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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Good Things Come in Pairs: German Rarities

Thanks to two studious German military collectors, Rock Island Auction Company has amassed a German Military arms collection that will stun enthusiasts, collectors, and investors of the genre, as well as more than a few curious spectators.  These collections are the illustrious Gene Smith Collection and Part II of the meticulous Von Norden Collection.  As many collectors saw previously in our May Premiere Firearms Auction, the Von Norden Collection is a comprehensive study into German arms and what at times seems like an endless list of variants.  The Gene Smith Collection, on the other hand, while also filled with many excellent quality and rare firearms, showcases the labor of love over several decades in its abundance of prototype and rare German arms.

Today's story is going to cover two supremely rare German military arms from the Von Norden Collection.  Specifically, they come from a portion of the Collection so thorough and impressive it nearly warrants its own collection.  The congregation of World War II German Machine Guns in the Von Norden Collection defies belief.  This will stand as the finest and most significant compilation of World War II German Machine Guns ever before offered.  With a claim like that, let's show you a pair of items that can help prove it.

Super Rare Original Fully Automatic Class III/NFA World War II German C.G. Haenel Manufactured Mkb.42(H) Assault Rifle with Original Sheet Metal Sniper Scope Mount and ZF41/1 Sniper Scope

The gun you see above is the ONLY known one in private hands - making it a top collectible even were it without its superb condition.  It is an MKb.42(H) ("MKb" is an abbreviation of "Maschinen karabiner"), the grandfather of all German assault rifles.  Around 1935-1937 a contract was issued from HWaA, the weapons agency of the Wehrmacht, to C.G. Haenel Waffen und Fahrradfabrik to develop a short-range intermediate round that would eventually become the 7.92x33 Kurz (short).  That was finished in 1938 and with their new cartridge the HWaA then tasked them in 1939 with building a prototype, fully automatic rifle to fire the new round.  Walther also submitted a prototype to compete for the eventual contract, but the Haenel design won out.  Working for Haenel at that time was renowned designer Hugo Schmeisser who borrowed from the already successful MP-40 design to ensure the rifle could be constructed almost entirely of sheet metal stampings instead of machined parts, resulting in a cheaper and more quickly produced gun. The design was a success and the MKb.42(H) would begin to make its way to the front lines in late 1942.  As with all initial designs, it would eventually be improved upon and in 1943 its improvements would be released in a new rifle, the MP-43.  The switch from MKb to MP came in 1943 when Hitler decreed, due to infighting, that all rifle development programs were to cease so that additional newer submachine guns could be produced that utilized existing ammunition.  Since the MKb wasn't something Hitler wanted developed, it was simply given an MP moniker, the MP-43, and development continued.  Unfortunately, the trick was discovered by the f├╝hrer who stopped that program yet again, only to allow it continue later solely for evaluation purposes.  The gun's performance and superior results saved it from history's dust bin.  Hitler approved continuation of development and eventually distributed the first MP-43s to the Waffen-SS.

The exact scenario of Hitler and his Minister of Armaments Albert Speer is unknown, but Hitler appears
less than pleased with the weapons lain before him.  On the left appears to be the MkB.42 and on the right a more finalized version of the weapon.

Making the earliest predecessor of the MP44/StG-44 even more exceptional is World War II sheet metal sniper scope mount and the ZF41/1 sniper scope that it holds.  Only a handful of these original stamped metal mounts are known to exist today!  Together, the rifle and the scope mount arguably mark two of the most scarce pieces of the genre.  As if this lot could not get any more desirable for collectors, the rifle comes with an original leather sling and an original magazine with the "MKb.42" marking.

Exceptionally Rare Original World War II German STG-44 Assault Rifle with the Ultra Rare Experimental Krummlauf Curved Barrel and Optical Sighting Device

The second gun we'll look at today is already a rare gun, but its ultra rare attachment is what pushes its appeal to a fever pitch.  Well out of the early developmental stages of the previous gun, this World War II StG-44 assault rifle is a solid representation of those that saw widespread use in battle.

A total of 425,977 StG-44 assault rifles and all its variants were produced by the end of the war and development had already begun on an StG-45.  One of those aforementioned variants that remains in ultra rare status to this day is the Krummlauf, a bent barrel attachment with its special optical sighting device.  Working much like a periscope, the optics allowed the user to see "around corners," though they were originally designed for use by troops in armored vehicles so they could effectively defend the "blind spots" that occurred in close range around the vehicles.

The Krummlaufs came in several variants and angles.  There were versions with 30°, 45°, 60°, & 90° bends, an "I" version for infantry, a "P" version for tanks, one for the StG-44, and one for the MG-42.  This particular model is the "V" version, the final one ever produced.  It utilized a series of vent holes along the top rear portion to help relieve excess gas to help keep the barrels from bursting.  The 30° "I" version is the only one produced in any significant number, though even that number is small - while 20,000 units were ordered only an estimated 500 were ever delivered.  Making these low numbers lower still are the incredibly short life spans of these devices.  Due to the redirection of gases and the high resultant friction from the bullet, the 30° version could fire roughly 300 rounds and the 45° could handle even fewer, 160. That huge amount of friction also affected the speed of the bullet, again in varying amounts depending on the angle of the Krummlauf.  Some reports indicate muzzle velocities as low as 300 meters per second, but this was not listed as a problem for the Wehrmacht since they intended the attachment to be used primarily for short-range combat.

Looking through the optics and seeing the front sights (barrel is lowest object in photo).
Note the different angles for where the device attaches and the muzzle.

While these two fully automatic German  firearms easily qualify as the type that collectors dream about, they do not come close to showing the full selection present in the September 2014 Premiere Firearms Auction at Rock Island Auction Company.  Not only will there be additional Stg-44 rifles, but also MP-40 submachine guns, two MG-34 machine guns, an MG-42 with its accessories, an MP43 from Steyr-Solothurn, a Mauser Model 1932 Schnellfeuer machine pistol, a DWM World War I 1908 heavy machine gun, and the finest known FG-42 paratrooper rifle in existence!  And those are just from the German class III weapons.  We haven't even started on the American models or those from other European countries!  If you ever considered collecting or investing in foreign military arms, this is an auction you can't afford to miss.  If these two astounding collections had machine guns of this rarity and high quality, imagine what else they contain.

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