Many of you would be familiar with me speaking about 8x57 Mauser in a few different threads. This is how I stumbled across it and I will kinda trace my continuing journey to convert a fairly 2nd hand military rifle with plenty of life left in it to a very functional hunting rifle suitable for most Australian game.
About 18 months back a few friends of friends made reference to possible deer hunting opportunities and like any gun nut my ears ####### up. Problem was, my 303/25(God bless it's cotton socks
) is well up to roo culling and medium game like goats & pigs but its 100gn max bullet weight (due to the 1:12 bbl
) twist left me high and dry in terms of a cal suitable for larger deer. So I racked my brains for a solution to the problem.
Originally I'd been looking around for a 7x57 Mauser but they're a bit of a cult cartridge these days and people aren't willing to part with them for cheap. When Raul, a senior club member, said he had a k98 sporter he was willing to sell for $125 I took a look.
At first glance it looked great....see what I mean?
But on a closer look it had it's issues. Sure, the action and barrel had all matching numbers and the Waffenampts(Nazi markings
) and factory proof stamps were still there, not ground off like they are on Israeli Mausers. But there was a small ring of pitting on the top of the barrel and fairly serious pitting on the underside where the full military stock & handguard had trapped moisture against the metal at some point.
Btw, it looks worse in real life.
If the bore had been less than impressive I would've said "No thanks
" but I knew and trusted Raul and with a complete M98 action for $125 I couldn't really go wrong. If it shot ok it would be a bonus. If not then I'd rebarrel it to 7mm Mauser.
The first thing I did (after Raul roughly bedded the stock using a 2-pak epoxy type body filler!
) was take it to the range with a box of PMC 180gn rounds I'd bought along with the rifle. Now, I should point out that a previous owner had removed the standard cup shaped buttplate and replaced it with a white piece of plastic for a spacer and a black super hard plastic Baikal buttplate for that "classic look
". Goodness knows WHAT
I think you can imagine what the cut down stock plus nasty buttplate equalled when shot prone. Kar98ks aren't known for their excessive weight and even with the fairly anaemic factory loads which kick along at about 2350fps I came home with bruising. But in spite of the battle sights which made my eyes water it still actually got on paper and showed signs of accuracy.
I decided the first thing I needed to do in order to really explore it's potential was to scope it. Unfortuantely open sights are not my forte and I din't want to be caught out trying to take a long shot without some optical enhancement. I also gave the whole scout scope idea a miss. I don't care what anyone says......why bother with it if your rifle will work perfectly well with the scope over the receiver. It's not a Martini, after all, and you can keep all that fast target acquisition by staying on a low power setting. So I bought some Leupold super high rings and a one peice mount and organised for it to be sent to a local gunsmith to get the work done.
Now, for those of you who dream of converting a military M98 to a scoped rifle, the bolt handle has a 90 degree travel and even the bent ones on k98s and later M98 style mil rifles don't clear a scope. So I also had to have the bolt cut, welded and sculpted to fit. My chosen scope, due to budgetry constraints, was a Tasco World Class MAG IV 3-12x40AO and it went along.
Here's the result:
I also had him flatten the sides of the knob as there was pitting on it too. Here's a closer look:
For obvious reasons I was pretty pleased with the results and I began load testing. You've probably noticed the appearance of the Pachmeyer Slip-On pad. Let's say once bitten twice shy. I began with 170gn Speer Semi-Spitzers & AR2206H powder and managed to get 1.5" to 2" groups. I also trialed some Nosler 180gn Ballistic Tips but couldn't better the groups. However the following Speer 100yd group showed some real potential and I figured if an old military warhorse with a 2 stage trigger and dodgy bedding could pull this off I wasn't going to whinge especially since I was doing the shooting.
It also did some pleasing stuff with the super heavy Woodleigh 250gn RNSNs and 48gn of AR2209 as the following target shows.
It was only a 50m group but nonetheless I feel quite happy with it. Suffice to say I had a beanie shoved between the butt and my shoulder when trying them off the bench.
So I had a serious shooter. But the barrel pitting was still driving me nuts. I'd asked all sort of questions about over coming the bad look. One friend who is mad on originals said I should restock it to original condition and blue the whole rifle again. The stock and handguard would cover the pitting over coming the problem. But there was pitting in little spots around the floorplate and some scuffing on the receiver, not to mention the atrocious condition of the lip on the rear sight sleeve which was there to hold on the handguard. It was rusted and sharp and just plain ugly and no amount of sanding and polishing it was going to fix it. The rear sight leaf had been removed so the scope could be fitted so it was a little silly to retain the rear sight full stop. If the sleeve could be removed a whole lot of grief could be avoided. I wasn't planning on auditioning for Enemy At The Gates
, I just needed a hunting rifle, so I couldn't see the point in the move back to military wood.
Desiring answers I rang Keith Hills in Canberra. In case anyone is unfamiliar with his work he completely refurbished, reblued and fitted a Geoff Slee stock and a scope to a Lithgow No1 MkIII* for a guy in Guns & Game
magazine a year or so back and the job was superb. He's also done a trigger job and fitted a scope mount to my 25-20 Martini making it a 100yd 1" holer so I only have good things to say about him.
I'd been wondering if sandblasting and powder coating might be a solution. Rocky Mountain Rifles in Canada, who specialise in alpine rifles for Dall Ram hunting, have made powder coating their primary choice of finish because it is very hardy and is the last word in corrosion protection. I thought a charcoal colour would fix the pitting on the barrel and floorplate as well and generally tidy things up. Keith said he could take the sleeve off, lop the barrel just behind the front sight to about 21" and recrown it, all for a very reasonable price. He thought the 'blasting & 'coating scheme was an excellent idea and further suggested I get the receiver done as well so it matched. He thought it would solve all of the problems and still mean I could rebarrel it later on should I wish to.
I'm now about to head away to Gulgong to throw a little lead at the landscape on a friend's property but come the 17th I'll trying to get to Canberra to get the Mauser to Keith. There's also the issue of a new stock for it but I'll talk more about that later.
So what do you reckon guys?