Probably the best bolt-action rifle ever designed, the Model 1898 Mauser—in various guises—has been used by the armies of scores of different countries throughout the world and was the platform for America’s classic 1903 Springfield. The Model 98 has also provided the basis for some of the finest, most reliable sporters ever made.
The 98 Template
This groundbreaking rifle was the brainchild of German arms genius Peter Paul Mauser, who put it together using some of the ideas from his earlier rifles, vastly improving them by strengthening the action with a one-piece bolt employing two front-mounted locking lugs plus a third rear lug to act as a safety if the other two failed. The Model 98 was fitted with a foolproof three-position safety and a non-rotating extractor that eliminated double feeds by grabbing the rimless 7.92mm cartridge the instant it cleared the magazine. There was also a bigger gas shield and a reinforcing collar machined into the rear of the receiver ring to completely enclose the bolt head.
Other features included a flush five-round magazine that could be clip-loaded and a mechanism that cocked on opening. In very short order this wondrous piece of hardware was adopted by the German military and christened the Gewehr 98.
The original Gew. 98, in the style of the period, was a long (49.2 inches) rifle weighing in at some 9.2 pounds. The barrel itself measured 28½ inches. A distinctive ramp-shaped Lange rear sight (named after the inventor) graduated to 2,000 meters was situated on the barrel just behind the handguard.
The action worked by drawing back the bolt and inserting a stripper clip, which fit into a slot in the bridge. Cartridges were pushed in with the thumb, the bolt closed, and the gun was ready to fire.
A paddle-shaped safety, which was mounted on the top of the rear bolt housing, was similar to those of earlier Mausers. All the way to the left, the gun was ready to fire. Straight up, the gun was on safe, but the bolt could be withdrawn. In the far right position, the gun was on safe with the bolt locked forward.
Initially, Gewehr bayonets had long, slim blades, but later on shorter ones appeared as well as heavier “butcher” and saw-tooth styles, not to mention a number of different types of cobbled-up ersatz and converted foreign bayonets that were issued during World War I.
The 98 Mauser received its baptism of fire during the Chinese Boxer Rebellion in 1900, where it performed beautifully. Production was stepped up, and soon most regular troops were equipped with this new super-weapon.