From the time it was introduced, the Model 1898 Mauser, with its controlled feed bolt-action system was recognized for the superlative hunk of machinery that it was—rugged, reliable and innovative. But, mechanics aside, like most arms of the period, it was still configured as 19th century infantry-style rifle measuring some 49.2 inches overall.
Designed by Paul Mauser, the ‘98’s development came about as the result of inspiration and working and reworking of a number of earlier designs. This resulted in features that were marvels at the time and which have since become manifestly familiar to its military users and sportsmen worldwide. Strong and reliable, it was the standard by which all others have come to be measured. Caliber was the formidable 7.92x57mm (also called “8mm Mauser”) round.
While the Gewehr 98, as the rifle was called in German service, was more than adequate for the purpose it was intended, early on (c. 1908) a shorter version of the Gew 98 was adopted. Called the Karabiner 98, (or Kar 98) the rifle was modified in such a way to allow it to be attenuated by some five inches without losing any effectiveness.
Rather than being just a bobbed version of the Infantry model some clever mods were incorporated, such as a trigger that was moved forward to allow the butt to be shortened in favor of permitting the barrel to be slightly longer, along with a turned-down bolt and a different rear sight.
As well, the sling swivel arrangement was moved to the side of the stock and involved a unique arrangement whereby a slot in the forward portion of the butt accommodated a special type carrying strap—an accessory that would be maintained through World War II. Large numbers of these Kar 98s (also termed Kar 98a) were made during World War I at several locations.
The Kar 98a was highly popular with troops, so it was ultimately decided to improve the concept even more.
In 1935 the Kar 98k was introduced, the “k” standing for kurz (short). Derived from a melding the post-WWI Kar 98b and 1924 Standardmodell, it was about a half inch shorter than the Kar 98a, weighed about the same but was much more streamlined in appearance. The Kar 98k employed the side-mounted sling, caliber was also 7.92x57mm and the fore-end entirely reconfigured.
This would be the primary rifle used by German forces in World War II. It was built by an array of makers until 1945. Early examples were manufactured to a high degree of fit and finish but as the war progressed shortcuts, such as some stamped and welded parts, became commonplace.
Too, as good quality wood became more difficult to obtain, solid walnut stocks were replaced with laminated versions which actually ended up being stronger than the earlier style, though a tad heavier.
The Kar 98k is a collector’s dream because of the many variations, differences in markings and manufacturers codes, etc. The arm could also be modified into superb sniper rifles, examples of which are highly prized by military Mauser enthusiasts.
The rifle we’re looking at here is a late-war version (1944) with laminated stock, though it has escaped being fitted with some cheaper stamped and welded parts. Its receiver code, “byf,” indicates it was manufactured by Mauser-Werke.
Condition of the piece is excellent, as it was obtained directly from the American GI who “liberated” it during the Second World War. Even though a late-war example, it’s still a classy piece of hardware.