At the end of the 19th century, two brothers with the last name of Mauser began producing firearms. Some of the Mauser designs have since become legendary. The firm was always considered a very high quality manufacturer and produced arms for Germany until the end of World War II. After the war, the company continued to operate in West Germany. One of the most famous designs of the company came out in 1898 with the introduction of the G98 bolt action rifle. This rifle quickly became the official German infantry rifle and earned a reputation for being a workhorse that never failed.
One of the great innovations of this new rifle was its simple bolt and controlled feed, claw extractor. The bolt design was very strong and could handle the highest of cartridge pressures. It had two massive locking bolts in the front and a third bolt that was part of the rear. The controlled feed extractor would positively hold the cartridge to be fired through the entire loading process. Unlike other rifles that just pushed the round forward into the chamber, the Mauser design could feed a cartridge at any angle, even upside down, without the round falling out or jamming. For a battle rifle, this was a huge plus and a main factor in the reliability of the Mauser design. The large claw, as shown in the picture to the left, was effective in removing sticky cases. When using other designs, the extractor would rip the head off the case and effectively jam the rifle until a rod could be inserted down the muzzle to poke out the jammed case.
Another nice feature of the Mauser design is that it used a fixed ejector that worked through a slot in the bolt. Ejection of the case does not begin until the bolt reaches the rearward part of it's travel. This allows control over the stiffness of the ejection and how far the case will be thrown. When working at the bench and sighting in or just shooting for fun, a slow rack of the bolt will drop the case right in your hand if you wish. But when racking it back swiftly, as one would in a hunting situation, the case is thrown well clear of the gun. Because the mechanism has no moving parts, it is less likely to fail or get jammed as opposed to the plunger ejectors of other bolt action rifles.
The Mauser action has been copied all around the world by many rifle makers. After more than 100 years, it still forms the basis for virtually all dangerous game rifles. Winchester, Ruger, Remington and others have sold Mauser-style controlled feed rifles. For the purpose of this discussion we will look at two Mauser-style designs. The Ruger Model 77 MKII and the Winchester Model 70.
The Winchester Model 70 began as a Mauser-type rifle but was changed in 1964 to a design that was cheaper to produce which removed the Mauser features. In 1992, Winchester brought back the original Pre-64 design, due to popular demand and the lackluster sales of the new design. In 2006, the Winchester factory in New Haven, Connecticut was closed and production ceased for some time. However, Fabrique National (FN) long associated with the Browning firearms name under license from Olin, the owner of the Winchester name, began producing the Model 70 again with improvements in manufacturing and assembly. While the Model 70 rifles produced in the late days of the New Haven facility were known for rather poor quality, stiff triggers and less than perfect assembly, the new rifles coming out of FN's South Carolina factory are top quality and worthy of the Winchester name. Current production models are available in calibers from 243 Winchester to 325 WSM.
The Ruger Model 77 MKII is a classic rifle modeled after the Mauser design. It possesses all of the features that fans of the Mauser and Winchester Model 70 cherish -- controlled feed, fixed ejector and a three-position safety are all standard. The Ruger model 77 is chambered in numerous calibers from the 243 Winchester to the 458 Lott.
For our test we used a Ruger Model 77 MKII in 338 Winchester Magnum and a Post 1992 Winchester Model 70 in the same caliber. The fit and finish on both guns was excellent for a standard, factory-produced rifle. Both guns were the stainless versions, with 24 inch barrels. Each gun had a Leupold 1.5x5 VX-III scope mounted on it. This is our favorite high power rifle scope, providing great field of view, excellent magnification and generous eye relief.
Taking the guns to the range, we sighted them in with 250 grain, Federal Vital Shock ammo featuring a Nosler bullet. After getting them sighted in, we shot for groups with a variety of commercial ammo and hand loads. Both rifles performed well and were clearly capable of performing their task as big game hunting rifles. While both guns could have benefited from a better trigger pull, we did not find the factory trigger to be a factor in normal shooting. Certainly, better groups could have been achieved with a crisp and light trigger but then again neither of these rifles is being sold as a target rifle.
Overall, we give the nod to the Ruger for better out-of-the-box accuracy, a slightly better trigger pull and overall smother operation.
We look forward to taking these rifles hunting in the near future and seeing how they perform in the deep woods and perhaps having them tuned up by a good gunsmith to see where their true potential lies.