Nik Maxwell reviews the latest offering from master gun makers Mauser...
When Hugh Bradley (Stager Sport Ltd) rang to say he had a Mauser M 12 chambered in 6.5x55 (fantastic cartridge!) for NZG&H to review, to say I was excited would have been an understatement. I have always had a fascination with Mausers, and for me they personify the ultimate in a classic and well-crafted rifle.
I have shot several Mauser-actioned rifles, and my own main hunting rifle is a Mauser 98 Husqvarna chambered in 7x57 – you will have read about that in previous issues of NZG&H. The bolt on the old Husky would be considered somewhat of a relic compared to the modern actions of today, but as anyone who has had any experience with these older actions will know, while they are certainly solid and robust, they do tend to slop around in the receiver quite a bit when cycled.
Nik with the Mauser M 12 Extreme chambered in 6.5x55 on a recent tahr hunt up the Rangitata.
THE BOLT AND SAFETY
Hugh had mentioned that this new rifle’s bolt boasts an exceptionally smooth “piston fit” with no play, and he wasn’t wrong. Pulling the M12 out of its compact black synthetic gun case, I immediately tried the bolt, and yep, it is simply superb.
A long action, the M 12 features a solid one-piece machined bolt with a 60° lift. The bottom of the bolt has a machined groove running almost the full length which slots over the double-notched bolt release, this aids the slick, zero play movement and feel of the bolt.
The bolt showing the recessed bolt release groove.
The bolt face showing the double ejectors, single claw extractor and six locking lugs.
The bolt face has a single claw double ejector and the handle has an anti-slip handle ball to help with grip. The bolt also features six locking lugs. Interestingly, even though it has all the hallmarks of a modern bolt it still has that classic, solid feel to it, I guess that comes with a truly quality rifle such as this.
The safety on the M12 is bloody nice, Mauser calls it the “3-position SRS (Smooth-Roll-Safety). I found it to be quiet and positive. The three positions allow the action to be worked and the rifle unloaded while it’s still in safe mode, a great feature.
The 3-position SRS (Smooth-Roll-Safety).
THE TRIGGER AND MAGAZINE
Arguably one of the smoothest, crispest triggers I have had the pleasure of pulling! Letting off at approximately 2lb it certainly aided in achieving tighter groups than I am normally used too... The trigger is housed in an alloy shroud while the trigger itself is steel. The magazine is constructed from polymer and is configured to hold five 6.5x55 rounds. The bottom of the magazine features an inletted alloy plate with the full Mauser logo very tidily engraved into it. The mag release is recessed into the stock and positioned just forward of the magazine, tucked in behind the front action screw.
TOP & ABOVE: The M 12 Extreme 5+1 magazine is constructed from polymer and features an alloy floorplate with embossed logo. The magazine fits either 6.5x55 or 8x57 cartridges.
One issue, which I hadn’t noticed at the time but was brought to my attention while I was at the Tahr Show, was the top loading of rounds into the mag through the receiver. Talking with Peter Clarke (an NZG&H contributor) at the show he mentioned that he had just bought an M 12 himself and had difficulty loading it in this way. Basically while thumbing in rounds the shell catches on the rear housing of the mag and effectively tilts the shell forward about 25° – it is a bit clumsy and does make loading of the magazine from the top a little frustrating at times. To rectify this you need to feed in the rounds further forward towards the breech, or bring the bolt face forward so that it sits flush with the rear of the magazine. Not a deal breaker, but I am surprised that it hasn’t been noticed by the manufacturers while in development.
Being somewhat of a “purist” it would have been nice to have the wooded model to review, but I make do... The stock is described as having a classic, straight style and with what the manufacturers refer to as a “Prince of Wales’ pistol grip, sounds pretty flash to me. Either way, my initial handling of the firearm was promising, the M 12 comes up to the shoulder nicely.
This model is labeled the “Extreme” and consequently features a rugged synthetic material that has that soft touch coating often seen on newer rifles, similar to the Hogue type of finish. The M 12 Extreme (and M 12) has a LOP (Length of Pull) of 36.5 cm (14-1/4 inch) which can be adjusted out to 37.5 cm (14-3/4 inch) by fitting the thicker Original Mauser Recoil Pad.
The M 12 in the Northern Kaimanawas seen here with a GoPro Hero3 Black Edition POV video camera.
A stylish black recoil pad is fitted standard and your typical quick release sling swivels mounts are also present. With the test rifle came an adjustable black neoprene and nylon-strapping sling. At the base of the neoprene section are two small pockets, one for a couple of rounds of ammunition and the other for any miscellaneous small pieces of equipment – the smaller top pocket has the Mauser logo embroidered into the neoprene.
ON THE RANGE
Quite simply the M 12 can shoot. I managed a couple of range sessions and ran five different loads through the Mauser, all of which shot well, some better than others, but overall very consistent groupings – the kind of accuracy that builds confidence. Through the standard 22” barrel I ran the following loads and achieved the results shown, see below.
DEVELOPED LOAD 1
Charge Weight: 39.5gr
Projectile: Sierra 140gr Spitzer Gameking
Group 1 @100m: 0.688”/17.5mm
Group 2 @100m: 0.964”/24.5mm
DEVELOPED LOAD 2
Charge Weight: 40.0gr
Projectile: Sierra 160gr SMP Pro-Hunter
Group 1 @100m: 1.377”/35.0mm
Group 2 @100m: 0.877”/22.1mm
DEVELOPED LOAD 3
Charge Weight: 35.0gr
Projectile: Sierra 140gr Spitzer Gameking
Group 1 @100m: 0.511”/13.0mm
Group 2 @100m: 0.744”/18.9mm
FACTORY LOAD 1
Projectile 156gr Vulkan
Group 1 @100m: 0.826”/22mm
Group 2 @100m: 1.019”/25.9mm
Group 2 @100m: 1.153”/29.3mm
FACTORY LOAD 2
Projectile 120gr Nosler BST
Group 1 @100m: 0.476”/12.1mm
Group 2 @100m: 0.657”/16.7mm
IN THE FIELD
With work and family commitments to attend to after our sika roar trip, I hadn’t managed many trips out hunting, just a few days up in the Te Puke hills, as usual, and a quick trip to the Desert Road, followed by a visit to Ruatiti Wilderness, okay – a few days on the hill but not as many as I would like.
After the range session I was ready to take the M 12 out for a hunt, and my first mission was 5-day trip to the Oamaru and Kaipo valleys in the Northern Kaimanawas. I’ve hunted this area since I was 16 years old but hadn’t visited there in recent times; it was a great feeling to be heading in again. Via Poronui Station, the plan was to head into the Oamaru Hut and continue on up to the Kaipo Swing bridge, then up and over into the headwaters of the Ruatea Stream (Jap Creek) for a couple of nights, then back down the stream to the main Oamaru valley.
Unfortunately I suffered a slight strain to my ankle on the second day, so the mission up into Jap Creek was out, instead I spent my days hunting the Tiki Tiki Stream and areas around the Ohaoko Saddle. I put up around five sika over the course of the journey but nothing presented itself for a shot. Overall it was a good trip and I found the M 12 a comfortable rifle to carry in the field.
The next mission was a trip to the South Island. NZG&H was attending the Tahr Show this year and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get out for a hunt. Plans were made to fly down to Christchurch and meet up with NZG&H optics editor Don MacDonald. Having never hunted the South before my main objective for the trip was to secure a tahr – a bull.
We spent the first afternoon glassing a huge valley but no animals were seen. That evening Don and I headed out to a nearby station to see if we could secure a fallow. It wasn’t long into the hunt before Don spotted two fallow deer bedded down amongst the matagouri, we filmed them for a while and then decided on a plan of attack.
Dropping down into a nearby gulley, we moved into within a couple of hundred metres of them. They were standing by now and after setting up for the shot I lined up the M 12 and fired at the two year-old doe. She instantly ran, heading downhill. Keeping an eye on the scrub face, we saw the mature doe head off around the side of the hill while the young doe disappeared from view.
Confident of the shot we headed over to retrieve the animal. A short search later and I found the doe lying down presumably dead... however, as I approached she jumped to her feet and ran further downhill amongst the scrub! I followed and a few minutes later found her – again she took off, but not far. I found the deer lying down with its head slightly raised, so no mucking around now, I dispatched her with a head shot.
It was just on dark now, so we quickly cleaned her out and I packed the animal out whole to Don’s wagon. A quick examination of the entry and exit wounds revealed that the shot placement had been right where I had aimed, straight through the centre of the chest, just behind the front legs. A later autopsy revealed that the Norma 156 grain Vulkan projectile had essentially “lasered” right through the chest, passing between the ribs and missing major organs. How she had lasted that long was any one’s guess, anyway I had my first South Island game animal on the deck, good stuff!
Early the next morning Don and I set off hunting around the Mt. Dobson area. A small number of tahr were encountered, and amongst them a young bull. Satisfied just getting to see, film and photograph my first tahr, we chose to leave them be. It had been an excellent day up on the hill and I had enjoyed my first real taste of alpine hunting.
As it happened, Don had a trip to the North Island already planned and was due to leave the following day. After dinner that night we discussed some options for me to check out. Don suggested I head up the Rangitata Valley to hunt a tributary of the river called Bush Stream. It sounded like a good plan so I took off the next day.
After organising some accommodation at the backpackers in Geraldine, I drove off up the Rangitata, passing through Peel Forest on my way. I was very impressed with the scenery and all the country on offer. Arriving at the DoC track and sign, I spent the rest of the afternoon making my way up Bush Stream. Reaching a small gorge called the “Sawtooth”, I followed an old track that led up the ridge. Part way up I found a good spot to sit and glass. Nothing was sighted though, and I tramped back to the car, arriving just on dark.
I was back early next morning and continued on further up the stream – the plan was to slowly make my way up one of the main ridges and spend time glassing into a large bluff system. Around mid-morning I began to see tahr, nannies and yearlings and a couple of very young bulls. It was around 3.30pm that I began to think about making my way back when I picked up a decent looking bull through the 10x42 Swarovski binos, he was around 450 metres away and off the to the right of the main group of tahr. Although not a fully mature bull he was certainly a good representative animal and I decided to put the stalk on him.
It took me around an hour to gain the height I needed to put him directly opposite me and just under the 300 metre mark – having practiced at that range before heading south I was confident of making the shot. After a quick rangefinding with my Bushnell Legend 1200 ARCs, I settled in against the rock face of a small bluff, and lining up the M 12 sent another Norma 156 grain Vulkan on its way. It hit mid-chest but, as I found out later, a little further back than I would have liked. The bull instantly took off around the side of the bluff and put on another 100 or so metres before he began to wobble and came to a stop. No time to range – I held the Zeiss 2-10x42 on his spine and fired again – he dropped on the spot and tumbled over onto this back, phew!
Nik with his bull tahr, the Mauser M 12 kept its end of the bargain...
Making my way over to him I was rewarded with my first bull tahr, a beautiful animal in thick winter coat. His horns were later measured at 9.5” and he was aged at around four years, not huge but one that I will always remember. I had come to find a new respect for these animals and the challenge and reward they offer.
The M 12 performs – for me it is the quintessential “hunters” rifle featuring solid and simple design and construction, no fancy stuff. It shoots well, it carries well and it looks good while doing it. The Mauser M 12 Extreme really is the type of rifle you buy and know you will never sell, a rifle you can trust at anytime. Of all the rifles I have hunted with, tested and reviewed so far, the M 12 is the first rifle that I have considered could ever replace my Husky – well perhaps not replace, more keep company...