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Posted By FFL Dealer Network on 03/07/2020 in Firearms

The Reliable Mauser 98 and Its “Claw” Extractor

The Reliable Mauser 98 and Its “Claw” Extractor

How many mechanical devices have been in use for over 100 years without them being improved upon during that span of time? The Mauser 98 Rifle is just such an item. The action of the Mauser has been placed in different stocks with varying lengths of barrels – (preferences and whims of different gun manufacturers) – but the Mauser 98 rifle mechanism remained unchanged. 

Paul Mauser first designed a rifle in 1871 for the German army, which was a simple single-shot bolt action rifle that featured an 11 mm black powder cartridge. This rifle was designed after numerous errors and malfunctions were discovered with previous rifles used during the Franco-Prussian war. In 1884 Mauser improved his initial 1871 rifle design considerably by fitting a spring-loaded magazine tube under the barrel; adding a cartridge cut-off; adding an elevator mechanism, and an ejector; and also improving the trigger mechanism. All of these innovations altered the Model 71 single-shot into a 9 shot repeater dubbed ‘Model 71/84.’ 

In 1888 the German army replaced Mauser’s rifle with the Commission Model 88. This was a bolt action repeater that used smokeless powder cartridges. The Commission Model 88 was designed by the German Military Rifle Testing Commission and incorporated features designed by various gunmakers. The Model 88 used a clip magazine designed by Austrian Ritter von Mannlicher and it fired a 7.9-millimeter rimless cartridge designed by Paul Mauser.  

The first smokeless powder rifle designed by Paul Mauser himself was the Belgian Model 89. Although the model was designed entirely by Paul Mauser, it was manufactured by Belgian government arsenals. Model 89 contained many modern innovations that continued to be used on future Mauser models up to the Model 98. Such features were a one-piece forged bolt and handle; twin opposing locking lugs; a wing-type safety; a bolt positioned behind the receiver bridge that no longer served as a locking lug (and the bolt was bored only from the rear and threaded for the striker assembly). 

The Mauser Model 89 also had a clip magazine far superior to Mannlicher’s magazine design. Mauser designed a stripper clip positioned in a slot that was milled into the top front edge of the receiver bridge. This stripper clip was then pushed down into the magazine and left there while the bolt was pushed forward to chamber the top cartridge and eject the clip.  

In 1893 Mauser developed a rifle for Spain that incorporated further innovations. The Spanish model 93 had a ‘staggered’ rather than a single-column magazine and was still loaded with the same 5-round stripper clip. This staggered column magazine did not protrude from the rifle as the single-column magazine did. 

The Model 93 was also the first rifle equipped with Mauser’s big ‘claw’ extractor, which innovated the concept of ‘controlled round feeding.’ Previous rifle designs used a method of pushing cartridges directly into the chamber by the bolt face before the extractor engaged the case rim. But haste could cause the rifle to be “short stroked” so the extractor would fail to engage the rim of the cartridge. And when the bolt was operated again, the unfired cartridge would be left in the chamber and another cartridge would be forced in against it, which was of course highly dangerous since the nose of the second cartridge might detonate the chambered cartridge while the bolt was not yet closed. Because Paul Mauser was a genius, he eliminated this danger by designing his new extractor mechanism. His claw extractor slipped over the rim of the cartridge as soon as it cleared the feed rails and continued to grip the cartridge throughout the entire firing process: firing, extraction, and ejection. If the action was short-stroked, the cartridge was safely extracted before another cartridge approached the chamber.  

Many factors can interfere with a rifle’s action: Condensation and oil can quickly become solid in frigid weather; and rust, dirt, and debris can cause cartridges to stick in the chamber so they cannot be extracted by any hook type of extractors which may tear through a case rim. But the Mauser claw extractor pulls cartridges free every time without fail. 

Before 1898 Paul Mauser had designed rifles for many countries other than Germany. These rifles were the Belgian Model 89, the Turkish Model 90, Argentine Model 91, Spanish Model 93 (which was also used by Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Uraguay, Persia, Transvaal, Turkey, and the Orange Free State), the Swedish Model 94, The Spanish Model 95, and The Swedish Model 96. But today the name Mauser is immediately associated with the German arms company that makes bolt-action rifles. 

The German Military Rifle Testing Commission realized the rifles Mauser was designing for other countries were far superior to the Commission Model 88 still being used in Germany. So Germany replaced the Commission Model 88 with the Mauser Model 98. Innovations on the Model 98 were: a cock-on-opening feature that produced a faster lock time; an additional non-bearing safety lug ahead of the bolt handle; a flange at the front edge of the bolt shroud to seal the locking lug raceways and deflect gas and debris in the event of a ruptured cartridge; safety vents before and behind the extractor collar; and the original thumb slot in the receiver was enlarged to properly vent gas.  

With the Mauser 98, Paul Mauser had reached perfection. This gun was incredibly successful and remains a favorite to this day. The Mauser 98 was used as the standard infantry rifle for the German army from the late 1890s all the way up to the mid-1930s, where it was known by its German service name of ‘Gewehr 98.’ The Mauser 98 action has been copied by manufacturers such as Ruger, Remington, Winchester, Interarms, Harrington and Richardson and today it is the first choice of many professional guides and hunters of dangerous game. 

Mauser 98 surplus rifles are still available for sale at reasonable costs. Some gun lovers purchase these rifles and use them as a basis to construct their own customized guns. (If you decide to purchase your own Mauser 98, to make sure you get a good one, check that the bolt is well-fitted and there is little or no pitting or rust on the surface. Good luck.)

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