March 2015

Mitchell’s Mauser

After a good and thorough cleaning, the Mitchell M48 looked and performed like new, but was in fact mighty old.

Our first look at the Mitchell Mauser gave us hope that here we had an essentially new 98 Mauser to play with. The bore, finish, wood and all the stuff that came with it looked new, except that some of the accessories showed some age marks. This version came with a fancy certificate along with a leather sling, bayonet in scabbard, leather frog or bayonet hanger, leather ammo pouch, and a field cleaning kit. The certificate stated the rifle had been in military storage since its manufacture in Yugoslavia during the 1940s. It went on to state the rifle had been inspected and tested every five years since its storage, essentially stating these are not newly made replicas, but older original Mausers. The M48 Mausers were made in Yugoslavia after WWII — presumably in 1948 and after — so there is no reason to doubt these are in fact all original. They came from a factory or arsenal that has been in Yugoslavia since the late 1800s.

There is, in fact, lots of commentary online to the effect that these so-called all-original rifles from Mitchell’s have been gussied up, restamped (all the numbers of our test rifle match, even the stock), reblued, refinished, and the like. Was this rifle ground down, restamped with all-matching numbers, and then reblued? Then how come the crest is pristine? Was the metal completely buffed, reblued, new barrels stuck in and the wood sanded and refinished? No, it was not, because in the first place there would be no profit in doing so. Also, the stock is by no means skimpy. It’s proud of the wood everywhere, which refinished wood would not be. The M48 rifles were made after WWII, and they could easily have been put in storage because there was no great need for them. Because the Germans had nothing to do with the making of these rifles that came from an ancient armory or factory, there is no reason the Yugos would have used older German stamps to mark them, and that puts the lie to some claims the numbers don’t have the right font characteristics. At any rate, we took a look at the rifle as it was, not from the viewpoint of the conflicting opinions online.

One thing is for sure, this rifle has all nice stuff throughout. The barrel is pristine. The stock is in excellent condition, as is the bluing. The accompanying certificate told us the stock was in fact “teakwood,” not walnut. We wonder about that, but don’t have any teak on hand to compare with it. It does look like photos of teak we’ve seen online. The wood is very hard, has some decent grain, and has a dull finish of some sort. It seems to be a reasonable stock wood. All in all, we thought the rifle looked pretty good, and would make a fine display for some folks, whether or not it would satisfy every Mauser collector. Of course the intent is for it to be shot, so of course we shot it. We did that with three types of ammo, mil-spec hardball of unknown origin from 1983 with a 198-grain, steel-jacketed, boat-tail bullet; Remington 170-grain Core-Lokt SP; and PMC 170-grain PSP. We were going to try another mil-spec steel-case ammo from Romania, but it would not chamber. Here’s what we found.

Clean wood is rare to find on old Mausers, and this had it in spades. The top wood seemed to be walnut, but the main stock was hard teak. The bolt is bent downward and its bottom sliced off. The bolt, shroud, safety, extractor, and butt plate are in the white. They were made that way, not ground down to bare metal as some have claimed.

Mitchell Mauser M48
Collector Grade 8x57 JS
(8mm Mauser) $450,
Although it looked mighty good, the rifle didn’t have milled parts throughout. The trigger guard and floor plate were stampings. The forward stock-retention ring of the Mitchell M48 Mauser is one of the later, stamped and welded-up ones. Missing is the hole in the butt for removing the firing pin from the bolt sleeve. Early on, we found a problem that the buyers of these ought to address right from the start. The wrap-around or cup-like butt plate is polished steel, left in the white. There was apparently nothing much put on it to preserve it, maybe a wipe of Cosmoline, but not enough to protect it once the rifle is removed from its plastic wrapping. The butt plate began to rust almost immediately, and when we tested it in wet snow we really began to have problems. Our fix was to restore its look with Scotch-Brite and then put a heavy coat of wax on it to prevent rusting. We strongly advise you to do the same thing to actively prevent rusting of a major, highly visible, portion of this old rifle.

The rifle had the secondary locking screws on the action-retention bolts going through the trigger guard. The bolt handle was bent downward and the bottom of the knob was flattened. The bolt was in the white, as were the bolt shroud, firing pin cap, and the safety. The magazine follower was beveled to allow the bolt to run forward with the magazine empty. The left side of the action had “PREDUZECE 44” in Cyrillic letters, verifying its Yugoslav origin. The top of the front action ring had a nicely imprinted crest. Below that was “M 48A.”

The rear sight was, from what one collector told us, made to the pattern of an early German version, with the yardage markings (to 2000) on both the top and bottom. The front sight had a dust cover, which was nice to see. It aided our shooting efforts. The wood was like new with a dull finish that begged for some linseed oil. But if it is in fact teak, it might not take oil well. The trigger pull was two-stage, with some creep to the final pull. It broke at 6.5 pounds. We wiped the like-new bore and took it to the range.

Our first group was with the mil-spec ammo (unknown origin), and went into 2.3 inches at 100 yards from our bench rest. With the military ammo, the rifle printed right where it ought to have, dead center and a touch high with the rear sight all the way down. However, a problem showed up right away. The rifle would not reliably eject. It fed and fired perfectly, but the spent case just lay there, no matter how vigorously we worked the bolt handle. The ejector was not stuck in the Cosmoline, and it had good spring force. It protruded the correct amount (not much). The few cases that did eject just dribbled out of the rifle. A good Mauser will fling them far. On inspection we found that despite our initial cleaning, some odd crud remained inside the magazine box that apparently was flaking off and interfering with ejection. Once that was removed, ejection was as it ought to have been.

The two soft-nose commercial loads were much “softer” than the military version. We well recall the excellent surplus 8mm from several decades ago that was like new. It was mighty hot stuff, made in Canada and intended for the Bay of Pigs (never got there), and was not watered down like the commercial ammunition for these old rifles has to be these days. The Remington ammo did give decent accuracy, but the PMC was nothing to write home about. Also, a 170-grain bullet at less than 2200 fps is a mighty light load for what, with the right fodder, can be a mighty rifle.

Our Team Said: We liked this rifle. All in all, we couldn’t fault it. We’ve seen much better — or perhaps we should say more desirable — military Mausers, but not within the past, oh, 40 years. If we wanted an excellent-condition, safe-to-shoot, Mauser made after the design of the late-war Wehrmacht’s rifles, we’d not hesitate to buy this one.

Written by Ray Ordorica, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers. 

Mitchell's Mauser M48 8x57mm, 450$