Rich Grozik, author of the book Game Guns, believes "we do not own fine guns, we are only their curator during our lifetime, not theirs." Rich was speaking of fine English shotguns, but this truth holds for all collectable firearms. For many of us, the world of high grade, dangerous-game bolt rifles starts and ends with one action: the Mauser 98.
How many mechanical devices have been manufactured in three different centuries yet are still at the top of the tree? Five years before the Wright Brothers' first flight, the Mauser Brothers introduced a rifle that became the father of bolt actions. Even Springfield paid royalty fees until the outbreak of hostilities, in World War I ended such business pleasantries.
The Mauser 98 is, without question, is the most copied action of all time. And no wonder. It has proven to be dependable in countless conflicts, including two world wars, as well as on the hunting grounds from the polar ice to the equator. It's full-size rear shroud and multiple vents protect the shooter from case rupture, while a full-length claw extractor provides a dependable control feed.
Paul Mauser is to firearms what Beethoven is to music, and the 98 is his Ninth Symphony. The design of the 98 was genius, and the decision to put the world's most famous, and coveted, bolt action back in production was obvious.
Mauser is offering two calibers in their magnum length actions, and as is the case with the 98, both the .375 H&H, and the .416 Rigby have enjoyed incomparable success for more than 100 years. "The only two calibers worthy of a lion" says longtime African hunter Dwight Van Brunt.
The Mauser community — workers, management, and collectors — are excessively proud to note these rifles are 100 percent manufactured in the Mauser plant and not farmed out to other companies with a Mauser banner.
Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the company bearing his name, was fond of saying, "If you listen to your customers, they will explain your business to you."
Like Porsche cars, and the Canadian aircraft-engineering marvel, the de Havilland Beaver, this rifle was reintroduced with an attentive ear to customers input. The most notably, other than the reintroduction itself, is the three position safety, clearly inspired by the Winchester Model 70, another action that relied mightily on the 98's design. Though similar in appearance to the Model 70 safety, the new 98 has some very thoughtful engineering improvements. Most importantly, with "safety on" the lever is more directly in line with the barrel.
Though the purist in me would prefer seeing the flag safety again, I begrudgingly admit this is a superior arrangement and, without a doubt, less likely for the rifle to be accidentally moved to fire position than you will find on the old Mausers or the Model 70.
The customer preference heritage is further evident in standard swing off scope mounts, incorporated into what is commonly called a "double square bridge."
Without a scope three leaf sights — 50, 100, and 150 meters — are brought quickly into play when the rifle is shouldered in a no nonsense situation. Of course the usefulness of a 150-meter leaf sight is highly suspect, but it undeniably adds to the already enchanting appearance.
If God had intended gun parts to be stamped steel, Mauser would have made the 98 that way.
When the Mauser 98 was first introduced, the gun world was making single shots and lever actions, and as it is now put back into production, the world is making guns from stamped metal and molded plastic.
Mauser 98s of yesteryear were brilliantly machined from a single billet of steel, and the same is true 117 years later. Today's Mauser customers benefit from the best of modern technology: precision machining with the digital input from Paul Mauser's original drawings.
Besides more exact machining tolerances, Mauser has further upgraded the 98 by employing a plasma nitride treatment to the action and barrel. The steel is still capable of rusting, but you almost have to work at it. It is this feature that most excites hunters. A similar process has been used on my biathlon rifle, and it remains rust-free in defiance of the years of spectacular head-over-skis crashes.
The process produces a rich luster, like bluing, and is resistant to wear and scuffing. It presents a beautiful classic appearance as opposed to Teflon coating that sports all the glamor of an old frying pan. Appearances aside, this protection is another example of foresight. Mauser realizes that not all of these rifles are headed to Africa — a fact appreciated by those of us in Alaska who hunt in weather so heinous we are tempted to carry a photo of the sun. (Furthermore, the .416 Rigby is offered in two different weights.) Thank you Mauser, from a mountain grizzly hunter.
Even though the excitement is in the action, your attention is drawn first to the stock: high-grade walnut offered in three grades, dressed in a gloss finish, and capped with ebony. However, it is the shape that is seductive. This is a rifle designed by a firm steeped in expertise with heavy recoil calibers for the planet's largest, and most dangerous game. The comb is straight with an elegant cheekpiece. The grip is a graceful open curve similar to what you would find on rifles built by the best English gun houses, who know a thing or two about African hunting. Holland & Holland and Rigby earned worldwide reputations by developing the two most desired calibers in our sport, and they both built their superb dangerous-game magazine rifles on Mauser 98s.
No consideration is given to the current fad of vertical pistol grips, which would be fine on a plastic .223 but a .416 Rigby would shockingly present the rear of the trigger guard to your grip fingers.
This classic stock design is effective in controlling recoil, so the rifle does not behave like a cork leaving a champagne bottle. Since this is not a sheep rifle, the sling is attached to a barrel band, as is the tradition in heaver calibers.
The length of pull is a bit too long for my 5'10" frame, but that is the way a rifle, chambered for dangerous game, should come out of the box. If need be, your favorite gunsmith can trim it down and reattach the Decelerator recoil pad. The wise choice in recoil pad is another small detail change resulting disproportionately large improvement.
As an avid Mauser collector, the new 98 is more than I could have hoped to see in production again. I miss the thumb cut, but this is admittedly nostalgic pining for cosmetics. (It is a common misconception that the presence of a thumb cut, on the left receiver wall, is a way to distinguish a military action. Nearly every commercial Oberndorf Mausers have thumb cuts. This includes all Magnum and Kurtz actions, neither of which were ever used in military rifles. The few exceptions being primarily one-off specialty or preproduction models).
The solid left wall of the receiver on the current production 98 is just as you would find on any FN Mauser, and here the lads at Mauser had a spot of fun. In a world ruled by (ah€¦make that ruined by) lawyers, all new guns are delivered to an intelligent public with a safety warning and disclaimer. Rather than defile the appearance, Mauser imprinted theirs on the inside of this left wall. A bit of a poke in the eye to the PC crowd and wink to those who enjoy fine guns.