SSG-82: The Enigmatic East German Sniper Rifle

Lot 3533 in the September 2019 RIA auction.

When East Germany received the technical data package for the 5.45x39mm cartridge, they began a program to make their own AK-74 model. Alongside, they also wanted a precision rifle using the new cartridge, and that became the SSG (Scharfschützengewehr) 82. It was developed for the internal security services rather than the army, however, and only about 2,000 appear to have been made, all the the Ernst Thälmann factory in Suhl.

The SSG82 is an interesting microcosm of East Germany – good engineering, but lousy finishing touches. The barrel is well made, and the gun is capable of pretty good accuracy when used with quality ammunition. The scope is a 4x Zeiss Jena model, with a simple German post reticle. The gun overall weighs in at 11 pounds, and handles like a nice precision rifle. Little else is known about these rifles here in the US, and the only reason we have examples of them like this is because eCentury International Arms imported about 600 around the year 2000.

22 Comments

  1. Good day to you fine people,
    Pardon me for my off-topic question, but I figure there is no better small arms history think-tank anywhere else. Here’s The thing. My father has acquired an authentic Panzerfaust 30m (Klein) crate. Not really a rare find, judging we’re in South-Eastern Poland, near the Dukla Pass. Outside markings on the crate only specify what’s inside and how much does it weigh. Any precise info should be on a paper sticker on the inner side of the lid. Sadly, the sticker has been scratched and the only legible words are “4 Stück – Panzerfaust Klein 30m”. The manufacturer code and date are missing. Can anyone lead me to a source or a database of Panzerfaust manufacturers and production dates, so I may narrow down it’s possible origin? I wish to conserve the crate from further decay, it’ll make an interesting piece in my collection. Thanks in advance.

  2. Mentioned “openness & transparency” is inherently alien concept with ex-communist regime(s). It just mutually excludes each other. State was a bastion of secrecy at every step.

    This is a unique catch. My guess this rifle was not aimed at “anti-terrorist” activities (non-issue in DDR and other socialist neighbours) but rather competitive army shooting.

    Overall, the gun looks pretty good; there are some clever concepts such as rear bolt locking. It shows “genossen” (comrades) in DDR had gun ideas of their own. Give it clear varnish and it would look 100% better.

    • My guess is shooting defectors while minimizing the chance of stray rounds landing in West Germany and giving Bonn an excuse to take action.

    • The lack of finishing is possibly related to the low serial number; mine has nice finishing as well as distinctive hammer markings from cold forging which the barrel on this rifle seems to lack.

    • “State was a bastion of secrecy at every step.”
      But in case of DDR, surveillance was even more present that in other COMBLOC countries
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_surveillance_in_East_Germany#Domestic_surveillance
      The Stasi had 90,000 full-time employees who were assisted by 170,000 full-time unofficial collaborators (Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter); together these made up 1 in 63 (nearly 2%) of the entire East German population. Together with these, a much larger number of occasional informers brought up the total to 1 per 6.5 persons.

    • It was the early eghties and in neighbouring Poland Solidarność was making noises. Then the DDR had watched what had happened in Munich in ’72 and the STASI did not want to be as unprepared as their western ehm colleagues in case something similar happened in the DDR. These rifles were manufactured for the STASI hence the minimal markings. A sporting rifle for the GST would have had the usual markings with serial number, model, caliber, manufacturer and proof marks of course.

      Until a few weeks ago I had old Franconia and Kettner catalogues and could have told you what these rifles cost in the early nineties. But I wanted to clean up and get rid of old stuff collecting dust.

  3. I regret not getting one of these when Century had them in stock. Not a bad price if memory serves but terrible pics and description. If I had been shooting 5.45 at the time I would have jumped on it.

  4. Hi Ian,

    I have one of these, albeit a much later one than the one you reviewed (don’t have the SN ready, but over 1000). The front turret is fokus, the rear turret elevation. Windage is adjusted at the base (loosen one of the horizontal screws, fasten the other one etc.). So windage adjustment is possible, but only on a range and with tools.

    The stock on mine is nicely finished, but looks the same otherwise. Also, the barrel is different, the one on mine has distinct hammer markings (I can send you a pic if you like).

    Stock and trigger (possibly more) are derived from the Suhl 150 series of .22 target rifles (see here: https://www.dorotheum.com/en/l/198073/ ).

    Best regards,
    Marcus

  5. Obiously the east german take on the american woodchuck/marmot rifle.Meant for state security troops on the wall to shoot CIA trained west german marmots who were tunneling into east germany as spies and sabateurs.It is reasonable to suspect that these marmots tunneling expertise was what led to the fall of the berlin wall

    • According to a german website, equipped units were the HA XXII (Antiterror), HA PS (Personenschutz = bodyguards) and HA VI (passport control, tourism)

      Note: HA = Hauptabteilung , literally “main department”

  6. Would this get commercial success with better finish (weather-proofing and better looks), a more common cartridge compatibility, an accessory kit, and perhaps a few ads in the papers? Or would it flop due to heavy competition from better-known firms?

  7. The Ziess Jena optics were actually very very good

    The rifle scopes were available in 4x and 6x, and with very nice dedicated quick detachable mounts for the various lengths of Brno zkk rifles, that retained their zero.

    Eastern block optics lacked the “features” of Japanese stuff, or the quality finish of West German and Austrian optics, but had sound design, gave solid performance and (because they were exported at a heavy discount in order to get foreign currency to buy imports), they were excellent value.

    Iirc, equipment, designs and key personnel were looted from Jena by the Soviet occupation, and taken to the arsenal at Kiev

    I haven’t looked for them recently, but Hartblei, who make extremely nice tilt and shift lenses, were at one time selling 6cm x 6cm format Arsenal camera bodies, that they had added internal reflection surpressing flocking, buffers, new gears and new springs to, along with Arsenal lenses that they had multi coated and assembled correctly (I’m guessing that some Soviet era Arsenal employees may have been a bit too keen on the vodka)

    The Hartblei versions were also available with lens and film mag mounts (and quality) compatible with their step siblings manufactured in Sweden and East Germany (Hasselblad and Pentacon/Practika).

    There was a 35mm late model practika slr camera in a local pawn shop recently, for £7. It was in really good condition, i was very tempted.

    I don’t know whether anyone is continuing with Jena’s rifle scopes now. Sometime post 1989, they were being operated as “docter optics” and appearing on some extremely nice sporting rifles made by people like Medwell and Perrit.

  8. I need to get somewhere with WiFi and watch the video

    From the cover pic, there’s a ?superficial resemblance to the .22 hornet rifles that were made West of the Elbe, by Krico (the models that came after Krico’s little Brno fox lookalike) and Anshutz.

  9. A note on the crude stock: Eastern European target guns were often sold with an unfinished stock / grip, with a lot of wood left on. The gun was supposed to be custom fitted to the shooter. It looks like this was the case with the SSG82 as well.

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