Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Guns.com.
For more than 120 years, the Mauser brand and its M98 bolt action rifles have defined both reliability and quality in the civilian and military markets. This year, the Mauser company, now known for high-end rifles, has jumped both boots into the budget hunting market with their new M18. Guns.com finds out whether this German-made “People’s Rifle” will resonate with an American market.
Though a budget Mauser seems as foreign as schnitzel at the food court, here we are with a synthetic stock, matte blued piece wearing the old Mauser logo recognizable from military rifles of many decades and world wars past. The M18 is a traditional bolt action centerfire rifle that Mauser defines as a “no-frills” rifle that “brings together all the essentials for hunting in the best possible way and does not include anything that isn’t necessary in the field.”
The M18 is indeed utilitarian, built with solid steel construction. Cold hammered barrels are geared toward long-term accuracy. An adjustable trigger comes standard. The company’s “multi-purpose end cap” is actually a removeable, rubberized buttpad with space for internal storage. Sling swivels come standard, and while the rifle ships sans scope bases, the M18 accepts Remington 700 two-piece mounts.
All M18’s come with the same stock, though standard calibers wear a 22 inch barrels while Magnum chamberings have the longer 24 inch tube. The M18 is now shipping chamberings in: .243 Win, .308 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win, .30-06 Spfld, 7mm Rem Mag, and .300 Win Mag. MSRP on the M18 in its variety of calibers is $699, a far cry from the $13,000+ price tag of the current production Mauser M98 Magnum.
While we are not generally fans of black synthetic stocks, the lines on the M18 are sleek, modern, and attractive. Furthermore, the synthetic stock is foam filled and hearty, so it has a sturdy feel rather than the hollow and chintzy feel often synonymous with cheaper synthetic stocks. Though they are not overtly visible, two rubberized grip panels at both the forend and pistol grip offer welcome hand-traction for hunting in inclement weather.
In a creative move, the Mauser logo panel on the bilateral buttstock doubles as a push-button release for the thick rubber butt pad. Inside, there’s room for small item storage, which just happens to neatly stash a Bore Snake or similar cleaning device.
The three-lug bolt runs smooth, while the short throw not only clears optics with ease, but makes for rapid cycling in the field. While the familiar three-position, bolt-mounted operations from the M98 are absent, the M18 still utilizes a three-position safety, this time mounted at the right of the action. Not many rifles these days — and far fewer budget rifles — make use of the three-position safety, which is an excellent and welcome safety feature allowing the bolt to be opened while the safety remains engaged.
Furthermore, the M18’s quiet operation is a boon for hunters. The safety moves silently and the magazine locks up snugly with a barely audible click. That five-round magazine offers +1, six-pack capacity, more rounds than other budget hunting rifles, which typically house only three rounds. Not only was the magazine one of the quickest and easiest to load on the market, but it fed with complete reliability. Our test rifle weighed in just under six-and-a-half pounds bare, making it light enough to tote afield for mobile hunters yet stout enough to handle recoil. The matte black finish is as workmanlike and understated as it is practical in the field.
All features are moot, of course, without matching accuracy. With our test rifle chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and a Zeiss Terra 3-9×40 optic mounted and boresighted, we headed to the range with a nice mix of premium ammunition: Sig Sauer 120-grn HT, Sig Sauer 140-grn Match, Hornady Precision Hunter 143-grn, Winchester Deer Season 125-grn, and Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range 142-grain. Mauser ups the ante with not a three-shot MOA guarantee like every other comparable rifle on the market, but instead a five-shot sub-MOA guarantee on this “budget” rifle. While that’s great on paper, the M18 actually delivers in the field.
Our best group came with Winchester’s Expedition Long Range, five shots measuring a scant 0.79 inches at one hundred yards. We easily punched out sub-MOA groups at 100-yards with all the ammunition. Mauser proves that affordable rifles can be built for superior accuracy when a company with roots like Mauser puts it mind to punching out “X’s.” Our test 6.5 Creedmoor iteration stabilized bullet weights from 120-grain to 143-grain with stellar results out to the 300-yard mark where we concluded firing.
While the Mauser M18 may not be much to look at, especially when considering the drool-worthy M98’s the company still sells to this day, the M18 is a rifleman’s rifle. The trigger is exceptional, with our test gun’s trigger breaking repeatedly just under three pounds on a Lyman digital pull gauge. There are ample chamberings available for everything from predators to big game. Features are tailored to hunters, with the soft-grip panels offering solid purchase on the gun in inclement conditions, while the three-position safety moves silently to keep from spooking game.
Though the M18 is at the higher end of the budget-rifle market, it’s at the top end of affordable, quality rifles, period. This simplified, yet fully-functional iteration of Peter Paul Mauser’s original does not disappoint and proves to be quite a bargain at its real-world prices of $599. There’s not much not to like on the M18. If I could wish it into a wood stock, we’d be in love with the looks, but as it stands, we’re uber-fond of this German workhorse that just wants to shoot nice groups and get out to the hunting grounds.
Few among us lifelong hunters and gun collectors have not developed a deep appreciation for a Mauser design bolt rifle. Though the action is just not the same, there’s a certain appeal to seeing the Mauser brand on an affordable hunting rifles for the masses. While the M18 cannot hold a candle to its higher-dollar counterparts in looks and build, we’re talking three-figures versus six-figures. Though the Mauser M18 is not a safe-queen or a work of art, it is a durable, accurate, hunter’s rifle.