December 09, 2022
While all previous models of Turkish Mausers and many of the so-called M1938s were actually made in Europe, K.Kale-marked rifles were manufactured in Turkey. The first domestic-made Turkish Mauser-type rifles, they were built in Kirikkale Tufek Fabrikast, a government-owned “Military Factory.”
During World War II, Turkey was neutral but isolated, and for the first time it had to rely on local armories to produce military firearms. Thousands of Gew.98s were parted out and converted to the M1938 configuration. These were for the most part marked ATF, for Ankara Tufek Fabrikast (Ankara Rifle Factory).
According to the site turkmauser.com, a few early K.Kale-marked receivers were actually rebuilds using various repurposed, previously made actions. Nearly all these occurred in 1940, at the beginning of domestic reliance.
Between 1940 and 1946, the K.Kale factory manufactured around a quarter-million rifle receivers. Top production years were 1942 (53,000 rifles) and 1944 (49,000 rifles). The sample shown here is a 1944 model and is serial-numbered and stamped accordingly.
Additional markings atop the receiver ring are a star and crescent moon, with the letter abbreviations T.C. (Turkiye Cumhuriyeti, or Republic of Turkey); AS FA (Askari Fabrika, or Military Factory); ANKARA, for the city where the K.Kale factory is located.
While the serial number located on the left side of the receiver ring is appropriate for the year, not all of the other parts have matching numbers. This, according to most sources, is common, since Turkey was primarily assembling rifles out of stockpiled spare parts. From what I can see without disassembling the rifle, the action, floorplate, and rear sight have matching numbers (so presumably the barrel does, too). The bolt does not match. More on this later.
Several variations of the M1938 were made, including the 38/46 Short Rifle and the 03/38 Short Rifle, but most featured 29.25-inch barrels, a basic pistol-grip-type stock, a wood heat shield atop the barrel, a full-length fore-end, one barrel band with a sling loop, and an iron nose cap that housed a cleaning rod. Bolt handles are usually straight, and the V-notch rear sight is a robust, simple ladder-type sight graduated to 2,000 meters. A pyramid-shaped front sight is dovetailed into a stud permanently affixed atop the muzzle.
A stout sling loop is inletted into the toe of the buttstock. Centered in the butt is a through-hole protected by steel grommets and a tube. Allegedly, its purpose was to aid in bolt disassembly, or for securing during packing and shipping, or both.
Turkey’s M1938 K.Kale receivers are, in design and dimension, identical to Mauser 98s, with one notable exception: They are bored and threaded for small-shank Mauser barrels rather than the large-shank/large-ring barrels common to the 98 and 98 clones. Apparently, when speccing the model, the Turkish powers that be felt it necessary to use a stockpile of small-ring barrels.
According to gunsmith Jerry Rindlisbacher, to whom this particular rifle belongs, this feature makes the Turkish Mauser M1938 the strongest of all Mauser-type receivers.
As with all M98-type actions, the bolt features dual, opposing locking lugs; a third “safety” lug just forward of the bolt handle; a massive claw extractor and mechanical ejector; stripper-clip compatibility and the appropriate thumb cutout in the left wall of the receiver; and a three-position, wing-type safety atop the bolt shroud.
To engage the safety, with the bolt closed, lift the safety lever and rotate it. Leave it straight up to put the rifle on “Safe” but still allow bolt function; rotate it 180 degrees to put the rifle on “Safe” and lock the bolt closed.
I first spotted the rifle featured here hanging in wire loops from the ceiling of Rindlisbacher’s gunsmithing shop. The rifle appeared to be complete, with appropriate bayonet, cleaning rod, and so forth. According to Jerry, it has hung there for years, possibly decades.
He kindly allowed me to borrow the rifle for this report. As we examined the rifle in his shop and ran a rod down the barrel to ensure it was free of wasp nests or cocoons or other obstructions, Jerry showed me the rifle has no magazine follower and spring. He said a friend needed one and the Turk wasn’t using its.
Not to worry. I pirated a follower and spring from another non-collectible Mauser and dug out a double handful of Turkish military-surplus ammo with which to test-fire the old battle rifle.
Loading and feeding the M1938 was easy and smooth. But that was to be anticipated; after all, it’s a Mauser.
Firing it, however, proved to be problematic. When the trigger released and the cocking piece fell, only a mild, metallic “clunk” resulted.
I attempted again, then switched cartridges in case I had a dud. No luck. Dents in the primers were modest. Perhaps built-up Cosmoline or gunk in the firing pin spring and assembly were slowing the firing pin down and robbing it of primer-punching authority.
Unfortunately, when I went to put the safety on the center “disassemble” position, it wouldn’t move. The safety lug doesn’t line up with the cam groove in the cocking piece. I examined the bolt and shroud more closely.
While the bolt body and handle appear about the same condition as the rest of the rifle, the bolt shroud and safety assembly look newer and have little of the patina common to the rest of the rifle. Presumably, a part was missing when the rifle was imported, and this newer shroud was added from a parts bin—but never tested.
Unable to disassemble the bolt in the approved fashion to clean it and concerned about whether the bolt’s headspacing would be correct, I reluctantly headed home. Undoubtedly, Rindlisbacher, being rather an expert in all things Mauser, would make short work of getting the rifle shooting, but it doesn’t belong to me, and I wasn’t willing to go gun plumber on it.
My deadline loomed, so I was unable to fire the K.Kale Turkish Mauser. It’s a shame, as it has an excellent bore, and the two-stage trigger trips crisply at 6 pounds, 10 ounces. I suspect it will shoot quite well once the bolt-related issues are resolved.
Similar rifles in decent to good condition can be found for sale for between $275 and $400. They are not rare Mausers, but they are usually good, solid shooters.
Turkish M1938 K.Kale Mauser Specifications
- Manufacturer: Kirikkale Tufek Fabrikast
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Caliber: 8x57mm Mauser
- Magazine Capacity: 5 rounds
- Barrel: 29.25 in.
- Overall Length: 49 in.
- Weight, Empty: 9.44 lbs.
- Stock: Walnut, full length
- Length of Pull: 13.12 in.
- Finish: Blued barrel and action
- Sights: Ladder-type rear, pyramid front
- Trigger: 6.63-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Three-position wing-type on bolt shroud