Last week saw me take delivery of two Mauser MO3’s courtesy of Open Season, one an Arabesque and one the extreme version in synthetic.
The plan was to put them through their paces on the range and then in the field, this article covers the first part of the test, on the range.
I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of Blasers and have helped many a range client into one, they suit my style of stalking perfectly, they feed reliably every time, they are inherently accurate and extremely fast cycling, all these traits I find invaluable as a deer manager, I’m not saying that other rifles won’t do what I need them to but having the confidence in my rifles means I can approach the task in hand without worrying whether my kit will let me down, gun dealers are great at selling you a premium rifle, they’ve read the literature and they are happy to take your money, but how many of them actually shoot much and get to know their kit inside out so they can give an honest appraisal of it and I’m not talking about putting rounds down a range here!
For some time the Blaser has overshadowed the Mauser, but why? Not everybody is a fan of the straight pull action of the Blaser; many consider it a bit ‘plastic’ for the money, a bit too ‘gimmicky’. But instead of looking at its stable mate they go off and buy a Sako or Tikka, now I’m not decrying either of those brands, they are both fine rifles and if budget is a limiting factor then they provide an excellent solution – but what of the Mauser, probably one of the most legendary gun manufacturers ever, ask an African PH what he would pick every time for dangerous game and the chances are it will be a Mauser or at least a Mauser type action – if your life depended on it you need a rifle that even when full of the ubiquitous African dust is utterly reliable.
I am no stranger to the MO3 extreme, my stalking partner Derek has one and I enjoy endless hours of mickey taking about the sheer weight of it, all the usual jokes about extra ballast for sticky conditions, being able to beat a charging buffalo to death if you run out of ammo and so on, but in all seriousness when you pick one up (bend from the knees!) you can’t help being impressed with the quality of the engineering. Again this is a switch barrel rifle like the Blaser with nearly as many options, the two I had were obviously well shot so the actions had bedded in a little and whilst not as silky smooth as say a Sauer elegance were well on the way. As with the Blaser a detachable saddle mount is required and as with the Blaser it does return to zero when detached and reattached so no difference there either. The safety is similar to the Blaser in that putting the safety off cocks the bolt so obviously when the safety is on, a round can be chambered with absolutely no chance of it firing and it remains that way until taken off, this is done by simply pushing a small lever on the back of the bolt across to the right, to re-apply the safety a small button is depressed which releases the lever back to its original position, utterly safe just like the Blaser – but how did it shoot.
I had chosen two calibres to test, a .308 and a 30-06, don’t ask why a 30-06 it just seemed a good idea at the time (secretly I’m hankering after a long action rifle!) The ammunition I had chosen was Sako for the 30-06 and RWS for the 308. Both barrels were the standard 23 inch jobs which made the whole gun feel very ungainly particularly when I slapped a moderator on the end. Once I had stabilized the bench to take the extra weight I proceeded to shoot 3 x 3 shot groups with each rifle, the best grouping I could achieve was around an inch – to be honest I expected much better, the Sako factory ammo is usually very good but I didn’t have another 30-06 to try so I decided to try the RWS in my Blaser and much to my surprise got a similar result with my best group only an inch.
For my practice ammo and for tuition purposes I have a factory match round loaded by a local company, not only is this cheaper it is also ridiculously accurate and I had taken a box of this along as well so to see what was going on I shot a 5 shot group with this as well and promptly shot a 1cm group which is slightly better than it shoots in my Blaser! So for accuracy I have no doubt it is every bit as good if not better than the Blaser and that’s saying something, hardly surprising when the barrels are made out of the same steel in the same factory, but where the Mauser pips the Blaser is in the stiffness of the action, the Mauser action is made entirely of steel whereby the Blaser is an alloy action – I understand that Mauser tried making an action from an alloy but scrapped it and that Blaser are looking at a steel action to further improve stiffness and accuracy.
So, accuracy test over, the Mauser shoots, really shoots. But what of the weight and the practical applications of the rifle? To be honest I was scratching my head a bit – so I sat down with a coffee and had a good think. What is it about these rifles that make them the underdog, why do stalkers look past them? Then it hit me, they just aren’t designed with UK stalkers in mind, but they could be!
UK stalkers are a unique breed, they obviously don’t expect to have to pay much for a gun and expect their stalking for free, I have lost count of the times people have very kindly offered me their help to shoot my deer – so generous to give up their time! So, a Mauser isn’t going to be cheap, therefore it has to appeal to niche markets. It is already a brand steeped in history so that angle is covered, it is accurate and reliable and most importantly and this is where dealers fail, it is properly modular. This is the key, Stalkers and dealers don’t see Mauser as a Blaser alternative, the Mauser MO3 is every bit as modular as the Blaser its just that Blaser have made such a song and dance about their modular rifles that Mauser got overlooked. So, out came the tool kit and I had a play with the Meccano Mauser.
First off was the scope, then came the barrel followed by the bolt being reduced to 4 or 5 different parts, two minutes later and it was back together ready to shoot and in fact I have to say that it is less fiddly to get to pieces than the Blaser in particular the bolt, a couple of quick test shots proved that the zero was unchanged. So with the modular design proven how could it be made more appealing to the UK stalker? Simple, reduce the weight and improve the balance. A quick look through the brochure revealed that a 19 & 20 inch barrel is available, unfortunately the two guns I had were standard 23 inch barrels but my own Blaser 308 has a 20 inch barrel so out with the tool kit again and a hasty bit of packing tape later and voila a 20 inch Mauser, I left the reflex titanium moderator mounted on the barrel and affixed a bipod and all of a sudden I had a really well balanced and compact stalking rifle, to say I was impressed is an understatement.
Initially I had written the Mauser MO3 off as an overweight, unbalanced and impractical stalking rifle but with the correct selection of modular components it can be every bit as functional as even the Blaser whilst retaining the safety, accuracy and pedigree it was born with.
Unfortunately the rifles have to go back before I get chance to use one in the field as they are part of the display at the CLA game fair, but after that another will return as a permanent addition when I will get an opportunity to pit it against the Blaser head to head in the field, I don’t think I will be disappointed.