As my readers know, I love surplus rifles. 2-4 MOA is good enough for me. The older and more beat up, the better; But I really like a surplus rifle with a long story. I have a couple friends who started collecting surplus rifles when no-one would even look twice at these dinosaurs. One example is a German M-98 with an “X” stamped above “the eagle”. This rifle was captured during the Battle of Stalingrad. There is also a captured M1 Garand which had received damage to its stock and was restocked by an unknown partisan in north-eastern Europe during the war. Apparently stolen off a train, damaged, and then repaired. The stock is slightly beefy compared to the factory M1’s sitting on the rack next to her, but she shoots straight none-the-less. Another is a French Lebel with a piece of shrapnel sticking out of the fore grip and a bullet hole in the butt stock. No doubt the man who was holding it suffered horrible injuries and was very likely killed in action.
These rifles are wall hangers and conversation pieces; We would never alter them.
I have a surplus rifle of my own with a short story. A Yugoslavian Mauser 24/47. This rifle was part of the Yugoslavian home guard arsenal during the 1990’s and had been in use and in reserves since long before WW2, ergo the numeration “M24/47” for “Mauser Pattern 1924, re-arsenaled in 1947. Technically, my rifle is a blend of M24/47 pattern and M48 pattern parts. It is commonly called the “M24/48″ pattern for obvious reasons. Like many of it’s kind, it was broken down into it’s major components to prevent the capture of functional rifles by rebel, enemy, hostile, and friendly forces during the outbreak of the Balkans conflict. The bolt, rifle, and bayonet are not ‘numbers matching” because some paranoid, despotic leader decided it was best to store all the components separate from each other. This required the rifles eventually be put back together, and head-spaced, with a mix of serial’d components. They were then sold on the commercial surplus market.
Whenever I pick up this rifle I imagine the conversations that led to it’s “Frankenstein” appearance and markings. The rifle is as divided as Yugoslavia. A nation that died in the mid-1990’s during the Balkans War. A legendary, modern conflict that has been dissected in countless case studies.
Made from a whole, that fit together once upon a time; but will never be the same again.
Thus, the value of the rifle is around $400-$500 today. Ammo is another story.
When I purchased this rifle, I received it in fair condition; About 80% I would grade. The bore is bright, smooth, and shiny and the rifling looks very sharp. The action is a Mauser, so there are no surprises there. It may have been made by socialists and communists, but it was made well.
Looking at my rifle, and knowing the value was destroyed long ago by political paranoia, I decided to perform a “re-arsenal” of my own, but not a full “sporterize” job. Knowing the rifle was designed the way it was for a reason; I left every piece where it should be. After some research, I purchased the full treatment from Brass Stacker; Made in North Carolina, U.S.A..
Linked here: https://brassstacker.com/MAUSER/
My Yugo-Mauser looked similar in condition to the one featured; It is the same model.
The choice was obvious after viewing this video.
I waited a week, or two, for the parts to arrive from North Carolina, and over the summer of 2020, while working in the mountains of Wyoming 30 minutes outside Yellowstone’s East gate on the Shoshone River, I started my second surplus project. I listened to the unbelievable radio reports on the riots, the one and only Radio Contra, and some good old Delta Blues while I broke down the rifle, cleaned it, and sanded off the sun faded and dented finish that were long past expiration. I fit, and refit, the weapon together a countless number of times.
After sanding off the old finish, I used some Ace Hardware “Log Oil” to seal up the now beautifully smooth wood stocks. They turned out to be a nice medium amber after staining with a great grain of an unknown species of wood; Likely, an oak of some type considering the density of the cut and smell of the fine dust particles. I put one coat of oil on every week or so. Sanding with 200 grit after the first coat. Followed by a 400 grit and then an 800 grit after the second coat had hardened. I waited patiently for the oil to harden properly before ever touching the stock. Washing my hands and wearing “No Powder” latex gloves between coats and sanding. The stock now looks like it has a light sheet of glass hugging it. Water beads off it and rolls away.
“Finished”, I said to myself after many hours and weeks of anticipation. But I wasn’t quite finished. The only thing that was “finished” was the surface.
The stock was pretty slick to hold properly, especially after I experimented with wet hands. Since the rifle was never made with checkering I contemplated adding my first checker job. But decided against this after practicing on some scrap lumber, so, the next time I was in town I picked up some skateboard grip tape and cut up some nice little pieces to add to the hand guard and fore grip using a razor and a ruler. It looks pretty neat from a distance, but up close you can see I may have rushed my lines; Perhaps the stock isn’t evenly rounded. Whatever the reason for the mild aesthetic issue, the weapon feels like it is glued to my hands when I maneuver it and run a bead on an imagined target. After this, I reworked the bayonet using the same formula. The result was predictable, and it pairs nicely. The grip tape, despite being as thick as a several sheets of paper, fills out my hand much, much better as I have relatively long fingers and a deep palm. Bored, and seeing an opportunity to add a camping axe, I fashioned a matching axe.
10 inch Bayonet, Camp Axe, Scout Rifle, 120 round heavy duty Bandolier.
All in one. About 20 pounds total.
The cowboys I worked with at the time complimented me on my craft after watching me work for several weeks on this project. Gathered by the nightly campfires with guitars, burgers, brats, beers, and whiskey we would strum songs and story tell. I felt good about my work because real cowboys are hard to impress, and I had many hours in this project. I had turned a $400-500 dollar rifle into a real beauty of a mountain gun. The first thing I did after letting it dry? I slung it over my shoulder and went on a walk though the mountains. It’s a little heavy and is certainly not an ultralight elk gun, but it’s sturdy, “affordable”, and shoots a verifiable “freight train” of a cartridge. The 7.92x57mm cartridge; AKA the notorious “8mm Mauser”.
“By God and Mauser” said the Boer.
Hard to disagree.
Now to select and mount the optic: https://www.aimpoint.com/product/aimpoint-9000l/
I selected the long tube to fill out the mount for symmetry and aesthetics. I didn’t want extra rail space hanging around. I also heard the long tubes work great for “snap shots” on dangerous game in Africa. Paired with the utility of the Mauser’s guided feed, the long tube makes it impossible to look down the optic crooked, thus obscuring the dot, and the guided feed prevents a hang up during quick operations of the action. That’s the truth in my experience; The dot is always there, centered and ready, and the cartridge centers itself and feeds well, carried by geometry up to the bolt’s face and under the extractor. The battery life of the RDS long tube is the same legendary Aimpoint quality; 50,000 hours with the little silver battery. You’ll die before it does thanks to the efficient ruby projector. The same optic also has a reputation for surviving heavy cartridges loaded for dangerous game. Like the shoulder crushing 9.3mm and 10mm rifle African “Dangerous Game” cartridges. I have even seen pictures of this optic mounted on .375 and .475 actions. I added a kill flash because it’s 2021.
Sounds good enough to me… I’m not one to reinvent wheels. Works in Africa?
It’ll survive the Rockies, Appalachians, Prairies, Swamps, and Tundra I reasoned.
I used a mix of bore sighting, magnetic levels, lasers, and the long tube Aimpoint 9000L Red Dot Sight to align everything. Once I was certain the “Brass Stacker” sight base was square, plumb, and level with the Aimpoint’s line of sight relative to the bore axis(In Parallel, I mean); I permanently sealed it up and mounted the Aimpoint, but I didn’t lock it down with any chemicals on the threads. “Not til after it’s got it’s first zero“, I told myself. Eventually, I managed to work some range time in my schedule and tried to zero the weapon.
To my surprise, the weapon was almost perfectly lined up on the “Y” axis, or the elevation, after my first group of 5 rounds, but was nearly 20 inches left. The “X” axis, or windage, was maxed out after a couple groups and I was stuck printing groups two inches left from center at 25 meters. DAMN! I thought to myself. Damn! No more windage adjustment. That was it for the day. I packed my stuff up and was a bit annoyed I had to spend some more money. I cleaned the weapon while watching videos on potential ideas for correcting the issue. I only had two choices in corrections. Aluminum can shims or new rings. The shims are not my style; That’s for carpenters, not gunsmiths.
Not surprised at all by my issue, and experiencing this previously while working on upgrading another surplus gun into a “Syrian Sniper’s Saturday Night Special”(Part One). I calmly researched this problem, knowing I could save this rifle from myself. I researched a variety of fixes, and I found the one.
The highly recommended Burris Signature Zee Rings.
I followed the directions. Double checked my work. Triple checked my work. Remounted the rings and bases three or four times, and went to the range the next morning. BINGO! Zeroed on a dime at 25 meters. I was very, very happy. No doubt I was wearing a smile as my friend spotted for me and called out my corrections at 25 meters. What was a $400-500 rifle had turned into a $1400-$1500 project real quick, as they usually do. All parts considered, plus some more money for 1,000 rounds of match grade 8mm hunting ammo I was nearly $2,200 “all in”. I now have a lifetime hunting rifle that is sealed from the environment, rock solid, has a guided feed, and by the looks of the groups at 25 meters, should shoot 2-4 MOA at 200 meters all day.
No noticeable thermal shift was detected during the course of fire.
A very important variable in marksmenship.
After the 25 meter zero I got a little cocky. I adjusted my aim for the man-sized steel silhouette target at 200 meters. The 8mm Mauser’s bullet, moving at 2,500 FPS, should be reconnecting with the line of sight around 200 meters if it is zeroed for 25 meters, like most cartridges in this FPS window. Unfortunately however, due to the nature of stacking mounting brackets on surplus guns, they can be zeroed “dead on” up close, and at 200 meters can be quite off thanks to stacking various imperfections in manufacture and random mixes of “optic height over bore”.
I aimed for the range’s beat up man sized steel silhouette at 200 meters. I adjusted my seated position, lined the 2MOA red dot on the target’s “face” and I squeezed the trigger. The surplus trigger was growing on me after about 30 rounds; I don’t like hair triggers on hunting rifles. My shoulder however, was not very pleased. 8mm Mauser’s are as hard to shoot as everyone says, the rumors are very true. I settled in behind the rifle and communicated my target and intention to my spotter. This was his first time spotting for anything except an M240B or M249 with Binoculars in the land of the Afghans.
BOOM! at the 200 meter target’s stupid face.
My spotter called a miss over the target’s “right shoulder”. (Technically correct)
“My left?” I said, looking at him quizzically. While I wore a stupid face of my own.
“Yes” He replied. “Sorry, the left, over the shoulder, dead center, level with the “nose””, he said(wearing a stupid face and a smile with me)
Considering this was his first time on a spotting scope calling trace and impacts, and our first time running the course together, I was required to be patient. Calling shots is easy, but requires real world practice and changes in interpersonal rhetoric. It’s like calling for fire with a machine gun, mortar, or artillery piece.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
“I’m gonna try that again” I said. And sure enough, he made the exact same shot call; And I made a few clicks of adjustment on the Aimpoint’s turret.
“Same Spot, Same Hold”, I called.
“Spotter On; Fire hen ready” he said confidently. And I squeezed the trigger.
DING! on the “left” edge of the target’s face (Which is, in fact, “stupid” because of the frowning clown we had painted in red and white). “Hit” he called, “On the left edge; Centered” he followed smartly.
I made a few more clicks on the windage and fired again for a group. The rifle printed a neat mess on the 200 meter target’s stupid face; But favored a hair to my left. I added a click or two, held fire, and decided to let the rifle cool while we packed up our gear and policed up some brass. Leaving the rifle out, bolt open and angled up, so I could confirm with one last group before calling it a “range day”.
She was dead on. She shoots on the palm of my hand at 200 meters.
On the dot, so to speak. The 2-MOA RDS is about “palm sized” at 200 meters.
I was very pleased. All I needed was to name her.
I returned during the earliest convenient weekend with my friend a few weeks later, to reconfirm and practice using the spotting scope with different rifles, and two 9mm pistols, out to 200 meters. Starting at 200 meters with my Mauser, I checked my point of aim vs. point of impact from 200, 150, 100, 50, 100, 150, 200 meters out and back again(and again). Firing about 50 rounds total, I only pulled a few shots in total due to the 8mm Mauser’s generous recoil shifting my position. I noticed the offset is there, but hardly noticeable at closer ranges when snap shooting. Next time around I will use some “shoot and see” targets and make a proper “DOPE” record for my new Karabiner. I hope to practice out to 500 meters one day.
After months and months of work.
My impulse purchase, surplus rifle was finally finished.
My first Mauser lives up to the reputation.
Her name is Kasey. Kasey Karabiner.
Kasey the 2-MOA Communist Hunting Rifle
Made by commies, I mean, certainly not for commies.
I suppose you could hunt four commies with it.
But, you know, come on, that’s a little ridiculous.
Mauser’s have five round magazines…
Thanks for reading,