Contributed by Michael Burnside
One of the most famous European rifle names of all time is "Mauser." The name "Mauser" is not limited to any single rifle design but rather a whole series of rifle designs that evolved over time and continue to be manufactured even today.
In 1867, Wilhelm and Paul Mauser designed the first Mauser rifle. The German army designated this rifle as the M71 and adopted it for use in 1871. Like many military weapons of that era, the name incorporated the date that the rifle was brought into service. The M71 was a single shot rifle that, like all Mausers, used a rotating bolt action. To load the M71, the bolt was turned up and drawn back exposing the rifle's breech. A single cartridge could then be placed into the rifle. The bolt would be moved back, thus ramming the cartridge into the breech. The rifle could then be fired. This early action did not eject the spent brass as modern bolt action rifles do, rather, once the bolt had been drawn back, the user would have to reach in and manually extract the round from the rifle's chamber.
Improvements in this simple design followed. A repeating version of the M71 was developed. Designated as the M71/84, this variant of the M71 had an 8 shot tubular magazine and ejected spent cartridges when the bolt was pulled back.
In 1888, a new model of Mauser was introduced, the M88. The M88 was the first rifle specifically designed to take advantage of a new advance in gunpowder, smokeless powder. While not truly smokeless, cartridges using this new powder release only a whiff of white smoke instead of the billowing black cloud that black powder guns generate. Perhaps more importantly, this new powder was more powerful and could fire a bullet with a higher muzzle velocity than the old powder. A new round was developed using this new technology, the 8mm Mauser. This cartridge has become as famous as the rifles that use it. (The cartridge actually measures 7.9mm, but is commonly referred to as the 8mm anyway.)
After several more models that improved the basic design of the Mauser rifle (including one that introduced a smaller 7mm Mauser cartridge, the M93), the M98 was designed and adopted by the German army in 1898. This is the rifle that would serve the German army throughout World War One. The M98's design influenced the creation of other famous rifles such as the 1908 Springfield and the 1917 Enfield. The basic M98 mauser designed has been copied all over the world and modified to fire a large range of ammunition types.
In the approach up to World War II, Germany decided to discard the M98 rifle in favor of the carbine version of the design. The M98 is quite long, almost rivaling the length of some civil war era smoothbore muskets. Additionally, the bolt on the M98 sticks straight out making it easy to snag on nearby obstacles, fellow squad members or even oneself. (The author managed to smack himself in the elbow while bringing a Siamese Mauser up into a firing position. The metal sphere of the bolt action almost seems to have been designed to smack into one's funny bone.)
The carbine version of the M98 is the K98 ("K" for "Karabiner"). Although shorter than the M98, the K98 is longer than what most people would consider a carbine. It"s about the same size as the Allies' main battle rifles. In addition to being shorter than the M98, the K98 also has a turned down bolt action. Like the M98, the K98 would be copied throughout the world. The K98 would serve Germany throughout World War II and ended up serving in many other nations' militaries well into the 1960's.
The Yugoslavians captured many K98s while fighting a partisan war again the German occupation of their nation. After World War II, they took the K98 design, modified it for their own use, and produced it for many years as the M48 rifle. The author's M48 Mauser is the one pictured on this page.