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Testfire: Mauser M18 Cerakote in 7mm Rem. Mag.

By Nik Maxwell

Mauser. Just the name alone brings a smile to my face. It is a name so steeped in history that I would defy anyone to not have some kind of ‘affection’ towards its existence.

 

For me, it personifies fine rifles and if the choice to own one brand of rifle ever, Mauser would potentially ace that list. Having used a Mauser actioned and chambered rifle for much of my hunting and shooting career, I have built up a staunch admiration and loyalty to the brand.

 

And while modern Mauser rifles may not have quite the same ‘feel’ as those older generation firearms, they do have a certain style and quality all their own.

 

My last experience was with a Mauser M12 Extreme chambered in 6.5x55. A superb rifle that helped me to secure my first ever tahr during a hunt in a tributary of the Rangitata River. A truly memorable moment.

 

Speed forth several years and I now had the opportunity to review one of Mauser’s latest offerings, the M18. Most often review rifles are offered to us, however this one I sought out specifically.

 

Marketed as a ‘price-point’ rifle, I was curious to see what that meant from such a prestigious firearms manufacturer with a proven reputation for quality and performance.

 

OVERVIEW

Mauser have coined the M18, the ‘The People’s Rifle’. What does that mean? Well, it means it is affordable. It means that it is competitively priced when compared against rifles of similar form, function, and performance.

 

The M18 is not new to the scene. It was introduced to the market at the end of 2018 and all reports were that it gained rapid acceptance from within the international hunting and shooting community.

 

It has been designed and manufactured to compete against the likes of the Tikka T3x, Browning X-Bolt, Savage 110 and possibly even the Sako A7. To sit in that $1200 to $1800 mark. And with an RRP of $1400, it sits in there quite comfortably.

 

Action, trigger & safety: The 3-lug bolt is superb. It cycles smoothly, owed in part to the Cerakote finish and just good clean machining. Lifting the bolt requires minimal effort with the just right amount of tension that it will not inadvertently travel up.

 

A view of the bolt face showing the extractor claw and dual ejector pins.

 

It features twin plunger ejector pins and a spring-loaded extractor claw. Closing the bolt on a round requires a little nudge at the end of the travel to click the extractor over the rim of the case. There is an audible click and you will feel the that click also.

 

If you do not push it hard enough forward to engage the extractor, the bolt will not close. This isn’t a fault; but it does mean you need to be mindful when working the action on a round.

 

A large ejection port makes top loading cartridges a breeze.

 

On that note, it is difficult to close the bolt quietly. Fine for a target shooter but potentially ‘problematic’ when hunting. I don’t hunt with a round up the spout until I’ve spotted game so if deer are close by, I would have to be careful not to alert the animal when closing the bolt.

 

The receiver has a large ejection port which, if required, makes loading of rounds though the port a simple operation. The M12 that I reviewed previously suffered here in that the magazine was positioned a little too far forward and your case heads would catch on the internals in the rear of the magazine subsequently tilting the cartdridge tilt forward.

 

“The trigger is crisp, and my model let off at 2-1/2 lbs. There is no discernible take up or creep. You engage the trigger and any more than that and it fires, sweet.”

  

This was a bit awkward sometimes and you had to make a conscious effort to place your cartridges slightly forward in the mag and then slide them back, when reloading in this manner. The M18 seems to be OK here. The magazine has a small scallop at the back of the mag to help avoid the cartridge catching.

 

The trigger is crisp, and my model let off at 2-1/2 lbs. There is no discernible take up or creep. You engage the trigger and any more than that and it fires, sweet. It is adjustable but I just left it as is.

 

Mounted directly behind the bolt handle shaft is a 3-position safety. Increasingly common is the ability to cycle rounds/unload your rifle with the safety on and the M18 is no exception. It works mint. There are markings to indicate the position of the safety. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.

 

The Sonic 45 suppressor markedly reduces gunshot noise.

 

Barrel & suppressor: The barrel on the 7mm Rem. Mag. model measures in at 24” (Factory), standard for all Magnum chamberings. The package deal offered by Outdoor Sports comes with a suppressor and thus has been cut back to a shade under 23” for the threading.

 

As part of the package deal, Outdoor Sports have fitted a Sonic 45 suppressor. The modular suppressor features a stainless-steel core and is length adjustable, though you will probably leave it as is.

  

It weighs 443g and measures 265mm by 44mm and adds an extra 125mm to the rifle when fitted. It is finished in a shiny (but not too shiny) black anodised coating. It is also available in Silver, Orange or Blue.

 

Stock, magazine & finish: Mauser have done an excellent job with the stock. Made from polymer, the construction is solid with practically no flex in the fore end. There are cross sectional ribs in this area that give the fore end its integrity. The barrel is free floated.

 

Soft touch inlays on both the pistol and fore-end provide additional grip as well as adding to the tasteful appearance of the M18.

 

There are semi-soft rubber inlays on both the pistol grip and fore stock that aid hand grip and control. It is a useful touch and the contour lines where it meets the stock add a nice contrast to the overall appearance.

  

The rubber butt pad can be removed by squeezing two Mauser logo embossed buttons. Inside there is enough room to add a pull through, brush or any other small item you might want to keep with the rifle.

 

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Removal of the butt pad reveals a large piece of black polystyrene which takes away that echoey hollow sound you often get with hollow plastic stocks.

 

Interestingly, the stock is fixed to the receiver via two nuts that screw onto the bolts rather than bolts that screw into the receiver. The forward bolt slots through a one-part metal housing and recoil lug.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The 3-position safety allows loading and unloading with the safety on; the bolt removal lever; pressing the Mauser logo embossed buttons on both sides of the stock reveals a hidden compartment; the M18 features a large bolt handle knob.

 

Apart from the spring, the magazine housing and cartridge follower are both made from polymer. It will hold 5 rounds of 7mm. Rem Mag., 300 Win. Mag. and 338 Win. Mag. in a staggered formation. The mag is quite short, so you will be hand feeding cartridges if you like to seat those pills out. The factory ammunition I used did not pose any problems.

 

The magazine sits flush in the stock magazine well and release button is positioned just forward of the mag. The magazine releases into your hand cleanly.

 

Coated with Cerakote, (which is awesome and becoming the new standard in rifle coatings) the finish on the M18 is excellent. It is a dark gun metal gray in colour (“black-burnished”) and there is a “noise” look to the coating that gives the metal some depth. The stock has a similar look also giving the whole rifle a tasteful matte appearance.

 

ON THE RANGE:

My experiences with the M12 had me eager to hit the range with the M18. The 6.5x55 chambered M12 Extreme shot exceptionally well so I had high hopes that M18 should follow suit.

 

For testing purposes, I used the following ammunition over a couple of range sessions: Hornady Precision Hunter 162gr ELD-X, Federal Terminal Ascent 155gr plus a variety of hand loads using a mixture of Norma and Federal brass, Vihtavouri N560 powder and Sierra 140gr GameKings and 165gr Tipped GameKings.

 

I am no expert when it comes to reloading and just run a basic set up at the bench. I do it primarily for the enjoyment. I am also finding, like I guess many shooters are, is that factory ammo is just so damn good these days.

 

The M18 package deal comes with a Nikko Stirling Diamond 3-12x42 scope.

 

I have chatted with shooters at the range who are running some sophisticated rifle and scope combinations and achieving fantastic accuracy from factory ammo.

 

When discussing the merits of shooting factory, the argument is often the same, that the time and effort spent reloading is not justifiable and that the results between factory and reloaded ammo are just too damn close.

 

Do not get me wrong though, you will reap the rewards from precision reloading but for the average reloading Joe like me, factory ammunition is all good.

 

I almost forgot! The M18 package deal also comes with a Nikko Stirling Diamond 3-12x42 scope with a 30mm tube. The magnification ring has a rubber coating and rotates freely.

 

The Diamond has an illuminated brightness adjustable reticle with a Green or Red coloured dot option. I did notice that the illuminated dot was slightly offset to the reticle dot by about 0.5mm.

 

The scope performed adequately and overall, I was satisfied with its performance. It is arguably a little ‘under-gunned’ for the 7mm Rem. Mag. chambering and you might find yourself putting it on your rimfire rifle if or when you upgrade the optics on the M18.

 

Range Session One: First thing was to get zeroed at 100m. I used the book load 140gr GKS to get things going which once settled at 100m, resulted in a slightly vertical 1.5” group. Not a bad start.

 

The 165 TGKs seemed to be a little inconsistent with splits in the groups in between shots. The 140gr GKs continued to shoot well with sub MOA groups at 100m regularly achieved.

 

The Federal Terminal Ascent 155gr shot great. My first 5 shot group measuring just under an inch. Subsequent groups measured under half an inch.

 

LEFT: The authors Sierra 165gr Tipped GameKings homeloads resulted in split groups. RIGHT: Federal's 155gr Terminal Ascent factory ammunition shot well.

 

The Sonic 45 suppressor reduced much of the report as well as softening the recoil. In fact, I found the M18 a bit of a puppy to shoot. I felt like I could happily blaze away all day on that thing.

 

That crisp trigger was a delight. Just rest your finger on the blade, apply a little bit of pressure and off it goes. There is no play in the trigger and only a small amount of over travel.

 

It was an enjoyable shoot and with the M18 sighted in, it was time to go chase some sika.

 

Range Session Two: Due to, well, life basically, I ended up performing this range session after the two following hunts. I wanted to try out the Hornady Precision Hunter 162gr ELD-X (shout out to Steves Wholesale Ltd) as well as putting a few more shots down range with the Sierra 140gr GameKings home loads and the leftover Federal Terminal Ascent ammo.

 

The rifle shot had well at 100m so for this range session I was esager to see what I could achieve at 200m. On a calm and overcast morning at the BoP NZDA range I spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting shots on target.

 

LEFT TO RIGHT: Sierra 140gr GameKing homeloads; Federal 155gr Terminal Ascent factory; Hornady 162gr ELD-X Precision Hunter factory. These 200m sub MOA 3 shot groups showing the accuracy potential of the M18.

 

Groups averaged sub MOA with all the ammunition, the Terminal Accent just edging the others. This is great accuracy and a good indicator that the M18 may not be a picky rifle when it comes to ammunition types.

 

IN THE FIELD

Hunt One: A 4-day trip down to the Desert Rd would be my first chance to get the rifle into the scrub. There is a spot there that offers a primo view across an open gulley surrounded by beech, ideal (I thought…) for spotting a deer on the bush edges early morning or late evening.

 

With a clear weather window forecasted, I set off on a Thursday mid-morning and after a few stops in Taupo and a quick zero check at the NZDA range, I reached the Poled Route just after 3pm. This gave me enough time to get up on the hill and settle in for a glassing session.

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The wind was blowing hard and by nightfall was gusting heavily. The next morning dawned clear but that wind was not letting up.

 

I glassed for a short time before making my way along the ridge, down though the beech and then onto the gulley where I found a suitable spot to camp right next to it.

 

For the next couple of days, I glassed that very large and very promising clearing in the hope that a deer might show, but nothing, not a peep. I had the perfect shooting position too, looking straight across and up the gulley. Such is hunting.

 

During the day I stalked the nearby bush and did hear an animal crash off. Phew something at least! There was plenty of fresh sign around and more than a few rutting pads showing that there had been a decent amount of activity over the roar period.

 

Due to the Covid-19 lockdown coinciding with the roar, the sika stags had some reprieve over the 2020 rutting period.

 

The trip came to an end and it was time to head out. A bit of a non-event but not enough to not come back for round two at some stage. That clearing is just too good.

 

On the handling side of things, the M18 is reasonably well balanced with the point of carry just forward of the mag well. With the suppressor fitted this moves it up on to the fore grip section.

 

Note: Throughout the whole hunt, the army was going to town with constant gunfire echoing into the gulley. I appreciate that the deer in the area will be well used to hearing this, but I cannot imagine it is conducive to deer coming out in the open.

 

Hunt Two: I had the opportunity to meet up with Craig Carey who owns a large property in the Waitomo area. I initially got to know Craig via the Fish‘n’Hunt forum and he has also written some great articles for NZGUNS over the last few years.

 

Craig had mentioned that there were a few pigs frequenting back of the farm and I was welcome to come over to see if we could put one in the freezer, hell yeah!

 

I headed over on a Thursday afternoon, reaching his house mid-afternoon. The plan was to head up the back and get in a position over-looking some large bush edge paddocks.

 

A mob of fallow out feeding in the afternoon sunshine.

 

On the way up the track we spotted a couple of fallow down in a large gulley and not long after that, we spotted a group of about 20 fallow on a hilltop enjoying the sun.

 

You want some venison?!” asked Craig.

 

Ah, yes please!” I eagerly answered.

 

The stalk was on. We shortened the distance followed by a short belly crawl up to about 120m from the deer. I settled in behind the M18, chambered a round and picked out one of the larger spikers.

 

A short moment later and with the deer broadside on, I squeezed off and placed the shot straight into the chest. The deer did not drop but as it spun around I could a large stream of blood pouring out of the exit hole. It was dead on its feet.

 

The suppressor worked a treat and with no idea of where the shot had originated from, the rest of the mob milled about for some time before heading off over the hill.

 

Nik secured this fallow spiker during an afternoon hunt in the Waitomo region.

 

I was using the Federal Terminal Ascent 155gr ammo and even at this range, on a medium sized deer, the bonded projectile had performed great. The internal organs were toast and although the projectile was unrecoverable, it looked to have expanded adequately.

 

We headed over to the spiker and after taking a couple of photos I dressed the deer out and carried it back to the track. There was still some light left so we headed further back to see if a pig might show up.

 

From our position we saw no less than another 20 fallow plus 4 small pigs. Our objective had been to secure a decent sized pig, so these were left alone. Darkness crept in so we called it a day and headed back to the truck. A quick and easy afternoon hunt and good to meet up with Craig.

 

CONCLUSION

Somehow Mauser have managed to combine both a modern and classic in a kind of symbiotic relationship. The M18 looks and feels like a traditional hunting rifle albeit with a contemporary take.

 

I admit to being somewhat biased when it comes to this brand, but I would happily wager that just about anyone who gets an opportunity to handle an M18 will also appreciate its visual appeal and performance.

 

Reluctantly, I’ll have to give the M18 back. It handles sweet and performs just as well and I could see it fitting quite nicely into my safe.

 

It is not all that often that you get to review a rifle which ticks 9 out of 10 boxes, however for me, the M18 did just that.

 

For the price, the Mauser M18 Cerakote package deal must be a serious consideration for your next rifle purchase.

 

Nik

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