Successful is a word that doesn’t quite cover it when it comes to the 1898 Mauser.
The 98 was such a good design that the Germans stuck with it through two World Wars. Countless other countries adopted the 98 as their military rifle, sometimes buying them from Mauser and at other times simply manufacturing the guns themselves.
America’s first turn-bolt, high-powered military rifle was so close to the 98 in design that Mauser actually sued over patent issues and won. As a sporting arm, the 98 has been produced in various forms by Mauser and still is.
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If you’ve ever looked over a 98 Mauser and noticed that it bears a striking resemblance to a Winchester Model 70, CZ 550 or even a Ruger 77 you’re not wrong. The 98 is essentially the granddaddy of all controlled-feed rifles and, if we’re being honest, can even be considered the progenitor of the push-feed rifles.
The 98 was the giant step forward in rifle design, and all turn-bolts that came after it are rather doomed to imitation. The combination of an action strong enough to handle high pressure cartridges with smokeless powder, inherent accuracy and extreme durability made the 98 the first modern rifle that really works and shoots the way we current shooters expect it to.
Today, there are literally tons of old military 98 actions on the market. Many of these guns have been “sporterized” at some point. Some have been rebarreled from their original 8mm chambering due to Americas long dislike for the German service round. Many times these reworked 98s are great values.
If the gunsmith who did the work on them had more of an eye for utility than aesthetics, some can be had quite cheap and make for fine hunting rifles.
Cartridges like the 30-06, 270 Win and 35 Whelen fit very well on 98 actions with only a bit of retrofitting being required for magnums. The 98 is more than capable of handling any of this fodder, and usually makes for an accurate arm to boot.
When it comes to military issue 98s that still wear all their original parts, the price is finally starting to go up. There was a time (even in my lifetime) when a smart shopper could pick up an as-issued 98 for about $40. Currently, the prices on these guns are creeping toward the $200 mark.
Still, in my opinion, this makes for a heck of an entertainment value. Naturally, if you pick up a 98 with its full-length wood furniture and other trappings, it’s in your best interest to leave it alone these days instead of sporting it out. In a few years the price of these guns is going to rise rapidly and you’ll get a better return if the gun has not been tampered with.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t still have some fun with it. A few years back I used an as-issued 98 chambered for 8mm Mauser and stoked up with Barnes X-Bullets to take an elk.
These military arms leave a little to be desired in terms of the sights and trigger pull, but generally can make useful hunting implements that have a lot of history to them as well.
Featured image via gunauction.com