Gewehr 98 with bayonet and 5 round stripper clip on the side
|Place of origin||German Empire|
|In service||1898–1935 (German Military)|
|Used by||See users and civil users|
Herero and Namaqua Genocide,
World War I,
1918 German Revolution,
Finnish Civil War,
Russian Civil War,
Turkish War of Independence,
Spanish Civil War,
World War II,
Second Sino-Japanese War,
Chinese Civil War
|Manufacturer||Mauser, Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken, Haenel, Sauer & Sohn, Waffenwerke Oberspree, V. Chr. Schilling Co., Simson, Imperial Arsenals of Amberg, Danzig, Erfurt, Leipzig, and Spandau|
|Weight||4.09 kg (9.0 lb) with empty magazine Gewehr 98|
3.50 kg (7.7 lb) Karabiner 98a
|Length||1,250 mm (49.2 in) Gewehr 98|
1,090 mm (42.9 in) Karabiner 98a
|Barrel length||740 mm (29.1 in) Gewehr 98|
590 mm (23.2 in) Karabiner 98a
|Cartridge||M/88 until 1905, 7.92×57mm Mauser/8×57mm IS later|
|Muzzle velocity||878 m/s (2,881 ft/s) with 1905 pattern 9.9 g (154 gr) ball ammunition|
|Effective range||500 m (550 yd) (with iron sights) |
≥800 m (870 yd) (with optics)
|Feed system||5 round clip in internal magazine|
The Gewehr 98 (abbreviated G98, Gew 98 or M98) is a German bolt action Mauser rifle firing cartridges from a 5 round internal clip-loaded magazine that was the German service rifle from 1898 to 1935, when it was replaced by the Karabiner 98k. The Gewehr 98 action, using stripper clip loading with the powerful 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge, introduced advanced infantry weapon features rapidly used in the M1903 Springfield, the M1917 Enfield and the Arisaka. The Gewehr 98 replaced the earlier Gewehr 1888 rifle as the German service rifle, first saw combat in the Boxer Rebellion, and was the main German infantry weapon of World War I. The Gewehr 98 saw further military use by the Ottoman Empire and by Spanish Nationalists. Many have been converted to sporting use.
The Gewehr 98, named for 1898, the first year of its manufacture, superseded the earlier Gewehr 1888 in German service. The bolt-action design used for the Gewehr 98 was patented by Paul Mauser on 9 September 1895. The Gewehr 98 itself was the latest in a line of Mauser rifles that were introduced in the 1890s.
The German Gewehr-Prüfungskommission (G.P.K.) (Rifle Testing Commission) adopted the Gewehr 98 on 5 April 1898. The action was derived from the experimental Gewehr 96 Rifle. In 1901, the first troop issues of the Gewehr 98 Rifles were made to the East Asian Expeditionary Force, the Navy and three premier Prussian army corps. The Gewehr 98 received its first combat use in the Boxer Rebellion (1898–1901). In 1904, contracts were placed with Waffenfabrik Mauser for 290,000 rifles and Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM) for 210,000 rifles.
In 1905, the 8 mm M/88 cartridge which was introduced in 1888 and loaded with a 8.08 mm (.318 in) 14.6 g (226 gr) round nose bullet was replaced by the 7.92×57mm Mauser which was loaded with a new 8.20 mm (.323 in) 9.9 g (154 gr) spitzer bullet. The ammunition conversion was indicated by a small "S" stamped above the chamber and on the barrel at the back of the rear sight base. This was done since the 1888 pattern M/88 cartridge and 1905 S-bore pattern cartridge are two different non interchangeable chamberings. Since the new IS cartridge had a flatter trajectory the Lange Visier rear sight had to be changed with an "S" adapted Lange Visier.
The Gewehr 98 or model 98 (M98) rifle is a manually operated, magazine fed, controlled-feed bolt-action rifle, 1,250 mm (49 in) in length and 4.09 kg (9 lb) in weight. It has a 740 mm (29 in) long rifled barrel and carries 5 rounds ammunition in an internal magazine. The Gewehr 98 has two sling swivels, open front sights, and a curved tangent-type rear sight, known as the Lange Visier.
The controlled-feed bolt-action of the Gewehr 98 is a distinct feature and is regarded as one of the major bolt-action system designs.
M98 controlled-feed bolt-action system
The controlled-feed Mauser M98 bolt-action system is a simple, strong, safe, and well-thought-out design that inspired other military and hunting/sporting rifle designs that became available during the 20th century. A drawback of the M98 system is that it can not be cheaply mass produced very easily. Some other bolt-action designs (e.g. the Lee-Enfield) offer trained operators a slightly faster rate of fire.
The M98 system consists of a receiver that serves as the system's shroud and a bolt group of which the bolt body has three locking lugs, two large main lugs at the bolt head and a third safety lug at the rear of the bolt which serves as a backup in case the primary locking lugs failed. This third lug is a distinctive feature and was not present on previous Mauser bolt-action designs. The two main locking lugs are positioned opposed to each other and display a locking surface of 56 mm², whilst the third safety lug normally plays no part in locking the action to avoid asymmetric and hence unbalanced bolt thrust forces. The diameter of the receiver was also enlarged compared to previous Mauser receivers for additional strength and safety. The bolt handle is permanently attached to the bolt and on the Gewehr 98 is straight and protrudes out.
Another distinctive feature of the M98 system is the controlled-feed mechanism, consisting of a large, non-rotating claw extractor that engages the cartridge case rim as soon as the round leaves the magazine and firmly holds the cartridge case until the round is ejected by the ejector, mounted inside the receiver. Combined with a slight bolt retraction at the last stage of the bolt opening cycle, caused by the cammed surface on the rear receiver bridge, this results in a positive cartridge case extraction. The M98 bolt-action will cycle correctly irrespective of the way the rifle is moved or positioned during the bolt cycling action or if the cartridge has been fired or not. Only if the bolt is not brought back far enough, sharply enough, in a controlled round feed bolt-action the cartridge case may not be cleanly ejected and a jam may result. A cartridge that is directly loaded into the chamber instead of out of the magazine will not be engaged by the claw extractor.
The bolt houses the firing pin mechanism that cocks when the bolt is opened and the cocking piece protrudes visually and tactilely from the rear of the bolt to indicate the action is cocked. This bolt sleeve lock was not present on previous Mauser bolt-action designs and reduced firing pin travel and lock time.
The action features two large gas relief holes and a gas shield on the bolt sleeve designed to protect the users head in case of a primer or cartridge rupture or detonation. When the action suffers a catastrophic failure these safety features deflect escaping gas and eventual debris away from the operator's face.
The M98 bolt group can be easily removed from the receiver simply by pulling out the bolt stop, located at the left wall of the receiver, and then by rotating and pulling the bolt out. The metal disc inlay in the stock functions as a bolt disassembly tool.
The metal parts of the rifle were blued, a process in which steel is partially protected against rust by a layer of magnetite (Fe3O4). Such a thin black oxide layer provides minimal protection against rust or corrosion, unless also treated with a water-displacing oil to reduce wetting and galvanic corrosion.
A three-position safety attached at the rear of the bolt which operating lever can be flicked from right (safety on, bolt locked) to middle (safety on, bolt can be opened for reloading), to left (ready to fire) but only when the rifle is cocked, otherwise the safety will not move. The safety secures the firing pin. The safety can only be released by firing the rifle with the safety set in the ready to fire position or by closing the cocked bolt with a previously pulled trigger that must be kept pulled back during the closing operation. Disengaging the safety by closing the bolt is only possible with the safety set in the ready to fire position. The safety catch lever is quite large, making it easy to operate but posing a problem for mounting telescopic sights low above the receiver whilst retaining good operability of the safety catch lever.
The internal magazine of the M98 system consists of an integral box machined to match the cartridge for which the rifle was being chambered, with a detachable floorplate, that can hold up to 5 rifle cartridges. The German military M98 system internal magazine boxes feature an internal magazine length of 84.4 mm (3.32 in) to store 82 mm (3.23 in) maximal overall length 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridges without dimensional issues. The cartridges are stored in the magazine box in a staggered column at a stacking angle of 30 degrees, so viewed from the end, three cartridges touching each other form the points of an equilateral triangle. The magazine can be loaded with single rounds by pushing the cartridges into the receiver top opening or via stripper clips. Each stripper clip can hold 5 rounds to fill the magazine and is inserted into clip guides machined into the rear receiver bridge. After loading the empty clip is ejected when the bolt is closed. The magazine can be unloaded by operating the bolt (the safety should for safety reasons be set to the middle position for this) or in case of mechanical problems by opening the magazine floorplate, which is flush with the stock, with the help of a cartridge tip.
Modern civilian offspring of the M98 system
Though the production of the M98 system for the German military ceased at the end of World War II in 1945, the production of new Mauser M 98 and Mauser M 98 Magnum rifles for civil users has been resumed in 1999 by Mauser Jagdwaffen GmbH (Mauser Huntingweapons Ltd.), according to original drawings of 1936 and the respective Mauser patents. These rifles retail (2009) for approximately EUR 6,800 for the basic Mauser M 98 version, but the addition of (luxury) options can make these rifles much more expensive. Several other gun manufactures and custom gun builders also currently produce new M98 system clones or M98 inspired bolt-action hunting/sporting rifles. Many Mauser M98 inspired derivatives feature technical alterations to simplify production.
The rifle had a two-stage trigger with considerable take up before the trigger engages the sear. This feature aids in preventing premature firing during stressful (combat) situations.
Originally the Gewehr 98 sight line had an open post type front sight, and a curved tangent-type rear sight with a V-shaped rear notch, known as the Lange Visier. The rear sight was graduated for 1888 pattern M/88 cartridges from 300 m to 2000 m in 100 m increments. The M/88 cartridge was loaded with full metal jacket projectiles of the round-nosed type.
The standard open iron sight aiming elements consisted of relatively coarse rugged aiming elements making the sightline suitable for rough handling and low light usage, but less suitable for aiming at small point targets. The sights were designed with distant area fire targets like charging horseman units in mind, so the standard iron sight line could be calibrated for very long ranges. Military doctrine in the late 19th and early 20th century considered firing at distant area targets, where an officer would call out the range and the soldiers shot in volley, normal.
Later the Gewehr 98 sight line was modified for 1905 pattern 8×57mm IS cartridges. The 7.9mm S bullet was lighter, pointed, and 8.2mm (.323 in) in diameter instead of 8.08mm (.318 in) with an improved ballistic coefficient. The new IS cartridge had a flatter trajectory, and was therefore somewhat less critical of range estimation. With the introduction of the 8x57mm IS ammunition the rear sight graduation was changed accordingly and could be regulated from 400 m (440 yd) to 2,000 m (2,200 yd) in 100 m (110 yd) increments.
Interestingly, while the modified sight line for 7.92×57mm Mauser IS cartridges was calibrated for a minimal zero distance of 400 m (440 yd) and can result in hitting high when using the open post front sight and V-shaped rear notch at close range, the pillars formed by the tracks of the rear sight allow closer targets to be quickly bracketed between the "goalposts", a sighting method that automatically compensates for the high point of aim using the normal sighting method.
The Gewehr 98 oil finished rifle stock features a semi-pistol grip. A top handguard was standard on all rifles and extended from the front of the rear sight base terminating just ahead of the bottom barrel band. A steel cross bolt was mounted to distribute the forces and hence the effects of recoil on the stock bedding, reducing the chance to split the stock. The stock featured a quick detachable sling swivel on the underside of the butt stock, a top swivel located underneath the bottom barrel band and a parade hook mounted on the underside of the top H-style barrel band. The prewar stocks were produced from walnut wood and were aged for an average of three years to allow the wood to stabilize. Beginning in 1917, walnut shortages necessitated the use of beech wood. The late war production beech stocks were less durable and heavier than the original walnut stocks.
The rifle was able to fire rifle grenades. Various attachable rifle grenade launcher models were designed during World War I.
The Gewehr 98 was designed to be used with a bayonet. For this the rifle had a H-style top barrel-band with a 4.5 cm (1.8 in) long bayonet lug. The long bearing surface on the Gewehr 98 eliminated the addition of a muzzle ring. The advantage of this solution lies in the fact that muzzle rings can interfere with barrel oscillation which can significantly impede the accuracy of a rifle. The rifle was originally issued with the Seitengewehr 98 pattern bayonet. This épée style bayonet has a 500 mm (19.7 in) long quillback blade. By the end of 1905, this bayonet began to be replaced with the more robust and practical Seitengewehr 98/05, with a 370 mm (14.6 in) blade. It was called the "Butcher Blade" by the Allies due to its distinctive shape, and was initially intended for artillerymen and engineers as a chopping tool as well as a weapon. Towards the end of World War I, the 250 mm (9.8 in) blade Seitengewehr 84/98 was introduced as an economy measure and because the longer models were impractical in narrow trenches; this model became standard issue during the Weimar Republic and Third Reich. Serrated, saw-like versions of the aforementioned patterns intended to be used as tools were carried by German Pioniere (military combat engineers).
In the spring of 1915, it was decided to fit 15,000 Gewehr 98 rifles, selected for being exceptionally accurate during factory tests, with telescopic sights for sniper use, though the Gewehr 98 was not designed for use with aiming optics. To mount a telescopic sight directly over the rifle, the bolt handle had to be turned-down from its original straight design. In the stock, a recess had to be made to accommodate the turned-down bolt handle modification. The telescopic sights consisted of 2.5x and 3x models, made by manufactures like Görtz, Gérard, Oige, Zeiss, Hensoldt, Voigtländer and various civilian models from manufacturers like Bock, Busch and Füss. Several different mountings produced by various manufacturers were used. Even with a turned-down bolt handle (unless it is low-profile as is common practice with modern hunting rifles), optics mounted low above the receiver will not leave enough space between the rifle and the telescopic sight body for unimpaired operation of the bolt or three-position safety catch lever. This ergonomic problem was solved by mounting the telescopic sight relatively high above the receiver. By the end of the war, 18,421 Gewehr 98 rifles were converted and equipped with telescopic sights and issued to German snipers during World War I.
Not to be confused with the later Karabiner 98k, the Karabiner 98a (K98a) was a shorter version of the Gewehr 98 originally made for cavalry and support unit use. The original model Karabiner 98, with a shorter barrel than the G98, was produced from 1899–1908, but it was not successful. In 1908, the Karabiner Model 1898AZ was approved. The new features were a small diameter receiver ring, tapered rather than stepped barrel contour, an L-shaped stacking rod attached to the stock near the muzzle, a turned-down bolt handle and recess in the stock in the same fashion as sniper Gewehr 98s. The "A" stood for "with bayonet", the "Z" stood for stacking pyramid, meaning carbine Model 1898 with bayonet attachment point and stacking rod device. In 1923, the AZ was dropped for 'a' as Germany sought to distinguish the model from the newer models 'b' and 'k'.
During World War I, the Karabiner 98a was issued to cavalry, to mountain troops, and later to "established" assault units. It was liked because it was lighter and shorter than the Gewehr 98, and was thus better suited for use in trench assaults.
The Karabiner 98b was not technically another "carbine" variant, but rather was a rifle designated as a carbine to comply with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which only allowed Germany to produce carbines. The Karabiner Model 1898b was introduced in 1923. The 98B had a tangent rear sight as opposed to the original "Lange" ramp sight, a wider lower band with side sling attachment bar, a side butt attachment point for a sling, and a turned down bolt handle. It was otherwise merely a modified form of the Gewehr 98, from which The Karabiner 98k was derived.
The Gewehr 98 saw service primarily in World War I, as well as various colonial actions in the preceding years. As with all contemporary bolt-action rifles, it was a powerful and accurate rifle with long range that was poorly suited for the close quarter fighting of trench warfare. The considerable length of the rifle and the minimum sight setting of 400 meters (far in excess of the typical range in trench battles) were particular handicaps.
Its successor, the Karabiner 98k, would go on to be the standard rifle of the German infantry during World War II. Some Gewehr 98s also saw service in World War II, though many of these older rifles were converted to either 98b or 98k specifications.
The Gewehr 98 after World War I
Sporting and hunting
After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles left Germany extremely constricted in terms of military power. Civilians were not allowed to have any use of standard military weapons or ammunition. Since the 7.92×57mm Mauser round was so stout and great for hunting, people did not want to give up on it, so a redesign of the cartridge was made for the civilian market resulting in the 8×60mm S featuring a new longer case. The 8×60mm S cartridge was kept under 84.4 mm (3.32 in) overall length to fit the cartridge in standard military M98 magazine boxes without any modification.
The also rare 8×64mm S cartridge offers a comparable rechambering option for Mauser Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98k rifles sporting 8mm S-bores. Due to its larger case capacity the 8×64mm S chambering offers better ballistic performance than the 8×60mm S. Some custom rifles were made using Mauser 98's and rechambering them for the 9×57mm Mauser.
Since the purpose for these rifles was hunting and sporting, the bolt handle was professionally bent down, gradually the bent bolt handle became the standard and replaced the older straight style (though that was of course not always the case). The standard military sights were replaced by a 100 m sight, along with a flip-up on the rear sight for 200 m. The military stocks were replaced by newer ones that did not include the extra length of stock needed for the bayonet lug.
Today these sporter rifles are extremely rare and the 8×60mm S, 8×64mm S and 9×57mm Mauser cartridges are nearly obsolete, as only few mainstream ammunition manufacturers along with some other smaller companies continue to produce them. When correct ammunition is used in a converted rifle, a 8×60mm S, 8×64mm S or 9×57mm Mauser modified Gewehr 98 can be an extremely potent and inexpensive long-range big-game rifle.
Also, many Gewehr 98 rifles acquired as trophies by Allied forces during the war and brought to the US were converted to the 8mm-06 wildcat cartridge, a modification of the original 8×57mm IS chambering to 8×63mm S to accommodate the use of the plentiful .30-06 Springfield brass for reloading, with 8mm (.323 caliber) bullets. Such conversions are indistinguishable from unmodified rifle without careful examination, and can be quite dangerous if fired with the shorter 8×57mm ammunition, as the cartridge case will stretch to fit the elongated chamber and possibly rupture in the process, which causes a potentially highly dangerous high pressure propellant gas leakage. However, the Mauser M 98 action is designed specifically to direct gas away from the shooter in the event of a case rupture.
Many were converted to shotguns, typically in 12 and 16-gauge, as well as a few in 20-gauge. In making the conversion, both main locking lugs were typically removed. The magazine was altered to allow a single shell in reserve. Many authorities recommend against firing these guns, particularly with modern magnum shotshells.
Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany
The Weimar Republic, the successor state to the German Empire, implemented a program designed to update their remaining supplies of Gewehr 98 rifles for the Reichswehr in the years following World War I. Rifles allowed into service with the early Weimar security forces were stamped with a "1920" marking on their receiver ring. Further updates to Weimar-era Gewehr 98's often included the replacement of the Lange Visier rear sight with a standard Karabiner 98k-style rear sight, a hole cut through the side of the stock to accommodate a Karabiner 98k-style side mounted sling system and sometimes a shortening of the barrel to Karabiner 98k length. Many were also given a turned-down bolt handle, replacing the original straight bolt handle style. Rifles that received these later modifications will often have both Weimar-era and Nazi markings, and "S/42" stamped on the rear sight base. Some of these rifles saw use in WWII but mostly in second line units because the shortened and improved Karabiner 98k was the standard issue rifle by that time. Gewehr 98s were also sometimes stripped for their receivers and Karabiner 98k rifles were built on those receivers. Some German police officers were seen using Gewehr 98s as the Allies entered Germany in the final months of the war.
Additionally, Adolf Hitler initially chose to outfit his elite Schutzstaffel (SS) bodyguard units with modified Gewehr 98 rifles. Those rifles obtained by the SS normally had their original markings fully or partially removed and replaced with stylized Totenkopf markings.
The Volkssturm ("People's Militia") also made use of the Gewehr 98, out of all their mixed arsenal the Gewehr 98 was probably the best since it used standard 7.92×57mm IS rounds and a man trained on a Karabiner 98k could transition over to the Gewehr 98 easily since the actions of both rifles were the same.
Large numbers of Gewehr 98 rifles were also given to the Ottoman Empire both during and after the war, including the majority of 1916 Waffenfabrik Oberndorf production. Many of these rifles were converted to the "M38" standard by the Republic of Turkey in the years before, during, and after World War II. Today these rifles are widely available in North America along with other Turkish Mausers. Careful observation is usually needed to tell an ex-Gewehr 98 apart from the myriad of other common M38-standard Mausers. Turkish Gewehr 98 rifles that were not converted can be easily identified by a crescent moon stamping on the top of the receiver.
Spanish Civil War
The rifle saw some usage in the Spanish Civil War, mostly in the hands of Generalissimo Franco's Nationalists and German volunteer legions. Most of these rifles were bought and exported to the United States as cheap sporting rifles in the 1960s by Interarmco.
After 1935, a hortened derivative, the Kunghsien Type 24 Chiang Kai-shek battle rifle, saw service with the Chinese National Revolutionary Army and saw extensive use from the Nationalist–Communist Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War to (in the hands of their Communist opponents) the Korean war.
During the formation of the state of Israel in the aftermath of World War II, the Haganah acquired substantial numbers of Karabiner 98k rifles from any European sources they could find. Some of these rifles were converted Gewehr 98 rifles, which aside from the Imperial German markings are identical to all other Israeli Mausers. Like other Israeli Mausers, most of these rifles were rebarreled for 7.62×51mm NATO after that round was adopted as the Israeli standard in 1958.
Jubiläum 98 model (1998)
In 1998 the Mauser works at Oberndorf produced the Jubiläum 98 (Anniversary 98) model, a fully functioning replica of the original Gewehr 98, to celebrate the rifle's centenary year. 1998 rifles were produced.
- German Empire
- Weimar Republic
- Nazi Germany
- Ottoman Empire
- Poland Made in Państwowa Fabryka Karabinów in Warsaw and Fabryka Broni in Radom
- Republic of China in the form of the Chiang Kai-shek rifle.
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- Germany's Karabiner 98AZ, Garry James, gunsandammo.com
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mauser M1898.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mauser System 98.|
- Mauser model 98 at guns.ru
- French Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98a Page – use the index to choose a particulare rifle variant (French)
- October 2009+07:25:52 Exploded view drawing of the Mauser Model 98 controlled-feed bolt-action
- Gewehr 98 Mauser Military Rifles of the World by Robert W. D. Ball
- Historical Summary and Disassembly instructions for the Gewehr 98 from American Rifleman
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