After enormous expenditures on modernization and expansion, production rationalization began to show its potential. The process of rationalizing production, where some items were eliminated and resources redirected towards more important items, is best illustrated by production totals during 1942, where truck production more than doubled and ball bearings nearly doubling. In armaments production, the results were less impressive, but most of the shortfalls were a result of external decision making; the changeover from the MG34 to MG42 production and unrealistic demands amidst modernization and rationalization efforts added confusion to an already stressed production line. Within the context of the demands placed upon the firm, the skilled labor shortage and the prioritization among competing projects (small arms were never a top priority) the trends were showing promise for 1943.
Machineguns and Pistols:
Not all was disappointing in small arms production, real progress was being made in machine-pistol (MP40) and pistol (Radom P.35p) production, which doubled; one should also consider that SDP did not rely upon sub-contractors making the MG42 and MP40, which other makers of these weapons did, – notably SDP actually made their own receivers and barrels. Also technically SDP pistol production was “in-house” through their operations at SDP-Radom and SDP-Warsaw, with barrel finishing and assembly done at SDP-Steyr. Added to this fact is operating the two firms in occupied Poland, under the supervision of the German Army, was no easy feat. SDP was a trustee of the two firms, not owners, and a significant portion of the labor required SS supervision.
The last 4,000 G29/40’s were finished during 1942 and all were probably delivered to the Kriegsmarine (navy). So far the trends on the G.29/40 production suggest that the receiver types do not follow any significant pattern, the Polish marked receivers mix indiscriminately with the 660/1940 receivers (both are Polish made, but the raw forgings were marked with SDP ordnance code 660 over 1940), so the only way to divide the known totals are by suffix ranges. Which would place the 8000 c-blocks through the 2000 d-blocks as delivered in 1942, of these all have Kriegsmarine service markings.
Company totals for 1942 actually show a decrease in Kar.98k production (in accepted rifles); this is due to a combination of reasons, the first of which is 1941 totals were a product of clearing through rifles held back from prior years. Huge numbers of previously rejected or failed rifles were passed through during 1941 and this probably lingered well into 1942 (notice the disparity between observed rifles and official company totals, this gap would be formerly rejected rifles or the lag of bnz/41’s finished in 1942). In real terms SDP-Steyr production is best reflected by observed rifle ranges compared against company totals and the “gaps” between observations (known rifles) and company totals:
1941 – 5900 k block or 116,000 Kar.98k plus 38,000 G.29/40’s or a total of roughly 155,000 Modell98 rifles. (Company figures total deliveries 232,425 – gap 77,425)
1942 – 2000 L block or 122,000 Kar.98k plus 4,000 G.29/40’s or a total of roughly 126,000 Modell98 rifles. (Company figures total deliveries 202,400 – gap 76,400)
Even with these figures, there is the question of rifles that were never accepted; it is known that SDP had a higher than average rejection rate, rifles that never passed final inspection and testing requirements. All the makers faced this problem, regardless of product, – some rifles simply could not be passed to the satisfaction of the inspectors and we know that the rifles were serialed before final assembly (actually an early step in manufacture) and firms did not backfill rejected rifle serial numbers. The rifles that did not pass were salvaged and the calculations based upon observations do not take this into account, so the “gap” is far larger than the figures show. Still, there is promise in the figures above; obviously, a small increase was seen in actual kar.98k production, the G.29/40 production drop off accounts for the actual drop in total numbers during 1942, but the trends show that SDP-Radom was fully incorporated into SDP rifle production. By 1942 almost all small metal components were being made by SDP-Radom (waffenamt e/77), only a few holdouts among floorplates and rear sight components remained. Stocks and barrels were still made at SDP-Steyr, along with final assembly and testing, but the labor intensive and space consuming component production was passed off to occupied Poland where labor was cheap and available, – if not willing or efficient (1943-1944 more than half were Polish forced labor, a third to half of the workers were Jews living in monstrous conditions)
What is certain about 1942 is that the company’s plans were entering their final phase, small arms production was little more than a nuisance at the main factory at Steyr and everything the company did up until 1944 reflect this. The erection of new plants for ball bearing production, aircraft engines and fuselages and the movement of small arms component manufacture to SDP-Radom completed the plans to expand critical manufacturing space at the main factory. During 1943 the rewards of rationalization would bear fruit, it would not last long…