Category Archives: Weapons that Made their Mark

Need a Centerpiece for your German WWII Collection?

How about an authentic, combat-deployed, Normandy-captured 88? Yep, the 8.8 CM Flak 36, lovingly and freshly restored by the now defunct Normandy Tank Museum, whose former displays — all of them, apparently — are hitting the auction block next month.


The good news: this is probably the best 88 in the world. The bad news? While it’s offered at no reserve, they expect it to go for €70,000-130,000. There are also a number of tanks and armored, amphibious and soft-skinned vehicles representative of the armies that met in Normandy in 1944, as well as small lots with mannequins and artifacts.

The auction is being conducted by French auctioneer Artcurial; the catalog website is bilingual French-English, there’s a .pdf press release and the catalog (.pdf of course) is downloadable.

The catalog has an excellent précis of this individual artillery piece’s history:


This fine example of a German “Flak 88” was assembled in 1942 by the Bischof-Werke in Sud Recklinghausen using components supplied by a multitude of manufacturers in both Germany and her Occupied Countries.

Here is just a small list of the many diverse companies who sent their output to Recklinghausen for incorporation into this deadly cannon:

  1. Gunsight optics by Steinheil Sohn of Munich;
  2. Electrictal system by Merten Gebruder of Gummersbach;
  3. Gun breech and heavy castings by Schoeller-Blecknaan of Niederdonau and Maschinenfabrik Andritz of Graz, Austria;
  4. Gun barrel and collar by Skodawerke in Dubinca, Slovakia;
  5. Electro-mechanical instruments by Siemens Schuckert of Budapest;
  6. Cable drum holders by Biederman & Czarnikow of Berlin;
  7. Cable drum reels by Franz Kuhlman of Wilhelmshaven;
  8. Major steel castings by Ruhrstahl AŽG of Witten-Annen;
  9. Bogie winches by VDM Luftfahrtwerke AŽG of Metz;
  10. Winch gearboxes by Gasparry & Co of Leipzig;
  11. Air brakes and fittings by Knorr Bremse, etc.


And of its provenance:

Origin and condition

This weapon has a true Battle of Normandy provenance. It was painted in the standard “Dunkel Gelb” or dark and finish [sic] and supplied in 1942 to a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft division where it found its way to Normandy in early 1943. By June 44, it was positioned in defense of a German Command Center located in an occupied chateau near to Cherbourg.When the Cherbourg pensinsula was over-run by the Allies in July/August, our weapon was captured intact by the Americans who, deciding it might be of some use, painted it olive drab green and presumably had some intention of using it.

As the Liberation of Europe continued, this 88 was left behind and was eventually destined to become a hard target on a firing  range. To this end, it was daubed with great splashes of bright orange paint but, thankfully, was rescued after the war by the French Army who repainted it in their own color and who most probably used it for training and educational purposes. After all, it was a very advanced weapon for its day and possessed many innovative technical features.

Finally, our weapon left French military service and passed through the hands of scrap dealers until nally being shut away in a huge barn by an eccentric collector – it has to be remembered that back in the 1970’s there was not a great deal of interest in German WW2 hardware.

And so it languished, becoming covered in grime and dirt until 2014 – all the time the multiple layers of paint ©aking and peeling and ending up a bizarre variegated hue. The Normandy Tank Museum rescued the weapon  and placed it in the hands of their highly experienced German restoration expert who, over a period of 8 months, brought the sad relic back to the amazing condition one sees today.

Missing or badly damaged parts have been replaced with locally sourced original replacements – an example of which was a set of the 3 part “Trilex” wheel rims and locking ring which our restorer found amidst a load of farmer’s scrap dumped in a forest when walking his dog.

The 4 brand new wheels and cartridge cases came from the Finnish Army who used them as practice rounds up till the 1980’s. They are obviously empty but, interestingly, are dated June 1944. The fuse nosecones are 3 anti-aircraft and one anti-tank. So a weapon with true Normandy provenance and a major rarity these days as many of the surviving and displayed “88’s” are of Spanish origin. This cannon is one of true German manufacture- a fact which adds significantly to its value.

The 88 was a revolutionary gun and its carriage, in particular, was copied not only by larger German AA guns used for homeland defense against the Allied bomber offensive (in 10.5 and 12.8 cm flavors), but also by American and Soviet AA gun designers.

AR-10 Sniper Reweld — On GB and Sold in a Flash

Seeing that this had already come, and gone, on GunBroker, was a bit like being King Arthur and the boys and hearing that the French knight would not join our quest for the Holy Grail, ’cause “‘E’s already got one.”

original AR10 sniper 01

Some lucky knight has now got the Holy Grail of early AR collecting, albeit a rewelded semi-auto version; but it’s as near as an ordinary mortal will get to the original as long as the Hughes Amendment stands.

Well, here it is, deep from the recesses of my collection, the legend of legends……………….For sale one each original 1960 Portuguese AR-10 sniper rifle manufactured by “Artillerie Inrichtingen (AI) of Holland.

original AR10 sniper 03

No-this isn’t a pretend AR-10 such as the contemporary Armalite, DPMS, or any of the other .308 AR-15’s, THIS IS A REAL AR-10. Original AR-10’s in and of themselves are scarce; this is an EXTREMELY RARE sniper rifle.

He’s got a point there. The only other one of these we’ve seen was in a government museum.

original AR10 sniper 04

I’ve had it since 1995 (which is the last time I shot it) and it’s time to pass it on to somebody else. The rifle is complete and original. The lower receiver was expertly welded together from an original band saw cut and de-milled Portuguese AR-10 by Lloyd Hahn who received permission from the ATF before he did the work so it’s all done in compliance with the law (I don’t do “grey area’s).

original AR10 sniper 02

Unlike the various after-market AR-10 receivers such as Central Kentucky Arms, Specialty Arms, H&H, Telco, Sendra, etc. this actually looks like an original AR-10 lower (cuz’ it mostly is) receiver markings and all.

The aluminum H&H is pretty good, but it doesn’t duplicate the original markings, except for the serial number.

original AR10 sniper 12

SCOPE-original Delft, 3.6 X 25, excellent condition with clear optics

original AR10 sniper 19

*UPPER RECEIVER-a real sniper upper (in case somebody should ask, it would next to impossible to correctly machine the proper sniper scope cuts in an ordinary Portuguese upper) *You may notice a piece of tape behind the ejection port in the photos, no it ain’t holding the rifle together ;-)I put that on in 95’ to mitigate any brass “dings” on the upper receiver.

original AR10 sniper 14


BARREL-NO Shaw repro, it’s a very good condition Portuguese with a shiny bore (most Portuguese aren’t)

Again, the seller is on the level here. Our AR-10 barrel is “pretty good for a Porto” and the usual run of them is more in the “what were they doing with these things, growing potatoes?” condition.

original AR10 sniper 20

STOCK-Unlike most Portuguese stocks this one has an excellent rubber butt pad. There are however several very small cracks in the stock which have been expertly repaired.

The early fiberglass stocks were brittle and the resin degraded under ultraviolet light.

original AR10 sniper 10

HANDGUARDS-The fiberglass is in excellent condition with no cracks or scuffs, most Portuguese bipod handguards are a little “scruffy”, this is the best Portuguese bipod handguard I’ve ever held in my hands.

Haven’t seen one this good (including the one in the museum), ourselves.

Bipod-good-very good condition fully functional with no rust, mostly original finish. MAGAZINES-four come with the rifle.

Well, at least we’ve got more mags than that.

original AR10 sniper 17

Thanx for looking! PS-This is the same sniper rifle which was featured in the book, “The ArmaLite AR-10 Rifle”. Hit “Buy it now” and I’ll throw in the book with the sale,

via ORIGINAL ArmaLite AR-10 SNIPER Rifle (Portuguese) : Semi Auto Rifles at

The “Buy It Now” price was $12,000, and the running joke is that half of it was for the rare Maj. Sam Pikula book. (Which has fortunately been replaced, finally, by a better book after decades out of print).

Exit question: was the knight in question Reed Knight? He has most variants of AR-10 in his collection, but we don’t think he had the ultra-rare sniper.

Carry Handle My Wayward Son

There’s been a rash of “carry handle” posting on Reddit’s /r/guns subreddit lately. Apparently some people think carry handles on firearms, which Stoner et. al. thought absolutely brilliant in 1955 or so, are old-fashioned enough to be quaint, or entertaining.

Some of the posts are clearly childish humor, but we guess someone had to compare our AR iron sight history with our CZ history. (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle cz

OK, this guy is coming in broken and stupid. On the other hand, that, and snarking at the bot, got the poster banned by one of r/guns’s mods, who are known to have itchy trigger fingers.

And then, there’s this A3, posted with the claim that carry-handle mounted iron sights handle mud better than optics.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle a2

He was trying to clone his service gun (USMC), but would do it differently now:

This is my carry handle, there are many like it but this one is mine. Unfortunately the rifle shoots like dog shit and the vertical stringing is legendary. Getting about 4″ groups with match 77gr and 69gr ammo. Wanted a semi-accurate service rifle clone for USMC nostalgia, went with PSA base tier. Was disappoint, gonna do it right next time and just pick up an RRA national match gun.

Some of them are highly personalized, like this custom-finished, wood-stocked A2.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source). On A1s and A2s, the carry handle is a forged part of the upper receiver.

carry handle A2-ish

The owner says:

Picked it up from my gunsmith buddy who had it laying around for a few years. LOVE this gun. No name upper, Anderson lower, Rock river barrel, internals/pieces, plus lots of stainless Ceracoat.

Just goes to show you can build a very attractive gun with popular-priced pieces. The only thing premium here is the walnut stock: find this set with the cheekpiece (and laminated options) at Brownells. (The Brownells product is made by Lucid, and on their own website they offer a greater variety of woods and figuring — also unfinished for custom fitting). A slightly more A1-ish and less custom set is here, and if you a real OG carry handle user, you’ll like the even more A1-friendly Ironwood Designs set.

Here’s a 9mm pistol with the Original Gangsta fixed carry handle. (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle 9mm

Poster describes it:

[M]y 9mm Colt-ish pistol (soon to be SBR I hope)…. built on a Black Creek Precision EF-9 lower, Colt upper, and RRA barrel.

And then there’s the guy who’s right in our wheelhouse with a retro collection.  (Imgur source). (Reddit source).

carry handle retro

He rather he’pfully defines them:

Thanks to the invention of the Carry handle i was able to bring all of these rifles outside for a pic in one trip.
From top to bottom: Colt 603 AKA M16a1
Colt 604
Colt 733
On the Side Colt 607, my XM177 is borrowing the 607’s lower until the XM177’s stamp is approved.


Asked for a parts breakdown on his XM177E1, the user, Admiral Ackbar, opbliged:

AdmiralAckbar86[S] 2 points 3 days ago
Upper: Nodak
Lower: Nodak
Barrel: Brownells 1:12 chopped to 10 inches by Retro Arm works
BCG: Colt
LPK: Colt
Pistol Grip, Handguards: Colt
Stock: Essential Arms
Buffer Tube: Nodak 2 Position
XM177 Moderator: Brick

Hey, whatever is fun for you. For most users a carry handle (and even iron sights) are a waste, all you need is a flat-top and a red dot for a defensive or plinking or training carbine. Of course, if you’re chasing meat, and that meat’s a Colorado elk, a red dot’s not going to do it for you (and neither is 5.56).

Not Your Uncle Joe’s Webley

Even though it’s a perfectly ordinary Webley & Scott Mark IV, this is not your Uncle Joe’s Webley. That’s why the opening bid at auction is a stiff $1,850 — several times what your plain, average Mark IV goes for.

Foss Webley 04

But this is not Uncle Joe’s plain, average Webley. That is, of course, unless your Uncle Joe was the late Joe Foss, WWII hero, Governor of SD, and former NRA President.

Foss Webley 01

Let’s zoom in on that certificate:

Foss Webley 02

A Webley & Scott Ltd Mark lV revolver in caliber 38 S&W with papers from the collection of Joe Foss who was a Ace fighter pilot in world war ll, medal of honor recipient and former Governor of South Dakota among other achievements and the certificate comes with the gun. Condition of metal is very good with fading military finish and shows a couple pitting areas. Grips are original and excellent. The barrel is 5 inches and has a bright sharp bore and it comes with the original holster. This is a true collectors dream.

via Webley & Scott Ltd Mark lV revolver cal 38 S&W : Curios & Relics at

Technically, it’s in .38/200, but that’s just British English for .38 S&W. It means a .38 caliber bore with a 200-grain bullet.

Kind of amazing to think that today, a Briton could not own this long-obsolete artifact from his own national heritage, but that’s laws for you.

Foss Webley 03

These things are a hoot to shoot and have a certain Olde English, “Dr Watson, did you bring your revolver?” feel to them. Actually, any tip-up revolver is a blast; well can we recall the first time a spray of ejected cases made us giggle out loud.

The Mk IV has an interesting history. From 1887 to after World War I, Webleys in .455 were made and issued to British soldiers in Marks I to VI. After the war, they wanted a smaller pistol, and so Webley took the mighty .455 and scaled the whole gun down to the .38 S&W. (They had previously done a similar job, for police, which they called the Mk. III .38 Calibre). Thus, in a quintessentially British way, the Webley Mk. VI is older than the Webley Mk. IV.

Foss Webley 05Instead of issuing the new Webley, though, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield began producing a modified copy instead. Webley sued, but lost, and was out of the service revolver business until the war broke out, whereupon they had all the contracts they could handle. All surviving .38/200 Webleys, of the rough half-million produced, date from the war years.

Foss Webley 06After the war, the Webley revolver lasted a long time in British service because of official parsimony. Not only did the War Office not want  to spend the money on new sidearms, they didn’t spend any money on training ammunition, either, so the revolvers never wore out.

They were finally surplused in the 1950s and 60s after being replaced by a version of the Browning Hi-Power.

A Webley is a historic arm and would be a proud addition to any collection. A Webley that had been held by Joe Foss? (Here is a pretty decent capsule bio of Foss, explaining why he’s famous). Foss was an amazing character, who after a day of defending Guadalcanal in an F4F Wildcat, would take a rifle and hunt Japanese soldiers in the field — until his CO found out and put the brakes on his nocturnal poaching.


Arms of the Stormtroopers

No, we’re not talking about the combat lemmings in low-budget plastic suits in the Star Wars movies. We’re talking about the original item — the Stormtroopers of the German Empire in the Great War.

georg ehmig stosstrupp

We’re working our way through the excellent book Sturmtruppen by Spanish historian Ricardo Recio Carmona (translated to English by Gustavo Cano Muñoz and edited by Tyler Baldwin). This is a new book, published by Andrea Press in 2014, and it’s a richly illustrated and extensively documented survey of something every history buff thinks he knows.

Historical Background

The conventional story goes something like this:

After years of stalemate, the Germans developed Sturmtruppen in 1918, small, heavily armed detachments who operated independently and used stealth and infiltration tactics to surprise the enemy, and concentrated firepower to overwhelm him locally on contact.

And as remarkable as that development would be, it’s not exactly what happened. Carmona documents that, while Sturmtruppen had evolved to that level by 1918, to the point where even the Allies figured them out, they had been formed and deployed, if partly on an ad hoc basis, more or less continuously since 1914.

A fine point of German terminology is that Stosstruppen (Shock Troops) were strictly ad hoc, and temporary, but Sturmtruppen (Assault Troops) might equally be temporary “mobs for jobs” or permanent units. While assault troops might have been tasked to fight, they had a second, equally important role, which was to teach storm troops tactics to regular army formations.

Hptm. Willi Rohr

Hptm. Willi Rohr

The first such formal, permanent unit was probably Hauptmann Willi Martin Ernst Rohr, whose Sturmabteilung Rohr stood up in his Guards regiment in 1915. This was revolutionary in the German service, which entered the war committed, as its enemies and allies all were, to a line formation, whose only difference from the formations of Waterloo a century earlier was a little more open deployment, as a nod — an ineffectual nod — to the firepower of repeating rifles, machine guns and recoil-compensated quick-firing artillery.

Carmona notes that the characteristics of a Sturmtrupp operation, technically and tactically, included:

  1. Task organization, including assault and support elements;
  2. Selection of the men by the officer in charge;
  3. A rehearsal (or rehearsals) in a safe area configured to replicate the mission objective;
  4. Leaders’ reconnaissance to pinpoint infiltration points and routes;
  5. A precise schedule of execution with specific time hacks;
  6. Pre-arranged artillery and mortar support (not preparation);

In addition, surviving documents and memories make it plain that Sturm- and Stosstrupp leaders conducted very modern-seeming patrol inspections and troop-leading procedures that would not be out of place in a modern Army, and they began doing this from 1914. All the combatants were shocked by the terrifying effectiveness of modern 20th Century armaments, but the Germans did something about it. The French, British, and Russians just kept trying to logistically manage the battlefield in such a way that they’d deploy more human chests than the Germans could deploy bullets or artillery fragments.

Armaments of the Stormtroopers

The term Sturmtrupp was first used in connection with flamethrower detachments in 1914, and that offensive spirit was thought to reside in such units as well as in the new technical elite of tank operators, and the ancient light infantry of southern Germany, the Mountain Troops.

But most Sturm- u. Stosstruppen were armed with infantry weapons — just more of them. The principal weapon became the hand-grenade, a weapon that in 1914 was only in engineers’ inventory, not infantry. Period photos of a Sturm- u. Stosstruppler always show him well-endowed with ‘nades.

German Stosstrupp 3

German hand grenades came in offensive (blast only, no fragments, for use by troops in the open) and defensive (fragmentation, for use by troops under cover) varieties. The reason for taking cover when throwing a frag grenade is that it can produce casualties beyond its typical throwing range! Beyond that distinction, German ‘nades were produced in four broad types and many specific models. The types were ball grenades, disc grenades, egg grenades, and stick grenades.

German Stosstrupp

The ball grenade M1913 was the only grenade produced at the beginning of the war, and was produced originally only for sappers. It was a serrated iron-cased fragmentation grenade in the style of many other nations’ grenades, except that it was truly spherical, not at all ellipsoid. It had a pull wire on its fuze on top, which started a 5-7 second delay. (A second prewar version with a clockwork fuze was not produced after the war started). It would be redesigned during the war, to simplify manufacturing, but the replacements were called both M1913 Neuer Art (“new type”) and M1915.

This collection of Great War grenades came from a collector forum. German grenades in it include: 3. German M1915 Kugel grenade fragments 4. German M1915 Discushandgranate 5. German M1915 Kugel grenade, friction fuse 6. German m1913 Kugel grenade, friction fuse 7. Mauser T-Geweher round 8. German flechette 9. German Eier grenade with transit plug 10. German Eier grenade with standard friction fuse 11. German Eier grenade with friction fuse 12. German Eier grenade with M1917 friction fuse 13. German Stielhandgranate M1917 14. German Stielhandgranate M1916 15. German 1914 rifle grenade with transit plug

This collection of Great War grenades came from a collector forum. German grenades in it (all left of the center of the image) include:
3. German M1915 Kugel grenade fragments
4. German M1915 Discushandgranate
5. German M1915 Kugel grenade, friction fuse
6. German m1913 Kugel grenade, friction fuse
7. Mauser T-Geweher round
8. German flechette
9. German Eier grenade with transit plug
10. German Eier grenade with standard friction fuse
11. German Eier grenade with friction fuse
12. German Eier grenade with M1917 friction fuse
13. German Stielhandgranate M1917
14. German Stielhandgranate M1916
15. German 1914 rifle grenade with transit plug

The disc grenade was uniquely Imperial German and was fuzed to detonate on impact with the ground. It came in three different models: a sheet steel offensive grenade of 100-110 mm diameter; a cast iron defensive grenade of 80 mm diameter; and a catapult-launched Schleuder-Diskushandgranate that could be launched further.

The egg grenade was a latecomer, introduced in 1917. In continuously improved versions, it would remain in German service to 1945, but at the time it was a simple attempt to make a grenade that cost less and used fewer resources than the stick grenade. It had a time fuze and 32 grams of black powder.

The stick grenade, called by English-speaking troops the German “potato masher” from its resemblance to the household implement, is the grenade most people today associate with Germans, although many nations used stick grenades. Most stick grenades were offensive grenades with 200+ grams of explosive inside a thin sheet cover. The original M1915 had a time fuze initiated by pulling a wooden knob that formed the base of the stick. Apparently due to accidents, this was replaced by a pull cord that was protected by a screw-off protective cap in the M1916 and M1917 models. At some point, these grenades were available with impact as well as time fuzes.

Center, upper: Stielhandgranate 15. Center, lower: SHG 17 (pull cord extended). The grenade on the right is Austrian.

Center, upper: Stielhandgranate 15. Center, lower: SHG 17 (pull cord extended). The grenade on the right is Austrian.

In addition to these factory grenades, Sturmtruppen had a variety of improvised and field-expedient grenades, often made right behind the front in engineers’ workshops, especially in the 1914-15 period. Grenades were also combined into a Geballte Ladung with six extra heads, detonated sympathetically, arrayed around the one on the stick, or made into a Gestreckte Ladung by placing grenade heads at about 10-15 cm apart along a wooden lath or stick. (This seems to be intended to be an improvised Bangalore torpedo).

German Stosstrupp 4

Sturmtruppen carried lots of grenades, and the number rose as the war continued. A trooper might have felt well-armed with two or three grenades in 1915, but by 1917 he would want saddle-bags around his shoulders with three or four stick grenades on each side, and a few egg grenades in his pocket as backup. Some troopers were designated grenade-throwers, and they might have an assistant who carried a whole pack of ‘nades.

Firearms carried tended to be Mauser 98 carbines and numerous pistols. By 1918, the Sturmtrupp table of organization and equipment specified the new MP 18/1 submachine gun for all officers and NCOs and 10% of troops, but the firearm was never produced in such quantity.

And, of course, machine guns and mortars were used from the German trenches in support of Sturmtrupp attacks.


Jünger mid-war. He went on to be one of only 11 company commanders among the 700 recipients of the Pour le Mèrite, and to survive the war and become an important literary and philosophical figure in Germany.

Carmona quote a German officer, Ernst Jünger, on his armaments before leading a Stosstrupp (edited for clarity):

… across my chest, two sandbags, each containing four stick grenades, impact fuses on the left, delay on the right; in my right tunic pocket, a Pistol 08 [Luger] on a long cord; in my right trouser pocket, a little Mauser pistol; in my left tunic pocket, five egg grenades; in my left trouser pocket, luminous compass and whistle; in my belt, spring hooks for pulling out the pins, plus knife and wire cutters.

He was prepared for all eventualities, with his home address in a wallet in one pocket, and a flask of cherry brandy in another, and his Trupp removed unit identifying insignia from their uniforms and went “sterile.”

Grenades are one of those unglamorous weapons that gets short shrift between the wars, only to come into great demand “when the guns begin to shoot.”

Sturmtruppen is a well-researched and documented look at the German tactical revolution of WWI and will get you thinking about the profound impact these tactics have had on warfare today.

It’s made us want to read Carmona’s thesis which was on the quartermaster service of the Blue Division, Franco’s volunteers with the Germans on the Eastern Front, even if we have to read it en español. And it’s also made us want to read Jünger’s Storm of Steel, which has been translated into English.


Carmona, Ricardo Recio. Sturmtruppen: WWI German Stormtroopers (1914-1918). Madrid, 2014: Andrea Press

Jünger, Ernst. Im Stahlgewittern. Berlin, 1920: E.S. Mittler und Sohn. Available online at:

Numerous other Jünger works are available at

What Did a Luger Cost? (Updated)

This Commercial Mauser Luger was made very close to these cost figures -- in 1939. From the Sturgess collection, now for sale by Jackson Armory.

This Commercial Mauser Luger was made very close to these cost figures — in 1939. From the Sturgess collection, now for sale by Jackson Armory. ($3,450!)

Well, that depends. There’s a lot of different ways to look at this question. But what we’re going to do, is look at what it cost to manufacture a Luger. As it happens, the great book Mauser Pistolen has a table of Luger production costs in 19401. From there we can calculate would it cost in 1940 dollars, and from there it’s possible to make an estimate of its production cost in 2016, in today’s dollars. Let’s start by transcribing the original document, from the collection of Mauser Pistolen co-author Jon Speed. We’ll apply our MBA-fu and a little search online to translate the quaint old German accounting terms.

Table 1: P.08 with Haenel Magazine — Full Cost Accounting

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM
Werkstoff Material 1.82
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32
Summe SubTotal 7.14
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65
SubTotal SubTotal 36.49
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78
Summe SubTotal 37.27
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48
Private sale cost 47.50

OK, now  convert to period dollars. UCSB Historian Harold Marcuse has posted a useful table of exchange rates here. (He also, to digress for a moment, spent a portion of last year embroiled (with some allies, like Prof. Atina Grossman of Cooper Union) in a battle of wits with the relatively unarmed Erich Lichtblau of the New York Times over fabrications and exaggerations in Lichtblau’s America-bashing “history” of the postwar area as published in a book and the Times — something that will not surprise anyone who’s read Lichtblau in any form). So what did it cost Mauser to make a Luger in 1940, converted to 1940 dollars? Marcuse’s set of tables includes two tables that cover 1940, but they agree: RM2.5 = US $1 for that year. So let’s add a  column, and see what that adds up to.

Table 2: Full Cost Accounting, RM and $US, 1940.

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM Cost, 1940, USD
Werkstoff Material 1.82 0.73
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32 2.13
Summe SubTotal 7.14 2.86
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21 4.08
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49 0.2
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65 7.46
Summe SubTotal 36.49 14.6
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78 0.31
Summe SubTotal 37.27 14.91
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82 0.33
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09 15.24
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45 0.58
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94 0.38
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48 16.19
Private sale cost 47.50 19.00

While what Mauser got from the HeeresWaffenAmt (Army Ordnance Office) for each Luger is not immediately apparent (it’s probably somewhere else in that excellent book), we know what they charged a German military or police officer seeking to privately purchase a Luger: RM 47.50 (that’s in another of Speed’s period documents on that same page). In American, $19.

These costs were reduced about one Reichsmark per unit from the previous year, but Mauser’s costs in 1936-37 were lower and highly variable over time, suggesting that the ~5% difference might just be normal variance over time. It’s surprising that you don’t see cost reductions considering that Mauser produced the Luger for about ten years, beginning in the early ’30s when they took over production from then-corporate sibling DWM in Berlin (drawings, parts, and one engineer, August Weiss, were sent to Oberndorf). Other evidence in the book suggests that Mauser had quite modern management for its day.

Well, there’s the outrageously-expensive Luger for you — compare that to the US cost for the 1911A1, about $14-15 in 1940. Adds up if you’re making hundreds of thousands of them (Mauser and DWM together produced about 2 million Lugers, according to Weiss).

Another image of that same Luger at Jackson Armory.

Another image of that same Luger at Jackson County Armory.

There are several different ways to calculate what a 1940 dollar is worth today (which was news to us, MBA and history degree and all). Marcuse also recommends the site, which has this interesting discussion of which value comparison indicator is “right”. (The answer, it turns out, is “it depends.” Isn’t it always?)

Using Measuring Worth’s seven-index calculator, we get values for a 1940 dollar varying wildly from $13.40 (using the GDP deflator methodology) to $169 (using relative share of GDP).

one_1940_dollarAs it turns out, GDP deflator is a good measure of “how much it cost compared to the present cost of materials or labor”, but so are worker wages, which as you can see (for an unskilled worker) is double the CPI (reflecting a rising standard of living in the last 3/4 of a century); and relative share of GDP is a good measure of the national weight assigned to such a project.

The common Consumer Price Index which we’ve used for previous longitudinal price comparisons is close to the low end, at $16.90. A perfect methodology does not exist, but it might require us to use different metrics for different components of the Luger’s cost structure. Instead, we’ll just use the GDP Deflator and the Relative Share of GDP to get the min-max:

Table 3: Full Cost Accounting, RM and $US, 1940 and 2014

Item Item (English) Cost, 1940 RM Cost, 1940, USD Value, 2016 by GDP Deflator Value, 2016, Relative Share of GDP
Werkstoff Material 1.82 0.73 9.78 123.37
2 Haenel – Mag. 2 Haenel Magazines 5.32 2.13 28.54 359.97
Summe SubTotal 7.14 2.86 38.32 483.34
Fertigungslohn Direct Labor 10.21 4.08 54.67 689.52
Werkstoffgemeinkosten @6.8% Material Overhead @6.8% 0.49 0.2 2.68 33.80
Betriebsgemeinkosten @182.7% Factory (Business) Overhead @182.7% 18.65 7.46 99.96 1260.74
Summe SubTotal 36.49 14.6 195.64 2467.4
Kostenabweichung @7.6% Cost Variance @7.6% 0.78 0.31 4.15 52.39
Summe SubTotal 37.27 14.91 199.79 2519.79
Zuschlag für Ausschuss @2.2% Surcharge for Spoilage (waste/scrap) @2.2% 0.82 0.33 4.42 55.77
Herstellkosten Manufacturing Costs 38.09 15.24 204.22 2575.56
Verwaltungs- u. Vertriebsgemeinkosten @3.8% Administration & Sales Costs @3.8% 1.45 0.58 7.77 98.02
Umsatzsteueuer aus RM47.10 beziehungsweise RM 47.50 @2.0% Sales tax on basis of RM 47.10 or 47.50 @2.0% 0.94 0.38 5.09 64.22
Selbstkosten per Stück Our costs per unit 40.48 16.19 216.95 2736.11
Private sale cost 47.50 19.00 254.60 3211.00

We’d be very pleased to be pointed to any such cost accounting details from other nations/periods/firearms.


This post has been updated. Total Luger production has been added, and the paragraph noting that earlier costs were higher has also been inserted (Mauser Pistolen contains another, earlier cost breakdown table on p. 226 that shows these costs for the years 1936-38, with 1937 costs broken down by quarter. Plenty of data in that book for anyone interested in a deeper dive than this.


Weaver, W. Darrin, Speed, Jon, and Schmid, Walter. Mauser Pistolen. Cobourg, Ontario: Collector Grade, 2008.

Williamson, Samuel H.  Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present. Measuring Worth, n.d. Retrieved from:

Williamson, Samuel H. Choosing the Best Indicator to Measure Relative Worth. Measuring Worth, n.d.. Retrieved from:

Retro Rejoice: Colt to Reissue “Collector’s Edition” M16, XM177E2

Retro heads, rejoice: You have nothing to lose but your slavish obsession with parts gathering. Because Colt, the original maker of historic firearms like the M16A1 (Colt Model 603) and XM177E2 (Model 639), has something new in the works: the Model 603. The 639. The 602. Maybe even the 601, the 605, the 608, and all those other rarities. Here’s the first two of what is promised to be a line:


We learned this in an excited email from Shawn of this weekend, as he shared what Colt spokesmen have told him. (And the photo, a detail of which you see above). He has two posts:

Taken together, they cover most of what Colt has let out about the new vintage reissues. Here’s our distillation of it:

  1. The showing at the NRA Annual Meeting was just a tease, the “real” product intro will come at next January’s SHOT Show.
  2. Colt will make a short run, maybe as few as 1,000 pieces, of two models of these rifles every year for the next 10 years.
  3. Colt will make every effort to accurately produce the weapons as they were produced, except,
  4. They’re all going to be Title 1 firearms — no NFA weapons.
  5. The first two up are believed to be the M16A1 and XM177E2, the two key weapons of the Vietnam War.

Personally, we think this is brilliant. Guitar makers have done it for decades — we believe the first to get on the Vintage craze was Rickenbacker, whose use by the Vietnam War’s contemporaries like the Beatles and the Byrds made them a natural for vintage reissues (but it might have been Fender). Naturally other makers like Gibson and acoustic-guitar specialist Martin joined in. Soon the drum brands followed suit, and the amplifier makers, and by the time the Beatles Anthology was released in the mid-90s, a Ringo, John, Paul, or George wannabe could equip himself with everything but the talent by swiping his credit card at Manny’s or George Gruhn’s. For the guitar makers, this opened up an entire new market — aged-out rockers who had never given up their desire to sound like, say, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, could at least buy a ringer for his 12-string. Unlike today’s starving musician, the aged out former-starving-musician-of-the-70s now has the disposable income to buy the guitar he couldn’t in his Ramen Noodles days.

Your humble blogger may resemble that fictional aged-out rocker, with vintage reissues from Fender, Gibson, and Gibson’s budget brand Epiphone sharing guitar racks with real vintage instruments. (Some of which were merely “old” when put away, but emerged from storage “vintage,” like Schrödinger’s Guitar or something).

It’s not hard to conceive Colt’s marketing move as a parallel to what the guitar makers are doing. Yes, they’re still trying to reach today’s guy but they also want the dollars of the guy inspired by yesterday’s heroes. Colt, like Rickenbacker, ought to be able to survive as a nostalgia, vintage brand, but they are hoping, perhaps, to be more like Gibson — something for everybody, including the free-spending nostalgia buff.

Colt’s representatives promise attention to detail. Another photo Shawn has shows a rep holding an unfinished aluminum buttstock, as all Vietnam “submachine guns” bore (albeit coated by being dipped in vinyl acetate — it will be interesting to see how Colt handles this).  Colt has done something very similar, already, with the Colt 1903 pocket pistol; Colt also, now, stocks parts for the pistol that work in the new reissue and the originals.

We don’t know what this new Colt line is going to be called: Historic, Vintage, Reissue, Retro, or some combination, or maybe something with the model year (M16A1 Vintage ’66?) or a famous fight or hero (“Dick Meadows CAR-15”?). And that shows other paths that open up for Colt now:

  1. They can constantly tweak and reissue the reissues (Fender does this with guitars); or,
  2. They can support a two-tiered market with a standard mass-produced vintage reissue on the entry tier and perfect replicas of a specific firearm at higher tiers. But wait! They can also:
  3. Use the parts engineered for the retro clones to make new and interesting takes on modern AR15s. They could even support mass customization / personalization. The sky’s the limit.

If we have a squawk with Colt’s plans it’s the low production numbers they envision — perhaps as few as 1000 rifles of each model. That more or less ensures that they go direct to the kind of collectors that will keep them new in the box in a climate controlled vault in a salt mine somewhere deep beneath the lair of Dr. Evil.

Because we’re totally going to buy one. Of each.

Do go to Loose Rounds and read Shawn’s two posts if you’re interested in these guns.

Original and Reproduction Liberator Pistols

A few years ago — well, maybe a quarter century ago — Liberator pistols were extremely rare. Originals are still uncommon. While many thousands of the disposable firearms were made, with the intention of dropping them onto occupied territory there is little evidence any were so used.

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 2

Two things could be gained by dropping arms like this behind enemy lines: the first is that they might be used against the enemy as intended. But the second, more subtle, intent was psychological: certainly some, probably most, of the dropped weapons would fall into the hands of the enemy, inducing a great worry about partisans, perhaps even a debilitating paranoia. (There are several historical examples of faux guerrilla operations used either to bedevil enemies or to get loyal enemy leaders shot as traitors).

In the end, the US and UK conducted massive airdrops to partisans in France and Norway, but the drops were of more militarily useful American and British arms and ammunition. (There were also airdrops to “partisans” in Holland, but these turned out to be pseudo networks run by Abwehr counterintelligence. Most of the agents dropped by SOE were interrogated and shot on arrival. It’s that kind of business).

FP-45 Liberator for Sale 1

The Soviets dropped supplies to the partisans they supported in the East, but we have seen no evidence they dropped any lend-lease weapons, or were privy to the classified Liberator project — at least officially. The Liberators were sent, in small quantities, forward, to OSS elements in the China-Burma-India theater and the Mediterranean at least. None of these seem to have done anything but tinker with them, and those samples seem to have been the source of all existing free market Liberators.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

Business end. Original Liberators were unrifled, unmarked, and intended to be used at contact range.

This example is offered on GunBroker. The auction text (from the reputable collector-gun dealer, Jackson Armory) asserts that these guns were dropped to resistance elements. While we agree that they were made for that purpose, we’d need to see evidence that any were so dropped — and we haven’t seen any such evidence.

Calling the sights "rudimentary" is an insult to rudiments.

Calling the sights “rudimentary” is an insult to rudiments. (Actually, they’re more prominent than on many contemporary pistols, but any alignment they may have with the path of the unstabilized bullet is a matter of coincidence).

The sellers say this of the gun:

RARE WWII FP-45 “Liberator” .45 Pistol. Stock # MMH282805RT. No Serial #. This is a genuine (NOT a post-War reproduction) FP-45, .45acp “Liberator” pistol, a crude pistol made by the Guide Lamp Division of General Motors. These guns were air-dropped to Resistance Fighters in Europe during WWII. The all-metal pistol has lots of patina and tarnishing, the bore is dark, the action functions correctly

via Genuine WWII FP-45 “Liberator” Pistol .45acp. 45 : Curios & Relics at

The question arises is, is it genuine? Now, in 1990 the answer would have been “definitely.” It  was considered, at that time, too hard to copy, having been made by an industrial stamping process that would require very expensive dies.

Then, there were a small handful of Liberators circulating among collectors and museums — no more than a couple dozen, maybe at a stretch 100. (Some say a couple thousand, with about 300 still new in the box, but that seems astronomically high to us). These had all passed through some grey area between manufacture under US Government contract and present modern ownership without any sign of an official, legal sale; they were never sold through the NRA or DCM, unlike .45s and M1917 revolvers, but they may have been given away by officers with authority to dispose of surplus property while winding up operations. We are not lawyers here and are not about to teach a class in property law, but we’d just like to point out that many firearms passed through such a valley of shadow in their history; it doesn’t so much weaken the claim of the current owner — in our distinctly non-legal opinion — as it simply introduces a break in provenance.

Trying to prove provenance of a firearm like this, that was conceived in darkness, stockpiled by two clandestine agencies with an interregnum in between, and proceeded to the civilian market by unknown paths and in unknown hands, is a challenge like proving one’s descent from classical antiquity: the conventional wisdom is that it can’t be done. Somebody may be running around with Julius Caesar’s blood in his veins, but you can’t prove it’s you.

The risk of fakes finally arose with the production of new Liberators.


Vintage Ordnance Liberator reproductions

The makers of the reproduction, Vintage Ordnance, who actually reproduce three versions of the Liberator, including the final production version (like the original one for sale by Jackson Armory) and two engineering prototypes (!), are keenly aware of the utility of their product to fakers, and so have taken measures to make their reproduction harder to transmogrify into a fake.

Our reproduction has a rifled barrel and discrete markings to comply with Federal law and hopefully prevent it from being unscrupulously sold as an original antique. We mark the serial number on the front of the grip frame and our company information, model and caliber designation on the underside of the barrel behind the trigger guard. All characters are the minimum 1/16” high.

Some of these, like marking and rifling, are required by law; the OSS didn’t need no stankin’ laws (and the marking law didn’t come about until 1968). Other changes in the materials and manufacture of the reproduction make it, while good enough for a Hollywood close-up, different in physical properties from an original.

Liberator for Sale in the Linked Auction.

The Vintage Ordnance repro in Hollywood close-up. This one is cocked.

These measures complicate the life of any low-life intending to convert a Vintage Ordnance reproduction to a phony “authentic” Liberator (indeed, they compound his fraud with the felony of defacing a serial number), and give the inspector something to look for; but even with a seller we trust (Like Jackson Armory), we’d want a hands-on inspection before laying out $2,400 for this firearm.

Shooting a Liberator was once one of the perks of going through SF weapons school, but a funny thing happened: over the years, they all broke, and no replacements were forthcoming. (After sitting for years in a warehouse, most of the Liberators had been scrapped). The zinc alloy (Zamak-3?) cocking piece is subject to both fracture and corrosion.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm's weak point.

Zamak cocking piece is the firearm’s weak point.

The Liberator was designed to be, literally, disposable; the intent was to fire one shot and then throw it away, in favor of whatever the fellow you shot had been carrying. If you needed to reload it, you’d better have brought your friends with their Liberators to cover you.

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

Breech open. Seen here on the reproduction (note telltale rifling).

It is all at once unpleasant to fire, with tremendous muzzle blast and recoil; slow to load; inaccurate beyond contact range; and, not remotely safe. It’s not only not drop safe (indeed, it’s likely to fire if dropped in a loaded state!), but it’s also liable to fire if the cocking piece slips out of your fingers. There’s no real “safety,” you can just rotate the cocking piece to the side… it makes the “safety” of the Mosin-Nagant rifle look like something from the pages of the Journal of Contemporary Advances in Human Factors.

The way to get through a whole box of ammo with a Liberator? Bring enough friends! Or go to a busy range. Everybody wants to shoot it once.

The availability of both originals, occasionally, and reproductions make a Liberator collection something to consider. For under $5k you could have new models of each engineering version, plus an original for the authenticity cachet, and with some placards you’d have a show-winning display (if there are any shows that welcome educational displays any more).

In the end, it’s a novelty gun, a footnote to history, for the price of a nicer 1911 variant that will provide much more durability and comfort to the shooter.

A New Rifle, a Reliability Problem

question mark(Apologies to all for the premature launch of this post at 0600 this morning. It was originally supposed to go there, then it was moved to the 1100 spot but the night shift botched the job. Those responsible have been sacked. Your comments and poll elections should be preserved.-Ed.)

The rifle had been praised wildly on the occasion of its adoption. Years of testing had proven its superiority, and it offered a revolution in rifleman’s firepower. Some of the claims made for the new rifle were:

  • Greater accuracy in combat conditions;
  • a greater volume of fire, firepower equal to five of the old rifles;
  • more effective against modern threats;
  • less demanding of training time;
  • lower recoil, and negligible fatigue from firing;
  • average size of production rifle groups, 1.75″ extreme spread at 100.
  • accuracy “better than the average service rifle, compares favorably with [a customized target] rifle”; and,
  • “every organization so far equipped has submitted enthusiastic reports of their performance under all conditions…”

Despite that glowing report from the men responsible for the decision, reports began to trickle in of unusual, crippling, and intermittent stoppages, and this reinforced many servicemen in their reluctance to give up their Ol’ Betsy for this new piece of technology.

What Rifle are we Talking About Here? free polls

Answer after the jump!

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Nuclear Attack, for Real (Nagasaki)

"Bockscar" at the USAFM in Dayton, OH (it embiggens)

“Bockscar” at the USAFM in Dayton, OH (it embiggens)

This is Los Alamos National Labs’ archive film of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb as dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945. It comes to us via the Restricted Data1 channel on YouTube.

To us one of the most salient discoveries is that you can’t nuke a city without duct tape, or as we called it in the Army, “100-mile-an-hour tape.” Bockscar was probably traveling at well over 100 (over 200 in fact) indicated airspeed when it released Fat Man, but Fat Man still had the seam around his nose sealed with the ubiquitous tape. (At about 0:40 in the video).

The author of the RD Channel, Alex Wellerstein, describes it like this:

This silent film shows the final preparation and loading of the “Fat Man” bomb into “Bockscar,” the plane which dropped the bomb on Nagasaki. It then shows the Nagasaki explosion from the window of an observation plane. This footage comes from Los Alamos National Laboratory. I have not edited it in any way from what they gave me except to improve the contrast a little — it is basically “raw.” I have annotated it with some notes on the bombing and what you can see — feel free to disable the annotations if you don’t want them.

He also maintains an excellent blog, of the same title, at this location: Further details on the Nagasaki raid —  and this video — at the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Do read the comments as, with a couple of exceptions, Alex’s blog, like this one, benefits from an informed and thoughtful commentariat.

Elsewhere on his blog, he also addressed a historical mysterywhy was Kokura, home to Kokura Arsenal known to every collector of Japanese firearms, and Fat Man’s primary target, spared; whilst Nagasaki, the secondary target, was destroyed?2

Terrain model of Kokura Arsenal, the primary target. Saved by 10/10 obscuration on the day of the raid.

Terrain model of Kokura Arsenal, the primary target. Saved by 10/10 obscuration on the day of the raid. (USAAF official via Nuclear Secrecy blog).

His cautious conclusion: while there’s a case for obscuration due to an earlier fire-bombing raid on an upwind city, and a case for deliberate obscuration by Japanese defensive measures, two of which possible measures he describes. Ultimately, he concludes:

In the end, it doesn’t really matter which of these things happened. The bare fact is that Kokura didn’t get bombed and Nagasaki did. But I find looking into these kinds of questions useful as a historian. Too often it is easy to take for granted that the explanations given in narrative works of history are “settled,” when really they are often resting on very thin evidence, thinner perhaps than the historian who writes them realizes. I don’t think we really know what happened at Kokura, and I’m not sure we ever truly will.

His first sentence reminds us of something we say to people who have disturbing memories or survivor’s guilt: “In combat, there’s no right or wrong, there’s just what happened and what you did.”

Alex’s is an elegant and responsible historical blog — much recommended.