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Review: Mauser M18 Bolt-Action Rifle

The new Mauser M18 combines legacy with modernization

Review: Mauser M18 Bolt-Action Rifle
The new Mauser M18 combines legacy with modernization.

Say the words "Mauser bolt-­action" and almost everyone thinks of the Model 1898, i.e., Model 98 or M98. The M98 was in production for so long and Mauser made so many (as well as those produced by partners under license) that it's difficult not to think of the M98 when the Mauser name is spoken.

What's unfortunate about the M98 is that it has overshadowed many other Mauser rifle achievements introduced since the 1950s. By exploring new designs and manufacturing techniques for more than 60 years, Mauser has amassed vast rifle-­manufacturing knowledge that makes the new Model 18 (M18) possible.

Combining several innovations, the M18 action features a large, super-hard, three-lug bolt for its short action.

Pieces of the Puzzle

Mauser licensed the Gehmann short action in 1965. This little gem was designed by one of Germany's championship rifle shooters in the mid-­1950s. The action is almost half as short as a regular M98 and was one of the first to have the bolt locking lugs seat into an extension of the barrel instead of the receiver. It was complicated and expensive, but it paved the way for alternative approaches to bolt-lug lockup and got Mauser away from the traditional M98 style.

The next major innovation for Mauser was the Model 2000 from 1968. This rifle was their earliest economy model that focused on giving the customer a high-­quality, yet affordable rifle. Conceptually, you could say that this was the father of the M18. The M2000 was a good and accurate rifle, but it also proved for the first time that a Mauser production rifle could be successful with a hammer-­forged barrel. Mauser sold about 30,000 of these from 1968 to '74.

Incorporating a breech ring into the gun's design assures a precision fit between barrel and action.

By 1986, Mauser had advanced the cold-­hammer-­forging, barrel-­making process to the point that they put these barrels on their Model 86 (M86) Precision Rifles.

The M86 was made for International Military Sports Council (CISM) matches. Peter Nienaber became the military pentathlon world champion in 1992 while shooting one of the M86 rifles, setting the German shooting record in the process. While inexpensive, hammer-­forged barrels can struggle with accuracy, Mauser demonstrated that tremendous accuracy is possible when a barrel is made correctly, as with its M86.

With a 60-degree bolt throw, there's little chance of a hand hitting the scope during cycling, even while wearing gloves.

The final piece of the puzzle came together in 1987 when Mauser bought Voere-­Voetter & Co. The action that Voere developed was a three-­lug affair that locked into a stellite insert in the receiver. Stellite is a super-­hard, cobalt-­chromium alloy that is known for its high wear resistance and performance in hostile environments. High-­end suppressors incorporate stellite because it handles heat and pressure so well. Mauser liked the three-­lug action and realized the stellite insert had much more to offer than just great strength.

Bringing it all Together

Creating an inexpensive rifle that offers as much performance as possible, is a lofty goal. Everyone likes performance, but there usually is a direct correlation between it and price. As one increases, so does the other. So, for Mauser to take on the challenge of building an economy rifle that shoots great, many in the industry were skeptical they could do it. But here's how Mauser was successful and why they can offer more for your money than other rifles that fall into the economy category.


Mauser first took the alternative action lockup methods with the Gehmann short-­action and refined its use of a barrel extension. Then they took the Voere action and combined the two rifles' features producing the exceptional and affordable M18 action.

Mauser's study of the Gehmann/Voere actions also led to the use of a breech ring featured in the M18. Breech rings give rifle manufacturers several advantages over typical receivers that have lug abutments integral to the receiver.

The steel recoil lug fits into a groove just behind the front action screw.

Normally, when a bolt closes, lugs on the bolt slip behind a protrusion in the receiver that contains the pressure from firing. Rifles made this way have the headspace set individually by trained personnel when the barrel is attached to the receiver.

A breech ring is a small hardened steel or alloy insert inside the receiver that sits between the bolt face and the back of the barrel (breech face). Its job is to provide the correct depth for the barrel when it's screwed into the receiver while simultaneously ensuring proper positioning of the bolt lugs and bolt face to guarantee correct headspace.

The rear action screw threads from the action tang throught the back of the trigger housing. A nut tightens the action to the stock.

The breech ring allows Mauser to use rigid tooling, making the finished product very precise. That precision ensures the proper relationship between the bolt face, bolt lugs and breech face. All of that came from exploring alternative headspace techniques by way of the Gehmann action and combining them with the simplicity and strength of the Voere action, from which this M18 action draws great benefit.

Barrel Advancements

Much like the M18's action history, the barrel also draws from previously successful Mauser projects.

The M18's cold-hammer-forged barrel is complete with an 11-degree crown on its muzzle, which ensures accuracy continues as the bullet exits.

The M18 carries with it a five-­shot MOA guarantee, not the more common three-­shot MOA guarantee. Mauser is able to meet this very high standard because they've been making hammer-­forged barrels for 50 years — and consistency.

The machines to make cut-­ and button-­rifled barrels have been around for more than 100 years, so the process is known by many and is mature. However, hammer-­forged barrels require large machines, as well as a large investment. Although rare back in 1968, Mauser's decision to move forward with hammer-­forged barrels was a bold move and the outcome was far from certain.

"Economy" doesn't mean having a run-of-the-mill trigger. Mauser's M18 trigger is adjustable fom 2.2 to 4.2 pounds and is very crisp.

The reason hammer-­forged barrels are not known for great accuracy, is due to the manufacturing process inducing a lot of stress on the barrel. Stress in a barrel means the barrel doesn't have the exact same reaction to each round fired, often producing the occasional flier. Stress in a barrel can also cause the point of impact (POI) to shift after the first round is fired and as the steel heats up. This is why it's fair to expect accuracy results just more than 1 MOA from most hammer-­forged barrels with ammunition they like.

With that said, they are by far the most durable barrel made because the forging process work-­hardens the bore. A very hard bore does a great job of resisting throat erosion from firing lots of rounds (or many magnum rounds). If you want a barrel to last a long time, hammer-­forged is the number one pick.

Besides the abundant recoil pad, the synthetic stock sports soft grip inlays on the forend and pistol grip.

Beginning with its M86, Mauser perfected the hammer-­forging process that includes everything from the steel chosen to the destressing procedures used after the barrel comes off the forging machine.

It's no surprise that this new M18 has a hammer-­forged barrel, but I was still surprised when G&A's test rifle in .308 printed a range-­test best, five-­shot group of .56-­inches using Hornady's 168-­grain A-­MAX TAP Precision. The barrel that produced this group was one very happy and stress-­free barrel.

The three-position safety moves silently and acts directly on the trigger lug.


Mauser is wading into a segment of the rifle market that they haven't seen in 40 years. The fact that they're leveraging decades of rifle-­making experience to build an economy rifle means they have a lot to offer that others cannot match at this price.

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