What is the fastest way to add a couple hundred bucks to the price of a WWII-era firearm? Add a Waffenamt to it, of course! German markings on a gun always drive up interest and demand, and so it should really come as no surprise that faking those markings is one of the most widespread gun forgeries to be found today. This faking is aided by the fact that the Germans really did stamp a wide variety of guns, and their system of markings was rather on the confusing and bureaucratic side of the spectrum – so lot of potential buyers don’t know what is correct and what isn’t.
Let’s take a look at a particularly egregious example – Nazi-marked Steyr M95 carbines. They make a good case study because there are a whole bunch of them out there, they are both distinctive and undeniably fake, and because I happened to run across one at the SAR show this month.
To start with, let’s look at the most common Nazi mark: the Waffenamt. This is a stylized eagle with spread wings, over the text “WaA xxx” where “xxx” is a 1-3 digit number. The Heereswaffenamt was the German Army Ordnance Office, and was in charge of approving arms production. They set up inspectors’ offices in pretty much every significant production facility, and would approve each item produced. This approval was done in the form of a WaA (waffenamt) stamp on the item in question. The number on the stamp corresponded to the office number of that particular inspector. This depended on not just the company whose work was being inspected, but also the physical location of the factory – so different production lines run by the same company could often have different WaA inspectors and thus different stamps.
The waffenamt stamp is a small thing, only a few millimeters in length and height. There is no swastika visible. Here is a typical example on a pistol – and in very crisp condition, plus being highlighted white for easy viewing:
The layman might expect big prominent swastikas all over a Nazi firearm, but that is not the case.
Now, it is also important to recognize that these acceptance stamps were placed during production – not simple because a weapon was used by the German military! In many cases, when Germany occupied an arms factory in another country, they would continue production of whatever arms were being made and allocate those arms to German units. Not so much with rifles, but the German Army was happy to use a wide variety of pistol designs, and so there are a great number of pistols which were made under occupation and will bear waffenamt marks (including Hi-Powers, vis35 Radoms, FN 1922s, Astras, etc). But these were all marked during manufacture. If the Wehrmacht captured, say, a Steyr M95 carbine and pressed it into service, it would receive no marking at all. The only case where it might be marked would be it if was sent through a repair depot, and that marking would be different from a waffenamt. But many gun forgers don’t know these details either, and make the simple and universal assumption that waffenamt = German.
So let’s take a look at the fake M95 carbines now with this info in mind, and see how many different problems we can spot. Here are a couple photos (found on The High Road forum):
Here’s one clue that something is amiss – what is this marking? It’s not a waffenamt, and it’s actually not anything that should appear on a rifle. It also sports a distinguishable swastika, which violates my rule of thumb: if you see a swastika, it’s not a German rifle.
Now, these are what waffenamts ought to look like. But there shouldn’t be three of them on the receiver. It’s not uncommon to see a bunch of them on a single gun, but they will be distributed one per part, as the parts were often inspected individually prior to assembly.
Holy crap, what is that? This stamp is close to an inch square, has a big ol’ swastika, and was marking in the wood. Every one of those factors should be a big red flag. Waffenamts are sometimes found on wooden parts, but it is rare for them to be recognizable and legible after 70 years. And that brings us to another point…
This marking was administered by the Nazi government, which puts a fairly tight date range on when it could be legitimately encountered. Think about it – was Steyr still making M95 rifles or carbines in 1939, when they started using the WaA623 stamp? Ah, no. Even without knowing the details of that particular WaA number, we know that Germany didn’t control the Austrian Steyr plant until the 1938 anschluss. This particular carbine has the tall rifle sight, indicating that it was made by cutting down a full-length M95 rifle in the early/mid 1930s. The chronology is simply impossible for it to have been produced under German authority.
The lesson? Caveat emptor! Modern reproduction waffenamt stamps are pretty easy to obtain today, and the wise collector will exercise plenty of skepticism before paying a premium for a firearm with rare German markings.
Well done, my friend and yes, the WaA stamp is quite different, I have it on a Norwegian K98, turned into 7.62 NATO by and for the Norwegian Army, also marked “Haer” – army- , similar to the German Heer.. the genuine eagle stamp is more stylish and linear and carries no gamma-cross underneath the bird, uh uh …
I am not sure but there should be a small quantity of those Austrian carbines which were turned to the German caliber 8×57 (easy modification carried by Steyr) and possibily issued to 2nd line troops of Austria and Hungary during WWII.
Keep up boys, my congratulations
Normann from Venice, Italy
I used to own a Mauser M1934 in .32 ACP with the correct Waffenamt stamp, right rear of the frame. Since Mauser 7.65s were common issue sidearms for Wehrmacht officers, I didn’t think it was anything special, nor did I think it “added value”.
Besides, I acquired it in a trade. I had a Savage 340 rifle (.22 Hornet) I didn’t care about; a friend had the pistol his dad had brought back from the ETO, and he didn’t have a thing for pistols, but he wanted the 340 to deal with woodchucks & etc. in his back forty. Seemed reasonable to both of us.
I finally sold the Mauser for $150 to a collector who wanted it to fill a gap in his collection of pocket automatics. Seemed reasonable, too.
It still does today. The value for all of us was that it was a .32 Mauser- not that it had the Waffenamt stamp.
Dagnabbit! To think that some [unprintable insult here] would try to rip people off by cutting down a vintage M95 Mannlicher to carbine length and then give it fake Nazi stamps! I suppose this is pretty much the same thing as cutting down a full-length Rifle No.4 Enfield and making it into a fake “Jungle Carbine.”
I see those fake Jungle Carbines far too often and they make me nauseous.
Much worse then even a bad “bubba job” sporter in my mind. However I think this M95 was modified to carbine format by the Austrian authorities as part of the modernization program that took place at the same time the caliber was updated from 8x50r to 8x56r. I could be wrong though.
It’s not quite that bad; these faked M95s are actually Bulgarian refurb guns, so the cutting down is at least authentic. Just the markings aren’t.
Still sacrilege if you ask me, though.
First, anything of value is being counterfeited. It cuts across all fields.
Now there is a gent on eBay (no affiliation) who has several stamps for sale.
They look original.
I’m pretty sure there is little if anything that can be done about such blatant forgeries, but darn it there should be! What makes it worse yet is that eBay is notoriously anti-gun but is has no problem at all selling something that serves no purpose other than to rip off unsuspecting buyers.
Pardon, that’s “sale”.
Jerry Kuhnhausen’s shop manual on the Mauser rifle has several amusing pictures of fake receivers: one stamped “MADE IN USA” with the U upside down, and one stamped “MAUSER” right next to something like “PATENTED BROWNING”. Mr. Kuhnhausen speculated the ones doing the forgeries were trying to impress their fellow Chinamen. A Mauser patented by Browning and made in the USA…sure, why not. At some point they may be valuable just for the comic value.
That would be ironic, wouldn’t it? Stranger things have happened, so who knows? 🙂
Does some (or all) of this apply to K98Ks as well?
I have one (that I guess is now allegedly) from ’43 made by Mauser in Borsigwalde if the markings are to be believed.
Here are pics of the receiver markings:
It looks like it may have more than one WaA mark and has a Nazi eagle with punched out swastika (by the Russians when refurb?). Which seems to suggest that it’s not looking good. 🙁
To be honest, Mike, I’m not enough of a Mauser expert to be able to tell you if that is authentic or not. Perhaps one of our other readers can help?
I’m no Mauser expert, but I had a brief collecting obsession with “Russian Capture” K98k’s when they were coming in. It’s been my experience that they will often feature an eagle over swastika on the left side of the receiver and barrel. These marks are, more often then not, partially ground or struck out. If Ian doesn’t mind here’s a link to a sight I’ve found helpful: http://mauser98k.internetdsl.pl/gbkomen.html
In my eyes it looks as though whomever was marking up that M95 was using an “RC” Mauser as an example to copy.
Thanks Kyleno for the resource. A quick read on the mafg plant table shows that the year and serial number on my K98K falls into the correct range for that factory. Also the eagle/swastika, on the left side of the receiver, is struck out (which I was pretty sure was standard with the Russian Captures).
here is a pic of the large eagle and swastika waffenampt on a mg 34 kakelite stock and a forge on a 42 ( wire wrap identifies it as a mg53 yugoslavian)
If this is a fake, sombody made the effort to do it right
Befor 1940 the SS, was anunarmed police unit. when it was orderd armed they were not able to obtain arms from the army, so they brought rifles in Austris of this type. That isbasekly a 98 K in a sligtly differet stok
Boy, there are alot of self-proclaimed experts that love to hear themselves talk. There are several 98k’s I have owned that are absolutely authentic that have three WaA on the right side of the receiver ring. But big-shot says that never happens. how true can the rest of his article be? It’s also funny that the “bogus” GEW 95, that he said are fake, have the WaA assigned to the inspector group at the Steyr factory AND the Mathausen camp that also made 98ks and refurbed the M95’s (GEW 95) for SS colonel Steyr! And what about all the ammo for the M95 made in the late 30’s that have nazi markings on shell casings and clips. I guess they are phony, too. God save us from the “experts.” The ultimate expression of stupidity is the statement that swatstikas are always illegable!! Dude, stop pontificating! I believe people like this guy are trying to impress the sincere, but still novice collectors with there expertise and are also trying to keep them from buying stuff that they want or don’t have for sale. Beware of people who call themselves experts! They are sometimes difficult to spot…… until they make stupid statements like there being NO examples of three WaA in a row. How about the 98k AX41 from Feinmechanish Werke A.G. Berlin Borsigwalde with THREE WaA in a row on the right side of the receiver ring. What do you say, Expert? A little advice: When you think you know it all, that’s all you’ll ever know! never say never, especially in collecting historical memorabilia. Enough for now… I’m going to play with my stuff and learn, learn, learn.
Determining authenticity is all about considering the totality of the rifle. Some elements can be authentic in some circumstances, but out of place and incorrect in others. The German-made 8x56R ammo makes sense, because it was being supplied to German allies. The rifle makes no sense, unless you can explain what German factory was producing M95 carbines during the same time frame that the Waffenamt markings were being used.
One more thing. About the WaA in wood. Below the H on the right side of 98k stocks I suppose that the one or two 1/2 to 3/4″ WaA are bogus, too? Wow, I better sell my stuff quick!!! well, I would if I were to take this guys word! where do these guys come from?
Wow, what a jackass. Some people just refuse to see reality.
You . You can’t admit you don’t know everything.
Ian I need help with my m95. It retains full ww1 markings and shrit/paces sight. All matching. Barreled action but bolt does have force matched stamped number. But there is no refinish on any part yet it was rechamberd for spitzer. I found it a curious so I bought it as my first gun. Strange that it was rechamberd but looks and passes smell test for its ww1 markings and finish etc.