Tuesday, April 08, 2014

I wonder...

American G.I.'s brought home metric tons of souvenir sidearms from WWI and WWII. To this day there's a constant circulation of Mausers and Walthers and Nambus and whatnot on the American market, circulating in eddies from sock drawer to gun show table and back to sock drawer again. They had to have grabbed every handgun that wasn't nailed down between Omaha Beach and the Elbe.

Which just now got me to wondering, what about all the handguns from the Elbe to the Bug? Private Ivan had to have been every bit the souvenir-hunting klepto as any other unsupervised young soldier, and in the massive official organized looting of Germany that went down, who's gonna notice a PPK or two missing? So where did all that stuff go?


billf said...

OK,Tam,I'll jump onto your train of thought...it's cool enough to show off the handgun that your great-grandfather stole off a dead Nazi,but how much cooler would it be to have a pistol that Ivan took from a dead Nazi in Germany,passed down through his family,hidden from the Commies all this time,and then sold on the black market and imported (contrary to all gun bans)into the States.The stories that gun could tell.

Chris Gerrib said...

My grandfather and several of his cronies were able to mail guns home from overseas. (In grandpa's situation, six really shitty end-of-war made Japanese rifles he acquired when his ship made port.)

I don't know if Ivan could rely on his mail service to ship guns back to Ivana.

Anonymous said...

Warehouses in the Urals. They are still there. 10s of millions of firearms of all types--German, Italian, Romanian, Finnish, inter alia.

You know I went to law school with refusniks that were sent to the Urals with the stroibati. I told you about Sergei, right?

Shootin' Buddy

Anonymous said...

The Russian GIs traded all manner of goodies to our GIs for cigarettes, K-Rations and Mickey Mouse watches.


Kristophr said...

The NKVD was very thorough about shaking down CA troops.

They even shook down Generals for firearms after the war.

Anonymous said...

The NKVD/KGB had a dim view of privately owned sidearms. I suspect that if any such souvenirs were kept they were hidden in a more secure place than a sock drawer to prevent a trip to the gulag.


Ygolonac said...

Traded for vodka...

Ratus said...

Isn't this one of the reasons for 9x18?

Will Brown said...

As far as "battle field pickup firearms" go, I suspect most of them ended up in the (sometimes official) hands of the political officers every USSR military unit of any description had attached.

TinCan Assassin said...


staghounds said...

Soviet soldiers didn't have footlockers shipped home with them.

And an awful lot of them went directly from their combat or occupation units directly to quasi-gulag holding centres where they were stripped of everything. Not just guns, but every kind of souvenir.

Granted, the things went somewhere- but not many to Ivans.

Add to that that the Soviet definition of "antique" was anything made before 1945, and that antiques were forbidden from export.

Sam Cummings would have found those warehouses after 1990, if they exist.

It always has surprised me that the loot of central Europe- art, coins, silver, books- hasn't surfaced in Russia since then.

og said...

I think what it means is that they are all far better armed than their masters think they are. And it makes me happy.

Anonymous said...

You bring up a sad memory.

April 1991 my battalion is back in Saudi Arabia and getting ready to go home. An officer reads us the riot-act about how much jail time anyone caught trying to bring home a captured weapon will get.

A giant pile of AK's, Dragunovs, Makarovs, and all kinds of other assorted captured weapons materialized over the next day. We all stood sadly watching our booty tossed into a Saudi truck and driven away.


rickn8or said...

"Isn't this one of the reasons for 9x18?"

Always been a pet theory of mine. Various permutations of .380, 9mm and 9mm Makarov pistols/ammo are useless/dangerous unless the ammo matches the pistol.

Annnd since Ivan can't just trot down to WallyWorld and pick up a couple hundred rounds of Winchester White Box...

And original unit of issue for Makarov ammo was a 16-round box.

RevolverRob said...

In Soviet Russia, PPKs kept Ivans.

Come on...someone had to do it.


Angus McThag said...

PPK hell, there's MP.40's turning up here and there that never had war trophy paperwork or tax stamps.

Tam said...


Yeah, I was talking about handguns because those seemed more likely for Ivan to get home in a boot top.

I have heard bring-back tales, credible ones, mind you, that would curl your hair over the years.

MP-40s? Chicken feed! :D

Tam said...

(I once had an old guy I knew by sight if not by name come up to me at a gun show, back when I was on my Japanese kick and acquired the Type I and Type 38 right on top of each other. He asked if I wanted to buy a Nambu. I said "I dunno, outside of Buffalo Arms, 8mm Nambu is hard to find, and that ain't cheap..."

And he goes "No, Nambu!" and mimes firing an LMG, one hand on the pistol grip and the other over the buttstock of his air gun.

"Oh, dude, that'd be cool, but I don't know if I can afford it, plus the paperwork..."

"What paperwork?" he says.

"LALALALALALALALA!" says I with my fingers in my ears.

ATTN NSA: I'm fairly certain the old guy's dead now, and I only ever knew his first name, which I can't even remember because this was, like, twelve or thirteen years ago.)

JPD said...

Uhmmmm, it'a all in my sock drawer (hardly any room for my socks).

Firehand said...

The 45th Infantry Division museum used to get stuff given to them either by GIs or family who found it after Dad/Granddad/Uncle died and they didn't know what else to do with it.

One of the people there said there have been times they'd find a box at the front gate in the morning, never did know what would be in there. One day it was a Sten, some mags and a hand grenade; those were usually from people who found it in the attic and were afraid to take it to the cops or ATF, so they left it at the museum.

Angus McThag said...

The French mentioned in the way back of the late '80's that there's definitely a lot of ordnance out there IN FRANCE from the war that nobody bothered to announce they'd liberated from zee Germans. The news at the time was them fretting about what, if anything, they should do.

I expect that's true of all the combatants.

It wasn't all that long ago that an FG.42 was found where the last person it was issued to simply walked away from it. Sat in the hay loft for decades unnoticed without anyone trying to hide it.

Geodkyt said...

I know at least some of the guns of Western Europe made it into the Ukraine and Baltic Republics.

Why do estonians pour oil in their flower beds?

To keep the guns from rusting.

Matt said...

Ivan's smart enought to succesfully smuggle a weapon home, were probably smart enough not to tell anybody.

Anonymous said...

As those above stated, the NKVD probably scooped most of it up.

I am sure some of it was recycled back to the West and Third World with the various insurgencies and liberation movements before the arrival of the semtex and AK-47's. A few untraceable weapons placed in the hands of agents and provocateurs can really pay off developing turmoil. A nascent insurgency armed with a motley collection of guns does not look like something organized by a meddling super-power.

Goober said...


"What should we do about it?" Says the news media 40 years after it has occurred, as if it is some national emergency.

"Someone could get HURT!"

40 years later, after no one has been hurt, they fret...

It makes me laugh a belly laugh at these hand-wringing simpletons. As if intelligent, sentient human beings are incapable of owning weapons without hurting themselves or others with them.

I'd be really surprised if 90% of these "surplus" arms even had ammunition available for them at their place of storage. The gun, yes, but bullets that actually work for that gun? Probably less common.

My grandfather had a jap rifle for years and never once even owned ammunition for it, much less fired it.

Anonymous said...

I will note that during the Besylan massacre, the local police had exhausted their ammunition. The poor oppressed people, with their children being held hostage, showed up, and dropped off 30 round AK magazines of ammunition, by the hundreds.

Of course they might have had magazines and ammunition, but no rifles... but unlikely.

As a rule of thumb, every Soviet factory had a back door. They had entire factories designed to produce soap in large quantities, that worked all year, and produced minimal quantities of soap. There were smugglers all over the old Soviet Union, running anything that could be produced, and working a sophisticated barter system.

I bet rifles too. I would suggest that most of the black market rifles had no serial numbers.

Gewehr98 said...

I have one of the VOPO Lugers. I wish it could talk, having been built at DWM in 1918, carried and lost at Stalingrad, refurbed by the Soviets, and later issued to the East Germans until the Iron Curtain came down. It has a couple really neat shrapnel dings (collateral to the former 6th Army owner's demise?) that don't harm the gun's form and function, so I'm leaving them alone.

Will said...

A friend who was a loadmaster on C-141's said that there were inspections of soldier's bags at the field before loading troops for home, circa 1991. Lots of stuff turned up, including bomblets!

He said that there was a report posted about a soldier who mailed one home, with a note to not touch it. When he got home, it exploded when he unpacked it, killing his family. He didn't think that it made the news, though.

Aircrew got a bit fanatical about looking for stupid stuff after that.

Was told there were inspections of aircraft at both ends of those flights, for contraband. Tight enough that he never ended up with anything that could shoot, AFAIK.

deadcenter said...

Geodykt, when I heard it it was Ukrainians :-)

deadcenter said...

Geodykt, when I heard it it was Ukrainians :-)

leo715 said...

The joke goes as follows:
-Granda, why are watering the flower bed with oil? It'll kill the flowers!
-Screw the flowers, as long as the Schmeisser doesn't rust.

Various memoirs suggest that some guns, mostly handguns were brought home as souvenirs and kept in great secrecy. When the original owners died their heirs deemed it more prudent to dispose of them.

Robert said...

After we finished invading Grenada, the Marines onboard got to keep any bolt action rifles they'd picked up off the Cubans. However, at least one Captain got busted for trying to bring an AK back. They also found a box of russian grenades hidden in the weapons elevator machinery room. We had a quad 12.7 MM sitting in the hanger bay as well, but I don't know where that ended up.

Anonymous said...

Post WWII, when the French commies were being active trying to flip France red, my French grandfather had a nice chat with a catholic ( anti-commie) parish priest whose 13th century church basement had all you you needed to equip a battalion of (german) infantry with all the trimmings for 30 days of festivities, thanks to a Wehrmacht dump that the allies had over-looked in the big rush and enterprising local farmers thought too potentially useful to just let rust. ( also, it was clogging up someones property)

Ammo by the truck, mortars, LMG's, SMGs, rifles, radios, mines, a veritable alibaba's cave of destruction.

I'm sure that ALL got turned over to the appropriate authorities later on. Cough. The French being so law-abiding and all.

Anonymous said...


Apparently the official number of guns (ie., registered) in Europe is a small fraction of the estimated number in private hands. Many, if not most, of those, would be military weapons from WWI and WWII.

Anonymous said...

When I was in Finland for a wedding we took a day to ride the Ferry over to Estonia and tour Tallinn. Lovely City.

I stuck my head in several antique shops to see what trinkets I might find. In addition to old Russian Tea Sets and various kitschy decorations most shops had at least one case full of WWII and Soviet Union memorabilia.

Same SS Daggers, German helmets, insignia, etc. you find at gun shows here, along with Red Army lighters, insignia, cigarette cases, and even the odd Checka or KGB item. These cases were invariably surrounded by old men speaking Russian (as opposed to Estonian you heard everywhere else) in hushed tones while perusing the cases.

At least one store had firearms--some German captures, and some Soviet stuff such as at least one PPSh and several automatic rifles on a rack behind the counter with a cable lock running through all of the trigger guards.

There was great difficulty suppressing the squees.

Cargosquid said...

Army Inspector, while searching high and low for contraband, "I know you guys are smuggling something back from Iraq! I've caught everyone! You can't hide a thing in this vehicle!"

20 minutes later...."Hmph, I guess you guys are clean. Go on through."

Soldier driving the Iraq T-72.."Thanks."

Saw that in a cartoon while deployed to Kuwait.