A Mild Rant: Stupid Marketing Names

One of my pet peeves is when people buy collectible guns because they have been stuck with clickbait sorts of gimmicky names. In particular, the “Grey Ghost” P38 and the “Black Widow” Luger – especially the Luger.



  1. There seems to be irrational desire for Nazi weapons or I am mistaken?
    If yes what is reason in U.S.A. for desiring weapon of defeated enemy?
    If yes does it also apply to Imperial-Japanese weapons?
    GREY GHOST case seems to be just a minor hassle, when compared to:
    Personally I feel that motto of “counterfeiters” (if creator of such “special” weapons could be called is) is truth is boring.

    • American soldiers viewed most Japanese weapons as outdated crap worthy of being used as wooden furniture at home, with pulp journalists taking the bashing further to the point of alleging that a ten-year old juvenile delinquent of average build could break a Type 38 rifle (and a captured officer saber glued into the scabbard and tied to the rifle stock with shoelaces) over his knee with no damage done to his knee, insisting that Japanese steel was little more than fancy modeling clay. I heard that last story from an old drunk who claimed to have destroyed a Japanese tank with a garden spade. I didn’t believe him, obviously.

    • Yes. There is an enormous desire in this country to collect nazi weapons and memoriblia. And no, nobody really cares much for Japanese items save a small group. Why? Perhaps the current state of affairs here in the ol’ USA can help explain that.

      • The desirable weapons associated with Nazi Germany were characterized over-engineered “cool/futuristic” designs. Imperial Japan made relatively simple weapons in contrast (well, the Nambu family of machine guns and pistols were weird, complicated, or both, but not “cool enough” in appearance to be considered desirable for most casual viewers and were more often dismissed in civilian America as “non-lethal toys”). Compare the Type 38 Long Rifle with the K98. The former is slightly outdated and most people think it couldn’t hurt a fly owing to the relatively small caliber (6.5×50 SR Arisaka is still strong enough to literally blow your brains out at 200 meters, but nobody in America shows that in the movies). The latter is portrayed as the cool sniper rifle that could instantly kill you if you were shot in the butt. I could be wrong.

        • The 6.5 Arisaka was about as powerful as the .250 Savage, which was revered as a one-shot killer on most North American game animals back then. It wasn’t all that accurate, but then neither was the .250.

          The 7.9 Mauser was the second-most-powerful military rifle round of its era, with the .30-06 being the only one to beat it. As for its use as a sniper weapon, that’s been debunked along with the whole “Major Konig at Stalingrad” story;


          Vasily Zaitsev never shot it out with Major Erwin Konig, because there was never any officer with that name in the German army. As for him being a “sniper school instructor”, the Wehrmacht never had a “sniper school” to begin with, and neither did the SS, any more than anybody else did.

          In fact, no army in WW2 had an actual sniper training program. The British had one (more of a forward artillery observer school, actually) in France in 1917-18, but never revived it during the second go-round. The United States Army had dropped sniping (or “sharpshooting” as they preferred to call it) when Berdan’s Sharpshooters were disbanded- in 1865.

          When sniping once again became “a thing” in WW2, the U.S. started by degreasing a bunch of M1917 Enfield .30-06s with Warner & Swasey scopes left over from 1918. They were followed by the indifferently-accurate M1903A4 in 1942 and the “Why won’t this damn ‘scope hold zero?” M1D in 1944. (A scoped M1918 BAR would probably have gotten better results.)

          As for the M1903A4, its scope was actually a 2 1/2 power scope originally intended for .22 rimfires. Said scope was noted for not reacting well to .30-06 recoil stresses.

          Even with those, nobody but the U.S. had anything like a dedicated sniper rifle until the British fielded the Rifle No.4 (T) relatively late in the war.

          The Russians, Germans and Japanese never had specialized sniper rifles; they just stuck telescopic sights on a proportion of their standard rifles, without even bothering to check for better than average accuracy.

          If you’d suggested scoping a 6.5 or 7.35mm Carcano, an Italian would have wondered if you needed to go on sick call due to the heat.

          Sniping in WW2 was very much an a capella sort of thing, and most of the more successful proponents were either self-taught “on the job” or had been competitive shooters or just experienced country riflemen before the war. Sniping never really became an MOS specialty until the 1970s, mostly due to how ineffective it had been as a “self-taught” specialty before that.

          And even then, it was mainly trying to “keep up with the Joneses”- namely the whole police SWAT team thing- that drove it in the military. “Sniping” is really more of a CTW thing than a battlefield application, even today.



          • The makers of the Type 97 sniper rifle beg to differ, as the lenses of the offset scope were hand-ground by craftsmen to match ballistic performance (tested at the factory). The scope was not merely FORCED into the rifle’s receiver ad hoc, as detractors claim (or else there would be no need to make a scope rail in the first place, with the scopes and rifles marked with corresponding serial numbers). The problem was that the scopes and rifles were transported in separate boxes on separate cargo ships! I could be wrong.

          • “(…)Russians(…)never had specialized sniper rifles; they just stuck telescopic sights on a proportion of their standard rifles, without even bothering to check for better than average accuracy.(…)”
            No, part of Soviet sniper Mosin were assembled using “normal production” barrels, however these were barrel showing best accuracy results and other part has barrels made to conform to stricter tolerances. Though as war progressed and situation become more and more dire for Soviet Union, rifles and scopes which would be not accepted earlier pass.

            “(…)“Sniping” is really more of a CTW thing than a battlefield application, even today.(…)”
            Well, if you read 1950s Soviet (or Soviet-aligned) propaganda, uttering about how much enemies killed this or that particular sniper, you might have wrong impression of what was job of Soviet snipers during Great Patriotic War. While it is true that they shot at enemy when situation allowed, their main ability was to stay stealth and often were tasked with gathering information (observing), often in front of own lines (keep in mind that while working in pairs, often one was equipped with sniper rifle and second with sub-machine gun, just in case of close combat)

          • D;

            Exactly. They were military scouts, a much older specialty. As I recall, their motto was “observe while unseen”. The sniping was very much a secondary mission.



    • Lugers were, and, are, cool. What person with an interest in guns would not acquire a Luger if given the chance?

      P-38’s were novel at the time being double action and such. Even Col. Jeff Cooper admitted to drooling over an ad for one that he saw before the war.

      Other than that, no, I do not think there is any remarkable attraction to the weapons of the enemy in America. Mauser 98’s were valuable only to sporterize into hunting rifles–very few were preserved in their original condition. The Japanese guns were not the sort of thing anyone in the US would have gone out and bought even if sold at cost.

      Even US weapons that came on the surplus market were generally purchased for utilitarian reasons–there are precious few Krags, 1917’s, and 06 Springfield rifles in original condition because they were sporterized in people’s garages in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Great ways to turn $1,000+ collector items into $200 beater rifles, but they did not know that at the time.

      Believe it or not, once saw an old magazine article (1960’s) on how to sporterize an M1 Garand.

    • Because Europeans had a mythos of quality & competence, particularly Germany. Taken to excess, this sentiment also lead some to being closet sympathizers/admirers of the Nazis. The US has a similar phenomenon with Civil War obsessors. Obviously the reality was that their guns were fairly nice, fairly interesting, and fairly well made. Compared to many other nations that was impressive.

    • An obvious FAKE just to wow people who don’t do the research. That is the tanker Garand. A real tank crewman would use the M3 grease gun.

      • According to my uncle who was a Sherman tanker with 2AD, he never saw an M3 until he was recalled to active duty as an instructor at Fort Knox during Korea. They had Thompsons, mostly the straight-blowback slamfire M1A1 version with the non-detachable buttstock. And yes, getting that thing in and out of a Sherman was a major PITA, especially if you were bailing under fire.

        Scrounging M1A1 .30 Carbines with the “paratrooper” folding stock was a popular pastime with Sherman crews, but there were never enough to go around. In fact, the German MP40 9mm SMG was a popular “appropriated” item, just because it fit inside the tank better.



  2. Sam Cummings was a great fellow and a charming host. He was kind enough to share his time with me when I was writing an article about Interarms, so I can’t blame him for making up a cool name to shift some P38s, it just works for some guns. But even Sam would have had a problem shifting Enfield .38 revolvers, for example. Some guns are just not sexy.

  3. The “Gray Ghost” thing was rather sunk by Warren H. Buxton in an article in Guns of the World , edited by Hans Tanner (Petersen Publishing 1972, rep. Bonanza Books 1977).

    Buxton goes into great, bordering on excruciating, detail on the whole thing, noting that “GG” P.38s are mostly an odd Parkerized finish he dubbed “German gray”, but may be found with blued barrels, blued frames, all-blued, plastic grips, Bakelite grips, wood grips, stamped-steel grips (especially common on postwar French production), and all sorts of variations in-between. In fact,the only thing they all have in common is the “SVW 45” stamp on the left side of the slide, indicating Mauserwerke component production after January 1945.

    Postwar French examples were fitted up from leftover parts and show the widest variation of finishes. Most will have the French “flaming bomb” ordnance mark, and generally saw service in the French military alongside the various Lend-Lease handguns like the Colt M1911A1, at least until the MAS M1950 9mm automatic pistol began to show up in IOC numbers around 1952.

    Interestingly, French versions were often found in Southeast Asia , especially in Vietnam, during the 1960s and 1970s, largely due to having been extensively issued to French troops and allies during the Indochina War.

    While a curiosity, the “Gray Ghost” P.38 is nothing special otherwise.

    As for the eponymous “Black Widow” Luger, according to The Luger Book by John Walter;


    DWM began experimenting with finishes other than heat blue or rust blue, and grip materials other than wood, as far back as 1915. They continued such experiments and even some production runs under the Versailles Treaty restrictions into the early 1930s, and after Hitler became Reichskanzler the demand ramped up as he expanded and rearmed the police in addition to the army. And other Parabellum makers did likewise after 1933, especially Spreewerke, and continued into the early WW2 years.

    Remember, they were all trying to mass-produce one of the least “mass-production” designed automatics of the first and early second generation, so they were taking any shortcuts they could think of.

    In short, dark blue-black finished Parabellums with black plastic or composition grips may be found with dates from 1915 on up, no dates at all, with DWM or Spreewerke markings, in 9 x 19mm or 7.65 x 21mm (for police from 1919 to 1930), with or without toggle markings, and so on.

    They might have WaA marks, or not (police issues often didn’t get marked), might be found with acceptance marks from foreign governments (Bulgaria, Hungary, even Japan-!), or indeed might have no marks other than a serial number, or at least the last three digits of same, somewhere or other.

    In short, “Black Widow” is as generic a term for a Parabellum as “Colt .45” is for a 1911 or a Peacemaker, regardless of who made the “forty-five automatic”, or “the hawgleg”, where, or when.

    And PS; most Schutzstaffel Standartenführer (colonel equivalent; Wehrmacht term was Oberst) would have been issued Walther PP or similar “personal defense” sidearms, mostly in 7.65mm Browning.

    It would be rare for any bu one in the actual Waffen SS to have anything else, and the most common 9 x 19mm pistol with such frontline SS personnel was the Pistole 640(b)– otherwise known as the FN Modele HP aka the Browning High Power. Less because the Wehrmacht got first dibs on the P.38 and P.08 than that the Waffen SS, who were really pretty competent at actual “soldiering” regardless of their other “issues”, thought the P-35 was a better handgun for actual fighting than either of the other two.

    Having used all three in my misspent youth, I really can’t argue with that.



  4. Marketing ‘creativity;’ collector nitpicking…not too disturbing or surprising. But I don’t think you’ll see anything like this around, say, French Foreign Legion, or Viet Cong, or Australian Lithgow-made stuff. The fetishizing of Nazi trinkets is sometimes just as disturbing as it ought to be.

    Particular telling that these labels have generated an industrial scale faking movement.

    Now we have Stalin-nostalgia too, so maybe some kind of cosmic balance is being achieved?

  5. My own pet peeve along these lines is the Cot M1911A1 knock-offs made in Argentina in World War II. It is claimed that they were made from armor plating savaged from the Admiral Graf Spee was a German “pocket battleship” sank by the Royal Navy in 1939, which actually rests in Uruguayan territorial waters. This is totally untrue. The myth was created in the 1980s and advertised in many gun magazines as being made from Graff Spee armor. Many of the pistols were in fact fabricated from US-made steel provided to Britain via US Lend-Lease and then transferred to Argentina, which made contracted pistols for the UK.

    • OK, that’s one I’ve never heard. The U.S./Britain Lend-Lease triangle would tend to explain the fact that a lot of them were in .455in Webley Self-Loading rather than .45 ACP. (You can chamber and fire .45 ACP in .455 WSL, but not the other way around.)



    • Also untrue is that the Royal Navy sank her. Capt.Hans Langsdorff ordered her scuttled instead attempting a breakout from port. I had a great uncle who served on the Graf Spee. He survived the war also.

  6. My biggest pet peeve is a certain importer slapping a damn near impossible to remove coat of truck bed liner on Czech VZ52 rifles instead of properly repairing them or letting skilled gunsmiths repair them. It takes alot of work to remove that crap without causing further damage, and then repairing the stock back to it’s original glory. My other pet peeve is when people equate the collection of artifacts from WWII (a hobby that has been around since VE day) with some conspiracy of the state of affairs today in the USA.

    • Agreed. The problem with today’s America is that the affluent-and-well-to-do society has raised kids to believe “we live in a picture perfect world where nothing bad ever happens to good people.” When they say that, they also say “a gun is a gun is any other gun.” TRUST ME. Some otherwise sensible lady accused me of terrorism just because I was openly carrying a disassembled airsoft pistol. NOT KIDDING.

      • I’ll see you that and raise you the hospice worker who, while caring for my mother in her terminal illness, saw a single-shot air rifle and an unstrung 45-lb. Indian archery longbow leaning in a corner together.

        They’re good people, and I respect and am grateful to them, but they’ve obviously led sheltered lives by rural Southeast Ohio standards.

        I suppose I’m lucky she didn’t see Mother’s .30-30 Winchester.



    • Agreed. Previous statements about politics are ill informed. The financial viability of the German Vs Japanese (or Italian or Soviet) rifles goes back far beyond any political administration. Present price increases are as much a factor of supply and demand as they are about the weapons character. The K98Ks are drying/have dried up as original issue from govt armories, so prices are increasing.

      Same thing is happening with the VZ24, M48 and M48A. Probably happen to the Moisins when they start drying up too.

  7. Maxim Silencer: because its called a Silencer it must silence right!, fools will be fools but it still irritates me none the less.

      • Yeah, and suppressed guns were used for hunting and more mundane things like pest control or quiet bench shooting. Unfortunately most people associate the suppressor with political assassins no thanks to misuses and movies, and the most uneducated of them would scream bloody murder at the sight of a painted-black cardboard tube glued/taped onto a little kid’s cap-revolver. Stupidity knows no limits!

  8. Back to “marketing” terms. The previously mentioned Tanker Garand. Most things labeled SOCOM or Tactical. The No.5 Jungle Carbine falls in this category.
    On early sniping, a must read is “A Rifleman Goes to War” by Herbert McBride.

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