Mauser M18 review

Review: Mauser M18 Feldjagd


The Mauser M18 combines several modern innovations in a high-quality yet affordable rifle that’s super accurate.

Mauser has raised the standard of economy-class rifles by including several unique features that place it ahead of competing firearms.

Mauser M18 review
The Mauser M8 Feldjagd in Savannah colour

In that context, though, it’s important to note that the base-model M18 is the true economy-class version, costing a bit more than half the price of the Feldjagd you see here, which has many extra features.

Both share the same basic design, though, which begins with the action.

The M18 has a sophisticated method of ensuring headspace is correct and bolt lock-up is secure. 

Mauser M18 review

A small stellite steel insert inside the receiver, sandwiched between the bolt face and the breech face, not only provides the correct depth for the barrel when it’s screwed into the receiver, but ensures proper positioning of the bolt lugs and bolt face to provide the correct headspace.

Stellite is a super-hard, cobalt-chromium alloy and its most common use in firearms is with machinegun barrels to reduce heat and increase wear resistance. 

The barrel is cold-hammer forged complete with an 11-degree crown and carries a five-shot MOA guarantee, a pretty high standard since most such guarantees are for three-shot groups. Mauser is able to meet such a high standard because it has been making hammer-forged barrels for more than 50 years. 

In my experience hammer forging creates the most durable barrels because the process work-hardens the bore, which slows down throat erosion and lengthens the life of the barrel. 

Accuracy tests with factory ammo punched three-shot clusters ranging from 0.25- to 0.5-minute groups, while not one five-shotter exceeded 0.95 MOA. See the table below for full results.

Mauser M18 review

The breech ring allows Mauser to use rigid tooling, making the assemblage very precise. Besides fitting close to a flat bolt face, the barrel’s chamber mouth has very little chamfer. These factors combine to give an effective cartridge head protrusion not much in excess of the 3.18mm (0.125”) depth of the bolt face counterbore.

Encirclement of the portion of the cartridge head that protrudes from the barrel is interrupted only by a single narrow extractor slot and the walls of the counterbore are 0.135” thick around the small .223 cartridge. 

Mauser M18 review
The three-lug feature twin plunger-type ejector

The bolt face has dual ejectors which is ideal because the extractor rides low in the ejection port. They provide a very controlled and precise low-arc trajectory of ejected cases to clear a low-mounted scope. 

The three-lug action has a low 60-degree bolt lift, so the handle has plenty of clearance even for a scope with a large ocular housing.

Gas entering the bolt interior through the firing pin hole is blocked by the head of the firing pin and vented out to the side by a pair of holes, one in the side of the bolt head and another 5/8″ behind it in the bolt body. Thus the receiver ring tends to entrap and control any escaping gas. 

It may lack gas ports in its walls, but it is blocked off by the enlarged shoulder behind the bolt head, leaving only the magazine feed ramp as an exit for gas released. 

Mauser M18 review
Careful design of the cocking mechanism ensures the M18’s bolt lift is lighter and easier than on most three-lug bolts

Any flow which may occur along the bolt’s exterior is blocked and deflected by a large flange, an integral part of the bolt sleeve which is a close fit against the rear of the receiver bridge. 

The bolt handle is straight and has a large, round knob.

Fashioning the M18’s tubular receiver and machining the bolt from barstock and using a full diameter bolt cuts production costs considerably, as does using one action length for all cartridges from the .243 to .300 Win Mag.

Mauser adapted its short M18 action to handle the smaller, shorter .223 cartridge, which has an overall length of 57mm, by blocking off the magazine. But the ejection port has a length of 112mm and the bolt travels about the same distance.

Mauser M18 review
Mauser M18 double-stack magazine has to be shortened to accommodate the little .223 cartridge

Many shooters would consider this set-up as being sloppy, but it works. I’d like to see a mini-action version of the M18 scaled down for the .223.

The bolt head is milled away to leave three ‘non-protruding’ locking lugs. Each is made large and deep enough so that they combine to provide adequate strength without multiple rows. 

Their layout renders just about as much contact surface with the corresponding seats in the stellite ring as is practical in a single three-lug array. The locking lugs and their seats are of uniform size and cut on a symmetrical 120-degree pattern. 

The bolt lift of 60-degrees allows enough extra rotation to overlap the cam bevels and thus centre the actual contacting surfaces for optimum bearing efficiency.

The receiver is nothing more than a thick-walled tube with a round hole that acts as the bolt raceway. With the bolt inside the receiver, the mechanical unit is little more than a tube within a larger tube, an arrangement that is exceedingly strong. 

Mauser M18 review
Recoil lug is inset into the stock and engages with a slot in the receiver

Few realise that it also creates a highly concentric receiver, bolt, cartridge and barrel configuration which has a positive effect on accuracy.

A groove is cut along the length of the bolt body for guiding purposes. The bolt stop release is a pivoting lever in the left wall of the bridge intruding into the raceway. 

In its fully rear position, the three-position safety on the right side of the tang locks the bolt handle closed. In the middle position, it blocks the sear but allows the bolt to be opened to remove a live round from the chamber.

The M18 recoil lug, a steel plate embedded in the stock, protrudes upward to engage a transverse slot in the bottom of the receiver ring. 

The action screws don’t turn into threaded holes in the receiver ring and tang in the conventional way; threaded posts permanently attached to the receiver are secured to the stock via a pair of hex-headed screws.

Mauser M18 review
Adjustable cheek piece is one of the features unique to the Faldjagd model of the M18 range

The Feldjagd’s synthetic stock is injection-molded of polymer with integral trigger guard bow. All surfaces are smooth. The underside of the rounded forend and the nicely curved pistol grip have black rubber inlays which afford a secure grasp to wet or sweaty hands. 

The straight comb is adjustable for height and is locked in place by a plastic-headed screw on the right side of the butt.

By pressing a catch on either side of the butt the solid rubber recoil pad can be removed, allowing access to a cavity large enough to hold a pull-through and a small can of gun oil. 

Mauser M18 review
The easily removable buttpad hides a small storage compartment

I like the styling, heft and balance of the classic stock very much. The Feldjagd comes up naturally, is easy to hold steady and balances nicely.

The M18’s trigger cannot be faulted. The mechanism is contained in a polymer housing and as it comes from the factory is totally inert and crisp, letting off at 1.36kg (3lb). It is adjustable from 1.0 to 2.0kg and there’s no need to remove the stock to alter it since can be adjusted by means of a tiny Allen screw in the centre of the trigger blade.

The M18’s receiver is drilled and tapped to take Remington Model 700 scope-mount bases. I fitted my test rifle with Nikko Stirling Zero-Lok mounts which are a one-piece ring and base, and a new Nikko Stirling Octa 3-24×56. 

Mauser M18 review
The Mauser as tested with Nikko-Stirling scope

An all-up weight of 4.1 kg (9lb) is a reasonable heft, and the outfit was easy to hold steady for offhand shooting. 

It was also easy to get away a fast follow-up shot with the M18. Three-lug designs have a shorter bolt lift and are faster to cycle, but many require a lot of cocking force due to the shortened lift so they’re very hard to cycle without taking it out of your shoulder, slowing down follow-up shots. But bolt lift is easy and effortless with the M18, allowing the bolt to be cycled without lowering the rifle from your shoulder.

A cocking sleeve, into which the bolt handle is pegged, contains the cocking notch. A more gently angled cam surface in the cocking sleeve drives the stud into the holding notch as the bolt handle is lifted, compressing the main spring and cocking the action. At full lift, the stud rests in the shallow holding notch on the rim of the bolt sleeve.

Mauser M18 review
The Mauser M18 shot all ammunition types with a very high degree of accuracy

This thoroughly balanced geometry, combined with working parts which are very precisely fitted, allows cocking a powerful mainspring with the minimum of bolt lift effort. This is a big advantage on a hunting rifle which is going to be shot a lot from offhand.

The M18 was tested by firing a series of five shot groups at 100yd with three different factory loads and one of my best pet handloads comprising the 60gn V-Max bullet and 26gn of AR2208, which turned up 3120fps and planted three shots as close as 0.25”. The results are shown in the table.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Manufacturer: Mauser, Germany
  • Type: One-diameter, triple-lug turn-bolt action
  • Calibre: .223 Remington
  • Magazine capacity: 4 rounds
  • Barrel: Cold-hammer forged, 56cm, 1:12 twist
  • Overall length: 1050mm
  • Weight with scope: 4.1kg (9lb)
  • Stock: Injection-molded polymer
  • Grip: Soft-touch
  • Length of pull: 350mm (13.85”)
  • Finish: Matte blue
  • Trigger: Adjustable 1.0-2.0kg
  • Sights: Drilled and tapped for scope
  • Price: Around $1990 (2022)
  • Distributor: OSA Australia

 

 

 


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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.

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