Combining legacy and modernity, Mauser’s cost-conscious M18 chambered for Hornady’s hot 6.5 PRC delivers fantastic downrange performance out of a short action.
The Mauser M18 is a high-quality yet very affordable rifle that is entirely different to the world-famous Model 1898. The first time I laid eyes on one, I was reminded of the Model 66, which paved the way for alternative locking systems which were a departure from the traditional M98 system.
Sixty years of further development led Mauser to produce the M18 action. Unlike many other modern rifles, however, the M18 adheres to more traditional design principles.
The Polymer 2 stock is black in colour and classic in style with a high, straight comb. It has ambidextrous palm swells on the open radius grip, sweeping downward with a slight flare at the end near the grip cap.
The solid rubber recoil pad can be removed by pressing a catch on each side of the butt to reveal storage space for a bottle of gun oil and cleaning gear.
The rounded, hollow forend has strengthening struts and a soft-touch finish. Panels of texturing within bilateral rubberised panels in the rifle’s grip and forend afford a secure grasp. Detachable sling-swivel studs are installed fore and aft.
The receiver is round-bottomed and drilled and tapped to take Remington Model 700-pattern scope bases. The ejection port is minimal, making the action stiffer so that it vibrates very little but does so consistently. The port is large enough to allow one to thumb a cartridge into the detachable magazine if the necessity occurs.
A steel recoil lug slips into a groove in the bottom of the receiver ring, just behind the front action screw. The rear action screw threads into the action tang through the back of the trigger housing, and an identical nut in front of the trigger guard/magazine assembly holds the receiver to the stock.
The bolt cycles smoothly, and the rifle handles, shoulders and balances well.
The short action features a carbon-steel bolt with a body only slightly larger in diameter than that of its three locking lugs, eliminating the need for machining raceways inside the receiver.
The super-hard, full-diameter bolt has three lugs that lock into a hardened steel breech ring inside the receiver. The ring sits between the bolt face and the breech face of the barrel. Its function is to provide the correct depth for the barrel when it’s screwed into the receiver, while simultaneously ensuring precise positioning of the locking lugs and bolt face to ensure correct headspace.
The cold hammer forged barrel has an 11-degree crown which ensures accuracy continues as the bullet exits the muzzle.
The bolt release on the receiver’s left side engages a longitudinal slot machined into the bolt to provide stability and guidance during travel. The bolt face is deeply counterbored with its wall interrupted only enough to allow passage of a Sako-style sliding plate extractor.
Twin spring-loaded, plunger-type ejectors positioned at one o’clock and seven o’clock consistently throw fired cases in a low trajectory, thereby avoiding dings to the finish of a scope mounted low over the receiver.
One bolt lug rides low in the ejection port as the action opens, and the dual ejectors yield a very controlled and precise case trajectory away from the receiver.
A red cocking indicator protrudes from the bolt’s rear. The straight bolt handle is threaded for a round polymer knob.
Bolt rotation is 60 degrees. Shortening of the cocking cam ramp is an inherent necessity for a three-lug bolt, which normally requires more effort when lifting and rotating the bolt. But the M18’s cocking sleeve, into which the bolt handle is pegged, has an integral cocking notch between the bolt body and sleeve at the rear of the bolt.
Trapped linearly by the notch in the sleeve, which carries the corresponding cocking cam upon which it journals, it is indexed to turn with the bolt by a stud which fits in the bottom of the bolt sleeve. A gentler angled cam surface in the cocking sleeve drives the stud into the holding notch as the bolt handle is lifted, making the bolt easy to operate without lowering the rifle from the shoulder.
Mauser engineers obviously went to a great deal of trouble to make the rifle as safe as possible. Pulling a three-position lever located at the right side of the M18’s receiver tang to its rearmost position blocks both sear and trigger movement, and bolt rotation as well. Moving it to its middle position allows the bolt to be opened for loading or unloading the chamber with the safety engaged.
There’s more. Should the safety be disengaged while the bolt is in its unlocked position, the firing pin remains blocked from forward travel until the bolt is rotated to full lock-up. I’ve tested this system and it works to prevent a related accidental discharge.
A bolt lug riding at the six o’clock position has an added advantage, since it gets plenty of purchase with rounds loaded in the double-stack magazine, no matter whether they are stripped from the right or left side. The magazine is made of high-impact glass-filled nylon and holds four rounds in magnum calibres, as opposed to the usual three. Capacity in standard calibres is five.
The magazine latch is metal and is housed in a metal bottom and recessed flush with the bottom of the stock to minimise the potential of inadvertent magazine ejection. The magazine drops out easily when the release was pressed.
Accuracy with two boxes of factory loads we had was pretty impressive. The Hornady ELD-Match load averaged .72” for three five-shot groups at 100yd. The tightest cluster of bullet holes measured .55”. The Precision Hunter 143gn ELD-X load was no slouch either. The average for 15 shots was .82” with only one group barely larger than one MOA at 1.15”.
We burned up the remaining ten cartridges by firing two five-shot groups at 200yd. The group with the match ammo measured 1.35” while the ELD-X went into 1.75”.
The verdict was that the 6.5 PRC is one helluva accurate cartridge, even in a sporter-weight rifle like the Mauser M18.
A sub-MOA German-made sporter with utilitarian features, which sells for such an affordable price, offers not only fine design, but performance way beyond what anyone could ever hope for.
Manufacturer: Mauser, Germany
Type: Push-feed bolt action
Calibre tested: 6.5 PRC (many others available)
Capacity: 5 standard, 4 magnum rounds
Barrel: 24” (61cm) cold-hammer forged; 1:8” twist
Overall length: 43.75 inches (111cm)
Weight: 6lb 8oz (2.95kg)
Stock: Injection molded, black polymer with Soft Touch grip
Length of pull: 14.25 inches
Finish: Stainless steel
Trigger: Adjustable 2.2-4lb (1.0-1.8kg)
Price: Around $1000-$1250 depending upon where you shop (March 2023)
Distributor: Outdoor Sporting Agencies