What is a Duffel Cut?

American service members in World War One and World War Two brought a tremendous number of firearms back to the US as trophies and souvenirs. While some mailed guns home, most brought them back in person by way of naval transport back from Europe or the Pacific. Most captured rifles were too long to fit in a service duffel bag intact, but if the action was removed form the stock and the stock cut in two pieces, they could fit. The cut was typically made under the barrel band, so the rifle could be reassembled at home and not look damaged.

This is distinct form sporterizing, as duffel cut rifles were generally kept otherwise fully intact. Today, a duffel cut can be an important piece of evidence showing the history of a particular rifle, especially for World War One vintage rifles, as there was no paperwork for trophy weapons at that time. Bring-back papers were issued in World War Two, but not strictly enforced, and many guns came home without them.

Note that lots of guns did come home to the US without being cut as well, so the lack of a duffel cut does not necessarily signify anything. And, of course, cuts are much more common on longer rifle than on carbines.


  1. my father brought back several firearms
    A k98 and another but he forgot what it was. They were dissembled and in his foot locker with a lot of other things. When he arrived on the ship the non military crew told everyone that there foot lockers could not be taken to there sleeping quarters and only there duffle bag. The lockers would be aced in the hold till they got back to NY
    When they arrived and left the ship many when asked for there foot lockers were answered “what foot lockers?”.
    They were told by the controllers of shipping that they could file a complaint and stay in NW but the ship was sailing in two days and they weren’t allowed back on the ship.

      • My grandfather had a similar story. He described arriving home in 1945 with the 3rd ID after spending several years in Europe. He didn’t have any spoils of war per se, but his duffle bag was stolen during the debarkation process. He said he was told to file a complaint and never got an answer, and that several of his buddies had the same issue. In the end, getting home safe to Wisconsin was more important to him than trying to figure out where his stuff was. A funny side note: he had no civilian clothing when he made it home. He said my great grandmother (an off the boat Italian immigrant) cut up his olive drab underwear and t-shirts for farm rags because she said the color looked dirty and she was too embarrassed to hang them on the line. So, he not only had his personal belongings stolen when he stepped off the boat, but he had to wear my great grandfather’s underwear until he could find replacements.

  2. Swords and polearms were also – unfortunately – ‘duffle cut’ to facilitate return. These are often described as being at ‘sea bag length’ and usually it is disasterous!

  3. Had heard of duffle cuts for years. I finally saw one at the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City Mo. A Gewher 98.

  4. I would hazard a guess that this Berthier may have come back after WWII. There would have been loads of surplus stuff in France then, whereas in 1918 the French were winners, and I think it less likely that a Doughboy would have picked up a French weapon.

    I recall seeing in the American Rifleman once that an American soldier based in Italy after WWI mailed a Mannlicher carbine back home by simply gluing the name and address to the stock. It was delivered too. Those were the days.

  5. Cutting it thus, sees you gain a wee “lip” on the left side of the removable stock piece; that in conjunction with the slight barrel “indentations” for ze barrel band may mean zat afterwards you do not need to use glue etc… As it is more secure via said lip, than a straight cut. Good moaning America. More secure as if you pull the removable piece from the front, it will tug on the lip and this will pull on the barrel band and perhaps pull it into the indentations and therefore add more “tug” resistance than a straight cut.

    “I am French hence why I have zis outrageous accent, English types”

    • Well perhaps not, but it certainly aids in retaining the barrel band rearwards… And as zis… “Ok I’ll quit ze accent, it was cut by an American” G’day… No. Anyway, this means it still may be more tight than a straight cut, due to having the band act on this part of the stock in a more positive fashion.

      I’d have cut it thus anyway, personally. Actually I may have been right the first time, or not, anyway I won’t go on. This cut is more of a thinking mans cut in my opinion; thinking not about cosmetics but usuage later. So a good cut.

      • I’m open to arguing about the angle and thus notion of the cut for a few hours… Even in a fake French accent, if your interested.

        • Add a bit of engraving… Like a tarts boudoir, and I’m sold.

          Feeling quite French today actually, humming La Marseillaise; may even buy a baguette.

      • Looks tight that barrel band with ze… The cut thus; the wood in the removable bit seems to have “slid” up the angle from it’s original position; you’ll note there is a gap between the “lip” and its original edge. Which you can see above also, you can see zat… Gap above, tres bein oui?

        French bulldogs look like they should be called claude don’t they or Maurice.

        • Its a good cut, like the cut of the pantalettes of can-can dancers. Bonjour!

          Great aren’t they the French; rioting, shagging etc…

          • That cut was probably made by a French artisan, a craftsman for a doughboy to carry zis French finery back ome, like who made this wine… Which may be off, and has the peculiar effect… Of turning, you, French?

            Hmmm… France explained; stale wine… Worth a thesis, burp.

  6. Sometimes confused with a duffel bag cut are the Civil War Muskets and the like which have stocks cut under the middle or rear band.

    For a long time, the U.S. Postal Service had a maximum length limit on parcel post packages (I think it was 45 or 48 inches) and cutting the stock was the only way to get a musket shipped. A few war trophy foreign rifles may also have been mutilated for postal shipping, after escaping the process coming back to the U.S..

  7. My uncle had a couple of German Stg44s in his duffel bag on his troop ship back to the states from the Ukraine, they announced they would be going through everyone’s bags as they disembarked so he tossed them over the side, of course they never looked

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