Mauser M03 rifle review – a blast from the past
The Mauser M03 rifle is a classic of its kind, says Charles Smith Jones
Mauser M03 rifle
Price as reviewed: £900
The Mauser M03 was hailed as a classic when launched in 2003. It is a thoroughbred rifle with the sort of modern styling, assembly, materials and attention to detail that you might expect from the marque. Mauser announced in 2020 that it was discontinuing the M03 to focus on its M18, M12 and M98 models, but stressed that it would continue to supply spare parts for all of the M03 variants.
Mauser M03 – build
The M03 is built on a steel inner chassis, which forms the spine of the rifle, supporting a positive and smooth bolt run while providing a solid fixing point for the barrel. It has been produced in a wide range of configurations intended to suit most shooting situations, as well as a variety of stock designs and materials. Although initially offered only in a number of walnut grades, Mauser quickly recognised the demand for synthetic stocking materials, such as that used for the example pictured. Read is a wooden or synthetic stock best?
The bolt is based on the classic Mauser design that forms the basis for those produced by so many other manufacturers and which has proven over time to be strong and reliable. Substantially constructed, it has six locking lugs set in a strong double three-lug formation. Lift is about 55 degrees, allowing plenty of space to avoid snagging against a telescopic sight. Bolt travel is, however, quite long to allow a single action size to accommodate a wide variety of cartridge lengths.
The safety lever is located not to the side of the bolt as in so many other systems, but is a lever on the rear bolt shroud.
Setting it to the right reveals a red dot and allows the rifle to fire. A clever safety feature is the ability to depress a button below the lever that decocks the bolt and locks it down. This means that the rifle can be carried with a round chambered but without the firing pin held under tension, to be cocked silently only when it is time to shoot.
As you might expect in a continental rifle, trigger release can be either at standard pressure or ‘set’. The normal setting is at about 3lb and the unit has a crisp, clean let-off that will suit most shooters. However, by pushing the trigger forward after the rifle has been cocked the trigger can be set to just a fraction of this.
This is a switch barrel design that not only allows the rifle to be broken down when travelling, but also enables the owner to adapt it to suit the occasion – one day it might be employed for fox control in .222 Remington, the next with a heavy .375 H&H for dangerous game in Africa, with most popular calibres in-between. The operation is simple enough: removing two Torx bolts under the fore-end allows it to be carried out in minutes, and the bolt head also unclips easily to fit another if necessary to accommodate a different cartridge head size. The magazine is a standard size but you will need one with appropriate internal spacers to accommodate your specific cartridge.
Most rifles came supplied with iron sights. You can remove and replace a telescopic sight easily using Mauser’s proprietary mounts, if you are so inclined, another feature that might appeal to the travelling hunter. They may not be cheap, but they are strong and reliable, with two spring-loaded locking levers on the left side of the assembly permitting the scope and mounts to be unclipped.
Fit quality is high and you can confidently expect there to be no effect on zero, though some of us might appreciate the reassurance of checking with a collimator or a quick shot or two before hunting.
Good looks and impressive handling make this rifle something of a design classic and there are many who maintain, with some justification, that it is one of the best and most accurate of the switch-barrel rifles on the market. Although even a used rifle may appear expensive when compared to others of a similar age on the racks, it is without doubt a cut above its competitors and, having used it once, it is unlikely that the buyer will feel any need to replace it in the future.
- Country of origin Germany
- In production 2003 to 2020
- Action Bolt
- Stock options Wood or synthetic
- Barrel length 23½in as standard, though others available
- Magazine Detachable, four or five rounds, depending on calibre
- Left-hand version Yes
- Weight (bare) 7lb 12oz (M03 Extreme, walnut stock)
- Available in calibres A total of 23 small, medium and big-game calibres are available, ranging from .222 Rem to .458 Lott
- Cost new N/A
- Cost used From around £900 depending on age and model; spare barrels from £500 upwards
One of the best and most accurate switch-barrel rifles on the market