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#MilSurp – Yugoslavian Post War Mausers $249 – Range Report

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Southern Ohio Gun
M48 Yugo Mausers – No Markings $249 (matching numbers now $25 extra – plus hand pick $10 extra)
Full Zastava Crest $279 ($10 hand pick)

The pickings have gotten a lot thinner in the military surplus world over the last decade. That is why, when I find something, I try to share it with you. If you remember, one of my first MilSurp deals was the Schmidt Rubin K31s, which are now gone (with Samco), and I suspect that this week’s topic, Yugoslavian Mausers, will also be gone in short order. The Mauser is the most classic of all battle rifles, and for $250, you can get one that works perfectly, shoots pretty good, and is as close to historically accurate as you will find.

These Mausers have no provenance, or history whatsoever attached to them. The Yugolslavian Zastava plant made them in the mid-1950s, and they seem to have been sitting in cosmoline ever since. Some of the guns, and the ones I suggest you purchase, have no markings on them at all. Looking around online, there is some speculation that they were made for the Egyptian army, but like with all internet information, you have to take it with a grain of salt.

Don’t confuse these guns with the 98K German drops from WWII that were later rebuilt by the Yugoslavians and used to fight the Germans later. There is a bunch of history on those guns, and one of our larger GunsAmerica sellers, Robertsons, has a good deal of individual guns listed at a wide variety of condition, provenance and price points.

These post-war Yugo M48 Mausers seem to be a single channel of an available Milsurp rifles available from one major retailer, Southern Ohio Gun (of whom I am a long time customer). In the video you’ll see how the guns arrive, how I clean them up, and how they work and shoot.

If I have a warning, it is to stay away from the M48As with the crest. Mine didn’t shoot well at all, and the gun is just much more ugly and rough than the ones without the crest. If your goal is to own a WWII style Mauser for cheap, there is no advantage to the crest, and from a performance perspective, if you want to be able to have some fun at the range, or do a C&R shoot or something, you are going to want a gun that is capable of keeping the bullets on a paper plate at 100 yards. The crest gun could not.

I did pay for hand pick on both guns, and for SOG, that is a “best of 15” pick. They take 15 rifles out of the crates and send you the best one. I doubt there is much difference between them. But beware that they are now charging $25 if you want the matching numbers on the non-crest guns. That was not the case when I ordered mine about 6 weeks ago, so… you do the math. The guns are almost gone.

As I showed in the video, the only outward difference in these Mausers is the wooden handguard behind the rear site. If you want to do some retro hunting with the gun, you’ll appreciate the handhold, but it doesn’t look exactly like a WWII K98. If you look around the generic Mauser Wikipedia page though, other examples of the Mauser with that strap of wood were very common from several other German designs, and from other countries.

I did not take my guns apart. And for my regular readers, you know why. I tend to booger stuff due to a complete lack of common sense when it comes to how things come apart and go back together. If you are of the bent to strip these guns apart, clean the insides, soak the cosmoline out of the stock, etc., you may want to get the AGI Armorers course for the Mauser 98. The courses are expensive, $39, but they do a really great job teaching you at a gunsmith level of expertise. They also have some more involved custom Mauser vids. For me, as you’ll see, it’s good enough to melt the cosmoline out with Hoppe’s and shoot it.

If these guns tell any story, it is that the era of cheap military surplus bolt guns is over. Milsurp guns used to be cheap, cheaper than even the least expensive deer rifle. Working men, gun nerds usually, would scoop them up at gunshops, gunshows, and the good old Shotgun News for usually under a hundred bucks, and mod them into hunting rifles, for cheaper than you could buy an actual hunting rifle. That is why you see so many “sporterized” Springfields, Enfields, Carcanos, Arkisakas, with cut down stocks and barrels, drilled and tapped for scopes, etc. These days you are nuts if you sporterize an all original looking milsurp rifle.

Sure, you can still get a Nagant for ~$200 if you look hard enough. But the real price is closer to $300 and over. You can get a Savage Axis, a Ruger American for less than that! Both of those rifles are tack drivers, good looking, nice and light, etc. There is no advantage to buying a Nagant and modding it into a deer rifle or tactical rifle to save money. For fun, sure. It’s still fun.

So for those of us actual gun nerds out there, Mausers like these are a huge score. And as I said in the video, if you don’t already reload, rifles like these are a great excuse (with the wife) to invest in an extremely rich and ultimately money saving piece of our obsession. A set of Lee 8 x 57 Mauser dies is only $29, with the shellplate. A Lee Breech Lock press kit, with a powder scale, primer tool, and almost everything you need, is only $119. Add to that one item, a case trimmer. I suggest the Lyman E-Zee Trim at $16, and the 8 x 57 collet for another $4.32. Then it’s just powder, primers, and bullets (8mm is .323). Head over to Hodgdon Reloading for data, and you’re all set. Most people wouldn’t suggest starting with a rifle cartridge, but that Lee system will also give you the ability to do a lot of handgun calibers with cheap dies as well.

And as I said in the video as well, if you don’t reload or plan to, don’t for Heaven’s sake throw out your brass. Right now the best price I can find for the 170 grain Federal 8 X 57 Mauser that the guns like is $32 a box. You can recoup some of that by retaining and selling your once fired brass on GunsAmerica. Even if you give it away, don’t throw it out.

It’s funny that the definition of “gun culture” has changed somewhat over the last decade. With incessant wars and hundreds of thousands of retirees from the military, the whole gun nerd space has been dominated by black guns made of aluminum and plastic. But a red blooded American gun nerd isn’t going to change in the long run. Old bolt guns from wars gone by, made of wood and steel, are never going to be not cool. It is just a question of when the bulk of the “tactical” junkies figure that out. When they do, deals like these Yugo Mausers will be long gone, and you’ll be laughing as they pay $800 to the few who will be willing to sell theirs.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Thana Sathirachinda September 24, 2016, 7:01 pm

    Great article and I like to see more articles like this in the future. I would like to add a few things . 1. Mojo sight, this after market made in USA rear sight cost $69 ( basic version) it allow windage and elevation adjustment. I have been using Mojo sight for 15 years and it makes shooting old MilSurp rifle much more enjoyable. 2. You have got to glass bed the stock not to make it more accurate but to prevent the split at the pistol grip area and a crack behind recoil lug and trigger recess area. I don’t know why M48 stock crack more frequently than other Mauser rifles but I witnessed four such stock crack on those near mint condition M48. Replacement stock in military configuration are no longer available so this preventive measure is a must unless you want to mount an ugly wood screw into the pistol grip when it split. I am looking forward to the next article, how about French Bethier or may be Greek Mannichler ?

  • Wesley September 22, 2016, 6:15 pm

    Thought the video was good. I have an original German Mauser that my Dad brought back after the War. Use to hunt jack rabbets with it with surplus ammo from sears. Almost as cheap as 22LR. Put it away and haven”t fired it since High School.
    Great rifles.

  • J.D. Smith September 20, 2016, 1:59 am

    Mark it sounds like you got a bad one – and maybe that’s all the on line dealers have left. It’s like all the other surplus guns, Enfields, Swedes, Mosins, Yugos,etc, the best ones sold first. Especially if yours is a straight M48, I believe most of them were issued and saw a lot of hard use. Most of the the A’s and B’s were stored. The BO’s were sold to other countries I understand. But even our local Big 5’s had M48’s for sale recently and yes they were junk. Any firearm with too many miles is junk and maybe a little dangerous to shoot. And yet these on line dealers continue to tout these guns as “in very good to excellent condition.” Send yours back and try to find one at a local gun store or from a private seller. One you can hold and see what condition it really is in. But don’t judge several million rifles sold over a 15 year span by just one.

  • Mark Berg September 19, 2016, 5:42 pm

    I bought a “Mauser”from AIM surplus a couple months a go for over 400 dollars that is the worst piece of junk you can imagine, built perhaps in the 1950’s or 60″s, it should not have the word Mauser connected with it…I asked for a return shipping label at once, and they ignored me, I am still waiting…this gunis junk, just primitive….it is worth nothing…Worked Mauser rifles since 1961 and sorry I fell into this with this retailer…It is a “Serbian” attempt to build a battle rifle…Cannot be compared to a CZ, or CZ24, or anything 98 or otherwise

  • BRASS September 19, 2016, 3:23 pm

    There was a time when surplus military arms were a good deal and made sense. Many were a small fraction of what a new gun of equal quality cost and were often in great shape, some almost like new.
    Today, the best surplus arms equal or exceed the cost of new ones that shoot better. In this case a gun that “shoots good” with matching numbers and ‘hand picked’ for good condition cost within a family dinner out of a new more accurate one by at least a half a dozen major manufacturers. And when you’re done, unless you spend more to upgrade it, you will have a gun that is unlikely to ever be more than a range shooter.
    If you do spend to sporterize or customize them like was done in the past sometimes yielding a great shooter or hunting arm if done by a competent gunsmith and for still less than a new one, today, all you will have is still a used gun that is if you’re lucky, a good shooter.
    I say that in most cases, unless you’re a collector or have an interest in surplus military arms (I enjoy them myself) it no longer makes sense to start with or purchase a surplus arm for the average person. Especially when calibers selections will likely not be in the mainstream of American shooters or hunters and NEW parts are not always available.

  • J.D. Smith September 19, 2016, 3:20 pm

    Hey I remember what those pliers are called. They are snap ring pliers and make sure you get the solid jobs, not the ones with the interchangeable end pieces.

  • J.D. Smith September 19, 2016, 3:10 pm

    Don’t know why there would be a difference between one with a crest and one without, unless the one with the crest needed a good cleaning and shooting like Jim said. I’ve got 3 M48A’s and an M48 (and 3 24/47’s) all with crests and they are all pretty accurate. And function flawlessly. They are not difficult to take apart, clean and put back together, I found something on line several years ago when I first started buying Yugos and printed it up. Hell if I can do it anybody can. Just make sure to keep all the little parts together.And get a pair of good spring pliers for the sight hood, you know the kind you spread steel rings with, can’t think of the exact term. They’ve got them at most auto parts stores for about 10-15 bucks.It and a proper ste of screwdrivers is all the tools you need. I have a real fondness for these rifles, a 24/47 was my first surplus rifle purchase. Bought it from J&G about 5 years ago for $179. They are a post war rebuild of the Yugoslavian M24 and came just before the M48’s. Good rifles too.

    And the crests are cool, a real piece of history.

  • Jim September 19, 2016, 2:43 pm

    I’m a self trained gunsmith and at my shop we would use chlorine free brake cleaner to melt the cosmoline away. Worked great and find it anywhere.

  • MountieFan16 September 19, 2016, 12:22 pm

    This report is filled with errors. 1st, the presenter says the M-48 was made for export only; wrong. After WW2, the Yugo army needed to be rearmed. As part of war reparations, they got German machinery and began production for their Army. They redesigned the K98 slightly, with an intermediate action (shorter than a K98). There were 4 versions made M-48, all machined parts; M-48A, all machined parts except the floor plate; M-48 B, more stamped parts, and M-48 BO, for export. They also sold actions without stocks all over the world.

  • Mike Cornett September 19, 2016, 11:37 am

    I collect vintage military rifles and pistols. The M48 you are showing is a great rifle. Mine is pretty accurate.
    I shoot 8mm surplus ammo. OK Cleaning a “new” military rifle of cosmoline. I’ve tried it all. But then I discovered ‘Ballistol”. End of story. This product is absolutely the best. Go to Amazon.com and buy some.
    This will save you so much trouble. It is totally non-toxic. You can practically drink the stuff. I remember spending hours on a real nice Mosin Nagant, (M44) thick with cosmoline. I wish I had known about Ballistol back then. I own about 50. collector grade, military rifles and 15 or so pistols. I do not work for Ballistol.

    • Chemiker September 19, 2016, 1:21 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion about Ballistol. I had not tried it, but will do so in the next week or so. I will analyze the stuff.

      • Blasted Cap September 20, 2016, 7:29 pm

        Don’t water it down like the instructions say. I use it for cleaning black powder in my cowboy action guns. Speak a patch and swab. Let it soak for a couple of minutes and wipe it off. 98% of the crud comes off first time. A slightly damp second patch removed the rest and oils the surfaces. Awesome stuff.

  • Jim September 19, 2016, 10:22 am

    I have to take exception to your (referring to the author, Paul Helinski) disparaging comment that these have no “provenance,* or history whatsoever.” No, these rifles were not in WWII no matter what Mitchell’s might try to suggest. That does not mean they “have no history…” History did not end in 1945.
    You also said, “If these guns tell any story,…” The first thing they tell is how ignorant you are of the last years of the cold war and the role Yugoslavia played in it, also, the force of will of one man Josep, Broz Tito. In WWII, the Yugoslavs were the only occupied nation to kick out the Nazis without the aid of foreign troops although they took all the military supplies we could give them. The most effective resistance proved to be the communists (et al) under Tito. After WWII, Tito proved to be a very different commie than Stalin with whom he did not get along. Also, Yugoslavia was a pretty small country balanced on sa razors edge smack between to super powers very hostile to one another and any ground war between them must needs go through Yugoslavia and they had had enough of that. First of all, Yugoslavia was not just one nation of a united people. Rather, it was forged together of different republics and many different peoples, ethnicities and religions not all necessarily inclined to get along with one another. Tito, call him hero or villain, was the glue that held it all together, sometimes by force. The rifles they used in WWII were the same ones used to hold the country together. They were war weary and refurbished as needed to keep them serviceable. That’s the first story your rifles tell. They began production in 1950 because the war left Yugoslavia’s in such ruin they were literally unable to so much as build a whole rifle until then. While much of the world’s military was taking up self loading and automatic weapons, Yugoslavia was issuing new built bolt actions. They were simple, reliable, and they knew how to use them. No weapon is truly obsolete in the hands of one determined to use it. Use of the rifle was a required high school subject. The M48 was not just a rifle- it was “Tangzara.” Call it “old best rifle” and it was stressed to their soldiers that it was made in Yugoslavia, by Yugoslavians for Yugoslavians.
    They were not cheap guns made by commie drudges. They were made in Kragujevac, (in present day Serbia, home to Zastava arms) also site of one of the oldest firearms armories in Europe. It took them a couple years to get things back up to snuff but they were skilled tradesmen and compensated as such. The quality of the weapons produced there are at least the equal of any 20th century German or Belgium Mausers (from which sprang the Yugoslav intermediate action Mausers.) with the exception of the superlative So. American export rifles. Also, the workers as were most Yugoslavs under Tito were free to come and go as they wished. True, they were not allowed to go directly to the USA but it was no problem entering from Canada where they could go. But unlike Russian, Yugoslavs were not held in by barbed wire and machine guns.
    With Tito’s passing, it all fell apart and these rifles again played their part in history. Not only were many used by rank and file of all sides, especially the “militia” forces involved, many were converted into snipers weapons, a role they played very well with grim efficiency.
    The M48 was produced in 4 variants. The M48 with all milled parts, the M48A with the only change a stamped floor plate and considered the best of the breed (wait for it) and the M48B a rifle made strictly for export and incorporating a greater number of stamped parts. THAT is what you got. You see, the Yugoslavs decided not to bother changing the stamping on the rifles. The M48B is still stamped M48A. The main outwardly visible difference is a raised rib running around the outside of the trigger guard indicating the stamped trigger guard of the guard and mag well assembly. The M48A with only the stamped mag floor plate is still being held in Serbia as last ditch weapons supply.
    As for the inaccuracy you encountered, you really should disassemble and clean the rifle before shooting it. It may be full of cosmoline! Secondly, there’s fair odds what you have is a brand new barrel not shot since it was proof fired. Such need broken in before they ‘settle’ down. Shoot 200-300 rounds through it THEN do a range report. I am confident it will do the job. Groups of 3-4 inches @ 100 yards is typical for all military Mausers, Yugoslav as well as German.
    There is also a growing appreciation among “serious” collectors who once dismissed these rifles as you have done.
    The history of all this is well recorded in a book “SERBIAN & YUGOSLAV MAUSER RIFLES” by Branko Bogdanovic. It is currently out of print and copies hard to come by. You should have got one while they were $20. I strongly suggest you pick one up at the library and read it. You might gain some insight and respect for a weapon and the people who built and used it that you so cavalierly dismiss.

    *You need to use your spell checker. I copied and pasted this comment of yours and “provenance” was so badly misspelled that the spell checker couldn’t even cough up the correct spelling.

    • Paul Helinski September 19, 2016, 11:32 am

      Why did you need to use a spellchecker if you already knew how it was spelled? I guess you missed the video where I poured a whole bottle of Hoppes through the gun, dissolving all of the cosmoline. Cosmoline is not in spellcheck btw. You also might look down the actual barrel from the video I shot with my phone. It most definitely is not a new barrel, and from the edges of the rifling looks to be shot out. I know you are holding onto your winners history book with a tight little fist thinking that everything in there is true, but all of those books are written by an author with an agenda to tell the stories he believes to be true, and might as well be for how many people actually care. These guns are a huge score for the money, but they are not truly collectible. People like you just drive up the prices on nonsense.

  • John Murphy September 19, 2016, 9:36 am

    I’m glad to see that I’m not alone when it comes to these old Mauser’s! I have a Hungarian Mannlicher G98/40 made in 1943 with original bayonet and scabbard. This gun is very accurate at 100 yards with no optics and it never will be drilled to accommodate a scope either. It has all matching numbers on every part except it has no butt plate. I have been looking for years and have had no luck finding one either. If anyone can help me locate one I would be so happy even though the numbers won’t match. I just want it complete. Thank you, John

    • Paul Helinski September 19, 2016, 9:39 am

      Did you try gunpartscorp?

      • John Murphy September 19, 2016, 10:04 am

        I actually did Paul. Sold out!

        • Paul Helinski September 19, 2016, 5:01 pm

          They get bunches of stuff in times. You never know when it might turn back up again. You want to call SOG and see if they have parts.

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