Last year I was fortunate enough to acquire a Mauser rifle in excellent condition.
This specimen is a fine example of a Yugoslavian M-48B 8x57 Mauser type bolt action battle rifle.
Following WWII, the Yugoslavs moved to rearm themselves with an eye to self-reliance. They had production facilities left over from the Nazi occupation, and large numbers of captured German weapons. Many of these were reworked and standardized in Yugoslavian armories.
In the early ‘50’s Yugoslavia designed the model 1948 Mauser type rifle, otherwise known as the model 48. It eventually had several variations on a theme, with most staying quite true to the original.
The M48 was a fairly faithful copy of the German K-98, with some changes. Chief among these was shortening the action to an ‘intermediate’ length, which stiffened it considerably and made it faster to operate (although just barely).
The origins of the design are made clear when looking at the front bands and bayonet mount, which are pure K-98 to the eye.
The bolt was bent down, although not in the usual American sense. As built it will not clear a traditionally mounted scope. It is bent enough to make handing more efficient and operation quicker.
The sights are the simple Mauser style, with a front upside down V blade on a hooded ramp and the rear a typical ramped military Mauser sight graduated to 2000 meters. The rear notch is V shaped and quite small, making close aiming difficult at times.
The stocks are usually found made of elm and beech, which confused many people used to seeing walnut on a rifle. Much of the nicer walnut having been used during war production and on the 24/47 Mauser, the Yugoslavians used what they had in abundance, that being other hardwoods such as the beech and elm. On rare occasions walnut stocks have been noted, as have oak of all things.
Many of the early M48 rifles did sport walnut furniture, and left over 24/47 walnut stocks as well.
The elm furniture is often mistakenly labeled Teak, but that is incorrect. A small run of M48 barreled actions was run off for a nation that then installed their own wood, and was sometimes actually teak, but the Yugoslavian M48 and M48A was never mounted in teak by the Slav’s.
American collectors encounter the M48 in four main variations; The M48, M48A, M48B, and M48BO. The M48 being the first model, and having a milled floor
plate, the M48A being a bit later, and the M48B (also marked M48A) having a stamped steel floor plate to decrease production time and costs, and the slightly mysterious M48BO.
The M48BO is often mistakenly called the ‘Egyptian’ model after a run of rifles built for sale to Egypt, but canceled when the war with Israel broke out. In reality, many M48 rifles were built as BO models, and are notable by having no markings other than serial numbers. These were made for sale to nations that wished to maintain plausible deniability as to the weapons origins.
Many M48 rifles are found complete with bayonets, sheaths, frogs, ammunition carriers, and cleaning kits. The bayonets are standard German style fare and are not in the least rare.
Original Yugoslavian 8x57mm ammunition was a glut on the market for quite some time, but has now dried up. It proved to be decent ammunition, but is noted for having rather hard primers, and rifles with weak firing pin springs have issues with it.
There are many of these fine little Mauser style rifles available on the market, in varying condition. The intermediate action makes it suitable for custom rifle builds, and quite a few have gone to those projects. The bulks of those seen are in decent condition and make excellent shooters.
There are a fair number of M48 rifles that were built in the mid 1950’s and went into storage at once, the market for bolt action battle rifles having dried up. The rifle shown here seems to be one of those, with a very late serial number and no signs of wear at all. It appeared unfired when purchased, but that soon changed.
As the target shows…. it’s a decent shooter. Experience has proven it o be reliable, accurate, and of excellent quality.
The Slav’s had a nickname for the M-48, which translates roughly as ‘Old Reliable’.
I see no reason to disagree!
Those wishing to learn more about Yugoslavian Mausers could do worse than to purchase the book ‘Serbian and Yugoslav Mauser Rifles’ by Branko Bogdanovich.
The author is the historian for the Yugoslavian arms industry and most knowledgeable on the subject. He is alive and well, and as this is written available by E-mail for questions regarding the subject.