The Boer 1895 MauserBy Tim Watson
- 29th Nov, 2019 Nov 29, 2019, 12:00 AM
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1899, and war had broken out in South Africa. Approximately 90,000 Afrikaner farmers took on the might of the British Empire by invading the British colonies of Natal and the Cape Colony after years of frustration with British policies.
The Boers were armed with a variety of small arms including Martinis, 1885 Guedes and captured Lee rifles, however the most popular were the newly imported 1895 Mausers in both rifle and carbine configurations.
The Mausers represented at the time the spear-point of innovative arms design. The 1895 featured a twin locking-lug bolt head, long range adjustable sights, and importantly, a clip-loading receiver to feed the five round internal magazine.
“...several shipments of captured rifles were distributed by Britain to ... New Zealand. They were stamped with “SAT” across the top of the receiver for “South African Trophy.”
This was to prove a significant advantage over the Lee Metford and Enfield rifles employed by the British and colonial troops. Some Boers were initially sceptical of the Mauser chosen by their government with many believing its new, small diameter bullet was too lightweight for warfare, but were soon won over by the accuracy, increased range and devastating effects of the 7x57.
It is no wonder the British started to develop their own .276 calibre, clip-fed, Mauser-style battle rifle after the war. Only the onset of WW1 prevented the full scale adoption of the P14’s original concept design.
THE NZ CONNECTION
With the Boer war finally over, several shipments of captured rifles and equipment were distributed by the victorious, grateful Britain to her doting colony of New Zealand. They were stamped with “SAT” across the top of the receiver for “South African Trophy” along with a serial number.
My first memories of Boer Mausers come from visits to the Waiouru Army Museum as a young fella, where I often lingered well behind my father as I read every description and poured over every diorama. The rifles still come up for sale regularly at gun auctions and there’s an excellent resource page on the NZ Antique Arms website that lists known SAT marked rifles.
“...the Boers would often personalise their rifles with carving. Elaborate scenes and scrolls, battle sites, generals, flags and most commonly their names were often added to both sides of the rifle stocks."
This custom naturally spread to the New Zealand troopers. During the war (or afterwards) they altered their privately purchased Lees or captured Mausers in much the same way. These rifles tell an important story of our history and heritage, more so due to the provenance found on the stocks.
OUR FAMILY'S RIFLE
The rifle in our collection was made by Ludwig Loewe, but others were also made by DWM. Interestingly the receiver is not marked with ‘SAT’. Was this rifle smuggled back to NZ by the trooper who acquired it?
Sadly, this article is not a testfire as the rifle’s bore is far too worn, but with reduced loads it is possible shoot others like it. Regardless, the character of this Mauser is apparent without test firing.
Here are the standout features:
- The barrel is extremely long, at 29 inches. This gives the rifle a steady feel when you’re aiming offhand.
- The workmanship. The bolt runs very smoothly with little slack between it and the receiver. The bolt cocks on closing (like a .303) and gives the same impression you’d get by locking a Swiss bank safe door. The metal work is chequered on the top of the safety lever and the edges of the rear sight leaf adjuster. Case hardening blue remains on the magazine follower.
- The carving of the fiddleback walnut stock. The left side of the butt lists the places where the owner campaigned – Transvaal, Orange River Colony, Cape Colony and Natal, along with the ZAR (Transvaal) coat of arms. The right side depicts one of the most respected Boer generals of the war, Koos de la Rey.
General De La Rey led the Boers in the very first skirmish of the war, derailing a British armoured train between Mafeking and Kimberley. By the end of the war, his commando was among the last Boer formations still resisting. He’d earned the respect of the British with his generalship, several miraculous escapes, and chivalry towards captured enemies. His men held him in high regard, as did his Kiwi foes who had a lot in common with the Boer farmer. This could be why his image is on the stock.
One cannot but admire men who fought for their homes against the might of the British Empire. The Mauser is not only a great reminder of their courage, but also of our forebears who often had to ride into the deadly hail of 7x57mm Boer bullets so many miles from home.
“One cannot but admire men who fought for their homes against the might of the British Empire. The Mauser is not only a great reminder of their courage, but also of our forebears who often had to ride into the deadly hail of 7x57mm Boer bullets so many miles from home.”
Back in New Zealand, either sporterised or left as original, the Mauser was ideal for deer stalking. Old sporting snapshots can still be found of proud deerstalkers with their 1895 Mausers in hand.
No doubt many Boer Mausers found a new, happier purpose in the hills, providing food for hungry families and trophies above the mantelpiece.