Yugoslav M48: A New M98 Mauser

By Charles Q. Cutshaw

The classic Mauser M98 defined bolt action military rifles during the first half of the 20th Century, having been adopted by over 40 nations in one form or another, including the United States, which paid Mauser a $200,000 licensing fee to produce the venerable M1903 rifle. The M1903 design was little more than a M98 with magazine cutoff and a few other minor modifications to suit US Ordnance. The Model 98 originally was adopted by Germany as the G98 and later as the K98k, which was the mainstay of the German Army during World War II. Most M98s were produced in 7.92x57mm caliber, although it was manufactured in other calibers, as well. Not only did many nations adopt the M98 or one of its variants, most of those who did produced their own versions of it, including Serbia/Yugoslavia.

Variations of Mauser rifles had been produced at the Kragujevac Arsenal since the 1920s, contrary to some advertising press that claims that the M48 rifles were produced on captured or Nazi-provided German machinery. In fact, Mauser 98 variants had been in production at Kragujevac on machinery purchased from FN for many years prior to 1948. These rifles were essentially copies of the Czech/FN Vz24 rifle, short rifle or the Czech Vz 12/33 Carbine. In fact, the M48 that we received more closely resembles these rifles than a German K98k. For example, the handguard of the M48 begins at the receiver ring rather than at the rear sight as is the case with the K98k. There are even more differences, between the M48 and K98k, however.

The buyer of an M48 may be misled by advertising to believe that he is purchasing a K98k “clone” that will accept all Mauser 98 components and can be “sporterized” using hardware designed for M98 rifles. This is not the case, as there are significant dimensional differences between the Yugoslav M48 and the German 98 series rifles. The most significant difference is the M48’s receiver, which is approximately 1/4 inch shorter than that of a K98k. The center to center measurement of the floorplate screws of the two rifles differs by some 5/16 inch, making it virtually impossible to install a M48 action into a stock intended for an M98. The M48’s bolt is almost exactly 1/4 inch shorter than the bolt of the 1943 German (Mauser) manufactured K98k we used for comparison. The M48 lacks the K98k’s stock cutout for access to the bent bolt handle, as well. The M48’s bolt handle is flattened on the bottom, which serves the same purpose as the K98k’s stock cutout. M48 sights are also placed and graduated differently than the K98. There are other detail differences as well, but the receiver dimensions are the most significant. We verified these differences by direct comparison and measurement between our M48 and a 1943 production Mauser K98k owned by a friend.

Regardless of the differences between the M48 and the true K98k, the Kragujevac rifles are, in fact, legitimate M98 variants. They simply are not exact K98k replicas. That said, these rifles are well made, if somewhat rough in certain areas, and should stand up to a lifetime of civilian service for the collector of military arms and military shooting enthusiast.

The rifle we received was new production, not one of the used or reconditioned M48 rifles that are also available at lower prices. Although new and unissued, our rifle had been in storage for approximately 50 years and was literally soaked in cosmoline! The heavy preservative grease had permeated every nook and cranny of the rifle. We had to detail strip the rifle to its least common denominator and put the metal components into a parts bath to get into all the interior crevices. Even then, there was residue that we had to work at with pipe cleaners and small brushes soaked in cleaning solvent. It was a time-consuming and messy job! The stock was likewise permeated with cosmoline and had to be treated, lest the stuff get into our clothes on the range. Needless to say, there was no rust on the rifle.

Besides being soaked in cosmoline, the M48’s stock apparently had never been sanded. We can only surmise that final finish was to be the responsibility of the soldier to whom the rifle would ultimately be issued. The stock on our rifle was the roughest this writer has ever seen. Although some advertising states that the stocks are made of teak, we question this. Our rifle’s stock was a dark blonde colored wood that did not appear like any teak that we have ever seen, but we have limited knowledge of wood. The stock was so rough that it actually had splinters in several places and the rough spots just aft of the forward band were so deep that we never could completely eliminate them without sanding recesses into the stock. In addition to having the rifle’s serial number stamped into it, the stock also had a penciled-in serial number that we wished to retain, so we did not sand the stock entirely smooth — just enough to remove the splinters and the worst of the rough spots. Interestingly, once we had sanded the stock and rubbed it with linseed oil, we found it to be virtually the same texture as the World War II vintage German stock on the K98k that we used for comparison. The overall result of our efforts on the stock were pleasing to us, giving the old M48 a patina of use despite the fact that it was a “new” rifle.

Other than the Cosmoline and rough stock, our M48 was fairly well finished - about as can be expected of a military rifle. The bluing was on generally on a par with wartime German K98k’s, although there were a few light spots. The overall fit of parts was good — again as good as other military issue rifle of the era. There were light machining marks on some of the components. All major parts are serially numbered in the European tradition. The M48’s action was not the “butter smooth” that one associates with commercial Mauser 98 rifles and well-worn World War II rifles, but then this rifle had never been fired, except in testing, until we received it. When we compared the action to that of the K98k, there was only a slight difference in “feel,” so we suspect that the action will improve with use, although it isn’t bad, as is. When the bolt is opened and the rifle is vertical with the butt down, the bolt will fall to the fully retracted position under its own weight, although there is some roughness. The M48’s trigger pull is two-stage military, with the first stage seven pounds and the second stage a whopping 9.5 pounds! The trigger pull is so heavy that it made the M48 difficult to shoot with any accuracy. If our rifle was truly representative of all M48s, any owner who wishes to shoot the rifle on a regular basis will have the trigger pull lightened.

The M48 is shipped with a number of accessories, including bayonet, cleaning kit, front sight guard, muzzle protector, oil/solvent bottle, leather ammunition pouches and sling. The leather sling we received, however, was so oil soaked and stretched that we simply threw it away and ordered a reproduction K98k sling. Otherwise, the accessories were all usable. Like the rifle, the M48’s bayonet was soaked in cosmoline and had to be thoroughly cleaned. The leather ammunition pouches were filthy and moldy, but turned out to be serviceable after having been cleaned and treated with neatsfoot oil.

Shooting the M48 brought no surprises. The rifle shot 3.5 inch groups at 100 yards at point of aim using surplus Ecuadorian ammunition. We believe that accuracy could be improved by lightening the trigger pull and using commercial ammunition. Although advertised as non-corrosive, the surplus ammunition we used proved to be mildly corrosive, if the rust that appeared in the bore of our M48 about three days after cleaning is any indication. We have been advised that there is no truly non-corrosive military 7.92x57mm ammunition available, so the shooter should be advised to clean his rifle on three consecutive days after shooting military surplus ammunition. All in all, the M48’s accuracy is satisfactory for a military rifle, despite the abysmal trigger pull. As stated, a lighter trigger and better ammunition should improve accuracy, as should continued shooting to break in the new rifle.

All in all, we consider the M48 Kragujevac Arsenal rifles to be a reasonable buy for the collector and shooter who desires a military Mauser bolt action rifle. Ammunition is plentiful and cheap, although most surplus ammunition is at least mildly corrosive. There are so many of these rifles available that the M48 probably has little potential for increasing in value, however. On the other hand, the rifles are relatively inexpensive and are sturdy and well made, except as noted above. The M48 is a true M98 Mauser variant, but we should reemphasize that it is most definitely NOT a K98k replica as is represented in much advertising. Moreover, as the reader can surmise by our comments, the M48 is most definitely not as well finished as an original German Mauser. In the final analysis, though, we believe that the M48 is an interesting M98 variant that can be fired and enjoyed strictly for what it is - a solid military rifle that represents one of the last production versions of the legendary Mauser 98.

Following is a list of sources for M48 Mauser rifles compiled from Shotgun News and several periodicals. We have made every effort to search out as many sources of M48 rifles as possible, but cannot guarantee that the following list represents all sources of M48 Mausers. The potential M48 purchaser should also be aware that while new M48s with accessories and all matching numbers are reasonably priced and probably most desirable, used rifles are available in very good to excellent condition, although most do not have all the accessories of the unissued rifles. Some used M48s are available with all matching numbers. The latter rifles are significantly less expensive than the new ones and may well be an alternative for the shooter who wishes to own an M48, but who does not wish to expend the cash for an unissued rifle.

Kragujevac Arsenal M48 Rifle Specifications *

Caliber 7.92x57mm (8mm)
Length 43.5 inches
Barrel length 23.25 inches
Weight 10.0 lbs.
Rifling 4 groove, rh twist
Feed 5 round magazine
Sights Tangent leaf, graduated to 2,000 meters

*Source: Ball, R.W.D., Mauser Military Rifles of the World.

M48 Kragujevac Mauser Sources
(New and used)

AIM (used)

PO Box 556
Springboro, OH 45066
Tel: 513-424-9960
Fax: 513-424-9970

Classic Arms (used)
PO Box 125
Indian Trail, NC 28079
Tel: &04-238-1222
Fax: 704-238-9121

J&G Sales (used)
PO Box 10400
Prescott Valley, AZ 86304
Tel: (928) 445-9650
Fax: (928) 445-9658
Email: jgsales@qwest.net

Mitchell’s Mausers (new)
PO Box 9295
Fountain Valley, CA 92728-9295
Tel: 714-899-3660
Fax: 714-899-8611

SOG International (used)
PO Box 590
Lebanon, OH 45036
Tel: 800-944-4867
Fax: 513-932-8928
Email: soginc@go-concepts.com

Wholesale Guns & Ammo, Inc
(New & used)
232 Blydenburgh Rd
Central Islip, NY 11722
Tel: 631-234-7676
Fax: 631-234-7408

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N6 (March 2002)
and was posted online on February 28, 2014


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