After the end of the war two things occurred that are important to this discussion. The first is that Germany became a republic and the German Army became a national army, – no longer armies of individual states. The second event was all the arsenals and state owned ordnance depots, shipyards and many military installations were closed and dismantled. Further, German industry was thoroughly demilitarized, systematically inspected, certified and then scrutinized periodically, – this process lingered well into 1926 and made it nearly impossible for firms like Mauser Oberndorf to engage in military rifle production.
When Germany signed the armistice and subsequently surrendered, rifle production essentially ended. It was nearly 5 years before the German government reinstituted military rifle production and when it did it was restrictive and very limited. Only Simson Suhl was allowed to make small arms legally, and this began modestly in 1924. At approximately the same time the ordnance depots also began rifle production, though this consisted mostly of assembling leftover components into new rifles.
The period 1924-1932 was very erratic, funding for the military was very limited and although planning and testing were undertaken, very little new production occurred. The Versailles Treaty essentially eliminated military armaments production, all the arsenals were gone or repurposed, what remained were Simson Suhl and the ordnance depots (which operated illegally). They were essentially engaged in “maintenance”; Simson producing enough new rifles to replace losses through attrition and the ordnance depots upgrading and reworking rifles on hand. What rifle development occurred was done by the ordnance depots and Mauser Oberndorf, very little of which was coordinated.
Although this period is sparse in numbers of rifles made, their diversity is just as vibrant as the other two periods. Many strange and interesting examples came from the confusion and instability of the period. The endless variety of depot rifles, rifles that were used by the paramilitary and police organizations all offer countless variations to study. However, the most important thing to come from this period is that this republican period introduced the changes that would remain until the end of the Second World War.
Branch of Service (Eagle over Letter) – With the abdication of the Kaiser and other Kings, the cypher was no longer used; the military became a national institution, not of a King or individual state. In the cyphers place stood branch of service stamps and final acceptance stamps (finals), generally consisting of “Eagles” over the services; Eagle over “H” (E/H = Reichsheer), “M” (E/M = Reichsmarine) or “P” (E/P = Police). There was no official Luftwaffe during this period.
Proofs (an Eagle) – The fireproofs would remain eagles and because the arsenals were dismantled the fireproofs lack any distinctive characteristics. The eagle styles can vary widely; this is because during this period most of the rifle work was done by small depots, this included Reichsmarine (navy) and police ordnance depots. All of the work was done frugally, recycling parts, and largely revolved around reworking or upgrading rifles. While new rifles were made by depots in this period, the work was done by small operations over lengthy periods (not deliberate “regular” production) and generally in small numbers.
Acceptance (Eagle over number) – This marking remains the most important, same purpose as in the Imperial era; though instead of using the inspectors initial (first letter of last name) for identification, each inspector was assigned a number. This number was placed under an eagle, which represents the state (authority of the state). Again these markings were found on each component and in certain applications represent stages of assembly and testing. These inspectors came in two types, probably based upon seniority or experience, the first a small group that were fairly static, meaning they remained at a single facility (or area) and did not move around. The second type moved around, generally within specialties, they would remain at one facility for a period and show up elsewhere for a time, sometimes returning, sometimes disappearing. It is believed the static inspectors were more experienced, perhaps trained visiting inspectors for future assignments. This is supported by observing early Kar.98k production 1934-1940, where it is common to see at startups an established inspector for a short period and then replaced by a new inspector after production has stabilized.