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scoped Kar98k

The Karabiner 98k was a bolt-action rifle with Mauser-type action holding five rounds of 7.92 x 57 mm (also known as 8 mm Mauser or 8 x 57 IS) on a stripper clip, loaded into an internal magazine. It was derived from earlier rifles, namely the Karabiner 98b, which in turn had been developed from the Mauser Model 1898. The Gewehr 98 or Model 1898 took its principles from the Lebel Model 1886 rifle with the improvement of a metallic magazine of five cartridges. Since the rifle was shorter than the earlier carbines, it was given the designation Karabiner 1898 Kurz, meaning “Short Carbine Model 1898”. The standard Karabiner 98k iron sights could be regulated for ranges from 100 m up to 2000 m in 100 m increments.

The rifle was noted for its good accuracy and effective up to 500 meters (547 yards) with iron sights. For this reason, rifles selected for being exceptionally accurate during factory tests, were also fitted with a telescopic sight as sniper rifles. Karabiner 98k sniper rifles had an effective range up to 800 meters (875 yards) when used by a skilled sniper. The German Zeiss Zielvier 4x (ZF39) telescopic sight had bullet drop compensation in 50 m increments for ranges from 100 m up to 800 m or in some variations from 100 m up to 1000 m. There were also ZF 42, Zeiss Zielsechs 6x and other telescopic sights by various manufacturers with similar features employed on Karabiner 98k sniper rifles.

The 98k rifle was designed to be used with a S84/98 III bayonet[2] and to fire rifle grenades. Most rifles had laminated stocks [3], the result of trials that had stretched through the 1930s. Plywood laminates resisted warping better than the conventional one-piece patterns, did not require lengthy maturing and were less wasteful.

The 98k had the same disadvantages as all other turn-of-the-century military rifles in that it was comparatively bulky and heavy, and the rate of fire was limited by how fast the bolt could be operated. Its magazine had only half the capacity of Great Britain’s Lee-Enfield rifles, but being internal, it made the weapon less uncomfortable to carry. While the Allies (both Soviet and Anglo-American) developed and moved towards standardization of semi-automatic rifles, the Germans maintained these bolt-action rifles due to their tactical doctrine of basing a squad’s firepower on the unit’s light machine gun and possibly their problems of mass producing semi-automatic rifles.

In close combat, however, submachine guns were often preferred, especially for urban combat where the rifle’s range and low rate of fire were not very useful. Towards the end of the war, the Kar98k was being phased out in favour of the StG44 assault rifle, which fired a round that was more powerful than that of submachine guns, but that could be used like a submachine gun in close-quarters and urban fighting. Production of the StG44 was never sufficient to meet demand, being a late war weapon, and because of this the Mauser Kar98k rifle was still produced and used as the standard infantry rifle by the German forces until the German surrender at the end of World War II in May 1945.

[edit] Combat use

[edit] World War II

The Mauser Kar98k rifle was widely used by all branches of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. It saw action in every theatre of war involving German forces, including occupied Europe, North Africa, the Soviet Union, Finland, and Norway. Resistance forces in German-occupied Europe made frequent use of captured German 98k rifles. The Soviet Union also made extensive use of captured Kar98k rifles (and other German infantry weapons due to the Red Army experiencing a critical shortage of small arms during the early years of World War II) and rifle factories during World War II, as they were somewhat familiar with the weapon’s technology after buying the licences and machinery necessary to manufacture them from the Nazi Germany during the time of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. However most of these factories were converted to produce Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines as Soviet forces gained stable territory and were able to establish supply lines for production. Many German Soldiers used the verbal expression “Kars” as the slang name for the rifle.

[edit] Post-World War II

During World War II, the Soviet Union captured millions of Mauser Kar98k rifles and re-arsenaled them in various arms factories in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These rifles were originally stored in the event of future hostilities with the Western democracies.

Most of these rifles were eventually shipped to communist or Marxist revolutionary movements and nations around the world during the early Cold War period. A steady supply of free surplus military firearms was one way that Moscow could support these movements and states without giving them the latest Soviet infantry weapons until these movements and states gained the trust of Moscow to warrant the supply of modern Soviet infantry weapons.

One example of the Soviet Union providing the Mauser Kar98k rifle (as well as other infantry weapons captured from the Germans during and after World War II) to its communist allies during the Cold War period occurred during the Vietnam War with the Soviet Union providing military aid to the armed forces of North Vietnam and to the NLF in South Vietnam.

A considerable number of Soviet-captured Mauser 98k rifles (as well as a number of 98k rifles that were left behind by the French after the First Indochina War) were found in the hands of NLF guerrillas and VPA soldiers by U.S. and Allied forces alongside Soviet-bloc rifles like the Mosin-Nagant, the SKS, and the AK-47.

In the years after World War II, a number of European nations that were invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany used the Mauser Kar98k rifle as their standard-issue infantry rifle, due to the large numbers of German weapons that were left behind. Nations like France and Norway used the Mauser Kar98k rifle and a number of other German weapons in the years after World War II. Firearms manufacturers like Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium, Česká Zbrojovka (CZ) in Czechoslovakia (as P-18 or puška vz. 98N, the first being the manufacturer’s cover designation of the type, the second official army designation – rifle model 98, N for německá – German) and the Zastava plant in Kragujevac, Serbia, Yugoslavia, continued to produce the Mauser Kar98k rifle after 1945 as M48. In Romania, the Czechoslovak version was known under the informal name of ZB, after Zbrojovka Brno – the Czechoslovak main state producer of small weapons and munitions (now closed) – and, since a large surplus of this version was available, it was used to arm Romania‘s Patriotic Guards, before sufficient numbers AKMs were available for them. From 1950 to 1965, Zastava produced a near-identical copy of the Kar98k called the Model 1948 (M48) which differed only from the German rifle in that it had the shorter bolt-action of the Model 1924 series of Mauser rifles. Yugoslavia sold many of these rifles to Algeria, Egypt and Iran during the 1950s and ’60s. Many surplus M48s have been sold in the United States, Australia and Canada in recent years.

[edit] Israeli Mauser Kar98k rifle

Close-up of the K98k Bolt action

Close-up of the K98k Bolt action

A number of non-European nations used the Mauser Kar98k rifle as well as a few guerrilla organisations to help establish new nation-states. One example was Israel who used the Mauser Kar98k rifle from the late 1940s until the 1970s.

The use of the Kar98k to establish the nation-state of Israel often raises a lot of interest among people and rifle collectors today. Many Jewish organizations in Palestine acquired them from post-war Europe to protect various Jewish settlements from Arab attack and used them to carry out guerrilla operations against British Army forces in Palestine.

The Haganah, which later evolved into the modern-day Israeli Defence Forces, was one of the Jewish armed groups in Palestine that brought large numbers of Mauser Kar98k rifles and other surplus arms (namely the British Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle, which was used on a large scale by these organisations alongside the Kar98k rifle) from Europe during the post-World War 2 period.

One of most important purchases was a January 14th 1948 $12,280,000 worth contract with Czechoslovak Government including 4,500 P 18 rifles, as well as 50,400,000 rounds of ammunition.

The Israeli version of the Mauser Kar98k rifles differ from the original German version in that they have had all of the Nazi Waffenamt markings and emblems defaced with over stamped Israeli Defence Force and Hebrew markings as part of an effort to ideologically “purify” the rifles from their former use as an infantry weapon of Nazi Germany. The Mauser Kar98k rifles produced by Fabrique Nationale post-World War II have Israeli Defence Force markings on the rifle as well as the emblem of the IDF on the top of the rifle’s receiver. The FN-made Kar98k rifles with the IDF markings and emblem on the rifle were produced and sold to Israel after Israel established itself as an independent nation in 1948.

During the late 1950s, the Israeli Defence Force converted the calibre of their Mauser Kar98k rifles from the original German 7.92 mm round to 7.62 mm NATO after the Israeli Defence Force adopted the FN FAL rifle in 1958. The Israeli Mauser Kar98k rifles that were converted have “7.62” engraved on the rifle receiver. Rifles with original German stocks have “7.62” burned into the heel of the rifle stock for identification and to separate the re-chambered Kar98ks from the original 7.92 mm versions of the weapon then in service or held in reserve, though some 98k rifles were fitted with new, unnumbered beech stocks of recent manufacture. All of these converted rifles were proof-fired for service.

The Kar98k rifle was used by the reserve branches of the Israeli Defence Force well into the 1960s and 1970s and saw action in the hands of various Israeli Army support and line-of-communications troops during the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. After the rifle was retired from reserve military service, the Israeli Mauser Kar98k was given to a number of Third World nations as military aid by the Israelis during the 1970’s and 1980’s (there is evidence that a number of Israeli Mausers were sent to Latin America during this period of time) as well as being sold to civilian gun owners across the world.

[edit] Usage today

The Kar98k rifles that were used by Germany during World War II are highly sought after collector’s items in many circles.

The Mauser Kar98k rifle is very popular among many rifle shooters and military rifle collectors due to the rifle’s historical background, as well as the availability of both new and surplus 7.92mm ammunition, also known as 8mm Mauser. The military version of the Mauser does NOT fire the 7.62 NATO or .308 caliber ammunition. Some of the sporter variants are available in other chamberings, but most are large-bore hunting calibers. The exception to this is the Israeli version of this rifle, which was re-chambered in the 7.62 NATO round. Since the Israeli Mauser Kar98k rifle is chambered in 7.62mm NATO, the rifle has been very popular with many rifle shooters the world over due to the low cost nature and wide-spread use of the 7.62mm NATO/.308 Winchester round among rifle shooters. Also, the unique history behind the Israeli Mauser Kar98k rifle is another factor for the rifle’s ongoing popularity with rifle shooters, especially military rifle collectors.

As of 2005, the Mauser Kar98k rifles that were captured by the Soviets during World War II and refurbished during the late 1940s and early 1950s have appeared in large numbers on the military surplus rifle market. These have proven popular with buyers in the United States and Canada, ranging from ex-military rifle collectors to target shooters and survivalists, due to the unique history behind the Soviet capture of Mauser Kar98k rifles.

The Bundeswehr still uses Kar98k rifles in the Wachbataillon for military parades and show acts.

During the 1990s, the Yugoslavian Kar98k rifles and the Yugo M48 and M48A rifles were used by all warring factions of the Yugoslav wars, alongside modern automatic and semi-automatic rifles. There are a number of photographs taken during the war in Bosnia, showing combatants and snipers using Yugoslavian-made Mauser rifles from high-rise buildings in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo. Many Third World nations still have Kar98k rifles in their arsenals and it will most likely be encountered in regional conflicts for years to come.

Since 2003, the Mauser Kar98k rifle (along with the Mosin-Nagant series rifles and carbines) has also been encountered in Iraq by US and Allied forces in the hands of Iraqi insurgents alongside more modern infantry weapons like the AK series rifles and the SKS carbine. The extra range afforded by the 7.92 cartridge still makes it a viable low-cost sniper rifle.

[edit] Civil use

Mauser Karabiner 98k based hunting rifle

Mauser Karabiner 98k based hunting rifle

The widespread availability of surplus Mauser 98k rifles and the fact that these rifles could, with relative ease, be adapted for hunting and other sport purposes made the Mauser 98k popular amongst civilian riflemen. When German hunters after World War II were allowed again to own and hunt with full bore rifles they generally started to “rearm” themselves with then abundant available and cheap former Wehrmacht service rifles. Civilian users changed these service rifles often quite extensively by mounting telescopic sights, aftermarket hunting stocks, aftermarket triggers and other accessories and changing the original military chambering. Gunsmiths rechambered and rebarreled Mauser 98K rifles for European and American sporting chamberings such as the 6.5 x 55 Swedish Mauser, 7 x 57, 7 x 64, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, 8 x 60 Spitz, etc. The magnum hunting cartridges 6.5 x 68, 8 x 68 S and 9.3 x 64 were even specially developed by German gunsmiths for the standard military Mauser 98 action. Some surplus Mauser 98K actions were used by Schultz & Larsen in Denmark as the basis for target rifles. Some of these are still in competitive use today although with the benefit of new barrels.

[edit] Modern civilian offspring of the Mauser 98K

Throughout history standard sized and enlarged versions of the Mauser M 98 system were produced for the civil market. The M 98 Magnum bolt action was designed to reliably function with the large sized cartridges normally used to hunt Big Five game and other dangerous game species. For this specialized type of hunting, where absolute reliability of the rifle under adverse conditions is very important, the M 98 system remains the standard by which other action designs are judged. The trouble for a hunter or guide is that used M 98 Magnum rifles are hard to come by. Most owners consider these rifles to represent the peak in dangerous game rifles development, and seldom sell them. Since 1999 Mauser M 98 and M 98 Magnum rifles are again manufactured in Germany by Mauser Jagdwaffen GmbH (Mauser Huntingweapons Ltd.) according to drawings of 1936 and the respective Mauser patents.

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