What is the German 1920 Double Date Stamp?

One will sometimes encounter German WW1 arms – mostly Lugers and Kar98 carbines – that have two date stamps, one of them being 1920. What is the significance of this?

The crux of the matter is that the “1920” stamp is not a date, but rather a property mark. When the Treaty of Versailles was being enforced, it restricted the German military to just 100,000 men , and strictly limited the number and types of arms they were allowed to have. At the same time, strict civilian gun control was enforced in an attempt to remove the leftover military arms from the war from Germany. In total, nearly 5 million firearms were collected and destroyed between roughly 1919 and 1921.

The 1920 stamp on guns indicated formal (and legal) German military ownership of a particular weapon. This made it accountable to the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission (to the extent that they tabulated such things) and also made the gun easily identifiable if it were stolen from a military unit.

17 Comments

  1. Alas, it appears that the Allies totally forgot that their political logic of forcing the loser to pay the war bills completely ignored the resentment of the German people (who are now guaranteed to backstab you in the near future). The disarmament program was also pretty stupid in hindsight because it did not account for legal loopholes such as the 8×64 S hunting round (which is “not” a military issue rifle cartridge but more powerful and used in Mauser action rifles). And of course the Allies can’t afford to have their troops raiding/burning down every house/barn in town while searching for “contraband military type guns.”

    Did I mess up?

    • “(…)forgot that their political logic of forcing the loser to pay the war bills completely ignored the resentment of the German people(…)”
      Not. There existed long lasting tradition of that if you lose war you pay, dating back at least to ancient Rome. Problem was that Germany was declared to be guilty of causing war.

      “disarmament program was also pretty stupid in hindsight because it did not account for legal loopholes such as the 8×64 S hunting round (which is “not” a military issue rifle cartridge but more powerful and used in Mauser action rifles)”
      Notice that repeating rifles were of, relatively low power in waging war, with 1920s century technology, with adoption of flying apparatus, landships, quick-firing artillery and machine-guns.

      • First issue: Victor’s justice is always a bad thing. This caused Germany to plan revenge in the long run because nobody had sought out the truth.

        Second issue: rifles are necessary for regular infantry. Not to say that air power, mechanized armor, advanced artillery and machineguns, and naval power were unnecessary, but no standing army can operate without sufficient numbers of standardized infantry long arms. By restricting the number of soldiers and long arms (and side-arms by extension), the French and the British had hoped that the Germans would be unable to fight “man-to-man” as it were. How does one mobilize a massive army to counter an invasion or a violation of the peace treaty on part of the victors if there are not enough rifles such that every fighting man has a long arm? Think of the poor morale in such a surprise mobilization without secret rearmament: “Hans gets the squad’s rifle, Emil carries the company’s only machinegun, and everyone who has a uniform gets a bayonet. Everyone without a uniform will have a trench shovel as his primary weapon…”

        What did I get wrong this time?

        • “Victor’s justice is always a bad thing.” Oh please. First of all, if you aren’t the victor you don’t get to impose any terms at all, whether it be freeing the slaves or hanging the Nazis.

          Second, in point of fact, loser’s justice was what was tried after 1918. The Germans were left to prosecute their own war criminals. Guess how many cases ever got heard, let alone convictions handed down?

          The Versailles Treaty was, by European standards, a medium regular, not that bad, about what you’d expect if you lost, outcome. As to the Germans getting all weepy about the word guilt, please state the date, time, and place where Belgium invaded Germany.

          You can make a case that the victors of 1918 were too harsh, an Austrian war vet persuaded a lot of folks that was true. You can also make the case that the allies of 1945 got it right. In my opinion the second case is a lot more convincing.

          Wafa Wafa, Wasara Wasara.

          • I meant to say that the treaty put all the blame on Germany without first indicting Austria for invading Serbia. For the record, nobody put the Black Hand on trial for assassinating Franz Ferdinand and his wife. And nobody pressed charges against Serbia for sheltering terrorists. Any objections from the prosecutor?

          • @Cherndog:

            This time you got it right. The name you need to know is Dragutin Dimitrijevic, Serbian military intelligence officer, member of Belgrade chapter of international Mason network:
            https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dragutin-Dimitrijevic
            Btw, this activity was NOT sanctioned by Serbian government of the time and the king fell victim to the group just couple of years earlier.

            Who will talk about that and to take a risk exposing themselves as conspiracy theory fool – so many years after? Not in fashion at this time, not yet.

    • The disarmament program didn’t have to be 100% effective in order to meet its goals. The objective was to prevent the German army from suddenly repudiating the peace treaty, calling up their reserves, issuing them weapons out of the armouries, and starting another war.

      According to the video, loads of rifles were destroyed. Before starting another war the Germans would have had to replace those with new production, which wasn’t something they could do overnight.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that the rifles and pistols would have been only a small part of the overall disarmament program. Ships, planes, artillery, machine guns, and all the other machinery of war would be much harder to replace at short notice.

      • I’m talking about weapons that can be hidden by civilians, not huge artillery and vehicles that are stored in government facilities! There was probably a fear of German civilians arming themselves in order to partake in revenge-fueled terrorism. The German Army may well surrender, but what if outraged civilians armed themselves with whatever was hidden in the cellar and tried to mob-lynch occupation troops? Which is easier; scuttling ships, torching tanks/artillery, and burning aircraft to cinders, or preventing yourself from being ambushed and then massacred by armed and very vengeful local militia/terror groups while you march around without a radio?

        Yes, this is irrational. But you can’t ignore the possibility that someone will use emotion as fuel for revenge. Therefore, after destroying heavy weapons, you MUST completely disarm the populace in order to make sure that they CAN’T BACKSTAB YOU.

        Did I completely flunk out of anti-partisan operations training?

      • There was a provision specifically forbidding and confiscating Fokker D VII aircraft — the only plane in the world that could “hang from its propeller” and shoot straight up. Howard Hughes got hold of a bunch and used them in one of his movies.

  2. The pre-1918 small arms that survived to serve the Reichswehr gained a ‘1920’ date in addition to their original marking, but the so-called ‘Double Date’ has a simple explanation. The extensive looting of military stores by Freikorps and revolutionaries hindered the control of the military inventory that was demanded by the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles.

    Consequently, on 1 August 1920, the Reichswehrministerium directed that all small arms and accessories should be marked ‘1920’, in 3.1mm-high numerals, so that the source of stolen weapons (otherwise indistinguishable among the flotsam of the First World War) could be readily identified.

    Work began in September 1920 and was stopped on 8 April 1921 by the introduction of new unit markings, but it is possible to find guns, ranging from Parabellum pistols to Gew. 98, dated ‘1920’ and ‘1921’; the former is the property mark, the latter is the date of manufacture.

    -John Walter, Guns of the Third Reich, pp.39-40.

    The dirty little secret of the “disarmament” program is that it was never really carried out. The German government, specifically the Reichswehr and police, turned a blind eye to the “sequestration” of arms by nationalist groups such as the Freikorps, while making a grand show of confiscating and disposing of arms in the hands of communists and etc.

    The result was a “shadow Reichswehr” numbering roughly four to five times the official strength of the Treaty-limited one, with units disguised as physical-fitness clubs, youth clubs, and etc. All were forerunners of the “glider clubs” that trained budding Luftwaffe pilots and the “sports clubs” that trained budding infantrymen under Hitler’s new order a decade and a half later.

    Far from destroying about 4 million small arms, the actual number melted down was probably less than 10% of that figure.

    cheers

    eon

    • Sounds like I was partly right. By chance did tons of the small arms wind up hidden in plain sight? Or were the “destroyed” weapons merely factory rejects dressed up to look real?

      • The usual gag went like this;

        You have three Parabellum pistols. All have service wear. You take the best parts from all three, use the best-condition frame, and assemble one perfectly-functional Parabellum. Then you junk the other two, listing them as fully-functional Parabellums that have been destroyed.

        Same for Gew.98 rifles. Although a lot of the Lange. Gew. 98s were just written off as “combat losses”, when they were actually stashed by the Freikorps, Thule Society, and etc.

        Ditto MG.08s. “Frankensteining” three or four “ready for scrapping” Spandau/Maxims into one good one on the best-condition receiver, then writing the rest off as “functional/destroyed” was the usual thing.

        Plus, a lot of weapons that really were only good for scrapping were melted down, listed as “functional” when there was no possible way they could be. Think, “MG.08 run over by British MK IV tank at Cambrai”, etc.

        Note that the Treaty “overseers” made no attempt whatever to actually check the condition, etc., of the destroyed weapons. That would have required them to go to foundries, etc., instead of sitting in nice warm offices on the Unter den Linden in Berlin. They just made sure the paperwork for destroyed weapons matched the paperwork for the inventories. After all, the Reichswehr weren’t going to cheat, were they?

        Of COURSE they were going to cheat. They were soldiers, not bureaucrats. And the first rule of soldiering is, “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat”.

        Rule two is, “If you aren’t cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.”

        To see just how much got “disappeared”, check propaganda photos of the Wehrmacht in the early days of the Hitler era. Lots of Kar.98b, L.Gew.98, etc. that were officially “nonexistent” by 1921.

        And unlike the Simson rework “police” P.08s that were rebarreled to 7.65mm, all the Parabellums the SS, etc. were issued when they became part of the “official” police in 1934 were 9 x 19mm. Note that they were not from “official” Reichswehr inventory, they just “appeared” out of nowhere.

        The same place they had “disappeared” into, fourteen years earlier.

        cheers

        eon

  3. Now here’s a good one for you to pick bones out of. I am not a Lugerist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do posess a double dated LPO8 (9 mm) which I understand was specifically outlawed under the Versailles Treaty. I have heard these described as “Black Lugers” but do not understand why they would be double dated ! What was the point of property dating them if they were not allowed in the first place? If this is wrong, please aficionado’s, let me know and tell me who used them and why? It is well Frankenstein’d.

    • Supposedly, all P.08s refurbished for Reichswehr use and ‘1920’ dated were refitted with 10cm (3.9 in) 9 x 19mm barrels, that being the maximum barrel length allowed under the treaty.

      There were also some rather odd M1916 and earlier “Broomhandle” Mausers fitted with such barrels, by literally cutting off the original barrel, and reaming and threading the chamber section of the barrel extension to allow the Parabellum barrel to be fitted. These are apparently the only “Broomhandles” that would have officially received the ‘1920’ property stamp, and they were intended for issue to non-combat units like transportation, etc.

      With that out of the way, quite a few Parabellum and Mauser handguns received the ‘1920’ stamp “on their way out the door” to the various nationalist groups’ stashes, without receiving any of the Treaty-mandated modifications. The idea being that if they were later discovered by the treaty inspectors, they could simply be blandly stated as being bookkeeping mistakes. The same holds true for L.Gew.98 rifles with the ‘1920’ stamp.

      Yes, the Reichswehr was deliberately arming groups it defined as “trustworthy” (i.e., nationalist and non-socialist) in evasion of the Treaty restrictions.

      Now you know where the groups that led the Munich “counter-revolution” in 1919 got their arms from, and how they kept being armed throughout the 1920s and into the early 1930s. And how the Nazis so rapidly rearmed their new, enlarged Wehrmacht within two years of coming to power. The Reichswehr was behind it, every step of the way.

      As for the term “black Lugers”, those come in three flavors I’m aware of.

      One is a Parabellum that can be verified as having been used by the “black” or “shadow Reichswehr”. These are sometimes double-dated but not always, and usually have mismatched parts as you state.

      The next is the so-called “Black Widow” Luger. This is the Simson & Co. (Suhl) police rework of 1920-21, a service Parabellum refitted with a 10cm 7.65 x 20 Parabellum (“.30 Luger”) barrel. These were almost all fitted with black plastic grip panels in place of the wooden ones, which is apparently the source of the name.

      The third type is similar Parabellums in 9 x 19mm, which were issued to occupation police in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere from 1940 to ’45. They, too, have been referred to as “Black Widow(s)” by collectors.

      By that time, of course, new-production P.08s for the Wehrmacht (made by DWM and Spreewerke up to mid-’43) were also being delivered with black plastic grips. So the whole thing can get a bit confusing at that point.

      At a guess, your Lange P.08 is probably a “shadow Reichswehr” refugee. Odds are, it was waved about a bit in 1919-21 but may not necessarily have been fired.

      😉

      cheers

      eon

  4. To give you some numbers of destroyed/handed over weapons:
    6 million rifles and carbines
    105163 machine guns
    472 million small arms cartridges
    28469 mortars
    54887 artillery pieces
    38.75 million artillery shells
    16.55 million hand- and rifle grenades and mortar projectiles
    59 tanks
    37600 metric tons of propellant
    14014 airplanes
    27757 arplane engines
    I could not find the number of naval vessels.

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