Offering some rare WWII Mausers found behind the former Iron Curtain.
A few days ago a friend said to me, “Duke, you dive into everything full speed.” I do. For my entire life when something in the firearms world captures my fancy I delve into it deeply. In the early 1990s it was Civil War rifle/muskets—I bought about a dozen replicas and originals. With time, the passion cooled and I kept my favorite and sold off the rest. That was followed by 19th century lever guns. At one point I owned about three dozen vintage Winchesters and Marlins. Now I’m back to a third of that.
What my friend was speaking of specifically was my current affinity for military Mauser rifles such as written about in this column in the July issue. Someday I might sell or trade the ones gathered so far but right now I’m at warp speed studying and shooting them.
An unexpected acquisition I’m not going to write about yet spurred my newest Mauser purchase—a German K98k 8x57mm. I needed a fine shooter but not a pristine collector’s item because my intention is to alter it. K98ks are not uncommon on the used gun market but they can range in condition from relics to unissued. Instead of taking a chance for this project I wanted a sure bet. So I turned to Mitchell’s Mausers.
For years now Mitchell’s Mausers has had people scouring Europe for rifles. These have been K98ks surrendered by the Germans at the end of World War II and various similar models made in the Balkans both pre- and post-WWII. Literally tons of Mauser rifles were warehoused in various condition and countries for decades. Mitchell’s Mausers brought them to California, refurbished them and have been selling them in various grades. A few years back, I had a sample here for articles and also just a couple months ago a friend bought one, which I have watched him shoot on several occasions. With both I was impressed with their accuracy and also with their restoration quality.
Duke purchased this Mitchell’s Mausers German K98k recently for an upcoming project.
Duke doesn’t expect to be able to shoot this well with open sights
but regardless this was the very first group fired with his new
K98k restored by Mitchell’s Mausers.
So I called Mitchell’s Mausers, told them of my project and asked them to pick me a good candidate. To say I am pleased with my new K98k is an understatement. Not only has it been professionally restored and wears a barrel with bright shiny bore, but it turned out to be an early WWII one.
The German Wehrmacht (armed forces) were fond of stamping all sorts of designations on their equipment. My new K98k is dated 1940 on its receiver ring along with the code AX. Looking that up in the book Mauser Military Rifles Of The World, Third Edition by Robert W.D. Ball showed it was made by a firm named Feinmechanische Werke GmbH located in Erfurt, Germany.
K98ks made early in WWII differed from later ones in some details. For instance, their fore-end caps were milled. Later ones were stamped. Buttplates on early rifles were flat. Later ones are called cupped buttplates. Also front sights on early K98ks did not have hoods or the grooves needed for their installation. All those features are correct on this rifle.
Here’s an interesting detail. Early on the Germans also stamped the top of each barrel with a set of numbers. They are that barrel’s exact internal diameter in millimeters. This one is stamped 7.91. Another Mauser in my collection from 1937 is stamped 7.9. Other K98ks in my racks dated 1942 and later do not have those stamps.
Here are a few specs of a K98k also taken from Ball’s book. Barrel length is 23.62″. Overall length is 43.6″. Weight is 8.6 pounds. Magazine capacity is five rounds. Sights are a blade front dovetailed to the stud atop the barrel and rear is a tangent ladder type with a simple open notch, graduated to 2,000 meters. K98ks are built on Peter Paul Mauser’s very strong Model 1898 action with its three locking lugs and bolt cock-on-opening feature.
The same day my new K98k arrived I had it to my range for sighting in and to determine if it was accurate enough for my proposed project. On hand I had two 8x57mm handloads. Both contained Hornady’s new 196-grain hollowpoint, boattail bullet. One load was charged with 47.0 grains of Hodgdon’s Varget and the other with 50 grains of IMR4350. I did not chronograph those loads from my new rifle but from another K98k they gave about 2,500 fps and 2,300 fps respectively.
Zeroing on a paper target took but a few minutes because I was armed with a front sight adjusting tool specifically for Mausers from Accumounts. It fits over the barrel and pushes the front sight blade in the direction needed. My rifle started out shooting about 4″ to the right. Pushing its front sight very slightly to the right (about .04″) moved point-of-impact dead on. For elevation, the slower handload hit at point of aim at 100 yards and the faster one was about 6″ higher.
What about group sizes? I almost hesitate to say. The first loads fired were those with IMR4350. A couple of 3-shot clusters stayed inside 2″ and I wasn’t unhappy with such. Then I started with the Varget load and three shots went into 5/8″. I couldn’t leave it there because readers would say such a group was fired with a keyboard. Therefore two more rounds were fired. The group still was only 1-1/2″. Some follow-up shooting on steel to 300 yards has confirmed that this rifle is finely accurate.
It will be perfect for my project which I’ll detail as soon as it’s complete.
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos By Yvonne Venturino
P.O. Box 9295 , Fountain Valley, CA 92728
P.O. Box 1802, Troy, MI 48099