Wash the cosmoline, boiled linseed
oil, gun powder and various oils and solvents off the military gun
collectors I know and you are likely to find a guy (OK!!!! "PERSON".
GOD, how I hate this political correctness!) with more that
just a passing interest in world history. As well as a love and
respect for the fellows that wrote most of that history as they
lugged what became "our" rifles through the mud and the blood.
More often than not, the average gun collector has a book shelf
or two (or three) filled with books about military
history, he (OK - or SHE!) watches two or three hours of
The History Channel a night and is more than willing to give a perfect
stranger a 20 minute lecture on the development of the P-38 folding
can opener. While standing in line down at
the Wynn Dixie.
In our increasingly revisionist world many academics and liberal
historians look down on the military aspects of our past and many
of mankind's most noble moments of courage, dedication and resourcefulness
are edited out, discarded and forgotten. Sometimes I think that
we military gun collectors are keepers of the only history worth
knowing, the history - the stories of common men's brave deeds,
their courage and stubborn resourcefulness while trying to advance
the interests of their native lands, resolve conflicts between nations,
or to straighten out the hash that their governments have made of
The 1903 and 03-A3 Springfield Rifles that lie in our collections
reflect the quiet workmanship nature of the Americans that went
to Europe in WW I. They went to do a distasteful job. And then just
came home. The Mausers we hold show the training and precision of
the German soldier, the Arisakas are often all that remain of the
fighting spirit of the Japanese fighting man. Lee Enfields are wonderful
rifles as were the soldiers that carried them. But they were the
guardians of a collapsing empire. Our Carcano, Mas and Berthier
rifles are products of mixed political will and direction. Some,
not all, would add: "...and show it!!" Mosin Nagants mirror
the masses of men and material, almost
faceless, of the Soviet Union. The M1 Garands we own are perfect
representatives of the strength and resources of a new world leader.
SKS's, AK's and M16's echo cold war struggles and the desperate
and close fighting in Viet Nam.
In some of our collections exists a rifle that is more than a bit
unusual. Its just about a historical impossibility. The two parts
of its common name (i.e. "Israeli", and of all things, "Mauser")
are almost mutually exclusive. This rifle is truly a refugee, a
wanderer, that make its way from battle-torn
Europe, becoming a stranger in a strange land. No Sabra, or "Native
Born" in Hebrew, this rife bears the marks of Adolph Hitler's Nazi
Just like many of those who eventually carried it.
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the population of the
country that we now call Israel was largely made up of Arabic speaking
Muslims and Christians; there were very few Jews in the region.
Zionism or the dream of the gathering of the world's Jewish People
that were driven from their homeland and scattered to the nations
had few followers at the turn of the century. In spite of strong
anti-Semitic feelings throughout the world, not to mention the
occasional pogrom (anti-Jewish riots), the concept of Eretz
Yisrael, or the land of Israel, as a homeland, was a hard sell to
peoples who had settled and were successful in Europe.
But seeds sown by Orthodox rabbis, Jewish writers and thinkers in
the 1800's started to take root in the Jewish psyche.
A new religion that was sweeping Europe at that time also nourished
the young seedlings. Tenants of Marxism found its way into Zionist
thinking. The concept of the kibbutz, or collective farm, provided
a model for the political, cultural and military roots of the Jewish
community to come.
When World War I erupted, Great Britain had to scramble for monetary
and political support. Both as a concession to the world's Jews
as well as to secure a strategic foothold in the middle east, British
Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour issued a declaration approving
the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in British-controlled
This was approved by the League
Of Nations (another good idea done bad, but that is a history
lesson for another time!) in 1922 and the British Mandate was
The only thought given to the Palestinians that had lived there
for just about 1800 years came after a couple years of large scale
Jewish immigration. Somewhat offended by what they saw as British
interference and Jewish invasion,
the Palestinians began a period of violent revolt that lasted from
1936 to 1939. With an eye to the coming storm in Europe, in order
to stabilize the region the British agreed to severely limit the
flow of Jews into Palestine.
Jews wishing to immigrate to Palestine were now bottled up in Europe.
Just in time for the largest pogrom since the time of the Diaspora
or exile from the Holy Lands.
Arbite Macht Frie be damned, the unspeakable violence done in the
concentration camps ignited a fire within the world's Jews and as
World War II ended, Zionist fervor erupted in Europe and in Palestine.
Jews insisted, sometimes violently, that the British remove immigration
limitations and leave the area. After 7 years fighting World War
II the Brits had no taste for the growing violence in the middle
east and bequeathed the problem to the newly formed United Nations
(see my above comment regarding the League of Nations). At
the end of the very first "Special Session" of the UN's Security
Council its members voted 33 to 13 to partition Palestine into Jewish
and Arabic states. On that day in November of 1947 the nation of
Israel was born.
A footnote to history: Great Britain abstained from the vote and
left Israel shortly thereafter.
Seven months later, May 15, 1948, the armies of the surrounding
Arabic states joined their Palestinian brothers in the first of
a number of efforts to destroy Israel.
Many of those Israeli's who joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Zionist
guerrilla forces that fought against the British in the late 1940's,
were refuges from Europe. They formed the backbone of what became
the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Many of these people wore
the ID numbers that were tattoo-ed onto them when forced into Nazi
concentration camps. Popular writers of that period report that
as refugees got off the boats or arrived otherwise in Israel, all
male Jews of sufficient age were given a Mauser rifle and a box
of shells to defend themselves.
K98k Mauser rifles with Nazi acceptance and proof markings on them.
As it turns out, Europe was bursting with: 1) displaced Jews
who wanted O-U-T! of Europe and 2) extremely good quality,
ex-Nazi, munitions. Enough of both, so it seems, to hold a pretty
good war. Money wasn't a problem, there was tons of it coming from
American Jews who were anxious to see that European Jews not be
extinguished and that Israel got off to a good start. Israel was
able to generate enough of the ingredients of war, money, men and
munitions, not only to revolt successfully against the British,
but also to fight the combined Arab states to a standstill during
the first Arab-Israeli war, called the Israeli War of Independence.
Which ended in a "United Nations" (read: United States!)
brokered armistice. Which remained, shakily, in place until
the Six-Day War in 1967.
Research for this essay was kinda tough. My calls to the Israeli
consulate requesting information about the history of its various
weapons from the military attaché were at first met with a long
stony silence. Then a burst of rapid fire questions. Over at the
consulate they just didn't seem to catch on to the idea that I was
a "highly paid and popular gun writer". I have learned that
the best tactic in these types of situations is to withdraw. It
can be real tough making a point with the literarily challenged!
Anyway, ever since I called them, my telephone has a strange click
in it when I make calls and I just can't seem to shake the feeling
that somebody's watching me.
The history of the "Israeli Mauser" and how it got to the
Promised Land is, at best then, .....murky, but it doesn't require
a lot of imagination, the German army left TONS of them all over
the place back in Europe.
Israel needed guns and had cash. The shattered peoples and businesses
of Europe needed cash and had guns. You, as the saying goes, do
You'll note that I specified "the people and businesses"
of Europe instead of "the NATIONS of Europe". Not many countries
wanted to upset the oil applecart, even back then. No nation wanted
to get caught doing business with
Israel. Especially GUN business. Needless to say, however, both
sides of the first Israeli/Arabic conflict were using World War
A notable exception is Czechoslovakia. Evidence suggests that the
Czechs sold large numbers of Mauser's, in the form of battlefield
pickups, New Old Stock, and arsenal reworks to Israel about 1948.
When the Mausers first got there, there wasn't much remarkable about
them. Each could have been from any one of the factories that manufactured
them for Germany. The caliber was 8mm, the weight was about 8.6
pounds, the overall length (without the removable, menacing bayonet)
was, more or less, 23.6 inches. Just about big enough to conquer
There is some debate as to whether or not these rifles saw "front
line" service. I almost can't see how they couldn't. The FN-FAL
was released in 1949, I'm not certain when it began service with
the IDF but I'm fairly certain that it wasn't in Israel between
1946 to sometime in 1950. Uziel Gal's 9 mm submachine gun wasn't
introduced until sometime in 1952. And, as good as the Uzi was (is!),
it was just a little too small to be a main battle rifle. Therefore,
I'm pretty sure that the early kibbutzim of Leon Uris' "Exodus"
days were doing battle in Israel with rifles that had been used
to force their relatives into the Holocaust.
Make no mistake: The rifle that was used to subjugate the Jews in
Europe played a significant roll in establishing and defending the
new Jewish homeland in Israel. The enormity of that irony is overwhelming.
As you got off the boat, you were handed a rifle. It must have been
at first chilling but then, somewhat satisfying, to be given a weapon
bearing the hooked cross.
I have read stories relating that problems with the FN-FAL forced
the K98 back to front line service as late as the 6 Day War. But
I have been unable to substantiate these heroic tales so I can't
tell them to you here. Forget that
I said anything.
Eventually these rifles were retired from full-time, front line
duty and were issued to reservists and home guard units. When Israel
adopted the 7.62 NATO the Mausers were rebuilt and re-chambered
to accept the new round, probably
in the 1960's. And why not? Certainly the large ring Mauser action
is strong enough to handle the pressures of the widely available
During their various rebuilds the Mausers were "re-marked"
in one way or another. Some simply had the Waffen acceptance marks
and Swastikas hammered over and small Stars of David stamped beside
the old proof marks. Most had receiver ring markings ground off
and "7.62" stamped in. Most were re-stocked, all seem to
have had "7.62" branded or ground into the stock's heel.
There may be a possibility at some time either new receivers, very
good quality reworks or complete new Mauser rifles found their way
into the armories of Israel. A variation of Israeli Mauser has the
military crest of Israel
stamped into the receiver and "Fab Nat. D'Armes de Guerre Herstal
Belgique" stamped into the left side of the receiver.
When I decided that the ARSENAL OF FREEDOM down in my basement NEEDED
one of these rifles I began my search in the gun shops near my home
in the great state of New Jersey...and came up with nothing. At
one time the rifle rack of SARCO and (the former) Navy Arms
were groaning under the weight of 7.62 Mausers. But now that I NEEDED
one, they were fresh out. So I tried a number of nearby gun shows.
And found Zip, Zero, Nada, Nodambueno.
I extended my search to the internet and ran an ad on a couple of
Mauser forums. Within a matter of days I got a reply from a young
fellow out by Pittsburgh. We negotiated a little, kinda kicked at
the dirt and came up with a price
agreeable to both of us. The only fly in the peanut butter was that
Pittsburgh is clean over on t'other side of Penntransyldamvania
and one long ride from New Jersey. Or longer than my wife was willing
to ride just to pick up
another dirty rifle! "No problem", said the young Pittsburgertonian,
"I'll be passing through Gettysburg in about a week. Can you
meet me there?"
I didn't even have to ask the wife. You meet the nicest people on
the internet! We concluded the deal in the parking lot of a motel.
The .308 Israeli Mauser (Yes, its OK to call them that) that
followed me home from Pennsyltucky is of the type that has the large
military crest on the receiver and the Fabrique National markings
on the side. The wood was a little ratty, but I had a beautiful
stock, with "7.62" engraved into the stock, just waiting
for it. Not being able to resist the religious significance, I trimmed
a little bit off the end and re-crowned the barrel. Then, a little
rubbing, a little cleaning and it was done. Mazeltov!
I've always liked military Mausers, they feel somewhat lighter than
the scale would indicate, fall to hand nicely and are brought to
bear quickly. They load from a 5 round stripper as smoothly as any
other rifle that loads via this
method. Whether you are overrunning Poland or France, freezing at
Stalingrad, defending one last charge against the Reichstag or establishing
a new Jewish homeland, the Mauser K98 is a pretty handy rifle.
People tell me that Mausers in 7.62 kick a bit less than 8mm. Can't
prove it by me, I wear a REAL heavy shooting pad. But then I AM
gettin' on a bit in age. It shot high at 100 meters, about as I
expected, so it needed a taller front sight. Properly sighted in,
my Izzy prints a group as good as any Mauser that hangs in THE ARSENAL
OF FREEDOM. If you're looking for a formal range report read something
by Jamie or one of the other guys. For facts - go to them. I just
tell stories around here.
I emailed Fab Nat.over at Herstal, Belgique the other day to try
to find out if or when they might have built Mauser rifles in 7.62
for the IDF and got no reply. So I called them a couple of times
to try to get what ever information I could for this article. After
all, I pointed out, I AM a "highly paid and
popular gun writer".
At first I was met with that same stony silence. Then I got another
dose of rapid fire, kinda stern questions.
I guess the boys at Fab Nat. are as sensitive about their D'Arms
de Guerre as the ones over at the Israeli Consulate!