Category Archives: Gewehr98

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.

 

Gewehr98.com Returns!

On March 13, 2015 the Gewehr98.com, (http://www.gewehr98.com/) came back on-line after a two year hiatus; the site has been thoroughly revised and updated. The site includes more detail that the earlier site, and was designed to answer many basic questions regarding buying and collecting the Gewehr98.

The site is the sister website of the MRJ, both will support one another with blog posts, often based upon future or past articles published in the MRJ. Those of you that have subscribed to the MRJ blog posts are encouraged to subscribe to the Gewehr98 site. Once the Gewehr98 site has developed some following I will begin a series of blog posts regarding the numerous variations a collector might encounter.

The Introduction of Grips and Takedowns on Imperial German Rifles 1916 -1918

Often the question comes up on the internet forums about when the dismounting washer-ferrule, typically referred to as a takedown disc (German collectors call it a kolbenauge), and finger grips show up on wartime German rifles. The question is not easy to answer though because each feature shows up at different times on each maker, it was not implemented in an organized manner, and even when these features show up it can often be intermittent, or in batches before it becomes normal.

The take down washer-ferrule was the first feature order by the War Ministry, on November 8, 1915 it was ordered that a take down washer be added to each stock to aid in the disassembly and cleaning of the bolt. Due to the complicated process this involved, this feature took the longest to introduce. It varies between manufacturers, but typically the larger manufacturers took the longest to introduce this feature, none seem to have made it a regular feature before late 1916, and the Suhl Consortium (JPS, CGH, VCS regularly have this feature by the m-block of 1916) were the earliest to introduce this feature so far as research has shown.

The finger grips along the sides of the stock, to make it easier to grasp the stock, was ordered by the War Ministry on January 1916, it was the earliest to show up, probably because it was an easy feature to add to a stock. Even still, the larger firms were slow to implement them regularly, DWM for example managed to get them done starting 1916, but it was intermittent and very late, and not until well into 1917 that both became regular features. The Suhl Consortium again was early to include both features, it is rare to find a late 1916 or 1917 Suhl maker without both features.

Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken

Gewehr98 production is perhaps one of the most interesting of the 1898-1919 period. The reasons are many, but perhaps most of all due to its relationship with the German Imperial Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). DWM was the primary supplier of Gewehr98’s to the KM prior to the war; although a handful of Erfurt (1899) and Mauser Oberndorf (1910-1911) rifles are known to have been made.

The vast majority of rifles delivered to the Kaiserliche Marine prior to 1908 were manufactured by DWM, they are known in number every year from 1899-1908, except for the year 1900, and they are amongst the scarcest and most desirable rifles of the period. Due to the fact that the state arsenals were making most of the Gewehr98’s for the Prussian Army, the patent holders (DWM and Mauser were the only commercial makers making the Modell98 due to their ownership of the patent) were left to fend for themselves. DWM having a relationship with the Kaiserliche Marine due to the P.04 (Pistole 1904 Navy Luger) and the MG08 (Maxim), they found a willing buyer working for the German Navy. Mauser Oberndorf found a client with the Württemberg Army, neither client was a large contract and relatively few rifles were made by either firm until the Modell98 carbine was taken up by the state arsenals. Fortunately, the firms were well positioned to make a lot of money on the switch, their parent company, Ludwig Loewe AG made the machines for the arsenals, and the process took sometime to undertake. DWM and Mauser Oberndorf production of the Gewehr98, for the Prussians start to develop in number starting in 1905, though it isn’t until 1906-1907 that production is significant.

THE SUHL CONSORTIUM

The Suhl Consortium consisted of three firms located in Suhl, C.G. Haenel (CGH), J.P. Sauer (JPS), and V.C. Schilling (VCS), these firms had a long history of cooperating on contracts for military production.

Shortly after the war began, Erfurt contracted with the Suhl Consortium, through C.G. Haenel, to manufacture the Gewehr98, initially this contract amounted to 150,000 rifles to be manufactured between the three firms, the first rifles to be delivered in February 1915 and the contract concluded by October 1916. Subsequent arrangements were agreed upon and it is estimated that between the three firms a total of 450,000 – 500,000 rifles were eventually delivered during the war.

This production is often considered the scarcest of the wartime makers, all the Suhl makers are difficult to find in collectable, matching-original condition today. It is also difficult to know which maker is scarcer amongst the three firms; this is primarily because the three firms shared serial ranges. As each firm was assigned blocks and the blocks intermingle, it is impossible to know which firm made the most rifles under this arrangement.

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German Contract Rifles for Turkey

Recently there was a discussion on the German contract rifles delivered to Turkey during 1917 and 1918; with the help of Jon Speed we have much more information about the circumstances of this contract and delivery.

When the war expanded with the Turkey’s entry into the war on Germany’s side, Turkey was isolated, along with Bulgaria, from her allies by Serbia and Rumania, which was neutral until August 1916. This caused enormous logistical problems for the Central Powers, both Bulgaria and Turkey were heavily dependant upon supplies from Germany, especially critical was ammunition. While Rumania had strong economic ties to Germany and some things in common with A-H, she increasingly became hostile to the Central Powers due to British and French intrigue. While trade with Germany never ended prior to August 1916, the transit of supplies from Germany and Austria to Bulgaria and Turkey had been repeatedly disrupted and hampered.

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Kaiserliche Marine

Welcome to our new website, we have been down for awhile but it was necessary for updating the website. We have set up this site with a new feature, I will try and do a short blog every week or so to keep new information on our website, especially while Gewehr98.com is down during its update.

The Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) was initially formed from the Prussian Navy in the 1870’s, it was an Imperial force, unlike the Imperial era German Army, which was made up of the Armies of Prussia, Saxony, Württemberg and Bavaria, united under the Kaiser only in emergencies. Originally the Imperial German Navy was a rather small force, funded by the Imperial German parliament (Reichstag) rather than the individual state legislatures, and really didn’t become an ocean going force before the turn of the 20th Century, when Germany began upon an expansion program “for its place in the sun”, party in response to its trade rivalry with Britain and its quest for a colonial empire. The timing was perfect in relation to the Gewehr98, the First Naval Bill was put forward on December 6, 1897 and passed in 1898, it was followed by subsequent Naval Laws that great expanded the German Navy.

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