A possible tale of a sniper rifle

Imagine the possibility of a rifle in nearly continuous service for over a century, modified over the years but all built around the same action. It is possible, as the Mauser 98 is still in limited service. The first major purchase of Mauser 98’s was the “Gewehr 98″ standard, a long and ungainly rifle with a straight bolt.

The Gew98, originally chambered for a 8×57 0.318″ bore, later rebarreled to the 0.323” bore served the German military well through WWI and well into the 1920s (what limited arms Germany was allowed under the Treaty of Versailles) before being replaced by the Karabiner 98.  The Gew98 supplied more than a few actions for the “new” K98 standard, so it was quite possible that a rifle action that was manufactured prior to WWI saw service with the Wehrmacht in WWII that had already undergone a rebarrel from .318″ to .323″ and then cut down or rebarreled to the Karabiner barrel length. The last of the 0.318″ bores were made in 1905, so we will call that the “birth year” of our possible sniper rifle.

Gew98_A_Very_Long_Engagement

Screenshot from the French film “A Very Long Engagement” which is set in WWI.

A generation later the Karabiner 98 became the standard for the Third Reich as well as a large number of nations across the planet. The Mauser K98 was one of the most widely produced rifle military bolt action rifles in the world not only in shere numbers, but also by number of countries who manufactured the rifle.

IDF_K98

K98 Rifles armed the newly created nation of Israel after WWII. Countries from Brazil to Mexico, Czechoslovakia to China and Thailand all made use of Mauser 98 variants.

But the tale of this potential rifle doesn’t stop there. In WWII, the German military conquered Norway, and at the end of hostilities a large quanitities of K98 service rifles chambered in the respectable 8mm Mauser (8×57 or 7.92×57) were left behind. The Norse, not being a people to put such a resource to waste, began the process of rebarreling the rifles into the equally respectable 30-06 (or 7.62×63) as Norway was one of the founding member nations of NATO, and it made sense to use the ammunition common to NATOs largest member, the United States.

M59 Biathlon

Norwegian Biathlon Competitor in the 1962 olympics, holding what looks like an M59 rifle, most likely in 6.5×55 as it has less recoil than the larger 30-06.

The United States in turn, almost immediately pushed the 7.62×51 cartridge as “NATO Standard” and it was chambered in such famous battle rifles as the FN FAL, H&K G3, and later in Norway, once again the K98 actions supplied the bases for rifles rebarreled into 7.62×51.

So you now have the possibility of a German rifle, manufactured prior to WWI, being rearsenaled into a K98 configuration by Germany prior to WWII ending up in Norway, where they were rebarreled into 30-06 only to be rebarreled again into 7.62×51 a generation later (the 4th rebarrel into a new caliber). The 30-06 conversion had a distinctive half moon cut in the top of the receiver ring, but the current NM149 sniper rifle has a scope base covering where the cut would be, so I don’t know if any of the current serving sniper rifles in Norwegian service made this particular transition through the years, but it is an intriguing possibility.

NM149S-F1

NM149F1 Rifle in the hands of a Norwegian Sniper working with his Spotter to pose for the camera (as opposed to being in an established hide). Like the FN 30-11 sniper rifle it has a dedicated flash hider.

Now…the price of a K98 in original configuration makes it desirable enough that they should be left alone to preserve what history they have. But still, the possibility that a rifel action manufactured in 1905, and continually rearsenaled throughout history by at least two governments would make for a good story, from common Gew98 to K98 to Norwegian Sniper Rifle still serving after 112 years… Not bad for an action first commercially released in 1898.

 

 

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