Author Archives: loewe1869

Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) 1942

Photo courtesy of Rob Wareck

1942

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 G29/40: 

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.

The Kar.98k:

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…

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Imperial Cyphers, Proofs and Acceptance

Cyphers, Acceptance and Proofs

The subject of acceptance and proofing is the most important element of German military rifle research, almost everything relevant about a rifle under discussion comes down to these markings found on the rifle and various components. Although this is an indisputable fact, it is also indisputable that very few collectors fully appreciate the importance of acceptance in an evaluation. Even the distinction between the three terms is lost upon most collectors, who casually use “proof” for any marking found on a rifle.

In view of this observation, the following will outline the differences and relative importance of the three general forms of markings that determine a rifles originality and ultimately value. This blog post will focus on the Imperial era, however a lengthy article is available that covers 1870-1945, which will feature in the Winter 2017 MRJ (Issue 214).

IMPERIAL ERA

The Imperial era covers 1870-1918, this period created the framework that remained in existence until the end of the Second World War. Although each subsequent era made minor changes to the system of proofing and acceptance, there was continuity between the three periods that began with the Imperial era; what began in this period evolved, but the essential elements remained the same, both in purpose and application.

After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 the German Empire was formed under the Kaiser, however this Empire consisted of four semiautonomous states, – Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg, each of these states retained their own armies, there was no standing “Imperial German Army”. Only during war or national emergency did the control of the state armies passed to the Kaiser. The exception to this rule was the Kaiserliche Marine, or Imperial German Navy, which was from its founding an Imperial institution under the Kaiser and funded by the Reichstag (Imperial parliament).

Let us begin with a simple list of commonly encountered markings and their purpose:

Cypher (Crowned Letter)  The German Empire after unification consisted of four states, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg, each state having its own army and general staff and only during war or emergency did the control of the armies pass to the Kaiser. The prominent marking on the right side of an Imperial era stock is the cypher (crowned initial) of the ruling King of the state whose army it was issued to.

This marking is often a useful tool to identify the army the rifle was issued to, the vast majority of rifles will carry the Prussian King’s cypher, though Bavarian and Saxon marked rifles are common. Bavarian rifles are the most distinctive, not only was Bavaria the most independent of the semiautonomous states, it had its own State Arsenal and often dragged its feet on changes the Prussians undertook.  Further, the existence of the Kaiserliche Marine as an Imperial institution meant that the cypher and acceptance will have Imperial crown rather than a royal crown, underneath of which would be an “M” for Marine.

Proofs (An Eagle)  The only “proof” on a German military rifle is the fireproof (Beschußstemple); a marking that indicates the rifle has been proof tested using super-powered proof cartridges. This marking will be found three times on each rifle, the receiver, the barrel, and the bolt, – no other marking on a rifle is a “proof” and in all other cases it is incorrect. This marking is often useful in identifying the maker of the rifle, each state arsenal used a distinctive style of eagle, and the private manufacturers were supervised by state arsenals which used their respective arsenals stamps. The Kaiserliche Marine also used a distinctive fireproof, the Imperial Crown, this will follow the normal patterns along the left receiver, underside of barrel and bolt stem.

Acceptance (Crowned Letters)  This is the most important marking found on a rifle, it will tell you who made the rifle and when (roughly). Every factory engaged in military small arms production was assigned a military officer to supervise teams that inspected arms under his authority. These teams marked rifles and components with the inspection stamp of the officer in charge of their team. Every part will carry an inspection mark (crown over a Fraktur letter); what collectors call an “acceptance stamp” or acceptance. There are also numerous acceptance stamps that represent stages of a rifles assembly, the acceptance on the right receiver and on the barrel relate to receiver hardness and assembly/testing of the barreled receiver. The stock also has assembly acceptance that accounts for the assembly of the rifle.

The important thing to remember is that all of these markings are important when determining the authenticity of a rifle. No evaluation can be complete without an examination of these three types of markings, the most important of which are acceptance patterns. Every maker had their own distinctive pattern and they are remarkably consistent within ranges (date and suffix block). While the interpretation of these markings takes an extensive database, the general guidelines are simple:

  1. Fireproofs should match the maker, if it does not then look for other indicators the rifle was made by another firm.
  1. Be sure there are three acceptance stamps on the right receiver, if less the rifle probably was made by a depot and if four or more the rifle has been re-barreled.
  1. Lastly, acceptance on Imperial rifles is different than 1919-1945, it is common for several inspectors (different crowned initials) to be found on each rifle. The important thing looking for consistency of style of the markings. Each maker have distinctive styles and lettering, Fraktur tends to be distinctive to the author, each character can be written in a slightly different way and this applies to stamps also.

 

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?

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) 1941

1941

code

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.

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