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Mauser Rifle - Part 1
Credits: Pete Smith, AFRA

A Brief History of the Mauser Company

The Mauser company was set up by Wilhelm and Peter Paul (a redundant designer from Wuttemburg Govt. armoury). The brothers were two of a brood of seven (children of Franz Andreas) who started business with the adoption by several German states of their first design (an improved Chaspot rifle) in 1871. With Peter Paul designing and Wilhelm playing the role of statesman and diplomat, the company took off making fine military and sporting arms of all types.

Despite being stripped of machinery after 1918, then destroyed by Soviet order in 1946, the company of Mauser still operates in Obendorf a' Neckar, hometown of the Mauser brothers.

The Major Mauser Designs

Rather than follow the whole of the Mausers' history, we shall only concern ourselves here with the 'direct bloodline' ancestory of the K98k.

Gewher 88
Entered into service in 1888, it was designed to even the balance of the Lebel Mle 86 (which had an 8mm smokeless cartridge which gave power and a flatter trajectory), which gave the French troops a distinct advantage.
Tested in 7, 7.5 and 8mm, the 8mm cartridge was selected and the rifle entered service with Prussia, Saxony and Wuttenburg on the 12th of November.
Though clumsy by latter day bolt action standards, it was very good for it's time and inspired what became the Belgium Mle 89 service rifle.

Length: 124.5cm
Unladen weight: 3900gm
Calibre: 8mm
Loading system: Clip
Capacity: 5
Velocity: 630 m/sec

A cavalry version was made ( Kar 88 ), being 95cm long.

1896 Mauser Kleinkalibriges-Versuchsgewher

Since 1892 Germany had been experimenting with 'small' calibre bullet, (as low as 5mm), in cartridge cases of 67-68mm. In 1896, Mauser received an order to make 2185 experimental rifles, improving the actions with their newer refinements. These were built without the '88 barrel jacket and had tangent rearsights (instead of Lange Visiere) and straight hand stocks. Tested with calibres of 6, 6.5, 7, 7.65 and 8mm, the result showed that those small cartridges gave a flat trajectory and high velocity, their inferior lethality meant that the 8mm Patrone 88 was retained, thus the programme ended.

Length: 125cm
Unladen weight: 3630gm
Calibre: 6-7mm
Loading system: Charger
Capacity: 5
Velocity: Variable

The only likely outcome of this test was the Swedish M96 rifle, calibered in 6.5mm and almost identical in layout.

Gewher 88/97

New Mauser actions, utilising charger loading, were built into a new rifle, which was troop tested since November 1894. In January 1895, 2000 were ordered for trials and were delivered by early summer. Two patterns of breech were employed and these '97s bore the 1895 patented action, superior to the 1893 model fitted into the 1896 test rifles.

The Kaiser signed the adoption orders on 11/03/1897. Although they should have gone into complete production with sub-contractors, arsenals etc. the Gewher 98 arrived before production was finalised.

Length: 124cm
Unladen weight: 3630gm
Calibre: 8mm
Loading system: Charger
Capacity: 5
Velocity: 630 m/sec

Gewher 98

The third in the '88 replacement series. Several major changes were involved between 88 and 98, a solid ( not split bridge ) receiver, bolt handle locking behind ( not in front of ) the bridge, a one piece bolt with double locking lugs forged integrally ( instead of a seperate bolt head ), a third locking lug in the receiver wall opposite the bolt handle, a special rearsight by Oberst Wilhelm Lange ( instead of the old leaf type ), an improved bayonet mounting system, no barrel jacket, a pistol grip ( rather than straight hand ) stock and a charger rather than clip loading system. All officially adopted on the 5/4/1898.

The Gew98 was made for the Paronen 88, but the French suddenly introduced a pointed bullet ( instead of the almost universal round tip ) for their lebel cartridge. Experiments in Spandau began and the final bullet was 9.8gms, with a .5 cupro-nickel jacket. At the same time the powder charge was changed to that of smaller, thinner flakes ( thus burning quicker, more completely, leaving less fowling and more propellant per given volume ). By 1904 the S ( Spitzgeschosse ) Patronen was being delivered to the armed forces at 97 marks per 1000. Official changeover day was 1/10/05. All rifles ( both 88 and 98 ) were converted for S-Patronen between 1903 and 1905. Converted guns bore a 2.5mm letter S on top of all their chambers and on the barrel behind the backsight ( all new guns made during that time were marked S also and this continued with new guns long after the existing rifles were all altered, this practise eventually fell away ). A new backsight was fitted to the flatter projectory of S.Patronen. These were found to be inaccurate at 50-100m ( as the minimum setting was 400m ). By the end of 1916 several wartime modifications had took place. A washer for protecting the firing pin whilst stripping the bolt was put into the butt, a grasping groove was put into the forend, only one lock-screw position instead of three was provided, finishing began to decline, cheaper woods, along with accelerated seasoning processes were introduced and some stocks had the lower butt dovetailed on from a seperate piece, so inferior stcok blanks could be used. Many were destroyed after the war. The few the Reichswher did keep had lange sights swapped for simple tangent leaf types ( now with minimum 100m sighting range ), the bolt handles turned down, their barrel bands revised and their designation changed to Karabiner 98b.

Length: 125cm
Unladen weight: 4100gm
Calibre: 7.92mm
Loading system: Charger
Capacity: 5
Velocity: 870m/sec

The total number of Gew98s made is unknown, but it is probably above 5 million. Interestingly the Imperial German troops did receive small numbers of a semi-automatic 'Mondragoon rifle' during WWI.

Part 2 of this article is coming soon. Please check back!

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