2-Gun WW1 Extravaganza: 1918 German Sturmtruppen vs German Landser (Video)

This month’s 2-gun match was a special WWI themed event, with three long stages instead of the usual four shorter ones. The design included bayonetting, climbing ladders, crawling under wire, and throwing grenades. I shot as a British soldier, and Karl actually ran the course twice – once as a 1918 elite Sturmtruppen and ones as a rear-line reservist. This week, we published a video of Karl versus himself, showing the differences between running a Kar98AZ, trench mag, and Luger and a Gewehr 88 and C96 Broomhandle.

Lessons learned?

The Gewehr 88 is really not as bad of a weapon as you might think. As retrofitted by WWI (ie, stripper clips), it pretty much handled like a G98 unless its safety issues came to light (ie, you had a ruptured case). That said, the zero on it was horrendous – Karl was having to aim at the base of the target stands (not the bottom of the target but actually at the ground below) in order to make hits.

The Luger was also a far more effective handgun than the C96. The Broomhandle is a great weapon when used as a carbine with its stock, but it’s a pretty mediocre handgun.

Overall, there is of course good reason why bolt action rifles are obsolete. Until you run a course of fire like this with one, it’s not obvious just how strenuous the simple action of running the bolt between shots really is. Heck, the same goes for just crawling under stuff with guns and gear. We were pretty well wiped out by the end of the match.

I will have video of my own run in the match next week…

55 Comments

  1. Karl did you start the match with the Gewehr 88 zero’d and then it lost zero?

    And: back in the late 1800’s (or even today I guess) when military gear is being developed how much of this sort of thing is done to test the weapons in field conditions? I mean it is one thing (and important) to try running 10,000 rounds through rot see if the rifle stands up to it, but it also seems important to see how a rifle (or pistol, or backpack, etc.) performs in actions as close as practical to combat without actually shooting the testers.

  2. What I as a non-combat guy never understood is why wouldn’t there be more side feeding firearms? If I’m going prone on my belly, I don’t want the magazine being dislodged or bent.

    • One seldom-understood drawback of self-loaders with side feeding is that they generally have to eject straight out the other side. As such, they often have the same problem as bullpups, i.e. they are a “right-shoulder-only” proposition unless you like hot brass up your nose.

      SMGs can get often away with it (Sten, Sterling, etc.) because due to their layout, the ejection port is substantially further forward on the receiver than it is on most rifle actions. The worst offender was the German FG 42, which might as well have been a bullpup with its ejection port right over its pistol grip. There was really no way to fire it off the left shoulder without a hot case landing in the neck of your shirt.

      The vertical magazine ahead of the trigger guard at least allows the ejection port to be placed somewhere that makes firing off either shoulder practical. And even then, some rifles either still can’t be safely fired off the left one (Ruger Mini-14 .223), or require a shell deflector to get away with it (that pyramid-shaped “knob” on the M-16A2 and later upper receiver, just aft of the port).

      Downward ejection, as on the Beretta Model 18, Owen, F1, Calico, etc., is probably the best solution. That is, as long a you don’t get your hand over it, getting a handful of hot brass, or don’t go for the dirt, jam it into the ground, and come up with it packed full of rammed earth.

      cheers

      eon

  3. As I assume Sturmtruppen were given P08’s because of the modern 9mm cartridge, that makes me wonder, would a Landser be given a C96 ‘Red 9’ or would the Stormtruppen receive them due to the modern cartridge, despite it being an obsolete handgun and Sturmtruppen only getting the best?

    • By the end of the war, the Sturmtruppen like everybody else were getting whatever could be had. Besides the P.08, they also used the M1916 “Red (” Mauser, the FL Selbstlader in 9 x 19, and various 7.65mm pistols.

      Keep in mind that some frontline artillery units were still being issued M1879 and M1883 “Reichsrevolvers” in 10.4mm in 1918.

      Everyone took what they could get. It wasn’t quite as bad as 1945, but it was by no means a good situation.

      cheers

      eon

  4. No, it didn’t lose zero – this converted Gew88 has a 500 meter “battlesight zero”. This means it shoots extraordinarily high at closer ranges.

    It’s an artifact of the sights not being changed, but just restamped, after being converted to the flatter shooting spitzer bullet.

    That’s a quite challenging sight picture with a relatively small target at 100 yards.

  5. I was happy to see the proper Mauser 98AZ used during his comparison. Kodos for that! But I think the landser might have been more realistically equipped with an ersatz bayonet. (Just nitpicking, I know)

    • Speaking of using original gear, I had an ersatz bayonet and my goal was to use that with the Gew88

      I tested things out the week before the match to ensure the bayonet wouldn’t fall off, or whatever, and the bayonet BROKE. One of the “ears” that surround the end of the Gew88’s muzzle literally cracked and fell off.

      So, alas, I switched to this bayonet instead…

    • There was a lot of variability in loadouts, which you can see in original period photos. And this is a rifle/pistol match; grenades don’t really fit the scoring rules or the range safety etiquette.

    • OK. so we have ’em run around with a couple empty sand bags filled with rocks instead of m1917 Eigranate and rubber mallets–Shown! recall..–in lieu of stick grenades, and maybe a few contrived pipe-bombs wired to pieces of scrap lumber as “hair-brush” or “jam tin” bombs… And we find who is the stronger throwing arm or pitcher?

      There were bayonet men with rifles along with “bombing parties.” The idea was to shoot, bomb, or bayonet resisting enemies. Handguns and short rifles played a significant role. One might as well critique our two heroes for not doing it drunk on company rum or privately purchased schnapps–equally dangerous and reckless! Certainly it’d be “realistic” but heck, we have to adhere to safety standards, as I’m sure you’d agree.

      A so-called “assault packe” might be a good addition for future iterations (do it all in gas masks! Urk!) a blanket rolled up and tied together with Y-straps, a canteen (omit the rum and tee), a packed mess tin, a bag with so-called “iron rations” and spare cartriges, a gas mask, and a full-length shovel or sharpened spade for repairing and deepening bits of captured churned mud…

    • Hey yeah, you could break out the Carcanos and wire cutters, strap on a captured Steyr-Hahn or Rast-Gasser, and clench a dagger in your teeth like an Ardito too… I mean, chicks dig scars, right?

  6. You guys rock! Very many years ago, when I was much younger and more fit, we had all sorts of half-crazy ideas of doing a “practical rifle” sort of run’n gun range for Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines with flaming logs and rubble piles and all sorts of debris. We could never figure out how to make it safe, which is what makes your odd 2-gun matches a pleasure, even if vicariously!

    A cordial correction: Your title should be a 1918 Sturmtruppen vs. Lanstürmer or Landwehr. In Wilhelmine Germany, there were the storm-troops, or the elite infantry, the regulars, and then two types of reserves: The reservists were a bit like the British Territorials. Like them, after the hideous battles of 1914, these guys got plugged into the gaps like the old Territorials did, while the Kitchener “pals battalions” were created… The second version was more like a Militia, and many of these old guys were used for ASC work and building narrow-gauge railways, guarding prisoners, supervising Flemish and French forced laborers, stacking artillery shells, and, of course, digging, digging, digging, and more digging. And stringing barbed wire. And digging.

    My wife’s late great-grandfather and 2xgreat grandfather were in Bavarian formations, one a reserve artillery gunner, he’d done his military service before the war back in 1907. The other was in a reserve royal Bavarian infantry regiment that was sent to a nice, quiet sector of the front near Chemin-des-Dames to repair trenches and dig dugouts when Nivelle launched the big April 1917 offensive…

    • Dave hit that nail on a head: Landser was just a regular frontline infantry, and Karl was rather portraying a Landsturmer.

      OK, so it is Tommy vs. whom next time? Did you also had your twin brother at the range, Ian? Perhaps trying to crawl in a kilt 🙂 Tommy vs. Jock would be interesting, if one of them uses a P14 and the other the SMLE.

      Why, next time I think it would be nice to see perhaps a Poilu vs. Colonial, pitting a 9-shot tubular magazine Lebel against 3-rd clip Berthier, initially used by the colonial (Indochinese or Senegalese) troops. Running Tommy vs. Frontovik would make no sense: Mosin might have not been THE worst rifle of WW1, but pitting it against the Old Smelly would simply not be fair. Actually it might be interesting to see Ivan (w/Mosin and Nagant M1895) vs. Fedor (w/ Arisaka and S&W Model 3)?

      Leatherneck with M1903 and M1911 vs. Doughboy with M1917 and M1917 revolver w/ halfmoons?

      • Yeah, there were a lot of options we considered – Russian, American, French, etc. In the end, I shot as a Brit, and only did the course once. So the video will be my (Brit) vs Karl (G88). That match was closer than comparing my run to his Kar98AZ run, and thus makes for a better video.

      • @Leszek: OK, fair enough, but what if we went to the Allied intervention in Archangel, 1918 to 1919 to, erm, well, uh… “protect Allied equipment that was no longer deliverable to the Czar of Russia, lest it fall into Bolshevik hands” or, “strangle the Bolshevik baby in its crib…” Wait for the coldest winter Arid-zona has to offer. 1) dressed in fur hat, navy wool peacoat or army greatcoat and three finger mittens, armed with a New England Westinghouse or Remington Mosin-Nagant M/91, erm, “U.S. magazine rifle, caliber 7.62mm, model of 1916” and a Colt .45 revolver or S&W 1917 .45 revolver vs. a Bolshevik with a three-line rifle, Mosina and 7.62mm M1895 revolver or C96 Mauser!

        Of course, as a North American, an M1917+ 1911A! vs. 15 MG08/15 MGs like Sgt. Alvin C. York might be a tall order!

  7. “Overall, there is of course good reason why bolt action rifles are obsolete. Until you run a course of fire like this with one, it’s not obvious just how strenuous the simple action of running the bolt between shots really is. Heck, the same goes for just crawling under stuff with guns and gear.”
    Now I wonder about:
    -which would be result of WW1 bolt-action full-power rifle vs Winchester Model 1907?
    -which would be result of bolt-action vs straight-pull bolt-action (like Mannlicher M1895, Ross rifle or Swiss Schmidt-Rubin)?
    -why none army adopted intermediate cartridge for usage in rifles in 1920s-1930s, even despite experiences clearly shows that ability to hit target at 1000m is overkill (unless in sniper role) and smaller cartridge allow weapon to be lighter and more ammunition to be carried. Some experimental weapon were produced (Ribeyrolle 1918)

    • Daweo: U.S. Law Enforcement used Winchester Model 1907s, so you might find some shoot outs that offer a broad comparison. My understanding is that the French acquired many for aircraft pilots and observers but some were used for trench raids.
      Certainly the Mannlicher 88 and 95 were widely used in WWI by the Austro-Hungarians and Bulgarians, and in WWII as well, including Italians and Greeks who got them as reparations, and even by the Volkssturm at the end of the war. The Ross rifle was not “soldier proof” and was as ponderously long as, say, the Mannlicher M1895, the Lebel 86/93, Berthier 07/15, Gew. 98 and Mosin-Nagant M91… It was used by the single deadliest sniper in the war… An Ojibwa Canadian sniper. A Chinese Australian with an SMLE was highest in Gallipoli.
      –As for “why no intermediate cartridges” I think that logistics problems cancelled out any additional burdens vs., say, very many more artillery weapons and rifle grenades and hand grenades. The French carabine mitrailleur 1918 was over 11 pounds heavy, and as you well know already, was incompatible with machine guns and service rifles… Short sighted though it may have been. France “almost” had an assault rifle, but the design apparently only resulted in some 9mm SMGs, which were not produced in very significant numbers at all.

    • Well, I have shot a 2-Gun match with a K31, and shot Ross and Steyr M95 rifles on the range. I would say that they would not have been any advantage over the turnbolts. The speed advantage they offer is pretty much negated when shooting prone. The M95 in particular recoils like an angry mule (with 8×56 ammo, anyway) and has a pretty stiff bolt to operate; I expect it would have been worse than most turnbolts.

  8. Fantastic work. Conceptualized, performed, and produced in a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful manner. I’m not one to normally expose my non gun-minded Facebook friends to firearms related entertainment, but I cannot ignore your request to share this video after viewing such excellent work. Congratulations.

  9. The German Landwehr and Landsturm system was a lot like active and inactive reserve in the US. Landwehr was staffed by recently discharged conscripts and limited time volunteers. Typically one Landwehr regiment per active regiment, with the idea that in case of war the Landwehr regiment would be taking up the position of the regular regiment departing to the front. This allowed to rapid mobilization without worry about home defense. Landsturm was everybody who’d left the Landwehr system but hadn’t reached a given age, and wasn’t organized in military units during peace time. They were used as garrison troops once Landwehr units were send to the front.

  10. In a situation like this, would the Gew88’s origninal en-bloc clip have been better than stripper clips? Given two otherwise equal rifles, i.e. a converted Gew88/05 and an original configuration Gew 88, which could sustain a higher rate of fire?

      • That works with the US system where the en-bloc clip was inside a closed magazine. The Mannlicher frames dropped out of the bottom, the the 88 has a nice opening at exactly the low spot where you set down the rifle shooting prone. So you have a great rate of fire until the first time you dive for cover. Then you go clean your gun while the stripper version still shoots.

  11. I don’t think any Tommy privates were officially issued with pistols AND rifles, but I have seen a photos of Canadian and British infantryman with both Enfield rifles and captured pistols, one looked like Luger and the other was a small semi-automatic in a holster. For things like trench raids a pistol would make a nice addition to a cumbersome rifle.

  12. The Luger has better accuracy and ergonomics than the C96 at the cost of being very easy to jam in mud and being easily discharged by accident!

    Weapon of choice scenario:

    Okay, you are in charge of a bunch of relatively untrained reservists with practically no access to “all the wonderful toys” that the frontline troops received recently. With only “second rate toys” at your disposal, how do you fight off part of an invasion force that somehow got past “the best of the best?” Your forces currently hold the forest on one side of a relatively shallow river. The opposing team has interwar tanks (like the T-28) accompanying some motorized infantry, but no air support.

    Which will you grab up for you and your troops?

    1. Steyr-Kropatschek 1886
    2. Lebel-Grasset “Africain” in .445 Nitro Express
    3. civilian Holek Automat rifles
    4. Hotchkiss M1898 with belt-feed
    5. Pit falls of doom!!!!
    6. Mauser Tank-Gewehr (left-over from the previous war)
    7. Tons of Mauser Trench Carbines (google it already!) and stick grenades
    8. Canon d’Infanterie de 37 modèle 1916 TRP
    9. Get someone trained to use the 7.5 cm kanon PL vz. 37 that the regulars left behind
    10. Or per the usual, screw the bureaucrats and add your favorite toys to this list.

    This activity is totally voluntary. You are not required to participate in this war if you do not wish to do so. Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

    • Hmm. Me? The Good Soldier Švejk: Austro-Hungarian K.u.K. uniform, M1895 8mm Steyr-Mannlicher straight-pull rifle, bayonet, full pack, blanket, great coat, mess kit, canteen, roll putees, cap, pipe, tobacco, etc. etc. … Only I’m on an “anabasis” or “march up country” to rejoin my unit that strangely takes me further and further from the front…

      WWI? Rast-Gasser M98 8mm revolver, French “clous français” trench-knife/prison shank, U.S. rifle, caliber .30 M1917, and a shovel … Not in that order…

    • “10. Or per the usual, screw the bureaucrats and add your favorite toys to this list.”
      Get some of 3″ or near field gun: either French 75mm Modele 1897, Russian 76.2mm M1902 (or if not available earlier 76.2mm Putilov 1900), German 7.7cm FK 96 n.A., American 3-inch M1902

  13. Great video, did you change any of your sound gear or edit settings? the shots and target pings sound different to me. Looking forward to Ian’s run threw.

  14. My vote is for a SMLE vs. P14 match. The P14 has a reputation for accuracy but being too long and heavy. It would be interesting to see how they compare in a practical course. And yes, I’m a P14 fan.

  15. Great video. It was really interesting to see the effect of the helmet, particularly the Stalhelm, on prone shooting (where you would most likely wind up in no-man’s land with lead flying). Oh, and the poor Landser’s laments had me laughing. Good show.

  16. “Of course, as a North American, an M1917+ 1911A! vs. 15 MG08/15 MGs like Sgt. Alvin C. York might be a tall order!”

    I understand that Sgt York was issued with an M1917, but managed to swap in along the way for an M1903, because he did not like the peep sight on the M1917. He was a very experienced shooter and preferred the more open sight picture of the M1903.

    When he was coming home to the USA some lowlife stole his M1903 on the ship, which would no doubt be worth millions today. I too once thought that Sgt York used an M1917, but the American Rifleman ran a piece on this a few years back which enlightened me. He was also issued with an M1911 (not an M1911A1 of course), because General Patton thought that every infantryman should have a pistol. What a wise and good man he was.

      • That makes sense, as he was issued with an M1917 which he managed to exchange for an M1903, according to the American Rifleman article.

        • Would he not have also exchanged to acquire an M1905 bayonet, since a 1917 bayonet won’t fit an ’03? It would make no sense to carry around a bayonet that won’t fit the weapon you’re using.

          • You would have thought so, I agree, however the American Rifleman article was pretty clear that he did not like the M1917 and got rid of it for an M1903 as soon as he could. Shame he’s no longer around to ask!

  17. As I am not taking part in discussions lately (mostly for not having much to say) in this case I want to use the opportunity to express my admiration to your re-enactment work. It really gets the picture what trench war was about. Well done!

  18. It takes two P-08’s to beat one C96. There is a reason they made the artillery Luger, the 4″ Luger was inadequate as a carbine…that is my story and I am sticking to it.
    The C96 is a better compromise in my opinion as a field pistol.

    • Yeah. P-08 is accurate but not built for the trenches. C96 is awkward as a handgun but very tough, to say nothing about being able to adapt into a machine pistol (with the stock attached, of course). I wonder how the Steyr-Hahn fares in your opinion, being a charger-fed pistol that still has decent performance and can be adapted into a two-gun fully-automatic mount with extended internal magazines…

      • For me we are getting to apples and oranges. The Steyr-Hahn was certainly a reliable, durable pistol Fully auto machine pistols get into another can of worms because the short recoil pistols all have an excessive rate of fire. As fair as I know there was no comparable carbine version to the Luger Artillery or the C96.
        The Luger was perfectly adequate for what the Germans needed, but in my mind they would have been better off overall with the pistol/carbine in one weapon. Of course in the big picture what handgun is used is doesn’t make or break you.
        One thing these demonstrations cannot do is simulate actual combat conditions when you are attacking as a part of a team and not just concentrating on what you are doing with a weapon. Also you are being shot at. The displays are interesting none the less. Would like to see a Steyr-Hahn in this kind of test.
        The P-08 4″ is just so gorgeous of course.

      • I would dare to rate Steyr 1912 as best European WW1 sidearm. Don’t forget that in that time box mags were expensive and you usually had only two or three issued. With chargers, while slightly slower (actually speed was about same when you used period mag change methods) you had luxuri of potentially having a lot of them available.
        It was also phenomenally reliable even in mud and sand, and quite accurate.
        Luger would not be in first 3 – to sensitive to ammo quality and dirt, iffy to field strip, not really safe to carry with round in chamber etc…

        • I think in real terms the speed of magazine changes was not a significant issue. If it wasn’t over in the first eight shots reloading would not be helping. Sure one can come up with individual situations but that wasn’t how wars were fought. You measured a weapon by it’s use in the tens of thousands, not in the individual use. Most officers had very little opportunity to use their handguns in combat. It wasn’t the movies, if you were up against rifles and bayonets you were usually dead unless you were running away or backed up by men with rifles. That isn’t to say the weapon was not useful in situations for defense, and to encourage soldiers to fight, probably more friendlies got shot/threatened by officers than the opposition. An officer waving a handgun could be as inspiration as an officer wearing a sword.
          Of course the P-08 and 1911 were designed to meet the more stringent needs of cavalry and detachable magazines came in handy. I know I can be challenged by that but I think fighting on horseback was a concern in their designs. Not so much the C96, not sure about the 1912 Steyer-Hahn.
          And of could the Brits doddered on with their speed loader assisted clunky .455 revolvers (and a few of their way cool semi-auto revolvers) and after the war, all they did was make a smaller pistol with a lesser caliber. The French seemed to do quite well with their 1892 Ordnance Revolvers and Ruby .32’s. The US would have probably been as well served by the 1917 Smith and Wesson and Colt revolvers with those fascinating half moon clips.

  19. Try a diferent nations next time if possible:
    Austro-Hungarians – Mannlicher 1895 (carbine, that is what their stormtroopers prefered) and Steyr 1912
    French – Mle 1916 carbine or Winchester 1907 and some of miriad .32s they used.

  20. Thanks for doing a run with the Gew. 88 this rifle doesn’t get enough press. When you get ready to do a bit on the Kar. 88 let me now and I’ll ship you one.

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