Prewar Germany went in for shooting

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Prewar Germany went in for shooting, Dunlap notes:

Prewar Germany went in for shooting, everything from smallbore prone work to the schuetzen game, with emphasis on the military training angle of course. One of the training aids was a conversion unit for the Mauser military rifle and consisted of a complete .22 caliber long rifle bolt action and barrel which could be inserted into any 1898 Mauser.


Mauser and Walther were the principal suppliers of such “Wehrsportgewehren,” though Germany had literally dozens of small arms plants that turned out all sorts of weapons.


Air rifles came in all prices and classes, most if not all being far above the American “BB gun” and capable of fair accuracy at short range. However, I doubt if the Germans equalled the British in precision pneumatic guns, either rifle or pistol type.


I believe these arms were furnished in both 4mm and 6mm, known in this country as .17 or .177 caliber and .22 caliber, the projectiles being either round lead balls, darts, or spool-shaped pellets, generally known as pells, or skirted pellets, made of chilled lead.


However, the old-time European indoor favorite was the 4mm rim fire cartridge, which we would probably call a .17 caliber. There were several different cartridges in this class and innumerable rifles.


These rifles were always singleshot falling or drop-block actions, with set-triggers, fancy adjustable target sights, heavy barrels and schuetzen buttplates, deeply curved for holding on the upper arm rather than resting against the shoulder. Palm rests, for the left hand, were almost universal. The rifles were of the type familiar to us as “Swiss” although the German guns were usually not of as high quality as the true Swiss weapons. The receivers or frames were not required to stand high pressures and often they were of plain cast-iron. Most of them had some engraving of sorts for decoration.


Stocks were normal allround types, rather than the special-purpose schuetzen style, and some of the later ones were of plastic, made of fine and coarse woven cloths impregnated with phenolic resin and pressure-moulded to size and shape at an angle, which gave them an appearance of grained walnut.


The 4mm ammunition was available in many types—rim fire, center fire rimless (bottlenecked case) light loads, full loads, short, long, et cetera. German gun cranks could purchase cases and bullets separately and assemble their own. Most of the cartridges used no propelling powder, utilizing only the primer to expel the bullet, as done in our original .22 Bullet Breech Caps.


The 4mm class of arm was principally a sporting item and the .22 was the military training caliber. In the U. S. from 1840 to 1890 indoor rifles for very light percussion loads and .22 rim fire “caps” enjoyed a limited popularity as “parlor” or “salon” rifles, but such equipment never reached the use here that the “Kleinkaliberbuchsen” did in Europe.

I was not familiar with the schuetzen game. This Shooting USA piece explains the sport:


  1. Lu An Li says:

    Airsoft, paintball and laser tag in the USA are modern versions of the old German sport shooting.

  2. Graham says:

    I don’t know what the actual laws were, but various memoirs and narrative history accounts down the years seem to suggest there were a surprisingly large amount of firearms in private hands in both Germany and the USSR in the run up to the war.

    Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev supposedly learned his skills from his father/uncle/grandfather or some such kinsman, out on the hunt in Siberia both using military surplus rifles. I wonder what registration system they had in place…

  3. Graham says:

    Ah, apparently he started out with really old surplus, a single shot Berdan which predated the Mosin Nagant. Something from the Krag/Martini/Snider/Chassepot/Gras/Dreyse/early Mauser era of rifles.

    And invented by an American. I had never even heard of this rifle:

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