Fine Old Mauser Rifles…if only they could talk…….
My friends tell me I have an affliction….. an addiction if you will….. and it’s old Mauser rifles. They keep telling me to quit buyin’ and huntin’ with antiques and buy a new rifle ….in a new caliber. They may be right, but it’s not gonna happen. Old walnut stocked rifles are too much fun (and I can’t stand those”tupperware” synthetic stocks – you can’t carve on them.) I have two other old Mausers and they’re in European metric calibers. That means you can’t buy ammo down at Walmart.
I was at a Gun Show recently and a man directly across the aisle had a rifle displayed that caught my eye. It was a customized Swedish Mauser, in ‘6.5x55mm Swede’ caliber, and it was built on a Mauser model 98 action. Since most guns of that caliber and age were built on smaller, Mauser model 96 actions, I gave it a closer look. Then I noticed it had a double set trigger and an engraved butter knife bolt handle, both of which was definitely the sign of a good custom rifle for the time. The action was a smooth as silk and….. it followed me home.
First, let me tell you, this rifle is not worth a lot of money. There was no real collector value because it had been sporterized. The true value of this rifle, for me, is the history. The history of the caliber, the action, and the part of the world it originally came from…Sweden. And since I’m a “Swede”, I always wanted one of these rifles. The 6.5×55 caliber was designed in 1891. Yes, old but still very, very, very effective. The Mauser model 98 action came out in 1898 and has not really been improved upon in 112 years. There were bolt action rifles before it but the Model 98 was the pinnacle of design.
Here is a little history of this caliber and rifle from Wikipedia:
6,5×55 caliber – Sporting use
The 6.5x55mm cartridge is highly esteemed as a hunting round in Europe, Scandinavia, and North America. It is used for harvesting most kind of game including reindeer and moose in Scandinavia, while in Canada and the United States it is used for taking deer and other medium-sized game. Sportsmen who favor the round laud the combination of low recoil coupled with the cartridge’s inherent accuracy and superb penetrative qualities.
European rifle makers including Sauer,CZ, Steyr, and Mauser offer sporting rifles chambered for this cartridge, as does the Finnish arms manufacturer SAKO/Tikka, while ammunition manufacturers such as Norma, Lapau and Hornady offer loadings of the 6.5x55mm round that are designed for use only in modern hunting rifles that can tolerate higher chamber pressures. These modern loadings should never be used in older military rifles .
Expanding bullet loaded in a 6.5x55mm before and after expanding. The long base and small expanded diameter show that this is a bullet designed for deep penetration on large game. The bullet in the photo traveled more than halfway through a moose before coming to rest, performing as designed.
The cartridge is also used in the Sauer 200 STR (Scandinavian Target Rifle).
The 6.5x55mm cartridge was widely used in biathlon competition until 1975 (when it was replaced by the.22 Long Rifle(.22 LR) rimfire cartridge), because of its inherent accuracy and historical popularity with the Scandinavian nations who have dominated this sport.
The stock was a military stock that someone had sporterized very nicely. Obviously the double set trigger was added during the original work. Another item I found after I got it home was a marking on the bottom of the barrel the read “Fine Firearms, Avondale, AZ”. I have found no information at this time about this gunsmith shop but I’m still researching.
Important Safety Tip: One thing to make sure of before buying an old firearm is that the rifle’s barrel is marked with the correct caliber of the gun. Even then, have it checked by a professional gunsmith before you fire it. Saying that, this custom rifle had no caliber markings on the barrel, but I had the ability to make sure of the caliber myself, so it came home anyway.
Before deciding what type of carving I was going to complete on this stock, I needed to do some research. I looked at a couple of aspects…….what type of game was commonly taken with the 6.5×55 caliber, and what style of carvings were common in Europe in the early part of the last century. That is why I chose a Bull Moose carving for the buttstock of this rifle. This caliber has been a common moose hunting caliber for many years in Scandinavian countries.
Basket weave carving was somewhat common on the higher end custom guns of this era, so that’s what I elected to carve on the grip and forearm. Acanthus leaf patterns were carved as borders around the basket weave. These were also common borders for the period. This custom gunstock carving was made to look like it had been on the gunstock for 50 years by copying the older carving styles.
I really do wish this old rifle could tell us her stories. I’m sure this was a working rifle for it’s owner or owners, not a “safe queen” that never saw the field. What animals had she hunted? On how many continents had she been hunting? How many hunting campfires had she been part of? That, to me, is the magic of these fine old Mauser rifles.
Oh yeah, she’s pretty accurate too. The stories for this rifle are not over.
Thanks for stoppin’ by