Pete Moore checks out the latest rifle from Mauser, which in many ways is truer to the original
I make no bones about it; I like the Mauser M03 and have been shooting one since 2007, this switch barrel/calibre quality bolt-action is one of the best in the business! However you pay for what you get and for many Brits the M03 is too expensive and not everyone likes what it has to offer.
By design it needs a dedicated removable mount, which is on top of the asking price. This is often the deal breaker for the potential buyer who is considering investing £2000+ only to be told that they need another £500 for the pleasure of fi tting a scope. Costs aside there’s the lateral de-cocker, again a Marmite feature, in truth the M03 is no impulse buy!
It often occurred to me Mauser would have been smart making a fi xed barrel version of the M03. Cost savings on barrel retention, the lack of a 2-piece bolt and the ability to use cheaper, commercial mounts/bases would make the rifle more main stream, as not everyone likes switch barrels. Well now they have with their new M12.
The only thing the M03 has in common with Mauser is the name, as the original company failed in the 1990s. The new enterprise however, built on that reputation and quality of the brand and did it very well with more than a nod to form and in that the 03 is unmistakable. The M12 even more so as its looks are far truer to the original M98 and its fi xed barrel, cheaper/simpler mounts and conventional bolt and safety make it more cost effective! Don’t get too excited as it ain’t cheap, but considerably less so than the M03.
Ironically Sauer also launched their 101 at this year’s IWA and to say the two rifl es are similar would not be stretching the imagination, along with a commonality of some components and a bit of cherry picking from other designs. This is hardly surprising as both companies along with Blaser are all part of the SIG group, who share barrel making and some production facilities at Isny in Germany. However, both also show specific features that will dictate choice.
You get two choices M12 Wood: Grade 1 walnut, magazine with Mauser-engraved steel fl oor plate and steel bolt ball and the M12 Extreme: Grey synthetic stock, black plastic magazine and bolt ball. The butt shows a straight comb, cheekpiece, Prince of Wales pistol grip and is full around the action with a scallop and taper towards the forend, this to me is the classic, Mauser sporter look and very pleasing! The wood furniture is chequered and the synthetic has moulded-in gripping panels though not rubber inserts, fi xed sling swivels are fi tted along with a rubber recoil pad.
The action is all-steel and the large, round bolt offers six locking lugs and puts me in mind of the Sauer 202, yet shows twin plunger-type ejectors in the fully-enclosed face. The handle of the M12 drops down and angles out slightly and offers a short 60° lift angle. Feed is from a synthetic, detachable magazine with release button at the front, typically Mauser have retained the large, ambidextrous ejection port style of the original 98 and M03, which makes top loading a doddle! The trigger offers a crisp 2-3 lb pull from a well shaped, mid-width blade, there is no set facility, so more money saved, nor do you need it! The guard though well proportioned is perhaps a bit snug for a gloved fi nger, certainly when compared to the 03!
If you don’t like de-cockers then you’re in for a treat as the M12 has a conventional, 3-position safety. However, and shoot me down in fl ames, but I reckon it’s a dead ringer for the unit on the Heym SR21. I showed it to Jules Whicker who owns an SR21 and he concurs. Mauser calls it the SRS (smooth roll safety) and like the Winchester Model 70 and Ruger M77 it pushes forward to FIRE, middle for SAFE (with bolt operation) and rearwards SAFE (bolt locked). It’s a nice design and easily operated, at the rear is a cocked action indicator pin with a red ring that can be seen and easily felt.
I was sent, on request a wood-stocked example, as I was told at IWA there is no choice of timber and you get what you get. Though you can order it with Grade 2 walnut at extra cost. Though no fan of wood; even I appreciate nice or even average timber and the handle on the M12 is disappointing! The chequering is well executed, wood/metal fi t precise and dimensions and shape are just right, but the colour is horribly light and there were three, noticeable knot areas. Given the asking price I have seen better wood on standard US sporters. Which is a great pity as this is a truly lovely rifl e with wonderful classic lines and superior handling that just exudes shootability. This might be a one off, but if you like wood you have two choices; opt for the Grade 2 upgrade on ordering or get the Extreme furniture… You might get lucky and get a half decent bit, but then again you might not and though of no practical consequence if you like real tree you won’t be happy!
The M12 comes as standard without iron sights and UK guns will be threaded and with scope bases. Irons are an option though! The Standard model (on test) has a 22” barrel and is chambered for 22-250 Rem, 243/308/270 Win, 6.5x55 SE, 7x64, 30-06 Springfi eld, 8x57 IS and 9.3x62. The payload is a pleasing 5+1. It’s 42” long with a 14.3” LOP and weighs 6.75 lbs (less scope). There is also a Magnum model, which shows a 24.5” barrel, which is 4.3” longer and .25 lb heavier, magazine capacity is 4+1 again good, LOP is the same. Calibres are simple - 7 mm Rem Mag, 300 and 338 Win Mag, but why no 375 H&H or 458 Win Mag?
Ergonomics are superb as the rifl e holds and comes up totally naturally and even with iron sights the head position is spot on. The safety acts directly on the fi ring pin, retracting it in both bolt operation and fully locked SAFE modes. The lever is well positioned and you hardly break your shooting grip, just roll out your thumb and push it forward.
The action cocks on opening with little hesitation and that big round body glides smoothly in the receiver. Feed - as I have become accustomed to with my M03 - is effortless, and the large ejection port offers easy access for single loading and clean ejection. The trigger breaks at a crisp and predictable 3 lbs maximum. It might be a tad light for some but it works for me. The bolt release is a small button rear/left of the action.
The receiver bridges are profi led as the original M98 so most commercial mounts should suit, which is the biggest saving on the rifl e as M03 mounts will set you back around £500. The magazine is polymer and free falls from the well at the touch of the button, one cosmetic option is an alloy (silver) base plate with the Mauser logo.
Pulling the barrelled action from the stock shows a most basic internal set up. There is no synthetic bedding in the action void, however there’s a hollow pillar for the rear screw. Up front the recoil lug pocket has a removable steel face plate and the front screw goes through the lug itself. The plate appears height-adjustable as there are two grub screws underneath, equally odd either side of the pocket are vertical synthetic rods that appear to act as stabilisers. Though I had no problems with it only time will tell as to the integrity of this build. My gut feeling would be to go with the synthetic stock as it’s a denser and stronger material!
I am unsure if the barrel is screwed into the receiver or a pressure/shrink fi tment. Whatever there appears to be what I can only describe as an anti rotation or alignment pin at the junction of these two components.
My tester was in 308 Win and I put the usual cross-section of ammo through it Hornady 150 GMX, Winchester 150 Power Max and Geco 170-grain PLUS. With a Vortex 2.5-10x32 PST up top I was not expecting any dramas. Of the three loads the M12 preferred the GECO shooting 1”at 100 yards. The Power Max was close behind, but it did not like the non-lead GMX.
The M12 is very natural shows a good weight and points instinctively and the medium build stock gives enough to get hold of without being over the top. Likewise the bolt is smooth in operation and easily manipulated in the shoulder with little disturbance of the fi ring position. Though for me the ball end could have been bigger. Extras include – a wooden bolt ball, Grade 2 walnut stock, forend-mounted QD sling stud, engraved magazine and iron sights.
Peter Paul Mauser knows I do not I do not need another sporting rifl e, but if I did then a Mauser M12 Extreme with its classic lines and simple approach would be my choice. Now what calibre shall I have?
Excellent alternative choice for Mauser fans Ergonomic design and build
Wood stock quality disappointing
A true modern classic and a worthy addition to Mauser’s portfolio
|Name||Mauser M12 Standard|
|Calibre||308 Win (on test)|
|Stock Grade||1 walnut|
|Price||’1,861 (M12 Wood) M12 Extreme (’1,662)|
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates