Karabiner-S: The East German Unicorn SKS

This rifle will be sold at Rock Island in their Spring 2019 Premiere auction – it was moved after this video was filmed. Sorry!

One of the rarest patterns of the SKS is the East German type – the Karabiner-S. Total production quantity is not known, but their survival rate is quite low and most of the examples in the US are Vietnam War bring backs. At any rate, the Karabiner-S is not quite an exact copy of the standard SKS. While it does share all the same mechanical features, the East Germans opted to leave out the butt trap cleaning kit, the cleaning rod, and to cut a German style sling slot in the stock instead of using sling swivels. These differences make the gun relatively easy to spot. Markings are a bit cryptic, with a 2-digit year of production in from of the serial number, followed by a letter prefix and a 4-digit serial number. Not all letters were used as prefixes; in fact only 6 have been documented: A, E, F, L, N, and U. Whether these have specific meaning or if this was a scheme to make production look larger than it really was (akin to the Czech vz.52 pistols) is not clear.

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  1. As Ian stated, the Kar98k features included the sling attachment, and also a pull-through carried in a “tobacco can” cleaning kit rather than the Soviet-style cleaning rod under the barrel retained by the folding bayonet and a tube of tools stored in the butt stock. There are assertions– I don’t know of any hard documentary evidence–that a number of these went to various African movements during the Cold War-era wars of national liberation/decolonization and jockeying for leadership.

    I am old enough to have seen first hand Prussian-drilled, jack-booted, goose-stepping East German Nationale Volksarmee soldaten armed with these things. And at a monument to the “victims of fascism and militarism” to [jack]boot!

    Ernst Thälmann was the head of the KPD pro-Soviet communist party, arrested by the NSDAP in 1933 and held in solitary until his murder at Buchenwald in 1944. The German international brigade in the Spanish Civil War was named “Thälmann” after him, and informally one can find references to them as “Thälmanns” (Thälmänner?).
    When they first went into action in Madrid in November 1936 madrileños thought they were Soviet troops since it scarcely seemed plausible that totalitarian German Luftwaffe volunteers in the Condor Legion could be bombing the city at the behest of the nationalists while the totalitarian opponents from the same nation defended the city alongside the republicans… As folks know, the Spanish Civil War saw any number of miniature civil wars play out internal to it, such as the battles outside Madrid where Italian legionnaires came face to face with Italian internationalist volunteers.

    An interesting variant! The SKS is quite possibly the best ceremonial drill rifle ever devised! And it does continue to serve in that role in any number of places.

  2. Still, the Mosin-Nagant the links leads us to is an extremely rare Model 1891/30 development prototype! Nice…

  3. Perhaps the absence of ‘on gun’ cleaning hardware was an economy. I suspect that existing cleaning gear for Mausers could be issued to anyone carrying the SKS.

  4. The traditional German opinion was (and today still is) that over time a pull through string is in any case less damaging to the muzzle than a rod used by inexperienced soldiers. It also ensures the cleaning patches always go from the chamber to the muzzle.
    This view survived even in the communist German armed forces.

    • My understanding of that 5.56x45mm rifle development in the DDR is that it was intended as a contract for India, the armed forces of which, then as now, were in need of a modern service rifle. In the event, they got the INSAS 5.56x45mm in 1998-1999. It was built at Ishapore, and was supplemented by Kalashnikovs. As of last year, it would seem that the rifle is slated for replacement and that the Indian armed forces intend to revert to 7.62x51mm, apparently to go back to some sort of parity with the chief rival Pakistan, which retains the G3 in its small arms inventories.

      • The author of the article in link provided by Denny claims that Peru actually received a batch before the fall of the Berlin wall. The East Germans could have exported a lot more of their 5.56 rifle if not for the demise of the GDR.

  5. Communist martyr!
    Heh, like that !

    I think the biggest one is Allende, next to Che Guevara (who is more of revolutionary, violent persona, so could that type of person be martyr?)

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