An Ode to the Mini Mauser

If you’ve ever flipped through the pages of Shotgun News, you’ve likely stumbled across all the ads for surplus firearms or something similar. Hell, the ads were half the fun, to be honest. You’ve probably run across the famed mini Mauser. These ads have frequented the pages of Shotgun News for decades and might still. They’ve been imported by Interarms, Century Arms, and now Zastava for decades.

I also liked the idea of an intermediate caliber bolt action rifle. Something about their short actions, lightweight, and cheap ammo draws me in. It took me years to finally find one, but I won’t lie. I’m quite stoked about my acquisition. My Mini Mauser is an Interarms Mark X. These rifles began life as Serbian barreled actions and were sent to Britain. There they were bedded and inserted into stocks.

This resulted in a rather nice rifle. The Mini Mauser varies a bit in design and finish, and the Mark X models are often considered the top dogs. The Mini Mauser features a deep blue finish with a beautiful wood stock. You might glance over at it first and see a Winchester Model 70. It certainly compares in finish to one. Most of the Mini Mauser family are well-made, accurate, and fun-handling rifles. I think they are criminally underrated among American shooters.

What’s a Mini Mauser?

Mauser created one of the most robust and widely copied bolt actions out there. It came to be in the 19th century and remains a strong contender to this day. The Mini Mauser family comes from the Mauser line of design, but it’s not for so mighty Teutonic cartridges like the 8mm Mauser. Instead, these actions are shrunk to intermediate rifle calibers. The two most common are .223 Remington and 7.62 X 39mm.

My model is the x39 model, and it’s the one I’ve always wanted. Cheap ammo, and the fact I have piles of it, guides my decision. Plus, bolt guns in x39mm are just plain cool. They provide the same ballistics as a .30-30, so they are perfectly suited for the swamps I hunt in.

The Mini Mauser design isn’t a real Mauser action, though. It’s a bit of an amalgamation of the Mauser action. The controlled feed design is gone, so we are left with a push-feed system. The action isn’t super smooth and certainly has some stiffness to it. It’s also a sporting action, so we can’t charge it with stripper clips, either. I don’t need to, but imagine this thing taking SKS stripper clips.

At the Range With The Mini Mauser

An optics mount and an LPVO from Primary Arms later, and I was ready to shoot. I mostly have the cheapest, dirtiest, most Eastern European ammo of dubious descent in my x39 stash. This stuff is AK food all day, and if it can’t work in other x39mm rifles, then what’s the point?

With that in mind, that’s what I shot and continue to shoot. When deer season comes around, we’ll do a zero for some of my Hornady loads, but until then, it’s time for the rough stuff. It all loads easily, and admittedly, you have to do the bolt gun shuffle to get the ammo in the magazine by swerving around the optic.

The steel ammo fed smoothly and chambered without a problem. It extracted and ejected with ease as well. The steel-cased ammo provided no problems for the Mini Mauser action. One of the benefits of a Serbian-made gun is that they make it for that same steel case 7.62x39mm they shoot.

The accuracy was impressive. I saw 1.2-inch groups at 100 yards with steel-cased ammo. A little brass-cased Winchester white box brought that down to elbow an inch. Even a 1.2-inch group is acceptable for hunting purposes or general marksmanship.

The recoil is a bit stiffer than I expected. I’m so used to shooting semi-auto 7.62x39mm guns that I forget the effect of recoil from a bolt gun. It’s not uncomfortable or painful, just present and a bit surprising.

Getting Mini

I’ve waited years to find the Mini Mauser I wanted, and it was well worth the wait. The Interarms Mark X proved to be a very well-made rifle. It’s good-looking, accurate, and reliable. It’s certainly not the smoothest design, but I bet it gets better the more I shoot. For me, this combination of wood and blued steel is a bit more appealing than the Ruger American Ranch rifle, and the channels that classic-style modern rifles are missing.

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.