How To Identify Mauser Rifles

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What’s so different about Mauser rifles compared to others? For a start, they were first designed and engineered by the German Mauser brothers Peter Paul and Wilhelm for the German military.

They came from a family of German gunsmiths who were particularly good at their craft. The rifle is a powerful, well-built weapon with a smooth bolt action that many other gun manufacturers, even in modern times, have envied and emulated since 1898.

Identifying a Mauser rifle can be done with reference to the name of the manufacturer, the details of an import stamp, its caliber, the first few digits of its serial number, and the place where it was made. It also helps to know a bit of the brand’s history as it is one hundred and forty years old.

The 1898 model is 49.2 inches in length, long for a rifle, weighs nine pounds, and has a rotating bolt action that many other rifle manufacturers have since copied. The claw extractor at the end of the bolt is what primarily distinguishes the classic Mauser from other rifles today.

How To Identify Mauser Rifles

Mauser Rifles Are Going Strong

The Mauser brand still exists even though the Mauser brothers are long gone. The civilian side of the business was purchased by investors Ortmeier and Lüke.

Mauser Hunting Weapons Ltd (Mauser Jagdwaffen) is in southern Germany and produces rifles exclusively for the sporting and hunting sector. In the year 2000, Mauser Jagdwaffen merged with a couple of sister companies in Europe under the name SIGARMS.

In 2007, SIGARMS changed its name to SIG Sauer, now known worldwide for its firearms production. Modern Mauser rifle models are still manufactured in Isny im Allgäu in Germany and sold under the Mauser Jagdwaffen brand.

The Mauser 98 Magnum is prized for big game hunting and uses six .375 H&H Magnum or five .416 Rigby Magnum rounds. Despite the existence of comparable sporting rifles, such as the CZ 550 and Winchester Model 70, which owe some of their design features to the Mauser, many professional hunters in Africa still prefer the Mauser 98’s reliable action when up against large and dangerous animals.

An authentic German Mauser M98, which still uses Peter Paul Mauser’s design, is an expensive rifle and a different beast entirely to other budget bolt action weapons. The Mauser M18, launched in 2018, is a new design and much more affordable but doesn’t use the classic bolt action developed by Mauser.

Not every Mauser thus uses Peter Paul’s bolt action system. So the Mauser brand and Peter Paul Mauser’s unique bolt action system are not necessarily the same thing.

When buying a Mauser, you must decide whether you want a rifle that uses that famous bolt action, e.g., the M98, or whether you just want a gun with the Mauser brand name, e.g., the M18.

Other Rifles That Use The Mauser-Type Action

Many other manufacturers use the Mauser-type action these days but don’t have the non-rotating claw extractor on the side of the bolt like the M98.

The Mauser-type action consists of a turning bolt with locking lugs at the front. In an M98, the ejector is fixed to the receiver, but in most other rifles, a spring-loaded plunger seated on the face of the bolt operates as the extractor.

Aside from the Mauser bolt action design, there are three other main ones – the Lee-Enfield design, the Remington-700, and the Mosin-Nagant system. The Mauser bolt action system with its controlled feed is the most common. 

Non-German variants on the Mauser are the vz. 98/22, made in Czechoslovakia, the M1924 Zhonsheng rifle made in China, the Karabinek wz. 29 made in Poland, and the M1943 Spanish short, with the Spanish Air Force eagle or the words “la Coruña” stamped into the receiver. Similar rifles to the Mauser were also made in Argentina, Chile, and Belgium.

One of the Chilean models is the Chileno 1895 Mauser, with an action that is not as robust as the M98’s action. The Karabiner 98 kurz, or K98k, was produced in Belgium from 1946 onwards and is based on the Mauser M98 system.

How To Identify The Type Of Mauser You Have

How To Identify The Type Of Mauser You Have

There are three basic things to look at when identifying a Mauser. The first is the location of manufacture, while the second is the caliber of the rounds it uses. Lastly, look for any other stamps or marks on the receiver and the stock.

Where Is It Made?

The Mauser rifle was initially made in Germany, and contemporary models are still produced in the southeastern German town of Isny im Allgäu. However, they have also been manufactured in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Sweden, Chile, and Argentina. Armorers often included markings on the rifle indicating the factory location.

The Argentinian Model 1909 was based on the Mauser Gewehr 98 (M98) and fired 7.92 x 57mm cartridges from a five-round stripper clip magazine. In the Argentine model, the tangent leaf sight replaced the Lange Visier sight of the German model and used rounds of a different caliber. The 7.65mm rounds used by the Argentine Mauser are actually Belgian.

What Caliber Rounds Does It Use?

The original German Mauser was designed for 7.92 x 5 mm rounds, but rifles using the Mauser system and Mauser rifles themselves have since been used with rounds of other calibers. For instance, the following models all use 7.65x53mm rounds –

  • 1891 Argentine;
  • 1909 Argentine, Spanish 1893
  • Chilean 1895
  • Swedish 1896

By contrast, the Spanish and Chilean models, such as the Mauser Model 1893, use the 7×57 mm round. The Boers also used this model against the British in the Second Boer War in South Africa.

The Belgian Mauser, Model 1889, was used by the Belgian army and was made by Fabrique-National (FN). An unusual feature of this model was the thin sheet steel jacket over the barrel intended to prolong the rifle’s life.

It also used the 7.65 x 53 mm cartridge but was the first Mauser to have a charger-loading integral box magazine. When the first found was chambered by the bolt, the charger ejected, leaving the five stacked rounds inside the fixed magazine.

1917 Mauser Oberndorf Gewehr 98 rifle
Credit: Instagram @wwii_gi

Rifle Manufacturing Codes

Manufacturing codes are assigned to the various firearms manufacturers. Over the years, when these companies changed ownership or merged to form new companies with new names, they were given different manufacturing codes and used serial numbers that started with different digits. This also helps to identify how old the gun is.

For instance, in 1934, only two manufacturers made the K98, while in 1945, there were seven.

For example, some Mauser K98 manufacturing codes are –

  • 660 for Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG, Steyr
  • 42 for Mauser AG Oberndorf
  • 147 for J.P. Sauer & Sohn Suhl
  • 27 for Erfurter Maschinefabrik

When a rifle is imported into the U.S., it is usually marked with an import stamp affixed to the barrel to indicate where the rifle originated. The model number, year of manufacture and caliber are also shown on the stamp. You can also look for any other markings on the stock or receiver that may give you an indication of the manufacturer.


There are several ways to identify a Mauser, namely the date and place of manufacture, the name of the factory, proof markings and makers codes present on the barrel, receiver or headstock, and the import stamp.

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