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Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III

After considering the worth of switch barrels rifles, Pete Moore gives us the nuts and bolts low down on the Mauser M 03 Extreme and is converted...

Please note this is a three part article, you can read part one here and part two here.

I have been using the M 03 Extreme for about four months now and in the two previous articles on the gun have considered the practicality of a system that allows you to swap calibres by changing the barrel and bolt. I first warmed to it then realised it is in fact a highly practical feature that has much to offer. In that time I have used it extensively in the UK on foxes and deer, and also abroad on larger species and proved to myself that the 03’s barrel retention and optical mounting systems offers 100% repeatability. 

Switch barrel/calibre rifles are a very European concept, probably first made famous by Sauer with their 202 series and followed on by Blaser with their straight-pull R93, the RWS Titan and Merkel KR1. Steyr Mannlicher too have just launched their take on the idea.

However, the rifle that most of us associate with this is the R93 Blaser and it shares a number of common features with the M 03. This is hardly surprising, as though a name in its own right, Mauser is in fact a part of Blaser, though of the two I consider the 03 superior. The major reason for me is the fact the 03 uses a traditional turn-bolt mechanism and a proper detachable magazine, which I much prefer to the R93’s straight-pull action and top-loading-only, feed system. Combine this with the way the barrel changes, which is identical, and you have all of the advantages of this system but in my mind is a far more robust, simple and reliable action…

98 Rules OK!

There’s little doubt that Mauser pretty much wrote the book on bolt-action rifles and was the wellspring for the majority of modern sporting makes. In the 1970s and 80s Mauser offered a number of modern designs that included a straight-pull. None of these really prospered and by the end of the 20th century the only gun on their books was the semi-custom M98s. These were chambered in the grand African calibres like 375 H&H, 416 Rigby etc. and aimed firmly at the big game hunter. Doubtless magnificent, but far too specialised and for that matter expensive for more normal hunting use.

In 2003 Mauser launched the M 03, which gave them a proper, modern commercial rifle with all the advantages of switch barrel technology. But it was also uniquely Mauser too, as they retained certain design features and looks. The M 03 caters for a wide range of calibres from 222 Rem up to 458 Lott, in Mini, Standard and Magnum specifications and barrel lengths.

Nuts & Bolts

The standard M 03 is wood stocked and here you have a number of options; the Match shows a heavier/fluted barrel and is aimed at the shooter who wants a bit more precision. The Solid uses a plain version of the Match barrel but with iron sights. The Africa is the big game gun, with the Arabesque, De Luxe and Old Classic all showing various levels of decoration to suit those who like fancy rifles. All very nice, but I like my guns plain and practical and this year Mauser launched the synthetic-stocked Extreme; tough, strong and accurate and able to take the knocks real hunting can deliver. 

The stock is a dark grey with low/neutral comb and rubber recoil pad at the rear. The pistol grip shows a right hand palm swell and there are textured rubber panels here and around the forend for added hold. The build is good and solid, and offers plenty to get hold of. Fixed sling swivels are included with the front one being in the tip of the forend, but the Extreme also shows a QD stud too, which I used for a bipod.

Like the Blaser R93 the M 03 uses a metal inner chassis, which is the spine of the rifle; this supports the bolt in its run with the forward section (in the forend) giving a place to locate the barrel. Unlike the R93 the Mauser chassis is steel, which makes the gun a bit heavier but stronger too. The barrel is attached to the receiver by twin captive nuts that engage with threaded studs that come down at 6 o’clock from the chamber section. Again identical to the R93. I have to say that I prefer this to the split clamp receiver systems of the RWS Titan and Sauer 202.

Out of interest I let Andrew Evans Hendricks (Riflecraft Ltd) look the M 03 over and he said that it was very well built and he saw no reason why it should not shoot well. Especially with the big steel inner chassis effectively offering the same stability as a good synthetic bedding job and stock. Range tests proved this correct with both the 223 and 30-06 barrels easily capable of ½”-3/4” @ 100 yards off the bench…

The M 03 uses a 6-lug bolt that locks directly into the chamber extension so there is no effort placed on the action. The bolt handle is pure M98 - long, straight and angled down, however, the lift angle is nice and short. The bolt is made in two pieces with a detachable, calibre-specific head and offers a big extractor claw and a spring/plunger ejector. At the rear is the de-cocker/cocker, which uses a flag-type lever that swings left to right horizontally. In some ways it can be considered a safety catch, but in others it’s a bit more sophisticated, as it allows a totally safe, loaded chamber carry and unload. But in relation to say the rolling lever safety of a Remington 700 is a bit slower to get into action.

One Up The Spout

The reason the Germans favour this sort of system, which can also be found on Blaser R93s and their double and single rifles, as well as the Krieghoff doubles and drillings is that for certain hunting situations the gun cannot be cocked prior to the shot, but it can be chambered. So you can easily manually cock the action as the game presents. I have to say that I can live with the de-cocker, though it does take a bit of getting used to. However, it’s an acquired taste; especially if you are used to the normal ON/OFF safety catch…

Typical of a switch barrel rifle the M 03 offers a long action only, which can accommodate all calibres. This is brought about by the magazine, which uses plastic filler plates at the rear of the mag box to take up the individual cartridge overall lengths (COLs). Standard capacity is 5-rounds with the 223 showing larger feed lips to compensate for the smaller size, which in this case feeds from a central position. The 30-06 mag layout offers a staggered column with normal left/right feed.

The release button is flush-fitted and located at the front of the well and the mags fall free when its operated, due to an ejector spring. Unusual is the fact that the magazine can be fixed into position by locking out the release button. This I suppose is a belt and braces feature for certain situations, but in my four months of use the clip has shown no sign of getting lost. To compliment this the action is cut away on both sides so allowing easy top loading, so if you don’t like a DM then you don’t have to use it in that manner.

Capacity varies as to calibre with the Mini and Standard offering five and the Magnum four. The only exception here is the wide bodied 404 Jeffrey and the WSM’s, which also use that case as a base.

Single Set Mech

The trigger is an adjustable, single set unit, which is something you either like or not. The standard pull breaks at about 2lbs and is crisp and smooth. Pushed forward to ‘set’ mode this is reduced to probably under 1 lb and typically is very light. Though appreciating what it offers, I never use this option in the field, as there are times when you might make a mistake and frankly the standard pull is easily good enough for precise shot release.

Like the R93, the approach to scope mounting is dedicated and uses QD mounts. Mauser elected to place the optic over the receiver, as opposed to on the barrel as the R93 does. This means that when you want to change the calibre you must first take the glass off, with the Blaser this is not required, as the barrel/scope can be removed en-bloc.

The mount consists of a long, inverted U-shaped plate with a 3-lug rotor catch at each end, which are operated by throw levers. These engage with corresponding sockets in the receiver bridges with the levers being pushed forward for them to rotate, engage and lock. It’s an elegant design that offers 100% repeatability. Mauser offers 1” and 30mm ring options, as well as a European rail. Like the rest of the rifle the mounts are well built and show 4 x 1-10 Torx screws per ring. The design is perhaps a tad high but will accept the larger 56mm objective optics with ease…

Currently I have three scopes for the M 03. In 30-06 I use the Swarovski Z6i 2-12x50 with TD-4 reticule (rail mount), this is very much general use as I can go down to X2 for driven game and up to X12 for long range work. For the 223 I have a Kahles Helia CL 4-12x52 multizerO with Mil-Dot reticule (1” mount) and for close work their CSX 1.1-4x24 illuminated (30mm mounts). This will probably be mated to the 8.5x63mm tube as a big and driven game gun.

The Mini and Standard barrel length is 23.6” with the Magnum at 25.5”. For my set up I kept the 30-06 as it was, but had the 223 cut back to 20” and threaded for an ASE UTRA CQB moderator. This as I explained last month gives me a nice and compact fox/small deer set up. For my 8.5x63mm tube I have gone for the heavier 19mm Solid build with iron sights at 21.5”. As here I want it all; just in case…

Changing Times

So how do we change barrels and calibres? Take off the scope, open the bolt and push down on the release catch (rear left) of the receiver and pull the bolt out. With the T-key provided, undo the two captive nuts in the under side of the forend (in front of mag well) and the barrel will lift up and off.

The bolt head is removed by pulling the de-cocker lever over the left and keeping pressure on it and at the same time push the bolt head up and out of the body. If you’re smart you’ll pick calibres that use the same case head, as you won’t have to buy other bolt heads. For example 22-250 Rem is the same as 243/270/308 Win and 30-06 and also 8.5x63mm. These last two can also use the same magazine. Mauser’s web site shows all this information to help you make your choices.

On reassembly of the barrel you don’t have to torque the screws down to a certain setting, just tighten up normally and that is enough. As I said, once you’ve zeroed a scope to a barrel there is no perceptible loss or shift of zero, which was one of my initial concerns. So confident am I now that if I’m out for some foxing then want to shoot a deer, I just swap the calibres and scopes and carry on. To illustrate this I zeroed the 30-06 barrel/Swarovski Z6i in the UK prior to my Bulgaria trip. When I arrived and as a matter of course I checked the zero and the gun was still shooting 1 ½” high @ 100 yards as I had set it on the range a week before…

De-cock or Not?

The de-cocker is a multi functional control, which is operated by the firing hand thumb. It’s well placed at the rear of the bolt but requires a bit of effort to push due to the nature of what it does. It allows you to chamber the first round but not cock the action, this is done by pushing it all the way to the left then cycling the bolt. To ready the gun just push it all the way to the right, where it will remain and re-cock every time you fire and cycle the action. At any time you can de-cock by pressing in on the lug at the base of the bolt and letting the lever swing over to the left. As can be seen, this also offers a high degree of safety for unloading drills and negotiating obstacles.

Being a bit different, as opposed to the more accepted US-style safeties, I initially found myself forgetting it was there and going for the shot only to realise the action was not ready. This was only a matter of familiarisation, but I would say that the movement of going from de-cocked to cocked is slightly slower than a conventional safety catch on a Remy 700.

One nice aspect of the rifle is Mauser’s carry case, which will accept the stock/action, two barrels, two scopes with mounts, two bolt heads, the bolt, extra magazine and any tools you need. All this in a compact package with three combination locks for security. It has stood up to some tough testing by me and in real time the treatment of airport baggage handlers. However, for dual calibre field use I am getting a soft case made up that will take the barrel/moderator, spare mag, bolt head and scope. This is not a Mauser option, but it struck me as a good idea.

Price Comparison

The M 03 is not a cheap rifle at £1300+ , plus you have to add to this at least one scope mount – two is better and though the carry case is not mandatory if you hunt overseas I would recommend it. This initial outlay might seem a lot when compared to the average of £600-700 you would pay for a US make, but often as not you are going to get it re-stocked or bedded for best performance, which will add £400-600 to the cost.

A full calibre change barrel, bolt head and magazine for the M 03 costs £580, which is about the price of a cheaper gun. However, to put that into perspective, I had my Winchester Model 70 in 270 WSM, which cost about £500 converted to a 300 WSM, as follows: re-barrel £500, new synthetic stock £450, bedding and action job £250, total less base rifle - £1200. To do this for the M 03 would cost under £600 or £820 if you threw in a scope mount. Plus the change over takes minutes and not months waiting for your gunsmith to do it… I suppose it’s really about perception and whether you want lots of different rifles or just one with barrels etc. to suit. After years of going down the former route, I now find the latter far more practical, as I have one common chassis that I like and trust and it’s just a matter of mixing and matching calibres/optics to suit!

The M 03 comes across to me as a solid, tough, accurate and well made hunter, which will get the job done again and again, which has been my experience since I have been using it. I have recently come back from Bulgaria where the 03 in 30-06 guise dropped a very good fallow buck at 200 yards. I suppose I feel about the Mauser the same way I did about my old Riflecraft 308 LSR. Gone now, it was one of those guns that just shot so well and you knew you could pull it off the rack and it would do what was required without question. I have missed the LSR but now the M 03 has taken its place and I can’t see that changing for many years - if ever…

Name Mauser M 03 Extreme
Rifle one calibre £1305 wood stock £1380
Barrel £380, Solid £540
Bolt head £110
Scope mount £220
Magazine £90
Case £160

Please note this is a three part article, you can read part one here and part two here.

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

Gun Mart Shooters Forum - Get Involved in the Discussion!
User Comments
  • I now own a M03 after reading the articles on the rifle and i have to say it lived up to my expectations and more. Two words sum the rifle up versatile and accurate, my only gripe the price of add ons which have gone up considerably but then again what hasn't in the present climate.
    Brilliant all rounder.

    Comment by: Mick Newitt.     Posted on: 24 Feb 2009 at 02:09 PM

  • Mick

    Yes it impressed the hell out of me and made me aware of what a good switch barrel is capable of. Price is an issue but that's a lot to do with our terrible exchange rate, as comparable Merkel KR1, R93 Blaser and Sauer 202 have also risen accordingly.

    I've become a bit of a barrel junky with my Extreme and currentley have five tubes for it ...

    Good shooting

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 24 Feb 2009 at 02:44 PM

  • I bought my M03 Extreme a year ago. I'm very happy with it and can't fault it in any way. Bought mine in .308 and a 9.3x62 barrel the next thing to buy for it.
    So far i've shot Roe, Red and Älg with it. I shoot a lot of rounds on the running moose range. Its not unusual to shoot 50-75 shots. The barrel gets very hot and if it wears out its simply to buy and fit another barrel.
    So all in all a great bit of kit

    Comment by: Alan Rogers     Posted on: 19 Jun 2009 at 12:07 PM

  • Just ordered a M03 Extreme in 308 Win with a 22" barrel, can't wait to have it home smile Like Alan I plan for 9,3x62 barrel next time budget allows. I too go a lot to the firing range (1000 rds. a year) and the option of replacing worn out barrels on the same rifle/scope appears attractive. I have a very handsome Steyr-Mannlicher FS, but apart from being relatively delicate, I shoot less with than I would really like to - to spare the barrel.

    Comment by: Steffen B.J.     Posted on: 08 Jul 2009 at 11:23 AM

  • Another convert welcome to the club. I have just received the M03 Trail for testing, which is the Extreme stock with orange inserts; doubtless for driven hunts and a cute 18" Solid tube with iron sights in 308 Win. Really looking forward to giving this one a run ashore...

    Good luck with your M03

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 08 Jul 2009 at 11:47 AM

  • I have just bought an extreme in .270 with standard barrel for woodland stags. As I only shoot once a year and have no access to a range, how can I find out what is the best ammo to use?I'm looking for accuracy and knock down power.My local dealer only sells federal and sako, i have therefore only ever used federal and speaking to him last week it appears he has only 150gr and 130gr federal but I may be able to persuade him to buy something else......
    Your article on the rifle was great......in fact I bought it because of what you had to say and am really looking forward to October to seeing it and to useing it!!



    Comment by: Derek Smith     Posted on: 23 Jul 2009 at 09:21 AM

  • Derek

    Without some range time you will never be able to determine which is the right type of ammo for the M03; it's as simple as that! Rule of thumb suggests that the top brands - Lapua, Sako, Hornady, Federal etc are the best bets. However, this is not always the case and only shooting different examples will paint the full picture.

    So I suggest you somehow get access to a 100-yard range and buy a few weights/types of 270 Win.

    In terms of bullet weight I would be leaning towards a 140-grain, which from my experience has always worked well in this calibre. But again only shooting will tell in your particular rifle.

    Sorry to be so middle of the road, but there is no 'quick fix' solution to your problem; apart from getting down behind the rifle and shooting groups to determine the best make.

    On that point don't forget a standard barrel will get hot all too quickly and groups will open up accordingly. I suggest you shoot slowly to allow the barrel to cool and keep to 2-shot groups to determine zero.

    Good luck

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 23 Jul 2009 at 10:00 AM

  • M03 Extreme 300 WM Match barrel W/iron sigths+Zeis Victory 2.5-10*50. Superb.

    Comment by: Carlos Martín (Madrid, Spain)     Posted on: 21 Sep 2009 at 01:06 PM

  • Excellent calibre for African plain's game and larger European species...

    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 25 Sep 2009 at 11:30 AM

  • Great articles on the M03 - I was wondering if the straight barrels can be factory threaded for suppressors or if this is something you need to sort out yourself.

    Comment by: Tim Robinson     Posted on: 02 Oct 2009 at 03:25 PM

  • It would seem likely, as when I went to the factory they were discussing this subject, though I believe only in metric. Also the importers (Open Season Ltd) could doubtless get them done over here. If you get it done yourself; be aware that the barrel steel is very hard and will need a bit of care in machining, so you will need a competent gunsmith to do it properly...


    Comment by: pete moore     Posted on: 03 Oct 2009 at 10:08 AM

  • I'm putting in a final order for an almost completely custom rifle and for my base I cant decide between a new Mauser M98 action or an M03. So in your opinion which would be better?

    Comment by: Matthew C.     Posted on: 17 Jun 2010 at 09:07 AM

  • The M03 is not a rifle that allows much customisation as you have to stick with the stock, action, scope mounts and barrel, as the design is a switch barrel. The 98 however is an action you can do a lot to so stick with that...

    Comment by: Pete Moore     Posted on: 18 Jun 2010 at 05:31 PM

  • Can you tell me where you guys are buying yours in the US? I can't find a dealer anywhere and the Mauswer.com website only lists the San Antonio distributer.

    Comment by: RAINCO     Posted on: 20 Feb 2012 at 03:37 AM

  • Hi Pete,
    Noticed on your old grey stocked M03 you fitted a second forend stud and moved your bipod back. But on your new tan M03 you havent done is there any reason for this ?.

    Comment by: Mick Newitt     Posted on: 14 Jul 2012 at 11:43 PM

  • Mick

    No reason, I just have not got around to it yet. Very remiss of me I know...


    Comment by: PC moore     Posted on: 16 Jul 2012 at 11:21 AM

  • Ok Pete,
    Thanks for your reply, thought you might have moved bipod back to make bipod more ridged to improve accuracy when shooting off it. Been thinking about doing it to my M03 as i find the top of the forend a little flexy in some situations when shooting off it and moving it back might make it more stable, but didn't really want to start drilling holes in my pride and joy if it was a waste of time.

    Thanks Mick.

    Comment by: Mick Newitt     Posted on: 17 Jul 2012 at 04:55 PM

  • Hey Mick

    Yes I did find that on my original stock and the new one is the same and yes getting the stud back as far as possible does reduce this to a gretare degree and aids stability. What you have to watch is drilling through the rubber insert, as if you do it can start to peel away.


    Comment by: PC moore     Posted on: 17 Jul 2012 at 05:14 PM

  • Hi Pete,

    Do you know if mauser have any plans on bringing a thumbhole stock out for the M03 ?. I would be first in line for one if they brought one out along the same lines as the new thumbhole stock for the blazer R8 as i think it would improve the handling and looks of an already superb rifle.


    Comment by: Mick Newitt     Posted on: 15 Feb 2013 at 06:15 AM

  • Just bought new M-03 Extreme in 60 cm standard barrel, need to know more about its consistency of group at 100 meter and 200 meters from well experienced user of this group. By look its perfect, holding is very nice and above all changeability in different calibers are great..., very convenient to change in different calibers without using tools, a perfect solution!!!!!.

    Comment by: Ismail Hasan     Posted on: 05 Feb 2015 at 08:23 AM

  • Hi ismail I've owed my m03 for around 5 yrs now and have to say i dont think you will be disappointed with your choice of rifle, cracking do it all bit of kit. As with all firearms they are not spacific ammo friendly, and what suits one rifle doesn't suit another of the same make and model owned by someone else. All i can say is try different ammo brands, weights, etc to see what suits at the distances you want to shoot which is all trial and error im afraid. I have 2 calibres for my m03 one in 223 the other is 243, and use winchester 55 grain sp in 223 and sako 90 grain gamehhead in 243, which i decided on after trying many other brands.
    Good luck and enjoy getting to know your rifle.

    Comment by: Mick Newitt     Posted on: 05 Feb 2015 at 04:20 PM

  • For those with experience, what would be the better option in purchasing
    The blaser R93 or Mauser M03 ???

    Comment by: Phillip Papas     Posted on: 06 Mar 2015 at 11:00 AM

  • Hi Philip M03 all the way for me as don't like the blaser R98 and R8 trigger magazine combo but that's a personal choice. Also find blaser rifles to light for my liking as the M03 is a heavy gun which I prefer. All I can say is get along to a gun shop or country fair like the CLA or midland game fair where blaser/mauser will have their rifles and try for yourself as both rifles are not cheap especially when you start adding other barrels + mags etc.

    Comment by: M Newitt     Posted on: 09 Mar 2015 at 12:50 PM

  • I'm thinking of buying an M03, however, since it was originally released in 2003, do you think Mauser will be releasing an updated version soon? That would be good to know prior to purchase.

    Comment by: Larry     Posted on: 26 Oct 2015 at 06:05 PM

  • Not heard about any iminant updates on the M03 but to be honest I wouldn't change anything on the mechanics of the rifle, but probably a thumb hole stock on the asthetics which I did inquire about a few years back and was told by mauser it was on the way ? but as yet to materialise. The rifle is a little heavy which suits me, But is easy to strip down for maintaine and barrel change and ive never had a issue with zero shift on reassembley.
    In my opinion still the best switch barrel on the market for the miey.
    Hope this helps ... Mick.

    Comment by: M Newitt     Posted on: 27 Oct 2015 at 08:57 PM

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Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
Mauser M 03 Extreme Part III
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