M48 Mauser Sniper Rifle

or Tandzara "Tahn jara"

By John Hardin

The rifle above has mounted a Zrak ON-76 Sniper Scope. It has a range finding reticule cammed for the 8mm cartridge.

What is a M48 Mauser rifle and Preduzece 44?

The M48 was made post war by Yugoslavia on the pattern of the K98 with some changes such as the full handguard and a shorter intermediate length action. All M48 Mausers were made inYugoslavia at the Preduzece 44 factory, part of a group of factories for Zastava. Practically all parts of the M-48 rifles were milled as opposed to using stamped steel. The exception is the M48A and M48B rifles. In order to reduce production costs the Preduzece 44 factory used stamped barrel bands, stamped trigger guards, and stamped floor plates. To confuse things there is a whole line of models and variations of Yugo Mausers. These include, 1924, M-24, M-24/47, M24/52, M48, M48A, M48B, M48BO, M98. Any of these may have been found in the same sniper configurations as the M48 for use in the Bosnian Civil War. To better understand the many variations and models of Mauser rifles produced in former Yugoslavia I highly recommend the article "Yugo Mauser Rifles Explained" presented on the Marstar Canada website.

This is a M48 rifle that has had EAW style Hebelschwenkmontage style scope mount bases added at some time. When these rifles were first imported and offered by Century Arms there was a choice of rifle with Mauser Banner marked mount or ZRAK marked mount. Both mounts are very similar. The Banner marked mount is of much older use with the ZRAK mount of more recent manufacture and still produced today. They were initially marketed as Bosnian Sniper Rifles. These rifles will be import marked on barrel with Yugo 8mm C.A.I. Georgia VT. With similar mounts still in production and readily available, the M48 is an excellent candidate to replicate by collectors as used during the Bosnian War. At the same time a rifle built from parts should never be presented as an authentic Sniper rifle. With replica or fake examples of this rifle easy to produce by just adding mount, scope, and altering the bolt, collectors purchasing an authentic example of this rifle in Sniper configuration should always request and retain the original shipping documents if at all possible.

There were a few other mystery mounting systems that were mixed in with the above rifles. Some with mounts even crudely welded. Century arms more recently began offering drilled and tapped M48 rifles not marketed as sniper rifles. There has been a great variety in the mounting on these. Some that look like they take standard Weaver mounts or likely a similar mount made by EAW. Some have been reported with just one big hole drilled. It appears Century Arms sorted every rifle that was missing one or more mounts, or just had holes tapped into them onto one pallet and sold them as "drilled and tapped". Some appear to be someone's project never finished.

My rifle came from Century Arms in better than the advertised "Good" condition in my opinion. About 90% or better blue. Stock has only a few dings or scratches with the worst from the included bayonet riding against the stock in the shipping box. Serial number of K50480 and matched on all parts. Handle is ground where serial number would have been on bolt. Three digit number on bottom of bolt does not match serial number of receiver, but is stamped under the wood line on the receiver and the barrel which apparently was replaced during an arsenal overhaul or sniper conversion. One other rifle has been reported to me as being marked in this way. The bolt has much grinding and polishing in various places and works smoother than any bolt action rifle I currently own.

Federation founded during the war in 1994 by the Washington Agreement between the governments of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia.

Bosnia's coat of arms at first temporarily in April of 1992. Mostly claimed by the Bosniac Muslims during the war. There were several different variations claimed/used by different groups/militias.

The Fleur de lis on the Stock and what does it mean!

It turns out through some complicated accidents of history, this was the national symbol of Bosnia and was used in Bosnia's Coat of Arms. This would indicate this as a rifle used by Bosnia. First thought by me was that by chance would have been added by the soldier that used it. I did receive information from a gentlmen who spent the last 7 months as part of the SFOR (UN "police" force that the US participates in). He witnessed a similar emblem on a whole pile of various weapons including AK's, RPG's, and even their Mortars. As far as they were able to figure out it is a Bosniac (Yugoslavian Muslim) emblem. For instance one of these on a weapon or whatever would indicate it as being Bosniac, and not a Serb or Croat weapon. Croat used weapons often have a Croatian checkerboard shield carved or painted on them. The patch at top left used during a time of alliance between Croats and Muslims during the war shows both these symbols.

I also was contacted by an ex Serb soldier with some chilling information on the symbol as it appears on my rifle stock. In his own words:

" have seen your
insignia on your gun that you bought, and I got
chills. That gun was in possession of the most
cold-blooded snipers that I ever known. Numbers of the
people that those snipers killed is not known till
this day. I am very amazed that you have that gun
because nobody ever captured one from those
snipers. Those snipers were trained by the Soldiers of
Fortune in the early stages of war in Bosnia. They
didn't work in groups and never made kills on the same
location. Serb controlled army even had money on their
heads, but to my knowledge nobody ever claimed kill or
capture of those snipers."

In Bosnia the "Soldiers of Fortune" or SOF was believed to be Islamic Iranian Mujahedin rebels who had a training camp set up during the duration of the war until raided by NATO in 1996.

I did manage to make contact with David Abarzua of Century Arms to ask him where Century imported the current M48 sniper rifles from. He did verify that this shipment of rifles did originate in Bosnia. Century in fact began advertising their M48 mausers as Bosnian. There are no distinguishing markings for rifles used in Bosnia other than Insignia, markings or carvings placed by individual soldiers or squads that may or may not be present.

Scoped M48 rifles used in Bosnia?

Most of this was covered in my introduction page, but I will add that Scoped rifles were also used by Game Wardens and the Forestry Service. Other scoped rifles may have been government built in the Territorial Defense stores. Even in present day Bosnia, High School Kids train with the M48 in a class called Defense and Civilian Protection. In Bosnia all boys and girls are required to be proficient with the old rifles. And of course Bosnia was a great hunting area before the war with many owning personal scoped hunting rifles. So not all scoped M48 rifles used during the Bosnian Civil War were expedient conversions. Many were in use before the war and commandeered for the war effort by all sides. M48 sniper rifles have been used in the Yugoslavia region after the Bosnia War. In February of 1999 a M48 sniper rifle was found as part of a large transport of arms bound for Kosovo. The Lorry was intercepted by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Though the Lorry had Macedonian number plates, the weapons were found to have originated from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Click HERE to go back to my Introduction page for more on the use of older rifles during the war there.Locally the rifle was referred to as Tandzara (Tahn jara). Not sure what the translation is on that.

Here is a link to a documentary about a Serb Sniper that includes a self portrait picture of him with a scoped M48 rifle. "Face of Mercy, Face of Hate".

My restored Bosnian Sniper rifle

Need new right side picture

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Quick Release Scope Mount. Returns to zero when remounted.

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Note ground bolt knob to clear the scope bell on any large scope. Some rifles such as those using the ZRAK M76 scope may not need this alteration, but it does make it easier on the fingers. Some of these snipers have also been found with a bolt that has more bend than original. Others cut and crudely welded with a sharp degree bend.

Another view of the bolt. No markings on top or sides.

Single unknown letter stamped on underside of bolt ball. Three digit number stamped on underside of handle. This number also stamped on receiver under the wood line. Also a K in a triangle and a U in a box. I don't know what the K and U stand for.

Now the Scope mounts and receiver markings.

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Mauser marked mount on right originally made for the Zastava Sporters in late 1970s to 1980s through a licensing deal with Mauser Werks. ZRAK marked mount on Left copied by the ZRAK optics factory in Sarajevo Bosnia and still in production today. Note the size difference in the mounting holes. This was intended to be a universal mount and altered to fit individual rifles. Note the very different alterations that were done to these two mounts.

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"Mauser Banner" mark on left side of rear base.

Another look at the front base and here you can also see the markings on the side of the receiver. In Cyrillic block letters it reads PREDUZECE 44. Preduzece 44 is the facility at Kragujevic, Yugoslavia where post war M48 rifles were built. Also marked "o with a slash" Cyrillic N that looks like H, R, J. In English FNRJ or Fedrativna Narodna Republicka Jugoslavija. (Peoples Republic of Yugoslavia).

A nice look into the top of the front scope mount and the Yugo Crest can be seen inside.

Here are a couple pictures of the stock and its markings. Note that the stock is also serial numbered matching to the receiver.

The "fleur-de-lis" on the buttstock that gives my rifle provenance as a Muslim Snipers weapon during the 1992-95 war.This is only one example of many different emblems, carvings, and stickers one may find on a Bosnian War rifle. Some markings seen have been various Bosnian or Croat Coat of Arms, specific unit insignia , some perhaps a symbol of historical importance to the soldier such as a crescent moon and star. Often rifles will have a soldiers name or place of battle carved into them. Some elaborate and well done, others very crude as if done with a bayonet. Others may have such silly things as a sticker of various TV stars or Cartoon characters of the period.

Hard to see in the picture, but this 3/8 inch diameter cartouch has the letters BK stamped in it. One would first think this stood for Boiuno Kraguyevac or Kraguyevac Arsenal. Kraguyevac being the same town where the military ordinance facories Zavodi Crvena Zastava(ZCZ), Vojno Technichiki Zavod (BT), and Preduzece 44 are located. But interesting enough, BK is just a military acceptance stamp. Though in order to be within “brotherhood and unity “ guidelines, every body was allowed to use their national language such as Slovenes, Macedonians, and other minorities, the official language in former Yugoslavia was Serbo/Croatian and the official writing was in Latin letters. The language taught in schools was Serbo/Croatian, and Latin letters. Since Kragujevac was located in Serbia, some of the writings on the weapons were in Cyrillic and some in Latin. When the weapon came off the production line, the Army had to inspect each one and approve it. Therefore, the BK stamped on M48 and SKS rifles is the same as the Latin VK or VOJNA KONTROLA or a military control ( inspection) acceptance stamp. The factory itself was not operated by the Army, but Government of Yugoslavia, therefore, since the Government was a “contractor “ for the Army, the Army had to accept and approve all of the weapons.

A good picture of the U in a box on the stock bolt. This and the K in a triangle are stamped on several parts of the rifle.A common Yugoslavian Arsenal Proof found on many Yugo produced rifles and parts.

Band with the U in a box mark.

Mauser Banner and Zrak Scope mounts

The mountsmost seen appear to be copies of original post war Mauser Swing Bridge Mounts that mount the scope higher than normal. The original Hebelschwenkmontage mounts would have come with options of three heights. 17 mm, 19 mm or 22 mm and different size rings. The mounts on the M48 Sniper rifles will be marked with either the "Mauser Banner" or ZRAK. I received a lot of conflicting information on the origin of the Banner and ZRAK scope mounts. In the late 1970's the Yugoslavian Firm of Zavodi Crvena Zastava (ZCZ), struck a licensing deal with Mauser Werks to market Mauser Sporters in Europe through the German distributor Eduard Kettner. It was known as the Mauser/Zastava M98 that was built on the Mark X action for Mauser. These rifles were made with used parts and new receivers as well as old K98k parts with Tech support from FN and Mauser. ZCZ is also the company that made the Interarms sporter mausers for commercial sale. Kettners distributed the cheap Zastava Sporters identical to the M48 Sniper rifle pictured in this article. He indicated the original "Mauser Banner" marked mounts are the originals made for Zastava by "Otto Bock" and not made by EAW. The EAW mount of the time was different. ZCZ is still in business selling nice 98 sporters with double set triggers, hinged floor plates, deep rich bluing, and nice wood. ZCZ also made Yugo cars and ammunition. The factory was hit by Cruise Missiles in 1999 during the Kosovo conflict, but apparently it did not affect the custom or military rifle branch of the firm. ZCZ is in Kragujevac, Yugoslavia. It's interesting that Kragujevac is home to three ordnance / firearms factories: Preduzece 44, VTZ (Vojno Technichiki Zavod: Military Technical Factory, the BT3 or BK in Cyrillic stamp seen on some Yugo stocks) and the Red Banner Factories: Zavodi Crvena Zastava or ZCZ. There are identical mounts found on these rifles that do not have the Mauser Banner marking, but instead marked ZRAK. ZRAK is an optics factory in Sarajevo, Bosnia and was once tied to the same complex of ordnance factories in Kraguyevac Yugoslavia. The ZRAK marked mounts were bootlegged by the company of that name perhaps because the patents on the 1950s design had expired. They are still made and available today. The only difference I have found between the older Banner and Zrak marked mounts is that the ZRAK made mounts appear to have used smaller diameter mounting screws than the original Banner marked bases for attaching to the receiver. The only diameter rings found with these mounts so far are one inch.

A possible source of complete original ZRAK mounts and optics Ken Buch. He imported the Zrak scopes for rifles in my collection . Ken is a great guy to deal with and he is also a fellow collector. Best to contact him through is website at http://www.kebcollc.com. Pictures and other information on the scopes, and info on how the scope bases are modified can also be found on his website. He usually has a few unrelated Curio and Relic items not normally imported by the larger distributors so always worth checking his site often.

The EAW Mount

There was also an EAW mount available during the early 1990s based on the same 1950s design and patented in 1958. It was called the EAW-Hebel Swing mount. The Hebel Swing mount's rings also fit the same base's as the Mauser Banner and Zrak marked mounts. With the great variety of mounts on the M48 Sniper rifles that Century Arms imported, this could also have been used. EAW-Hebel Swing mount parts are still available with one source being New England Custom Guns. The most common rear lockup on the M48 Snipers is 19mm wide. EAW has only one setup available to fit the 19mm configuration and it puts the scope very high at around 17mm over the front base. Though they look similar to the original it is a slightly different lockup. EAW is know for making versatile mounts. From the EAW website: "With regard to new developments, it has always been a very important goal that all products of the mount program match as well as possible. Thus EAW mounts usually do not become antiquated because very often parts of today's production also fit on older models." This is why more current rings can be found to fit the older bases. Though less likely to be original to the Bosnian rifles, it is still a viable option to restore one with. Many of these rifles were built during the war with whatever was available. The EAW mount might still be considered correct to restore one of these rifles as the EAW mount was available during and before the Bosnian War.

Atright, M48Sniper with EAW-Hebel mounts owned by Paul Oats
To visit the EAW website and learn more about the EAW-Hebel Swing Mounts

Click Here

What scope is correct?

Actually a number of scopes could be correct, but some are more likely than others. If the scope mounts were added for the TO before the war or for service during the war, it would most likely be scopes made by the military optics mfg called "ZRAK" that also sold binocs, rifle scopes, and weapons sights abroad and to civilians. As mentioned before many of the scoped rifles probably started as Game Warden or Forestry rifles. It is likely they would have used locally produced scopes such as the ZRAK hunting or military scopes. Interesting in that Zrak, currently located at 71000 Sarajevo, Adema Buce 102 is still in operation. They did close down for a short time during the war. Today, According to the Chamber of Economy of Sarajevo Canton, ZRAK HOLDING produces for export 1000 hunting/sniper scopes annually. ZRAK made hunting scopes were used with the nicer ZCZ produced sporter models. There is a great picture of a nice ZCZ Sporter with Mauser Banner marked mounts and Zrak Hunting scope in the book "Mauser Sporting Rifles" by Speed. Also ZRAK made the M76 Sniper rifle scope with a 1 inch diameter tube. With the ZRAK mounts found on the imported M48 rifles also being one inch diameter it is natural that the M76 scope and Zrak Hunting Scopes would have been commandeered for use with the ZRAK mounts. ZRAK certainly had several on hand when ties were cut off with the other factories at the onset of the war. It was not uncommon for government snipers to discard the M76 scope for more powerful scopes and these could have been handed down for militia use. There is a picture in the book "Hearts Grown Brutal" by Roger Cohen of a Muslim Sniper with a M48 Sniper rifle Identical to the Century Imports. It is sporting a Zrak Scope. The Zastava M48 rifles made in former Yugoslavia with the "Mauser Banner" marked mounts were originally sold by Kettners with a cheap 6x42 scope imported from China. The scope was also marked with the "Mauser Banner" emblem. Some pictures seen in Germany show Snipers using rifles retaining these Chinese made scopes. The above scopes is believed to be the most used, but other optics were certainly used. There is no evidence that the Century Arms imported M48 Sniper rifles used a particular "issue" scope. The fact that some rifles had ground or bent bolts that were needed to clear the original scopes and some obviously did not supports this. Bosnia is a lot like Wyoming topographically, steep sloped mountains and forests, so had lots of hunting before the war. Scopes could have been stripped from hunting rifles, or even older military rifles to use on others for the war. Often weapons and gear were traded/given/sold to the Bosnians by sympathetic UN troops. Bosnians, be it Croatians, Serbs, or Muslims were very versatile. As an example, recently there was an RPG-7 scope on Ebay brought back from Bosnia that had been adapted to fit on an AK47 rifle. Anything could have been on these rifles with the most likely and suitable scope being one that would have been readily available in the Balkans from the early 1990s or before. What was readily available can be confusing. I once believed German made scopes such as a Pecar scope would have been a likely option. But I found Pecar mostly exported their scopes to the British Commonwealth. Most people in Bosnia would not be familiar with what a Pecar Scope was.

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Zrak ON-M76 Sniper Scope with rubber eye cup removed.

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Tritium Plate on side of Scope to illuminate sight picture in scope.

Exported scope cap on left, Serbian scope cap on right.

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Links to pictures of a couple of actual military issue Yugo Mauser Sniper rifles from the personal gallery of Branko Bogdanovic who is soon to have a book release: "Serbian and Yugoslav Mauser Rifles,". Look for it to be available soon from North Cape publishers.

yugohelmet.jpg (60142 bytes) Click Here for original parts and accessories for M48 Mauser Rifles or other yugoslavia related militaria that I have for sale

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Robert Skidmore provided some pictures of a M48 Sniper with some very unique features. You have got to check this out!Before clicking on this link, consider that in Bosnia there were Sniper Squads known to have been composed entirely of Women.

***Click here*** to see the David Haselhoff Sniper rifle.

. Relevant links and sources of information

This photo essay was made in an effort to further research my rifle. I add to it as I obtain more information. I have received most of this information through contacts found on Forums and listserves on the net and visitors to this website. Thank you to all the people who responded. Some with a wealth of information. No longer is this just another rifle it is a part of history.

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Be sure to visit my Yugo Sniper companion webpage on the Yugo SKS Sniper Rifles or to go back to the home page click here .

Click here to check out my Swede Rifles including a M41B sniper rifle

Thank You,

"Cruffler" John

From a friend on the C&R listserve:

"What is war about, pain death and destruction. The Question one might ask is
what type hardships did this rifle see and undergo...Never glorify war,
understand what men are forced to do for their country and their
survival. Yours is not to approve, yours is to teach living history to others.
Every sword has two edges , every story two sides, you hear what your told
to hear, your duty is to hear the truth weather you approve or not of
what you find."

Powers I.

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Click here for a time line list of news reports and other recollections concerning Snipers, Sniper rifles, and tactics during the Bosnian Civil War. Warning: This is long, disturbing and depressing.