If you're going to be neutral, it's wise to have a damned good military capability. There's probably nothing harder to do than keep others from forcing you to take their side, and only through the threat of force of arms can you keep the warring factions at bay. Enter the Model 41B Swedish Mauser sniper rifle.
Among neutral states, Sweden is certainly an interesting case. For a time it was one of the most powerful entities in Europe. But by the early part of the 19th century, much of the territory it won in the 30 Years War (and later) had been lost. Of course, it was still a force to be reckoned with in Scandinavia and continued to adopt and develop new weaponry to maintain what was left of its erstwhile empire.
Sweden was officially neutral in World Wars I and II. Unfortunately, in the latter conflict, as a means of self-preservation, there was some support of and assistance to the Nazis. To show that Sweden's heart was actually in the right place, though, there was also surreptitious assistance to Jews and the Norwegian resistance.
Sweden had always taken a keen interest in keeping its arsenal up to date — and then some. During the 1600s, for example, King Gustavus Adolphus armed a good portion of his cavalry with the revolutionary Kalthoff repeating carbine. In the cartridge era, Swedish troops were issued one of the finest breechloaders extant — notably, the Remington Rolling Block, which was chambered in a proprietary 12.17mm rimfire cartridge and eventually made in different variants domestically.
Though the Rolling Block continued to be issued for a number of years, early on the Swedes recognized that it was to their advantage to keep up with the rest of Europe, and they began evaluating single-shot and repeating arms such as the Jarmann bolt action and Norwegian Krag-Jorgensen. After considerable testing, Sweden's gun of choice became the Model 1894 Mauser bolt action chambered in 6.5mm.
The round itself was a rimless, bottlenecked affair with a 55mm case and 156-grain cupro-nickel-jacketed roundnose bullet that moved out at some 2,380 fps. The original 6.5mm — and its progeny — eventually became staples and were not only effective military rounds, they also proved their worth in the hunting field and at the target range.
The Model 94 Swedish Mauser, ultimately offered in a number of incarnations and was a great rifle — beautifully designed, extremely reliable and superbly built. The action was basically that of the Model 95 Mauser, which, in turn, was a subspecies of the Spanish Model 93 — not the strongest of Mauser actions, but certainly more than able to handle the rounds for which it was chambered. Originally underway by the Germans at Mauser, manufacturing production was taken up by the indigenous Carl Gustafs Stads Gevarsfaktori in Eskilstuna.
Still, the authorities were not totally satisfied and tests continued, resulting in the adoption of the Model 1896 Swedish Mauser. This Swedish Mauser had many qualities similar to those of the Model 94 but also some differences, including the addition of a thumb recess on the side of the receiver to enable the soldier to strip off cartridges when loading with a five-round clip and divert rearward-flowing gases should there be a pierced primer. Because the recess caused a break in the guiding of the left bolt lug, the bolt was equipped with a special guide bar that slipped in the upper groove of the receiver when the bolt was withdrawn.
The upper band was also modified to accept the Swedish Mauser's unique all-steel, hollow-handled bayonet, and the gun was fitted with a step-style ladder rear sight graduated from 600 to 2,000 meters.
The long Swedish Mauser itself (there were a number of short rifle and carbine variations through the gun's long life span) measured 491/2 inches long, weighed nine pounds and had a 29-inch barrel. Rifling was four grooves with a right-hand twist. The stock was walnut, and all parts were steel and (with the exception of the cleaning rod, bolt body and a few smaller bits and pieces) blued. Initially built at Mauser like the Model 94, it had its production eventually taken over by Carl Gustafs.
A Precision Platform
The rifle proved to be supremely accurate, rugged and reliable. Accuracy was so good, in fact, that it was chosen to be the platform of Sweden's Model 41B sniper rifle. Rifles destined to be Model 41B Swedish Mauser's were already-existing Model 41 Swedish Mausers chosen for their accuracy. For the most part, the gun itself was unmodified, with the exception of the addition, over a period of time, of a number of different types of scopes and mounts and the turning down of the bolt handle to clear the optics.
The actual progression of the Model 41 Swedish Mauser to the Model 41B is fascinating but rather lengthy — certainly beyond the space allotted to me here — so for those interested in the details, I can do no better than recommend that you get a copy of the excellent Crown Jewels/The Mauser in Sweden by Dana Jones and The Swedish Mauser Rifles by Steve Kehaya and Joe Poyer.
Our evaluation rifle, the Model 41B Swedish Mauser, was really nothing more than the Model 41 with a couple of major — and one minor — changes. The bolt body was blued rather than left bright. The scope was a refurbished, coated-lens version of an earlier 4x90 German AJACK (manufactured by Adolph Jackenroll Optische Anstalt GMbH in Berlin).
Standard ladder rear sights were eventually replaced by the Feinviser SM M/55 micrometer style. In the manner of many other sniper rifles of the time (notably excepting the U.S. Model 1903A4), the standard open rear was left on the gun, so in a pinch it could be used conventionally.
The scope was fitted on a sturdy short rail system that, unlike the earlier Jackenroll system, kept the unit securely in place. The ring/mount unit could easily be removed by rotating a camming lever to the rear to free it from the rail. Each mount and base system was hand fitted to the individual rifle, so it was not interchangeable with that of another.
The scope reticle was a typical Germanic "picket post" style involving two horizontal stadia interrupted by a pointed central vertical post. Focusing was by way of a brass ring sited near the ocular lens, which could be adjusted from +3 to -3 diopters. A top turret with forward-mounted locking screw allows the range to be adjusted from 100 to 800 meters.
Scopes, when off the gun, were carried in special gray-green metal tins with leather shoulder straps.
An elaborate Model 41B leather sling, with a rubberized loop section for better purchase when being properly used in the shooting position with the left arm through the loop, replaced the more pedestrian simple leather strap and buckle arrangement used on the standard M/96 Swedish Mauser rifle.
The Swedish Mauser used for this evaluation was a vintage 1910 Model 41B in excellent condition. It was obtained a number of years ago from SAMCO Global Arms.
After some in-the-office fiddling, including measuring the trigger, which came in at a two-stage, military-style 3¼ pounds, the Swedish Mauser was taken to the range along with a selection of ammunition that included Swedish-issue 139-grain boattail spitzer M/94 military hardball, Hornady 140-grain SP, Remington 140-grain SP and Hansen 139-grain SP.
Recoil with this hefty rifle is virtually nil, even when shooting off the bench. Functioning was impeccable, as one would expect with this tried-and-true Swedish Mauser action. Due to the scope's orientation, rounds had to be loaded singly, but this proved to be no major hindrance, it just takes a little longer than clip-loading. Optics were quite good, with the reticle adequate to its task. Both the focus and range adjustments were easy to use and effective.
All ammunition performed well, with the edge going to the Hornady product, which gave us just under minute-of-angle at 100 yards, with 200- and 300-yarders spreading out proportionately — still very much to point of aim.
In a nutshell, the Model 41B Swedish Mauser performed as well or better than many other snipers of the period. Having to choose between this rifle and the British Enfield No. 4 (T), which I consider to be the preeminent sniper piece of World War II, I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite.