8mm Mauser: Just plain fun.

Not my Mauser, but a Mauser, that looks basically the same as mine. Image from Wikipedia.

One of the toys that I received for Christmas is a 1948 Turkish Mauser from my brother. It’s a bolt-action rifle that fires 8mm rounds, has a five-round capacity, a 29″ barrel and a weight of 9.2lbs. It’s a beast. It’s certainly a lot more gun that I’m accustomed to, since my primary firearm has long been a Mossberg .22.

I test fired it this afternoon. It was interesting to load. I’m using surplus Yugoslavian ammo, from 1954. It comes in boxes of fifteen, with each five joined by a stripper clip. The five are jammed into two rows in the magazine from the top, the strip extracted, and the first round is chambered once the bolt is is closed.

8mm ammunition
These are very large rounds.

I expected some kick when I squeezed the trigger, but it surprised the hell out of me when it came. It was as if I’d fired a shotgun. My shot went wild, my teeth snapped shut and my ears rang, despite the earplugs. Naturally, I immediately chambered another round and gave it another shot. A fraction a second later, a small explosion of debris burst up from side of the mountain a hundred yards in front of me. Fun. For comparison’s sake, I took a few shots with my .22. Considerably less fun.

Now that I know it works, I’m going to set up some targets on my impromptu range and have a little fun. I think I’ll skip the paper targets, though. I think I’ll want something a little more…explody.

Anybody looking to put a hole about yea big in that thing over there will find a Mauser a damned fine way to do it.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

20 replies on “8mm Mauser: Just plain fun.”

  1. Aren’t you just a little worried about deterioration in 53 year old ammo? Wow, that looks to be about a .32 cal round. No wonder you’re getting more kick than from a .22. Hope you have fun. Just be careful with the ammo. And if you want something more explody may I suggest some pre-shook cans of cheap soda? Messy but fun.

  2. Aren’t you just a little worried about deterioration in 53 year old ammo?

    You bet. I’ve inspected each round before firing it for signs of deterioration, and checked each shell, post-firing, to see if the stress had caused it to wear. Each one was OK. But the fact that I need to do so, — and feel compelled to do so — seems to indicate that I’d rather not be firing 53 year-old ammo.

    But I’m more worried because this stuff is corrosive — it’s really bad for the barrel if it’s not cleaned often. It’s a lot cheaper shooting surplus, but I think I’m willing to spend the money. :)

  3. My lutherie hobby seems less cool all of a sudden.

    You should write about that! Instrument-making is a might unusual hobby. I think a lot of people would be interested to read about it. At least, I know I would.

  4. The 8mm Mauser M98 is a gun with a long history. Americans faced it in the Mexican War (1998) and it was clearly a more accurate rifle than the the U.S.Army Springfield rifle. Before we had german luxury cars, this is what people referred to when they were talking about “german engineering” quality .

    Unless your rifle is marked with arabic script, it might well be a German made Mauser. The Turks bought a 7.65mm version, and later a 7.65mm Russian version. All are quality rifles.

    I have heard that the old ammo is way over-powdered. It was designed as a short-range, high power military round. That may explain the kick you felt. Handloaders say that with the right bullet weight and powder charge this is still one of the most accurate rifles around.

  5. That’s the best Christmas gift I’ve heard of this year. I’ve had the privilege of range-firing a 1916 vintage German Mauser. It was extremely accurate from a prone position at 200 meters. I was using current loads and agree with Bubby that you should change out that 1950s stuff. Aside from any other concern, I expect that they would leave a lot of gunk in the weapon.

  6. Best to run a patch soaked with windex or something else ammonia based a down the bore after shooting corrosive ammunition. Pause, then run clean patches till dry, then run an oiled patch down the bore. It is a salt that is corrosive in the old ammunition, and you must dissolve it before applying any oil. If you follow these directions, the barrel will outlast you. Good luck.

  7. [Takes deep breath]

    The only risk in shooting old ammo is that it might not go ‘pop’ when you want it it to. With the corrosive berdan primers, even that is not much of a risk. That’s why it has the corrosive salts in it – the ammunition was designed in the first place to have an extremely long shelf life. I have fired thousands of rounds of military surplus ammunition for the Mauser, Mosin Nagant and Steyr M95 rifles that was anywhere from 20 to 100 years old and I have found that age means very little so long as the ammo wasn’t left sitting in a field for 10 years or something. I have some 100 year old ammo that is more reliable than some that is 20 years old.


    Waldo’s rifle is a 1948 K. Kale so it’s less likely (though not entirely impossible) that it is German. By 1948 the Turks had pretty well gone through their entire stock of captured/surrendered German Mausers and were making their own rifles for a while. Most receivers dated that late are probably not war surplus, the nice thing about that being that most of them saw very little service before being mothballed and they will tend to be in rather good condition. The Turkish government did not much bother with differentiating between rifles from various sources and there can be a lot of guess work involved in figuring out a Turkish Mauser’s history. All they cared about was ensuring that each rifle was brought up to uniform ‘model of 1938’ standards and whether that meant a newly minted weapon or a parts barrel special made little difference to them.

    The older eastern bloc 8mm ammo is not overloaded. Rather, 8mm Mauser has *always* been underloaded in the US. This is because way back in the 1890’s and early 20th century, the first 8mm Mausers that made their way to the US (I’m simplfying things a little bit to avoid a dissertation on cartridge development) had weaker actions that used an 8mm round with a smaller charge. The later incarnation of the K-98 Mauser that we all know and love used a higher-powered round. Later, when surplus K-98s flooded the market after WW1, American ammunition manufacturers were concerned that someone might try to use a full-power 8mm round in one of the older models with weak actions, resulting potentially in an exploding rifle. So they deliberately underloaded the 8mm Mauser cartridge. Which most US manufacturers are STILL doing to this day out of habit, even though those old Mausers with the weaker actions are now extremely scarce and anyone who has one is either handling it with kid gloves and not shooting it or is probably handloading anyway. In Europe they laugh at our scrawny American factory loads.

    It all adds up to a myth among American shooters that the 8mm round is weaker than it really is and that the foreign ammo is too hot. The Turkish, Yugoslavian, and German militaries all used 8mm Mauser as their standard cartridge in various versions of the K-98 for many years. Given the millions and millions of K-98s that they were maintaining, if their ammo was too hot then they definitely would have noticed a problem in a sample size that large.


    I have a couple of spare slip-on recoil pads if you want one. Also whole bunch more ammo where that came from (you will sh*t a brick when you see how much non-surplus centerfire ammo costs). I do suggest going through 60 rounds or so without a recoil pad to see whether you really need it. The first time I fired a full-power military rifle I walked away with a briuse on my shoulder. But after a couple of sessions with it my body somehow adjusted and recoil stopped bothering me at all.

    For explody targets, save plastic milk jugs and fill them with water. Maybe a few drops of food coloring in it. Load up on pumpkins the week after Halloween. Pick up a can of bright orange spray paint so that you can turn any handy object into an easily visible exploding thing from 100 yards distance.

  8. I have got to quit this thread, or there will be another rifle in the safe. Question for Jack; wouldn’t a turk-made rifle have the crescent moon on the receiver? What are your thoughts on Sellier & Bellot (Czech) ammo? Cheaperthandirt.com has it for $14/box.

  9. Waldo’s rifle is a 1948 K. Kale so it’s less likely (though not entirely impossible)…

    What I love about the internet — no matter how narrow the topic, someone’s going to know a whole helluva lot about it. :)

  10. Bubby,

    Yes, the Turkish-made rifles have Turkish crests on the receiver. But so do many German-made rifles that wound up in the Turkish arsenal. The Turks got a hold of large numbers of German rifles from various sources. It’s sort of a long story.

    The first thing you have to remember is that Turkey remained nuetral throughout WW2. As I understand it, Turkey allowed some German troops to temporarily take refuge within their borders as they were pushed back by the Russians from Bulgaria and Romania in 1944. At other times they let the Russians do the same thing (pushed out of Greece by the Nazis, I think). The catch was that the Turks didn’t want a foreign army to get too comfortable nor did they want to give either the allies or the axis powers an excuse to strike within their borders. So the Turkish government required that those troops surrender their weapons which were integrated into the Turkish arsenal.

    Turkey was also very happy to purchase captured German weapons from the Allied forces and after the war they bought up a lot of of surplus German weapons.

    The trouble with aquiring weapons in this way is that they ended up with all sorts of somewhat differing Mausers in varying condition. What they needed for their army was consistency. So they came up with a basic standard for all of the rifles to be reworked to (‘model of 1938’). Parts of different rifles would be combined to make new rifles, sometimes meaning captured parts on newly-made Turkish receivers. If it was a German receiver then they would remove the German markings and stamp a new crest on the receivers. Collectors sometimes refer to all this as the process of ‘Turking’ a rifle.

    Sometimes a careful inspection of the rifle will reveal traces of the old markings. I’ve got a 1940 Turk with a a very shallowly stamped crest which I am reasonably certain is actually a German-made Gew98 reworked (turked) at Kirikkale but I won’t know for sure until I get around to totally disassembling it and research each and every marking. Which is always half the fun of aquiring another old military rifle.

    So the basic presence of a Turkish crest doesn’t necessarily tell the story on it’s own. You have to put it into context of date, serial number and other clues. Sometimes there is a little extra ring of steel on the chamber end of a Turkish-made barrel that you don’t find on the German rifles.

    Sellier & Bellot makes good stuff and I’ve never read a bad review of their ammo in any caliber. I tend to trust ammo in European calibers (like the whole 8mm family) made by European companies like Sellier & Bellot or Prvi Partizan more so than I do that from Remington or whoever. They’ve been making this stuff forever and they know what they’re doing. You won’t see them loaded with the newest, fanciest bullet designs that will supposedly kill deer deader than last year’s bullets. But it’s good, high quality, boxer-primed stuff. For general plinking purposes, some people swear by the Wolf stuff from Russia, which is about $10 a box when you can find it.

  11. I recently acquired this 1938 8mm from my wifes family in North Carolina, It was her late Step Fathers gun, He had a few older guns just slightly smaller in a group when he bought them all, and this gun has been standing in a corner ever since 2002, because he tried to get a 7.62 x 54 round in it and it got stuck so he put it aside until he got the other guns working which all shot the same 7.62 x 54 rounds. Today i got the gun out and removed the jammed round and finished cleaning it, now I am just trying to find out exactly what round it shoots, and where I can find them. I found on a different website that they are NOW shooting 7.95 x 57mm, Is that correct?.

  12. You’ll probably need to ID the exact model of Mauser that you have, Robert. Surplusrifle.com has a list of Mausers (on the left-hand side) — you might want to step through there until you find the precise model that you have. Here’s another guide to IDing your precise model.

    It’s my understand that most Mausers (and perhaps all model 1938) shoot 7.92x57mm (aka 8mm, aka 8x57mm). What you could certainly do is take it into your local gun shop and ask them to identify what kind of ammunition that you need. They’re bound to know and, if they don’t, they’ll enjoy the challenge. :)

  13. Can you help me identify some markings on a rifle? I have a photo, but don’t know how to load it here. The stamp is a crown, a U, another crown, B.
    There is a serial # on the butt plate. Someone thought it was a Mauser, but after checking some websites, I’m not sure. Would apprecitate any guidance. Thx.

  14. I have a 1916 Mauser that my father shipped home during WWII. As he put it, “The German who owned it didn’t need it anymore.” It is one of my most prized possessions. I take it out every few years and fire a few rounds. It is one of the most accurate guns I own. I tend to use commercial ammo in this gun to avoid berdan primers. I don’t fire enough rounds through it to make cost an issue. As to the kick, plant the shoulder firmly and you will be ok. :)

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