Ok so I’d figure I’d start out with one of my favorite rifles of WW2. The Wehrmacht’s (German Armed Forces) K98k. First. No, I don’t support the NAZI’s. Not a bit. However I do recognize that both the Luftwaffe (Air Force) and Heer (Army) created some of the best weapons of war of the 20th century and forever changed the Art of War. Period. End of story. Any pro-NAZI posts will be instantly deleted. I have ZERO tolerance for racism, NAZI crap or anything like that.
Back to the good stuff. I currently own 5 (the 6th is on the way to me) K98k’s. Three of these are 1937 rifles, before WW2 even started. One is 1941 and one is 1943. I won’t know what the other one… was… until I get it as it is a Yugoslavian rebuild post WW2.
Before talking about the K98k itself, we need to understand just the conditions of Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Following WW1, the treaties (Versailles mostly) set forth by the Allied forces limited all weapons manufacturing in Germany. However there were ways around this, and the Germans secretly worked to develop newer, better rifles to replaced the aged Gewehr 98 which served the Germans for the duration of WW1 and other countries for decades after. Mauser Waffenfabrik (Mauser Arms Maker, literally) began working on new rifles, using the Gewehr 98’s basic design. Heeding well the issues that the military reported on the Gewehr 98, a new rifle was built, the Mauser Standard Modell in 1924. These rifles were offered to both China and Yugoslavia in the 7.92mm Mauser in total secrecy. The Germans often renamed the rifle at need to avoid suspicion of the Allied inspectors. These rifles and changes came to a head in 1933, during Hitler’s clandestine re-arming. This started with the new Mauser, the Gewehr fur Deutsche Reichspost (Rifle for the German Post Office, seriously).
This rifle went thru several changes and by 1934 became the prototype under the Heerewaffenamt, or the Army Weapons Office. With the knowledge gained by the German Post Office’s new rifles, four major changes were ordered: a single caliber rifle that could be used by all branches of what would soon be the Wehrmacht, a new sight system, adjustable between 100 meters and 2000 meters, a way to protect the bolt during vigorous use, and a way to ensure that even in battle, the weapon is always able to be loaded (often in the heat of battle soldiers would blind load, and not actually place a bullet in the weapon). Two companies signed on to build weapons to meet the needs of the Heerewaffenamt. JP Sauer & Son and Mauser Werke AG (the new name of Mauser Waffenfabrik now owned by the German Government). K98k’ manufactured by Mauser were marked S/42K in 1934, and Sauer’s marked S/147.
On June 21st, 1935, the German War Ministry (Reichskriegministerium) announced the Karabiner 98k (please note, while Karabiner does mean Carbine in German, it is NOT the same word as carbine in the English language, carbine in German simply means “side mounted sling”), and the k, Kurtz, or short.
Specifications of the K98k
- Official designation: Karabiner 98k or K98k
- Caliber: 7.92mm (barrels could be found stamped 7.90, 7.91, 7.92, 7.93 and even 7.94mm)
- Overall Length: 43.7″
- Barrel Length: 23.62″
- Barrel Rifling: Four groove, right hand twist one turn per 9.45″
- Weight: Depending on stock (solid walnut or laminated wood) 8.39 to 10.1 lbs. Give or take a few ounces with wood variations
- Magazine: Internal 5 round box magazine
- Rear Sight: Adjustable V-notch, graduated from 100 to 2000 meters, via a spring loaded slide on top of sight leaf
- Front Sight: Inverted V-blade mounted on a cross-bar, factory adjustable side to side
By 1935, two manufacturers had soon spread to three (Erfurter Maschinefabrik or ERMA started producing K98ks in mid 1935), and Mauser opened another facitility to keep up with the demand (Borsigwalde), even though the rifle was still not in “full production). In total, over 260,000 K98k’s were produced in 1935. K98k’s manufactured by Mauser were marked S/42G or S/243G if manufactured at Borsigwalde, Sauer’s labeled S/147/G, ERMA’s S/27.G in 1935.
In 1936, the year of “full production” yet another manufacturer was added, Berlin Lubercker Maschinefabrik, in the city of Lubeck. Over half a million K98k’s were produced by these factories, with well over half produced by Mauser in its two factories. Mauser rifles were marked S/42 or S/243 if manufactured at Borsigwalde, Sauer S/147, ERMA S/27 and Berlin Lubercker Maschinefabrik’s S/237 in 1936.
In 1937 demands for the K98k continued to increase, Berlin-Suhlher-Waffen and Fahrzeugwerk (BSW) began producing rifles as well. Almost 685,000 K98k’s were built in 1937. Mauser rifles were marked S/42 or S/243 if manufactured at Borsigwalde, Sauer S/147, ERMA S/27 and Berlin Lubercker Maschinefabrik’s S/237 and BSW’s with a stylized BSW logo in 1937.
By 1938, hiding the K98k was out of the question, and markings moved from the earlier style proofs of the Weirmar Eagle, to the NAZI eagle clutching a swastika. The six manufacturers produced K98k’s at a rapid rate, with over 910,000 K98k’s rolling out of the factory by the end of the year. Rifles produced in 1938 were marked similar to the rifles in 1937 until the spring, when the S of the maker’s code was dropped. BSW manufactured rifles continued to be marked with a stylized BSW logo.
1939 was the start of WW2 and also served as the proving grounds of the new K98k rifle. With nearly 2.3 million K98k’s available for Germany’s Wehrmacht, the war began in earnest with a well equipped Armed Force the likes of which the world had yet to see.
1939 also introduced some new changes to the K98k, including a hood to protect the front sight (many older rifles were retro-fitted with the hood when they were refurbished or repaired). Longer cleaning rods (10″ were replaced with 12.5″) were issued, due to frequently breaking stocks, the new cupped butt plate replaced the flat metal originally fitted, and new throw-away rubber muzzle caps issued, that didn’t have to be removed, the solider could shoot thru the light rubber without damaging the rifle. Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG began making the K98k in 1939 joining the previous manufacturers, most of whom had opened new facilities to meet demand. Over one million K98k’s were produced in 1939. Makers codes were similar to those of later 1938. Mauser rifles were marked 42 or 243 if manufactured at Borsigwalde, Sauer 147, ERMA 27 and Berlin Lubercker Maschinefabrik 237 and BSW’s with a stylized BSW logo which late in 1939 changed to 337, Styer’s rifles were marked 660.
Front site with and without hood:
Butt Plates, cupped versus flat:
More on the K98k’s life soon.