January 2001:

Israeli Flag Israeli 7.62mm K98k
Israeli Flag

Israeli 7.62mm K98k
Type:  Bolt action rifle
Caliber:  7.62mm NATO
Capacity:  5 round internal box magazine
Sights, front:  Blade, adjustable for windage
Sights, rear:  Tangent U-notch adjustable for range
Length: 43.7"
Barrel length:  23.62"
Weight (unloaded):  8.6 lbs
Suggested Retail Price:  $240.00
Israeli 7.62mm K98k, Left Side
In 1935, a rearming Germany adopted the Mauser Karabin 98, kurz (Carbine, Model of 1898, Short), or K98k, as the general issue longarm for its military forces.  An evolution of the Gewehr 98 of the First World War, the K98k was a short (23.62" barrel) bolt action rifle with a five shot magazine and a turned down bolt handle.  The K98k was to become emblematic of all the German armed services, to include the Wehrmacht (army), the Luftwaffe (air force), the Kriegsmarine (navy), and the SS (armed internal security forces).  It was also one of the most prolific firearms of all time, with some 14,048,789 being produced between 1935 and 1945.  So successful was the K98k that production actually continued after Germany's defeat, most notably by Fabrique Nationale (FN) in Belgium and Zbrojovka Brno in Czechoslovakia.

The K98k's service life continued after the war, arming a number of liberated European nations.  In addition to the K98k, France also used Panther tanks, Walther pistols, and Messerschmitt aircraft.  Norway had its K98k's rebarreled to use American .30-06 ammunition.  Czechoslovakia and Belgium went a step further and kept the K98k in production for a number of years after the war.  Indeed, a strong case can be made for naming the K98k the most widely used service rifle of the immediate postwar era.  It was also one of the least expensive, with literally millions of them littering the battlefields of Europe, stored in the arsenals of liberated nations, and in the warehouses of the victorious allied powers.  As a result, tens of thousands of these rifles were purchased by arms dealers, small countries, and many organizations of dubious legality.

One of these organizations was the Haganah.  The Haganah, founded in 1920, evolved into the primary self-defense military organization of the Jewish community in what was then Palestine (and later into the nascent Israel Defense Force - the IDF).  In addition to the duties of protecting the scattered Jewish settlements from Arab attacks, organizing and arranging for the illegal immigration of Jewish Displaced Persons (DP's) from postwar Europe to Palestine, and operation against the British occupation forces, the Haganah was responsible for both acquiring arms from abroad and arranging for domestic arms production.  (The full story of the Haganah's underground arms acquisition program is told in Leonard Slater's excellent book, The Pledge.)  Among the arms brought in during the period between the end of World War II (1945) and the Israeli War of Independence (1948) were thousands of surplus German K98k's.  The K98k acquitted itself well in Israel hands during that conflict.  Afterwards, it was adopted in caliber 7.92x57mm as the standard rifle of the IDF.  Additional contracts for new K98k's were let with both the Czechoslovakian state arms factories and FN, so that by the early 1950's K98k's in Israeli service included a mixture of German wartime guns, Czech and Belgian postwar production.
Arms technology advanced rapidly after World War II, and armies sought to put self-loading and selective fire rifles chambered for new cartridges into the hands of their troops.  Israel was no exception and by 1958, she had adopted the FAL in 7.62mm NATO as her new standard rifle.  A problem arose as there were literally tens of thousands of 7.92mm K98k's in inventory, and these guns formed the bulk of the armament for the reservists that were the majority of Israel's wartime manpower.  Israel was faced with the alternatives of complicating an already stressed wartime logistics system with the issuance of two types of battle rifle ammunition, rechambering the K98k's for 7.62mm NATO, or pushing forward, at financial peril, the schedule for rearming the reserves.  In the event, the Israelis settled on a program of rechambering the K98k's on hand for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge.  Rechambered K98k's were rebarreled with new, Israeli made 7.62mm barrels, fitted with a magazine block (the 7.62mm NATO is 6mm shorter than the 7.92x57mm) and a new 
One Cruffler's Perspective on Israeli Mausers
I personally own 3 Israeli K98's, and I have fondled several others.  My own Israeli Mauser collection consists of:  The first is a CZ manufacture K98 with a lion's crest on the receiver, faded blue finish with some green parts, very well-shot bore, mismatching completely, wood is grease soaked and also well worn and has the standard 7.62 burned into the wood.  This weapon shows evidence of being used extensively. The second is a DOU 45 German K98 that really looks new.  The bore is either new, or shot very little.  The green phosphate finish is close to 99% on the entire weapon.  The receiver and bolt, the only numbered parts, match (This is the only matching Israeli 
mauser that I have ever seen).  The stock looks new with minor handling marks, and the wood has 7.62 burned into it.  This rifle shoots very well.  The third is a 237 code, early German K98.  Like the DOU 45, this Mauser is 
in very nice shape.  The wood is pretty with some nice figure, and it has the 7.62 burned into it as well.  The overall finish is a green phosphate, and the finish is almost perfect.  The bolt is unmatching.  The bore is like new. 
 At some time in this rifle's life, someone had tapped three holes in the left side of the receiver.  These holes are filled with screws now and are not horribly noticeable. 

In the accompanying article, an attempt was made to decipher the type of wood the Israelis used in their stocks, and if the stock configuration was from an earlier German model.  I have discovered through examination of my 
own three Israeli Mausers, and through holding various others over the years, that the wood on every Israeli Mauser which I have ever seen is beech.  The stock configuration is specific to the Israeli Mauser,  and is a replacement stock.  The stock is not a German type, and the Israelis used a unique method of securing the front barrel bands, as is illustrated in the article.  The 
wood may appear different depending on how oil and grime-soaked it is. Two of my stocks are pristine, the other is similar to your test piece.  I hope this helps.  I love Israeli Mausers. 

Nate Sanborn

follower, as well as a front sight of a different geometry to reflect ballistic differences between the old and new chamberings.

The 7.62mm K98k's proved to be a great success, and were used in combat as late as the 1973 Yom Kippur war.  Nevertheless, by the 1970's it was evident that the K98k's were obsolete as battle rifles.  Some were retained for training use, but by the late 1980's most had been sold to developing nations or companies specializing in the surplus military weapons trade.

Israeli 7.62mm K98k's hold a special historical interest.  The juxtaposition of rifles designed for an evil power whose avowed goal was the destruction of every Jew in the world later serving to help create and  defend a Jewish state is fascinating in and of itself.  The fact that they are chambered for inexpensive and readily available 7.62mm NATO ammunition is an additional benefit.  The current shipment was imported by Century International Arms of St. Albans, Vermont, and is offered for sale by both Century and Southern Ohio Gun (SOG) of Lebanon, Ohio.  Curious about these guns, we phoned SOG and placed an order for what was described as a ".308 German K98," paying an extra $10.00 for a "hand picked" specimen. The rifle arrived about a week later.

External Inspection

The K98k we received was indeed a German World War Two service arm.  The top of the receiver ring was marked "7.62" in large letters stamped into the forward edge, indicating the caliber conversion.  Below that were the italicized numbers "147" and below that an italicized "1940."  From this we were able to determine that this particular rifle was made in 1940 at the J.P. Sauer & Son rifle factory in Suhl, Germany.  The left side of the receiver has a peened out, but still very
Israeli 7.62mm K98k Receiver, Left Side
 Receiver, Left Side.  Note unsuccessfully peened German firing proof to the left of Israeli proof, large 7.62 stamped on receiver ring, "147" makers code and 1940 production date.
Israeli 7.62mm K98k Receiver, Right Side
Receiver, Right Side.  Note original Waffenamt inspector's stamps indicating no attempt at obliteration.
legible German firing proof.  To the rear of the firing proof is an Israeli proof consisting of the Hebrew letter "nun" (possibly a "gimel") inside a six pointed star.  Behind that is the (original German) serial number followed by another Israeli proof, the Hebrew letter tsiyon inside a circle.  On the right side of the receiver are three German Waffenamt inspector's stamps, two eagle/37's and an eagle/359.  All small parts retain their original German inspection stamps.  Interestingly, the rear sight base displays the H shaped inspection markings that were used prior to the eagle/number inspection markings.  Characteristic of Israeli K98k's, no two serial numbered parts match.  There are two IDF property markings on the stock.  Additionally, there is a large "7.62" burned into the heel of the stock.

(Editor's Note:  The only Nazi marking showing any evidence of an attempt at obliteration is the firing proof.  Given the plethora of additional German World War II markings, it is our surmise that this has more to do with indicating that the original proof was no longer applicable than an attempt to ideologically "purify" the rifle in the manner of the Soviet obliteration of Czarist property markings on Mosin-Nagant rifles.)

Parts Mixture
Characteristic of a military firearm that has been through at least one arsenal rebuild, the K98k showed an almost haphazard amalgamation of parts.  The barrel bands are of the early milled type, as is the magazine floorplate.  The triggerguard is stamped.  The rear sight base is from a very early K98k, but the rear sight leaf is of the post-1942 type with no markings on the obverse side.  Perhaps the most interesting part is the stock.  It is of the cup buttplate style, and the cup buttplate is of the late type with the opposed bolt disassembly holes in the lower portion of the buttplate.  While this is typical of a late war K98k stock, there are several features that indicate that this is not a late war K98k stock.  To begin with, the stock is made of a single piece of walnut - most late war stocks were of the laminated type.  The most interesting part of the stock was what it did not have.
Israeli 7.62mm K98k, Band Springs
Barrel Bands and Retaining Spring and Pin.  This is NOT a typical K98k arrangement.
The key feature which identifies a rifle as a K98k and not one of the many Mauser short rifle components that came before is a simple spring.  Specifically, it is the leaf spring which retains both the upper and lower barrel bands.  On true K98k stocks, this spring rides in a channel on the right side of the stock between the
 upper and lower bands.  The rear end of the spring abuts against the forward edge of the lower band, holding it firmly against a step in the contour of the stock.  The forward edge of the spring has a "button" which fits into a hole in the upper band, preventing the band from moving forward.

On our rifle, the lower band was retained by an L-shaped spring like the ones used on Mauser long rifles.  The upper band is retained by means of a transverse pin which goes through the stock and holes in both sides of the band.  Our first thought upon seeing this was that the stock was a Gewehr 98 stock which had been reworked for a K98k, but we could find no evidence of there ever having been sling swivels on the heel of the stock.  Alternatively, it could have been a Kar. 98a or Kar. 98b stock, but it lacked evidence of ever having had disassembly washers.  At this point the stock's provenance remains unclear, but we did note that overall wood to metal mating was exceptionally good.

Overall, the rifle rates a solid "very good."  The metal parts, while they show ample signs of use bear no evidence of abuse, and retain between seventy-five and eighty percent of the blued finish.  It is doubtful that any of this is the original finish applied by the Sauer factory; more likely it is the remnant of the most recent Israeli arsenal rebuild.  The stock is in similar very good condition.  While there are some scratches and compression marks, there are no gouges or deep dings.  The stock should clean up very nicely with a minimum of effort.  The  bore was coated in some form of preservative when we received the rifle.  In fact, the condition appeared to be "muddy" at best.  A few patches and some brushing later, we were very happily surprised to see a bore that was bright, shiny, and looked new.

A headspace check was positive, with the bolt closing easily on a Clymer .308 Winchester GO headspace gauge (1.630"), and failing to close on a NO-GO gauge (1.634").  A word on cartridge  interchangeability is in order here.  The .308 Winchester and the 7.62mm NATO cartridges are not the same, nor are they interchangeable despite similarities in external dimensions.  The 7.62mm NATO
cartridge has a maximum chamber pressure of approximately 50,000 pounds per
square inch, the .308 Winchester has a maximum chamber pressure of approximately 66,000 pounds per square inch.  This is not to say that all .308 Winchester loads will develop such pressures, merely that they may, and would be within manufacturing tolerances if they did so.  Consequently, CRUFFLER.COM strongly recommends against ever firing .308 Winchester ammunition in a firearm chambered for the 7.62mm NATO.  Doing so risks damage to the firearm and injury to the shooter.  The Israeli K98k is chambered for the 7.62mm NATO cartridge and not the .308 Winchester.  Given the abundance of inexpensive military surplus 7.62mm NATO ammunition available today, shooters have no reason to resort to shooting .308 Winchester in military rifles like the K98k.

Shooting the Israeli K98k
We were enthusiastic about shooting the 7.62mm K98k.  We gathered up the necessary ammunition and accouterments and headed off to the NRA range in Fairfax, Virginia.

We brought along three types of 7.62mm ammunition with which to test the Israeli K98k:

Portuguese FNM 7.62mm NATO 147 grain FMJ
Argentine FM 7.62x51mm 147 grain FMJ
US M80 7.62mm NATO 147 grain FMJ

Our initial accuracy results indicated that, as with most K98k's in good mechanical condition, the gun was capable of far better accuracy than we were.  In fact, one of the most accurate military rifles we've had the pleasure to shoot is a Norwegian K98k that had been rebarreled by the Norwegian military to .30-06.  The Israeli 7.62mm variant was not far behind in accuracy.  The rifle was zeroed at fifty feet, shooting cloverleaf groups approximately an inch to the right and two inches low of the point of aim when using the 100m sight setting.  We then reeled the rifle out to 50 yards, the maximum distance at the NRA range.  After some initial difficulties getting used to the Mauser sights, we were firing some very nice three shot groups.  Our best group of the day was shot with the Portuguese ammunition, and measured a little more than .75", center to center.  Even our worst group, fired with the Argentine ammunition, was only 1.75".  Most groups averaged about 1.25" and we are sure that in more capable hands, with superior ammunition, this rifle has the capability to deliver even better accuracy.

As noted, we held the rifle to between one and a half and three and a half minutes of angle, which compares very favorably with the modern crop of evil black rifles, which are designed to shoot approximately three minutes of angle.  Indeed, part of the fun of owning an old war horse like the Israeli 7.62mm K98k is watching the looks of stunned disbelief on the faces of shooters raised on expensive military style autoloaders as an old $200.00 bolt action rifle consistently out shoots the pricey self loaders on the line!

Recoil and Ergonomics
Recoil with a 7.92x57mm K98k firing the 198 grain sS bullet is healthy but not unpleasant.  Moving down to a 147 grain bullet seems to have salutary effects on recoil sensation, as it is appreciably lighter.  While still appreciable, this rifle was no less pleasant to fire than an FAL or an M1A, and significantly more pleasant than the G3 clones we've shot.  There was no pain associated with shooting the 7.62mm K98k, and firing one or two hundred rounds in an afternoon's plinking should not daunt anyone.

The K98k is an exceptionally handy and well balanced rifle.  While it may seem a bit heavy for American shooters accustomed to featherweight hunting rifles, the weight aids in soaking up recoil and in helping to steady the rifle for offhand shooting.  Perhaps the biggest complaint one can make is with the sights.  These are typical European military sights - tiny v notch on the barrel mounted tangent sight, and a thick inverted v foresight.  While suited for precision shooting, they are at best an acquired taste.  They can be difficult to acquire and maintain once on target.  Nevertheless, once the shooter learns how to use them, they can prove very effective.

As the K98k is a manually operated arm, we expected, and received no failures or difficulties to feed, extract, or eject.  The bolt never became sticky or difficult to manipulate.

In many ways the Israeli K98k's are Cruffler Grail.  They have a fascinating and compelling history in a way that few others firearms do; all at once they represent the despair, destruction, hope and rebirth of a people.  As if this wasn't enough, they are excellent shooters chambered for a popular, readily available and inexpensive cartridge.  Additionally, they are very reasonably priced; holders of Type 01 or Type 03 FFL's can obtain these fine rifles for significantly less than $200.00.  All this adds up to only one possible recommendation:  Don't pass these rifles up!

And now, our Buy-O-Meter rating for the Israeli 7.62mm K98k:


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