Firearms World War 2 Metal Detecting Finds
The standard rifle of the German infantry soldier in World War 1. A shorter version, the K98k carbine, was the German standard rifle in World War 2.
The Carcano 6.5 mm was the Italian standard rifle in World War 2. It is considered inferior to its French, German, or Russian counterparts. In the last days of World War 2, when everybody and everything was pressed into service for Germany, secondary units like Volkssturm (boys and old men) received that type of equipment.
According to the suspiciously superficial official investigation report, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot with such a weapon. Would somebody planning to assassinate a US president not spent some extra dollars for a decent rifle?
This find is a nice symbol for the war and its best part – the end. Usually people are most enthusiastic about a war in the very beginning. In World War 2, in contrast to World War 1, the Germans were not enthusiastic, not even at the beginning. Too fresh were the memories of the horror of warfare. In the end people were glad it was over.
Note: Even this item was considered a firearm by the authorities. Since the condition did not justify the costs for a gunsmith it was necessary to turn it over to the police.
For close range combat like in Stalingrad the submachine gun is the ideal weapon. The German MP 40 was inferior to its Russian counterpart, the PPSH 41. So German soldiers at the Eastern Front used captured PPSH when possible.
This find was exposed to violence. It was torn into two pieces when found.
When I found this item everything that even looked like an automatic weapon was prohibited in Germany. (A foolish law originating in the terror hysteria of the 1970s). So I handed the weapon over to the authorities. Later, in 2003, a revised version of the weapon law came into effect that allowed to keep disabled World War 2 submachine guns.
The PPSH 41 was a highly successful Russian submachine gun. Reliable, accurate, easy to manufacture. German soldiers used captured PPSH 41 whenever possible. This one was found near the retreat route of a SS division. This find was reported to the BKA, the German equivalent of the FBI.
The K98k carbine was the standard rifle of the German soldier in World War 2. It was a slightly shortened version of the Gewehr 98. A highly successful weapon construction, in spite of its age of some 100 years still in use by sport shooters and even some third world armies.
The weapon was cached with some accessory.
The Mosin-Nagant was the Russian standard rifle in World War 1 and partly World War 2. The Russian weapon engineers have a very good reputation and the Mosin-Nagant was a good rifle. Long but accurate. Selected specimens were equipped with a rifle scope and given to snipers. The Germans, too, rated this gun and especially the sniper version.
At first considered this item some obscure machinery part. Total length some estimated 25 cm. Later I was informed that this is the breech block of an automatic gun. Judging by the find spot it probably belonged to a small calibre anti aircraft gun, possibly the 2 cm gun MG 151/20.
Legal note: Since this item is covered by the war weapon law (Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz) it was necessary to part with it.
Cartridges of the 8- 13mm / 0.3”-0.5”calibre range are the most often found ammunition type. Here are some examples.
Found on a lonely hill that served as a hideout for German soldiers at the end of World War 2, this group comprises various sort of rifle ammunition as well as tent stakes, gas mask eye rings and many small parts. Four different types or rifle ammunition were found, French Lebel cartridges among them, which is typical for the chaotic state of the German armed forces in the last phase of the war.
The Italian Carcano 6.5 mm ammunition bottom left and the German 8 mm K98k cartridges on the right belonged to the German forces.
The big 12.7 mm projectiles and the empty cartridge bottom center belonged to the US Heavy Browning Machine Gun BMG 50. A successful construction of Mr. Browning, it is in use still today in many armies of the world. A single bullet of this devastating weapon has a kinetic energy of some 25000-30000 Joule which is sufficient to lift a car by 2 m. For comparison, the average .30” rifle has some 8000 Joule and a pistol some 500 Joule. By the way, every weapon with more than 7.5 Joule requires a special permit in Germany.
Today, ultra long range sniper rifles are often based on the BMG 50. In recent years, such a weapon was used for a confirmed 2000+ m hit by a Canadian sniper in the Iraq conflict.
Unlike other projectile in this calibre range, the BMG 50 projectile was manufactured in variants potentially dangerous to the searcher. For instance, there is an incendiary version marked with a blue head and two rings. The color marking is often gone after 6 decades in the ground.
The tiny particles left of the BMG 50 cartridge were its content. Tiny black cylinders, some 2 mm long and with 1 mm diameter, of some organic explosive. They appear black because they are carbon coated to avoid static electricity.
BMG 50 cartridges are much more common finds than smaller US calibers. In vast contrast to their German opponents the US soldiers had supply in abundance. To this day material is the biggest pro of the US armed forces.
It is also typical for the last phase of the war that the German ammunition is dropped whereas the US ammunition is fired.
Some bottom plates of BMG 50 cartridges. The marks indicate place and year of production. For instance, “SL 4” means Saint Louis Ordnance Plant, 1944.
A group of discarded K98k cartridges.
A cheap and light anti tank weapon.
A fired cartridge of the famous German 88 mm gun.
In Germany it is illegal to own firearms or ammunition without a permit (Waffenbesitzkarte). Still, even without such a permit there are several ways to handle weapon finds in a lawful way. These ways are listed below. This section was written with German metal detector searchers in mind.
It is the author’s recommendation to discuss the find with the weapon authorities (not the police) rather than hiding them in the cellar and watch them in moonless nights by torchlight.. He discussed submachine gun finds with the German equivalent of the FBI (Bundeskriminalamt BKA Wiesbaden) and rifle and revolver finds with the Kreisverwaltungsreferat without problems.
If the finder is prepared to hand his find over to the authorities he can do so without problems at the police. The author always mentioned that he found these items using a metal detector and never got into trouble, even when the find was made weeks ago.
Legalisation costs for rifles are ca. 50-75 Euros per item. In rural areas less, in big cities more. Handing the find over to the authorities does not cost anything, of course.
It is not sure whether the police will always issue a document when a firearm is turned in. While the author received a receipt for a Carcano rifle he usually did not get a receipt when handing over found ammunition.
According to the author’s experience weapon authorities (e.g. the Kreisverwaltungsreferat) will always issue a receipt. Here an example for the submachine gun MP 40 which could not be legalized at that time. It can be legalized under the new German weapon law which came into effect in 2003.
Of course, people want to keep their finds. This can be done using the following ways.
This method works by receiving a certified weapon expert’s expertise.
This expertise claims that, because of corrosion, the found weapon is not any more a weapon in the sense of the law. The picture shows an expertise issued by the National Ballistic Laboratory (Beschussamt) for the found Mauser HSc pistol.
To be legally safe this expertise has to be issued by a certified weapon expert. A letter written by a neighbour knowledgeable about firearms is not enough.
Here the found weapon is disabled by a gunsmith.
This is the usual method for long firearms such as rifles. Disabled weapons are called “decoration weapons”. Among many other weapons shown on this website it was employed for the Gewehr 98 rifle.
It seems no worldly damage – not even a bent barrel - or corrosion can cause German weapon authorities to consider a rifle harmless. The gunsmith drills several holes into the barrel, wields a hardened steel bolt into it and disables the bolt, if any.
See also World War 2 Bayonets Metal Detecting Finds
See also World War 2 Other Military Items Metal Detecting Finds
See also Metal detecting on the retreat route of the 17. SS Panzergrenadierdivision 'Götz von Berlichingen' Part 1
See also Metal detecting on the retreat route of the 17. SS Panzergrenadierdivision 'Götz von Berlichingen' Part 2