Me and My Mausers
I have written this retrospective piece to illustrate why I am such a fan of Mauser rifles, especially those that begun life as infantry rifles and ended up as highly accurate, cherished sporting arms. My three Mauser rifles will be presented in the order of their acquisition and importance in my hunting rifle battery.
Argentine .308, my “workaday” rifle
This piece was the product of much careful thinking and planning by yours truly, as a result of having purchased one of the now defunct Kimber of Oregon’s reworked Mauser 98 rifles in .270 Winchester back in 1997. While that rifle functioned flawlessly and was highly accurate, its military trigger was terrible and it kicked my shoulder with a nasty rap every time I fired it. Consequently, I soon sold the rifle and, after a lengthy discussion with my wife/accountant, I began to acquire the materials necessary for a truly custom-made rifle that would seamlessly blend the reliability of the M98 action with the moderate recoil of a more moderate, deer tag-filling caliber.
My first stop, via the Internet, was at the firm of Ellison’s Military Rifles in Campbell, New York. Ellison senior sold me a standard M1909 Argentine barreled action and he promptly changed the barrel to an “in the white” tube in .308 Winchester. Next, I prevailed on the Gibbs Rifle Company to send me a M98 stock of solid, serviceable birch. I should state here that I did not intend this rifle to be any sort of “fancy” addition to my gun cabinet. As the sub-title of this section implies, its primary function was to be a “working” gun. I purchased a Timney Featherweight Trigger with a side safety and sent everything to Brent Hoggatt of Franklinton, Louisiana. Like me, Brent is an average working man devoted to his family. His gunsmithing business is a sideline, but he is a consummate perfectionist when building a firearm.
The sporterized M1909 was completed by Christmas of 1998, done up in a black matte finish with the stock painted black as well. It soon wore a BSA 3-10x44mm scope in Leupold mounts. It accompanied me on two trips to Texas, in 2000 and 2001, accounting for two deer and a piglet there. This rifle was used by a dear friend of mine, Mr. Ellis Cart, to bag a monster feral boar from 135 yards on the Sellers family property in June of 2012. The .308 was also the rifle I used to down my cow buffalo from a distance of 60 yards in 2010. It is a highly accurate rifle, producing ½” groups at 100 yards with Hornady 165-grain boat-tail soft point factory loads.
M96 Swedish Mauser, the “crown jewel”
I must admit to being a bit more sentimental about this one, since I acquired her as a result of being sidelined at home with back trouble. Seeing this rifle on the Internet, I noted that she had a fairly hefty price and almost completely dismissed her from my mind. Then a bit of whimsy took over and I telephoned the owner and made an offer. An hour and a half later, I was the proud owner of a 6.5x55mm sporter.
The stock is a beautifully checkered, tiger-striped piece of English Grade A walnut and the wood to metal fit is excellent. An ebony tip tastefully caps the rifle’s forearm and a still-pliant recoil pad graces its butt stock.
The original two-stage military trigger has been expertly excised from this rifle. The replacement single-stage trigger is fantastic and, to my uneducated finger (I don’t have a pull gauge), breaks at 3-4 pounds. Light, crisp triggers make accurate shot placement much easier and more reliable. They help build shooter confidence and promote familiarity with one’s firearm, which leads to clean kills and the honorable perpetuation of our sport.
The scope is an older, coin-adjustable, Nikon Pro-Staff 3-9x40mm. I would have preferred a more modern optic, but since the scope is clear with a fine crosshair, I won’t complain. The most seductive thing about this sporter is its smooth as glass action that is a pleasure to cycle.
How does she shoot? Well, at 50 yards she printed an initial three-shot group that could be covered with a quarter. Backing off to 100 yards, after appropriate scope adjustments, she did the same thing. Our target area was an approximation of the eight inch kill zone of a whitetail deer. My buddy wanted to try the rifle at 200 yards, without further adjustments, to see if he could hit the target. His first shot at 200 yards hit the very bottom of the 8-inch kill zone, with no adjustments being necessary for windage. I would call this first test very acceptable accuracy from a custom Swedish Mauser whose barreled action is, according to my research, 111 years old! To date, I have used this rifle to take a feral hog and I am looking forward to many more succulent pork chops.
Mauser 95 Sporter in 7x57mm, a classic in a world-class caliber
My rifle is a Ludwig-Loewe beauty that languished in an Albuquerque, New Mexico pawnshop before finding its way to my door in August, 2012. Referred to my one of my compadres as having been a “rich man’s gun,” the rifle has been quite tastefully sporterized. It retains its original 7x57 Mauser chambering, tipping the scales at around 8-1/4 pounds with scope. The rifle is well-balanced and quick to shoulder. As far as I can determine, its "F block" serial number on the receiver means that the barreled action was produced in Berlin in 1902.
The former owner’s loss has definitely been my gain. A close examination of all of its major and minor working parts revealed that each is numbered specifically to the rifle. This kind of Old World craftsmanship is rare these days and may be surpassed only by the excellent M1896 Swedish Mausers of Carl Gustafs and Husqvarna. The Monte Carlo walnut stock is not original, being a custom design. Its assorted shooting and hunting stock dings give it a character befitting the world-class status of its chambering.
The 7x57 Mauser cartridge has taken game cleanly and humanely on every continent and has been used quite effectively by the likes of WDM Bell, Eleanor O’ Connor (wife of the illustrious Jack), Jim Wilson, Chuck Hawks and Craig Boddington. The Model 95 was specifically designed for the 7x57 cartridge in 1895 by Peter Paul Mauser, the mastermind behind several pre-Model 98 designs. It was the first of his rifles to feature a safety feature in the form of a low shoulder at the rear of the receiver, just behind the base of the bolt handle, which was supposed to prevent the bolt from being blown out of the receiver and back into the shooter’s face, should the front locking lugs fail due to excessive pressure.
Several thousand of these beautiful arms were made in both rifle and carbine versions by the German firm of Ludwig Loewe in Berlin (the first financier of Mauser’s rifles) between 1895 and 1897. However, the metal tab that was supposed to serve as a safety lug was not ultimately considered by Mauser to be strong enough. The 1895 action was soon supplanted by the renowned Mauser '98, which has an actual third locking lug and is, admittedly, stronger than the Model 95 action.
Unfortunately, the Model 95 has acquired a reputation in this country as a weak rifle that many people are apprehensive about shooting. American ammunition companies produce 7x57mm ammunition loaded to SAAMI standards that are intentionally set well below the maximum pressure tolerance of the Model 1895. Consequently, all American factory loaded 7x57 ammo should be safe for use in the M95. European and Brazilian factory loads manufactured by Sellier & Bellot and Privi Partizan have been safely used for years.
That being said, I would like to point out that the Model 1895 is a well-made and sufficiently strong action, in spite of the mechanical superiority of the Model 98. In its original 7x57 chambering, the Model 95 is more than safe enough for responsible shooters and hunters to use, as long as they stick to factory loaded ammunition or equivalent reloads and do not exceed the entry-level loads for the 7x57 prescribed by the major reloading manuals.
One very real plus to this controlled-feed action is that the fixed, internal box magazine is beveled, allowing the bolt to close easily when the magazine is empty. Cycling the bolt is easy; the action feels smooth and solid. A Pachmayr White Line recoil pad completes the ensemble. The rifle is topped by a Nikon ProStaff 3-9x40mm riflescope, secured by a Leupold one-piece base and medium height Leupold steel rings.
How does she shoot? To be honest, I have not yet conducted a full range test with a variety of loads. I can only say that I recently fired the rifle for the first time on my home range on our family property, using Hornady’s 139-grain Interlock BTSP ammunition. The rifle really liked that load. When fired from a Caldwell Lead Sled at 100 yards, she printed three shots into a 1” group within the black diamond of a standard Birchwood Casey Shoot N’ C target. Two shots printed at each horizontal corner of the diamond and the third just below dead center of the diamond itself.
When I switched the rifle to my shoulder, shooting from a bench with the rifle supported by front and rear sandbags, my groups were not quite as stellar. They widened to about 1-½”, but my shoulder remained quite comfortable. As I have grown older, I have come to accept the fact that it may take me a bit longer to shoot tight groups. I want to have more fun and less pain in the process. Although I have yet to take any game with her, I am sure that this mild-recoiling, well-appointed rifle will do her part, if I do mine.
In summation, I am aware that all of the comments that I have made above could be applied to other suitable rifles and calibers. However, as the old saying goes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Copyright 2012 by Walton P. Sellers, III and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.