View Full Version : 308 Small Ring Mauser Conversion?

April 15, 2012, 07:52 PM
Some years back I was fortunate to acquire three Swedish M96 Husqvarna actions. Although pre-threaded short chambered Shilen replacement barrels are only available in 6.5mmx55, 250 Savage and 7x57 cals, the Husqvarna company produced a commercial small-ring Mauser rifle in .308 Winchester. I've also found references in a couple of older gunsmithing manuals regarding re-barrelling the military action to 308. Typical chamber pressures of the 6.5mm X 55 are 44,500 CUP (maximum 55,000 psi) while .308 Win is 57,500 psi.

The Swedish 6.5mm x 55 has been my favorite cartridge for years for both hunting and target shooting. I rebuilt one with a 26" Shilen barrel, target stock, Timney Featherweight trigger and other OEM modifications; the first time out, after firing 20 rounds to help break in the barrel, I shot three one hole groups at 100 yards. Except for a few collectibles all of my shooters are close to sub-MOA accuracy. I'm considering the .308 conversion because I want the option of a heavier bullet and extended range. If the accuracy is as good as my 6.5mm rebuild I'll have a very fine long-range target/sniper quality rifle.

I suspect that barrel makers don't offer pre-threaded SRM bbls in .308 Win because it would NOT be safe to use them with inferior SRM actions (such as Spanish) that lack the strength and tolerances of the M96 Swede. I've tested my receivers for Rockwell hardness and all are finely-finished between-war production.

Sorry for the long-winded intro, but I believe that the Swede is safe at the chamber pressures of a 308 Win. Does anyone out there have any experience of reasons why I should have reservations about chambering this small-ring action for .308? Thanks for any info.

James K
April 16, 2012, 06:28 PM
Between you and me and the gatepost (as my dad used to say), I think you are probably right. But so many of those older rifles have been converted to .308 with sometimes less than ideal results that many gunsmiths just won't do that job. But the ring diameter and lug thickness is only one aspect of the question. There were tremendous metalurgical advances in the decade of the 1890's and rifles made in, say, 1894 would not be as good as those made in 1897. It has been easier to just say that pre-98 Mausers were not designed for pressures over about 45k psi than to try to figure out by year and maker just when or if the steel underwent improvements.

One point of interest, for years Norma used Swedish ex-military actions to test fire all their ammunition, and didn't blow any up, though some didn't last too long with Magnum cartridges before battering. Of course, Norma didn't care about long life, only that the actions were cheap and did the job.


April 16, 2012, 10:38 PM
My actions are 1939 and 1941, Husquvarna offered a commercial SRM in .308, many folks have done this conversion and I'm confident that it's safe.... However I've decided it's idiotic to spend good money on an expensive conversion when I have all the components on hand to build two fine 6.5mm x 55 rifles--I'm not talking about sporterized military pieces, but using the Husky receivers as the basis for fully-custom target/hunting rifles.

Many smart shooters have finally caught onto 6.5mm x 55 in recent years (I've been a cheerleader for 25 years) and my custom Swedes have sold easily in the past. I'm an ex-FFL gunsmith--I dropped my license because the paper requirements and a surprise ATF home visit made it more of a hassle than it was worth. I had a pretty narrow niche in restoring military rifles to better-than-new shooting condition, plus doing custom stock work, metal polishing and re-bluing. I'm not a full-service gunsmith and have limited machine tooling, but lotsa people like their guns to be pretty and for a few years it was a profitable sideline home business. I'm self trained but by limiting myself to a few guns, learning everything I could in specific areas and referring out other jobs to folks who were better at those tasks, I ended up with more business than I wanted.

That said, I think I'll use my remaining Husqvarna actions for 6.5 x 55 custom guns...I even have a few in-the-white 24" carbine factory barrels on hand. I replace the bolt handle with a TIG-welded custom teardrop handle, install a 1-piece Redfield scope mount, cut off the bolt safety/vertical cocking piece (this lightens the firing pin/cocking piece and improves lock time), install an OEM bolt shroud and Timney trigger w/safety, re-shape the trigger housing, replace the barrel if needed (24"-26" Shilen or factory Gustafs/Husky free floated, pillar or glass bedded depending on intended use) plus a few other tweaks before steel-bedding the action in a walnut or Bell Carbelite stock (I left the butt uncompleted so I could customize the drop and LOP to customer preference). I used to mirror-polish the metal and have them hot-blued, but the EPA has shut down my bluers so I now use Dicropan IM hot water blue or DuraKote in my garage, or can have a local guy Parkerize 'em. The end result is a light quick-handling rifle, a target trigger w/instant lock time, a stock married to your body and the near-unrivalled medium-to-long-range accuracy of the 140gr Spitzer BT 6.5mm Swedish cartridge (Swedes were used in Olympic Games shooting/skiing events into the early 60's before they switched to .22 rimfire). I've built five custom Swedes and all but one fired one-hole groups at 100 yards.

In my active smithing days I had no problem finding buyers for my custom Swedes, and began getting word-of-mouth referrals from all over. Without an FFL I can't build more for resale, though I can sell guns from my personal collection without restriction. I'll sell a 6.5mm or two and use the bucks to pick up a Rem. 700 or Win. M70 in .308 rather than get into a tail-wagging-the-dog situation...I'd best stick with what I know. Since I have a rebuilding formula that works very well and I've done it enough times to eliminate all guesswork, why mess with a good thing?

Y'know how these forums are...sometimes I can't help thinking out loud.

Thanks for your input,

April 17, 2012, 05:42 PM
I was fortunate to acquire three Swedish M96 Husqvarna actions. Although pre-threaded short chambered Shilen replacement barrels are only available in 6.5mmx55, 250 Savage and 7x57 cals, the Husqvarna company produced a commercial small-ring Mauser rifle in .308 Winchester

FWIW, the factory .308 ( AND .30-06 & .270) Husqvarna's were Small Ring Model 98's, not Model 96's, and entirely safe with the higher intensity chamberings.

Some were branded as S&W's, before S&W switched to Howa as a vendor. ( I had two S&W's - a Model D & a Model C, both in .30-06)

Mauser 93, 94, 95, & 96 may have a "small ring", but = cock-on-closing

Small Ring Mauser 98 = cock-on-opening (among other M98 safety additions)


April 18, 2012, 05:16 AM
FWIW, the factory .308 ( AND .30-06 & .270) Husqvarna's were Small Ring Model 98's, not Model 96's, and entirely safe with the higher intensity chamberings.

PetahW, I'm not trying to start a debate and you're clearly expert with variations I've never encountered. However I've owned mumerous military Mausers over 25 years and have never heard of a "Small Ring Model 98"...The "98" designation, I thought, applied to only large ring Mausers.

To further clarify the receivers I own, they're from M38 1941 short Swedish rifles...the actions are mechanically identical to the M96 though the later manufacture indicates modernized and superior metallurgy compared with the 1896 versions. I know that steel production techniques advanced dramatically from 1890-1940.

I was just looking through Ludwig Olson's Mauser Bolt Rifles and he mentions a Carl Gustaf model 63 sporter rifle based on the m96 small ring action and chambered for both 6.5mm X 55 and 7.62 NATO...the only significant modification is that it's cock-on-close. In his Mauser M98 & M96--How to Build your Favorite Custom Rifle R.A. Walsh mentions other 6.5 x55 to 7.62 NATO commercial rifles based on the original M96 action.

This string is now for information only, as I've decided to build two 6.5mm Swedes with a couple of 21st-Century modifications and not attempt rebarreling to .308; My previous custom-built Swedes were well-made, very pretty and sub-MOA accuracy; they sold easily. The Swede is the only rifle I feel well-qualified to modify and I've built five or six in the past (though I've never done a caliber conversion). I plan to sell one and apply the proceeds to a Remington 700 or Weatherby Vanguard in .308.

So I'll stick with what I know and end up with two better rifles for a smaller investment. In any case, I'm a great admirer of the 6.5mm Swedish cartridge for both hunting and paper-punching and it's a sin to modify a high-quality unbarrelled Husqvarna action to another caliber. I was thinking out loud about a hobbist project, as I'd love to own a well-tuned and accurized .308 Win/7.62 NATO rifle, but can't bring myself to start cutting on a Swedish action. I sold all my Mausers but still have a Winchester P-17 Enfield barrelled action, as well as a pre-war Arisaka 38--these are both good candidates for rebarrelling and pressures ain't a problem (they can both handle 458 Winchester Magnum easily so .308 wouldn't be a problem, though as mentioned I plan to buy a factory .308 instead).

Thanks for all the helpful input, I've learned some things I didn't know and that's what these forums are all about.

April 18, 2012, 07:29 PM
FYI - I've been playing with Mausers, old & new, since the late 60's.

As an informational post ..........................................

Large Ring Mauser's - Model 1898/98's - have a receiver ring measuring 1.4" in diameter. (Magnum Mausers have a 1.5" ring)

Small Ring Mauser's - all pre-98, and M-98 - have a receiver ring measuring 1.3" in diameter.

These are both 98 Mausers:


The quick visual check is the LH receiver wall - is the front receiver ring proud (Large Ring) or flush (Small Ring) with the sidewall ?

To check if a Small Ring is a Model 98 ( KAR 98, 33-40, HVA, Mex 36's, Yugo 24's, etc) , or a pre-98 ( M93, 84, 95, 96)

It is a Model 98 if it:
1) Cocks on opening
2) Has larger gas relief ports in the bolt
3) Bolt has a 3rd "safety" lug
4) Has the large gas shield at the leading edge of the bolt shroud


5) The receiver ring has the internal barrel seating ribs (unseen unless rebarreling)
6) The firing pin nose section has the ribs to engage the interlock - the FP won't go fwd unless the bolt is fully closed.

Please check Hoosier Gun Work's comprehensive reference list:



April 19, 2012, 10:39 AM
I would go to gunsmith school in the late 70s (Trinidad and Montgomery Tech) They would require a 98 action or better for your project firearms. I have a list of max pressures from that time. Any cartridge over 45,000 I believe was not to be used on anything other than the 98.
If a mauser custom (308 ect.) came in our shop and it was not on a 98 action we would not buy it. (liability) I will say I have seen some pretty nice custom 93,95,96 mausers and if in right cartridge are great firearms. I am not a great fan of 308 (kicker) The 6.5x55 is a great cartridge and will do a wonderful job on eastern whitetail. My $.02


Clifford L. Hughes
April 19, 2012, 08:04 PM

I have a Mexican small ring Masuer chambered to .243 Winchester. Let me tell you how strong of an action it is. When I was young and I thought that I knew more than the reloading manuals' authors'. I pulled some .308 match bullets and weighed the powder for each round. Then I sized the cases to .243. I didn't ream the necks and I interpolated the powder charge and I reloaded 100 grain 6mm bullets. I was shooting off of the hood of my car in 110 degree heat. The rounds chambered hard. The first two went off just fine; however, the third round froze the bolt and blew the stock into three pieces. I wasn't hurt but I felt foolish. I sent the gun to the late P.O. Ackley and he replaced the frozen bolt. I'm still shooting that rifle forty-six years later. In my book the small ring Mausers are adequate for the 308.

Semper Fi.

Gunnery Sergeant
Clifford L. Hughes
USMC Retired

April 20, 2012, 06:39 PM
I have a Mexican small ring Masuer chambered to .243 Winchester. Let me tell you how strong of an action it is. In my book the small ring Mausers are adequate for the 308.

Guess why ? - The small ring Mexican Mauser is a Mauser 98, and not a pre-98.

It is entirely appropriate for the likes of .243/.308/etc.


April 29, 2012, 11:21 AM
Yup,my 257 AI is on a Mex.It is a small ring 98,and it is also short like a Yugo.

I have a rifle on a Polish 1927 98 small ring.It is full length.

My commercial Husky action is a modified 98 design,it is a small ring that was factory chamered 7mm Rem mag.This is not a military action.