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The Model 1891 Argentine Mauser Rifle: Historical Lookback

In the author's opinion, the Model 1891 Argentine Mausers are among the most beautiful Mausers ever built.

The Model 1891 Argentine Mauser Rifle: Historical Lookback

Shortly before 1891, Argentina contracted with Mauser for a brand-new bolt-action repeater, to replace its single-shot Remington Rolling Block military arms. Around 220,000 of the sleek repeating rifles and carbines were ordered. Some remained in service until the 1960s. An evolved version of the Model 1889 Belgian Mauser, the 1891 did away with the Belgian guns’ steel barrel sleeves, opting instead for short, wood handguards. Uniquely, that handguard was fixed to the barrel with wire. Rifles featured 29.13-inch barrels and straight bolt handles; carbines sported short, lively 17.6-inch barrels and turned-down bolt handles. Both were fitted with full-length military-type stocks. Two manufacturers in Berlin produced the Model 1891 Argentine Mausers: Ludwig Loewe and Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken. The carbine showcased here was made by the latter—often abbreviated to DWM. In my opinion, Model 1891 Argentine Mausers are among the most beautiful Mausers ever built. They were given sleek, attractive lines; good walnut; and high-quality finishes. Handle one, and you’ll find it strongly reminiscent of a high-quality German sporting Mauser with a Mannlicher-style stock. The cartridge of choice was the 7.65x53 Mauser. It was the first bottlenecked, rimless cartridge designed to use smokeless powder in Mauser-type rifles, and it had debuted just a few years earlier in the Model 1889 Belgian Mauser. Early projectiles were 13.65-gram (211 grains) round-nose FMJs, pushed at about 2,130 fps. Those were short-lived and were replaced by a 10-gram (154.3 grains) Spitzer at about 2,720 fps, then eventually an 11.25-gram (173.6 grains) boattailed Spitzer at 2,380 fps. Ballistically, the 7.65x53 is comparable to the .308 Winchester and the .303 British.

Eventually, quantities of surplus Model 1891 Argentine Mausers made their way to the United States. For a time, several American ammo companies produced ammunition, but no longer. Currently, Norma and Prvi offer ammunition. Hornady occasionally makes a run of special private-label ammo for Graf & Sons. And of course, surplus ammo is available. However, many American shooters and hunters couldn’t find 7.65x53 ammo readily available for the inexpensive Mauser they’d purchased. Being resourceful sorts, they discovered that a .30-06 chamber reamer would cleanly convert their rifles to shoot widely available .30-06 ammo. The fact that bore diameter is spec’d at 0.312 inch rather than 0.308 inch didn’t deter them. The rifle shown here has been converted to .30-06. It’s had several other modifications as well, including the receiver being drilled and tapped for scope mounts, different sights being installed, and the metal parts being polished and blued.

Mechanicals

Model 1891 Argentine Mausers were built before Paul Mauser invented the legendary controlled-feeding, full-length, nonrotating claw extractor. The 1891 is a push-feed design with a 0.19-inch-wide extractor set into the boltface at about 1 o’clock, just above the right-side locking lug. The design also predates two other pivotal mechanical features: Mauser’s double-stack magazine and the cock-on-opening bolt. Model 1891s feed from single-stack magazines, and they can be loaded using stripper clips. The magazine is detachable, but not for fast reloads. It’s a feature meant to ease field stripping for thorough maintenance. As for the striker, it catches the sear and cocks when the bolt is pushed forward and closed. It’s a different feel from modern rifles but was preferred by shooters who placed an emphasis on speedy follow-up shots. Aside from that, the Model 1891 action showcases features that would become classic Mauser: dual, opposing locking lugs; fixed, blade-type ejector; wing-type safety on the bolt shroud; left-side lever-type bolt release; two-stage trigger; and so forth.

Provenance

As far as I can tell, according to its serial number, this carbine was manufactured in 1899 or 1900. Somewhere in the decades since, it was converted to .30-06 and spruced up a bit with fresh bluing, sights, and a scope. The stock appears to be correct, but it was refinished and sporterized, and all numbers and cartouches were sanded off. A fixed steel loop was installed a few inches aft of the trigger guard, presumably for attaching a carrying strap. I found a couple similar, nonsporterized 1891 carbines for sale on Gunbroker with identical steel loops, so presumably it’s a correct variation. A sling-swivel stud was installed near the barrel band, the protective wings were ground off of the fore-end cap at the muzzle, and a Williams rear sight and a ramped front sight base and bead-type sight replaced the original military sights. Very nice, deep bluing is present over the entire rifle, indicating that whoever did the bluing knew his craft. The pre-bluing polishing was quite aggressive, however, and most of the metal corners and edges and the maker’s rollmarks and proof marks were rounded off.

Rangetime

mauser-model-1891-argentine-02

I set out to accuracy test the converted Model 1891 conversion with some trepidation, for two reasons: (1) its bore is surely slightly oversized for the .308-diameter bullets in factory .30-06 ammo, and (2) the full-length Mannlicher-type stock, barrel band, and steel fore-end cap all tightly fixed to the barrel must have considerable negative effect on accuracy—not to mention the wire strapping the wood upper handguard to the barrel. No surprise, groups ranged from about 2 inches to 3.5 inches at 100 yards. That’s certainly capable for hunting big game inside 200 yards or so, but I suspect the accuracy could be improved by handloading 0.311-inch- or 0.312-inch-diameter bullets made for the .303 British and 7.62x54R cartridges. Though one should surely keep handloads moderate in respect to the vintage, small-ring Mauser action. Because I was interested in the effect of the stock and all the metal fixtures, I performed a couple of barrel-heating tests to determine whether point of impact would change. Sure enough, bullets walked steadily lower on the 100-yard target. The first three impacts from a cool barrel would be on target. The next three would migrate 3 or 4 inches lower, and the seventh and eighth shots would be lower still. If hunting with this rifle, I’d want business to be done and the dust settled with the first three shots.

Reliability was stellar. The action was smooth as the proverbial grease on glass. Once you get used to the cock-on-close feature, it’s fast and slick to operate. Balance and pointability are admirable. The two-stage trigger releases crisply. A shortish 13-inch length of pull made the carbine feel both quick to shoulder and a little bit miniature, what with my monkey arms and turkey neck. Prices for Model 1891 Argentine Mausers run from a few hundred dollars for a well-used and/or sporterized version with mixed numbers on its parts to a couple thousand for a complete, correct version in good shape and with a bayonet. With its modifications, this particular Model 1891 Argentine Mauser clearly has little collector value. However, I think the tasteful nature of the scope mount work and the conversion to .30-06 are nice enough to offset the detracted value. For a big-woods whitetail hunter who rarely shoots past 150 yards and cherishes hunting with vintage firearms, this little carbine is as good as it gets.




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