Mauser’s Money-Wise M18 Bolt-Action

Mauser’s Money-Wise M18 Bolt-Action
The M18 is a light, handy rifle, that’s full of potential.

The Mauser M18 gives every shooter the chance to own one of the iconic German gunmaker's rifles.

How the M18 stack up against other bolt-actions:

  • Three-lug, push-feed bolt design.
  • Dual plunger ejectors.
  • 60-degree bolt throw.
  • Three-position safety.
  • Drilled and tapped for scope.
  • Five-round polymer magazine.
  • Black polymer stock.
  • Soft-grip inlay on grip.
  • 1-inch thick rubber recoil pad.
  • Trigger adjustable from 2 to 4 pounds.
  • 22- and 24-inch cold-hammer-forged steel barrels.

If you enjoy shooting a bolt-action rifle, you owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Mauser. Even if all his other designs were removed from the equation, the Gewehr 98 has had enough of an impact on the shooting world to cement the Mauser name in the history books. So many designs have been based on the still-viable Model 98 Mauser, and the rifle is still in production to this day.

Mauser 7

Mauser rifles are still in production — including the timeless 98 — and have continued to evolve; the Mauser M12 is a wonderful hunting rifle, and the company listens to the shooting market, offering rifles at many different price points. The latest is the Mauser M18, the most affordable of the Mauser line.

Introduced at the 2018 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, the M18 is Mauser’s affordable rifle and — in the traditions of the Mauser line — is utterly reliable. The M18 is a sensible, rugged design, which will serve well in a number of hunting and shooting conditions; it’s a handy, fast-cycling bolt-action rifle, made to follow you on adventures. It’s not the classic Model 98 Mauser, nor is it intended to be — the M18 is responsible for its own destiny, and will stand on its own merits.

The M18 is — very fortunately — a means of putting a Mauser rifle in the hands of the common hunter, without breaking the bank account or generating that vocal frequency attainable only by a spouse who does not approve of a new firearm purchase.

Simple, Elegant Features

Starting with the M18’s round, steel receiver, it uses a three-lug, push-feed bolt design. The lugs are of the same diameter as the bolt body, with a recess cut into the body just behind those lugs. Maintaining the same body/lug diameter eliminates much of the chatter and wobble associated with the M98 and its clones. In fact, operating the bolt of the M18 is refreshingly smooth in comparison to many other new designs on the market today.

The Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40 – in Talley rings and bases – complemented the M18 very well.
The Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10×40 – in Talley rings and bases – complemented the M18 very well.

The bolt face uses the space of one of the lugs for an extractor, and it’s equipped with dual plunger ejectors, which will certainly throw brass. An ample bolt knob compliments the entire affair, and it makes running the bolt very easy, especially when going for a quick follow-up shot — I found that a firm grip with the index finger and thumb felt the most natural.

The M18 bolt has a short, 60-degree throw, and — what I find to be one of the nicest features — the bolt handle only rises to level when fully upward. This allows the shooter to mount any optic, as low to the bore as is possible, without any hindrance from the angle of the bolt handle. The M18 is a cock-on-opening design, though you wouldn’t know it considering how little effort it takes to lift the bolt, with a handy little red cocking indicator at the rear of the bolt.

The ejection port is approximately 90 degrees, creating plenty of room for the cartridges or spent brass to cleanly exit the receiver. A three-position safety is located on the rear right side of the receiver, operated front-to-back in a similar manner to the Remington Model 700 safety. There is a red dot on the forward (fire) position, and two white dots on the rearward positions, indicating the middle, which blocks the sear and allows the bolt to operate for the safe unloading of the firearm, and the fully rearward position, blocking both the bolt and the sear.

A spring-loaded tab on the left rear side of the receiver can be depressed in order to remove the bolt. The M18 comes drilled and tapped for scope mounts, and any mounts that fit a Remington Model 700 receiver will fit perfectly on the M18.

The three-lug bolt of the Mauser M18, with dual plunger ejectors.
The three-lug bolt of the Mauser M18, with dual plunger ejectors.

The M18 has a detachable, five-shot polymer magazine, which is released via a button located just toward the muzzle, set in a recessed housing so that the button is flush with the stock. This button is rather sensitive, and I can see where, during the normal activities of a hunt, this button could be accidently depressed, releasing the magazine at a most inopportune time. This magazine-release button is the only gripe I have with the Mauser M18 and is probably indicative of my personal dislike of detachable magazines all-together on hunting rifles; all too often they will release at the worst time, and I’m way too familiar with Mr. Murphy and his Law.

Mauser Goes Poly

The M18’s stock is a simple design, yet effective. It is a smooth black polymer, with soft-grip inlay areas on the pistol grip and the underside of the forend. The comb is straight, and of the proper height for using a riflescope. There is a gentle palm swell on the pistol grip, affording a natural, comfortable grip with the trigger hand. There is no floorplate, as the magazine well is molded polymer integral with the stock, as is the trigger guard.

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At the butt, a 1-inch thick pliable rubber recoil pad takes any sting out of the shot; it’s comfortable on the shoulder and its traction definitely aids in keeping the rifle where you want it when the shot presents itself. Mauser has provided sling studs at the rear and on the forend.

They’ve also added a neat little feature at the rear of the stock: The recoil pad can be easily removed via two retention tabs (adorned with the Mauser logo) at the base of the stock. You may choose to store a few small items in the base of the stock, or customize the length of pull for your rifle. The M18 I tested was equipped with a length of pull of 14 inches even. Like many European rifles, a longer length of pull is employed (for reasons few can actually explain to me), but it fit me very well, both with a hunting coat on and with just a shirt.

The Mauser embossed grip cap and soft-touch pistol grip.
The Mauser embossed grip cap and soft-touch pistol grip.

A trigger can easily make or break a rifle, and I’m happy to report that the M18 has a good one. It’s user adjustable from 2 to 4 pounds, and my test rifle came from the factory with the trigger set at 2 pounds, 4 ounces — according to my favorite little Lyman digital trigger scale — with almost no creep and the slightest hint of overtravel. Personally, as a hunting rifle, I wouldn’t touch the trigger, as it feels just right as it came from the factory, but it’s nice to know you can adjust it if you feel the need.

My test rifle was chambered for the .308 Winchester — the M18 is currently chambered in .308 Win. and .30-06 Springfield, but additional cartridges, such as the .243 Win., .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag. and .300 Win. Mag are in the works.

A 22-inch cold-hammer-forged steel barrel is used for the .308 Winchester, a perfect length to utilize the powder column of the short cartridge, and maintain a proper balance for the rifle. The barrel is blued, and finished with a series of fine grooves, along the lines of the grooves once found in a music record (I may be dating myself here), that you can barely feel with your fingernail. Mauser uses a medium contour barrel — I measured 0.661 inch at the muzzle — with a crown that is slightly concave. The barrel is clean, with no iron sights, as the Mauser M18 is designed for use with a riflescope.

To The Range!

Mauser advertises their M18 with a five-shot, 1-MOA guarantee, and I was determined to test that claim. I set the M18 up with a set of Talley bases and fixed rings — what I consider to be among the highest quality available — and a Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm riflescope. That Leupold is as American as the Mauser is German, and this particular scope makes a great choice as the magnification range will truly cover all the bases (at sane hunting ranges), and the 1-inch tube keeps the scope’s weight down so as not to ruin the balance of the rifle.

The M18 in action at the range. Recoil was minimal, and the rifle was plenty accurate, living up to the 1-MOA guarantee.
The M18 in action at the range. Recoil was minimal, and the rifle was plenty accurate, living up to the 1-MOA guarantee.

As I’ve seen so many times while mounting a scope in Talley rings and bases, putting the scope on the bore-sighter required very little adjustment. It seems that Talley’s tolerances are so spot-on that the scope is naturally centered. No lapping or fooling about here — Talley rings just plain work.

I grabbed a selection of .308 Winchester ammunition — including both hunting and target ammo — and headed off to the backyard range to see if the Mauser M18 would stand up to the 1-MOA claim.

It did not disappoint.

Hornady’s A-Max load gave even MOA groups at 100 yards, making for a perfect choice for those who enjoy using their hunting rifle for the occasional target work. It fed perfectly from the magazine, with no issues at all. My test rifle really liked the new Federal Edge TLR hunting load. At 175 grains, it clocked in at 2,610 fps on the Oehler 35P, and I put five shots into a 0.95-inch group. Combine this level of accuracy with the terminal performance of the Edge TLR, and you’ve got a solid choice for nearly all North American and most African game. The mild recoil of the .308 Win. allows almost any shooter to place his or her shots accurately, and while the muzzle velocity may be tame in comparison to the .300 magnums, few game animals will ever live to declare the difference.

Mauser has included a removable butt pad, complete with storage compartment.
Mauser has included a removable butt pad, complete with storage compartment.

The Norma Eco-Strike ammunition broke the MOA deal, with a five-shot group measuring 1.25 inches, but trust me, I wouldn’t hesitate to take this combination hunting for any game that the 150-grian lead-free bullet would be suited for. I’ve used this ammunition in several calibers on hunts in Europe and here in the States, and I can confidently attest to the terminal performance of the bullet design. It works very well on deer as well as wild boar, and with a muzzle velocity of 2,820 fps, it would make a solid choice for antelope and mule deer in the more open country.

While this is just a sampling of the potential of this rifle — I remember shooting a very tight group with the Hornady ELD-X ammo at the SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range — I think you can get a feel for the possibilities of the well-proven .308 Win. cartridge in the Mauser design. All the ammunition fed perfectly from the M18’s magazine, and the ejection port design, coupled with the dual plunger ejectors, threw brass as far as any rifle I’ve shot.

In Conclusion

Mauser calls the M18 the “People’s Rifle,” and I feel that it holds up to that name very well. For the MSRP of $699, you get a lot of rifle; never before has it been possible to own a Mauser rifle at this price point. If you want a ton of custom features in your rifle, or beautiful walnut, perhaps the Mauser M18 is not for you. If you want a no-nonsense rifle that will match your skills as a shooter and hunter, you’ll find that the Mauser M18 is well worth the price.

M18 Specs:
Caliber: .308, .30-06, .243 Win., .270 Win., 7 mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag.
Barrel length: 22 inches for Standardcaliber/24 inces for Magnum caliber
Overall length: 4.7 inchesfor Standard caliber/44 inches for Magnum caliber
Weight: 6.4 pounds for Standard caliber / 6.6 pounds for Magnum caliber
Magazine Capacity: 5+1
Surface: Black burnished
Stock: Polymer 2-Componend with Soft grip in lays


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Philip P. Massaro is the President of <a href="">Massaro Ballistic Laboratories, LLC</a>, a custom ammunition company, which is comfortably nestled in between the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains of Upstate New York. He has been handloading ammunition for 20+ years, and has loaded a wide range of pistol and rifle ammunition, from the lightest plinking loads through the heavy hitting cartridges designed for animals that are measure in tons. He is a Licensed Professional Land Surveyor by trade, a musician by choice, and usually reeks of Hoppes No. 9.


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