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Mauser Bolt Rifle FAQ
by James Rawles, Clearwater Trading Company [Version 1.7, Revised Feb. 15, 2004]

The following is a brief description of the differences between the various older smokeless era Mauser bolt actions, and some answer to frequently asked questions. For full details on Mauser bolt actions, see "Mauser Military Rifles of the World" By Robert W.D. Ball (Krause Publications) and/or "Mauser Bolt Rifles" by Ludwig Olsen (Brownell's Publishing). They are both excellent refernces and I highly recommend them.

Here are brief descriptions of the pre-1899 Mausers in which I specialize:

Model 1891: Single column magazine (5 rd.) that protrudes below the stock (like on a Carcano), small ("tab") extractor, small ring diameter barrel, usually chambered in 7.65 mm Argentine Mauser (also sometimes called 7.65 Belgian Mauser. You may also see it labelled as 7.65x53 or 7.65x54. This is a relatively hard to find cartridge. None of the major North American manufacturers load for it. Ballistically, it is a good cartridge (about like a .300 Savage). Right now, the only maker of soft nose (boxer primed) 7.65 Argentine ammo is Norma. It sells for about $35 a box. There is also quite a bit of Berdan primed (non-corrosive) original Argentine military full metal jacket ("ball") available. It is packed in boxes of 15 rounds, and sells for only about $6 a box at gun shows.

Model 1893/1894/M1895/M1896. This was the first modern-style Mauser action. Used by Brazil, Chile, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, and several other countries. Double column magazine (5 rd.) that does not protrude. It has a full length extractor that is much larger than that of the M1891. (It is very similar to the Model1898 extractor).

An aside: This is the same extractor that Winchester put back on its Model 70 rifle, starting in 1995. (They had this style extractor on their pre-1964 Model 70s.) They are touting it a some radical new development called "Positive Feed". Actually, the guys at Winchester just re-adopted a 102 year old Mauser design. (Those dweebs!)

The Model 1893 through 1896 were esentially low-pressure actions. Like the M1891, they are small ring Mauser actions. Most are chambered in 7 x 57 Mauser or 6.5 x 55 (Swedish) Mauser, which are relatively low-pressure smokeless cartridges. However, many of these guns (mainly Turkish contract 1893s and a few Spanish and Chilean Model1895s) were re-heat treated and arsenal upgraded to 8 x 57 mm Mauser, .308, and even .30-06. These particular ones are perfectly safe rebarrel and to shoot in moderate pressure chamberings like: .250 Savage, .300 Savage, 6.5 x 55 mm (Swedish) Mauser, .35 Remington, and 7x57 mm. Some folks still re-barrel re-heat treated examples Model 1893/94/95/96s to higher pressure chamberings like .243, 6mm Remington, .257 Roberts, and .308. I used to do this as well, but have discontuinued making up these rifles due to concerns about liability lawsuits. (Even if it was a remote possibility, I wanted to err on the side of caution.)

Larry Ellis was nice enough to provide the following info on the Chilean contract Model 1895 Mausers produced by Ludwig Loewe of Berlin and DWM:

Contrary to popular belief, the M1895 "Chilean" did *not* have a third safety lug like the Model 1898 Mausers. To quote Olson's "Mauser Bolt Rifles"... Another feature of the Chilean Model 95 action was a shoulder on the receiver a few thousandths of an inch behind the bolt handle. The bolt handle would engage this shoulder and serve as a safety lug if the locking lugs would let go." The third locking lug (or in the case of the Chilean M95, the receiver shoulder) comes into play only *after* there has been a catastrophic failure of the bolt. They are intended to protect the shooter from being hit in the face by the bolt after both locking lugs have been sheared off. This arrangement was not considered an adequate safety feature and was replaced by the third locking lug on the Model 1898 Mauser. (See description below.)

If you want to build a sporter on the M1893/94/95/96 type action, I recommend the Model 1893 receivers that were originally made in Oberndorf, Germany under contract for the Turkish government.  Production for this contract ended in 1897, so ALL of these receivers are legally antique. 

The M1893 Turkish actions are currently the best choice because they are as I already stated, very inexpensive, and because they were all made before 1898, and because they were re-heat treated in the 1930s, when they were arsenal rebarreled from 7.65 mm Belgian Mauser to 8 x 57 Mauser. This makes them a bit stronger than other pre-1899 Mausers.

The Model 1898 Mauser was a slight improvement over the M1893-to-1896. It uses a "large ring" barrel (about .20 inches larger diameter in the thread diameter), and virtually all M1898s are high pressure actions. Most are also about .30 inches longer in bolt throw than the M1893/95 series, making them capable of accepting very long cartridges (like .270 and .30-06). Combined, this has made the model 1898 a natural for building sporters for the North American market for many years. This was the most successful Mauser, with total production of over 100 million rifles. It also had the largest number of variations.

At one time or another almost all the world powers have produced a copy of the M98. Countries which have produced significant numbers of M98 Mausers include Germany, the Czechs, The Yugoslavs, Hungry, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, China, and the United States. Most of the visible differences between the M1895 series rifles and the M1898 are in the bolt. The M98 cocks on opening (unlike the M88 and M93 which cocked on closing); the gas ports in the bolt were enlarged, the front portion of the bolt shroud was extended to form a larger gas shield, a locking device was added to the bolt shroud to prevent the shroud from unscrewing during firing, a third locking lug (the "safety lug") was added to the bolt, and the shape of both the firing pin and the interior of the bolt body were changed to prevent the tip of the firing pin from protruding through the bolt face unless the bolt was fully closed.

Unfortunately, 99+ percent of Model1898s you will find were made AFTER January 1, 1899. Thus, they don't have the legal (FFL exempt) status advantages of most of the earlier production Mausers. (Bummer!)

Ballistically, both 7 x 57 and 8 x 57 are good cartridges. The 7mm has higher velocity, and is a bit flatter shooting. The 8 x 57 slightly lower velocity, but can accept bullet weights of up to 240 grains! (This makes it great for mule deer, elk, or moose). Expect 1.5"-to-2" groups at 100 yards from either cartridge in a well-bedded rifle.

Winchester and Remington both make factory soft nose for both 7 x 57 and 8 x 57. Dealer cost is around $11.80 a box. Full retail is close to $19.00 a box. It is all boxer primed and reloadable.

Military surplus ball for both 7mm and 8 mm Mauser is cheap and plentiful for both cartridges--just make sure you specify stuff that is non-corrosively primed. Nearly all of the military surplus Mauser ammo is Berdan primed and not reloadable without special tools.

There has been a LOT of discussion on the net about Mausers chambered in 6.5 x 55 mm (Swedish). Suffice it to say that it is an excellent deer class cartridge. It is very flat shooting and extremely accurate. Remington, Winchester and Federal now load for it, so the cost of ammo has fallen to about $12.00/box wholesale. (Full retail is $18.75 a box.) There is also a large quantity of Berdan-primed Swedish military surplus ball ammo on the market at relatively low prices.

About the only drawback of the 6.5 x 55 is that it uses a different rim diameter from the other Mauser cartridges. This makes reloadable brass hard to find--at at least for now. With the increasing popularity of this cartridge in North America, there should be good supplies of once-fired boxer primed brass available within a couple of years. The stripper clips for this cartridge are also currently hard to find. They often sell for $1.50 each or more at gun shows. Again, it is the odd rim diameter that causes the scarcity.

It is difficult to buy a M1896 Swedish Mauser without an FFL. This is because full scale production of the Swedish M1896 rifles didn't begin until 1899. That makes 99%+ of them legally MODERN, and they have to be sold FFL-to-FFL (4473 "yellow form" paperwork and all that nonsense...).

Last year I found ONE that was dated 1898, after much searching. It sold in the first hour of the first gun show that I brought it to, for $400!

The other option is perhaps looking for a Model 1894 Swedish Mauser carbine. Nearly half of these were made before 1899, and are thus legally antique. They are handy little dudes, with a 17.7 inch barrel, and kick just a bit more than the rifles (M1896s) or short rifles (M1938s). The Swede carbine in my personal collection was made in 1898 at Carl Gustafs Gevarsfaktori. I previously owned one (in rougher condition) that was made in 1895 at Oberndorf, Germany.

I really like the Swedish carbines. They are very compact and handy. Unfortunately, they are scarce enough that they sell for between $275 and $550, depending on condition, and whether or not they are pre-1899.

S.O. Wendell provided the following answers to FAQs about the brass stock disks and the aluminum trajectory compensation plates found on many Swedish Mausers:

The Model 1896 was originally made for the round nose m/1894 6.5x55 mm bullet. It was replaced by a pointed bullet in 1941. Since the sights were for the round nose the rectangular aluminum plate was added to show how thepoint of aim, and the distance markings on the sights, had to be changed.

"Sikte for trubbkula" means "Sights for round-nose bullets"

"Skjutning med spetskula" means "Shooting with pointed bullets"

"Avstand" means "Distance"

"Sikte/Rp" (Rp is short for Riktpunkt) means "Sights/Point of Aim". The figures, i e "100-250 300/-3" mean that at an actual distance of 100 to 250 meters you should use the 300 meter scale on the sights, and aim low (I'd say 3 decimeters, or 1 foot low), since the higher velocity of the pointed bullet means a flatter trajectory. At an actual distance of 400 meters you should use the scale for 500 meters and aim dead-on, and so on.

It seems like the M1896's, with sights for round-nose bullets, were fitted with the aluminum plate during the war, while the Model 1938 carbines (those made after 1941 at least) had sights made for the pointed bullets, and had yellow decals (or aluminum plates) on the stock indicating point of aim for shooting with round-nose bullets.

A round brass disk in the stock tells the exact measurement of the bore. It has a scale that goes from 6.46 mm up to 6.59 mm. The exact bore diameter is marked on the disc with a small triangular mark. The state of the barrel, in three steps, 1, 2 and 3 could also be indicated.

Because 1893/94/95/96-series rifle production spanned the the legal "antique" threshold (Dec. 31, 1898--under the U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968), not all of them are legally antique. Some of them, like the Swedes, are clearly marked on the receiver bridge with the year of manufacture.

So are many of the Mausers made in Spain. I wish that they all were, because it would make identifying "antiques" vs. "moderns" a lot easier.

Here are general guidelines on determining if a particular Mauser is pre-1899:

Mauser M1896 "Broomhandle" pistols (serial # below 15,000--most have cone ring hammers) are pre-1899

Mauser Bolt Action Rifles. See the following listings by model year:

M1889 Belgian, most rifles are pre-1899. However, most carbines with yatagan bayonet mounts are all legally modern.

M1890 Turkish, all are pre-1899

M1891 Argentine Contract, all marked LOEWE are pre-1899 (those marked DWM are not)

M1891/1892/1893 Spanish rifles, all are pre-1899

M1893/M1895 Spanish *carbines*, --see date on receiver ring

M1893 Turkish Contract rifles, all are pre-1899

M1894 Brazilian Contract, all are pre-1899

M1894 Swedish carbines --see date on receiver ring--about 40% are pre-1899

M1895 Chilean Contract by Ludwig Loewe are pre-1899 (Many DWMs are not!)

M1895 Contracts for China, Mexico, Persia, Spain, Uruguay et cetera--see date on receiver ring, (if undated, it is anyone's guess.)

M1896 Swedish rifles --see date on receiver ring--only about 1% are pre-1899

M1896 German, all are pre-1899

M1898 German--see date on receiver ring--less than 1% are pre-1899

In closing, antique Mausers are fun to shoot, historically interesting, and incredibly well built. They exhibit true Old World craftsmanship! They are also a relative bargain--especially compared to Colts or Winchesters made in the same era. A rifle with comparable fit and finish if built today would cost well over $1,000. Unlike many other pre-1899 rifles, most M1891 and later Mausers are perfectly safe to shoot, and chambered in modern, smokeless powder, high velocity cartridges.

Copyright 2001 by James Wesley, Rawles .

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