April 06, 2023
Mauser has offered sporting rifles on the famous Model 1898 action for more than 125 years. In the beginning they were quite affordable, but prices gradually increased (see sidebar) and over the years have remained a bit steep when compared to rifles of American design that were just as accurate and equally effective on game of various sizes. In other words, if Mauser wanted to sell rifles in America it would have to be competitively priced.
Enter the Mauser 18. Reducing the price of a product to the consumer is commonly accomplished by reducing its production cost, a solution long used by American manufactures of firearms. Unlike rifles of yesteryear that were built to withstand hard use when handed down through generations of hunters, most economy-grade rifles are engineered for a finite useful life. Even so, accuracy, reliability and durability can still be surprisingly good.
As cost-cutting measures go, there is nothing new about the Mauser 18, and that includes an injection-molded stock with an integral trigger guard. I can recall when the fore-end of this type of stock was about as stiff as a wet noodle, and it could warp enough with age or applied heat to make contact with what was supposed to be a totally free-floating barrel. However, girder-style reinforcing in the current Mauser stock makes it rigid enough to prevent side-to-side or upward deflection from a reasonable amount of applied force. In other words, come rain, snow, heat or cold, the barrel will likely remain free-floating.
Also, you’ll see references to the stock’s Dual Compound construction. Lightly textured inserts at the wrist and fore-end of the Mauser stock discourage hand slippage during a rainy hunt.
And here’s a feature you don’t see every day on a hunting stock. Need a place to store something small? Simply remove the recoil pad by pressing on tabs on both sides of the stock to accesses just such a place place. Posts for quick-detach sling swivels are at front and rear, and stock color is described as Savannah tan—hence the model’s name.
Markings on the side of the detachable polymer magazine indicate it can be used with the 6.5 PRC, .270 WSM and 8.5x55 Blaser. While shooting the rifle, all four 6.5 PRC cartridges resting in a staggered fashion traveled smoothly from magazine to chamber.
Inserting a loaded magazine is virtually fumble-free and easily done without removing the eyes from the target. The magazine latch is molded into the stock with its release button recessed enough to prevent being bumped against a pack frame or something else in the field. Press the button and the empty magazine rockets from the rifle for a fast reload.
Interior magazine length is 3.020 inches, plenty of room for the 2.955 inches SAAMI maximum for the 6.5 PRC. The extra length is there to allow chasing the rifling with handloads to compensate for eventual erosion of the chamber throat. The magazine can be loaded while it is in the rifle by inserting cartridges through the ejection port and then pressing down.
Measuring 8.70 inches long, the receiver is a virtual copy of the standard-length Remington Model 700 receiver. Their footprints are the same, and due to the same roof profiles, scope mounts are interchangeable. I installed a Picatinny rail on the Mauser that I took off of one of my Remington 700s.
I like the three-position safety beside the receiver tang. Pull the lever all the way to the rear, and the safety is engaged and bolt rotation is blocked. Push the lever to its middle position and while the safety remains engaged, the bolt can be rotated for loading or unloading the chamber.
Thumbing the lever all the way forward disengages the safety, and the rifle is ready to be fired. Extremely important on a big game rifle, especially one used for hunting potentially dangerous game, the safety can be operated as quietly as a ghost by grasping the lever between thumb and trigger finger and easing it forward.
Due to three locking lugs up front, bolt rotation is reduced to 60 degrees. This is good because a reduction in rotation lowers the bolt handle in the unlocked position, allowing a scope to be mounted quite low.
On the negative side, it also requires a shorter and therefore steeper cocking ramp on the body of the bolt that can increase the amount of force required to rotate the bolt to full firing pin spring compression. Fully rotating the bolt required a force of 8.5 pounds compared seven pounds for a new-in-box, long-action Remington 700. That may sound like very little difference, and it most certainly is. Rapid dry-firing both rifles proved just that. A thin coat of grease designed for guns applied to the cocking cam surface after each shooting session keeps bolt lift as easy as possible.
The counterbore wall of the bolt face is interrupted only by a narrow, spring-powered extractor housed in one of the locking lugs. It looks a lot like the extractor introduced on the post-64 Winchester Model 70. The bolt has a pair of plunger-style ejectors, one positioned at about one o’clock when the bolt is in its unlocked position, the other at about seven o’clock. Needless to say, fired cases exit the ejection port in a big hurry and with great authority.
In the event of a blown primer or ruptured case, propellent gas and debris flowing back around the body of the bolt should be deflected away from the shooter by a bolt shroud that virtually closes off the rear of the receiver. This is an important detail often overlooked by today’s rifle designers. Protrusion of the cocking piece at the rear of the shroud indicates a cocked firing pin.
An oversize knob on the bolt handle is easy on the hand. Holding down a release on the side of the receiver bridge while retracting the bolt allows it to be removed from the receiver for cleaning. The serial number is on the body of the bolt and the receiver.
Rather than the usual pair of bolts holding the stock and barreled action together, there are two threaded studs: one in the bottom of the receiver ring, the other in the bottom of the receiver tang, just behind the trigger housing. With the barreled action placed into the stock, an Allen wrench is used to attach smooth-sided nuts to the studs and then tightened in place.
The cold-hammer-forged, six-groove barrel is 21.5 inches long, measures 1.106 inches in diameter at the receiver and tapers to a muzzle diameter of 0.680 inch. However, this was an early production model, and future magnums—which the 6.5 PRC is considered as far as Mauser is concerned—will have 24-inch barrels.
Thread sizes at the muzzle are 9/16x34 for the .308 Win., .30-06 and .300 Win. Mag. and 1/2x28 for the .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .270 Win. and 7mm Rem. Mag. Barrel length for the magnums is listed as 24.4 inches.
Rather than having a receiver-attached recoil lug, a 0.160 inch-thick steel plate is force-inserted into a mortise in the stock. When the barreled action is placed into the stock, a 0.125 inch-deep, transverse slot in the bottom of the receiver ring is engaged by the plate, thereby resisting axial movement of the barreled action during firing. Actual engagement surface between the plate in the stock and the slot in the bottom of the receiver is only 0.116 inch tall and 0.520 inch wide.
Pull weight adjustment range of the trigger is 2.25 to 4.25 pounds. With no creep and only a slight trace of overtravel, the trigger broke crisply at three pounds on a Lyman digital scale, so I did not adjust it. It is one of the best triggers I have pulled on a rifle in its price range.
The rifle weighed 6.75 pounds. Using a Talley rail along with Weaver six-hole skeleton rings to attach a Bushnell Elite 4500 4-16x50mm scope with a 30mm tube increased weight to eight pounds, 10 ounces. I was greatly impressed by the optical clarity of that scope. Quarter-minute click accuracy was dead on, and I like the ability to side-adjust parallax down to 10 yards. I have a great deal of experience with Bushnell’s HD exterior lens coating and it is the thing to have when caught in a downpour during a hunt.
The accuracy guarantee is sub-m.o.a. for five-shot groups, and the rifle along with excellent ammunition from Quality Cartridge and Hornady proved that to be no brag—although I followed RifleShooter’s accuracy protocol and fired three-shot groups. Two of the three loads shot inside an inch at 100 yards, with the third close enough to keep most hunters happy. Three rounds of 6.5 PRC made the thin barrel uncomfortably warm to the touch, but each and every group was uniformly clustered with no flyer.
The barrel was allowed to cool down for 15 minutes between each nine-round string and the third group in a string was usually smaller than the first group. That’s indicative of a top-quality barrel. And speaking of that, a tour through the bore with my Lyman Bore Cam revealed extreme smoothness from chamber throat to muzzle.
Reliability left nothing to be desired. All rounds fed smoothly from magazine to chamber and ejected cases ended up about five feet away. The detachable magazine was so easily top-loaded, I never removed it from the rifle while shooting. I would not hesitate to use the Mauser 18 in 6.5 PRC on any hoofed game in North America.
In the 1930s, the Mauser short-action No. 605K in .250 Savage was $125 while asking price for the No. 626 Big Game Rifle in .404 Jeffery was $275. In comparison, hunters were paying $85 for Winchester Model 70s in .250 Savage and .375 H&H Mag.
Mauser still offers sporting rifles on the Model 98 action in calibers up to .450 Rigby but in high grade only at $10,558 and up. That’s a bit more than most hunters can afford, so in 1965 the company strayed from Model 98 design in a big way by introducing the Model 660 with switch-barrel capability in chamberings ranging from .30-06 to .375 H&H Mag. Its exact price escapes me, but as I recall it was about 10 times higher than the Remington 700 and the Winchester 70.
The Mauser Model 03 came along in 2003. Also a switch-barrel rifle, I shot one in .404 Jeffery, and at the time prices were $4,475 for a synthetic stock and just over $5,000 for nicely figured walnut. Not many American hunters bought one.
Then came the Model 12 in 2013. Prices for it were $1,799 for the wood-stocked version and $1,499 for a synthetic stock. During that year, American hunters were paying $709 for a Remington Model 700 SPS and $375 for the economy-grade Remington 770.
Mauser 18 Savannah Specification
- Type: Three-lug centerfire bolt action
- Caliber: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC (tested), .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .308, .30-06, .300 Win. Mag.
- Capacity: 4+1 detachable magazine (as tested)
- Barrel: 21.5 in., 1:8 twist
- Overall Length: 41.5 in.
- Weight: 6.75 lb.
- Stock: Injection-molded polymer w/rubber inserts
- Trigger: Fully adjustable, 3 lb. pull (measured)
- Safety: 3-position beside tang
- Sights: None; drilled and tapped
- Price: $850
- Manufacturer / Importer: Mauser USA, mauser.com/us/