The Chinese Version of a German Model 88 Rifle

Recently there was a post on Gunboards regarding an article Stan Zielinski published on the Chinese version of the German Gewehr 88. I thought this would be a good opportunity to make a blog post to the MRJ website…

The article was in the May 1997 issue and is about the Chinese version of the German Gewehr 88 and it may very well be the only good information on the subject. Unfortunately, I do not have the master copy of this issue, so these pages are scanned from a regular copy.

Back Issues are available. $7.00 for a full issue or $5.00 per article (PDF only).

The Chinese Version of a German Model 88 Rifle

Berlin-Lübecker Maschinenfabriken “Dual-Codes”

During late 1941 a series of events led the German military to introduce a number of measures that would create what collectors today call “dual code” rifles, – rifles that exhibit signs of two manufacturers involvement in a rifles manufacture.

Here we will deal with rifles that were made by Berlin-Lübecker (ordnance code 237 or duv). These rifles draw considerable discussion among collectors, especially on the internet forums dedicated to the study of the Kar.98k. The rifle characteristics not only confuse who the maker is, but also when the rifle was made.

Specifically, these rifles were made with Astrawerke receivers, identified by the lower case “L” on the right side of the receiver and very often marked with Gustloff-Werke, Weimar’s ordnance code “bcd” over “41”, which indicates the rifle was made in 1941. This alone causes considerable confusion with newer collectors, but what has baffled experienced collectors for years was when were these actually assembled?

The answer is of course complex, but answerable if you examine these “dual codes” against normal BLM production 1941-1942. What we know about these is the following:

  1. These start very close to where normal duv/41 production ends, which was the late o-block. All known Astrawerke receivers BLM finished are in the p-block or r-block. No q-blocks have been identified, but probably exist.
  2. These all have the characteristics of a duv/42, meaning they are all only serialed on the receiver, – no serial on the barrel. All have a top final and no assembly acceptance on the right receiver. This is inconsistent with all normal duv/41 production, the transition to these characteristics do not begin until the middle of the first block of duv/42.
  3. The component mix and characteristics are more inline with duv/42 production than duv/41 production. Specifically, how the parts lack acceptance, the rear sights, the bands, how the stocks are acceptance all suggest 1942 production.
  4. The barrels all indicate later production, in one case the barrel is actually dated in 1942, something that does not occur in regular duv/42 production until the i–block.

We know these were not a continuation of duv/42 production because of the simple fact that it ended in the k-block, far too large a gap to connect. That “normal” duv/41 ended within hundreds of rifles before these begin it is clear these are a continuation of duv/41 serialing, but rifles that were not actually assembled before early 1942.

Further, because BLM (duv) production is very consistent, with changes introduced in a rather rigid manner, it is easy to estimate when most of these fall into 1942 production. Most have solid milled front bands; this is a characteristic that was not introduced until the d-e block of 1942. Coupled with observations in barrel coding and methods of serialing and acceptance, it is clear that most of these were not actually made until well into 1942.

Stay tuned for part II, which will discuss a related subject, the BLM (duv/41) receivers that made their way to Gustloff-Werke Weimar.

Mauser – Berlin (ar) Production Using Sub-Contracted Receivers, Part II bcd/ar Dual Codes

The vast majority of “dual codes” Mauser-Berlin assembled were based upon Astrawerke made receivers coded “bcd”, which represents Gustloff-Werke’s operation at Weimar. They range in dates from 1941 through 1943, though all seem to have been made in 1942 and 1943. These receivers are far more complicated to date than the ERMA “dual codes”, which all fall in a narrow window of production. Apparently Mauser-Berlin took delivery of the first receivers very early in 1942, you see them showing up in the middle of the first block of 1942 production and increase in number through the early blocks of Mauser-Berlin production. Actually, this type of receiver represents the majority of rifles assembled in some blocks. It is far easier to find a bcd/ar 42 in the “b” through “g” blocks than a straight up ar/42 in those blocks. These seem to end in the 1942 g-block, at least for a time, only to show up again in smaller numbers in 1943. During 1943 the bcd/ar 43 dual codes are much rarer, but show up in almost every block between the a-block and j-block (they show up in the b-block through g-block, at least one is known in each block, plus one i-block is also known). Most interesting are the receivers that are not actually “dual” coded, there are several Mauser-Berlin assembled bcd/43 without the added “ar” in the last blocks, the g-block and i-block, which shows that they dispensed with this added feature near the end. The bcd/ar 42’s and bcd/ar 43’s are trickier to date, obviously, the 1943 dated were assembled in 1943, the barrel codes on enough of them prove this, but as the acceptance and serial patterns are nearly identical between 1942 and 1943 production, you really need to see the barrel code to know when a rifle was probably made.



A collector interested in this variation should always keep an eye out for g-block through n-block bcd/43’s. It is entirely possible other bcd/43’s could exist made by Mauser-Berlin in those blocks, yet lack the added “ar” in the manufacturer’s code. It is always a good idea, on later production, regardless of maker, to keep an eye out for the final acceptance. It determines who made the rifle in all cases, the barrel codes and serialing patterns can also help in many cases.

As Mark Wieringa wrote in 1994, these rifles were not a joint venture between the two firms, but rather Mauser-Berlin using subcontracted receivers, which were simply intermingled within certain ranges of their normal production. Probably based upon availability, it was not a cooperative effort and little different than other such production methods used later in the war (the use of other makers receivers due to production or transportation difficulties). Anyone interested in this subject would benefit from reading Mark Wieringa’s article, in the April 1994 KCN, his discussion largely revolves around the marking pattern, which I have not covered here, but his outline does a good job explaining it. I have not bothered with classifying these features in my study, but it might be worthwhile to consider this feature in future researchers work.

Mauser – Berlin (ar) Production Using Sub-Contracted Receivers, Part I ax/ar Dual Codes

Recently, a question was raised about Mauser-Berlin’s production of the so called “dual coded” rifles, that began in late 1941 and ended in 1943, – the same year Mauser-Berlin dropped carbine (Kar.98k) production to focus on MG42 production.

I thought this would be a good subject for discussion, so examination of known examples follow. It seems that Mauser-Berlin took delivery of leftover ERMA (ax code) receivers late in 1941, when they dropped rifle assembly to focus on MP40 production (They would continue making 98k receivers, though primarily as a sub-contractor for JP Sauer). The first rifles show up in the “L” block of 1941; however it is the “M” block when most show up, mostly late in the block and very near the end of 1941 production. They linger into the first block of 1942 production (no suffix).


Most ax-ar coded rifles were probably made at the very end of Mauser-Berlin’s 1941 production run; though it is likely many were not finished until early 1942. This is because of the characteristics found on the known rifles. First, Mauser-Berlin production serialed both the receiver and the barrel until very late in 1941, typically this changed in the last block of Mauser-Berlin production, the m-block. In that block you will start to see the rationalization changes, ordered by Hitler and imposed upon the German military, to simplify production. This process is best shown in rifle production with a reduction of markings and finish standards that you will see on late 1941 and throughout 1942 production, – it also accounts for the reason ERMA, and later Mauser-Berlin, would be redirected to other projects, and away from rifle production.

The actual changes that determine when a rifle was assembled, finished, is this serial number change, going from serialing both the receiver and the barrel, to only serialing the receiver. Also the acceptance pattern must be considered. Prior to the late “L” block, early “m” block, Mauser-Berlin applied three acceptance stamps to the right side of the receiver. This changes in the last two blocks of 1941 production. Progressively during these last two blocks serialing of the barrel will end and the right receiver acceptance will drop; later it will be replaced by a final acceptance on the top of the receiver, this occurs early in the 1942 “b” block. In the range between late 1941 and the b-block of 1942, most receivers will lack a top final and most acceptance on the receivers.

The above outline describes how you date these “dual code” rifles, which is more important when dealing with the Astrawerke (bcd marked) receivers that Mauser –Berlin used in large numbers throughout 1942 and 1943. You see, the date on the receiver is not necessarily when a rifle was made, especially with these “dual code” receivers. A 1941 dated bcd/ar serialed in the f-block (which exist), which lacks a serial on the barrel and has a top final was made in the f-block of 1942, – such situations are often encountered and one needs to examine the acceptance and serial pattern, along with the barrel coding to know when rifles were made.

German War Preparations in the East 1932

The Germans never envisioned Locarno (1925) as a solution to Versailles or as a suitable restoration of her rights among nations. At best it was viewed as a means to an end, the first step towards normalization with the west, with the eventual settlement to be reached in Eastern Europe (it intentionally left out any border guarantees in the east with Poland or the Czechs).

To illustrate the view of the military prior to the rise of National Socialism, which was a viewed shared by a large percentage of the political parties (no party looked towards Poland’s frontier as permanent), all one has to do is look at the rearmament plans the Army began, first September 1928 through 1932, which was designed to modernize the defensive capabilities of the German Army. This was followed by Schleicher’s more ambitious plan of November 1932 to expand the Army (actual spending of which occurred under Hitler, – his initial rearmament funds, and plans, came from his predecessor).

With the expectation that war was an eventuality in the east, if not from German aggression seeking restoration, then from aggression from Poland seeking status quo (a real possibility as 1933 proved), the German Army put much of its effort into being prepared on its eastern frontier. One such example was the German Army asking Mauser Oberndorf to investigate the possibilities of converting Nagant 91 and Steyr M95 rifles to the German 7.92 mm cartridge. It was envisioned that in a future conflict it was likely many would be captured and these rifles could be put to use in support and police functions in the German Army.

Naturally, Poland and the Czechs were not the target of this program, both used M98 rifles that were largely interchangeable for German service, – these plans were for rifles primarily in service in southeastern Europe, Austria, Hungry, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Bulgaria and of course the USSR (Russia).

Mauser was very familiar with this practice; in 1889-1893 Mauser had done similar modifications to rifles for interested customers. The cost of such conversions was estimated at half the cost of a new rifle (60-70 RM), but naturally this would cause a disruption at the time new rifles were needed most. In the end, little came of the project, although it was an interesting experiment, it was impractical because as experience showed, along with captured rifles, came captured ammunition and the Germans had considerable experience with reusing them without conversion. There was no justification to go through the trouble, and expense, when the rifles could be used in the desired support position as they were captured.

Thanks to Jon Speed, we have some details of this program, both dealing with conversions of Nagant 91’s and Steyr M95’s in Rumanian service. Both of which were experimented with and successful conversions made during 1932. It is unknown where the test rifles came from, but Jon Speed stated they were readily available and that the Mauser’s reference collection had examples at the time.

Some of the details illustrated in the pictures (by Jon Speed):

Barrels form both rifles were re-bored and chambered or even new barrels were made up. Work was required on bolt heads, magazine boxes, receivers; German tangent sights were fitted, stocks modified etc.  Shooting tests were completed on finalized examples and all proven to shoot within acceptable ranges. The conversions cost app. half of what any new manufactured arms. Data from images as follows-

1-Cover of Conversion book Nagant 91
2-Parts that required some level of modification
3- Bolt face Extractor clearance specs.
4-magzine housing changes
5-Receiver changes
6- Total system
8-Bolt head
9-Parts list with in Red dimension changes of barrel , sights etc.
10- Shooting velocity tests

Nagant – Gewehr


  P1020278  P1020264 P1020267 P1020270 P1020252R


Steyr – Gewehr Mod 95


  P1020272R P1020274R P1020281R


Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) 1941



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:

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 Kar.98k:

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!