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Long Guns

The Swedish Model 96 Mauser

by Paul Scarlata   |  September 23rd, 2010 1

The Swedish army first became interested in Paul Mauser’s new small-bore magazine rifles early in the 1890s.

The Swedish Gevär m/96 was a finely made, elegant-looking rifle.

The Swedish army first became interested in Paul Mauser’s new small-bore magazine rifles early in the 1890s. At the time their basic infantry rifle was the Gevär m/1867, a Remington Rolling Block chambered for a 12.7mm blackpowder cartridge. As a temporary expedient, some of the Rolling Blocks had been rebarreled for the 8x58R Danish Krag cartridge, so it was decided that the cavalry was next in line for any new firearm.

In 1892 trials were held to evaluate rifles submitted by Mauser, Mannlicher, and Krag-Jorgensen and that resulted in an order to Mauser Waffenfabrik for a quantity of trials carbines chambered for the 8x58R cartridge. After extensive testing, during which time the caliber had been reduced to 6.5mm (see below), the Mauser was adopted as the Karabin m/94.

The Karabin m/94 used Mauser’s 1895-type action with a one-piece bolt with dual front locking lugs and a nonrotating extractor. A checkered cocking piece allowed recocking the firing mechanism for a second try at a recalcitrant primer, the bolt handle was turned down, and the safety could be applied with the action cocked or uncocked. A full-length stock with side-mounted sling swivels ran all the way to the muzzle band, which did double duty as a front sight guard.

By 1896 the Swedes had purchased 12,200 carbines from Mauser Waffenfabrik. After two year’s testing, the army adopted a Mauser rifle, the Gevär m/96. The rifle’s action was basically the same as the carbine’s, although there was a full-depth cutout on the left receiver wall to provide clearance for the shooter’s thumb when stripping rounds into the magazine. In addition, the bolt featured a full-length guide rib to prevent binding, and the bolt handle was straight instead of turned down. Early production rifles had straight-grip walnut stocks and handguards, but late production rifles had elm and beech stocks and handguards.

Visible here are the boltstop, thumb clearance cutout in the receiver wall, and the bolt’s checkered cocking piece.

An order for 45,000 Model 96 rifles was placed with Mauser, while the Swedish state arsenal, Carl Gustafs Stads Gevarsfactori in Eskilstuna, could tool up. By 1898 manufacture of both the Model 94 carbine and Model 96 rifle was underway at the Carl Gustaf facility. Production of carbines ended in 1918, while rifle production continued until 1930.

The Mauser’s cartridge was developed by the “Norsk/Svensk Patronerkomisjonm af 1893″ (at this time Sweden and Norway were a united kingdom) who were tasked with finding a modern cartridge suitable for their respective armies. By 1894 it was decided that a 6.5mm cartridge would best suit their needs, and with the Commission’s input, Mauser Waffenfabrik designed a cartridge that was jointly adopted.

From a military standpoint, a 6.5mm cartridge made a lot of sense, having more than sufficient power and range so as to meet most military requirements while its lighter weight made it easier for the soldier to carry more ammunition for the same weight. Light recoil also made training recruits much easier, and firearms using it could be of lighter weight.

The Swedish 6.5mm skarpa patroner m/94 consisted of a rimless, bottlenecked case that was 55mm in length and topped with a 156-grain FMJ, roundnose bullet traveling at 2,380 fps. It was a ballistically efficient load that retained velocity, had a low trajectory, and achieved deep penetration. To this day it remains a favorite hunting and target shooting cartridge throughout the Scandinavian countries.

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Swedish Model 96 Mauser Accuracy

Ammunition Velocity (fps) 100 Yard Accuracy (in.)
Century Arms Hot Shot 139-gr. FMJ 2611 2.13
Sellier & Bellot 140-gr. SP 2599 2.13
Notes: Accuracy is the average of three, five-shot groups fired from an MTM Predator Rest. Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 10 feet from the guns muzzle with a Shooting Chrony chronograph.

The Swedish Model 96 Mauser’s bolt was a one-piece unit with dual front locking lugs, a nonrotating extractor, a wing-type safety, and a checkered cocking piece.

In 1917 the Model 94 carbine’s muzzle band was redesigned so that a bayonet could
be fitted, and it was redesignated the Karabin m/94/14.

Sweden did not take part in World War I, but having a large army and reserves, she was obviously intended to defend her neutrality if need be. The Model 96 stood up very well to the harsh Arctic conditions common to Sweden, and it was very popular with both the rank and file and the ordnance experts of the Swedish army.

In 1938 it was decided to shorten the barrels on the Model 96 rifles to a handier length. While officially known as the Gevär m/38, these shortened rifles are often incorrectly referred to by dealers as the Gevär m/96-38.

Approximately 30,000 Model 96 rifles were converted to m/38 specifications at the Carl Gustafs arsenal, and in 1941 Husqvarna received a contract to manufacture 60,000 purpose-built Gevär m/38s. The main difference between the rebuilt and the new rifles was that the latter utilized a turned-down bolt handle and did not exhibit the fine finish of earlier rifles. At this time many thousands of Model 96 rifles were rebuilt with new barrels and stocks.

In 1941 the Swedish army adopted the 6.5mm sk ptr m/94 prj m/41, which used a 139-grain boattail spitzer bullet traveling at 2,625 fps that increased the effective range by several hundred meters. Most m/38 rifles were fitted with a simple tangent rear sight that was adjustable from 100 to 600 meters; three years later it was modified for the m/41 cartridge, and range adjustments were changed to 150 to 600 meters (m/41 Sikte) and marked with a “T” to indicate they were calibrated for the m/41 spitzer (“Torped” in Swedish) bullet. In the post-World War II period, most Swedish Mausers had their sights modified. The inverted V front blade was replaced by a rectangular blade, and the V-notch rear was filed to a U-notch profile.

Many m/96 and m/38 rifles and m/94 carbines retained the old-style rear sights and had a metal plate or decal affixed to the buttstock, indicating the different sight settings necessary when firing the m/41 cartridge. Stockpiles of the older cartridge were issued until they were used up.

Between 1941 and 1944, Husqvarna manufactured approximately 20,000 m/96 rifles for the Frivilliga skytterörelsen (Volunteer Shooters’ Movement) who, in time of war, served as a home guard. These rifles were purchased by members, many of whom fitted them with special rear sights designed for target shooting.

The Model 96 rifle finally had its baptism of fire during the Winter War of 1939-40. When the USSR invaded Finland, the Finns found themselves chronically short of rifles. The Swedish government agreed to sell the Finns 77,000 “surplus” m/96 rifles. Almost 9,000 Swedes, the Svenska Frivilligkäen, volunteered to serve in Finland, and the Model 96 Mauser, in both Swedish and Finnish hands, performed well under some of the harshest conditions modern armies have ever encountered.

When the Swedish volunteers left in late 1940, they “forgot” to take their guns with them, leaving the Finns with an additional 8,800 badly needed rifles. The Finns continued to use Swedish Mausers throughout the Continuation War (1941-44) with the Soviets.

When Germany occupied Norway in 1940, numbers of Norwegian troops escaped to Sweden where they were organized as “police” units and armed with m/96 and m/38 rifles. When the Germans withdrew from Norway in 1945, the troops re-entered their country to maintain order. Norwegian troops continued to use Swedish Mausers until re-armed with American and ex-German rifles in the 1950s.

The Gevär m/96 used a five-round, charger-loaded magazine.

Quantities of Swedish Mausers were smuggled into Denmark in 1944 for use by the Resistance. And after the war, the Swedes provided the Danish government with additional Mausers for the Home Guard.

The Model 96 series of Mausers remained in service with the Swedish army until 1962 when they were replaced by a locally built copy of the 7.62mm Heckler & Koch G3A3 rifle known as the AK4. After which they continued in service with the reserves into the mid-1980s.

Most Swedish Mausers have a brass disc in the right side of the buttstock that indicates the condition of the rifle and its bore. Many m/96 and m/38 rifles will be found with the muzzle end of the barrel threaded for a blank firing device for use with wooden bullet blanks that were commonly used for training purposes. Rifles thus modified were referred to, in official Swedish army documents as “B models” (e.g. m/96B).

Most Swedish Mausers have a brass disk inletted into the buttstock that shows the rifle’s condition. The black metal plate shows the different sight settings for the m/94 and m/41 cartridges.

Shooting A Model 96
My friend John Brown lent me a Model 96 to test-fire for this report. The receiver is marked with the Carl Gustaf monogram, the date “1908,” and it was in VG condition with a clean, bright bore and a nice stock.

Firing was performed with ammo provided by Century International Arms and Sellier & Bellot, both of which approximated the ballistics of the 6.5mm sk ptr m/94 prj m/41. The rifle was fired for accuracy from a rest on my club’s 100-yard range, and let me say right off that shooting a rifle chambered for the 6.5×55 is pure enjoyment. The sights provided a sharp, clear sight picture; the rifle had an above average two-stage trigger; and recoil was very soft.

Swedish Mausers are known for their accuracy, and this m/96 lived up to the family’s reputation. It proved to be boringly simple to shoot well-centered, five-shot groups that averaged around 2 inches in size.

I can only say that the m/96 Mauser did everything it was supposed to: It worked smoothly and reliably, and it displayed moderate recoil and above average accuracy. It exhibits some of the better workmanship I’ve seen on a military rifle, and I really enjoyed shooting it. What more could you ask for?

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