The Magnum Mauser — RETURNS!

The Magnum Mauser — RETURNS!

Halt Bodinson

The beefy action that embodied Africa’s golden age of hunting is once again available from gunsmith Mike Roden.

Mauser designed his action to be the heart of a tough, foolproof battle rifle — a firearm that could take the worst abuse of weather and war and still come up shooting. The Mauser ’98 action proved so good and reliable that it became the building block of the finest commercial, big game rifles ever made by firms such as Mauser, Rigby, Holland & Holland, Jeffery, Westley Richards, Griffin & Howe, Hoffman Arms and others. Today, the classic Mauser ’98 still heads the list as the most desirable action in the custom gunmaking world.

Mauser manufactured four basic action types for commercial sporting rifle use. The Kurz is a petite, short action perfectly sized for modest cartridges and dainty rifles in calibers like the .250/3000, 6.5x54K and 8x51K. The Intermediate is an action proportioned specifically to the 7×57. The Standard is the military ’98-size action for cartridges such as the 8×57 and .30-’06,

And then there is the Magnum.

The Finest Foundation

It was the Mauser Magnum action, first designed around 1900 at the request of John Rigby & Co., that was most sought after by the classic makers for building those dangerous game rifles in calibers such as the .300 H&H, .350 Righy, .375 H&H, .416 Rigby, .404 Jeffery, .500 Jeffery and .505 Gibbs.

Still in demand by custom builders, the Mauser Magnum action remains the finest foundation for an utterly reliable dangerous game rifle. The only problem has been that there are very few original Mauser Magnum actions floating around loose anymore — at any price.

There have been many efforts mounted to bring a classic M98 type magnum action back into production. Among the more familiar current makers is that impresario of the milling machine, Fred Wells of Prescott, Ariz.; and more recently, Reimer Johannsen and Hartmann & Weiss of Germany; Dumoulin of Belgium; and in a modified form of the M98, Brno of the Czech Republic; and Sturm, Roger & Co.

That was until Mike Rodeo of Prescott, Ariz., decided to produce a Mauser Magnum action in quantity and at a competitive price. Having just returned from visiting Roden in Prescott, I can report that what I saw there was an exciting and interesting revival of a grand design.

Reforming The Finest

Roden, a manufacturer of industrial cleaning equipment, knows how to extract the most from modern technology including CAD engineering programs, CNC machine tools and wire EDM machines. He also relied on the help and counsel of the grand man of M98s and Prescott neighbor, Fred Wells.

What emerged was a refined Mauser Magnum action, incorporating the best of Mauser’s original design and safety features with just a few tweaks here and there to make it even better for today’s cartridges.

The steel Roden selected for both the receiver and bolt is known as 8620. This particular steel is a tough nickel-chromium molybdenum alloy that was also used to manufacture the receivers and bolts of the Ml Garand.

Carburized and tempered, it’s a much superior alloy to that used in the original production of Mauser actions, which owe their strength to brilliant design almost as much as to the materials they were made from. Whereas original Mauser actions and bolts began life as carbon steel forgings, Roden machines his actions and bolts from solid blocks of 8620 steel using CNC and wire EDM machines.

Making The Magnum Modern

To accommodate the largest of today’s big-game magnum cartridges, Roden tweaked the overall length of the Magnum action from 9.150″ to 9.695″ so that the action can easily handle any cartridge up to 3.9″ in length. At the same time, he increased the standard bolt diameter to 0.750″ to more safely handle cases with unusually large rims, such as that found on the increasingly popular .505 Gibbs. The ring diameter of the Roden action was also enlarged slightly from the standard 1.410″ to 2.500″.

Retained in the Roden action are some of Paul Mauser’s most ingenious touches of engineering — the “inner collar” of the front receiver ring that encircles the head of the bolt and provides the barrel seat and the extra metal behind the bolt handle that helps to stabilize the long magnum bolt.

While the original Mauser Magnum action came in variety of patterns — including the single square bridge, double square bridge, solid left receiver wall, left receiver wall with thumb cut — the most desirable for the custom maker was the solid left wall, double square bridge, which originally appeared around 1930.

This pattern provided maximum overall action strength while furnishing the custom builder with a large pad of steel on top of the front ring and rear bridge to modify as integral scope bases. That is exactly the pattern selected by Roden for his action, and he has already come up with a simple, detachable scope mount system for the double square bridge.

21st Century Classic

Some of the other details incorporated by Roden are more subtle. He’s tightened up Mauser tolerances considerably. There is none of that “Mauser play” in the bolt when it is withdrawn fully to the rear. The cam angles of the action and bolt have been improved so that the cocking and extraction cycles are easier and smoother.

The rear tang has been slightly extended and the rear guard screw hole is now blind. The classic, gas-proof Mauser bolt shroud carries a three-position safety; the bolt handle is contoured for scope compatibility; and the trigger is fully adjustable. Roden’s actions are available in right- or left-handed patterns, and he’s even making some interrupted thread, takedown actions for a well-known European firm.

Complementing the action is a handsome, machined, drop-bottom magazine box fitted with a straddle-style floorplate, activated by a pushbutton release in the trigger bow. The magazine box will accommodate five .375 H&H size cartridges or three .416 Rigby or .505 Gibbs cases.

With bolts and magazine boxes machined to fit specific cartridges, Roden’s Magnum Mauser actions retail for $3,000. His firm, Granite Mountain Arms, also offers .375, .416, .458 and .505 barrels with integral barrel ribs, either as components or fitted to his actions.

Having handled any number of original Oberndorf Mauser Magnum rifles, I was thoroughly impressed with the Roden action. It’s much better than the originals in numerous ways, and it’s no secret anymore that many of the finest custom builders and gunmaking firms in the world are already using Roden’s actions as the basis of their “best” big game rifles.

As I left Roden’s shop, he was talking about beginning a run of the equally rare “Kurz” actions. So stay tuned if you’re an aficionado of the enduring Mauser. There’s more to come.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Publishers’ Development Corporation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group