Category Archives: Steyr Werke

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…

Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) 1941

1941

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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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Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) 1940

1940

1940

Photo courtesy of Rob Wareck

With the start of the war, things began to move quickly for SDP, capital for expansion was arranged and progress moved quickly to expand both the range of production (items made) and mass production. To illustrate the size of the operation, at the beginning of 1940, 13,000 people were employed by SDP corporation wide. Small arms would be a very small part of the corporations operations, though an important one. 1940 was an important year for SDP, it was the year they took over the management (“Komissarische Verwaltung”) of the Polish state arsenals, both being state owned (Poland was a state little different than National Socialist Germany, aggressive and predatory, most important industries were state owned or controlled), the National Socialist could dispense with any pretense of respecting property rights, which they typically did when seizing newly acquired property in occupied states. The German Army was officially the owners of the new facilities, but naturally they were incapable of operating them, or any of the other industrial sites seized during the Polish campaign (they found custodians for them all, private concerns), later the “private” corporation, operated by the German Army, Montanindustrie, took over ownership and worked directly with SDP, and others, dealing with the former Polish properties.

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Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) 1939

LRIn this post I will begin a year by year examination of Modell98 production at Steyr-Daimler-Puch (SDP). The first year after the union with Germany (Anschluss in 1938) SDP was faced with a number of problems, not the least of which were where the firm would fit in with the new order (National Socialist regime). Anschluss was not a new concept in 1938, it certainly was not a creation of Hitler and his henchmen, Germany and Austria had explored union after the end of World War One and again in 1930-1931, both times bringing considerable resistance from the former Entente, – especially France and Italy (and the Czechs). However in 1938 the union was anything but a mutually beneficial arrangement, previously Austria had sought union with Germany for economic and security concerns, a union would have solved many economic problems in 1930-1931, which by 1931 were tearing Austria apart, – indeed, it had been the 1931 economic crisis in Austria which led to the reorganization and mergers that formed the SDP corporation.

However, by 1938 the Anschluss (union) turned the country upside down, nowhere was this more true than in the economic and industrial spheres. SDP in particular was a target of National Socialist ambitions; SDP was one of the most valuable industrial concerns in Austria, a manufacturer of automobiles, trucks, ball bearings, bicycles, and small arms. What it offered was not so much in what it made in 1938, but what it held in potential, and the National Socialists had great expectations for its future usefulness. Herman Göring, head of the Four Year Plan (the German economy) and the Reichswerke (an industrial conglomerate set up by the state to put a commercial face to expropriated property, – greatly expanded by “state capitalism”) were quick to move on SDP, coercing the banks (Creditanstalt Bankverein, owned by the Austrian government since 1931), who owned most of SDP stock to sell their stock to the Reichswerke, followed by coercing the banks to “lend” capital to SDP for massive expansions and acquisitions. Herman Göring, after an appropriate pause allowing for a shake up of the management, and expulsion of all Jews and most communists, promised great things for the future of SDP. Military contracts were given, restructuring of manufacturing priorities, the firm was directed away from legitimate, long-term profitable commercial production towards military pursuits, massive expansions were funded, and several expensive projects were undertaken that would eventually lead the firm into tank and aircraft production.

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Steyr-Solothurn Waffen AG

One of the most interesting events surrounding German resistance to the disarmament clauses of the Versailles Treaty was the creation of a firm in Switzerland to develop German patents on machine guns and small arms.

Starting in 1929 Rheinische Metallwaaren- und Maschinenfabrik AG (Rheinmetall) entered into a relationship with two Austrian firms, Patronenfabrik Hirtenberger (cartridge factory owned by Fritz Mandl, who “coincidentally” owned most of “Patronenfabrik Solothurn AG” stock after it collapsed) and Steyr-Werke AG, where they acquired controlling interest in a failing Swiss cartridge maker. This Swiss based firm, Waffenfabrik Solothurn AG, would work closely with the famous Steyr-Werke (formerly ÖWG) to develop weapons based upon patents that were owned by Rheinmetall, which due to the Versailles Treaty and German law, could not develop them or sell them for export.

Rheinmetall had hidden machinery in the Netherlands after World War One and this would become the foundation for the heavy machine guns and cannons the new firm would produce. For the small arms manufacture, the facilities at Steyr would be leased. Starting in November 1930 this new company, “Steyr-Solothurn Waffen AG”, would develop some of the most innovating and important heavy machineguns and small arms of the interwar period, many of which would see further development during World War II.

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Steyr and Radom

With the war many companies would benefit from the early conquests, while some of these were private companies, the ones that benefited most were the state owned conglomerates like the Reichswerke. The fall of Poland is probably the most extreme example of the early exploitation, both in its ruthlessness and with the lethargic pace that it developed. The initial stages of conquest occurred quickly and completely, as in 1939 Poland was a regime not far removed from that of national Socialist Germany. Both were extremely aggressive with its neighbors and had near complete control over their industry, – most of Poland’s most important assets were state owned. In a pattern that Germany would repeat over an over again during its conquest in Europe, all assets of the conquered state would be seized and outright confiscated as Reich property. These conquered assets would then be placed under trustee firms (Komissarische Verwaltung), sometimes private ones, but in most cases, especially if important assets, they were assigned to German companies that were owned by the Reich (the state). Without a doubt the largest conglomerate chosen in the most important cases were companies owned or controlled by the Reichswerke Hermann Göring.

In December 1939, the new owners of the former Polish Armaments Works at Radom and Warsaw, theOberkommando des Heeres (German Army), placed Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG (SDP) as trustee of the firms. This in no way implied ownership, firms such as SDP were chosen because the German Army did not have the expertise to operate the confiscated property and selected German firms that specialized in similar industrial endeavors to run them. They were operated under SDP’s operational oversight but were subject to the Armaments Inspectorate controls.

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Steyr Firearm Production Numbers

Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG rifle production during the war is more complex than simple numbers, they were burdened by a series of problems after its union with Germany, they had great difficulty making rifles that were acceptable to by the German authorities. Many rifles made prior to 1943 were rejected and subsequently passed later, this is the reason why the rifles they made often have variation to their acceptance and marking pattern. Below is the official totals made (accepted) from the official report on the company. 1945 is not included, but was probably about 35,000 rifles by known serial ranges.

SDP (660-bnz)

1939 –   28,801
1940 – 118,452
1941 – 232,425
1942 – 202,400
1943 – 286,807
1944 – 279,562

Gewehre Modell 12/34

The so-called G29ö or “Luftwaffen Karabiner” actually had an official German designation, the German authorities called the rifle the Gewehre Modell 12/34. The designation is derived from the two models of rifles that the design originates from two rifles Steyr made for export, – the M1912 (Modell 1912) and the Steyr-Solothurn M1934.

While the rifle was not made in large numbers, it is fairly easy to find if you have some patience and have the wherewithal to afford a nice example. Production of the rifle was limited, all were delivered to the Luftwaffe during 1939, but examples can be found dated 1938, but they are extremely rare. Total production was probably about 2000 dated 1938 and probably about 29,000 dated 1939. Production was envisioned through the early part of 1940, but was abandoned when SDP (Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG) adopted production of the Kar.98k and the G29/40 rifle made from salvaged Polish Wz.29 rifles. Which were first made starting during July 1940.