The Mauser MO3 Extreme .223 Carbine is designed as a varminting rifle. Are its uses wider than that? Tim Pilbeam tests its performance in all conditions and at every distance
I review rifles from the practical side of shooting – it is all about how it feels and how it shoots in the field. In the case of this rifle, I fell in love with it as soon as I lifted it out of the Mauser attaché case. It is worth noting that this rifle retails at around £3,000 including rifle, barrel and saddle mount. Many say that for that price a rifle needs to be really impressive, but maybe I can go some way to justifying it.
The MO3 rifles have the capability to easily accommodate interchangeable barrels, allowing the same chassis to shoot anything from .222 to .375 H&H. This Mauser MO3 Extreme was slightly different to most models as it is a carbine model with a 500mm (20in) threaded barrel. Normally they come in at 600mm (24in), but this model is aimed at the fox shooter who requires a more compact design, such as when using it in and around vehicles.
The high density, shatterproof synthetic stock comes in a neutral light brown colour with black rubber ‘elastomer’ inlays. These are perfectly placed on both sides of the pistol grip and on both sides of the forend as well as underneath it. They feel just right – soft, grippable when wet or cold, aided by a perfect palm swell on the right-hand side of the pistol grip. There are QD mounts fitted in the normal places as well as one on the very front of the forend. Perhaps it is the stock that makes this gun feel so superior. I am no expert in this area of gun design but it works for me.
The Mauser manual cocking safety system is a wonderful design, combining a safety catch and a cocking lever. Push the bolt assembly forward and lock it into the breech. To shoot, push the lever on the rear of the bolt to the right. To return to safety, press a small knob located below the lever to let it spring back to the left, at the same time de-cocking it. With the safety off, one can cycle and shoot a round with having to go through this procedure.
The 2.5lb trigger is very crisp with no creep – a delight to use in all disciplines. It has the luxury of a set trigger, activated by pushing the trigger blade forward. When de-cocked, the set trigger automatically returns to normal. The steel magazine is sized to accept a wide variety of calibres. The .223 ammo looks a bit lost in there, but can be easily loaded by pressing the cartridges directly down below the hardened plastic side supports.
The 20in barrel is of medium weight and comes with the option of a 15x1mm shouldered thread, fully floated to the first of two locating bolts. Supplied with the rifle was an Ase Utra Jet-Z Compact moderator, extending the length of the gun by just 3.75in. There is plenty of clearance between the barrel and the synthetic stock, with little movement when fitted with a bipod. The carbine model does not come with open sights, and with a twist rate of one in 10in it should favour medium-weight bullets, such as 55-70 grain – ideal for varminting or foxing.
For the review, I was lucky enough to receive a Swarovski Z6i 5-30×50 P fitted with a fine 4A illuminated reticle – one of the leading hunting scopes on the market. I bolted on a 6-12in Harris bipod, the one I would take with me at night when after foxes. For ammunition, I used Federal Premium 77-grain Sierra Match King (2,750fps) and Winchester 55-grain Ballistic Silvertips (3,240fps) to see if different bullet weights had any effect on accuracy. As this is a foxing and varminting gun, I set the zero at 200 yards and tested accuracy at this range.
Both types of ammunition managed 1-1.4in groups, and in the prone position it was a delight to use. With the larger optics, I would raise the cheekpiece by an inch using a comb raiser – or go DIY with a piece of pipe lagging and tape. The rubber inlay around the pistol grip suited my hands perfectly.
The bolt cycled smoothly despite the long travel, as most people would pull it fully back before reloading. Shooting from kneeling and standing positions, on and off sticks, was effortless, helped by the low recoil of the .223 and a total weight of 10lb including the scope, bipod and moderator.
At 300-400 yards in variable light wind, both types of ammunition achieved a two-inch group, which is very impressive for the lighter bullets. Owing to the absence of foxes around the farm, I took advantage of the light, fragile bullets and long-range ability to shoot several crows from 250-310 yards. With a zero of 200 yards, I set the Z6i’s ballistic markers on the elevation turret to 250, 300 and 350 yards and held over to allow for windage.
After shooting this rifle at many distances out to 600 yards over a period of three weeks, the worst performance I achieved was 1.25 MOA – and that was using cheaper ammo. There was no questioning this rifle’s performance.
As stated, I really enjoyed reviewing the MO3 Extreme Carbine – but then perhaps I should expect to enjoy it, with this rifle kit costing £3,000. Accuracy, in my view, is not the be-all-and-end-all of testing a rifle. Most rifles nowadays can shoot 0.5-1.5in at 100 yards. Is this rifle worth double the price of a mid-range Tikka or Sako? Head to a gun shop and see what you think.
This carbine is aimed at the fox or varmint shooter, but I have had a huge amount of fun testing it in all conditions. I will be sorry to hand it back. As with everything it is down to personal choice, but I’d wager you will not be disappointed with the MO3 Extreme. Many thanks to Open Season for supplying the rifle, scope and moderator.