Mauser M18 in .243 - in depth test & review
- Credit: Archant
Chris Parkin spends a year and a half living with an M18 in .243 and concludes that this rifle could well be Mauser’s 21st-century masterpiece
MAUSER M18 IN .243 - BRIEF OVERVIEW
THINGS I STILL LIKE: Mauser know good stock design; Great trigger pulls on a rifle at this price; Bolt operation and magazine design/function are Masterpieces; Uncompromising regardless of the great value; Deer legal barrel length in 243
WITHDRAWAL OF PREVIOUS CRITIQUE: I never lost the recoil pad; Mauser haven't made a left hander yet but 223 is almost here
VERDICT: In functional terms, this is the lowest cost rifle I have used that I cannot criticise. After 18 months of use with no complaints, it's utterly superb value for money
MAUSER M18 IN .243 - TECH SPECS
Calibre: 243 Winchester (.223, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, 308, 270, 30-06, 300 Win Mag, 7mm Rem mag also available, 8x57)
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Overall length: 1055mm-41.5"
Weight: 3.18 kg (7.02 lbs)
Stock Material: Injection moulded polymer
Magazine capacity: 5+1
Trigger: single stage adjustable set at 975gr pull weight
Barrel length: 560mm-22"
Blaser Sporting 01483 917412
Hornady 75gr Superformance V-Max
Edgar Brothers 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com
ALSO USED (LONG TERM)
Barton Gunworks Picatinny Rail, scope mounts and sound moderator
MAUSER M18 IN .243 - IN DEPTH TEST AND REVIEW
A lot of rifles have passed through my armoury since I returned from the British Shooting Show in 2018 with the Mauser M18 boxed up in its wooden crate ready for a one-off review. Rather appropriately 18 months later, I still have that rifle, so I thought it was a good opportunity to look at how it has fared in the real world as a go-to rifle. Most rifles I review have a high price tag associated with them and I'm often glad to be rid of them to be honest, some just don't appeal anyway, but others just want to stick around… the M18 never once stuck a round anywhere but on the target.
A .243 rifle will always see a lot of use in UK shooters' hands due to cross-species suitability for those wanting just one gun. Most of my shooting is pure foxing and I regularly need to change optics from day to night vision or thermal, as review kit flows through my hands.
Such accessories need a solid, trusted test bed, so the M18 became exactly that with the addition of a Picatinny rail for easy swap overs. Once capability was proven with preferred ammunition, I stuck with 75gr Hornady Superformance V-Max to maintain consistency.
Over 700 rounds have now passed down the barrel. After a borescope inspection, I can report a small amount of firecracking, which is to be expected from this overbore cartridge. More importantly, the capability on target, after countless ammunition-wasting rezeroing sessions and optic changes has not diminished at all. 20mm three-round groups are still the norm for a reliable rifle that requires minimal use when rezeroing. Complex procedures with NV or thermal sights can require more ammo to get things zeroed, so I enjoy the trusted reliability of the M18.
The gun was used at the 2018 BSS show as a demonstrator, experiencing hundreds of moist fingers testing bolt operation and trigger feel, lots of dryfiring and 'public' handling. Oily fingers can be corrosive, yet the gun still shows no serious damage and has avoided additional corrosion from countless late nights. A cold gun brought into a warm house invites condensation. I remove the moderator each time it gets locked away, but the barrel only gets a clean every 100 rounds or if soiled with mud or blood.
Use has spanned all four seasons and where many test guns are treated like royalty, the M18 has endured wet, dry, hot, cold, dust and snow throughout its compressed lifetime with no visible corrosion - other than a few red spots under the scope, where a careless rub down on the sleeve missed a spot, all easily wiped away with the aid of an oily cloth.
I had initially expressed concern that the clip-in recoil pad would be lost during use, but this has never occurred so I will withdraw that critique. Having a pull-through stored in the stock was very handy when I fell in the snow and thought it wise to run it through the barrel before shooting again. It's fair to say Mauser know a few things about rifle ergonomics and that was a core factor for me in the long-term adoption of this rifle. I would go as far as to say Mauser have forgotten more on this subject than others have ever known or displayed on their wares.
The stock dimensions, particularly with the comb running parallel to the bore, has been a great foundation for multi-positional use. I've added a rubber comb raiser, adding 10mm with an elasticated wrap to hold spare ammunition. I don't always have the perfect mounting solutions to keep scopes as low as I'd like with NV/thermal, so this little addition just improves matters. I found the comb height without any accessory suited a 50mm objective scope beautifully. Adjustable cheekpieces are a nice addition when the core design is fundamentally sound, but I dislike cheap adjustable add-ons that make up for an unsound design.
The rubber recoil pad has no wear and remains grippy in all conditions, presenting a solid feel in the shoulder with a 14" length of pull suiting a broad range of clothing choices. Optics and the centre of gravity changes often courtesy of the variety of kit mounted on it, but with a regular daylight scope the balance was mid magazine position, drifting slightly forward after a moderator was added.
The hand-filling grip shows minimal palm swell and offers shotgun like pointability when fast handling is needed. The trigger is fully worn in and with a 95% crisp rating breaking at 990gr on its single stage. Overtravel is 2mm at the tip of the blade and frankly, comparing this rifle of sub-£800 cost with competitors often twice the price, they really need to up their game when such superb functionality is available from what I would term a 'level 2' price point rifle.
The ultimate action
That brings me to what I consider the Mauser's Ace of Spades: the M18's turnbolt action. It is, to my mind, the fastest there is. The mechanics of the three-lug bolt with 60° lift, cylindrical bolt with singular raceway maintaining rotation and stroke, and 65mm handle capped by a 22mm ball is a simple, effective ergonomic delight.
The bolt may be uncoated hard steel, benefitting from a wipe over with an oily cloth now and again, but its tolerances within the action makes it stutter-free at any speed without any regard for technique. No complex steel alloys to gall together or deposited coatings to wear to a microscopically gummy feel. It is a masterpiece and I previously thought the M18's bigger brother, the M12, held that title with little possibility of getting beaten.
In essence, they are similar in geometry, but the slightly slacker fit of the M18's shaft and three, rather than split into six lugs, would seem to be the difference mechanically. With that bolt-handle closed, it's a finger flick from the trigger guard to open and begin the reload cycle. It reaches straight out, perpendicular to the stock for the 113mm stroke, meaning that hands and gloves stay clear of the bulky optics - and even the brim of your hat at full extension too! The compact bolt shroud never hit my big nose either! Feed from the magazine has remained faultless with no visible wear or tear to the feed lips of the twin-column, staggered-feeding mag.
The polymer construction is as good as new and having seen it in use across multiple Mauser and Sauer rifles over the least seven years, I think this also is the best in the business. It is fast to load with rounds pressed in from the top, in or out of the rifle. It is flush-fitting and five rounds make it an equal, or critically, larger than some rivals without excessive width in the stock.
The price of tooling up for a system like this is a major investment for the Mauser/Sauer group that could remain a splinter in their skin for life if done wrong, but they got it right. It is to be noted that .243, with a relatively small bullet but large case diameter, can often exhibit feed issues in actions primarily designed around the .308 cartridge. Not from this system; it feeds flawlessly and quietly with no abrasion or damage to the bullet or case in almost silence - even with short 58gr ammo.
At the start, I expected this to be a simple rebadge of the Sauer 100, but it is a little cheaper. The S100 is a rifle I admire and have used on countless hunts, but even with mechanical similarity in the bolt and magazine, the handle geometry of the M18 just builds a little more upon it. Stock appearance is judged a little plain, but the co-polymer moulded rubberised sections to the fore-end's underside have remained unmarked from handling or damaged from scrapes and scratches from foliage.
I would say the gun is as good now as when I brought it home with the only signs of use being slight running marks on the steel-on-steel bolt's surface with internal barrel wear invisible to all but those with a borescope. The barrel remains central and free floating in its channel with a final nod given to the fact that the addition and removal of the moderator has never affected zero.
Fast bolt, fast handling and low cost are rare bedfellows, but here, it staggers me that the M18 has not taken the market by storm. Perhaps it suffers a little from plain looks not normally associated with the marque, but Mauser once made a great advert of the fact it was the rifle for every man. Well, 18 months on with the M18, I think they have made a rifle of 100% functionality measurable against any peer of any price for any man who wants a tool to do a job, not a shiny safe queen. I can't wait to see the .223 version and if you want a second low-cost rifle for larger game or fast-moving bore, my money is here in a .30-06 or .300 Win Mag.
Mauser love using the word 'uncompromising' in their marketing literature for the M18 and do you know what, I can't think of a better word.