Between 1914 and 1945 there were a number of rifle variations that collectors call conversions, these rifle variations take the form of several different types and many are not conversions at all, but rather salvaged receivers built up as “new” kar.98k rifles.
- The Gewehr98 to Radfahrergewehr, or bicycle rifle, used by German soldiers early in the First World War assigned to bicycle units. Most radfahrergewehrs were new made, only made in 1914 by Spandau, but apparently a number of Gewehr98’s were converted to serve their purpose. Essentially, Gewehr98’s were made to use a side mounted sling arrangement and take a bent bolt.
- The Gewehr98 to Kar.98b, which is a rifle that was derived from the Radfahrergewehr and starting in 1924 manufactured new by the Simson Suhl firm in Suhl. While Simson was making new kar.98b, depots were converting old Gewehr98’s and in some cases making “new” rifles around salvaged receivers. These are rather rarely seen, but exist in a number of odd variations.
- The Gewehr98 to Kar.98k conversions, a very rare rifle, actual conversions of original Gewehr98’s to kar.98k are very rarely seen, the process was tedious and time consuming, it essentially entailed shortening a Gewehr98 by 6 inches (cutting the barrel and stock and fitting new sights and bands) and modifying the bolt and sling arrangement to conform to a side sling carry arrangement. As is well known, the Kar.98k was developed from the kar.98b rifle, essentially shortening the Kar.98b by 6 inches, but otherwise the rifles are the same. The Gewehr98 involves far more work and was rarely done, especially after the war began (The SS did do a number of these and they converted kar.98a to kar.98k also, but original examples are rare, most are hybrids also, basically using a Gewehr98 as a foundation for a kar.98k, but using salvaged rifle parts to facilitate an easier conversion).
- The building of a Kar.98k from a salvaged Gewehr98 or Kar.98b receiver. This is by far the most observed rifle many call “conversions”, but these are not actually a conversion. Rather they are a product of salvaged rifles that were returned to depots and later scrapped, the parts, especially the receivers (a complicated and expensive part) were later built into “depot new” rifles. Most of the observed rifles date to around 1941-1942, during the early phase of the Russian campaign when a rifle shortage developed due to campaign lasting longer than expected. Many former scrapped Gewehr98 receivers were taken and using new and salvaged parts built into “new” kar.98k rifles. These too take many forms, the salvaging of Gewehr98 receivers is just one form, – most were ordnance spare receiver supplied new from the rifle makers to the depots.
In short, while many collectors do not differentiate between the types, there is a significant difference and true conversions are exceedingly rare and desirable, ofen commanding more than factory original rifles.