שָׁלוֹם‬ – The Israeli Mauser and Its History

Israel is a nation born from and a people forged by conflict, bloodshed, and hardship. Originally a backwater of the Ottoman Empire and later a crucial part of the British Empire the region we know today as the nation of Israel was born on May 14, 1948. But how did that happen? Let’s go back a couple of years before that.

At the end of World War II, the British empire was crumbling. They were economically ruined from the war and didn’t have the political or economic strength to keep their colonies in check. The Yishuv (Jewish residents of the area prior to the creation of Israel), in an attempt to strengthen home rule, actively recruited and smuggled European Jews fleeing the horrors after the Holocaust. Many tried to reach Palestine but many were turned away or rounded up and placed in detention camps in Atlit and Cyprus by the British Government since the empire wanted to keep the peace in the region.

Jewish immigration to the region was a contentious for the British both before and after the war since the local Arab populations weren’t terribly welcoming. That, despite the fact that though Jews assisted the British in conquering the area from the Ottomans even helping suppress an Arab revolt against British rule in the 1920s. By the immediate post war period, the Crown simply wanted peace in the region. The Jews in Europe and in the Holy Land wanted home rule and a place to call their own.

Two groups, the Haganah and the Irgun (the forerunners to the Israeli Defense Forces) launched an attack on the British administrative headquarters in the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946. A total of 91 people were killed, 46 injured. The location was also he site of the Secretariat of the Government of Palestine and the Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in Palestine and Transjordan.

At the time, it was considered one of the “most lethal terrorist incidents of the twentieth century.” The end result was that in 1947, the British announced they would withdraw from Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. The newly-formed United Nations stepped in and attempted to split the region between Jewish and Arab residents. On May 15, 1948, the armies of four Arab countries (Egypt, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq) entered what had been British Mandatory Palestine, launching the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

A hard and brutal conflict was fought, but the end result was Israeli victory.

The newly-formed Israeli government was short on funds and worse, short on arms. Prior to the establishment of the IDF, the Haganah and the Irgun used whatever they could get their hands on. British Enfields, American M1 Carbines, Italian Carcanos, etc. They’d buy them from friendly supporters, smuggle them in, and outright steal them if they had to. The war taught them an important lesson. They needed to standardize.

Being that the new nation was also poor at the time, they couldn’t go out and buy the latest and greatest designs. But this was the late 1940s. Europe was awash in arms including German 98k Mausers. The Germans, during their expansionist era, set up a number of arms plants in occupied territories across Europe.

One of the largest was in Czechoslovakia, a nation with a long history of arms production, where they cranked out Mausers for the Third Reich. After the war, the Czechs and Slovaks were hurting for work and had an ample supply of parts, machinery, and the skilled labor to turn out rifles. Thus, a business deal was struck and the rest is history.

Israel bought rifles from Czechoslovakia and other European nations through surplus sales and contracted with FN Herstal of Belgium to make brand new Mausers. By 1954-1955, Israeli was looking to update their front-line units with FN’s new darling, the FN FAL.

Israel then had an issue. What to do with the thousands of Mausers and 7.92x57mm ammo they had? They could keep them original and have two separate supply lines of arms and munitions to equip front-line troops and reservists or they could convert the Mausers to 7.62x51mm NATO and make ammunition logistics far easier.

They went with the logical option and converted the Mausers. That process started in 1956 and didn’t end until the cessation of hostilities of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Courtesy of A. Valdes

Israeli converted Mausers were reworked from top to bottom. The rifles were stripped down to their basic components and anything not serviceable was thrown away. Keeping rifles original by serial number wasn’t a concern for the IDF. Everything was literally simply thrown into large parts bins and when rifles were being rebuilt, parts were pulled and rifles were assembled. In fact, every collector guide states that if you run across a serial-matching Israeli Mauser, it’s a fake. The bolt and receiver might match, but everything else surely won’t.

Courtesy of A. Valdes

The Israelis made brand new barrels, new internal magazines, and new front sights due to the different ballistics of the 7.62x51mm NATO. If the original stock wasn’t serviceable, a newly manufactured beechwood stock was used. The Israelis also scrapped the cleaning rod. The new stocks didn’t even have a provision for them since the IDF issued a pull through cleaning kit for the FN FAL.

IDF Issued Cleaning Kit

Courtesy A. Valdes

The Israelis even went so far as to make new parts and even complete leather slings for the Mausers if the original ones were ratted out.

Courtesy A. Valdes

A common myth associated with the Israeli Mausers is that the IDF purposely struck any Waffenamt markings, thus purifying the rifle of any Nazi connection. That wasn’t the case. A number of WaA markings are found intact on my rifle and others I’ve seen and handled. But one “fact” that is true…all converted Mausers had 7.62 marked on the receiver to clearly alert the shooter that the gun was no longer chambered in 7.92x57mm.

Courtesy of A. Valdes

Courtesy of A. Valdes

The Israeli Mauser saw service in the Israeli War of Independence of 1948, the 1951–1956 Retribution Operations, the Suez Campaign of 1956, the Six Day War of 1967, and finally the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

In the Six Day War, the FN FAL was the front-line standard for the IDF, but the numerous reservists called to active duty were issued the Mausers. This was the last large scale use of the Mauser. It served with distinction alongside the FN FAL and Uzi SMG.

IDF soldier with FN FAL.

IDF in combat with Mauser Rifle.

IDF in combat with Mauser Rifle.

IDF at the Western Wall wih Uzi SMG.

By 1973 and the Yom Kippur War, the Mauser was only assigned to rear communication specialists as a defensive weapon. After the war, they were pulled from service and mostly given to Guatemala as military aid. Israel and Guatemala have always had a close relationship due to the small Central American county being the tie-breaking vote to admit Israel to the United Nations. The Guatemalans rode the Mausers hard and put them away wet. You can tell an Israeli surplussed gun versus a Guatemalan one due to the condition.

Typical Guatemalan Condition

My rifle is a Czech-built gun. With a 1944-dated receiver and a near mint re-arsenal overhaul. I got mine around the 1999/2000 time frame. In fact it was the first gun I purchased with my own money.

I got mine at the Fort Lauderdale Gun Show, the very one the gun-grabbers recently shut down. I worked hard and saved up my pennies for a military grade rifle in .30-06 Springfield or .308 Winchester. I was hankering a M1903 and ran across one at a table. The vendor had it priced at $300 and poor teenage me couldn’t afford it.

I saw plenty of Mausers, but didn’t want one since they were in 7.92x57mm and I didn’t want to buy and stockpile another chambering. But luck shined upon me. The vendor who had the M1903 also had an Israeli Mauser for $225 and was willing throw in 500 rounds of surplus 7.62 NATO. I had a budget of $250 and was set. There was a loud BANG! when my wallet broke the sound barrier. I took the rifle home and have enjoyed it ever since.

Whether it was reenacting WWII Partisan activity or taking part in local rifle matches, my Mauser trucked right along. As I grew older, the Mauser migrated from the front of my safe to the back, but it was never forgotten.

A real treat with my Mauser happened thanks to an elderly neighbor I had in Miami. He was a veteran of the 1948 Israeli War and retired from the IDF just before the Six Day War and moved to sunny South Florida.

He always saw me loading up and going to the range and asked one day what I had. When he saw the Mauser, he suddenly opened up and went back to being a young IDF soldier fighting for Israel’s freedom. He told me about how he was tired, scared, and hungry, but full of hope and pride with the belief that his sacrifice would be for the betterment of his people.

I could tell by the glint in his eye that he remembered carrying a Mauser just like mine. Sure enough, he had fond memories of shooting one at the range.

Courtesy of A. Valdes

In the end, these rifles are a gem to have. They tell a story of hardship, struggle, and rebirth. A rifle originally made by a government set to eradicate a specific people were later used by those same people to gain independence and secure their freedom.

It’s an amazing story and the Israeli Mausers proudly belong in anyone’s armory of liberty. Mine is a beaut and a hell of a shooter. If you run across an Israeli Mauser in good condition, give her a good home and some range time. You’ll be glad you did. Trust me.

To all of our Jewish readers in America, Israel, and across the world.  חנוכה שמח – Happy Hanukkah!

comments

  1. avatar Newshawk says:

    Fantastic story and a perfect time to tell it. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. avatar Steve Eisenberg says:

    Israel was not originally a backwater of the Ottoman Empire. Originally it was the Jewish Homeland, going back over 3,000 years.

    1. avatar Koolhed says:

      Psst! Wanna’ learn the truth about Jerusalem?

      1. avatar Stan says:

        Okay. FYI, this is anti-Jewish bullshit. For some reason TTAG allows anti-semitic drivel to be posted all the time. The guy believes the exact same thing as David Duke. Namely, bullshit like the Rothschild New World Order. Linking the Rothschild name, because they are Jews, with the “new world order” is the epitome of anti-semitism. It recalls the exact same bullshit the Nazis and the Communists claimed in the 30s, 40s and 50s. If TTAG has any guts and respect for the Israelis and the 6 million victims of Nazi crimes, they would delete this post. I’m not betting on it though.

        1. avatar Sgt Bill says:

          I stand with Israel and the Jewish people. I served a tour of duty in Israel and their people are wonderful and love freedom like we do. They are the only democracy in a sea of Islamic hatred and violence. Anyone who believes that the 17 million Jews of the world are the problem have a mental and spiritual disorder. Anti-semitism is for fascists.

        2. avatar Mikial says:

          Agreed. Just another frustrated hater who can’t stand the fact that Israel lives in spite of the hatred of the Nazis and Muslims.

    2. avatar Mikial says:

      Agreed. Pay no attention to the haters who try to tell you otherwise.

  3. avatar jwm says:

    ‘Tired, scared and hungry.’ Pretty much says it all.

  4. avatar Gregolas says:

    Great story of a heroic people. I didn’t know that Israel converted Mausers to 7.62. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, but I’ll be on the lookout from now on. Thanks for the info.

  5. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    I appreciate all the history, and the photos.

    Despite the considerable time it must have taken to write the article and assemble the images, it apparently was not proofread, even once, by anyone, prior to publishing.

    Sheesh. Even the word “Mauser” is misspelled in the article at least twice.

    For the love of history, take a little pride in your work, man. Sloppiness undermines credibility. If you can’t see your own errors then have someone else proofread it for you.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      That’s now how this works.
      Writers submit articles. They don’t publish them. An editor then reads, more often than not modifies them, and then publishes. Sometimes errors are caught. Sometimes they are not. Sometimes errors are added. The author may not even have the access or ability to fix errors once published, regardless of who made the error and the author may or may not know when the article is published.
      Be polite, or at the very least, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut.

      1. avatar RA-15 says:

        JWTAYLOR. Thank you ! As someone once said on TTAG , we are not all English Majors here. If the writer gets their point across , if the subject matter is understood , that my fellow reader’s is the point , is it not ? We are POTG , not grammar Nazzis. Well , most of us are right ?

        1. avatar Bob says:

          Hey RA-15, I think in Luis’ case. English isn’t even his first language. I recall he said that Spanish is when he did an article on that Colombian pistol a while back.

      2. avatar Queens says:

        Grammar nazis are just insecure wannabe English teachers with their own suspect grasp of the language.

      3. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        ‘…if you don’t know what you’re talking about, keep your mouth shut.’

        Probably the wisest yet most widely ignored advice in the history of mankind.

        1. avatar bontai joe says:

          Ah-men brother

      4. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

        i found curtis’ comments to maintain a polite, civil air as well as being constructive criticism.
        i don’t care what the process is, it allows for proofreading.
        most of the syntax errors hover somewhere between amusing and groanworthy.
        but for the millions the process made the founder, i can’t imagine being butthurt about it.
        “shut up” should be a reply reserved for idiots like me.

      5. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        Mr. Taylor,

        As polite as I can be, I submit that a person can write a gun review without understanding every facet of the manufacturing process. The results are what matter. We don’t need a mathematics degree to balance a checkbook, and we don’t need an English degree to proofread what we write. Today, there are tools to help with that (Microsoft Word?).

        You responded to my criticism with contempt, rather than acknowledging the obvious errors. Anyway, thanks for fixing some of them, I guess.

        1. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Curtis, you called his work sloppy, assumed that no one proofed it, assumed the errors were made by the author, and accused the man of having no pride in his work. Of course I responded with contempt, you were rude when you did not have to be. There’s no need for that.
          If you find minor errors so galling, instead of insulting the author, simply email the editor.

      6. avatar Mikial says:

        Well said. If people read read for content, not style they might learn more.

    2. avatar Bob says:

      Hmmm that’s funny Curtis in IL.

      I don’t see any misspellings on the word Mauser. I even did a ctrl+F search for common misspellings like “Masuer” or “Muaser” Not a thing. I think that jwtaylor is pretty much correct in how things work these day.

      Anyways, thanks Luis for another awesome article. I really enjoy your stuff. Like I said in your Colt 1991 article (https://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2018/10/luis-valdes/retro-gun-review-colt-1991a1-series-80-in-45-acp/#comments).

      You really are a great asset to the writing staff for TTAG. You go into the history and reason why some guns exist. You just aren’t a technical writer. You actually put a human touch to the guns your review.

      Thanks and I look forward to more of your stuff!

      1. avatar RA-15 says:

        Right you are BOB.

  6. avatar ROBERT Powell says:

    any good shooter of age knows the israeli head-stamp on any modified weapon in a hallmark of excellence . from the 9mm to the 7.62 to the 155 long tom . any [modification] by the israeli works is a definite improvement to said piece. just look at any of the jets,tanks missiles or just plain rockets ALL were improved by the direct modification by the israeli workers. I DO NOT LIKE THEIR POLITICS but when it comes down to performance , they know their stuff. NOW IF WE COULD CHANGE THEIR PIG-HEADED LOVE FOR THE DEMONCRAPS , IT WOULD BE WONDERFULL..

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Pretty sure that Israeli has no love of the demtards.

      The socialist US heritage Jews certainly seem love marxism though. Their traditional BS eurocentric eggheadism.

    2. avatar Stan says:

      Israelis respect any US president. But almost all Israelis know the Democrats are the enemy of the Jewish State. We have leftwing Israelis in Israel just as you have in the US. Fortunately they are small in number. As for American Jews? They are just plain stupid, however, there are Jews that are conservatives and POTG. You just haven’t meet them yet. 😉

      1. avatar yitz says:

        Like me, here in the belly of the beast in Brooklyn, NY.
        2A loving, yarmulke wearing, libertarian leaning conservative voter. There are plenty of us here in Brooklyn. We vote Republican, own and regularly shoot guns, and are vocal about it.

      2. avatar Unrepentant Libertarian says:

        Do not forget that President Obama tried to actively influence the Israeli election. That alone should tell Israel all it needs to know about the Democrats!

      3. avatar jwtaylor says:

        “there are Jews that are conservatives and POTG”
        You mean like the ones that started and run this website?

        1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

          perhaps as an eventuality. but doubling down on barry?

    3. avatar Alexander says:

      Do not mistake the Israelis with the Progressive/Socialists/Democrats that attend American synagogues. Different people.

  7. avatar tdiinva says:

    The Mauser wasn’t the only German weapon used by Israel in 1948. The first combat aircraft of the IAF were Czech variant of the BF 109.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      Those Czech 109s were fitted with Junkers Jumo engines instead of the original Daimler Benz, and had so much torque on takeoff they were nicknamed the Mezek or Mule.

      But how the Israelis managed to get hold of a batch of Bristol Beaufighters is an interesting story. They set up a fake film studio and asked the RAF to provide planes for a film about a wartime Beaufighter squadron. At the airfield the planes took off and flew over the airfield several times, headed out to sea, and disappeared. In the meantime the camera crew had also packed up and left leaving the RAF observers embarrassed about the 6 planes. The planes didn’t completely disappear. A few weeks later they were attacking Egyptian block houses in Gaza.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        When your survival and the survival of your people is on the line you do what you have to. If you ain’t cheating you don’t want it bad enough.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          They also picked up war surplus B-17s and despite lacking much equipment bombed Cairo on the delivery flight.

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      props (and turbines) to boc.

  8. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    Happy Hanukkah to all. Good story.

    I got to go through a cool interactive show on the war for independence when I was in Israel last year.

  9. avatar RA-15 says:

    Thank you Luis Valdes. I very much enjoyed the article. Great history lesson on the Israeli Mauser. The photos are amazing. Happy Hanukkah.

  10. avatar Kalvin in WI says:

    7.92×57 is a great round, but damn if it isn’t expensive.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      At one time it was cheap as dirt but no more

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        When i bought my Yugo 98 ( un-issued), i also got a xouple of 980 round crates for 60 bucks apiece. Corrossive though and the PPU shoots more consistently.

      2. avatar New Continental Army says:

        I remember a few years back being at a gun store and coming across a giant old iron box of 8mm Mauser, with a giant Nazi eagle on it. I didn’t have a Mauser so I didn’t buy it. I kinda wish I would’ve bought it now just for the hell of having that.

        1. avatar jwm says:

          I bought one of those boxes for my 98 back when. The nazis used slave labor. Labor that was not happy in its work. Fully 25% of that ammo had mis fires and hang fires. It was so bad I buried what was left on my uncles farm so no one would use it.

          Wartime nazi surplus ammo is the only surplus ammo that I’ve used that I thought was untrustworthy. My commie surplus ammo always goes bang. Even a craptastic lot of Egyptian 9mm surplus went bang when needed.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      No worse than 308.

      12.95 a box from SGAmmo.

      The PRVI stuff shoots well in Yugo.

    3. avatar M1Lou says:

      I have Yugo M-76. It doesn’t get shot much because it is such a brass mauler and also 8mm Mauser is so expensive.

  11. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Great article…..and i hate you…..cause now I want one.

    Love me some Mauser.

  12. avatar 33Charlemagne says:

    This is a perfect illustration of guns being the tools not the cause or agents of good or evil. The same design gun and in some cases the very same guns which were used in an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people were later used to defend them and their infant state.Clearly it’s not the gun that is good or evil but the person using it.

  13. avatar AlanInFL says:

    Luis, you need to expand your collection: an Izzy FAL clone and a Gailil.

    Great article.

    1. avatar RCC says:

      Don’t get the Israeli FAL if you live in sandy areas. They copied the European version without sand cuts etc in the bolt group for some reason. Made it unpopular with the troops in the six day war as it required more cleaning. Plus being too long for urban areas.

      The one made by Britian and Australia had the sand and mud cuts. It works much more reliably.

  14. avatar daveinwyo says:

    Thanks for a really great article. ” I didn’t know that”!

    1. avatar bontai joe says:

      I would like to add my thanks too for this article, because I learned something new today. Now, I’ll have to keep my eyes open for one of these.

  15. avatar New Continental Army says:

    Great article, but I do wonder:

    “The Israelis made brand new barrels, new internal magazines, and new front sights due to the different ballistics of the 7.62x51mm NATO. If the original stock wasn’t serviceable, a newly manufactured beechwood stock was used.”

    I’m curious why they went this route? Seems like a huge expense and effort to essentially rebuild entire guns. The barrel is the most expensive part of the gun to begin with. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to have put that effort into more FAL’s?

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      The receiver is the most expensive part of the gun. The Finns made all their Mosin-Nagants from rifles and receivers the Russians left behind. It cost 5x more to build a MN from scratch than it cost to rebarrel and restock an existing gun.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        And that’s even with the Mosin being a crude, crude receiver in comparison to a Mauser 98.

        In this era, when you wanted to make something like a Mauser 98 receiver, you had to have a long row of machines, each with its own fixture for holding the work piece(s), and then the workpiece would have to be loaded, then the single machining operation done, then the part would be pulled off, the chips blown off and the part sent down the line to the next machine/operator, with another fixture to hold the part “just so” and another operation to do.

        The cost in machinery and tooling required to make a relatively simple gun, eg, a Winchester Model 12, was over $10 million in today’s dollars, and the setup time required to make the production line was over a year. That’s what production machining was like in the days before CNC machines. Today, you can put a part into a 5-axis machine and it will go to town on a chunk of steel/aluminum, and you probably won’t ever have to leave that machine. You might need to change setups, but you won’t have a row of machines.

        Making a barrel, by comparison, requires only a couple of machines. You need a gun drill to drill the hole, then you need a lathe to run a reamer down the bore, then (if you’re using a broach for the rifling) you need a hydraulic broaching machine to pull the rifling button through the barrel. If you want to straighten the barrel before you profile the outside, here’s what that looks like:

        http://weaponsman.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/BBL-Inspection.jpg

        Then you put it on a lathe, turn the outside to dimension, and you’re done.

        If you get really cramped for money, you can make attachments to a lathe that will allow you to rifle a barrel on the lathe. You can perform deep-hole drilling (ie, gun drilling) of a gun barrel on a lathe too – you’ll just need to make up some additional fixturing and a high-pressure lube system.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      In a rifle like the Mauser, the receiver and bolt are the most expensive parts.

      In mass production today, you can crank out a mil-spec (not match, not custom, but “mil-spec” – with the implication that “lowest bidder” won the bid) barrel at perhaps $125 per copy if you have a copying lathe for the outside profile and a button-rifling setup for rifling the bore.

      The Mauser 98 receiver, on the other hand, is a huge amount of work to make. Some custom Mauser actions I’ve seen recently, with double square bridges, no thumb cut and no stripper clip dovetail, go for $2500 and up. That’s just the bolt & receiver – no magazine/trigger guard. A mag/trigger guard from Sunny Hill or others might set you back another $500.

      This is how Remington cut the price (well, not really – they increased their profit margin) by producing a rifle receiver that’s made from a tube of 4140 steel – completely round. It has so many less features machined into it than the Mauser 98 action.

  16. avatar skiff says:

    Nice story and great photographs. I remember the rifles were offered for sale in the mid 1980’s in The Shotgun News. I would have been disappointed if the cleaning kit and sling were were omitted in the story. There is also a Hebrew marked wooden chamber cleaning rod that’s numbered 2800-8094 and measures 14 inches. There is also a Hebrew marking on the butt plate. The rear butt stock has 7.62 engraved on the bottom of some rifles.

    The American Rifleman featured a story on this rifle in the November, 2018 issue.

    1. avatar Bob Jones says:

      You could also buy the 7.62mm barrels back then. Probably Sarco or Numrich sold them for pretty cheap. Well made with a nice parkerized finish.and Hebrew markings. Don’t know who made them.

  17. avatar skiff says:

    ARMSCORP of AMERCIA located in Silver Springs, Md. sold them in 1985 for 149.99. Cleaning kit and leather sling sold for an additional 9.95 each.

  18. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The “d o t” on the front ring of the receiver means that it was made at the “Waffenwerke Brünn” in the Czech Republic. They’re good receivers, and in 1944, probably better than the ones made in Germany.

  19. avatar Red says:

    A nation founded on terrorism, first against the British and then against the Arab Palestinians, now bitterly complains about terrorism. Why is it viewed as glorious when your founders did it, but when it is done to you, it is vile, cowardly, and the lowest of the low? Live by the sword; die by the sword.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Colonial Americans hid in the brush and shot at the Kings soldiers as the Kings soldiers went about his lawful business.

      We must also be a nation of terrorists. Or does it only count if the folks are Jews?

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      a nation founded by defense and retaliation. where else?

  20. avatar jon boat says:

    terrorism is bad, unless it’s jews killing goys

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