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Nothing is more traditional than a well-executed classic British stalking rifle built on an old Mauser Oberndorf action resplendent in best blued livery and walnut stock. But these days Mauser has kept up with the times and its model M03 rifle introduced a few years ago now combines old-world quality with modern manufacture and features. In sporter or heavy barrelled models and with fine walnut stock or synthetic material, the M03 has gained a reputation as one of the better switch-barrel rifles on the market.

Action and magazine

The combined receiver and integral chassis system of the M03 is one of its best features as it gives a strong, rigid skeleton to which the other components can be attached. There is only one action size that handles the small calibres from .222 up to the larger African game calibres such as .375 H&H. This makes the receiver long, but also gives a reassuring heft to the rifle, which sits steady in the shoulder.

Scopes are attached by an integral threesided quick-release spigot that necessitates the use of a matching one-piece scope mount. Because the barrel cannot be removed without the scope being disengaged, you need a quick-release unit. The mount locates precisely and the three spigot rotor drops into the receiver cut-outs and a push forward on both locking levers securely tightens the scope to the rifle with minimal change of zero.

A detachable magazine is used with one generic size. This means that it is large, so with smaller calibres you need a filler or blocking spacer at the rear of the magazine to allow a perfect feed. To remove the magazine you push a large button in front of the magazine, which delivers the magazine ready to be reloaded.

Barrel

The standard length is 23in, but this model has a short barrel to provide a fast-handling carbine and to facilitate the use of a sound moderator without increasing the length. This M03 has a 19in barrel and has a 1-in-9 twist rifling rate, making it suitable for heavier bullets. The outside diameter at the muzzle is 0.758 of an inch, so it is not too thin, and is threaded with a metric 15/1mm cut. There is no screwing into the action as the barrel is dropped into position within the fore-end so the twin threaded studs beneath the barrel correspond to the two locking nuts accessed from under the foreend wood by a double set of T30 Torx screws. Once secured, the barrel is precisely matted to the front of the action face and a sprung catch locates into a recess in the underside of the barrel and allows the bolt to lock in place.

Bolt

The bolt is faceted on four edges and is 7.5in. It combines strength with a light weight as the bolt locks into the back of the barrel with the receiver bridge open. This allows access to the receiver if there is a stuck case. The bolt lift is short at 55 degrees travel, which gives enough room to operate the bolt without interfering with the scope. The bolt has a removal head section, which handles any of the calibres provided. There are six locking lugs set in a twin three-lug formation with three large lugs at the front and three behind set around the bolt face.

Trigger and safety

The safety is an integral part of the bolt as the safety lever forms part of the bolt shroud at the rear and comprises a large lever that, when set to the right, enables the rifl e to fire with a visible red dot showing and, when moved to the left, the rifle is safe. It decocks the M03 and locks the bolt down. Therefore, a chambered round in the rifle cannot be accidentally fired as the firing pin is not under tension.

The standard single-stage trigger broke at 3.25lb smoothly with no hint of creep. To set the trigger you must push the blade forward after cocking the rifl e. This gives a light let-off weight, which is great for accuracy testing off a bench, though you need to be careful out in the woods.

Stock

This model M03 is meant to be used hard, so a synthetic stock is mandatory. I like this stock — it does not feel cheap, has a good weight distribution and a solid feel. The fore-end is hollow to reduce weight but is still rigid. The butt section is solid and well weighted. There is no cheekpiece, so it is ambidextrous with a good high, straight comb for scope use. The overall finish is subdued black with a textured feel, a nice palm swell and a rubber recoil pad. There are two textured softer inserts to the pistol grip and three on the fore-end. The chequering is small lozenge shapes that give a tactile hold. It has a good length of pull at 14.25in and as such is one of my favourite factory rifle synthetic stocks on the market.