Mauser M18: The Hunter’s Rifle

shooting from bench

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’re probably aware of the Mauser M18. Unveiled at the 2018 SHOT Show, the rifle made a massive impression on the shooting public.

Built to compete with the U.S. entry level rifles from Ruger and Savage, the M18 offers European engineering in an affordable package. Since its introduction, the M18 has come on strong with the public in its role as volks gewehr or people’s rifle. Like the Ruger American and its ilk, the M18 features a tri-lug bolt and synthetic stock with a detachable magazine.

The rifle comes in a wide variety of calibers from .308 to .300 Win. Mag. I received an M18 in .30-06 with the intent to take it on a deer hunt. Alas, fate and the airlines conspired against me and I was unable to get some actual field time with the M18. Quite a disappointment for me as I was looking forward to using it under hunting conditions. But, as a famous comedian once said, “When life hands you lemons, find someone who life handed tequila and make margaritas.”

My first impression of the M18 out of the box was its light weight. The synthetic stock is made of what Mauser calls a Polymer 2 compound and features soft grip inlays in the grip and fore-end. The inlays provide a sure and comfortable grip at the bench or in the stand and in virtually any weather condition.

The five-round magazine is easy to load and even though it is also made of a polymer, it feeds easily and I experienced no misfeeds. The magazine does not fit flush, which could be concern to some purists, but it did not bother me.

M18 with ammo

The M18 shot equally well with all three deer loads

One look at the M18 and you know what this rifle is for. This is a hunting rifle, pure and simple. It is built for one purpose and that is to bring down game and put food on the table. This does not mean that any corners were cut, however. The M18 has all the engineering expertise you would expect from Mauser, but in a working man’s package.

For the range work, I collected the ammo I expected to use in the field to run through the rifle, figuring one should practice with what you plan to shoot on the hunt. Since the hunt was to be on big Midwestern whitetails, I selected ammo from Swift, Norma and Federal with bullet weights ranging from 165 to 180 grains.

In the Swift ammo, I chose the 165-grain Scriocco and the 180 A-Frame. For Norma I went with the 165-grain and 180-grain Oryx and 175-grain Edge TLR and 180-grain Nosler Accubond in Federal. All ammo fed and fired perfectly in the M18.

At the range, the M18 was a joy. I was unsure how the recoil from heavy .30-06 rounds would be over a range session, considering the light weight of the rifle. My fears were for naught as the recoil, while admittedly snappy, was not punishing by any measure.

Like many hunting rifles, the first two shots from the M18 at 100 yards overlap and then the third shot makes the three-shot group size. The important thing for a hunting rifle is where it puts the first shot out of a cold barrel, and the M18 put the first shot right where it was intended to be. Mauser says the M18 will do a one-inch group at 100 yards. I believe this to be absolutely true. This is certainly enough accuracy to knock down any North American game animal out to well over 200 yards with no worries.

three shot group

The author's three shot “minute of deer” group

The bolt on the M18 is smooth to cycle and surprisingly quiet in operation. Racking the bolt for quick shots is no problem. It is a push feed operation and worked flawlessly. The three-position safety is positive and silent, so you don’t spook game as you are letting the safety off in the field. The bolt is easily removed for cleaning the barrel from the breech.

All in all, the M18 is exactly what it is meant to be. A hunter’s rifle. Able to put bullets down range and bring in the game. Its $699 suggested retail price puts it firmly within the budget of any hunter and its performance and engineering will ensure stellar service for many years.

While the Mauser M18 was the first of what has proven to be a European import race of sorts, (Sabatti and Franchi are now exporting entry level type rifles to the U.S.) it is living up to the Mauser name and I’m sure will be appearing in the deer and elk camps all over North America in the years to come. My only regret is that I didn’t get the opportunity to take a deer with the M18. Maybe next time. –Randy Gibbs

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