Wednesday, July 2, 2014
If you are familiar with the history of Israel, you know that the British U.N. mandate to administer "Palestine" ended in 1948. When the British pulled out, the Israelis were attacked by the national armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and a lot of token contingents from other Islamic states. They also had to contend with swarms of "irregulars" which means indigenous Arabs up for a little looting, pillaging, rape and murder.
Since arms exports to Israel were banned by the U.N. (and the United States), the Israelis just had the weapons they'd been able to scrounge, smuggle, and steal.
The only country willing to ship arms to the Israelis (for cash on the barrel head) was Czechoslovakia. The Czechs sold a wide range of World War II surplus arms, from BF 109 fighters (with Jumo engines, a real widow maker) to rifles. Israel even purchased a complete Mauser factory from the Czechs, though it's generally said that it only repaired weapons, and did not produce any new ones. Most of the equipment was flown in by transport aircraft acquired all over the world by Israeli purchasing agents.
Israel obtained a great many Mauser 98 K rifles, chambered in 8mm Mauser. Some were parts guns produced after the war, but most were left over from captured German Army stocks.
In the 1948 war, there weren't any civilians. Organized military units like the Haganah and the Palmach operated alongside settlers in Kibbutz farming communities. Women were armed and fought alongside the men. The Israelis didn't have much choice, since the avowed goal of the Arabs was the total eradication of the Jewish state and the people living in it.
In 1956, when Israeli went to war with Egypt again, the Mauser 98 was still a front line issue weapon.
By 1967, The Israeli Defense Force was reequipping with the Uzi, the FNFAL, and more modern weapons. However, if you look at pictures taken in Jerusalem during that war, the paratroopers are frequently armed with the 98K. Many of them were reservists and that was the issue weapon.
Israel began reworking the Mausers, converting them to 7.62X51. These guns are so marked on the receiver ring and on the stock.
Not all Israeli Mausers have the Jewish crest on the receiver. My gun does not, though it is marked 7.62 on the stock and receiver ring.
Because the Mausers had been rechambered, they were considered to be of no interest to collectors. When Israel began to release them on the surplus market in the 1970's, they were very cheap and fairly common. Many were sold in South and Central America,and later resold to American importers.
Today you can find them for sale in pawn shops, or on line through companies that conduct gun auctions on the net. Sometimes they show up at dealers, such as Classic Collectors out in Texas. The Israeli Mausers have all the positive attributes of the original 8mm guns, and they have the added advantage of being chambered for a common American round.
If you come across one, it would make a practical investment and be a useful tool at the same time.