A few years ago 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, simply known as the M-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 somewhat 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 turned 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, and works quite well for this purpose. It's not bent so far the stock had to be notched for it, so the same stock design served the M48 as the earlier Yugoslavian Mausers.
The sights are the simple old fashioned 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. Some 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, which 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 bulk 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 shriveled. While the rifle was excellent, the world's military no longer wanted Mauser's. They wanted semi and full auto rifles with large magazines. The rifle shown here seems to be one of those 1950 builds, 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 to 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!
In writing on technical subjects, there is always the 'danger' that someone will come along and tell you how wrong you are.In this case, on this subject, the someone is 'Nothernug', a person who's postings I have read for quite a while. Not only does he tell me I'm wrong, but he goes into fine detail and supplies sources. In other words.... he's right, and I'm happy he took the time write this up, rather than just blow it off and move on.
I've copied his comments here, unedited, and darn well worth reading:
Excellent article. It is correct in the main but not quite on target in detail. Still, more accurate than most.
Some corrections for you.
My reply was too long so I have divided it up into segments for you.
"They had production facilities left over from the Nazi occupation..."
Wrong. The works at Kragujevac were systematically destroyed. When liberated on October 21, 1944 82 machines remained intact and half of those were out of order. After war, the rifle fabrication machinery was not gotten back from Germany as is sometimes claimed. Machines were obtained from Czechoslovakia, USSR and Hungary.*
"In the early ‘50’s Yugoslavia designed the Model 1948 Mauser type rifle, simply known as the M-48."
Not quite accurate. R& D was done in the late 40s, thus the "M48". Actual production began in 1950 with 52,000-53,700+ rifles produced that first year.**
"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"
Wrong. Though it did borrow from the K98k, it was no copy or otherwise derived from the German rifle. Rather, it's direct ancestor was the Yugoslav Mauser rifle Model 1924 directly obtained from FN- Fabrique Nationale, Herstal Liege, Belgium.** It was this rifle that introduced the 'intermediate length' Mauser action into Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs obtained rifles, factory and production rights from FN in the 1920s and began production in 1928 which continued until Nazi occupation in 1941. At war's end, not only was the production line gutted but, many of the original production drawings were lost too. Since they had to 're-design' their rifle anyway, they made some improvements borrowed from the K98, as you noted.**
"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."
Exaggeration. The only fore end differences between the Yugoslav M1924 (the ancestor and foundation of the post-WWII model 24/47) borrowed from the K98k into the M48 was conversion of the barrel band sling from beneath to side attachment and replacement of the M1924(24/47)s Dual pinned band springs to the K98ks single pressure held band spring. The rest is derived directly from the model 1924 but is still interchangeable with other military Mausers.***
"Some of the early M48 rifles did sport walnut furniture, and left over 24/47 walnut stocks as well."
Correct. Here's some additional data and observation. Only 10,000 M48s were stocked with walnut in 1950.** But recently, I have observed many M48B rifles with walnut stocks. Some new but others obviously long and well used. I have queried Branko about this and he has no answer and frankly, neither do I. It would be easy to explain it away on importer made stocks for barreled actions. But two things deny that. For one thing, many 24/47s are coming in with brand new elm stocks so they could have been made for needy M48 actions too. Secondly, the stocks with stocks showing hard use suggest they had carried those stocks from the beginning. I have other theories but with no supporting evidence are irrelevant.
"The elm furniture is often mistakenly labeled Teak, but that is incorrect." "...Yugoslavian M48 and M48A was never mounted in teak by the [Yugo]slav’s."
Correct. This misunderstanding was brought about by ad hype from (predominately) Mitchell's Mausers and Marstar of Canada.
"A small run of M48 barreled actions was run off for a nation that then installed their own wood, which was sometimes actually teak."
I think you are confusing another order. An (unspecified) African nation wanted a batch of M59 (or 59/66. I forget which and would have to root through my emails w/Branko to find the specifics and I ain't bothering right now). Anyhow, This African nation wanted their Yugo sks rifles stocked in teak. They supplied the necessary wood to the Yugoslavs.****
"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."
Jumbled. The M48 began production in 1950, all parts machined. The M48A began in 1952 with the sole alteration of the stamped floor plate. The M48B in 1956 (still marked M48A as you noted) which caused a major interruption of production for that year. The M48B was no longer a service rifle. Rather, all Yugo turn bolt rifle production from this point was for export.** Stamped parts (in addition to the floorplate.) include the triggerguard and Magwell as a fabricated assy. Also the follower, H band, forward barrel band. The exact number of converted parts has never been published that I know of. I know Branko has not released it.*****
"the slightly mysterious M48BO" Nothing 'mysterious about it now that Branko's book has been published in English. Much of the confusion comes from the unaltered and largely incorrect Marstar site. The "bo' in M48bo is simply an abbreviation for "bez oznake" given as "unmarked" or "without markings." Many rifles in Yugo possession including earlier models of M48s, were scrubbed of all markings but serial numbers and refinished for export. They began as a dedicated production model concurrent with the M48B in 1956. This model is the single most numerous produced but since most were apparently exported before shipments to the USA began, they are considered somewhat rare here.**,****
"The bayonets are standard German style fare and are not in the least rare." the bayonets differ from the German in having a muzzle ring, elm grip scales and other lesser detail. Beware ebayers trying to pass these off as German WWII bayos.
"The rifle shown here seems to be one of those 1950 builds, with a very late serial number and no signs of wear at all." yes the M48B was manufactured from 1956. Exactly when production ceased is not clear. The excellent condition was the result of Yugo military maintenance. Every 5 years, stored rifles were pulled out, cleaned a few test fired at random and the reapplied with cosmolene and returned to stores. (as told by Branko and a number of former Yugo soldiers who performed this duty)
"The Slav’s had a nickname for the M-48, which translates roughly as ‘Old Reliable’" Tangara or tanzara. More closely described as "old best rifle."****
I quite agree! :~D
* Branko Bogdanovic- Zastava Historian & author "Serbian & Yugoslav Mauser Rifles"
** "Serbian & Yugoslav Mauser Rifles"
*** personal observation
**** personal correspondence with Branko Bogdanovic.
***** my article "M48B the Anonymous Mauser" published in the Military Rifle Journal.