We hunters, especially those of you – who like me – enjoy carrying a bolt-action rifle for big game, owe a helluva lot to a German gentleman named Mauser. Peter Paul von Mauser, to be specific. A brilliant designer, Herr Mauser gave us not only the 7×57 and 8×57 cartridges, but the Gewehr 98 rifle, which would set the standard for bolt-action rifle reliability that stands to this day. The Mauser name – synonymous in the firearms world with the reputation that German engineering has secured – is one that hunters have come to rely on for a century and a quarter.
Mauser Continues to Innovate
While there have been over 100 million 98 Mausers produced, the company has not rested upon its laurels; they are forward-thinking, with an ever-evolving sense of the hunting market. I had an opportunity to spend some time with the Mauser Model M12, a fine hunting rifle, and I’m glad to have met it.
My test model was the Model M12 Extreme, a neat little weather-impervious package that was chambered to the undeniably classic 6.5×55 Swede cartridge – what I consider to be the original 6.5mm gem. The rifle comes in what Mauser calls a ‘soft touch stock’, which is a neutral gray synthetic stock with an exterior that is quiet, non-reflective, and stays in the hands. There are textured areas on the pistol grip and forend, as well as an additional sling stud at the forend for adding a bipod into the mix. A clean, straight comb comes up to the cheek easily, and a slim, textured recoil pad of about ½” keeps that rifle on the shoulder.
The M12 Extreme has a length of pull of 14 3/8”; it felt perfect for me, but I’ve got long arms and usually like a longer LOP. Mauser even offers the option of installing a spacer to increase the LOP to 14 ¾”, and I’ve often wondered why European rifles tend to sport the longer stock lengths. My buddy Michael Ward and I have long debated the reasons for American rifles – usually equipped with a 13 ¾” or shorter LOP – being shorter than their European counterparts, and the best answer we can come up with is that no one knows, it’s just that way. Overall, I feel I shoot the longer LOP rifles a bit better, but again, it comes down to personal preference, just be aware that most European rifles will come standard with a LOP of over 14”.
SPECS: Mauser M12 Extreme
- Type: Bolt-Action repeating, push feed, dual plunger ejector
- Caliber: 6.5x55mm Swedish
- Magazine: Polymer detachable, 5 round capacity
- Stock: Gray synthetic
- Barrel: 22”, blued steel, matte black finish
- Sights: None furnished, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
- Safety: Three-position, wing style
- Weight: 6lbs., 10 oz.
- Overall length: 42 in.
- MSRP: N/A; $~1,400.00 Street Price
A detachable polymer magazine, with the Mauser logo on a metal cap along the bottom of the magazine, allows for five shots plus one in the pipe. The magazine is released via a button located on the muzzle end of the floorplate, just behind the forward action screw. Installing and removing the magazine was simple, from any field position.
A 22-inch barrel of medium contour handles the launching duties, and the barrel of my test gun was clean, with no iron sights. A slightly concave crown protects the muzzle just enough to keep things as they should be, without needing a recessed target-style crown. The metalwork on the rifle – with the exception of the bolt itself – is finished in a matte black; perfect for reducing the glare that will spook a game animal so quickly.
The Action, Safety & Trigger
The action of the M12 is a different design than that of the 98 Mauser that we are all familiar with; but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The design is a push feed affair, but with a 60˚ bolt throw, and six locking lugs located 120˚ apart across the bolt face. That bolt face has an extractor reminiscent of a Remington 700, but uses dual plunger ejectors, and I’ll happily report that the M12 will throw some brass. Throughout the testing of the M12, no cartridge – empty or still loaded – failed to eject. The bolt diameter itself is rather hefty – right around 0.75” – but I’d much rather have things over-designed than the opposite. The jeweled bolt is removed via a button located on the rear left of the receiver; with the bolt rearward you simply depress the button and the bolt with slide out making cleaning a breeze.
A three position safety, which Mauser calls the SRS, or Smooth-Roll-Safety, which operates horizontally in the manner of the Winchester Model 70, gives the shooter the option of unloading the rifle without putting the rifle into the fire position. The wing lever is larger than most others I’ve encountered, and the quiet, positive feel makes for an easy transition from safe to fire. At the rear of the bolt, the firing pin will extend rearward when cocked, and a bright red indicator lets you know whether or not the bolt is cocked from just about any position. An oversized bolt knob allows for a sure grip when cycling the action, even with gloves in the cold weather. Combine the larger knob with the 60˚ bolt throw, and this makes for a fast cycling rifle.
The M12’s trigger is a real gem. A nice, rounded and smoother feel to the trigger itself is complemented by very little creep or over-travel. The trigger on my test rifle broke at 1 lb. 7 oz., almost like a target trigger. However, the feel of the trigger was not that of other triggers that break this easily; it is certainly light enough for accurate bench work, but from field positions it allowed me to place the shot where and when I wanted. To be honest, it was one of the nicest triggers I’ve felt in a newer rifle.
Scoping the M12
For an optics system, I mated the M12 with a Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm riflescope, giving a perfectly useable magnification range for a hunting rifle, in a nice trim package. Set in Talley rings and bases – which offer a rock solid means of putting and keeping your scope just where you put it – the Leupold’s one-inch tube gave plenty of light transmission for any hunting situation, yet kept the weight down and allowed the scope to be mounted low enough for comfortable shooting.
Riflescopes seem to be growing in both size and weight, and while I appreciate some of the larger scopes for target work, they can tend to become a bit unwieldy in the field, and can actually be a hindrance in the hunting situations where the shots are on the closer side.
With a low end of 3.5x, the Leupold VX-3i feels right at home in the deer woods, yet that top end of 10x allows a hunter to accurately place his or her shots out to sane hunting ranges. A simple, bold duplex reticle offers a clean view of the target, unlike so many of the complex reticles that seem like they’d feel more at home on a submarine than a hunting rifle.
I’ve been a consumer and user of Leupold riflescopes for decades – as they’ve often offered one of the best values on the market – and I’ve noticed a vast improvement in the quality of the lenses on the VX-3i series. From the standard dangerous game scope – the 1.5-5×20 – up through the higher magnification scopes, the VX-3i offers a brighter, crisper image than the VX-3 models did. Yup, I’m a fan.
With ¼ MOA adjustments, a matte finish that complimented the M12 perfectly, and a magnification adjustment ring that could easily be operated with gloves or mittens, the VX-3i 3.5-10×40 seemed perfect for any hunting situation in which you’d use a 6.5mm cartridge. It took adjustment very well, and stayed where I put it; those Talley rings seem to allow a scope to ‘go-to-sleep’. With less moving parts in the equation, there is less to worry about, and the Talleys offer plenty of strength, in both the bases and rings.
The Mauser M12 Extreme is available in a number of cartridges, from the .22-250 Remington, through the .270, .308 and .30-’06, up to the .300 Winchester Magnum, .338 Winchester Magnum, and the 9.3x62mm. However, I asked for a test rifle in the classic 6.5x55mm Swedish Mauser cartridge, for a number of reasons. The 6.5×55, in my opinion, is a highly underrated hunting cartridge, one that has offered the benefits of the bore diameter that has been all the rage for the last decade since the late 19th century.
Perks of the 6.5x55mm
It seems that the void that the 6.5 Creedmoor claims to have filled didn’t really exist at all – if you’re coming from the hunting perspective – when you look at the performance of the Swede. It’ll better the Creedmoor’s velocity by almost 100 fps with the 140-grain bullets, and has a case capacity that will take full advantage of the heavier 156 and 160-grain bullets. No slight to the Creedmoor, or any of the modern 6.5mm developments of the last few years, but in a hunting situation I don’t feel there is much of a difference between the performance of the venerable Swede and its contemporary classmates until you get up into the magnum cases. The answer has been in front of our faces since 1894.
The 6.5×55 Swede fits nicely in a long action rifle, and the recoil – especially when compared to the terminal ballistics – allows even a sensitive shooter to place accurate shots on game. One of the undeniable features of the 6.5mm cartridges is that they seem to kill better than they should; Scandinavian hunters have shown the abilities of this bore diameter on game up to and including moose, for over a century. Add the reliability and performance of modern bullets into the equation, and you have a very efficient and pleasant-to-shoot combination in your hands. Yes, there are better choices for the truly large bears, but here in North America, a premium 6.5mm bullet at sane hunting ranges will handle almost all of the average hunter’s needs.
For testing I grabbed a couple boxes of good hunting ammunition: The Hornady Superformance 140-grain SST load and the Federal PowerShok 140-grain soft point. Both are perfect for deer, antelope and similar size game, and both performed very well. The Federal load gave exactly one-MOA results, with the velocities running at 2,625 fps; just 25 fps below the advertised value.
The Hornady SST showed a bit better accuracy, with groups hanging around 0.8 inch, and a muzzle velocity of 2,740 fps. I’d gladly take either into the field. Additionally, I feel that handloading for the Swede will open up many more doors for a hunter who was interested in using some of the great component bullets available in 6.5mm. Mate the Swede with a heavier Nosler Partition, Swift A-Frame or Barnes TSX and you’ve got great black bear and elk medicine; top it with a 130-grain Swift Scirocco and you’ve got a nice longer-range load, which will hold together regardless of the shot angle.
Put it all together and it spells Mauser
What you’ve got in the M12 Extreme is a handy, relatively light (my test rifle weighed 8 lbs, 11 ounces all dressed up for the dance) yet well-balanced package that is impervious to the elements. The Mauser reliability is certainly there; from the safety to the trigger to the magazine to the operation of the bolt, all things felt like a finely tuned machine. The marriage of bolt and receiver ran as smooth as butter, with no chatter or chirps as the action was cycled. With a street price of right around $1,400.00 (sans optics), you end up with an accurate, rugged, and dependable firearm that will serve well for generations.
I can usually find some niggling feature of a rifle that I’d probably change if I could, but the M12 Extreme generated no complaints from me. If anything, any Mauser rifle I’ve ever spent time with has been over-built – whether the modern offerings or the century-old models – and that has played a huge part in the establishing the reputation that Mauser has earned. I can’t imagine a hunter who’d find him or herself questioning their choice when carrying a M12 Extreme, whether they were in the deer woods of the Northeast, the open plains of the West, or the African bushveld. Thank you, Paul von Mauser, for your innovations and for the company that continues to produce fine rifles to this day.
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