Third Party Press

The 7.9mm Carcano

RyanE

Baby Face
Staff member
I criticized Ian for his HK pistol video, so I think it is only fair to give him credit for his German Carcano video. Its pretty good, and it gives me an excuse to talk about these at some length which is something I have been meaning to do.


I do have a few corrections and additions to what he says. Caveat: This is based largely on what Wolfgang Riepe allegedly dug out of the Bundesarchiv, but its all second hand info. I have not seen the actual documents.

Volkssturm?

I am not 100% sure these were originally intended for the Volkssturm. The Volkssturm was a party organization, and while the Army handed out some stuff to them, they were usually given a grab bag of junk, mostly captured weapons handed over by the Army, privately owned shotguns and hunting rifles, and even rifles bought by their local Gauleiters on the black market in Italy. It didn't really matter what type and caliber they were using since they were local defense militia and not front line combat units. I also find it odd that Volkssturm weapons would be sent to the Infanterieschule for testing by well trained professional soldiers. Did they do that with other Volksgewehr rifles? Was the Army even involved with those emergency Primitiv-Waffen projects at all?

I think these may have been intended for issue to front line combat units, at least originally. There was a very severe shortage of rifles in 1945. The Wehrmacht apparently went so far as to take back all of the K98k that had been given to Volkssturm units in late 1944.

Krieghoff

Krieghoff was certainly the primary firm doing this conversion work, though it isn't exactly clear where they did it. An Italian article mentions that a Krieghoff facility in Eichsfeld (that may or may not have existed) was ordered to do the work on 22 December 1944 by the Reichsminister für Rüstung und Kriegsproduktion, but one of the documents Riepe transcribed from the office of Der Chef der Heeresrustung und Oberbefehlshaber des Ersatzheeres (Chief of Army Armaments and the Supreme Commander of the Replacement Army) dated 8 January 1945 mentions modification by "Fa. Krieghoff, Werk Glashütte, Gabelgrund/Thüringia" which doesn't make much since Glashütte is no where near Thüringia. Not sure if this a document error, an error of Riepe's transcription, or if I am misunderstanding something. If any of our German or Austrian friends can make sense of this, let me know.

Production was originally estimated to start at 500/day and very optimistically targeted an increase to 1000/day. They were not entirely delusional though and only expected 5000 in January due to start up difficulties. The big problem seemed to be rifling machines. They could not get enough to increase production and to do so would require a reduction in machines available for K98k, K43, and Sturmgewehr production which they were absolutely not going to do. It is claimed the Heereswaffenamt delivery document from March shows a total production of only 3100 in January 1945.

General characteristics are a H or K prefix, German K98k recoil lug, and stock serial number under the receiver on the side. Bolts will be etched with the SN, and the stocks will usually be depot marked. New, taller front sights were installed and rear sight ladders (when present) were removed. Finally the first 30,000-40,000 or so were planned to be single shot until magazine production came online, which was achieved by simply installing a wooden block in the magazine well. Note that there is an early variation that lacks the lug and prefix, and the stock serial number is by the Italian number instead of one the side. In general, they did not over stamp the 6.5 like the one Ian shows. I’m not sure that is original. The 7 looks modern.

Heeresgruppe C and Waffenamt/Dienststelle Italien

It is less well known that a second operation was also working on these. Heeresgruppe C in Italy and Waffenamt/Dienststelle Italien had come up with their own design, presumably being worked on by FNA-Brescia in Northern Italy. It is also mentioned that three plants in total had been ordered to produce 5000 per day. Another fantasy, but it seems at least some were made. One HGr C carbine was delivered to Doberitz for testing, and it is alleged that 4500 were made in Brescia in February (out of a total delivery of 12,320). What exactly these looked like is anybody's guess, but we do know they were repeaters that used modified Italian enbloc clips.

One possibility that at least some of the post-war 8mm Carcanos are in fact German supervised construction, but that is only speculation. None of these show any German markings, but the factories were still nominally under Italian control. 1944/45 Beretta pistols and very late Armaguerra M41 were both produced under German supervision and show no German markings at all. There is one mention in the Infantrieschule documents that these were new production (Neufertigung) and not modifications (umgebaut or umänderung). However, this may simply be a document error which are not uncommon. The Italian guns in other places are referred to as modified (umänderung) and the one gun that was sent to Döberitz by HGr C seems to have been a conversion since the barrel date (1941/XIX) was accidentally recorded as the serial number.

Repeaters and Infanterieschule Döberitz

So despite what Ian says, there were in fact magazine fed Carcanos produced. It is true that Krieghoff apparently did not expect to begin full production of repeaters until May, but in late January, Infanterieschule Döberitz received 5 repeating rifles for testing. 4 M41 were delivered from Krieghoff that used a Mauser style magazine and standard K98k stripper clips, and 1 M38 Short Rifle delivered by Herresgruppe C from Brescia (presumably FNA?) that used the original Carcano magazine and modified Carcano enbloc clips. The Krieghoff M41s had some accuracy and sight issues, but the magazine system worked well. The Brescia gun, not so much. Accuracy was very poor, the Mannlicher magazine system was disliked, and the modified Italian clips were very unreliable. There is no mention of recoil lugs at all, at least in what I have.

Ultimately, while the M41s modified with a Mauser magazine were found to be more or less acceptable as a second line weapon, the Infanterieschule recommended against issuing these rifles to any combat troops or Volkssturm, and only recommended them for guard troops (Wacheinheiten). The Infanterieschule also recommended against continuing with the Heeresgruppe C short rifle conversions at all, and that the M41 simply be issued in their original 6.5 caliber where possible. They did not fully reject the Krieghoff M41 conversions though and requested 50 more of the “improved” models for continued testing.

Ferlach

Finally, we have the Ferlach guns. There are a very few of these floating around, all commercially proofed by the Ferlach proofhouse and dated March 1945. Apparently, according the Ferlach, 225 guns were proof tested in March. They were clearly intended to be used as repeaters since the receiver has been notched for the longer 7.92mm cartridge. Who converted these and for what purpose is unknown. I would guess the work was done by a Ferlach gunsmith for the local party. 200 rifles would probably be enough for a VS battalion.

Summing Up

According to the alleged HWaA report from 1 March 1945, 3,100 conversions were delivered by HK in January and a total of 12,320 were delivered in Feburary, 4,500 of which were purported to be Italian. That leaves a total 7829 for HK in February. Added up that comes to a grand total of 10,920 in the first two months of 1945 by HK. I have no idea if any were made in March and April, but I would assume at least some were.

Known approximate HK serial ranges and types:

1-5000? Initial or preproduction run? No H/K prefix, no recoil lugs, stock serial number on the side by the buttplate, all M41

H1-H5999, Unknown? M41 H2747 is the only known survivor

H6000-H7000, M38 Short Rifles

H7000-H8000, M41

H8000-H9000. presumably M38 Cav Carbines, only one or two reported apparently and all very late in the range

H9000-H9999, K1-K1100, M38 Cav Carbines

The one rifle known between H1-H6000, H2747, looks legit IMO. It is basically a barreled action only, and it shows the characteristics of the later prefix guns and does not fit in with any of the first type HK rifles. If it is legit, I think its safe to assume HK restarted the serial numbers at some point in February for some reason. It would also mean around 16,000 were completed by HK, and we would only need to assume another 5K in production in March/April which I think is very reasonable.

With the Heeresgruppe C guns, I can only speculate that the guns were either never actually produced in any numbers or were later reworked by the Italians and sold off to various Arab countries. I don’t think 4500 guns (at least) would simply disappear, and I have always found it odd they would convert Carcanos to 8mm just to pawn them off on the third world.
 

RyanE

Baby Face
Staff member
Some examples:

First Type HK M41
https://www.k98kforum.com/threads/kreighoff-m41-8mm-conversion.35176/

Late HK M38 Cavalry Carbine:
https://www.k98kforum.com/threads/new-find-italian-calvary-carbine-hk-conversion.15004/

Another incomplete HK M38 Cavalry Carbine (8x57 stamp added post war IMO)
https://www.k98kforum.com/threads/did-anyone-here-win-this-one.33076/

Ferlach Conversions:
https://www.k98kforum.com/threads/m38-m41-ferlach-conversions.49124/

And I’ll attach some pics of the mysterious H2747 so they don’t disappear from the internet forever. I thought we had another example or two on the forum but that is all I can find.
 

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Pat

Moderator
Staff member
Nice post, Ryan.
I just don't see any evidence pointing directly at the VS as intended end users. Surviving docs on supplying the VS pretty clearly show that arming them was very haphazard and inconsistent, mainly due to supply and how to move items across a besieged country, with the Allies controlling the air space. The capture pile photos I've seen from the Italian surrender of September 1943 all show crates of ammo along with rifles and carbines. Add to that what individual Italian soldiers would have, and it would seem that if the VS really wanted to use Carcanos, they should have kept them in 6.5.

The Short Rifle that Ian is showcasing in the video appears legit to me, but like you I don't think that crossed out '6.5' on the rear sight is good, nor would I trust what's stamped over it. It doesn't ruin the rest of the gun, but it doesn't look original, either.

The serial number range is very strange, and I've never really made sense of it. Why start at 'H' and jump to 'K' for an intended second (or third?) line weapon? I'd like to think that the coincidence of those two letters for conversions done by 'HK' is just that.

*EDIT*
This post makes me want to dig up and read Wacker's article on these, as well as the docs from Freiburg. I'm rusty on them, after putting in some time researching and trying to do some up close investigation of attributes.
 
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RyanE

Baby Face
Staff member
Carcanos in 6.5 were a very common VS weapon. Gau Bayreuth apparently handed out more than 17,000 Carcanos (almost 80% of their rifle inventory) to its VS.

I think its pretty clear letter blocks H and K were deliberately chosen for "Heinrich Krieghoff". Who knows what the plan was when they finished the K block. I don't believe in coincidences like this, and we do see stuff like this sometimes. SVT40s with MK prefix were the first block produced at Mednogorsk, and I think the LZA depot build letter blocks are intentional also.
 

mrfarb

No War Eagles For You!
Staff member
Excellent post!

I have one of the M38 short rifles in the H6000-H7000 range, I thought I posted it but I can’t find it. I have a few pics in my phone, but of the few of these I have seen none were depot marked, none of the 3 had the H stock number, and none had the original factory matching stock. Interestingly, I bought a loose stock on eBay that’s modified with the lug and the serial is very close to my factory serial, and no H number.
 

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Fal Grunt

Senior Member
Ryan,

Great write up on, at least to me, a very little known subject. If you can get ahold of the primary documents, include some of those, and some pictures of the example rifles you could put this together as a small book(let). While there may only be 10 of us that want a copy, it would be something I would like to have on the shelf!
 

heavy_mech

RKI- Reasonably Knowledgable Individual
While not trying to take this off topic I'd love to hear either/both of your opinions on who and where were the Arab scam 7.92 Carcanos made
 

Mike2994

Well-known member
Great write up Ryan!

After having this one checked out by two other forum members that are more knowledgeable regarding these conversions than I am (Thanks Farb & Pat) I decided to post some detailed photos of my HK 7.9 Carcano M38 Short Rifle conversion. This one shows a major difference between other short rifle conversions including the 'H' prefix serial number being placed on the rear sight instead of the barrel shank. Some other variants do have the 'H' prefix serial number on the rear sight. This example retains the original single shot adaptor. Here are some photos:
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RyanE

Baby Face
Staff member
Thanks for posting it! Interesting that yours lacks the stock serial number. I suppose we haven't seen enough to figure out patterns as far as that is concerned. Certainly all of the late ones seem to have it as do the (presumably) early non-H ones.
 

mrfarb

No War Eagles For You!
Staff member
Here are a few extra photos. Like all the others in this series, the stocks seem to have had the recoil lug added and not mated back to the original rifle, but no H number was stamped on it to match. I was told long ago by C Brown that it was typical, so he had noticed it before as well. Also, attached is the loose stock I found with no H number - that original serial is very close to my rifles original serial so I suspect its from the same batch of rifles that were converted.
 

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Amberg

Senior Member
Carcanos in 6.5 were a very common VS weapon. Gau Bayreuth apparently handed out more than 17,000 Carcanos (almost 80% of their rifle inventory) to its VS.
Has anyone out there ever come across a replacement handguard (of German manufacture)?
In July 1944, the SS weapons workshop at the Stutthof concentration camp had a total of 3,000 Italian carbines in stock. 1,000 of them had broken handguards. A request was made to the Army for replacement handguards, but the Army replied that delivery would take until November 1944.
Along with 400 Italian 7.35 caliber carbines (considered unusable because of the different caliber), the 6.5 caliber carbines with broken handguards were given (sold?) to the Army.
The remaining 1,600 Carcanos were shipped to Greece for partisan defense.
 

Pat

Moderator
Staff member
Amberg,
That is fascinating, thanks for sharing that information. I haven't specifically looked for a replacement hand guard, but now I think I need to!

Having a full third of the inventory have broken hand guards is interesting in itself. I wonder if the same issue was reflected in Italian use, or if this was a specific packing/transport issue, or something else.
 

RyanE

Baby Face
Staff member
Has anyone out there ever come across a replacement handguard (of German manufacture)?
In July 1944, the SS weapons workshop at the Stutthof concentration camp had a total of 3,000 Italian carbines in stock. 1,000 of them had broken handguards. A request was made to the Army for replacement handguards, but the Army replied that delivery would take until November 1944.
Along with 400 Italian 7.35 caliber carbines (considered unusable because of the different caliber), the 6.5 caliber carbines with broken handguards were given (sold?) to the Army.
The remaining 1,600 Carcanos were shipped to Greece for partisan defense.

If anything, I suspect the replacement handguards were probably coming from FNA in Brescia. I doubt they were German made.

If you have seen the Stutthof documents, are there mentions of who controlled the workshop? I have only seen brief summaries of these documents, and they seem to imply the workshop was RSHA/SiPo, not Waffen-SS. This would seem to fit as the documents appear to originate from RSHA/II C 4 (Waffenwesen), and there is no mention of any SS-Zeugamt at Stutthof I have seen.
 

Amberg

Senior Member
You are right. Stutthof was a concentration camp. The DAW had some workshops including the weapon maintenance/repair shop there. All that was RSHA run. It had nothing to do with the Waffen-SS and it was not a Zeugamt.
Chief of the shop at Stutthof was:
techn.Obersekretär/SS-Ostuf Johann Dragschitz (*04.09.1910, SS #369539)
11.1943 RSHA - Amt II (Waffeninspektor)
04.1944 KZ Stutthof - DAW-Waffeninstandsetzung
The responsible at the RSHA for the Stutthof shop was:
Oberregierungsrat/SS-Ostubaf Dr. Kurt Hafke (*02.06.1903 Grünlinge, +07.03.1981 Holzminden, SS #316423, NSDAP #2857103)
1939/40 RHSA - Personalreferent
05.1941 BdS Krakow - Abt.III (Gestapo)
05.1941 Leiter Stapo-Stelle Stettin
01.1942 BdS Niederlande
08.1942 Stapo Stettin
01.1944 RHSA - Ref.II C3g
??.1944 RSHA - Ref.II C4

I have the files on my computer.

edit:
PS: If you look through the files, you will find that all the weapons from Stutthof/Rauscha were forwarded from there to other concentration camps, anti-partisan units and the police.
 
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Pat

Moderator
Staff member
It would be interesting to know if there were any specific indicators of work done at those sites reflected on the rifles themselves.
 

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