While I’m primarily an AR guy, and think that’s the best overall choice right now for the vast majority of rifle-y things that a guy might do, I’m also fond of old service rifles. They tell stories. Today we’re going to look at my oldest, a Mauser Karabiner 98k.
The Karabiner 98k, or Kar 98k, was a development of the Gewehr 98, by way of the Karabiner 98b. The Kar 98b wasn’t really a carbine at all, just a G 98 with better sights. It was still a long-barreled rifle. But after World War I, the Germans finally got to figuring that maybe they should standardize on one, shortish carbine for everyone who needed a rifle, rather than worry about infantry rifles and cavalry carbines. So, in 1934, they made what was to be the last in the long line of Mauser 98 designs, the Kar 98 kurz.1 In addition to the obviously shorter length, it also has a turned-down bolt handle, which makes mounting optics easier.
The Kar 98k has that wonderful, controlled-feed action that Mauser is famous for, and that so many have copied. It holds five rounds of 7.97x57mm ammunition, and proved to be a reliable and accurate weapon. It was the standard service rifle for the Wehrmacht Heer during the Second World War, and also saw use by the Soviets and many smaller powers after the war. It was also widely copied.
Let’s look at mine. It was made in 1938 in Suhl by J.P. Sauer und Sohn. Due to the time period of manufacture being before production had ramped up, Sauer was using some older parts. For this reason, the receiver bears both Weimar Waffenamnt proof marks and Third Reich Waffenamnt proof marks, which is kinda cool. Based on the age, we can conclude that this rifle saw plenty of service. Several parts are marked by an electropen with a different serial number than what is stamped on the gun. From this, we can conclude that this rifle was on the Eastern Front, was captured by the Soviets, and spent time reissued and in their arsenals. It has an X marking on the receiver that indicates it was eventually mustered out of Red Army service, and it eventually made its way to America and then to me.
Conditionwise, the rifle is in solid, but not excellent condition. The soviet arsenals have mixed up a few of the smaller parts, and they do not have matching serials with the rest of the gun. I’m happier that way, because it means the price is lower. The wood and finish show some wear, but are generally in good condition, and the bore doesn’t show too much wear either. There isn’t any pitting, and the grooves aren’t too worn out. When I got it, I was missing a few incidentals, which I decided to pick up. I got a surplus, beat-up looking sword bayonet of the appropriate late-thirties era, with oversized 9.75 inch blade, a cleaning rod, and a new-production sling.
For all its age, my Mauser shoots really well. The action is smooth, and the trigger is pretty good for a service rifle. It’s more or less two stage, and is somewhat heavy, but not gritty or creepy. The sights are ok. If you take your time and line them up right, the rifle is very accurate. They’re a simple notch and wedge-shaped post though, so these aren’t altogether fast or precise. Hardly my choice, but I didn’t design this. As is fitting and proper, the sight has range markings out to a hopelessly-optimistic two kilometers. I haven’t tried to hit anything at this range.
Recoil isn’t terrible. It’s certainly not a .22, but it’s not abusive the way a Mosin is. When I’ve brought it out for friends, I’ve gotten neither complaints nor habitual flinches, which is a good endorsement. The bolt isn’t as fast as a Lee Enfield, but it has never given me trouble.
My Mauser is a really nifty piece of history. It’s nearly eighty years old, but it still looks and shoots great. It’s a real treat to have and to run some rounds through.
If only it could talk.
1.) Short. Because it’s actually a carbine-length carbine as opposed to a longer, rifle-length carbine.