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.


  1. Reminds me of a story I was told:
    Occupation troops came in a small the village and all inhabitants should hand out all there firearms.
    The most people thought:”We need still something for hunting and I also would not give up the fancy duel pistols from grandpa.”
    So they laid all the not so good guns down, at the water pump and ended up with a pile of nearly mans height. The occupiers where astonished that less than 50 households had so many guns and the villagers all like. “Dam it, we cut have hidden so much more!”

    And now Germany has estimated up to 30millions illegal firearms because they get more and more with the tighter Gun laws, but nearly now gun was given up.

    • Soundly beaten though Nazi Germany, must have been very unpleasant for a lot of civilian survivors. Different than WW1, I don’t think there was much stomach to carry on the fight in 45. In most people… Regardless of gun stashes, perfectly understandable really.

        • My father told me that thru most of 1944 and with overwhelming presence before the end, there was “buzz in the skies”, night after night. Some odd bomb was dropped into empty areas aimlessly; people interpreted it as bomber crews were looking to ease off their load. And in truth, I have come later in 60s over craters which were impossible to create otherwise.

  2. I do hope Mr Simpson sell enough of these books to at least cover the cost of the thousands of hours he must have spent on producing it; and the 10 times that to research it.

    As is so often the case with this opens a window on things I would never have even thought about, let alone learnt. The way the Nazis managed German training rifles was fascinating; but the history of US Army occupation was astonishing! The vision of lots of grunts recognising a .22 rifle that they could use back home to kill critters is, like I said above, a wonderful window on a lost world.

  3. This is visually an excellent publication and I wish to be so narrowly oriented to order it… pity. What surprises me although not a lot is that German training rifle was in .22. Well, it say something about proves of that calibre.

    Funny thing is as I remember that we had, many years after vz.24 (basically Mauser rifle) was phased out, for training purposes vz.24 look-alike air training rifle. It was heavy, cumbersome, but very military-like looking. Training in shooting for part of pre-military service preparedness curriculum in those old days on all mid level schools; but interestingly for boys only.

    • Kids with “weak” rim-fire single-shot rifles were not perceived as a danger to society (and occupation troops) back then. And gunnery was considered a man’s job. I could be wrong…

      • Some Germans, small dedicated groups, actually carried with resistance and acts of sabotage weeks after armistice. Their armament ware often explosive charges set up at night. Often there were involved youth because men were either prisoners or dead. I relate to concrete events which took place in northern regions of CSR which were previously called Sudeten.

        Repercussions were severe and certainly the avengers did not care for who were the actual perpetrators. “Justice” had summary character; anyone of German ethnicity was a target. At one of such event several civilians were thrown off the bridge into Elbe river. I happen to visit the place 2 years ago, so I know it is true.

      • I probably mistook your line… perhaps you meant pre-military training during my time. Well yes, some 90% of young men were drafted (or conscribed if you will), only few were exempted. But this was in place during pre-war 1. republic and even during A_H times as my grandpa’s record shows. This was a norm probably in all countries of Europe.

        Sometimes the tool for training were air rifles (while shooting in close rooms) or small-bore rifles when shooting outdoors. It was fun, at occasion we used to “help” buddy who was weak shot and placed couple of shots into his target. He may have ended up with more holes in target that the pellets he was issued 🙂

        During actual military service it was expected that most of us were able to put bullet where it belongs. In the units (land engineer/ sapper battalion) I served we did not have due to nature of our duty that much of infantry type training and were to the range about twice a year (service was of 2 years in duration). Kind of killed time.

  4. I had one of these rifles I had bought years ago at an antique sale. It was missing the wooden handguard forward of the rear sight, and knowing from Ian’s videos of the vast collection held by Mr. Simpson I stopped in the store to see if they might have a replacement handguard. Short answer: no, but I ended up selling the rifle to him. It was so beautifully made I couldn’t bear to put a scope mount on it, which limited its usefulness to me. I had thought it must have been postwar manufacture as there was no military acceptance mark on it. No, Mr. Simpson explained to me, they are not often found as the training rifles were primarily made during the period when Germany was rearming in the 1930s. As this was illegal under the Versailles treaty, the government was skittish about using the military stampings.

    He had an early review copy of this book in the store for review and he brought it out and showed me the pages dealing with the exact model and manufacturer that I owned. Amazing depth of knowledge, organization, and beautiful graphics. It really is an astonishing book.

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