What constitutes a “Third Reich - Training Rifle?”
Controversy, debate and confusion have always ruled regarding what constitutes a “German Trainer”. Not all collectors are congruent on that issue.
I would state it as:
“A .22 rimfire, 4mm or air rifle developed to resemble the standard German Service Rifle as much as possible and incorporating a hand guard and full length stock.”
Hitler’s influence and priority for marksmanship training of youths and the paramilitary SA resulted in that market becoming increasingly lucrative as he came to power in 1933. Many models of small caliber cartridge rifles had been developed emulating the Gewehr 98 prior to that. In some cases, such as the Gewehr style 4mm Zimmerschutzen rifles, this followed on the heels of the Treaty of Versailles and was to make use of deactivated infantry rifles. But as Hitler came to power in 1933 a well spring of models evolved from German Manufacturers seeking to supply the demands of the NAZI SA shooting program. By 1934, Hitler had abolished the Deutches Schutzen Verbund and made the SA responsible for all marksmanship training in the Reich. Simson, ERMA, GECO, Langehan, Frankenscholss, Kaba, Paatz, Anschutz and others had all produced in limited quantity full stocked .22 rifles to resemble the Gewher 98.
Clearly this was a competitive venture instigated by the NAZI party’s demand for training rifles.
As Mauser Oberndorf ultimately secured the pattern for the new service rifle (K98K based on the Standard Modell Carbine) that firm’s miniaturized 98 action was ultimately directed to be the “standard” design. Other models by other makers continued to be produced and utilized as trainers. But ultimately 16 diffferent firms produced the Mauser design. Evidence that the War Office was involved in the proliferation of the Mauser Deutches Sportmodell is noted in the order/offer records recently brought to light in Jon Speed’s “Mauser Archive” Wooden and aluminum models were procured by the German Military in November 1933. In is interesting in this reference that the entire records for 1934 were omitted and likely were destroyed as they would have contained significant evidence that Germany was in fact rearming in violation of the Treaty of Versailles and no doubt tooling, blueprints and drawings for the DSM 34 would have been noted going to the 16 firms that ultimately produced the guns at the direction of the new NAZI government.
Later in 1938 there is now significant evidence that the SA directed the multi-firm involvement in the development and production of the KKW.
And so from this collector’s perspective, there are but two “standardized” Third Reich Training Rifles. The DSM 34 and the KKW. However many other models by the same firms producing those and other models by many makers do constitute a “trainer” as they were built with full stocks, in most cases hand guards and do emulate the K98K.
This results in much debate and varied opinions among collectors and historians regarding what is, and what is not a “Third Reich Training Rifle”. I suspect it will remain so.
To sort that out, one must consider the above and look to period literature. The manufacturers catalogs and prospectus aid to a great extent. Here too, though, the issue remains cloudy as even the “standardized” Deutches Sportmodell and Klein Kaliber Wehrsport Gewehr were proofed commercially and sold by retail firms to suppress suspicion and camouflage the Third Reich’s very active re-armament and marksmanship programs subsequent to 1933.
But in most cases, these catalogs and other documents clearly indicate that “other” sporting and target types produced between 1933 and the end of WWII, were intended for use as hunting, sport shooting and target rifles.
Adding to the confusion many of the sporting types utilize a tangent rear sight, and in the case of the Mauser B series sporting and target rifles the same miniature 98 action. Other sporting models by other firms also used a wing safety typical of the 98 action. This results in such models often referred to as “trainers”.
Sporters as Trainers
Another significant fact further adds to the confusion. Any .22, 4mm, or air rifle available in the Reich during that same period was very likely pressed into service as a “training rifle”.
This is evidenced in period photographs of marksmanship training by the SA and the many property marked examples of sporting and target rifles found. Just as was true of combat weapons, there were never enough rifles to meet the demand. Consequently, to say that any German small caliber rifle from that period of history was not a trainer, is unlikely and inconclusive.
There's my take on it, and I might add many other older collectors basically operate from that perspective. Some do not collect any of the "sporting types" unless they bear property markings for NAZI organizations (many do).
For the purposes of research and information sharing, however, I believe this forum should welcome the presentation and discussion of any 4mm, Luftgewehr, or .22 caliber rifle made in or used in Germany or the occupied territories prior to May 1945.
As always, I encourage comments, discussion and debate. Others opinions are welcome and appreciated.