The Mauser Bolt Rifle FAQ
by James Wesley, Rawles
Copyright 1993-2007 by James Wesley, Rawles.  All Rights Reserved

 Revised November 11, 2007

Copyright 1993-2007, by James Wesley, Rawles

In response to repeated requests by e-mail, the following is a brief  description of the differences between the various older smokeless powder 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 references 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 labeled 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 $25 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 Model 1898 extractor).

An aside:  The Winchester Model 70 used two bolt types, one with a Mauser 98 style extractor ("claw") and one with a small tab extractor. The claw models were referred to as "controlled feed" while the other is "push feed". The difference can be most apparent when feeding with the rifle in other than the upright horizontal - the controlled feed positively holds the cartridge from the magazine to the chamber and back again while the push feed only grips the cartridge once chambered and thence until ejection. The controlled feed was used in the original, pre-1964 production Model 70s and then again in the later Classic models. The in-between years of production used the push feed extractor system. There were good reasons why Winchester originally chose the M98 style extractor and why they returned to it. Those reasons are not the same and there is nothing wrong with the push feed as exemplified by many other contemporary rifles use of it. The term "positive feed" is synonymous with "controlled feed" and may have been introduced with the Classic models to enhance the marketing message. But, in essence, the guys at Winchester just re-adopted a 102 year old  Mauser design. (Those dweebs!)

The Model 1893 through 1896 were essentially 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 Model 1895s) were  re-heat treated and arsenal upgraded to 8 x 57 mm Mauser, .308 Winchester, 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 discontinued 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 Olsen'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. These are currently available at very reasonable prices from Century International. Production for this contract ended in 1897, so ALL of these receivers are legally antique. (I'd be happy to send anyone who requests it a hard copy of a BATF letter that confirms this, and also states that sporterizing or re-barreling  or re-chambering them does not change their exempt status.) 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 Model 1898s 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 and Federal now load for it, so the cost of ammo has fallen to about $18.00/box wholesale. (Full retail is $25.75 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...).  Pre-1899 specimens command up to a 100% premium over identical rifles made just a year later. I recently sold one that was dated 1898 on an on-line auction for $770!

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 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 $575 and
$950, depending on condition, and whether or not they are pre-1899.

Mats Perssons provided the following information about the brass stock disks (on Swedish Rolling Block and Mauser  rifles) and the aluminum trajectory compensation plates found on many Swedish Mausers.  See his web site for even more information on Swedish military arms:

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 the point 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 that the M1896s, 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.

Ever wonder what the little pointer to 1, 2, or 3 on you brass disk refers to?  I found the following on unit markings posted at the Tuco Mauser Forum:

There are actually five grades, or classes, pitting/corrosion in the barrel
 0 Absolutely no corrosion, abrasion or scratches
 - As good as new.  (No pointer is stamped)
 1 One or just a few dark areas in the corners
 between grooves and lands.
 2 Rust in the corners between grooves and lands,
 some spots of rust in the grooves.
 3 Spots of rust throughout the whole length of the bore
 but no sharp edges.
And once the bore gets to...
 4 Sharp edges between corroded and not corroded areas
Jim's note: The barrel is then  discarded and replaced, (and of course the disk is replaced.)
The Swedes are so methodical. Nothing like good maintenance!

 The smallest sector tells if there is any corrosion in the barrel.
 A small triangle above '1' means visible signs of corrosion,
 above '2' more corrosion,
 above '3' still more corrosion, but still acceptable
 Note that '3' does not mean poor condition, since the Swedish Army never
 used weapons in poor condition.

 If there were more rust, or if the diameter of the bore
 - at the muzzle end -
 was bigger than 0,06 mm over the calibre stated on the brass disk,
 or if the diameter of the bore was bigger than 6,56 mm,
 the disk was removed and red sealing-wax was poured in the hole.
 The rifle was then sold, or sent to an arsenal to be rebarreled
 (during WW2 often into an m/96-38).

 If the diameter of the bore was more then 0,03 mm,
 but less than 0,06 mm, over the calibre stated on the brass disk,
 the rifle was used only for training.

 Info on the later 'two screw type' brass disk.  (Used on the m/94 carbine,
the m/96 and m/38 rifles as well as on LMGs and SMGs. This type showed
which unit the rifle belonged to.


 Often in the form of:

 ----- No.7

 Which means; Rifle number 7, at the 5th Company, at the 2nd Infantry Regiment.

 The letter in front of the regiment number (beneath the horizontal
 I Infanteri (I1 - I29) Infantry
 K Kavalleri (K1 - K9) Cavalry
 A Artilleri (A1 - A9) Artillery
 T Trängen (T1 - T4) Maintenance and Supply Troops
 (Train Troops)
 IK Ingenjörskåren Engineer Corps
 (an earlier code for Engineers was IB)

 Sometimes there is a letter behind the regiment.
 This is the notation for a detachment, the letter is the first letter in the name of the place for the detachment.

 Other army units;
 KKS Kungliga Krigsskolan The Royal Military College
 KS Krigsskolan The Royal Military Collage
 SS Infanteriskjutskolan The Infantry Musketry School
 SSÖ Infanteriskjutskolans The Exercise Company of övningskompani the Infantry Musketry School
 AUS Arméns underofficersskola The Army Warrant Officers School
 BF Fästningspolisen i Boden The Fortress Police in Boden
 K-g Volontärskolan i Karlsborg The Volunteer School in Karlsborg
 N-g Volontärskolan i Norrköping The Volunteer School in Norrköping

 There could be a letter instead of a figure above the horizontal line
 (and sometimes no regiment):

 ----- No.124

 S Skarpskjutningsvapen Weapons used for practice with
 live ammunition (aluminium disk)
 L Lösskjutningsvapen Weapons used for blank firing
 K Kammarvapen Weapons used for gallery shooting
 B Befälsvapen Weapons used by Officers (for practice)
 U Utlåningsgevär Weapons that could be borrowed by
 civilian rifle organizations
 D Kompanigevär Weapons that belongs to a certain company
 vid infanteriet (only at Infantry regiments)

 The disc could also look like:

 ----- No.72 No.5

 Which means; Rifle number 5, at the 72nd Landstormen area,
 attached to the 19th Infantry Regiment.
 were defence-only units.

 ----- No.20

 Which means; Rifle number 20, at the bicycle-dispatch unit
 (velocipedordonans), at the 3rd Army Division (armefördelning).
 Only on carbine m/94.

 Some later codes or abbreviations for regiments or other army-units, that may appear together with a number:
 Tyg Fälttygkåren (Tyg1-Tyg3) Ordnance Corps
 Int Intendenturkåren (Int1-Int4) Quartermaster Corps
 Ing Ingenjörstrupperna (Ing1-Ing5) Engineer Troops

 Even later also;
 S Signaltrupperna (S1-S3) Signal Troops
 Lv Luftvärnet (Lv1-Lv7) Anti-aircraft Artillery
 P Pansartrupperna (P1-P7,P10,P18) Armoured Troops
 Af Armeflyg (Af1,Af2) Army Air Corps

 Some weapons stored in the Armys Supply Services Armouries
 IFS Intendenturförådet i Stockholm The Stckholm Armoury
 IFK Intendenturförådet i Karlsborg The Karlsborg Armoury
 IFB Intendenturförådet i Boden The Boden Armoury


 There was one exception from this kind of 'unit'-disk.
 The m/41 snipers rifle had a disk with the text;
 'G m/41 B'

 Which reads 'Gevär m/41 B' ('Rifle model 41B').


 The Swedish Navy often used;
 Kgl fl Kungliga flottan the Royal Fleet

 The Navy used to be organized in four districts;
 MDO Ostkustens Marindistrikt Naval Command East
 MDS Sydkustens Marindistrikt Naval Command South
 MDN Norrlandskustens Marindistrikt Naval Command North
 MDV Västkustens Marindistrikt Naval Command West

 The Coast Artillery (that belonged to the Navy) sometimes used;
 SK Stockholms Kustartilleriförsvar the Coastal Artillery at Stockholm

 (posted at KA1 in Vaxholm)
 BK Blekinges Kustartilleriförsvar the Coastal Artillery in Blekinge
 (posted at KA2 in Karlkrona)
 GK Gotlands Kustartilleriförsvar the Coastal Artillery on Gotland
 (posted at KA3 at Fårösund)
 GbK Göteborgs Kustartilleriförsvar the Coastal Artillery at Göteborg
 (posted at KA4 in Göteborg)
 HK Hemsö Kustartilleriförsvar the Coastal Artillery at Hemsö
 (posted at KA4H in Härnösand)
 (HK was later changed to NK
 and KA4H was changed to KA5)
 It seems like the Coast Artillery also used the KA1 - KA5 denotations.

 The Navy also used numerous other markings, like:

 ÖVG Örlogsvarvet Göteborg the Navy dockyard in Göteborg

 Air Force

 The Swedish Air Force used;

 F Flygflottilj (F1 - F22) Air Force Station (Group)

 The 'one screw type' brass disk
 The larger sector tells the actual calibre of the bore.
 A triangular mark is made above the 'hundredth of a millimetre digit',

 e.g. a triangle above '4' in the outer group of digits means 6,54 mm,
 and a triangle above '9' in the inner group means 6,49 mm.

 The second largest sector tells the difference between the point
 of impact and the point you are aiming at -
 when using the 'new' pointed m/41 bullet.
 'Torped' is a boat-tailed, pointed bullet.
 'Överslag' is over.
 'str' is an abbreviation for streck which is a unit for plane angels,
 there are 6300 streck to a circle,
 and 1 str makes approximately 0,1 m at 100 m.
 So if it say '2' on the disk you will hit 0,4 m above the point you
 are aiming at, at a shooting distance of 200 m,
 that is - if you are using the Swedish Armys m/41 ammunition.

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 are pre-1899

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. So are DWMs with A through K serial number prefixes. Special thanks to The Dutchman in Indiana for the first "in captivity" report on a K-prefix M1895 DWM that is marked 1898. Also thanks to  Ed Albers, who spotted another, with serial number  K7023.  The DWM-made guns with higher (L to S or ?) prefixes are generally agreed to be 1899 or later production.)

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 trials model (prototype Model 1898), 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. (But of course always have any rifle checked by a gunsmith before firing.)

 James Wesley, Rawles      <><

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I'm the author of numerous firearms FAQS on topics including:
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Markings Translations.  These FAQs are available at

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