have used rifles in calibre .458 Lott on seven African safaris,
where I shot plains game (impala, hartebeest, oryx, kudu, eland, and
warthog) as well as big game (hippo, buffalo, and elephant). Based
on my own experiences, and on numerous comments and reports
published in the hunting literature, the .458 Lott seems to be
ideally suited for African hunting because of its high efficiency
Another major advantage of the Lott is that almost
every supplier offers .458 bullets in various weights. Before the
Lott was CIP regulated a few years back, you had to load your
ammunition yourself. However, both Norma and Hornady now offer
cartridges in this calibre, and more and more suppliers are
producing affordable rifles.
Bigger cartridges in the .500 class and upwards may
offer more power, but the downside is they come in very heavy rifles
weighing 12 pounds (5.4 kg.) or more. In comparison, .458 Lott
rifles usually weigh around 9.5 pounds (4.3 kg.).
If you are not an Olympic decathlon competitor, you
will be glad that the rifle you have to carry all day is not too
heavy. In this respect, the .458 Lott offers an ideal compromise
between portability and the power.
Another advantage of the .458 Lott is that it is not
only useful on big game; it also excels on plains game. While it is
not possible—or only in a very limited way—to upload small calibres,
you can always download a big bore. For instance, you can download
the .458 Lott with 400 grains bullets to the level of a .416 Rigby,
and with 300 grains bullets to .375 H&H performance. (Some .458 Lott
loading data is given below). In other words, you can use the .458
Lott for the whole spectrum of African game from elephant down to
Shooting game with the .458 Lott sometimes seems to
attain an almost magical quality: you point your rifle at the game,
pull the trigger and down it goes as if a photon torpedo from the
Starship Enterprise hit it.
My .458 Lott rifles
Back in 2000, I bought my first .458 Lott rifle. It
was a Blaser R93 converted by a custom maker. Later on, I had a
complete custom .458 Lott rifle built on an old (pre-WWI) DWM model
98 lock. This rifle featured a 23-inch Lothar Walter barrel with a
laminated wood stock.
For the first time I held the new Mauser M03 in my
hands during the 2005 hunting fair at Dortmund, Germany. I was
surprised how well the rifle balanced. That is something almost
everybody mentions when they handle a rifle. When you take the M03
to your shoulder, it almost naturally lines up to the target. That
is probably due to the classic styled straight comb of the "English
type" stock. The stock has an ebony forearm tip and very fine and
Mauser’s so called "hunting bolt action rifle M03"
is available in a large range of interchangeable calibres. The basic
model comes in calibres from .222 Remington up to 9,3x62. The M03
model "Africa" is offered in calibres .375 H&H, .404 Jeffrey, .416
Remington and .458 Lott. An interchangeable calibre means that for
instance I could exchange my .458 Lott barrel against a .222
Remington barrel. To do this, I would just need the new barrel and
another bolt head for calibre .222 Remington.
The M03 features a manual cocking system, detachable
magazine (4 shots in cal. 458 Lott) and six large locking lugs. The
rifle can be taken down for transport. The M03 is an "all steel"
rifle, i.e. not only the barrel but also the receiver, the bolt, the
bolt head and the magazine are manufactured from steel. These
attractive features motivated me to buy this rifle. Let’s have a
look at the M03 in more detail.
Manual cocking system
M03 has many innovative features. What comes to mind here first is
the new Mauser manual cocking system. There is no safety catch;
instead, you have a cocking device. You can carry the rifle
uncocked, with one cartridge "up the spout". This is totally safe,
there is NO possibility that the Mauser could accidentally
fire in this mode.
In the picture on the left, you see the cocking
lever in the left "S" (safe) position. Prior to shooting, you cock
the rifle by pushing the horizontal cocking lever from left to
In the next picture, you see the cocking lever in
the left "F" (fire) position. When you cycle the lock after
shooting, the rifle is automatically cocked again. To uncock the
lock, you push the little rectangular button that is under the
cocking lever. The cocking lever then moves back into the safe
The M03 is a "take down" rifle. The barrel is bedded
into a solid piece of steel. First, you have to remove the bolt.
Then you loosen two Torx screws. After this, you can take out the
barrel. Stock length (length of pull) can vary between 34.5 cm and
38.5 cm. (13.6 - 15.2 in.). My rifle has a nice walnut stock with
straight grain. There is also available a synthetic stock with
black, nonslip ‘elastomer’ inlays. It is understood that for use in
Africa a synthetic stock is much more practical than walnut.
Nevertheless, when I bought my M03 in 2005 the synthetic stock was
not available, so I had to take the walnut stock.
stock with a length of around 80 cm. (31.5 in.) is the longest part
of the rifle. This means that the M03 fits into a short guncase,
very convenient if you are travelling with the rifle. I have taken
down the M03 for cleaning or for transportation and afterwards put
it together again many times. Despite many repetitions of this
procedure, the point of impact never changed at all.
bolt head locks directly into the barrel. The M03 has six large lugs
directly inside the barrel, instead of two dual opposed locking lugs
of the old Mauser M 98. This, together with modern steel, makes for
a very strong locking system. The M03 has a short bolt lift of only
60°. This requires less arm movement and, together with a very
smooth feeding, speeds up the loading process.
M03 does not have the old Mauser M98 type non rotating long
extractor. Instead, it has a spring loaded plunger ejector and the
small hook-type extractor claw recessed into the bolt head typical
for many modern rifles. Many of us have been somewhat brainwashed,
believing that one is in grave danger and laying one’s life on the
line facing dangerous game, if ones gun has not the claw-type Mauser-style
extractor. Presumably feeding with a push feed action is not as
positive when holding the rifle sideways or upside down.
I have tried it out several times with my M03,
holding it upside down or sideways and never encountered any feeding
problem. Boddington, in his new book "Safari Rifles II", says
on page 267 about comparing the push feed system with the Mod. 98
action: "Rarely is there a clear-cut disadvantage or advantage to
either system, but it must be recognized that modern actions are
stronger than any Mauser — and if an action is going to blow, a
Mauser … or even a pre-64 Winchester will blow long before a …
In the picture you see the M03 bolt together with
bolt heads, which would have to be exchanged if you would want
change to another calibre.
M03 has a detachable magazine of the double column type. In calibre
.458 Lott the magazine capacity is four shots. The M03 can either
easily be reload from the top with the magazine inserted.
Or alternatively by exchanging the magazine.
Therefore, if you found yourself doing battle with
an elephant cow herd, you could quickly drop the empty magazine by
pushing the magazine release button in front, and insert another
fully loaded four shot magazine. Although admittedly not many of us
will have to do battle with enraged elephant cows, it still is a
comforting thought that an additional magazine will give you so much
firepower. For those who fear that they might inadvertently drop the
magazine from the rifle there is a magazine stop button, which
prevents removing or loosing the magazine.
Barrel and Sights
barrel of the standard M03 Africa is 65 cm. (25.6 in.) long. I
choose a barrel length of 60 cm. (23.6 in.) which makes the rifle
handier. The barrels of the magnum calibres are quite heavy and
strong; the muzzle diameter is 19 mm. (.75 in.)
The steel of the barrels is plasma nitrated. This
means the barrels have a non-reflecting and fully rustproof surface.
The sling swivel is barrel-banded, because a standard, forearm
mounted sling swivel is not a not a good idea for a heavy rifle
because of the damage you could do to your hand if it slipped
forward under recoil.
The rifle shoots very precise. Please see three shot
group below. The distance was 100 meter (109 yards) and the scope
was set on 5X magnification.
rear sight is sideways adjustable.
The M03 has a barrel-banded, pearl, cupro-nickel,
front sight, which is vertically adjustable.
The M03 has a very fast lock time, faster than MOD
98 locks. The trigger has a clean, crisp, shotgun type release. A
set trigger is available as option. I myself hate set triggers; I do
not need them and I feel that they are an abomination on a big game