Zastava M48 Mauser: Milsurp Gem

M48 Mauser action
June 16, 2023  
Categories: Guns

The Zastava M48 Mauser  — there are many like it, but this one is mine!

Mausers are the gold standard for Milsurp rifles for many people, myself included. Sure, there are other great designs like the Swiss K31 and British SMLE, but no series of rifles has been more consistently excellent than the ones that are based on the Mauser 98 action.

Sorry if that pisses off any Mosin-Nagant-o-philes out there, but it’s a fact. I love my Mosins too, but the truth is that they’re garbage next to any Mauser 98 variant in reasonable condition. I include the M1903 Springfield in that latter group since most of us know that the ’03 action was essentially a Mauser copy. Mauser sued over it too, but the legal wranglings got sidetracked by a little dust-up known as World War I.

The Zastava M48 is among the last bolt action infantry rifles made and it just might be the best a Mauser can be.

A Yugoslav M48 Mauser - Zastava type!

The M48 Mauser, Yugoslavian Style

One of the best examples of the Mauser series was not manufactured in Germany, but in Yugoslavia in the late 1940s and 1950s. As part of the reparations Germany had to pay after World War II, Yugoslavia received tooling and equipment to make the Mauser 98, specifically the Karabiner 98 kurz (K98k or KAR 98) version.

The KAR 98 was the standard-issue infantry rifle for the Wehrmacht right through the end of the war. Even though the bolt action infantry rifle was pretty much obsolete by then, the Yugoslavians set up the Preduzece 44 facility (part of Zastava) to manufacture what became the M48 Mauser variant. Preduzece 44 was later known as the “Red Banner” plant.

You know, because communists.

Buy it and back the bang

Where to Find an M48 Mauser for Sale

What makes the M48 Mauser Unique?

The M48 was not a carbon copy of the K98k, though there are similarities. The M48 is not quite an inch shorter in overall length, measuring 42.75 inches, with a 23.25-inch barrel compared to 23.62 inches for the K98k. The weight of both rifles can vary by a few ounces either way. The listed weight for the K98k is 8.2 to 9 pounds. The M48 is in the same range, with 8.6 pounds being the standard. According to my scale, my M48B comes in at 8.2 pounds unloaded.

Tango Yankee Chip animated

An attitude of gratitude is never a bad thing.


Several features of the Zastava rifles are different too. The upper handguard on the M48 covers the barrel all the way back to the receiver, while the K98k only goes back to the front edge of the rear sights. Maybe not a big deal, but the barrel gets damned hot after a few rounds and that extra protection is nice when handling the weapon after putting it through its paces. The rear sight gets hot, too since it’s mounted on the barrel through a slot in the upper handguard.

The bolt handle is curved at approximately a 45-degree angle, unlike the K98k, which is turned down at an angle sharp enough to prompt the need for a cutout in the stock to accommodate it. I admit it’s a matter of personal preference, but I think the M48 is superior in this regard because it’s easier to get a firm grip on the bolt handle. The handle is shaved flat on the underside, a feature I really like.

M48 Mauser bolt handles

The most significant difference in the weapons is the length of the bolt itself, though it’s only an eighth of an inch and there’s no noticeable difference when cycling the two actions. The significance lies in that the two are not interchangeable, as are the standard size 98 bolts (subject to caliber, wear, and headspace). The M48 bolt is interchangeable with the earlier Serbian-produced M24 series Mauser variant, which is also of the intermediate length. Again, interchangeability is subject to wear and headspace.

M48 Mauser bolt side

M48 Mauser Action

The action itself, along with quality manufacture, is the secret to the success of the Mauser. The product of years of development by Paul Mauser and his late brother Wilhelm, even today the 98 action may well be the apex of the bolt action rifle system. Paul Mauser’s final version features two forward locking lugs, with a third lug in the rear designed as a final precaution against catastrophic failure.

The action is so robust that, when produced with proper materials, it can handle 100,000 pounds of pressure and still remain operational. Of course, it couldn’t withstand such pressures for long, and the standard World War II 8mm Mauser load exerted about 45,000 psi.

M48 Mauser action
The action is the secret to the Mauser’s success.
M48 Mauser action side view
M48 Mauser action, side view.

Safety Mechanism

Other innovations of the Mauser 98 action are the powerful claw extractor, first developed in 1892, and the 18-pound mainspring driving the firing pin. One of the most recognizable features of the Mauser action is the three-position safety at the rear of the bolt. The first position, to the left, renders the rifle fully operational. The second position, straight up, disengages the trigger mechanism but allows the action to cycle, allowing for easy and safe unloading or for the operator to safely remove the bolt for inspection or troubleshooting without unloading the rifle. This is useful in the field. The third position, to the right, disengages the trigger and locks the bolt entirely.

The safety is milled steel, very robust, highly visible, and easily operated. Modern high-end Mauser hunting rifles still use the 98 action with a version of this safety mechanism. Another interesting feature of the action is the ability to decock the action without dry-firing the weapon. Lifting the handle cocks the bolt, but lowering the handle with the trigger pulled decocks it. This is a useful capability when cleaning or servicing the action.

Three position Mauser safety
Three-position Mauser safety. 

Loading a Yugo M48 Mauser 

The system features a five-round internal box magazine. Rounds can be loaded individually or by a stripper clip. I’ve seen reports that credit Paul Mauser with the invention of the stripper clip, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. What is true is that Mauser greatly improved upon the design of the clips and the 98 system may be the first to allow the clip to be discarded simply by closing the bolt after loading the rounds. Unlike the K98k, the follower does not cause the bolt to lock open after firing the last round.

M48 Mauser action open and closed.
The M48 Mauser action open and closed.

Special Markings 

One thing milsurp collectors (at least this one) love is the cool markings and features of these old warhorses. The M48 doesn’t disappoint here, at least in the models prior to the M48BO. The receiver ring has the Yugoslav Crest, featuring the date 29 November, 1943, which was the day the communist Anti-Fascists reestablished the “Republic” of Yugoslavia.

The weapon’s model designation appears just below the seal and the Preduzece 44 stamp is on the left side of the receiver (shout out to my buddy Ben Sorensen for translating the Cyrillic script and tipping me to the date and its significance). Since so many went unissued, it’s easy to find rifles with matching serial numbers on the receiver, bolt handle, magazine floorplate, and buttstock.

Yugoslavian M48 Mauser Crest
Yugoslavian M48 Mauser Crest.

Palmetto State Armory Clearance

M48 Mauser buttstock with serial number and floorplate.
The serial number on an M48 Mauser buttstock and mag floorplate.

There are four basic versions of the M48 military rifle. The most desirable is the original M48. It’s very well made with all milled parts and a nice, sturdy stock of elm, birch, beech, or walnut. There are some claims of the stocks being teak, but that’s not true. Teak wasn’t available, and importing it from Southeast Asia would have been uneconomical. Seems the rumor got started because some early imports looked like teak and no one bothered to check. Zastava has since confirmed that teak wasn’t used. The other versions include the Zastava M48A, M48B, and M48BO.

Budgetary concerns led to the use of some stamped parts beginning with the M48A, which is discernable by the stamped magazine floor plate. The M48B has a stamped floor plate and barrel bands, as well as a stamped two-piece trigger guard. The problem here is that many of the M48Bs still have “M48A” stamped on the receiver ring underneath the cool Yugoslav crest.

This is how mine is marked and I didn’t realize it was an M48B until I started researching this article. These models are sometimes referred to as the “M48A-B.” The final version is the M48BO. It’s essentially an M48B, but it doesn’t have any national markings because it was designed solely for export.

Preduzece 44 stamp
The Preduzece 44 stamp.

Zastava did manufacture a shorter-barreled sporting rifle based on the M48 known as the M48/63. It was discontinued in 2013. But the later Mauser-inspired Zastava M85 continues to see sporadic production today. Some of the M48/63 rifles were marketed by a certain import firm, sometimes accused of doctoring milsurps to make them more desirable, as “Tanker Mausers.” They’re nice rifles, but don’t fall for the marketing that they were designed for or used by armored troops. Not that many here are likely to believe that nonsense.

M48 Mauser Ammo

The Zastava Mauser is chambered for the 8mm Mauser (7.92x57mm) cartridge. Surplus ammo is still available, though the stocks are obviously finite. I couldn’t find stats on all the surplus stuff, but I was able to determine that the muzzle velocity of standard World War II rounds was 2880 fps. The Shooter’s Bible lists fourteen commercially-available loads by various manufacturers with an average muzzle velocity of 2451 fps and an average energy expenditure of 2463 ft/lbs.

In my experience, the 8mm Mauser round compares favorably with my trusty 30.06, and I haven’t hesitated to hunt deer and hogs with it.

M48 Mauser Trigger

The trigger on the M48 is surprisingly good for a milsurp. It’s a two-stage setup with about a half-inch takeup before a clean break. Honestly, I like the trigger on mine better than any of my commercial hunting rifles. I can’t compare it to a modern Mauser hunting rifle since the fund for that one is still being accumulated.

Sights on the M48 Mauser

The sights are typical of the time and adequate, if not great. They consist of a standard rear notch coupled with a hooded front post, which is theoretically adjustable for windage but in reality, is a pain in the ass. The hood protects it pretty well once you get it zeroed. The hooded front sight is nice, but the low profile of the rear notch can make fast acquisition less than efficient at times, especially in low light conditions. Like other bolt rifles of the day, the rear sight are optimistic, ranging out to 2000 meters, though they oddly do not have a 100-meter setting and begin at 200 instead.

The effective range of the weapon is about 500 meters, obviously dependent on load, light, and shooter competence. The low profile rear sights play a role here too, as longer-range targets are more difficult to see than they might be otherwise. This is not, nor is it meant to be, a precision weapon, though it’s as accurate as you can expect any milsurp to be. Some M48s were converted to fill the sniper role, but I have no experience with those or with any scoped version.

Most M48s went unissued since they were quickly superseded as the standard service rifle by such Communist-bloc mainstays as the SKS and AK-47. However, some have seen service in the civil wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Still, the weapons were diligently maintained by the Yugoslavs, who pulled them out of storage on a rotating five-year basis, cleaned them, coated them in new cosmoline, and put them back.

Because of this care, many are in good to excellent condition, with bright bores, smooth actions, and often beautiful stocks. The stock has a heavy, slightly concave, steel buttplate that gives it a little extra heft, but it’s a sturdy SOB.

Mauser sights

Side-Mounted Sling

Another unique feature of the later Mauser designs is the side-mounted sling. I don’t know whether I like it or not. On one hand, it’s mounted so that, while slung, the trigger guard or bolt handle doesn’t dig into your back. Good deal, though I can’t really say I’ve ever been bothered by that. On the other hand, when you’re firing the rifle the sling doesn’t hang straight down but rather sticks out to the left, sometimes getting in the way. It takes some getting used to.

One solution is to tighten the sling as far as it will go, but that makes it impossible to shoulder unless you happen to be a skinny supermodel, which I most assuredly am not. Pick your poison, but neither one is a deal breaker for me since I use this rifle to hunt and blow holes in stuff at the range. The surplus slings I’ve found have been pieces of crap, but I got a nice new one from the fine folks at RTG Parts.

..Final Review

All told, my M48 is my favorite milsurp rifle. The excellent condition, beautiful stock and, above all, the Mauser 98 action, make it a damned fine specimen. My Madsen M47 is close, but the Mauser action is the difference maker. About 1.2 million of these rifles were manufactured, though some models are more desirable than others, but they are readily available.

The Zastava rifles aren’t as collectible as the K98k, especially the earlier-produced rifles with Nazi markings, but the M48 matches its German cousin in quality and performance, and is generally in better condition. If MILSURP weapons are your thing, or if you just want a tough, high-quality bolt action rifle for not a lot of money, the Yugoslav M48 is hard to beat.

M48 Mauser Rear Sight
M48 Mauser Rear Sight

So, are we missing anything here? What’s your favorite old school bolt gun? Hit us up in the comments below!

For more information on another iconic milsurp check out our article on the Steyr M95.

Primary Arms Buy Now Pay Later

 This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using such a link, we will earn a small commission from that sale at no additional cost to you. 

Get banged on the regular, sign up for the newsletter!

Bucky Lawson

Bucky Lawson

About the Author

William "Bucky" Lawson has had a thing for military history since the sixth grade when he picked up a book about World War I fighter aces. Since then he has studied warriors from Ancient Greece to the modern day, with a special emphasis on World War II. He's a member of the Saber & Scroll Historical Society, the Historical Studies Honor Society, the Society for Military History, and Pi Gamma Mu (that's not an Asian stripper- it's the International Honor Society in Social Sciences). He has an unabashed love of the USA, military surplus bolt action rifles, AK-47s, and Walther handguns. He despises incabination and likes hamburgers, dogs, and cigars, but really who doesn't? Sissies and vegans, that's who. Bucky contributes to Strategy & Tactics Press, has a Masters Degree in Military History, and will probably proclaim himself an academic and wear one of those jackets with the patches on the elbows soon. Could be he'll run down a PhD, maybe he'll go hunting instead - Bucky likes the charred flesh of something that once had a parent, especially if he killed it himself. He is currently trying to figure out a way to export Texas politics to his native Virginia. Breach-Bang-Clear readers who talk to Bucky will be happy to know he's only half the redneck he sounds and really isn't inbred at all. Or not too much anyway, which is why he gets along so well with our other polrumptions. You can find historical bibliognost on Linkedin here.


  1. Virgilio Da ruz

    how can i buy a 7.62 gun for hunting

  2. strain

    Buy the best Marlin Rifles right here at Our Marlin Firearms Store. Shop from our amazing collection of brand new Marlin firearms for sale and Best fire arms in stock right now are:
    marlin model 60 stock
    marlin 795
    marlin 1895 trapper
    marlin 1895 guide gun
    marlin model 25
    marlin 336 for sale
    marlin 1894
    marlin xt-22
    marlin camp carbine
    marlin 1895 gbl
    marlin 1895
    rugar marlin 1895
    marlin xt
    marlin 336c
    marlin 780

  3. Morton Barke

    We are happy to read this awesome content and we finds it very interesting and useful. Thanks for sharing and please keep posting.

  4. Clay-Daniel: Jones

    Howdy , Clay from Wyoming. Ahhhh, Mauser. All agreed, Motion passes, Paul and Peter Mauser sit at the Right and Left of Jesus Christ, along with John Moses & Bro. Christopher Browning.
    The 48/98/93
    Excellent Foundation for execution of Scout Rifle Concept. If you can get past longing for retention of as issued. To wit Good GunSmith Unscrew 8 mil barrel replace with . 308 cal bbl. 18″-20″,Install Forward Mounted
    Scope Base, BUIS have Gun Smith install Williams Reciever Sight so w,/ 200 yd Zero Sight is on bbl, thus any hard thumps when taking falls obviates damage. Bend Bolt handle to standard American Winchester/ Ruger Bend Shorten standard stock to Max 12″ LOP. Sling
    Aquire from Brownells 3 pkg on Hammer Head Flush. Mount Swivelsount Fore, Aft and amidship at center Screw. Now Your Galco Ching Sling should be mounted and adjusted to fit your phsyique THENCE we Securely LOC- TITE those little screws Scope Burris 2 3/4 power Ocular just forward of action so you can feed action with stripper clip. Said Rifle should come right at approx 2 meter or bit shorter
    and Wet : 5 in mag, 1 up spout around7.3- 7.5 lbs.
    308/7.62×51 mm
    Available everywhere
    Yes you in the back there even in Former Soviet Comblok.
    Now have some 150 grain Rem. CoreLocts w/ you your little bullet puller hammer your Lee Loader, pull that 147 Grain FMJ Replace w/ 150 grain Core Loct or 165 grain and Voila Deer/ Elk, Springbok, Impala Eland Getter.

  5. jrg

    I wish I had purchased a genuine ’98 Mauser. What I purchased was a FR8 Spanish Mauser in .308 Winchester, a pair of Swiss K31s in 7.5×55 and a Swedish 38 short rifle in 6.5×55. All in all – not too bad.

  6. JCHJ

    Friends and I bought 10 “NIW” rifles still in cosmoline somewhere around 2002. 139.00 ea shipped per crate of 10. I have 3 with two still in grease. We also bout 10k rounds of “hot” Turkish milsurp ammo in bando’s, on stripper clips at .07 cents per round. We shot hundreds, if not thousands of prairie dogs with this rifle/ammo as it was way cheaper than other calibers, Our shoulders paid the price. Fabulous rifle! Great times.

  7. Rick L Russell

    Before I shoot my M48, I want to make sure I am using the correct ammo. I have read several articles that claim an M48 will only accept one type of 8mm ammo up to and including any 8mm ammo (7.92 x 57mm) will work fine. The more I research, the more varying opinions I get. Don’t want to damage my M48 (or me) by using incompatible ammunition. Any advice?

  8. Frank

    When I was exposed to and became involved in WW2 reenacting by a friend, K98 Mausers were available for $200 to $500. Now the prices have gone way up on the military surplus and even used firearms bear little budget value. Now everything is being sold as collectible due to lower numbers available for import.

    For the price of an older, vintage firearm you can buy something new. From a strictly logical and practical perspective, why buy something old and used for the same price as a new version. And now you can’t even buy the ammunition for some firearms without searching for it. So if one buys a Mauser or Lee Enfield or what have you, you can’t even shoot it.

    I feel that everything has been messed up with all the political events and the anti-gun crowd creating sudden price changes with ammunition purchases and their restrictions.

    It’s sad how things have changed. Surplus offered quality firearms at reasonable prices, but prices and dwindling supply has kind of put an end to that.

  9. Mr Short

    At this point in time I would love to get my hands on just about any functional and not shot out milsurp rifle, pistols and Sub gun style firearms for around $200 and under mark, if there are any left for around that price, especially an SKS. The worst part is I don’t even know where to look for such firearms.

  10. Richard K Lane

    Some of the,M24/47 parts are interchangable with the,M48.You might have some M24/47 parts in your rifle?

  11. Eli Haus

    I bought one in the cosmoline from a friend of mine who was one of the importers of M48A. He owned INTRAC which was located in Knoxville, TN. I think he imported those at the end of the 1990’s. It came with a brass oiler, rubber coated magazine pouch, and matching bayonet. It was a real PIA to clean it up. Alan, the owner of INTRAC told me the same story about the Yugoslavians taking them out storage every so often and cleaning them and then greasing them back up. At the same time I bought 1440 rounds of German corrosive 8MM ammo dated 1943. Paid 69 bucks for the ammo and 60 bucks for the rifle. I always take a gas stove and a tin funnel to the range and give it a good cleaning to get rid of the salts. Wish I had bought several of these. I remember he had a wooden table over 20 foot long covered with M48As. He had an employee checking the headspace of all the guns he sold.

  12. Craig Williams

    I bought an M48A as near as I can tell from the receiver ring with a 50,000 series serial number receiver, bolt and , barrel under the stock line all match. The rifle has a milled not stamped floor plate and milled trigger guard and yes it was sold as a “collector grade rifle from the dreaded Mitchells Mausers. The bore and chamber look pristine with nice sharp well defined land and grooves,it’s bright and shiny. M48 A are clearly stamped on the receiver ring under the Yugoslavian Crest. Am I suspicious of the milled floor plate yes in light of the info that I’ve seen on line thus far. If the standard M48 A serials ran in numerical succession than that leads me to believe that this gun which shows a 6 62 number stamped on the barrel ahead of the receiver under the wood is indeed a production or assembly date for the barreled receiver then I seem to have a bit of a mystery going here. If anyone has any information on serial number/production dates and the 6 62 number stamped on the barrel is 3 years from the end of the M48 series than I’m tempted to think that perhaps the milled floor plate and trigger gaurd are incorrect. Not that I really care as the rifle is going to be a shooter and hunting weapon. Just trying to make sense of an apparent mystery. If anyone knowledgeable can shed some light I’d be most appreciative. By the way the European Elm stock is going to be lightly sanded down starting with 800 grit and on to 1,000 and then on to 1200 with very thin coats of boiled linseed oil being hand rubbed along with the sanding dust to dry and fill the pores. each coat being lightly sanded before the next. I plan to repeat this procedure 3 times ending with a final very thin coat of oil rubbed until it is hot to the touch. Then set aside to dry and a final light pass with 0000 steel to for a satin finish. Hopefully the grain will contrast well and it will be well sealed. Any constructive criticsm or advice is welcome. Spare the hate or unfounded opinion.

  13. Douglas Moore

    I too have a soft spot for the Yugoslavian Mausers, I have a few M48’s , M24/47’s, and one M24/47 in a M48 stock that I call my M24/47/48.
    You mentioned the low profile of the rear notch. The purists will blanch at this but it works great. I take
    a small square file, the size of the top of the notch and file down to form the “V” into a square.
    So much easier to acquire and center the front sight.

  14. Tennessee Budd

    I bought my M48 (no suffix letter) for $230 & shipping from J&G Sales a couple of years ago. I’m a Cruffler, & had bought C&R pistols before, but this was my first C&R rifle. I love this weapon!

    I’ve fired friends’ bolt rifles, & the M48 compares favorably to any of them. Heavy, of course, but we don’t still-hunt deer much in TN, so I’m not carrying it for miles.

    Mine is drilled & tapped atop the receiver, which bothered me. I didn’t believe I was lucky enough to have been shipped a sniper rifle, but after some research, it looks like the holes are correctly placed. May have been done after its Yugoslav time, but if so, whoever faked it at least used the correct scope mount!

Submit a Comment

Buy Me a Coffee at

Popular Articles

PSA Uppers, Lowers, Optics and More! 4th of July.

Celebrate July. Buy more, save more. Up to 30% off. Forloh.
Lone Wolf DAWN. Parts for Sig Sauer P365 30% off. back Breach-Bang-Clear

Find what’s in stock, and where, and compare prices. 

⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang 

Get Patched In

Wretched Minion Patch