Shooting the 7.65 Mauser Model 1891

Only three days remain until Turkey Day, 2012, as I write this.  Yesterday I enjoyed a trip to the shooting range with an afternoon temperature of 61 deg.  Not bad for November, and a long shooting season is just one of the things I am thankful for.

Accompanying me to the range was a Model 1891 Mauser, caliber 7.65 x 53, also known as the “Argentine Mauser,” that I first described in a post on June 9, 2011. You can check that out if you would like a complete description of this old, military number.  Since then I have had some additional shooting experience that I would like to report for the Model 91. 

The 7.65 Argentine Rifle

The Model 1891 has an action identical to the preceding Belgian Mauser Model of 1889, which was the first Mauser model to have a bolt with two front locking lugs, a vertical magazine, and a design intended for use with smokeless powder cartridges.  It was an early step toward the famous Model 1898 Mauser, but not as strong or as safe as that later arm.  Shooting old military rifles is a very interesting pastime, but only when it can be done safely.

One thing we have going for us is the quality that was put into the construction of these arms.  My Model 1891, made by Ludwig Loewe of Berlin, was made for smokeless powder, and Loewe was known for using the best steel and heat treatment processes available.  The machining and fabrication processes were also of high quality.

This ’91 has a walnut stock, a straight bolt handle, and a 29.1-in. barrel held by two bands. The rear sight is a military ladder type and the front sight is an inverted “V”

Action Open, Magazine in View.

dovetailed into a square sight base. The single-column, vertical magazine is installed just in front of the trigger guard.  The magazine is removable, but is meant to be loaded from the top while in the gun.  The spring steel lips are easily spread to admit the cartridges and they hold the rounds securely following insertion. In a battle situation, stripper clips could be used for quick loading. Total weight is about 8 lbs 10 oz.

I wanted better sights for accurate shooting, so I bonded a Williams aperture unit to the receiver bridge using J-B Weld.  This may sound questionable, but it obviates the need for drilling and tapping and is conveniently and easily accomplished.  This is the third rifle for which I have used the bonding method and all have been successful. Check it out in the picture.

Williams Aperture Bonded to the Receiver Bridge of the 1891 Mauser

The 7.65 x 53 Cartridge

The 7.65 x 53 cartridge was introduced with the Model 1889 Mauser.  Designed for smokeless powder from the start, it is a bottle-necked, rimless cartridge with a powder capacity a bit larger than that of the .308 Winchester but considerably smaller than that of the .30-06 Springfield.  In spite of the case capacity difference,

Left: 7.65 x 53; Right .308 Winchester

the .308 performs better because it operates at higher pressure, the 7.65 being held to 46,000 psi, or so.  Bullet diameter is 0.311 in., the same as that used by the .303 British military cartridge.  A few American rifles, including the Model 70 Winchester, were chambered for the 7.65 round, and American loading companies produced it for a while, but that is long gone.  Two loads are currently produced by PPU (Prvi Partizan Uzice of Serbia) and Hornady produces one load.

The 7.65 Argentine at the Range

The loads available from PPU are a 174-grain full metal jacketed round and a 180-grain soft point that would be suitable for hunting.  Both loads performed well in the Model 91 Mauser in terms of velocity and accuracy.  The velocities were:

PPU 174 grain FMJ (8 shots):  Ave 2608 fps; Spread 85; SD 28

PPU 180 grain SP (8 shots):  Ave 2559 fps; Spread 53;  SD 16

Note that these velocities are in the ball park of the .308 Winchester and that the 180-gr SP moves quite a bit faster than a similar bullet does when launched by the .30-40 Krag, a military cartridge that was a contemporary of the 7.65 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.    Keep in mind, however, that these velocities were obtained using the 29-inch barrel of the Model 91 Mauser.  I am thinking that a 24-inch barrel would produce velocity pretty close the 2430 fps of the factory Krag 180, and we know that that round is no slouch when it comes to the killing of game.

I shot about a dozen five-shot groups at fifty yards to get an idea of accuracy for gun and cartridge.  The picture shows three of the groups, and the target needs comment.  Even with the rear aperture sight set at its lowest point the gun prints about 6 inches high at 50 yards.  That shows a need for a higher front sight, but I haven’t done that yet, so the target was designed to allow me to shoot groups in reliable, repeatable fashion.  The lower circle is used to center the inverted V front sight and the upper circle catches the shots.  You need pay no attention to the additional lines or circles in the upper circle.  The gun often prints a round group, such as the one on the left that measures 1.15”.  Flyers also appeared occasionally as shown in the other two groups, each showing a superb cluster and then one flyer.  The cluster of four in the middle target measures 0.73”.  The cluster in the right-hand target contains five shots and measures 0.65”.  I have no explanation for the errant shots;  they are not “called flyers.”  You will never see a group with a “called flyer” in my articles.  If I get a group that has a flyer that I know is my fault, I burn it.  Not to say that the flyers shown here are not my fault; they might have something to do with sighting or holding in the rest, but nothing I can really put a finger on.

Be that as it may, the groups demonstrate very good accuracy for the Model 1891 and they show that a good degree of precision is possible with the long sight radius, aperture sight setup.

Handloading Contemplated

The 7.65 Argentine Mauser of 1891 is pleasant to shoot but it is not as safe as later Mauser models.  There is no safety lug on the bolt to help keep it in the gun in the event of a high pressure event, and there is no provision for the safe escape of gas in the event of a ruptured case.  Granted, these are unlikely events with factory cartridges.

The fine 7.65 cartridge, the accuracy of the arm, and the good function that includes the easily-used magazine call for more shooting.  For this I would like to develop some target loads of modest pressure to be totally safe in view of the factors noted above.  I have a set of Lyman dies and there is a pretty good selection of 150- and 180-grain, .311” bullets available.  The powder selection is also wide, and the PPU cases seem to be of good quality.  I expect you will find a handloading report at some future date.


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