Mauser has returned to its commercial rifle roots with a simple and robust modern bolt-action hunting rifle designed and priced for the “everyman” — the M18.
At the time the Mauser company came of age, double rifles and even some single-shots were the tools of elite hunters. Regulating sights for a specific load or multiple barrels to hit the same point of impact were time consuming and expensive endeavors that generally only the rich could afford. The “magazine” rifle dispensed with all of that necessary attention, making them economically more in reach of “average” hunters, either as commercially produced hunting rifles or sporterized military ones.
Since those early days, Mauser has made top-of-the-line rifles and also dabbled in ones that are arguably “complicated” and thus more expensive. For example, there was the Model 66 that had a “telescoping” action, the more recent Model 96 that is a modern straight-pull and various other models with “slide-bolt” actions.
With the M18, though, all thoughts of designing it with complicated components were set aside in favor of a rifle the company endearingly refers to as the volkswaffe — the people’s rifle — that competes for market share against such basic guns such as Ruger’s American and Mossberg’s Patriot.
That’s not to suggest German engineering is cast aside on the M18 in favor of inexpensive production — quite the contrary. Instead, company representatives tell me that Mauser asked themselves why not put those collective decades of technology into a rifle that retains Mauser’s DNA, yet is simple. That is what they did.
Mauser asked themselves why not put those collective decades of technology into a rifle that retains Mauser’s DNA, yet is simple. That is what the gun maker did. Photo: Mauser
“We were kind of missing out,” a Mauser representative tells me regarding why the company decided to offer an entry-level rifle. “Everybody knows Mauser, so why not put [one] in the hands of the average working man who’s out there who truly can’t afford a $5,000 switch-barrel rifle. Let’s give him something with the name ‘Mauser’ on it and have him be happy with it.”
How those decades of learned technology were implemented in the Mauser M18 is not what I expected. For example, European hunters are well-known for contriving scope mounting systems that make American hunters roll their eyes. By comparison,
if we could get away with duct taping scopes to hunting rifles, we probably would. Because of that cultural difference, I was expecting some new Mauser-made, hard-to-get, special order scope mount that was the epitome of efficiency. Instead, the M18 uses Remington Model 700 bases, which are about as ordinary and available as you can get.
Another item that surprised me is the simplicity of the action — it’s a tube inside and out without the complicated machining needed for bolt lug raceways or recoil lugs. This is clearly a manufacturing expediency, but one that has proven itself as not only economical, but also capable of accuracy. Because the machining is essentially nothing more than a round hole, the M18 uses a full-diameter, three-lug bolt design that’s recently become popular with many makers of modern hunting rifles. This design incorporates three locking lugs, resulting in a short 60-degree bolt lift for faster cycling.
Instead of a conventional recoil lug, the M18 has a notch in the action that mates with a block in the stock. Photo: Mauser
Similar tubular actions frequently have the recoil lug as a separate piece sandwiched between the action face and barrel. Instead, the M18 has a simple machined notch that engages a metal block set in the injection molded synthetic stock. “It’s part of the bedding system,” Mauser representatives explain of the metal block. “It allows you to basically have an aluminum bedding block, but it’s really not.”
This system design is indeed unique, but again not complicated. Whereas most bolt-action rifles usually have two bolts that pass through the bottom metal and into the bottom of the action, the M18 has threaded studs fixed in the action that are secured by removable nuts. “It works,” a Mauser representative explained. “The nuts have to do with the bedding system because the bedding, when you tighten that up, it tightens the rifle into the bedding system. The trigger guard is just put on. [It’s actually molded integral with the stock] It’s not what’s holding the rifle together.”
Despite the M18 being a “basic” rifle, there are some advanced features. Chief among them is the user-adjustable trigger. Adjustment is simply a matter of turning a set screw in the face of the trigger blade — clockwise to increase pull weight, counter-clockwise to decrease weight — and Mauser cautions you to “ensure that you do not fully un-screw the screw.” There is also a cocking indicator on the bolt’s tail that lets you see and feel if the rifle is cocked, and a sliding three-position thumb safety that lets you unchamber a round with the safety on, or lock the bolt closed.
The trigger is adjustable from two to four pounds of pull. Photo: Mauser
Another arguably advanced feature is the dual plunger ejectors. Contrary to what some might think at first, this is not a redundancy in case one fails. Instead, the dual plungers cause empty cases to eject perfectly 90 degrees to the rifle, eliminating the possibility of an empty case hitting a large scope windage turret and bouncing back into the action. Though Mauser is famous for its massive claw extractor and controlled round feed, this is a push-feed and the ejectors work in conjunction with a small sliding extractor.
At $699, this rifle is economical, but that doesn’t mean Mauser cheaped out. The cold hammer-forged barrel is the exact same barrel Mauser’s sister companies put on premium — and significantly more expensive — guns such as the Sauer 404 and Blaser R8. The synthetic stock is essentially “American” in its style and proportions and has simple, but welcome features, such as sling swivel studs, rubberized grip panels and a tool-less removable recoil pad with storage compartment underneath.
The sample rifle came chambered in .30-’06 Sprg. and fitted with a one-inch Minox 4-12x40mm ZL3 scope in Talley bases. To see how well the M18 shot, I gathered two types of premium and one “everyman” load and fired for accuracy at 100 yards. True to the M18’s target customer, the most accurate load was Hornady’s humble American Whitetail. It uses a simple 150-grain InterLock cup-and-core bullet that has a mechanical locking ring to prevent jacket/core separation on impact. I’ve been killing deer with it for decades. Average accuracy for five, consecutive three-shot groups with that load was 1.14 inches.
The second most accurate load was Norma’s 170-grain TipStrike. This bullet also has a mechanical lock that prevents core separation and adds a pointed polymer tip for flatter shooting, as well as to facilitate bullet expansion. Average accuracy for this load was 1.79 inches.
The final load was Swift’s High Grade Ammunition with the 180-grain Scirocco bonded bullet. Unfortunately, this particular M18 positively hated this load. My experience with Scirocco bullets is that most rifles will shoot them well, but those that don’t, really don’t. Suffice it to say this load patterned from the M18 instead of grouped, and I’ll leave it at that.
Accuracy from the M18 varied quite a bit between loads with Hornady’s American Whitetail a clear favorite. Photo: Mauser
As far as handling and performance, this is an exceptionally nimble rifle. It has a 14-inch length of pull, which is slightly shorter than what most people are used to, but also makes it quicker to shoulder. The trigger, set at three-pounds-pull on the sample rifle, is fantastic. It hardly moves when you pull it, and provides a smart, snappy release.
Removing and loading the flush-fitting polymer magazine is simple; just push a button in front of the magazine and it leaps out of the stock. Cartridges are easily pressed straight down on top of the follower to load. The rifle’s ejection port is a little small for topping off the magazine while it’s seated in the gun, but because the magazine accepts cartridges so easily, with a little dexterity you can do it.
Overall, I think Mauser has done a great job of creating a feature-rich entry-level rifle with a German pedigree, and that is what the company was shooting for. “Right off the bat you get a 10-year warranty. I don’t think anybody else even gives that,” a Mauser representative explained to me when going through the reasons someone would want the M18 over others in its class.
“We have a price of $699, [and] you get a cold hammer forged barrel with an accuracy guarantee. You also get an adjustable trigger — all of the nice features that you could have on other rifles that cost more money. We have it on a rifle that costs less money and that’s backed up by the Mauser name and the warranty.”
The Mauser M18 is not like some other German-made products such as a Mercedes or BMW where you have to be concerned about complicated systems and expensive repairs. Simple, straight-forward and effective is the best way to describe the Mauser M18 bolt-action rifle. Chambered for popular American calibers, this European thoroughbred speaks with a decided accent — as in deer whisperer. It truly is that simple.
Pressing the Mauser logos on both sides of the buttstock releases the recoil pad and exposes a small storage compartment. Photo: Mauser
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Calibers: .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .30-’06 Sprg., .300 Win. Mag.
Action: Bolt-action repeating rifle
Magazine Capacity: 5+1
Barrel: Cold hammer-forged, 22 inches (24 1/2 inches in magnum)
Related: Should Hunters Adopt Shooting Techniques Used by U.S. Snipers?
Trigger: User adjustable from 2 to 4 pounds pull
Sights: None. Drilled and tapped for Remington 700 bases
Stock: Black synthetic with rubberized grip panels
Overall Length: 41 3/4 inches (44 inches in magnum)
Weight: 6.5 to 6.6 pounds
Other: Storage compartment under tool-less quick detach buttpad, sliding three-position safety, sling swivel studs, 10-year warranty, 5-round sub-MOA accuracy guarantee.
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