round. The trouble was that there were not nearly enough of them so most of our troops were still using the Trapdoor Springfield. Further the Krag was not strong enough to take the same pressures as the Mauser so, since pressure equals velocity*, the Krag was outclassed.

    * Yeah, so I know that's simplistic but this is a comment, not a book.

  6. Oh wow, beautiful! And informative.

  7. Anonymous9:51 AM

    Thank-You for the firearms history lesson