Karabiner 98k rifle: History, Specifications, and features of its use in WWII, In general, the design of the Karabiner 98k rifle is almost identical to the design of the Mauser 98.
Karabiner 98k rifle
German rifle “Karabiner 98k” became the main and most massive small arms of Nazi Germany in World War II. It was a shortened version of the 1898 Mauser magazine rifle with very minor design changes. The letter “k” at the end of the name meant an abbreviation for the German word “Kurz” (“short”). The Karabiner 98k rifle also had the names Karabiner 98k, Kar98k and K98k.
Despite the reduced parameters of the stock and barrel length relative to the standard rifle, in German terms of that time, “carbines” primarily meant the adaptability of these weapons (primarily mountings) for cavalrymen. At the same time, in terms of its mass-dimensional parameters, the Karabiner 98k is quite comparable to full-fledged rifles.
This situation was due to the conditions of the Versailles Peace, according to which Germany, defeated in World War I, was prohibited from having rifles in service with the army. However, the Germans renamed the Mauser Gewehr 98 rifles available to the army into Karabiner 98b carbines, implementing a number of minor design changes. Changed the bend of the bolt handle, sights, the method of fastening the belt, which in general did not affect the properties of the weapon itself.
History of Karabiner 98k Rifle
By the end of the 19th century, the German arms company of the Mauser brothers was considered one of the world’s leading developers and suppliers of small arms. The successful design of the classic rifles “Gever” of the 1871-1888 models was repeatedly modernized, until in the spring of 1895 Wilhelm and Paul Mauser combined a number of the most effective solutions into a new weapon, patented for the cartridge 7.92×57 mm perfect for its time.
In 1898, this new Mauser magazine rifle was adopted by the army of the German Empire under the designation Mauser Gewehr 98 (also G98 or Gew.98). This rifle was not particularly massive: exactly half a million copies of it were produced in Germany. Since 1905, the original version of the Gewehr 98 has changed slightly due to the adoption of a 7.92 mm caliber cartridge with a sharpened bullet instead of a blunt one. Since such a bullet had much better ballistics, the rifles were equipped with new sights, re-calibrated for a longer-range cartridge.
On the basis of the Mauser Gewehr 98, carbines were also produced: first Kar.98, and since the early 1920s Kar.98a. The next modification took place in 1935. It was then that the rifle under the designation Mauser Karabiner 98 kurz was adopted by the German Wehrmacht as the main individual weapon of not only cavalry, but also infantry. Improvements were expressed in the new scheme of fastening the rifle belt, as well as in the sight-in-the-fly sighting device.
This version of the rifle was destined to become the most popular. During the Second World War “Karabiner 98k” produced the industry of Germany and the countries occupied by it (Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia). Up to 1945, over 14 million units of these weapons were produced. After the end of the war, many Mauser rifles ended up in various civilian weapons markets, where they are still sold. An illustrative example of this kind is the Russian KO-98 hunting carbines, which appeared already in the 2000s, which are trophy Mausers, rearranged under the cartridge 7.62×51 mm.
The Karabiner 98k rifle was equipped with an integral two-row magazine with a staggered arrangement of 5 rounds. The practical rate of fire of this weapon was estimated at 15 rounds per minute. Several other bolt action rifles, notably the British Lee-Enfield, had a higher rate of fire.
Karabiner 98k rifle: Design
By its design, “Karabiner 98k” refers to magazine rifles with a sliding bolt that turns when locked. The bolt has three lugs, two of which are in the front and one in the back. It can be locked by turning it 90 degrees. The loading handle is located on the back of the bolt.
The shutter has vent holes, which, when gases break out from the liner, discharge the powder gases back through the hole for the striker down into the magazine cavity. The bolt is held in the receiver with a catch and removed from the rifle without tools. This operation requires setting the safety catch to the middle position, as well as pulling the front of the lock and then removing the bolt.
The design feature of the famous “Mauser” bolt is a massive non-rotating ejector that grips the rim of the cartridge in the process of removing it from the magazine and firmly holds the cartridge on the shutter mirror. This system, together with the short longitudinal displacement of the bolt back when it is opened, ensures reliable extraction of even very tightly seated casings in the chamber. The ejection of the sleeve from the receiver is carried out by an ejector attached to the left wall of the receiver and passing through a longitudinal slot in the bolt.
The Karabiner 98k rifle magazine is completely hidden in the stock. Loading is made from clips or one cartridge at a time, but it is not allowed to do this directly into the chamber, since it can lead to breakage of the ejector tooth.
The firing mechanism is of the striker type, the trigger travel is with a warning. The drummer is cocked and the weapon is put into a combat platoon by turning the handle when the bolt is opened. The condition of the striker can be easily determined visually or by touch by the position of the shank protruding from the valve.
The standard Karabiner 98k rifle has a sector sight, consisting of an aiming block, an aiming bar (with graduations corresponding to a change in range by 100 meters) and a clip with a latch. The front sight (usually closed with a semicircular removable front sight) is mounted on the base of the muzzle of the barrel in a dovetail groove with the possibility of lateral corrections. The adjustable rear sight is located on the barrel in front of the receiver.
The stock is made of wood, with a semi-pistol grip. The butt plate is made of steel, with a door covering the cavity for storing accessories. The ramrod is placed in front of the stock under the barrel; for cleaning the weapon, it is assembled from two halves.
The Karabiner 98k was equipped with standard SG 84/98 blade-type bayonets, significantly shorter and lighter than the conventional Mauser 98 bayonets. Such a bayonet had a 25 cm long blade with a total length of 38.5 cm. For carrying on a waist belt, the bayonet was put into a special sheath. Since the end of 1944, in order to save money, German rifles were no longer equipped with bayonet-knives, at the same time removing the mount for them. This version with the name Kriegsmodell (“military model”) also lost the metal disc in the butt, and instead of walnut wood, plywood was used to make the stock, but this did not affect the shooting characteristics of the weapon.
Analogs of rifles in the USSR
A common object of comparisons between the German Karabiner 98k carbine and its Soviet counterpart is the Mosin 7.62mm rifle of the 1891/1930 model, known as the “three-line”. It was these rifles that were the most common individual small arms of the infantry of Germany and the USSR during the Great Patriotic War.
Both of these rifles were distinguished by relative simplicity and safety in handling, as well as high reliability and durability, although the service life and strength of the Mauser structure were estimated slightly higher.
Karabiner 98k rifles were widely used by all branches of the German armed forces during World War II. They were used in all theaters of operations involving German troops, including Europe, North Africa, and the territory of the Soviet Union. As an individual infantry weapon, the Mauser, with all its positive qualities, was relatively cumbersome and inconvenient for conducting combat operations at close distances.
The rate of fire of the Karabiner 98k was limited by how quickly the shooter could operate the bolt and load the magazine, the small capacity of which significantly reduced firepower. In the same period, the armed forces of Germany’s main adversaries received self-loading rifles with a significantly higher rate of fire: the United States massively supplied its army with M1 Garand rifles, and Soviet troops received SVT-40s.
At the beginning of the war, the Germans relied more on the single MG-34 machine guns for providing firepower, as well as on the use of Wehrmacht units armed with MP-38 and MP-40 submachine guns. Later, self-loading rifles began to be produced later, but the Gewehr 43 was not very successful, and the Sturmgewehr 44 could no longer be produced in large quantities. As a result, “Karabiner 98k” was produced until the last days of the war, and remained the main weapon of the Wehrmacht.
The Wehrmacht used standard Karabiner 98k rifles as snipers. During factory tests, specimens giving the maximum accuracy were selected from the batch, as was done during the First World War (with conventional Mauser 98 rifles). In addition, SME cartridges (Spitzgeschoss mit Eisenkern, pointed bullet with a steel core) were used for sniper shooting.
In the summer of 1941, the ZF 41 sight, also known as the ZF 40 and ZF 41/1, was adopted, and by the end of the same year, the Karabiner 98k carbines equipped with it began to enter the army. With a length of 13 cm, it provided only a 1.5-fold increase, was attached to the left side of the rear sight, so it did not interfere with loading the magazine from the clip. Such a sight could only be used for shooting at medium distances, and the “Mauser” equipped with it were considered “a rifle for shooting with increased accuracy”, and not a sniper. Their release continued until the end of the war.
The ZF 4 telescopic sight (or ZF 43, ZFK 43, and ZFK 43/1) was originally intended for the G43 self-loading rifle and was a copy of the Soviet scope, which ultimately had to be adapted to the K98k rifle. The sight was placed over the bolt on an arrow-shaped mount, which was produced in a rather limited series at the very end of the war.
Other types of scopes were used on the Karabiner 98k, including the Opticotechna, Dialytan, and Hensoldt & Soehne 4x telescopic sights, and the rare Carl Zeiss Jena Zielsechs 6x telescopic sight. According to rough estimates, about 200 thousand Karabiner 98k carbines were equipped with various optical sights, but no more than a tenth of them can be attributed to “sniper” sights.
Advantages and disadvantages
Among the main advantages of the Karabiner 98k rifle, experts indicate:
- High muzzle energy, providing a good penetration and lethality of the bullet;
- The successful design of the shutter, contributing to high reliability and smooth operation;
- Stopping the bolt in the rear position warns the shooter about the need to load the weapon and excludes attempts to fire from an unloaded weapon;
- The store hidden in the box is protected from mechanical damage.
The disadvantages of “Karabiner 98k” include:
- Small store capacity;
- A significant mass of the rifle;
- Strong impact;
- The sharp and loud sound of a shot.
In general, the Mauser system of the 1898 model, as well as its further development – Karabiner 98 Kurz, are considered one of the most successful solutions in its class. This design has proven its strength, long service life, simplicity, and safety in handling. Despite the significant complexity of the production technology, the Mauser system became the basis for many different samples of army and hunting rifles and carbines.