Nazi Belt Buckle Pistol Background

Sometimes when I write a post of make a video on a particularly unusual firearm, it will result in my being contacted by someone who has a surprising amount of experience with that gun, and provides me with new information I didn’t previously have. Well, exactly that happened with the Nazi belt buckle pistol sold by RIA that I made a video of. A few days ago I got an email from a fellow who said that particular piece used to be his, and if I was interested in the full story I should give him a call. I did, of course, and the story was pretty interesting.

This fellow was a young man in the USAF stationed in Germany in the early 1990s, and I will call him M for the purposes of the story (I don’t know what US or German laws may have been bent or broken in the following events, and I don’t want to get anyone in trouble). He spent about 3 years at the Bitburg Air Force base, until it was turned over to the Germans in late 1994. During that time, he was an enthusiastic shooter, buying and selling guns and spending time at a nearby commercial German shooting range. He was a frequent and reliable customer of the range – buying guns as well as shooting time – and as the years went by the range owner came to know and trust him and they became personal acquaintances, if not friends. Well, Norbert the range owner, it seems, was something of a closet neo-Nazi and generally creepy dude. M would sometimes show up to the range at unusual times and find some pretty sketchy people there shooting things like Skorpion SMGs. M was not particularly enthusiastic to become involved in this side of Norbert’s life, but maintained the relationship because of the range availability and the neat gun deals he got in the process. When M was looking for an MP44, Norbert took him on a somewhat surreal visit to a basement where he was offered three as a package, in various states of repair.

Around 1996, Norbert offered M one of these belt buckle pistols (M was now stationed at Ramstein, but continued to patronize the same shooting range). Norbert claimed that he had been contacted by the widow of a man he used to know who had emigrated from Germany to Switzerland after the war. Norbert’s description of this man and his activities coincides very well with what is known and surmised about Louis Marquis (the man generally credited with making prototype belt buckle guns for the SS). The widow said her husband had various old stuff up in the attic which she simply wanted gone, and Norbert went to clean it out. Norbert claimed to have recovered quite a lot in that attic, including gold and a box of belt buckle pistols. Initially, Norbert offered M a 4-barrel, .22 caliber belt buckle pistol, and M thought it was very cool and had to have it. He traded Norbert a Mini-14 for it. To M’s surprise, his interest prompted Norbert to bring out the whole box of belt buckle pistols, and M wound up acquiring three more of them. In addition to the 4-barrel .22, these other ones were:

  • An aluminum, heavily engraved example with 3 barrels. M describes the mechanism as being totally different form the others. He has no photos of it, as he traded it off to a friend fairly quickly.
  • A two-barreled example in .22LR, serial number 2/C
  • A single-barrel example in 9x19mm, described to him as the prototype.

M eventually brought three of the four back into the US in a suitcase, a decision he sees in retrospect as stupid and risky considering their likely status as AOWs. He sold one and traded the other two as a pair for a fishing boat and trailer. From that entry into circulation, they have floated around the collector market with various stories and ever-increasing price tags.

In hindsight, M is pretty sure that the whole box of belt buckle pistols was actually manufactured by Norbert, the closet Nazi range owner. He says Norbert had the means, motive, and opportunity to do so and the story Norbert provided for the guns’ origin simply didn’t seem to hold water.

Now, M is just some stranger on the internet. What gives his story credence to me (aside from a totally subjective gut feeling that I believe him) is that he was able to provide me with photos he took of three of the guns back while he was stationed in Germany. First up, here is number 1L, which M believes is the exact same piece that RIA recently sold:

Belt buckle pistol s/n 1L
Front cover of s/n 1L – note that the eagle’s head and wing are broken off.
Belt buckle pistol s/n 1L
Mechanism and markings of s/n 1L
Belt buckle pistol s/n 1L
Serial number 1L open and in firing position.
Belt buckle pistol s/n 1L
Serial number 1L on M’s dresser, fitted to a belt

All of these images can be enlarged by clicking on them. If this is the same item as the recent sale, it is worth noting that the eagle has been fixed by someone between its current sale and when M sold it off. In addition, the bluing on the piece is virtually gone today, and was fairly intact when M took these photos. He describes the bluing as being of poor quality, saying that it would leave an odor on his fingers after handling and would wear off the metal easily. Do I think it’s the same piece? Yeah, I think it is. Here’s a side-by-side of the RIA sale image with one of M’s – note details like screw orientation and scratches:

Nazi belt buckle pistol comparison

Next up, the two-barrel example in .22LR:

Belt buckle pistol 2C
Serial number 2C open and in firing position
Belt buckle pistol 2C
Markings on the bottom of s/n 2C
Belt buckle pistol 2C
Front view of s/n 2C – note the different style of cover plate

The markings on this piece are clearly done in the same style as #1L, but there are a few design differences. A different type of eagle emblem is used (thicker). The cover plate is angled rather than curved, and it has a bottom side to close off the internals (1L leaves a gap at the bottom of the cover plate). The latch allowing the piece to be folded and stowed is different in design.

Finally, the alleged prototype:

"Prototype" belt buckle pistol
Front of “prototype” model. Note the different style of eagle.
"Prototype" belt buckle pistol
Single-barrel 9x19mm “prototype” model in firing position
"Prototype" belt buckle pistol
“Prototype” model in carrying position
"Prototype" belt buckle pistol
Markings on “prototype” model

This one is also given the serial number “1” and has the same basic mechanical design as the others, but has totally different markings on the bottom. It is a single-barrel, chambered for 9x19mm. It has the same style cover plate as 1L, but a different type of eagle than either of the other examples. The belt attachments of all three are clearly all made the same way and to the same design.

To me, this story and its accompanying photos throw the balance of the evidence thoroughly into the “fake” camp for me. Nothing here constitutes proof that the real Louis Marquis didn’t actually make something similar for the SS, but this style is the most legitimate looking type I have seen, and I no longer have and belief that they might be legit. That might have been totally obvious to some people for a long time, but I have been trying to remain open to the possibility that they were real. Well, no longer.

Shooting

As an interesting epilogue, M told me about his experience shooting these. They were not 5-figure artifacts when he had them, and he was absolutely going to try shooting them! In fact, he told me in a somewhat embarrassed tone about having worn #1 around on a belt (as you see it displayed above) a few times for fun.

At any rate, he described shooting them as (and I quote here), “they didn’t work for shit.” In all three pieces, cartridges would always slide backwards, partway out of the chambers. There is no mechanism to hold them in place (I had assumed myself that the cambers would be cut tight enough to hold the lead .22 bullets in place, but they were not). He said this problem was at its worst in the 9mm model. In addition, the rimfire ones had very sharp firing pins, and M says they tended to split the case rims and jam the cartridges in place rather than fire them. He says about 1 in 4 would actually fire…and the rest would have to be rammed out with a stick (not a fun task, considering their live priming compound).

 

 

39 Comments

    • Notice that all eagles excluding Luftwaffe example are Parteiadler – the Parteiadler has head turn to left, when the Reichsadler has head turned to right.

  1. Hmm…I wonder what the origin of the one I saw for sale in New Orleans was. It had a more highly polished finish (gold plated?), was a 4-bbl. .32 ACP with a Wehrmacht Eagle on the cover. It was in a fitted Swarovski case, and looked like something a jeweler would have made. The case resembled something you would see a very high-end watch (top-of-the-line Piaget, Patek-Phillippe, etc.) cased in. The shop that had it is on Royal Street and is still in business. It’s been a long time since it was on display, probably 20 years, but the next time I stop in I’ll ask him if he has any record of it. As it was a post-1898 firearm, he should have something in his records. I wonder, considering the number of GIs that likely shot at that range, if those in the article were the only ones that Norbert sold to his “friends.”

    • I bet there was at least authentic one, of some description, even a prototype for some specific purpose, made once, which may or may not still be in existence, then from that others were spawned post war for curiosities.

  2. I have four photographs of a belt buckle gun, claimed to be a “Nazi” made piece. I can send you JPGs of them. They were actually printed in a newspaper-sized type weapons publication which existed back in the mid-1950s.

    The publication was a collector-published effort, by Charles Yust, who worked as a civilian at Aberdeen Proving Ground (he also prepared the original Tank Data book, published in 1958 by APG, that was the basis for the Tank Data volumes put out by We, Inc., in the 1960s).

    It was an unusual publication, and the name escapes me. Charlie provided me, through one of my business partners at the time who lived in Silver Spring and was friends with Charlie, copies of most of the issues of the publication. Like so many “labor of love” publications back in those years, it lasted only a few years. It had an eclectic mix of material, from full-length articles to odd bits and pieces, and these photos fell into that latter category.

    I made scans of anything in those issues that was WWII-related, as that was my focus both personally and business-wise. Made the scans of that material back in the early 90s. I can’t recall if there was any useful text with the photos. If there was, it has long since become separated from the photos’ image files.

    I can’t verify that this piece Charlie published photos of was a real Third Reich produced piece. Was Norbert of an age in the late 40s/early 50s to have produced that piece? Maybe Norbert didn’t produce those pieces, but someone else did years earlier and maybe this is one from that same group.

    There are no markings visible in the photos. All the photos show the piece from the front or back, open and closed – no views of the sides. The front is plain with no insignia or any other markings.

    I don’t know if Charlie is still with us, but will contact my former business partner. I doubt Charlie could provide much more info than what was in the publication after all these years.

  3. What we must remember is that for the brief time the Third Reich occupied sovereign nations on the continent of Europe, not everyone was happy about it.
    I don’t think I’d be a happy camper if I was a Master gunsmith working for CZ for example.
    Maybe some products would not be up to specs…

    • According to Guns of the Reich by John Walter (w/a “George Markham”), “ma” was the manufacturer code for F.A. Lange Metallwerk AG, Aue/Sachsen, who made small arms ammunition and components. “M” might be an attempt to fake this code mark.

      The “F/Z” on the second one could be an attempt to fake the “fzs” code of Heinrich Krieghoff, Suhl. The SS runes on it probably are also an attempt to lend credibility to the device.

      The fact that the bluing came off on on the fingers tells me it was a cold chemical blue like the old Birchwood Casey blue, improperly applied not long before that time. Probably no more than a few days earlier, as the BC blue would cure in about five days at room temperature.

      Put it all together, it spells F-A-K-E. Not to mention the fact that any arm designed and built by a German armsmaker would certainly have some sort of positive retention of the cartridges in the chambers. But this something a faker could easily overlook, especially if they were copying from a photograph of an existing example and only duplicated what they could see.

      cheers

      eon

  4. Congratulations to Ian for bringing this to us. Even as a fake, it’s a pretty interesting story and an interesting bit of hardware. I also think he handled the original story pretty well – reserving judgment while telling us both sides of the tale.

    I don’t think I need to tell anyone that a lot of fake Nazi memorabilia comes out of central Europe. Quite a few neo-Nazis are involved in various dodgy dealings, including fakes, counterfeits, drug dealing, etc. The 1990s were a particularly productive time for this, with lots of newly made fakes ending up on the market which were allegedly “hidden” in eastern Europe until the wall came down.

    In the end it shows that you either really need to know your subject before laying down your money, or else you need to stick to things that aren’t worth faking.

  5. I’ve done some digging and found some more (and quite interesting) information on these pistols. The Axis History Forum has a photograph of the same 3 pistols shown in the post,(broken wing and all) that were supposedly taken in Germany in the 1980s. (I saved a copy of the photo but can’t get it to link. I can e-mail it if interested.) Also, it seems that one belt buckle pistol (not pictured) has capture papers dated 1946 (which can also be faked) and two registered with ATF as “Curios and Relics.” I’ve also looked at the Marquis patent drawings (Reichspatent #608227, 18 Jan., 1935) and they show a quite different design than the ones I’ve seen in pictures and in person. The best I can put together is that there possibly were a couple of originals made during the war, but that the majority are postwar fakes, made in the 50’s and 60’s, with at least one copy made by Opel in Russelsheim, according to one of the posters. The more I study this, the happier I am that I didn’t waste my money on the one I was offered.

  6. The sad part about these things is that some people will never be convinced. Another one will turn up at an auction soon, poorly made, smelling of cold blue, and with a hair brained story behind it. It will have have Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and SS proofs (at the same time), and markings that make no sense to anyone versed in German codes. It may come in a lovely handcrafted box, or some dingy cloth bag, both of which will be used as “proof” that it’s real. And yet, someone will buy it.

    I am still convinced that every-single-one of these is fake. Yes. Even ones that are in museums. Sorry guys. Don’t get taken by this.

      • One story I heard as a kid on the edges of the gun-collecting fraternity involved the French Charleville 1777 .69 caliber pistol and the U.S. North & Cheney 1799 “clone” of it.

        The story was that a common trick was to fake a N&C1799 by doing a “barrel stretch” on a C1777, usually by grafting on a section of barrel cut from some nondescript European smoothbore carbine, etc., of the correct caliber. Plus faking the markings, of course.

        As the story goes, so many C1777s and carbines were butchered in pursuit of the big bucks for N&C1799s that it made the Charlevilles and carbines and such more valuable by reducing the supply of originals, at least to some extent.

        Not to mention the fact that if you run across a North & Cheney Model 1799 U.S. martial flintlock pistol today, the best odds are that it’s a fake concocted in the 1950s or 1960s, as opposed to the real McCoy.

        I believe a similar fate may have befallen a number of U.S. Model 1842 Aston .54 martial pistols, which were faked into the rarer Palmetto Armory version.

        Not sure if these tales are valid, but from some of the fakes I’ve seen in even my limited experience with antique arms, I’m inclined to believe them.

        cheers

        eon

        • In the 1964 edition of “The Collecting of Guns” (Bonanza Books, James Serven, Ed.), there is an entire chapter dedicated to fakes, with the North and Cheney and Palmetto Pistols featured with comparison photos. I have a good friend who was taken (to the tune of $25,000) on a fake Colt Paterson that was very well done, but couldn’t quite match up to a documented original. The ones that really scare me are the otherwise “original” pieces that are enhanced with spurious markings or inscriptions, or the fakes that have gained provenance by being part of a well established collection for many years. Some “collectors” turn out to be as crooked as the fakers. If you’re going to collect, you really need to do your homework.

  7. I’m still not convinced that the base gun is faked as in “made to deceive” (finish, nazi markings, eagles etc clearly are). All these guns are hand made. And each is different. If you’re setting up a multi-gun fake to make money, you run a small series, you don’t make fresh drawings for each one with different mechanisms etc. to get a box full. My guess would be that they were prototypes for some clandestine purpose that were “gussied up” to enhance post-war collectors value. Plenty of those abominations on the market.

    • If more of the .22 rimfires showed up I’d be inclined to suspect they came courtesy of SOE, not the SS.

      Remember, they had a belt gadget that held a Colt M1903 .32 auto that would fire straight ahead of the wearer when he raised his hands.

      The belt-buckle gun would be the sort of gadget I’d expect to come out of “Churchill’s Toyshop”.

      As for the one-shot 9 x 19mm, how can we be sure the original wasn’t actually chambered for 0.380in revolver aka .38 S&W? The two rounds are essentially identical in dimensions except for their rims, as I have proven any number of times with Webley MK IV and S&W Victory Model revolvers.

      No, I was never a big enough idiot to fire 9x19mm in one, but I did demonstrate to friends who owned both .38 S&W revolvers and 9mm autos (as I did) that it’s a very good idea not to get the wrong round in the revolver.

      About as good an idea as not absent-mindedly dropping a .44 Remington Magnum round into a nice old blackpowder-frame .45 Colt Peacemaker.

      cheers

      eon

    • I don’t think so – I was told the engraved one M had used a very different type of mechanism from the others – and this one is the standard design as far as I can see from the photos.

  8. There’s quite a few “Norbert” types in modern Germany, unsurprisingly perhaps… Anyway, it’s not that poor of a creation for something knocked up by an individual, decent layout, design basis etc, lacking a couple of modifications possibly they never got round too.

    • The Luftwaffe “prototype” model, looks to me like the one most likely looking… To be original, because it kinda of just does. Maybe it is, and the others were copies of it.

      Thinking of a use… If you had parachuted, in a “hurry” over say Britain, and were captured rapidly, by say a single Dads Army member who wouldn’t shoot you on route to landing… In theory, anyway…
      Thinking… If this was your parachute buckle, on your chest, you could hold your hands above your head after partially gathering but not entirely disengaging your open chute under the watchful eye of Mr Jones the Butcher leveling a 12 bore towards you. Then whilst still holding some of the cords, one particularly… The one which operated the device, over your head BANG!!! Take zat Mr Jones, cut yourself loose and run off.

      Possible prototype with something along those lines in mind perhaps

      • Or even…

        Come on you Hun, your knicked son, come with me.

        “Mr Jones I need to unbuckle ze chute ya in order to comply”

        Oh yes of course, you’ll blow away again.

        “Click, BANG!!!”

      • I think the key to getting to the bottom of the authenticity of these buckles is to envisage an actual use for them, why would ze Nazi state be possibly interested in them.

        Escape and evasion from prison camps, the multi barrel buckles appear quite big, not that covert.

        Novelty item, for wedding gifts, possibly, self defense in occupied territory etc.

        In the field, being taken prisoner… “Hands up” can’t fire it, and they aren’t that covert from then on…

        Parachute buckle, not as bulky, and you have an excuse to touch it i.e. To disengage the parachute in order to be taken prisoner.

        Parachute buckle, possible… Possible application I think.

        • To me, the use of a single barrel indicates a potential real design because it would be all that would be required for any potential practical implementation of such a device.

          Your not going to fire four aimed from the waist shots before being shot by someone, you need their “actual” gun, or a second to grab yours, that’s a shot not four.

        • The most likely “real” use would be as the buckle on the Sam Browne belt worn by high-ranking officers. If captured, they could take down a single guard or even two or three with gut shots, and possibly make good their escape.

          That was the story that my uncles got in ’45, anyway. Which made things a bit dangerous for any captured Nazi ranker who absentmindedly hooked his thumb over his belt buckle.

          What makes me think that the story is mostly just one of those rumors that run through the grapevine is the lack of high ranking Nazis actually caught with such a gadget. I’d have expected Himmler to have one, for instance, but the only “escape” device he had was an L-capsule.

          Then again, nobody ever caught the SS’ king of weird gadgets, Hans Kammler. There are four different stories of his “demise”, none of which came with an actual stiff. And one of those six-engined JU-390s went missing about the time he did, as well.

          And they did find Bormann and Morell’s remains in that trainyard twenty years ago, both shot with a .32.

          I wonder….

          😉

          cheers

          eon

          • Aye, but… That’s a reason why, why it was never adopted… The Luftwaffe pilots thought, if we cheat such… With dastardly devices, we’ll be a Pheasant shot down before we land i.e. Pointless having a parachute.

      • Can’t find any similar shaped ones however, but still it might have been conceived prior to the better “parachute” specific designs if you will, or as a chest pack something.

        Maybe not, who knows.

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