The Mauser 'Karabiner 98k'

The Mauser k98 ( the famous ‘Soldiers bride') was issued to every German Soldat before and during World War Two, it’s an iconic German military rifle with a long history and contributes much to modern day rifles.

detailed views of the mauser Kar98k, K98, or K98k
Detailed views of the Mauser Kar98.

Beginning in the autumn of 1871, Mauser Industrial’s success started, when the German Army accepted the Mauser rifle as the primary fire arm for the entire military establishment. Thanks to governmental support, Mauser’s quickly became very popular throughout the world, which in turn stimulated designers into constantly developing new and improved models over the basic weapon. The best of them is Gewehr 98, rifle which was unveiled in 1898. This was to become the primary rifle of the German army until the end of World War II. The advantages of Mauser rifles, is in reliability of the bolt mechanism, and the precision workmanship that went into each and every weapon. These rifles were successfully converted into “sports and hunting” models which are still in widespread use today because it is possible to shoot a more powerful ammunition, than the standard 7.92 x 57 round it was designed for.

Reliability of the Mauser’s bolt locking system depends on three locking-lugs. Two in front lock the bolt socket on barrel inlet (prior to the rounds entry into the bore) and one in the rear of the rounds opening. It uses the standard four bolt movement system. However this system is uncomfortable for most experienced riflemen to operate as you must move the whole arm to reload rifle.

A better solution was introduced in Lee-Enfield rifle, where the rifleman used only his wrist to reload the weapon. That’s why Mauser rifles never achieved the high firing rate of the Lee-Enfield rifles; those results were obvious on the battlefield when compared to the Lee-Enfield and the M-1 Garand rifle.

The first model of Gewehr 98 rifle, the so-called “long rifle” had a total length of 125 cm and a barrel length of 74 cm. Soon in development was a shorter version for artillery, cavalry and soldiers, whose primary task was not fighting “with rifle in hands”. This soon replaced the Gewehr 98 rifle and became the standard version of armament for the entire German army. The Rifle 98 was modified several times, which resulted in the model ‘Karabiner’ 98k that became the standard rifle of Wehrmacht during WWII. It provides a non-removable magazine for 5 rounds 7.92 mm and with a muzzle velocity of about 860 m/s

Subtle differences in the production of the K98 rifle.
Subtle differences in the production of the rifle.

The Mauser 98k was a very popular rifle in the German army. It was the final modification of Mauser 98 rifle, developed way back in 1898. The Mauser 98k was very similar to all its predecessors, but its barrel was shorter being 60 cm length; in 98 models it was 74 cm in length. In 1935 it became the primary Wehrmacht infantry weapon. Production continued thru until the end of war with approximately 11 million weapons produced in several versions. Minor modifications were made such as to the bolt, and even a mid-late war economy version with the omission of the bayonet lug, sight hood and a laminated wood stock, but nothing significant was changed to the mechanism.

The Kar 98 with early war bayonet attached & detail of the bayonet lug.
The Kar 98 with early war bayonet attached & detail of the bayonet lug.

One of the more popular variations of this rifle for collectors today is the sharp shooter version which was equipped with a ZF41 Scope. Dedicated Wehrmacht Snipers often fitted commercial Hunting scopes, made by many manufactures such as 'Hensoldt Wetzlar' along with a huge variation of mounts. As popularized in the recent motion picture, “Enemy at the Gates”.

The Mauser rifle has existed in many sport versions throughout the world, quite a few examples were brought home by the allied servicemen at the end of the Second World War. These were then modified for use by civilians for hunting purposes. The design of the safety is by far the simplest, but by far the most reliable. It is among one of the safest rifles that exist even by today’s standards. One of the other innovations was the cocked indicator for the weapon. It is obvious to a rifleman that the weapon is cocked, even in the darkest of nights. All one has to do is feel the rear of the bolt and if it is cocked the rear area of the bolt is protruding. The safety itself consists of a handle or blade that is on the rear of the bolt assembly. It has three positions as you look at the bolt from the rear in the shooting position. With the handle full to the left the rifle is in the “firing position” with the handle in the vertical position the rifle is on safe, but the bolt can be opened to unload or reload the weapon. And when the handle is in the full right position the weapon is on full safety. In other words you cannot pull the trigger nor can you open the bolt. The two stage military trigger is also of exceptional quality. It is designed for the common soldier to learn his trigger and breathing control quite well. One of the lesser known accessories for this weapon was the grenade launcher adapter. This consisted of the actual launcher, which attached to the front of the rifle barrel, and the grenade launcher sight which aided in placing the rifle grenade on target.


Loading the WW2 german K98 rifle
Loading the K98 rifle. Position 1: Bolt open; Position 2: Loading the five round stripper clip; Position 3: Rounds inserted, clip ready to be withdrawn; Position 4: Bolt closed and ready to fire.

As good a rifle as it was, towards the end of the war the Mauser 98k bolt action rifle was out dated and out classed even by current German military thinking. Fire power and accuracy were recognised as the key to success at medium ranges for small arms. The rifle is superb at long ranges but since most battlefield encounters with the enemy occur at intermediate ranges or less the advantages of range are no longer necessary and the rate of fire is far too low. Hence the marriage between the high rate of fire
sub-machine guns and the accuracy of the rifle to create a new breed of small arms the Sturmgewehr 44.

The ammunition pouches as they were worn by the owner of the rifle.
The ammunition pouches as they were worn by the owner of the rifle. Each compartment could hold 10 clipped rounds.

The K98's cleaning kit and boxed rounds.
The K98's cleaning kit and boxed rounds.

Submitted by Simon Garner
Pictures by Neil Barlow

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