Book Review: Training Rifles of Third Reich Germany

Robert Simpson’s massive project of studying and documenting German training rifles has resulted in this much-anticipated reference tome. At 700 pages and full color, it a tremendous resource for understanding the chronology and features of the dozens if not hundreds of variations of these rifles that were brought back by American soldiers after WWII.

The Nazi party deliberately and effectively reorganized German shooting sports into a single predominant type of competition oriented towards military training when they took power. As part of this effort, the party wanted competition rifles to mimic the handling of the military K98k Mauser, and this led to a series of progressively better .22 rimfire rifles. These rifles were manufactured by a consortium, and with dozens of companies participating, this leads to huge numbers of variations in the markings and fine details of the resulting guns. When writing a book on such a topic, organization is hugely important.

What Simpson has done is begin the book with sections on the two major patterns of training rifles – the DSM (Deutsches Sportmodell) and the KKW (Kleinkaliber Wehrsportgewehr). Each of those sections is subdivided into chapters for each company that was involved, and those chapters detail the markings, variations, and other relevant details to each company’s production. Each section also has a table at the end (often several pages long) listing all of the examples catalogued as part of the book, including their serial numbers, serialized parts, unique markings, and relevant notes.

The sections on the DSM and KKW constitute about the first half of the book, and the second half is used to cover a wide range of associated material. There are chapters on the Nazi training schools, police training rifles, caliber conversion units, smaller-production training rifles (like the Walther Sportmodell and W625), full-caliber training rifles (wehrmanngewehr), 4mm rifles, air rifles, accessories, and more.

One will immediately notice that this book is absolutely packed with images. Simpsons has done an excellent job of showing comparison photographs of markings and details which differ between models, and also of property markings (more on this in a moment). However, there are also a huge number of original factory advertisements and manuals, and period photographs of all aspects of the Nazi-era competition and military training world. Between these photos and its text, this book provides a remarkable amount of context to the use of these rifles. This sort of material is something I have not seen well-covered elsewhere.

One last thing I want to touch on is the extensive coverage of property marks in the book. These training rifles were owned and used by a huge variety of different organizations, from the Hitler Youth to the NSKK, SA, DRP, and others. The rifles sometimes also include various retailer tags or markings, commemorations or plaques from being used as competition prizes, and other markings. These are shown in detail and explained, and this reference material will be invaluable to collectors trying to understand these markings that have such a wide range of origins and meanings.

I should also point out that while this book is the direct result of Robert Simpson’s long work, a number of other contributors made it possible. As listed at the front of the book, they are Richard Carey, Brad Simpson, Jim Whitley, Steve Whitley, Mark E. Butler, Nicole Browne, Joe Wotka, Mark Wieringa, and Nica Ponce. The book is available for $89.95 from the publisher, Simpson Ltd.