Louis Awerbuck was a firearms author and instructor. A native of South Africa, he was the first Rangemaster of what became Col Jeff Cooper’s Gunsite Academy. Awerbuck wrote several books and produced videos on various techniques. I recommend his book Defensive Shotgun Techniques. Famously, he once wrote:
“When it all comes down, the last man standing is going to be standing there in shorts and sneakers with a ’98 Mauser, and all the ninja-looking guys belly up at his feet – with all their cool gear.”
I take the quote to mean that the person who knows and uses their rifles and equipment, including living their preps, is going to come out ahead against the armchair warriors you find on Facebook, displaying their bugout and INCH bags full of gadgets that have never been used and in many cases still have the price tag on them.
While I am not going to get rid of all my modern rifles and “cool gear”, I thought I would take a look at the century plus old design of the 98 Mauser and considers its usefulness in a prepper’s arsenal.
The Gewehr 98, more commonly called the Model 1898 or simply “98 Mauser” in English anyway, was the standard infantry rifle used by Germany and many other countries. Germany adopted it in 1898, hence the name, and used it until 1935 when it was replaced by a newer version, the Karabiner 98k (pictured), with the “k” standing for kurz or short). Both the Model 98 and the 98k are are chambered is a 7.92mmx57 rimless round, commonly called the 8mm Mauser. This is a .30-06 class cartridge–actually slightly more powerful. The internal box magazine holds 5 rounds, although the top round is stripped from the magazine when the bolt was cycled after loading the rifle, leaving only four rounds in the magazine. I suppose you could drop the hinged floorplate and top off the magazine, but that is a bit of a hassle.
The Model 98 is a cock on opening design, with a three-position safety, fire, safe – bolt can cycle, safe- bolt locked closed. It has what is called controlled round feed, meaning that as a round is fed from the magazine, it is captured by the extractor, so that in theory the round is never free to fall out of the gun.
Controlled round feed versus push feed is another one of the endless gun debates that can be found in gun shops and on-line. Controlled round feed is claimed by many to be the only action that should be used for dangerous game. The bolt has two front locking lugs as well as a rear safety lug in case of over pressure.
The 98 Mauser was the culmination of the design originally created by Paul Mauser and adopted by the German Empire in 1871. The Gew 71 was a single shot firing an 11mm Black Powder round. Between 1871 and 1898 there were a number of significant improvements including the 1893 Spanish Mauser, the 1895 Chilean Mauser, and the 1896 Swedish Mauser.
Over the years, there were many variations and many manufacturers including a scaled-up anti-tank version, the Model 1918 T-Gewehr, which was chambered for the 13.2mm TuF–a roughly .52 caliber semi-rimmed round. As an aside, when I went through Army OCS in 1979, the headquarters building had an enormous 1918 Mauser on display. When we messed up, the Tac officers were fond of bringing out that very large, very heavy rifle for the offending party to march with.
The military version of the 98 Mauser was produced up until 1964 by FN in Belgium for various countries in a number of calibers and minor variations. It reportedly served up until 1986 with the Belgian army reserve forces, and can probably be found still serving somewhere in far flung corners of the world.
My Latest Find
Moving to more recent history, last weekend, I was out (while social distancing) checking pawn shops for bargains. Also, I was curious to find out if they were seeing a surge in business yet. So far, no increase in people pawning items, but a big increase in people buying guns. One of my regular shops ended up bringing out some of what they think of as their less desirable guns to fill out the display. A hunting rifle caught my eye. It had freckles of rust on it, and a water stain on the stock, but a close look showed that it was gunsmith built by someone who knew what he was doing, but who unfortunately did not sign his work.
In the shop, I could tell it was a Mauser commercial action with a Wilson .30-06 barrel, a really well-made walnut stock with sharp checkering and straight grain. Drilled and tapped for a scope and for receiver sights, it came with a folding leaf sight on the barrel and a front sight with a gold bead. What really caught my attention as to the quality of the rifle was the fact that all of the plug screws in the drilled and tapped receiver sight and scope mount holes were clocked in parallel alignment with the bore. You just don’t see that level of craftsmanship, these days.
Anyway, $150 later, it was on the way home with me. About that time, I remembered Awerbuck’s quote and thought this might the start of a fun article for SurvivalBlog.
Once I got home, I stripped the gun, cleaned off most of the rust with fine stainless steel wool and WD40, and put some Boiled Linseed Oil on the stock. Eventually, I will probably need to sand down the stock and refinish, but this works for now. While I had it apart, I found markings indicating it was a 1948 Belgian commercial Mauser action with an aftermarket adjustable trigger that broke like the proverbial glass rod with absolutely no creep and no take up. The trigger didn’t even seem to move as it broke at 5 pounds. I didn’t take off the Pachmayr recoil pad, so the gunsmith’s name may be under it.
Some Comparison Tests
While I could have written an article just on this rifle, I thought it would be more interesting to throw a few other Mausers into the mix. Digging around in a couple of the gun safes yielded the following:
- German 98k re-barreled by Israel in 7.62×51 and set up as a designated marksman rifle
- Yugoslav M48 in 8mm Mauser
- Belgian 1948 commercial Mauser (as described above) in .30-06
- Belgian 1962 Commercial Mauser in .270 with receiver sight
- US Springfield 1903 Mark 1 in .30-06 (CMP gun)
- US Springfield customized National Match target rifle in .30-06 (used in an earlier article I wrote for SurvivalBlog ).
Anticipating a couple of questions:
- Why include the 1903 Springfield? Well it was pretty much a direct copy of the Mauser 93 with enhancements from the Mauser 98. It “borrowed” so much from the Mausers that the US was found liable in court and ordered to pay royalties, which they cancelled as a part of the Armistice. [JWR Adds: Yes, the U.S. continued to pay royalties to Germany during World War 1 for each Springfield M1903 produced, by way of Switzerland. Strange but true.]
- Why no German 98? A while ago, I got rid of all my Nazi guns, except for the Israeli Mauser. This was hard for me as the Germans made a lot of innovative weapons, but it was a personal decision.
So, how to test these rifles? Well, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time at the range, as the Spring weather was still on the damp, cool rainy side of things. I also didn’t see the need for prolonged accuracy testing or working up loads to optimize each rifle. In the end, I decided on two simple tests. Speed shooting at 25 yards, how fast could I empty each rifle while keeping all rounds in the A or C zone of a standard IPSC silhouette target and firing off the bench at 100 yards to see what sort of group I could expect.
For ammunition I used what I had around. The 30-06 rifles were shot with standard Winchester soft point hunting ammunition, likewise for the .270. The Israeli Mauser was shot with Federal 7.62×51 surplus ammo, and the 8mm Yugoslav Mauser was shot with some Yugo surplus ammo that I have a couple of spam cans full of.
For any kind of training, I would highly recommend that you acquire a shot timer. I have a Competition Electronics timer that I bought around 15 years ago. It doesn’t have all the bell and whistles, but it works. The latest model is around $110. You can find others for less, and some for quite a bit more. I have heard that you can get an app for your phone that works like a shot timer, but the only folks I know that have tried them say they don’t always work well.
So how did they shoot?
Five of the six Mausers had iron sights, with four of those having hunting or military sights. The telescopic sight on the sixth Mauser was a vintage Lyman All American six power scope. I wasn’t expecting tack driving results especially given the weather, but I was happy with how they all performed.
The iron sighted guns were all able to put five rounds in the center sections of the target in fairly uniform times. Fastest time was the Yugo M48 at 4.9 seconds. Slowest was the 1903 Target rifle at 7.9 seconds. The other rifles were in the 5.5 to 6.5 range. The target rifle weighed in at 11 pounds and was a but unwieldy. I found that at a close range like 25 yards, I was able to take a “flash” sight picture concentrating on putting the front sight on the target, with the rear sight somewhere in the vicinity of where it should be. Not taking the time for a proper sight picture definitely speeded things up. The scoped Israeli Mauser was the slowest at 9.2 seconds. A six-power scope is just not conducive to fast shooting at 25 yards.
Moving to the hundred-yard range, the results were as follows.
- German 98k Israeli DM rifle 2.75 inches
- Yugoslav M48 5.0 inches
- Belgian 1948 commercial Mauser (the impetus for this article) 1.75 inches
- Belgian 1962 Commercial Mauser in .270 with receiver sight 2.0 inches
- US Springfield 1903 Mark 1 in 30-06 (CMP gun) 3.25 inches
- US Springfield customized National Match target rifle .75 inches
I think the weather contributed a bit to the group size being a bit larger than I would like, also I probably need more practice with the military sights. I really would like to try them a longer ranges as well, but the nearest long distance range I can use is a 1 ½ hour drive, and I didn’t have the time. Maybe this summer I can give them a workout. Because 100 yards is really a nothing shot for guns like these.
So my conclusion? Yes, the Mauser can serve well in a prepper’s arsenal. Military Mausers, especially sporterized, are still available at a third of the price or less of a .308 class semi-automatic Modern Sporting Rifle like an AR-10 and a tenth of the cost of the “rarer” ones like a HK91 or Belgian FAL.
You can even find some pre-1899 antiques in modern calibers that are exempt from federal law. The M1895 and M1916 Spanish Mausers are often rebarreled in .308 and the 1896 Swedish Mauser in 6.5×55 is a great choice. Additionally, who knows what will happen to gun laws, but one scenario that the gun banners push is banning semi-automatic firearms of various flavors. Having a Mauser 98 or two (or other vintage bolt gun) might be a good contingency plan.