Welcome to the updated Gewehr98 website, some 8 years have passed since the Gewehr98.com was created and after a brief absence, to revise and update the website, we have brought it back to its original place within the Military Rifle Journal site. I will briefly cover the history and basic facts about the Gewehr98 and Karabiner98a, however the sites purpose is two fold, one is to support the MRJ and my research into the development and production of the military Modell98 rifle (Gewehr98, Kar.98a, Kar.98b and Kar.98k) and the second is to answer questions regarding viewers rifles that are drawn here for that purpose, – I will answer questions about rifles, however I must have adequate pictures of the rifle and to be upfront about this process, this is a quid pro quo (something for something) arrangement. I will answer questions about your rifle and in exchange I will use the information to further my research.
Since the time the Gewehr98 became popular with collectors, around 15 years ago, a great deal has been written regarding the history and variations that make up the rifle designation. The value of the early research was inconsistent, most of the best information was found on-line among a small group of specialist that had formed internet forums on German rifle development, Gunboards in particular. The numerous books that discussed the variations did so in passing usually, none specialized on the variations, and few dealt with the manufacturers, which is the best place to start if you want to understand the rifles. In the last 10 years a good number of books have come out that cover the Imperial era Gewehr98 rifle and its short carbine variation, the Kar.98a, the best known being Dr. Dieter Storz “Rifle & Carbine 98, M98 Firearms of the German Army from 1898 to 1918”. At the end of the website I will list the best books on the subject, though only Dieter Storz book is entirely dedicated to the subject. It is a translation from German to English, and the translation is not perfect, but it is a very worthwhile book to own and will give a very good outline regarding the rifles development and their history, as its strength lies in the original documents and museum examples he had access too, something not likely to be repeated for another author.
The development of the Gewehr98 began in the mid-1890’s, with the M.1895 and M.88/97, however actual production of the Gewehr98 would proceed slowly due to the necessity of maintaining the Army of each state with a single modern rifle, which at the time was the Gewehr88. All the state arsenals retained capacity to switch to continued production of the Gewehr88 incase of mobilization. There was also the hesitancy of the various states to upgrade to the new Modell98 rifle until they were sure the Prussians were going to actually stick with the rifle, as to re-equip their armies with the new rifle would be a costly affair. Dr. Storz goes into the details of the early developments and political considerations in his books; however we will stay with the actual rifles one is likely to encounter.
Before we go further it might be advantageous to provide a list of all the makers and the dates they are known to have manufactured the Gewehr98. There were eleven manufacturer’s altogether, four government arsenals and seven commercial concerns, only two of which were allowed to manufacture the rifle prior to the war. This is because they were the patent holders and held rights to the rifles design:
The State Arsenals
Prussian Arsenal Spandau 1899-1917
Prussian Arsenal Erfurt 1899-1908, 1915-1917 (no rifles between 1908-1915)
Prussian Arsenal Danzig 1899-1909, 1914-1918 (no rifles between 1909-1914)
Bavarian Arsenal Amberg 1902-1908, 1912-1918 (no rifles between 1908-1912)
The Commercial Manufacturers (privately owned)
Waffenfabrik Mauser A.G. Oberndorff A/N. 1898-1918
Deutsche Waffen Und Munitionsfabriken, Berlin 1899-1909, 1914-1918
C.G. Haenel Suhl 1915-1919
J.P. Sauer & Sohn Suhl 1915-1918
V.C. Schilling & Co. Suhl 1915-1919
Simson & Co. Suhl 1915-1918
Waffenwerke Oberspree Kornbusch & Co. 1915-1917
Waffenwerke Oberspree, 1918 only, (reorganized and owned by DWM)
The first rifles made were produced by Mauser Oberndorf in 1898, very few were made, so far only a handful are known to have survived, surviving rifles suggest less than 4,000 were made. It was not until 1899 that most of the manufacturers began to make rifles in number, all the state arsenals in Prussia and the commercial manufacturers (patent holders) Mauser Oberndorf and Deutsche Waffen Und Munitionsfabriken, Berlin (DWM). At first Mauser and DWM would make the Gewehr98 in very small numbers, DWM in particular would begin very slowly, all their earliest production going the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy). For all practical purposes, 1899 was the first year of mass production and the earliest rifle someone is likely to encounter. Most of the rifles this early were issued to Garde (elite Guard Regiments) and Colonial forces (Kaiserliches Schutztruppe or Imperial Defense Forces, which were deployed in the German African and Pacific colonies).
In the early production phase, 1899-1907, the Prussian state arsenals were the primary manufacturers. They made the vast majority of rifles up through the period when the Kar.98a was introduced (1907-08), Mauser, DWM and the Bavarian state arsenal at Amberg made rifles in rather small numbers by comparison. This would change with the introduction of the Modell98 carbine, the Kar.98a, whose introduction essentially ended Gewher98 production at Erfurt and Danzig starting in 1909. The state arsenal at Spandau would continue without interruption from 1899 through 1917 and is the main facility to make Gewehr98’s during this slow period, 1909-1913. The only other firm to manufacture the Gewehr98 every year would be Mauser Oberndorf, whose production can be found every year from 1898 through 1918. Starting in 1905-06 the Gewehr98 production at the patent holders would increase significantly, Mauser Oberndorf would triple and at DWM it would quadruple (x4), this would hold true at DWM until 1909, when their production dramatically decreased so the firm could focus its resources on production of the P.08 (Luger) and MG.08 (machinegun), by 1910 rifle production at DWM would end until 1914. By 1908 Mauser Oberndorf’s production would be severely curtailed, probably due to commercial obligations, but they would continue with small numbers until 1914, during which their production would vastly increase for the impending war.
With the beginning of the war it was clear Germany was desperately short of Modell98 rifles and carbines, beginning in 1914 all the rifle makers who had made rifles before began again, the state arsenal at Spandau and Mauser Oberndorf were able to dramatically increase production immediately, the state arsenals at Danzig and Amberg also made a good showing the first year, but DWM only made a modest number of Gewehr98’s, but they did set the stage for a impressive year in 1915. During 1915 all the firms that were capable of making the Gewehr98 were brought on line, this included three new cooperatives, the Suhl Consortium, three Suhl firms that collectively made Gewehr98 rifles (CG Haenel, JP Sauer, and VC Schilling); and another firm in Suhl that would operate independently of the Consortium, largely for the state of Saxony, Simson Suhl & Co. Lastly a new type of company that combined the efforts of the state with private interests, Waffenwerke Oberspree Kornbusch & Co. was a collaboration between the German government and DWM, which naturally meant it was the least effective at producing rifles and suffered from numerous difficulties.
While these efforts to bring new manufacturers on line were underway, several other efforts were made to get serviceable rifles to the front lines. Two in particular deserve mention due to the fact they show up in some number. The first were the effort to refurbish old Gewehr98 rifles at the new start ups, old rifles, usually pre-1908 dated, were scrapped and the receivers sent to the Suhl Consortium firms and the state arsenal at Danzig to be made into new rifles. The receiver being the single most important component, most expensive and labor intensive to manufacture, were recycled at these firms and made into new rifles, this expediency was apparently worthwhile as a significant number have been observed, though exact numbers are impossible to know as the receivers were incorporated within the companies normal production. These rifles are highly prized when found in original-matching condition, being so early they are rarely found in upper grades. They can be identified by the addition of the recyclers name and date across the top of the receiver and the acceptance patterns. The second noteworthy expediency is the sterngewehrs (star-rifles), these rifles are identified by the star across the top of the receiver, and the rifles are generally rifles made of parts that needed extra hand fitting. These rifles are also rather difficult to find in upper grades, as they usually are well used when found, but because they come in several different variations (they were assembled by almost all the arsenals and by Saxony at Dresden, they were also made throughout the war, some more common than others), they vary considerably in desirability. How the rifle is marked and its acceptance pattern determine which facility made the rifle.
During the later stages of the war, the production of the Gewehr98 had reached a point where the supply was surpassing demand and due to changes in tactical doctrine was becoming less important on the battlefield than some other weapon systems. Starting in 1917 an effort was made to direct resources away from Gewehr98 production and use them for the production of the Kar.98a, the P.08 (Luger) and machineguns (MG08 and MG08/15). It took sometime to implement this process, so Gewehr98 production during 1917 was rather large, what’s more rifles made in 1917 are the most common rifles to find in excellent condition, because many were stored in depots and hardly used. This is especially true of rifles made by Amberg and Danzig, who continued to make enormous numbers during 1917.
These changes would have a dramatic influence by 1918, many of the firms that had made large numbers of rifles 1915-1917 were taken off-line making the Gewehr98, those that continued would do so at a greatly reduced rate. The only makers that continued to make large numbers of rifles during 1918 were Danzig, Amberg and Mauser Oberndorf, especially the last two. However, this is only half the problem when it comes to collecting rifles from 1918, not only were far fewer made, but they survive in very small numbers. It is exceeding difficult to find an “Imperial German” Gewehr98 from 1918 in any condition. The vast majority that were made were destroyed between 1918-1924, and those that survived were reworked or served other countries, – in particular Turkey. What I mean by “Imperial German” is a rifle that is in factory original condition, a rifle that has not been reworked, either by another country or that stayed in German hands and subsequently upgraded or reworked.
Lastly, I will cover some of the most often asked questions, if your question is not discussed below, email me through the website and if something others might find interesting I will add it to the list or do a blog post on the subject:
- What is meant by the term “original”? Typically it means factory original and matching serial numbers, as it was made. The Gewehr98 originally came with a bright finished (in the white) receiver, entire bolt, follower, butt plate, bayonet lug, recoil cross bolt, unit disk or dismounting washer-ferrule (take down ferrule), & cleaning rod. The blued parts include barrel, trigger guard, both sights, floor plate & spring, both front & rear band, plus both band retainers. Also of note, is that unlike the Kar.98k, where all digits of the serial number are present on most parts (if there is adequate space), the Gewehr98 use’s only the full serial including suffix on the receiver, barrel, & bolt top flat; the trigger guard (not floor plate), butt plate, & stock have the entire serial minus the suffix. All other serial numbered parts will be with the last 2 digits. If this is not the case, it probably has been reworked or repaired.
- Which rifles are more rare or desirable? This is a complicated question; value depends on many factors, not the least of which is the interest of the buyer or potential buyers. However, the general issues that concern desirability are usually condition and survivability, – many rifles that were made in number are scarce today because they were heavily used, destroyed or altered after the war. Rifles that are most valuable are early rifles that are in original condition (not reworked) and that have the right unit markings. Most rifles made before 1907 are rather low production, especially from Mauser Oberndorf or DWM, but the really desirable thing is condition of the rifle and whether it has a unit marking, especially a desirable unit. Garde marked, Kaiserliches Schutztruppe (Colonial) marked or Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial German Navy) are most desirable. Most rifles from 1908 through 1913 are also quite elusive, they are usually the lowest produced rifles, though rarely have good unit markings. Of the wartime rifles, very few are really “rare”, the only exceptions being most of the Suhl makers in 1915, especially Simson/1915, some of the Erfurt made Gewehr98’s (1915 and 1917, no 1918 dated Erfurt Gewehr98 has been discovered) and any 1918 “factory original” Gewehr98. Rifles that are worth the least are most Gewehr98’s dated 1916-1917, or problem rifles, – rifles that have been cleaned, sanded or that have problems with metal or stock finish.
- When did the wartime modifications begin, the grips and dismounting washer-ferrule additions? While the dismounting washer-ferrule was ordered first, it was the last to show up and it is the most inconsistent of the features to become standard. The grips typically show up in 1916 for most makers, the dismounting washer-ferrule took longer, especially at the big makers. Stock substitutes show up quite early, usually during 1916, but beech becomes more common than walnut by late 1916-1917. All the makers vary though, the larger makers having more stock on hand took longest to work through the old features, but the first to introduce them are usually the Suhl consortium, beech stocks, with grips and dismounting washer-ferrule (takedown) can be found on their production during 1916. The arsenal at Spandau can also be found early, by late 1916, but this is not common. At DWM it is not until 1917 that these features start to show up with any regularity. Two piece stocks are also something asked about, they first show up in 1916, mostly with DWM, but late in the war several makers used them, they are also known on ordnance spares, supplied to the ordnance teams reworking rifles.
For more information on Modell98 military rifles, review the blog posts on the sister site, the Military Rifle Journal, or the blog posts that appear on this site. The Military Rifle Journal since 2006 has run numerous articles on German rifles, almost every issue covers either German rifles or German manufacturers to one degree or another, and is the single best in-print resource for German rifle collectors. For those that desire a more interactive experience collecting German military rifles, I would suggest the internet forums, several are well known, Gunboards.com has a good “Mauser” forum run by a well known and highly regarded moderator, it is an excellent resource. The other forum I recommend is the forums I moderate, the Imperial and Weimar Republic forums at K98k Forum, it is simply the finest internet resource for German military rifles.
The reference material that would be helpful to the new collector:
Karabiner 98k, Volume I, by Bruce Karem and Mike Steves
Rifle & Carbine 98, M98 Firearms of the German Army from 1898 to 1918 by Dr. Dieter Storz
Central Powers Small Arms of World War One, by John Walter
The German Rifle, by John Walter
Mauser Bolt Rifles, by Ludwig Olson
German Military Rifles & Machine Pistols, by Gotz
The Imperial German Regimental Marking, by Jeff Noll
The German Sniper, by Robert Senich
German Small Arms Markings, by Gortz & Bryans
I will gladly help with an evaluation or give an opinion if you have a rifle that you have questions about. Pictures or a thorough description of all markings are required. If you desire to part with a rifle I can direct you to potential buyers also.