For decades, the name Mauser has been well known in shooting circles around the world for both rifles and cartridges. Wars have been fought with them, and famous hunters have carried them on safari across classic velds. Mauser rifles are high-quality instruments, and their prices usually reflect that. However, the new Mauser M18 departs from that somewhat, but only in price, not quality.
The M18 is a thoroughly modern rendition of the bolt-action hunting rifle. It incorporates a host of features that rifleshooters demand, i.e., a fat, three-lug bolt, a sturdy and well-bedded synthetic stock, a hammer-forged barrel, a good trigger pull, and a matte finish. Gone are highly figured walnut stocks, high-polish blued metal, and sky high prices.
The M18 was introduced late in 2018, and I got my first look at one at the 2019 SHOT Show. At first glance it looked vaguely familiar, like a lot of today’s rifles, but there was something different about it, a certain cachet if you will, that subtly conveyed a presence that seemed a cut above. It looked and felt, well, nice.
The first thing I noticed was the bolt lift. Three-lug bolts are somewhat harder to open than two-lug designs; it’s just simple mechanics. However, the bolt lift on the M18 was comparatively light; in fact, it seemed more like a two-lug bolt. The second thing I noticed was that the synthetic stock didn’t look like it was made of recycled ketchup bottles. Instead, it was stiff and sturdy, and it had soft, textured gripping surfaces molded in at the handholds; sling-swivel studs fore and aft; and a generously free-floated “burnished black” barrel.
The rifle is available chambered for the usual suspects, such as .243 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, .30-06, and .300 Winchester Magnum. But the one that caught my eye was the 6.5 PRC.
The nice young man at the Mauser booth really had my attention now, as this was the first 6.5 PRC I’d seen in the flesh, and he proceeded to fill my eager ears with facts, figures, and rifle specs. “PRC” doesn’t stand for “People’s Republic of China.” The M18’s DNA is full-blooded German. PRC in this instance stands for “Precision Rifle Cartridge,” and it’s aptly named. The 6.5 PRC was first introduced in 2012 and is the mainstay of a shooting competition known as the “Precision Rifle Series,” where its accuracy and flat trajectory are legendary. Gallons of ink have been spilled on it, so I’ll not belabor the point except to say that it is very, very accurate, and it shoots the same long-for-caliber, high-ballistic-coefficient bullets as the 6.5 Creedmoor. The PRC, however, is much more potent, making it a superb medium-game hunting cartridge.
As soon as I got home after the SHOT Show, I ordered an M18 in 6.5 PRC for testing. It was everything I expected.
After giving the rifle a good cleaning, I checked out the barrel with my Hawkeye borescope and made some photos of the bore with a Lyman Bore Cam. The lands and grooves were slick and smooth, with nary an extraneous tool mark to be seen. The trigger was just delightful, and it’s adjustable via a small hex screw that’s accessible from within the trigger guard without taking the rifle apart. The average of five pulls on a Lyman trigger gauge registered 3 pounds, 8.1 ounces. And it was crisp, with no overtravel. The bolt handle is about 2.63 inches long, and it has a large ball knob that aids bolt lift.
The M18’s barrel is 24 inches long, measures 0.65 inch at the muzzle, and has a nice target crown. The three-position safety allows the rifle to be carried with the bolt locked but unloaded with the safety engaged. The bolt is 0.8 inch in diameter, and it is precisely fitted into the receiver (it moves back and forth without any play or wobble). The boltface has a sliding-plate-type extractor and twin plunger ejectors. The bolt release is positioned at the left rear of the receiver.
The M18 has a removable box magazine that’s made of a tough synthetic material that is as slick as glass, and cartridges glide into and out of it with ease. The magazine for “standard” cartridges holds five rounds, and magazines for magnum rounds and the 6.5 PRC hold four. The internal length of the magazine for my 6.5 PRC rifle was about 3 inches, allowing plenty of room for those long, skinny 6.5mm bullets to be seated out.
Mauser calls the metal finish “black burnished,” and the barrel looks to me like it has had a subtle bit of polishing for a nice effect. The rifle does not come with open sights, but the receiver is drilled and tapped for readily available Remington Model 700-pattern scope-mounting bases. The M18 weighed exactly 7 pounds, without scope and mounts.
An important feature of the stock of any rifle with a free-floated barrel is the stiffness of the fore-end, and Mauser obviously did its homework on this point. If you can squeeze a rifle’s fore-end tip—either wood or synthetic—enough to make the stock touch the barrel, it is probable that upon firing, the barrel will touch the stock. In other words, it isn’t “free-floating” then, and accuracy will suffer. Try as I might, I couldn’t make the stiff synthetic fore-end of the M18’s riflestock touch the barrel, and that’s a good sign.
The M18’s stock has a rather unique feature in the form of a small storage compartment under the recoil pad. Pushing in on two tabs on either side of the buttstock releases the “Multi Purpose Cap” that reveals the small compartment where accessories or an extra cartridge or two can be stored.
Shooting the M18
As far as I know, only Hornady makes factory ammo for the 6.5 PRC, and it introduced two 6.5 PRC factory loads in 2018. Both feature the company’s ELD (Extremely Low Drag) bullets with the Heat Shield Tip that’s designed to resist deformation from frictional heat over long distances. A 143-grain ELD-X (X is for for expanding) in the Precision Hunter line is for hunting, and ammo with a 147-grain ELD Match bullet is the target load. The listed velocities of those loads are 2,960 fps and 2,910 fps respectively.
I fired the two Hornady factory loads in the M18, and their velocities were quite close to the listed speeds. The ELD-X registered 2,916 fps for five rounds (only 1.5 percent lower than listed), and the ELD Match bullet clocked 2,856 fps (only 1.7 percent) slower than advertised. Both loads were very accurate, averaging 0.69 and 0.59 inch respectively.
The PRC is so popular that new cases are just about non-existent, but I finally located some from G.A. Precision in Kansas City, Missouri. Fortunately, Hornady had dies, and I had all manner of 6.5mm bullets and suitable powders, so I was able to test a very good variety of handloads.
While the 6.5 PRC’s primary emphasis is the target world, its impressive ballistics and accuracy and the lightweight and handy M18 seemed to describe a fine hunting combination to me, so I concentrated on hunting-type bullets. All of the range results are shown in the chart on the previous page.
An engineer at Hornady told me that as long as everything is “lined up straight in the first place,” bullet jump doesn’t seem to matter much. I know that accuracy dogma states that bullets need to be seated about 0.010 inch off the lands, and I did that for most bullets used in the handloads, if the bullet was long enough for full neck contact. For shorter bullets, I made sure the base of the bullet was even with the end of the neck for full contact, and that seemed to suit the M18 just fine.
To make a long story short, none of the loads tested were bad, some were just better than others. In fact, the M18 is one of the more accurate rifles I’ve tested, especially considering its modest price.
The average of all handloads was 0.74 inch. Working down from the top of the chart, the Barnes TSX Flat Base zipped along at 2,903 fps and grouped into 0.71 inch. The Nosler 129-grain AccuBond Long Range averaged 0.66 inch. The three Berger bullets averaged 0.66 inch. And the Hornady 143-grain ELD-X averaged 0.68. With a scoped weight of 8 pounds, 11.5 ounces, the recoil of all loads was very modest, running from about 8 to 17 ft-lbs. A relatively modest load with the Sierra 120-grain Spitzer Flat Base and 49.0 grains of IMR 7977 would make a fine deer load, and it registered a velocity of 2,456 fps with only 7.7 ft-lbs of recoil.
Mauser says its rifles are “Das Original,” and that pretty much describes the M18. Overall, it performed admirably and seemed like a perfect match for the 6.5 PRC round. The rifle is aesthetically pleasing, is a delight to shoot and handload, and is right at home in the field as well as on target ranges.
Mauser M18 Specs
Manufacturer: Mauser Jagdwaffen GmBH; mauser.comType: Bolt-action repeaterCaliber: 6.5 PRCMagazine Capacity: 4 roundsBarrel: 24 in.Overall Length: 44 in.Weight, Empty: 7.0 lbs.Stock: SyntheticLength of Pull: 14 in.Finish: Matte blued barrel and receiver, black stockSights: None. Receiver is drilled and tapped for scope-mount basesTrigger: 3.51-lb. pull (as tested)Safety: Three-positionMSRP: $699