Photo courtesy of Mike Steves
By 1941 SDP was fully adjusted to its role within the war economy and the company was in the process of significant expansion and modernization. Much of the expansions would take time to develop, particularly in the non-armament fields, like ball bearings, trucks and aircraft component production, where production would soar later in the war, but in the field of small arms, in particular rifles and pistol manufacture, production was beginning to take the form it would hold until late in the war. What had begun with rifle production in late 1940 would continue to develop during 1941, in particular the introduction of SDP-Radom as the main supplier of metal components for the Kar.98k rifles (including the G29/40) and VIS pistols.
The G29/40 was a Kar.98k style rifle base around the Polish wz.29 Modell98 rifle, the rifles had many similarities and many of the parts could be used for production of Kar.98k rifles. These rifles were made of components and partially completed rifles left over at the Radom factory when the German Army captured the facility in 1939. Therefore the parts will exhibit a wide range of markings, many will have their original Polish markings and “660” added to the top of the receiver, the siderails designations come in several variations, usually the “wz” lined through and the addition of “/40” after the “29” is added, some were formerly wz.98a Polish receivers and the marking pattern follows the same pattern, lined out “wz” and addition of “/40” at the end. But about half of the known G29/40’s are made up of receivers that have no Polish markings, they will have receiver markings very much like a typical 660/1940 Kar.98k, but with the siderail consisting of simply G.29/40. All will have e/77 inspection for the receiver on the right side, followed by e/623 x3, which means the receiver is made at SDP-Radom and the assembly took place at SDP-Steyr. Typically these rifles are made of mostly Polish metal parts, the only exceptions being rear sight components, which are almost always e/623 marked, many of the bolts, which are a good mix of e/623 and e/77 parts, and the rifle barrels. The barrels are usually leftover Radom barrel blanks, finished by SDP-Steyr (Austria), they will be identified by the “RD” marking in the barrel code, but all will possess e/623 inspection. Naturally all rifle stocks will be made by German firms, but they can be of several sub-contractors, most are SDP-Steyr made, but a good number were made by Brno (dot) and a few by Dresdner Tischfabrik Hermann Menzel, Dresden (C – stocks), all stocks should be laminate and the vast majority will be the early flat buttplate, though there are a few cupped buttplates known.
Contrary to popular belief, most of these rifles were not made in 1940. They were assembled over a three year period, with about 12,500 made in 1940, the majority, about 38,000, were made in 1941 and the last 4,000 not until 1942. Most were delivered to the Kriegsmarine (German Navy), although many early rifles were delivered to the German Army. Trends research shows that almost all G29/40’s after the “a” block went to the Navy, and only about half of the earlier production went to the German Army. A total of 54,500 G29/40’s were made during the war, but many parts (components) were delivered to the Kriegsmarine and subsequently built into rifles by the Navy, these are rare in original condition.
The production of the normal Kar.98k in 1941 would continue along the lines of 1940, though the introduction of SDP-Radom parts would increase and expand to most components. While this trend is more pronounced in 1941 than it was in 1940, the majority of components will remain SDP-Steyr (e/623) made, and it would continue until the very end of 1941. The first confirmed SDP-Radom (e/77) receiver show up very early in 1941, though sporadically until the “i” block, when they would generally become more common than SDP-Steyr made receivers. Trigger guards, floor plates, and bands would also follow this pattern, start very early, often mixed parts (no pattern to the components mix). Stocks used in 1941 are some of the most interesting mix of all, most stocks will be laminates, but a good number of walnut stocks can be found in some blocks, most seem to have gone to the Kriegsmarine, but some walnut stocks on Army marked stocks exist. The majority of bnz/1941 rifles will have SDP-Steyr made stocks, although Brno (dot) made stocks are commonly seen throughout production in 1941.
According to official company records, SDP manufactured 232,425 rifles in 1941; this against known production ranges of 116,000 Kar.98k (mid- k block) and 38,000 G29/40’s leave a rather large disparity in range of known production and official totals. However due to the research by a German researcher, we know the reason for the discrepancy. SDP-Steyr was having difficulty getting rifles to pass inspection and acceptance by the German military, the rifles were not up to the standards required and many were sent back to be corrected, the discrepancy is explained by adding rifles from 1940’s production range that were eventually passed in 1941. This will be a constant problem for SDP-Steyr early in the war, until 1942-1943, when the German Army was forced to lower its standards to accommodate mass production requirements. (see the MRJ 209, Spring 2014).
Starting with 1942, the rifles will begin to show the strain of war and an ugly period in SDP history will begin with the introduction of SS collaboration. Although the use of KL labor began in 1941, it was small scale construction related and 1942 would truly be the beginning of this unfortunate relationship. Stay tuned and subscribe to the blog on this website!