A Turkish Mauser

ęPaul M. Alvarez 2003

I saw the ad that Big 5 sporting goods recently ran in the newspaper and said "Wow!". They were advertising a sale on Turkish Mausers for $49. Now, I didn't really need another beat up, military surplus, 8mm Mauser rifle, but the price was hard to pass up and they allegedly had German actions. I figured that I would ride over and, at least, take a look at them. If they were in the poor condition that I anticipated, I could always pass.

What I found when I arrived was more than I expected. I checked out the three rifles that they had in stock. The blueing was well worn and the actions had a nice patina. One had a cleaning rod and one had a sling. The one with the cleaning rod had the best bore, though the other two bores were very good as well. They were otherwise complete and the actions were pretty smooth from years of use. It looked like a pretty good deal, a center-fire, bolt-action rifle with a history for under 50 bucks, how could I go wrong?

After seeing that long barrel and long-range adjustable sight, I began to have fantasies of practicing my long range off-hand shooting. Scenes from "Quigley Down Under" swam through my head. It wasn't a Sharps, but could I hit a bucket at 1000 yards with it? If the old timers could do it with their charcoal burners could I do it with a "modern" rifle? Would those pragmatic Germans have graduated the sights to 2000 meters if they were not expecting someone to actually use them at that distance? I decided to find out, after all, it was cheap.

I paid the asking price plus an additional $20 transfer and tax and waited the obligatory 10 days because our government wants to make sure that I "cooled off" before I took possession and brought my rifle home. The first order of business was to completely strip it, clean it, and examine it.

The Turks adopted various Mauser rifles in 7.65 mm beginning with the Model 1890 and later the 1893. In 1903 they adopted an 1898 pattern Mauser that differed from the standard Mod. 98 only in the rear sight, upper hand-guard, cocking piece and firing pin. During WWI they were supplied by Germany with model 1898 rifles and carbines in 8 mm, which cartridge they adopted after the war. At that time, they purchased VZ-24 rifles from the Czechs and re-barreled many of their older rifles to the 8mm Mauser cartridge. The Turks began manufacture of the pattern 98 guns at the arsenal in Ankara sometime around 1938, hence the Model 1938 designation.

Near the muzzle of this gun was stamped "C.A.I. ST. ALB. VT. " and "M1938 GERMAN 8MM". The receiver bridge was marked with the Turkish crescent moon and star crest, "Ankara", and "1940" on the receiver. It also has the "TC" for "Turkiye Cumhuriyeti", "Turkish Republic" and "AS FA" for Askari Fabrika, "Military Factory". The markings indicate that it was imported by Century Arms International of St. Albans, Vermont and was chambered in the standard German 8x57 Mauser caliber. It had, apparently, seen quite a bit of use but was not abused and appeared to be in fairly decent condition except that most of the parts did not have matching numbers. The parts were all milled and they had the typical sight graduated out to 2000 meters, the full length 29 inch barrel, and the straight bolt handle. I weighed it at 9Ż pounds.

Unlike the 1903 model, the 1938 appears to have the same cocking piece and firing pin as the 98. Comparing it to a Spanish "La Coru˝a" Mauser manufactured in 1954 in my possession, I found them to be identical except for the sights, even to the point of the bolts interchanging. NOTE: NEVER FIRE A RIFLE WITH OTHER THAN ITS ORIGINAL BOLT! This was done for illustration purposes only and the rifles were not ever fired in this condition.

The stock, though it had a few dings, had no cracks and appeared serviceable. It had apparently been cleaned up as it did not have that heavy oily look that is typical for these old rifles. Most of the metal had been cleaned as well, but there was still a fair amount of cosmolene in some of the nooks and crevices. WD-40 is quite effective as a solvent and a bit of work with a can of it and an old toothbrush had the action completely cleaned. The bore cleaned up quite nicely as well. It had no pitting or dark spots and the lands and grooves were sharp.

 

The earlier models of Turkish Mausers, the M1903 and M1893, were converted to 8X57 from their original 7.65X53 caliber by re-barreling. The Turks had converted to the 8 mm cartridge after the end of WWI and these guns were built originally in that caliber as evidenced by the full length 29 inch barrel having the same serial number as the receiver. Slugging it, I measured the bore diameter at .3225, reasonably close to the nominal .323 diameter of typical 8 mm "S" bullets compared to the .318 diameter of the earlier "J" bullets.

The original 8mm Mauser round was designed for the German Gewehr 88 infantry rifle. These had a bore diameter of .318" and used a 226 grain round nose bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2093 fps. The rifle was replaced by the Model 1898 rifle which used a stronger action but still used the same cartridge with the .318 bullet. in 1905 they adopted the improved "S" (Spitzer) bullet/cartridge with the 154 grain .323" diameter bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2880 fps and considerably higher chamber pressure. New guns of both diameters were commercially made through the end of WWII and commercial ammo in both diameters is still loaded. Remington and Winchester loaded a compromise diameter bullet for a time after the war in deference to the many souvenir rifles brought back by returning GIs. NOTE: Firing a full power .323 diameter cartridge in the early guns can be extremely dangerous.

The next order of business was to shoot the rifle. Federal, Remington, and Winchester each show a single loading of this cartridge with a 170 grain softpoint bullet at a rather anemic 2360 fps and 2100 ft.-lbs. of energy. RWS, on the other hand, shows four loadings with 187, 196, and 198` grain bullets between 2620 and 2690 fps. Norma loads a 165 and a 196 grain bullet at about 2700 and 2650 fps respectively. DWM used to have several loadings including a 123 grain bullet at almost 3000 fps. Most of these full power loads churn up around 3000 ft.-lbs. of energy and this is from a 24 inch barrel, the 29 incher should clock at least another 100 fps. This easily exceeds the 30-'06!

 

Bullet Weight

Muzzle Velocity

100 Yds

300 Yds

500 Yds

Muzzle Energy

100 Yds

300 Yds

500 Yds

Drop 300 At Yds

RWS

198 TIG

2620

2550

1960

 

3015

2425

1690

 

16.4

RWS

187 HP

2690

2420

1930

 

3005

2430

1545

 

15.2

Norma

165 PPC

2854

2524

   

2984

2334

     

Winchester, Remington, Federal

170 PP

2360

1969

1333

997

2102

1463

671

375

29.68

DWM

123 RNSP

2968

1991

1565

 

2415

1497

477

   

Being rather frugal and not wishing to pay almost $20 for a box of Remington or Winchester ammo or $30+ a box for the European ammo, I waited a few weeks for the "Big Reno Show" to come along. There I found some Ecuadorian military ammo with a 1954 headstamp for $1.75 for a box of 15 rounds. A bit more to my liking as, at less than 12 cents per round, I would be hard pressed to buy bullets and primers for that price let alone spend the time to reload it. The boxes were marked "Ejercito Ecuatoriano" (Equadorian Army) with their national emblem. They were also marked "15 Cartuchos "SS" Cal. 7,92 mm." (15 Cartridges). The "SS" signifies that the bullet is the Schwerespitzgeschoss or "heavy pointed bullet".

I pulled one of these bullets and took some measurements. The bullet is Cupro-Nickel, Full Metal Jacketed, boat-tailed, and very aerodynamically shaped. It appears to be a duplicate of the German round with the same designation. Just the ticket for long range shooting as these, reputedly, had an effective range of some 3500 meters. Diameter was right at .323 and bullet weight was 197.5 grains. Cases are bright, clean brass and, of course, Berdan primed and corrosive.

L-R, R-P, Win. Super Speed, 196 gr. FMJ-BT "SS", Ecuadorian Surplus.

A word about corrosive ammo. Firing corrosive ammo is not harmful to the bore in and of itself. The problem arises when due care is not taken to properly clean the gun after firing. The primers produce various salts, especially potassium chloride, a close relative of sodium chloride more commonly encountered as table salt. These salts are deposited in the bore as a product of combustion. As is typical with salts, they are extremely hygroscopic and absorb moisture and produce rust if not removed. The obvious solution is to clean the bore immediately after shooting.

The metal of the barrel, no matter how polished it appears to be has pores. The salt deposits itself into these pores and commences to absorb moisture and form rust. That old stand-by, WD-40, sprayed in the bore can delay the onset of corrosion a day or two, but the gun must be cleaned as rust can form under the oil film. The surest way to get rid of the salts is to dissolve it. Our grandfathers encountered the same problem with their blackpowder guns and came to the same conclusion.

Plain dish washing detergent and hot water works very well. I have also heard of swabbing the bore using a 50/50 ammonia water solution on a patch and then cleaning as normal. The old Military bore cleaner was designed specifically for corrosive ammo, carcinogenic, but effective. So, the fact that certain ammo is corrosive should not be a deterrent to using it.

Finally I found the time to take it out to the range. The two factors that I was primarily interested in were accuracy and point of aim. The most accurate rifle in the world is not much use if you don't know where it is hitting and I have found that many of these military weapons can present a challenge in this department.

A bullet crosses the line of site at two places after it leaves the bore, first a short distance in front of the muzzle and again at the point of aim. If sighted at 100 meters it should cross the line of sight first at approximately 15 meters. Setting the target at that range also allows one to see how far away from the point of aim the bullet is hitting without having to use an overly large target.

As the sights were graduated in meters, I started by setting an Outers sighting-in target at 15 meters . This target has a 1 inch fluorescent center spot with concentric rings at 1 inch intervals on a background of a grid with 1 inch squares. It is 14 winches wide and 18 inches high, a good size for the work that I was doing.

Setting the rifle on a sandbag rest and taking a bead on the target, the first thing that I discovered was that the sights were very difficult to see. Unlike U.S. military weapons that use a square post front sight and an aperture rear sight, the standard Mauser sight is a "V" notch rear and an inverted "V" front post, so that it appears rather like a W. They are small and difficult to pick up quickly. In my opinion, this is one of the worst sighting combinations ever put on a gun, at least for my eyes. It is hard to imagine the German soldier fighting two World Wars and not being able to see their sights. Well, they did lose both of them, after all. Using a six-o'clock hold on the center spot , I took up the slack on the two-stage trigger and fired two rounds.

Examining the target, I found that the bullets had struck about 5 inches low and an inch to the right. I set the sight at the 200 meter position and fired 1 round that struck 4 inches low. At the 300 meter position another round struck 3 inches low and at the 400 meter setting another bullet hit 2 inches low. Finally, I fired 5 rounds at the 500 meter setting and produced a 3/4 inch group an inch low and an inch to the right of the point of aim.

I next moved the target out to 100 meters and, with the sight set at the 600 meter mark, fired two rounds. The bullets struck 2 inches high and well to the right edge of the paper, not quite what I was expecting. Upon examining the rear sight I discovered that when I had set the sight at the 600 meter mark, only one side of the sight had engaged the notches in the sight base and the sight was moving. In addition, the front sight had been drifted in its base to the right as far as it could go so I was not going to be able to make any additional adjustments there. I reset the sight at the 500 meter mark and made sure that it was firmly engaged. The next two rounds struck an inch high, 4 inches to the right of the aiming point, and 2 ╝ inches apart.

The rifle has good potential. A rifle that shoots 2 ╝ inch groups is not spectacular but is still very useful and it is very good for this type of rifle. In comparison, another shooter using a Ruger Mini-30 and a scope was getting 3+ inches at the same range. The problem, then, is twofold, I want to be able to adjust the sights for various ranges as they were intended and I want to be able to actually see the sights. I am sure that I would have shot somewhat better had they not presented such difficulties.

What is disturbing is that the sights are as far off the mark as they were. I can understand the windage situation, but the elevation is even further off. As the 8mm has been loaded in a variety of bullet weights was I, perhaps, simply using the wrong cartridges? It did not seem likely that the Turks would have issued ammunition that did not hit close to point of aim. However, I had been shooting 198 grain bullets, lighter bullets should theoretically strike lower on the target due to lower dwell time in the barrel and increased velocity. I wanted to test this theory by shooting some original Turkish ammo. A few gun shows later I found a supply.

I found Turkish issue ammo, loaded on stripper clips, 70 rounds to the bandoleer for $10. They had the crescent and star emblem between a T and C (Turkish Republic). They were also marked "7.9", "FS" (probably the maker) and "1942". These cartridges, externally, seemed almost identical to the Ecuadorian ammo. Breaking down one of the rounds revealed quite a difference. These rounds had 155 grain Steel jacketed bullets of .322 diameter with a concave base. The bearing surface was quite a bit shorter than on the Ecuadorian ammo.

The cases appeared, at first glance, boxer primed. Curious, I examined the interior of the case with an otoscope, a tool that I find extremely valuable for examining cartridges. It showed that, in fact, they were Berdan primed. What had first seemed like a central flash hole was a depression caused by forming the primer anvil. The two flash holes were clearly visible under magnification.

A trip to the range with my chronograph produced some interesting results. For comparison purposes, I also fired both types of ammo in my Spanish La Coru˝a Mauser. It sports the standard 23.5 inch barrel and is also "stock". The chronograph generated the following data:

    Bullet Weight Average Velocity Kinetic Energy Average Deviation Extreme Spread
Turkish Mauser            

Ecuadorian

 

196

2495

2711

27.1

95

Turkish

 

155

2926

2949

13.8

52

Spanish Mauser

           

Ecuadorian

 

196

2392

2490

11

40

Turkish

 

155

2922

2941

20

60

I learned some very interesting facts from this test. The Turkish ammo is somewhat more energetic than the Ecuadorian and produces energy that is easily in the '06 class. The average deviation is about half as much for the Turkish ammo as is the extreme spread. This tells me that, even though the Turkish ammo is 10 years older, it is more consistent from shot to shot and shoots flatter. Surprisingly, it produced nearly identical results in the shorter barreled rifle, this might be due to the .0005 inch smaller bore on the Turk.

However, and this is a big however, it shoots even lower than the Ecuadorian ammo! This is as I suspected. The first round that I fired struck a full 10 inches below the point of aim. I had to set the elevation on the sights for 1000 meters before it would hit near the center of the target. On the other hand, it was hitting within 1 inch of center in the Spanish Mauser with the sights set at 100 meters.

I have heard rumors of some of the Turkish ammo being "bad". In the 150 or so rounds that I have fired I did not have a single malfunction of any kind. And, as the chronograph shows, it is very consistent. I have seen many hand-loads with premium components that had much more extreme spread than this ammo. Curiously, I found three discarded rounds of the Turkish ammo at the range with a 1951 head-stamp that appeared to have light primer strikes. They functioned through my rifle without a hitch.

In corresponding with other Turk shooters I have heard of this happening quite regularly. Apparently, some of the bolts have cosmolene or other gunk in them softening the primer strike and/or weak firing springs. This combination has caused many of the misfires. This points out the importance of of thoroughly cleaning the weapon before shooting. It never hurts to replace the firing pin spring with a new one as they are relatively cheap.

I was able to center the point-of-impact horizontally by moving the front sight. The Mauser front sight is actually on a band that is soft soldered on a step at the muzzle. The simple expedient of heating with a propane torch and turning the sight slightly brought the horizontal POI to the center of the target and I was able to center the front sight on it's base as well. This left the vertical adjustment still to be dealt with.

 

I could probably develop a hand-load that would come pretty close to point of aim. Hornady makes a 220 grain spitzer that might do the trick, but each bullet costs more than a surplus loaded round thereby negating one of the chief purposes of shooting this rifle, cheap ammo. Another solution is to modify the sights. A set of more readily seen sights seems to me to be the best alternative as this would provide more "hit-ability". Of course the purists would deride that idea as altering the gun from the original. My response to that is that I would rather have a weapon that is modified and works rather than a completely original one that is barely shootable. An accurate rifle is much more interesting to me but, to each his own.

You've got to love those gun-shows! I came across a Redfield peep sight for the Mauser at a fairly reasonable price. This is a sturdy sight that is micrometer adjustable for both windage and elevation. It has big coin-slotted adjustment screws for easy adjustments and an adjustable scale on the side for setting the zero. Drilling and tapping two screws and inletting the stock were all that was required for the installation. This arrangement gives me a full 33" of sight radius compared to 25" of the original!

Now I had the useless original rear sight still sitting on the barrel.  I decided not to remove  the rear sight base completely. The sight base is soldered to the barrel and removal  involves heating the barrel with a torch to melt the solder and driving the base off the barrel with a mallet. You are then left with a large patch of soldered barrel exposed, unsightly at best. Instead I simply disassembled and removed the rear sight, ramp and spring. This left the base intact should I have a need in the future to return it to its original configuration. The base does not interfere with the sight picture at all and is fairly unobtrusive and, since the upper hand-guard is held down by a screw on the base, I can also continue to use it.

 

Before removing the rear sight I used it to roughly align the peep sight. Sighting down the three sights in tandem, I adjusted the peep to come into alignment with the existing sights. Back at the range I set the target out at 25 yards for the initial rough sighting in. The first shot hit low and slightly left, pretty much where it was hitting with the original sights. 

After bringing the point-of-aim to coincide with the point-of-impact  it was nice being able to actually hit where I was aiming. I sighted it in to hit about 2" high at 100 yards after studying the ballistics tables in the Sierra reloading manual for 8mm bullet. Their 150gr  bullet starting at 2900 fps with a 200 yd zero is 1.72 inches high at 100 yards and 7.71 inches low at 300 yards. I figure that I am using a much more streamlined military bullet at slightly higher velocity hence slightly flatter shooting. I should be able to hold right-on out to 300 yards or so with reasonable results. This was confirmed by my being able to quite easily hit a 5-gallon bucket at 250 yards shooting offhand. Sure, I am no Quigley but, then again, this isn't a Sharps either!

Changing the rear sight certainly made a big difference in this rifle. I can actually see the sights now and am able to hit out to fairly long range with it. When I bring the rifle up to the shoulder quickly, I am looking right through the sights. These sights have turned this 60+ year old piece into a useable rifle that is a pleasure to shoot.

 

Email: Omega Crossroads