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Thread: Deaths Head Luger 08

  1. #1
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    Default Deaths Head Luger 08

    First, to start with: I am not much of a handgun collector (I only have around 25 M1911(A1) pistols of various manufacturers, several Liberator pistols and maybe 20-30 other revolvers and pistols) and never bothered that much on Luger pistols since the few I have are more or less ones that I ran into. My main interest are sniper rifles of all nations, the US rifles starting 1903, plus I do have quite some German WWII rifles with a greater focus on K98k rifles (plus a bunch of items which I ran into and mainly bought because they are rare and/or of special interest to me for technical or historical reasons).

    Recently I stumbled across a Luger pistol which caught my interest for being marked with a Deaths Head. It was priced in a region of a normal wartime Luger as well as from initial comparisons with other Deaths Head stamps it appeared nothing recently applied, so I thought I would not risk much in buying it.

    As I had mentioned above, my background is much based on what is known and common in the world of K98k rifle collectors. With the K98k rifle there had been great research and documentation on SS production/usage already been done. The probably best and most recent research on these rifles was published by Michael Steves and Bruce Karem in their three volumes (of four books total) "Vol. 1 - Karabiner 98k", "Vol 2 - Karabiner 98k I" and "Vol 2 - Karabiner 98k II", as well as "Kriegsmodell". To summarize it in very few words, the SS rifle production can be split between the early years where they did not have access to newly manufactured parts/guns and had to re-use and "produce" their own weapons, based on old guns which were on stock, and the later production where they were "officially accepted" (Hitler ordered that the SS divisions to be armed according to the Army table of equipment and organization on 10th January 1942) had great access especially to the production at Steyr and Brünn from which they were delivered newly made parts to produce guns themselves. I'm now referring not to the later production rifles with newly made parts, but to the early conversions that were outcarried.

    Many Gewehr 98 as well as even Kar98a (small ring action rifles!) were converted to K98k rifles by the SS. All of these conversions have in common that after the barrel shortening they were (again) and this time commercially proofed on the underside of the barrel shank what was and still is a requirement per the German proof laws, as well as that the original receiver markings were scrubbed and the barrel shanks were stamped with various Deaths Head configurations. The commercial proofs on the underside of the barrel start from mid to late 1936. There are variants of the Deaths Head stamps on the barrel shank which not only differ by the "item" above the Deaths Head (could be a +, a "lazy S", gullwing, SS, SS2, 01 or even a =), some even carry more than one Deaths Head stamps. However, there are patterns that these guns follow, like for example all known SS K98k Sniper rifles based on these Gew98 to K98k conversions carry the SS2 marked Deaths Head, plus particular Deaths Heads appearing in certain periods or with certain proof dates. There is an excellent writeup with timeline from one of the book authors published in their forum in a thread: http://www.k98kforum.com/showthread....S-Deaths-Heads .

    To get back to the Deaths Head marked Luger pistols: from researching on this forum and other sources it appears that one stronger believe in the Luger collecting community is that Deaths Head marked Luger pistols are associated with the WWI period, since many of the guns that had turned up appear with certain manufacturers/years. From what I was able to understand there however has not been any research or particular comparison with these pistols to K98k rifles from the SS been done, and seen what could vice versa be applied. I truly admit that the amount of Luger 08 pistols with Deaths Head that turn up are extremely limited compared to the number of K98k rifles with Deaths Head what makes serial studies tougher, but at least these pistols should not only be compared with other Luger 08 pistols, but also SS K98k rifles.

    Based on all the above thoughts I therefore looked at the pistol that I have acquired in greater detail and compared it with the Gew98 to K98k rifle conversions. The pistol has scrubbed manufacturer and year markings, the barrel is not serialized and obviously a replacement barrel, as well as the pistol features commercial firing proofs. The Deaths Head stamp was applied where originally the manufacturing year would had been applied and is the Deaths Head with the "Lazy S". I then compared the Deaths Head stamp on the pistol to SS conversion rifles with the same Deaths Head stamp, both by size and form. The result was that the size is identical, and as good as it can be told it appeared also the shape (the stamp jumped when applied to the pistol, making it a partially double struck stamp, as well as it seemed the stamp was flat whereas the pistol in this area is beveled resulting in a not fully applied stamp). Next I compared the shape of the commercial firing proofs, and this time I included a commercially manufactured DWM 1920 Luger pistol that I own. The result was quite astonishing in that both the crown on the 1920 Luger is different (more narrow) than the crown on the SS Gew98 to K98k conversion, which is identical to the Deaths Head on my Luger pistol. The same applies to the letter N below the crown which is of a different font on the 1920 Luger, whereas once again it is identical on the SS Gew98 to K98k conversions and the Luger pistol of mine.

    One could now argue that anyone with access to a SS Gew98 to K98k conversion could get identical stamps being made, but reproducing a firing proof stamp would be considered as falsification of documents since these are protected governmental insignia and you'd get a lot of years in prison for simply owning a stamp like this here in Europe. So I would outrule that. I also do not think anyone here would question the applied proof stamps. The pistol is all matching numbers. Several numbers have been newly applied with an identical font stamp which is also to be found with SS conversions of Gew98 to K98k. The only mismatching part is found on the inside and according to US websites named "Hold-Open Latch with Spring". This part also carries an Imperial German proof stamp.

    There is no documentation on the SS having reworked pistols. On the other hand, there is also no reason why they should not have reworked pistols. There are Luger holsters which are documented with pictures to have been Deaths Head stamped and carried by SS, so the SS must have had Luger pistols in a time frame where they did not have access to newly manufactured Luger pistols, so they must had used pistols from old stock.

    I would kindly ask for opinions to this pistol, knowing the discussion will be controversial. My goal was to also share as much information as possible that lead to various thoughts not to get approvals by members here, but to give a broad basis for a detailed discussion and to allow why I think in particular ways and I'm really keen to hear from Luger experts what they think and why they think this way. I am not trying to get an approval from experts here, but to hopefully close a link between the research on the K98k rifles and the Luger pistols for benefit of all collectors.
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  2. #2
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    A firing proof stamp from 70-80 years ago could put someone in jail? Ok, then you are going on the basis that ALL of these are not fakes?
    I know, I have dealt with some K98 folks and they are very defensive of being right when it comes to Simson markings and deaths head markings.

    From your long disertation, it appears that you already have your mind made up...

    I will say that many K98 folks say that the deaths head marking is correct and accurate. Most luger people will say that ANY WW2 deaths head are faked.

    So, as they say - convince me WHY they are real please.

  3. #3
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    I agree with Ed about the WWII death's head being faked. However, it is my opinion that there are some legitimate WWI Lugers with a death's head. Marking a Luger to a unit was common in WWI, and it is entirely possible that a unit such as the 17th Hussar could have marked their Lugers with the Totenkopf...Bill
    They say I have ADD, but I don't think they know...HEY! LOOK! A CHICKEN!!

  4. #4
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    My position is that of a historian that has worked with original documentation and a team of researchers.

    Sorry, but without contract documentation I consider it an added "decoration", most likely done post war to increase value or interest in those focused on the RHSA.

    The WW-I markings were, obviously, entirely unrelated to a Nazi era organization.
    Igitur si vis pacem, para bellum -
    - if you wish for peace, prepare for war.

  5. #5
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    I think we just covered this topic in detail last month... https://luger.gunboards.com/showthre...35-Deaths-head

  6. #6
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    A commercial DWM luger of 1920 will have a different crown N, as it was proved by a different proof house(Spandau) than the luger you show in the post.
    Your newly acquired luger carries the crown N of the Suhl proof house.

    " but reproducing a firing proof stamp would be considered as falsification of documents since these are protected governmental insignia and you'd get a lot of years in prison for simply owning a stamp like this here in Europe. So I would outrule that." Really? Then the current manufacturers and sellers of fake/reproduction German stamps of all types would be in jail in Poland. They offer these brazen modern fake stamps online and have for years- maybe they just don't sell them in Europe.

    My considered opinion on the posted luger is that it is quite similar to those found here in the US, one of which I have owned and posted here.
    I considered mine to be a "fake", and think the same of this one; but, there is always a chance, however small, that they could be real- or that "real" DH lugers do exist.
    I have no doubt that WWII K98 rifles exist with various DH markings.

    JMHO.
    03man - Don Voigt
    Luger student and collector
    Looking for DWM mil.side plates- 69 and commercial # 32, Dreyse "K.S.Gendarmerie"

  7. #7
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    I have a theory about these Death's head Lugers. The majority of the ones I've seen, that I thought were legitimate, have these things in common. 1) They all appear to be surplus WW1 pistols or very early 1920 manufacture. 2)The Death's head is always looking "LEFT".
    There was an organization started, in Germany in 1919, known as the "Organization Consul" It's mission was, among other things, to assassinate Left wing politicians. In a four year period, it assassinated over 350 people. It's credo was, they wanted men that would obey unconditionally and had no scruples. Their mission statement also said, to maintain arms and act under a military type structure.
    These surplus Lugers would have been readily available and cheap. They may have been marked with the Death's head as a way of identifying other members of the hit squads, to each other.
    I'm sure there are no documents or bills as proof. This is the type of organization that would not leave a paper trial. Proof might be found in some obscure diary,but I doubt it. These are the type of men that don't leave a paper trail, either.
    Pat
    "Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."
    San Francisco, CA, May 13, 1903
    By Theodore Roosevelt

    Pat McNeil

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by prairiedogpat View Post
    I have a theory about these Death's head Lugers. The majority of the ones I've seen, that I thought were legitimate, have these things in common. 1) They all appear to be surplus WW1 pistols or very early 1920 manufacture. 2)The Death's head is always looking "LEFT".
    There was an organization started, in Germany in 1919, known as the "Organization Consul" It's mission was, among other things, to assassinate Left wing politicians. In a four year period, it assassinated over 350 people. It's credo was, they wanted men that would obey unconditionally and had no scruples. Their mission statement also said, to maintain arms and act under a military type structure.
    These surplus Lugers would have been readily available and cheap. They may have been marked with the Death's head as a way of identifying other members of the hit squads, to each other.
    I'm sure there are no documents or bills as proof. This is the type of organization that would not leave a paper trial. Proof might be found in some obscure diary,but I doubt it. These are the type of men that don't leave a paper trail, either.
    Pat
    I think a couple of them live a few houses down from me.....
    They say I have ADD, but I don't think they know...HEY! LOOK! A CHICKEN!!

  9. #9
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    Edward, had I had made up my mind already, I would not had posted on this forum. In that case I would had been satisified with what I stated here and be proud of it. During research I found a lot of controversial discussions, so I shared what I had found and how I got to which assumptions. As a book author and administrator of this forum you should know how to participate in a discussion and not throw arguments such as "you have already made up your mind".

    You asked to be convinced of the Gew98 to K98k conversion rifles. Original documents on the SS are very rare. But fortunately many original pictures exist, showing these rifles in usage. I have referred you to various books which contain period pictures that clearly show conversions of Gewehr 98 to K98k and SS soldiers carrying them. Additionally there are enough pictures of SS sniper rifles to be found as well, these pictures without any doubt show Ajack scopes, as well as we know that Ajack in a certain serial range marked all scopes with Deaths Heads under the turret and inscription "SS-Dienstglas". Some of these rifles are even still fully matching numbers, some even with the original scope carrying pouch which is also proofed with original period pictures and the rifles they are matched to are all Deaths Head marked on the barrel shank, and all of them have commercial Suhler firing proofs on bottom of the barrel shank. A friend of mine just recently pulled a rifle from a river when he was searching with a metal detector. Guess what, it had a Deaths Head stamp on the barrel shank.
    May I therefore ask in opposite, do you really think that these rifles with Deaths Heads stamps on the barrel are a plot of K98k rifle collectors all over the world which scrub Gewehr 98 receivers, add deaths head stamps and fake commercial proofs on the root of barrels?

    Secondly, to owning a proof stamp: this was a single and simple aspect of the whole story. This of course and obviously does not outrule any criminals from owning and applying such a stamp, but at least over here it would get you into serious trouble already owning one of them. But in this context, thanks to 03man who identified my proof as being from Suhl - all of the proofs on the K98k rifles are from Suhl as well.

    I would highly appreciate it if the Luger collectors could let me know what they think would had been in the Luger holsters that are shown in period pictures to carry an oversized Deaths Head on the flap and why would the particularily outrule that the holster may had carried a Deaths Head but the pistol surely could not had carried one. Additionally I would kindly want to know why the pistol of mine carry commercial firing proof from Suhl from the pre 1942 period and no serial number on the barrel. To my understanding a military pistol would not had required commercial proofs. Or does anyone in here consider the proof stamps applied to my pistol as fake markings which were added at a much later point?

  10. #10
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    "I would highly appreciate it if the Luger collectors could let me know what they think would had been in the Luger holsters that are shown in period pictures to carry an oversized Deaths Head on the flap and why would the particularily outrule that the holster may had carried a Deaths Head but the pistol surely could not had carried one.

    Additionally I would kindly want to know why the pistol of mine carry commercial firing proof from Suhl from the pre 1942 period and no serial number on the barrel. To my understanding a military pistol would not had required commercial proofs. Or does anyone in here consider the proof stamps applied to my pistol as fake markings which were added at a much later point?"

    To the first point,
    The DH on the holster indicates nothing about what is inside- could be a DH luger or a "plain" luger.
    I'm not sure that anyone here has outruled that such a holster could not have a DH luger inside- if someone posted that notion, I missed it.

    To the second point, the Suhl commercial proofing would indicate a pistol that no longer "belongs" to the military. Hundreds if not thousands of lugers were "re-worked" or maybe just re-proved and sold commercially after WWI and before WWII. Your barrel is a barrel produced by Simson, as a spare; then not used/installed as above until post WWI- this commercial use did not require barrel numbering.

    To a third point,
    I reiterate, there is no doubt that DH rifles exist from the Nazi era that are associated with the SS; however, DH rifles cannot be a justification for the existence of "SS DH lugers" without additional information or known provenance.

    A fourth and to me more interesting point,
    yours is the first DH luger reported to be found in Europe. All others have been "found" in the US; which in itself is somewhat difficult to explain.



    03man - Don Voigt
    Luger student and collector
    Looking for DWM mil.side plates- 69 and commercial # 32, Dreyse "K.S.Gendarmerie"

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