The Mauser 98k: History and Influence
Apr 25th 2023
The Mauser 98k is an infamous descendant of the Mauser Gewehr 98; the “k” stands for “kurz” or “short” in German, a nod to the fact that this model was designed as a shorter, lighter carbine.
The Mauser 98k preserves the DNA of the G98 and is built around the same Mauser action, which has been called many things, pretty much all of them positive, and among them “the greatest bolt-action rifle of all time.”
The Mauser bolt-action that defines the 98k has remained basically unchanged for 125 years, a fact of which Mauser is proud. Today, rifles built around the same action are available in a variety of chamberings and are carried boldly in pursuit of big game around the world.
Doubtless, there are countless other sporterized Mauser rifles around the globe that have taken everything from medium to large game and won competitions at a variety of levels.
Here are some things you need to know about the 98k and its influence as a service rifle.
Mauser 98k History
The predecessor to the Mauser 98k was the Model 98, which was developed in the late 1800s, introduced in 1898 (hence the name) and which replaced the Mauser 1888.
The bolt-action Mauser 98 rifle was one of the most prominent infantry rifles of both World War I and World War II, but, at 49.2” and 9 lbs, empty, it was a large, heavy rifle.
By 1934, the German Armed Forces (specifically the Heereswaffentamt) had foreseen the need for a new service rifle. This began the development of the Mauser 98k.
Lighter rifles, such as this carbine was designed to emulate, were more maneuverable, particularly in tighter spaces, and they also notably produced less muzzle flash with the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge.
This gave shorter, potentially lighter arms the benefit of improved handling and superior concealment while preserving the safety, reliability, and effective range of the larger Mauser.
The 98k weighed between 8.2 to 9lbs, and at 43.7”, was comparable in weight to the G98 while being substantially shorter.
Like the G98, the 98k was built around Mauser’s M98 system.
Improving the Bolt Action
We can hardly say anything about the Mauser bolt action and controlled feed system that hasn’t been said before, but this: it is strong, safe, reliable, and perhaps most importantly, simple.
Early bolt-action rifles, such as the Lebel 1886 and Mosin-Nagant utilized a rotating bolt with two locking lugs that secured the breech while firing.
The Mauser G98 bolt action improved vastly upon this two-lug design. Like other bolt-action mechanisms, the Mauser G98’s rotating bolt featured two locking lugs at the head of the bolt, along with a third, safety lug at the rear.
This bolt configuration vastly improved the strength of the Mauser action and was complemented by several other features.
In the G98, the receiver, which serves as the action shroud, also featured an enlarged ring diameter, which improved the strength and safety of the action. The barrel shank was enlarged, and the bolt handle was integrated with the bolt body, improving strength and leverage.
However, in the Mauser 98k, the bolt handle (which remained integral to the bolt body) was downturned. This minimized the overall profile of the weapon, diminished the amount by which the bolt protruded from the receiver, and made it easier to rapidly cycle the bolt. This change also made it possible to mount optics directly over the receiver.
The Mauser 98k also featured the controlled-feed system of the G98, which offered numerous benefits to the shooter.
This controlled-feed system featured a large, non-rotating claw extractor which was superior to other extractors in use at the time. It engaged the cartridge rim early - as soon as the cartridge was stripped from the internal magazine - and did not release until the cartridge was removed from the chamber and ejected.
The slightly cammed surface at the rear of the receiver bridge, which caused slight bolt retraction right at the end of the bolt opening cycle, further facilitated extraction and ejection, whether the cartridge was fired or not.
This feature also improved the operability of the rifle. Regardless of the angle, attitude, or firing of the action, if the bolt is properly cycled, the rifle will feed properly.
In addition to being remarkably strong, the Mauser 98k’s action was also incredibly safe, thanks to a series of specific features that improved its design.
The bottom of the bolt features two large gas relief ports. If the action experienced catastrophic failure or, for instance, a cartridge ruptured, the gases would be directed down into the magazine. The bolt sleeve also featured a gas shield. These features help direct dangerous, high-pressure gases away from the operator’s face.
In terms of simplicity, the Mauser 98k is also a work of art. The bolt can be easily removed by moving the three-position safety to the 12 o’clock position, engaging the bolt stop lever, and removing the bolt straight out of the receiver to the rear.
This feature makes it easier to remove and clean the bolt and enables easy, partial field stripping and direct access to the bore from the chamber, through the receiver. Considering the fact that Mauser 98k rifles were issued with cleaning rods (joining three together could create a full-length rod), these rifles featured a simpler action design that was easier to clean in the field than many others.
These Mauser military rifles, which were converted into variants such as sniper rifles, may have been complemented in the field by machine guns and early semi-automatic rifles, but they were still carried with distinction throughout all theaters of the Second World War in which Germany participated as a combatant.
The infamous Mauser action around which these rifles were built can easily be called one of the most influential designs of all time, and all modern rifles that feature a third-locking lug can be said to take their influence at least in part from this pioneer.
Need Parts or Accessories for a Mauser 98k? Visit Us
If you own a Mauser 98k or some other Mauser rifle and need parts for it, come visit us in our showroom at 50 Hilton Street in Easton, Pennsylvania. We have hundreds of guns and thousands of parts and accessories - call ahead at 610-250-3960 if you have any questions.