Mauser M12 .308 Winchester– A modern heirloom

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The Mauser M12 has classically elegant lines. With all the cool black guns at the range, I was surprised that the Mauser was the one getting the attention.

The Mauser M12 has classically elegant lines. With all the cool black guns at the range, I was surprised that the Mauser was the one getting the attention.

This is a gun that will help you get the most from your shooting ability. It won’t make you a better shooter than you are, but you’ll still shoot better because the gun is about as accurate as a gun can get. I used a Caldwell Lead Sled to hold the rifle in position to see how accurate the rifle was, taking the shooter out of the picture as much as possible. My smallest group was 0.4” center-to-center at 100 yards with off-the-shelf Hornady hunting ammo. The three rounds weren’t in the same hole, but pretty close.

Mauser has always been synonymous with rugged, dependable bolt action rifles. The original Mauser action in fact has been used in one form or another in the majority of dangerous game rifles around the world. That’s an arena where dependability is more than just a word.

With the new M12 (first introduced mid-2013), Mauser combined the elements of modern design with the finest materials and manufacturing techniques to produce an accurate, dependable, high quality rifle you can shoot with confidence. The fact that it’s a beautiful work of the gun maker’s art is a bonus.

The hammer forged barrel has a slight constant taper from just in front of the chamber to the crown. This produces a strong barrel without the weight of a full bull barrel and contributes to the excellent balance and pointability.

The hammer forged barrel has a slight constant taper from just in front of the chamber to the crown. This produces a strong barrel without the weight of a full bull barrel and contributes to the excellent balance and pointability.

TECHNICAL SPECS

Caliber: .308 Win.

Barrel length: 22″

Magazine Type: Detachable Box Magazine

Magazine capacity: 5+1

Overall length: 42″

Weight: approx. 6¾ lbs

Trigger Type: Direct Single Stage

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I’ve always loved the harmony of wood and steel in a well made gun. It just looks right. When you handle a lot of guns, you also develop a feel for them. Some feel chintzy and awkward, some feel sort of generic, and some feel just right. Goldilocks would love the M12.

One thing this is not is a typical Mauser action. The Mauser pattern design incorporates a full length extractor that maintains control of the round throughout the loading and extracting process. This is referred to as controlled feeding. The M12 uses push feeding which is actually more common. As the round rises in the magazine, the bolt picks it up on the forward stroke and pushes it into the chamber. The round is not gripped by the extractor until the bolt is fully closed. In sporting use, you don’t really need controlled feeding. It was intended for combat use where you might be shooting from unusual positions, moving while firing and cycling the bolt, and where dust and dirt could cause a round to jam in the chamber.

The M12 uses a robust one-piece bolt with six locking lugs.

The M12 uses a robust one-piece bolt with six locking lugs.

The M12 bolt does, however, incorporate a number of the other Mauser pattern features. It is a rugged one-piece design with six locking lugs at the front to prevent case stretching. Two sets of three lugs lock the bolt solidly closed. The bolt face is recessed so that it encircles the case head which puts an extra layer of high density metal between you and any possible case head failure. The bolt body is the full diameter of the lugs making for a smoother, easier to operate bolt. The handle is bent down keeping it close to the stock. It sits just above the second joint of your trigger finger for easy access and quick follow-up shots. Your hand comes straight up from the trigger, cocking the action in the process. It also only needs to rotate 60 degrees. You don’t have to worry about interference with the bolt for any scope you mount. There’s plenty of clearance. In operation, the action is both smooth and fast.

The M12 has a short extractor and two spring loaded plungers in the bolt face that propel the spent casing briskly to the side. The setup works very well, even with a heavier round that has not been fired. If you get a misfire, you’ll be able to quickly eject the unfired round and chamber a fresh one.

The one-piece bottom plate contributes to the gun’s strength.

The button in front of the magazine drops it for reloading out of the gun.

The magazine is made of polymer and fits flush with the stock on the bottom. A button in front of the magazine lets it drop free for loading or to exchange with another magazine. The rounds are held in a staggered pattern with a capacity of five rounds of .308 Win. You can also load the magazine while in the gun simply by pushing the rounds through the opened bolt. The long open top receiver facilitates loading single or multiple rounds. I used Warne #M902/832M Weaver style mounts and Leupold medium rings to attach the Leupold 6-9 x 40mm scope. This brought the scope to the perfect height and left plenty of room underneath for loading from the top.

There’s an excellent three position safety. Mauser calls it the SRS for Smooth Roll Safety. The lever is on the back of the bolt, easily accessed by your shooting hand thumb (for most of you who are right-handed). Fully forward is the firing position. The middle position locks the trigger and sear but you can still cycle the bolt for safely unloading the gun. The third position (lever fully to the rear) also locks the bolt handle down for when you’re moving. In the third position, the safety lever rests just short of the midline of the bolt making inadvertent inactivation difficult. However, you can quickly release the safety by simply flicking it forward with your thumb. In a hunting situation, you’d obviously want to do that slowly or even employ your thumb and index finger to keep it quiet.

The crown is recessed to protect it from damage.

The crown is recessed to protect it from damage.

The hammer forged barrel has a slight constant taper from just in front of the chamber to the crown where it measures 0.669”. This produces a strong barrel without the weight of a full bull barrel and contributes to the excellent balance and pointability. The balance point is at the front of the magazine, midway between your hands, which is ideal. The barrel is free floated in the stock, a good thing, especially with a wood stock which can change dimensions slightly with changes in humidity. The combination of hammer forging, and heat treating and quenching should mean the barrel is minimally affected by heat, making for more consistent shooting. I didn’t see any changes in point of impact due to barrel heating at the range.

There are many factors that go into the accuracy of a gun, but the trigger is obviously one of the most important components for getting all the accuracy your gun can deliver. A bad trigger can make it difficult to shoot any gun well. Fortunately, the trigger on the Mauser M12 is one of the best I’ve come across. There is absolutely no creep and virtually no overtravel. The sear breaks cleanly at an average of 1 pound, 11.9 ounces. It’s definitely not the trigger for hunters who get the shakes when they see their game animal. But for experienced hunters, this trigger allows you to place your shots precisely.

With the safety lever in the middle position, the sear and firing pin are blocked but the bolt can still be cycled or removed.

With the safety lever in the middle position, the sear and firing pin are blocked but the bolt can still be cycled or removed.

The ball on the end of the bolt handle is polished; the rest of the metal ceramic bead blasted to give the barrel/receiver a flat finish, then blued. The markings on the barrel, receiver, and bolt were all sharp and easy to read. Fit and finish was excellent. The bolt was jeweled, which gives the gun a richer look. The Walnut stock had an efficient yet elegant shape. The machine cut checkering and the oil finish contributed further to the classic good looks of this fine mid-priced gun. The raised comb put my eye at the ideal height for the scope/mounting setup and the checkering contributed to the classic good looks and provided a good grip. The M12 is also offered with synthetic furniture as the M12 Extreme.

The way this gun feels in your hands inspires confidence which is reinforced when you get on target and find that everything else falls naturally where you expect it to be. The length of pull, the comb height, the location of the trigger, bolt handle, and safety. It just feels like a great fitting suit.

My best 100 yard group with the Hornady Superformance 150gr. SST. That’s three rounds.

My best 100 yard group with the Hornady Superformance 150gr. SST. That’s three rounds.

SHOOTING THE MAUSER M12

How accurate can a rifle be, right out of the box? Put the cross-hairs on the bulls-eye, take a breath, steady, touch the trigger, when everything’s right, increase the pressure on the trigger, and the shot breaks. When you know exactly where the cross-hair was when the shot broke, you know it was a good shot.

Do I need to say there were no malfunctions, the rifle performed flawlessly? It did. Operating the bolt was effortless. The action felt smooth and solid and you knew when it locked up. Recoil was typical for a light bolt-action .308. I didn’t even notice the first few shots when I was sighting-in the scope. After firing ten rounds or so though, I was noticing it more. The .308 doesn’t recoil like the heavier hitting magnums, but it still has enough to make you sore after a day at the range. Of course, the Hornady Superformance rounds are a little hotter than Winchester or Fusion, for example, so you experience a little more recoil.

On that note, I have to give some credit to Hornady. There are a lot of factors that go into making rounds that deliver consistent performance. This is not match ammo, this is their hunting ammo. To get 0.4 MOA performance out of hunting ammo is a testament to the pains Hornady takes to produce loads you can count on.

Once the scope was zeroed, it was a matter of centering the reticle and touching off the shot. They all went pretty much to point of aim. Three-shot groups averaged under ¾ of an inch at 100 yards with the best group 0.4”. Nuff said.

Hornady gives the muzzle velocity as 3,000 fps out of a test barrel. The Mauser’s shorter barrel length only gave up 89 fps.

Hornady gives the muzzle velocity as 3,000 fps out of a test barrel. The Mauser’s shorter barrel length only gave up 89 fps.

WRAP-UP

The M12 is available in all the most popular flavors: .22-250 Rem., .243 Win., .308 Win., 6.5 x 55, .270 Win., 7 x 64, .30-06, 8 x 57 IS, 9.3 x 62, 7 mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag. MSRP for the Mauser M12 Extreme with the synthetic furniture is $1499. With the wood stock as tested the M12 has an MSRP of $1799. I’ve seen higher prices online but none lower. My best advice is to check with your local gun dealer. Personally, I think it’s a good buy, even at the MSRP. You get a lot of rifle for your money.

The M12 is light, rugged, well-balanced, cycles quickly, and is very accurate — the result of the harmonious blending of many small but important details. This is a gun you’ll want to pass on to your grand-kids.

The one-piece bottom plate contributes to the gun’s strength.

The one-piece bottom plate contributes to the gun’s strength.

The recoil pad is on the thin side but is adequate.

The recoil pad is on the thin side but is adequate.

There’s plenty of room to load cartridges from the top through the large top opening.

There’s plenty of room to load cartridges from the top through the large top opening.

The bolt release button on the rear left corner of the receiver makes it very easy to safely remove the bolt.

The bolt release button on the rear left corner of the receiver makes it very easy to safely remove the bolt.

The machine checkering is both functional while also possessing a subtle elegance.

All markings on the barrel and receiver were clear and easy to read.

All markings on the barrel and receiver were clear and easy to read.

The exposed red circle indicates that the bolt is cocked. The forward position of the safety lever and the white dot on the “F” indicates it’s ready to fire.

The exposed red circle indicates that the bolt is cocked. The forward position of the safety lever and the white dot on the “F” indicates it’s ready to fire.

This is one strong bolt. Six locking lugs ensure a solid lockup and the recessed bolt face encloses the case head. Two spring loaded plungers and a short extractor provide for positive ejection.

This is one strong bolt. Six locking lugs ensure a solid lockup and the recessed bolt face encloses the case head. Two spring loaded plungers and a short extractor provide for positive ejection.

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In this position the gun is safe and the bolt locked in position. The closeness of the lever to the centerline of the gun minimizes the chances of bumping it and unintentionally moving it to the fire position.

The M12 has an outstanding trigger. With no take-up or creep it breaks crisply at just under 2 pounds.

The M12 has an outstanding trigger. With no take-up or creep it breaks crisply at just under 2 pounds.

The M12 comes with the receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounts.

Once the Leupold 3-9x40 scope was zeroed on the Mauser M12, this is the typical 100 yard three-shot group.

Once the Leupold 3-9×40 scope was zeroed on the Mauser M12, this is the typical 100 yard three-shot group.

 

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • kevin m August 19, 2014, 12:02 pm

    Sick and tired of reviews leaving out the most important stats to me- Who the hell is Mauser today, and where are they made?

    • Jaeger August 31, 2015, 9:25 pm

      Just read a little and you would learn.

  • StinsonBeach August 18, 2014, 7:41 pm

    I like the piece but all the nay-sayers were absolutely spot-on.
    I can’t add much but if you look closely another “minus” is the stack-laminated stock for $400 more dollars.
    All that said, I might still buy it!

  • MJB August 18, 2014, 5:59 pm

    Push feed? No thanks. I’ll take a claw extractor Mauser or Winchester anyday over this action.

  • William August 18, 2014, 5:38 pm

    Not specifically regarding this article
    but in a general way I wish that more
    accurracy tests with high power rifles
    would include the standard 100 yd
    short range accurracy and a more distant
    perhaps 300 yd result. I shoot high power 600-1000 yd target and as many of the long distance shooters know what a rifle does at 100 yds with respect
    to MOA can’t be easily extrapolated with what it’s capable at greater distances. One minute of angle or less at 100 may not equal one MOA at 300.
    I have rifles capable of less than 1 MOA
    at 600 yds meaning less than 6″ groups
    that shoot 1.25-1.3″ groups at 100 yds.
    Like wise I have varmint rifle that’s a
    tack driver at 100 yds. that is very marginal at 350-400.
    Thanks for the nice well written article.
    As another reader commented I am fond
    of the traditional Mauser action for big game hunting and wonder what was considered in the design change. Is it less costly to produce?
    Best regards,
    William

  • bthomas August 18, 2014, 3:54 pm

    Good looking rifle. Excellent on target results. Multiple lugs fully bedded are possibly just a novelty. Nevertheless, when it was first introduced, some probably thought that the dual lug head locking action of the early Mausers was just a novelty. The real challenge for Mauser will be for their M-12 to make significant inroads in a marketplace that is already saturated with many excellent choices that are more popularly available and less expensive.

  • petrusova August 18, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Ok lets cut through the advertisement hype and cut to the real truth about this piece of junk.
    The action is multi-lug making it way more difficult to raise the bolt when operating the bolt making quick second shots impossible.
    The bolt has no guide rib either on the bolt body or on one of the bolt lugs making for a sticky operating bolt. Every system like this that I have operated all had this problem.
    The bolt handle appears to be simply brazed on like the Rem. M700 which is know for having its bolt fall off it bumped hard.
    The push feed mechanism is inferior to the old controlled feed of the Mauser M98. in terms of reliability under stress. Short stroke this push feed and it will jam up two rounds together during the feeding cycle.
    Its hammer fudged barrel is known for walking shots when hot and I noticed you cheated by only firing 3 rounds instead of five which is a dead giveaway that the gun walks its shots which again is no surprise given that it has cheap hammer fudged rifling.
    Modern junk shallow groove rifling burns out quicker than the old deep groove rifling making barrel life much shorter.
    The magazine is junk plastic and when the feed lips wear out you must buy another magazine and if the gun is no longer imported in the future (highly likely) you now are stuck with a single shot rifle.
    The trigger guard appears to be junk plastic as well.
    The checkering is modern junk machine cut checkering not good old fashioned hand checkering.
    The barrel and receiver finish is cheap junk inferior bead blast. It is not hand polished high gloss blue.
    You did not mention if the action is a forging, bar stock or a modern junk casting.
    The price is a whopping $1,800 dollars for all this modern made junk.
    I recently had an original Mauser sporter completely rebuilt with new barrel (old fashioned hand lapped deep cut rifling with high polish blue and real hand checkering) for $600 dollars. A totally superior gun in every way when compared to modern made trash.
    With the easy availability of thousands of older “real” Mauser M98 sporter guns its sheer ignorance to waste your money on modern made expensive junk.

    • michael December 13, 2015, 5:27 pm

      It is very obvious you have not held the M12 in your hands or cycled the bolt. I also see that you go to various sites and try to trash this rifle with your supposed superior knowledge of firearms. I have fired this rifle in all of it’s variations and ran some speed drills with them as well. Have not had any of the issues you have expressed here. Maybe you should spend some time handling and shooting the product before running your mouth with suppositions.

    • Jensen, Denmark June 20, 2016, 5:48 pm

      A highly unqualified post. You know obviously nothing about the M12 and therefore you should abstain from this kind of nonsense comments.

    • Jaeger January 14, 2017, 4:18 am

      What we really should do is cut through your hype. You have NO experience with this rifle and NO firsthand knowledge do it. While I am a huge fan of the original Mauser 98 myself I would not hesitate to take this rifle into any situation required. It is a great rifle and I just ordered my second one. I think you troll the M12 sites because you have an agenda

  • Tony August 18, 2014, 11:45 am

    ” Two sets of three lugs lock the bolt solidly closed.” Oops, wrong… 3 sets of 2 lugs actually. Funny, this month’s American Rifleman has an article in it about why we DO NOT use steel-cased ammo in American rifles. It has to do with SAAMI specifications. But then on the cover of that very magazine, is well-produced photo of a Ruger SR-762 [.308 AR 10] whose magazines are stuffed full of steel-cased ammo. Remember the pistol pamphlet that was recalled because the product-photographer loaded the magazine with .45 acp rounds… backwards?
    Let’s take our time people, let’s get it right, the first time.

    • Nate August 18, 2014, 12:26 pm

      Tony says “” Two sets of three lugs lock the bolt solidly closed.” Oops, wrong… 3 sets of 2 lugs actually.” Gotta disagree with you Tony… if it were just 3 lugs total, would you say 3 sets of 1 lug? No, you would say 1 set of 3 lugs. Consequently, I would agree with the writer that this bolt has 2 sets of 3 lugs. I do agree with your statement “Let’s take our time people, let’s get it right, the first time”

      • Tony August 18, 2014, 1:55 pm

        Nate, all you have to do is look at the bolt, either here [scroll up to the picture showing the end of the bolt] or on the Mauser site, to see it has 3 sets of 2 lugs on it. The difference isn’t simply 1 set of lugs or getting a description correct. It has to do with a person buying a rifle, setting a scope on it only to find the bolt handle hits the ocular end of the scope. This happens… never, on a 3 lug system.
        Before replying, you should at, the very least, spend 30 seconds checking your own description.

  • William August 18, 2014, 5:49 am

    Nice article!
    It’s about time someone produced a quality, accurate, traditional, rifle! I have seen all the clunky black guns I want to see! There is just one thing wrong. The price is seven hundred dollars to high.

    Thanks for the nice, informative, article,

  • Caliber50 August 18, 2014, 3:34 am

    I love Mauser actions. If you have to explain why, then the conversation can stop there.
    This is a great & beautiful rifle that deserves all the accolades it gets, BUT, it still not a Mauser. A Mauser action is defined by certain aspects of the action like the control round feed, which this doesn’t have. To call it such is reprehensible, but they own the rights I guess. Give me an Obendorf or even pre-64. At least it’s real

    • Mike August 18, 2014, 2:39 pm

      I agree, I own several Mausers and have a VZ24 that is sporterized. Controlled Feed IS a Mauser trait. True this may be a nice rifle and may be manufactured by Mauser but it is not what one would consider a “Mauser” in the classic sense.

      • Charles R. Erps August 18, 2014, 4:25 pm

        As a gunsmith who specializes in building high end classic rifles I couldn’t agree more. The only actions I use are controlled feed Mauser actions. With polishing and blueprinting they make the most reliable, accurate, rifles available (I’m referring to hunting rifles). When the chips are down, give me a rifle with controlled feeding, give me a true Mauser.

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