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Antique Military Firearms
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This is a very rare and fine example of a late-war Volkssturmkarabiner 98, or VK 98, also known as the Volksgewehr 5, or VG 5 in standard 8mm Mauser caliber. This rifle was manufactured under contract with the Nazi Party by Steyr in Austria in 1945 using slave labor from the Steyr-Münichholz concentration camp for issue to the Volkssturm troops assembled by the Nazis to defend Berlin in the closing days of the war.

With Soviet forces moving into Poland from Byelorussia and Ukraine, and into Estonia and Latvia in the north, the Nazi Party knew the end was near. With the attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944, and from his inherent distrust of his army commanders, Hitler ordered the creation of a national militia, answerable only to the Nazi Party, in the fall of 1944. Officially announced on October 16, 1944, the Volkssturm or “people’s storm” was to be manned by conscripting males from ages 16 and 60 who were not already serving in German military units.

Each Gauleiter, or Nazi Party District Leader, was responsible for conscripting, organizing and leading the Volkssturm in their districts. The basic unit of the Volkssturm was the battalion, nominally composed of 642 men. In reality, the numbers fluctuated considerably and most Volkssturm units were manned by members of the Hitler Youth, invalids and those too old to be considered fit for active military service.

Once organized, the Volkssturm units received rudimentary training in the use of basic infantry weapons such as the K98k rifle and the Panzerfaust. At this stage of the war, however, regular production rifles such as the K98k were allotted only to the German military under preexisting contracts. As a result, there was no standardization in terms of small arms issued to Volkssturm units and many would have used available but outdated WWI or even earlier rifles and pistols. This shortage of small arms led the Nazi Party to order the production of Volkssturm weapons, which were designed to be cheap and easy to produce.

Ultimately, the Volkssturm would acquire several different types of crude weapons known as Volkssturmgewehr, or People’s Storm Rifles. Many of these were haphazard designs using stamped components and existing rifle magazines from StG 44 and G43 rifles. These weapons were poorly manufactured and poorly designed and were generally considered unsafe to operate. The only Volkssturm design based on the existing K98k rifle design was the VK-98, also known as the VK 5.

These rifles were only known to have been manufactured at the Steyr Factory in Austria. As noted, the Volkssturm firearms were ordered and paid for by the Nazi Party, not the German military, and had to compete with military production contracts. At the Steyr factory, both standard K98k rifles for the military and Volkssturm rifles for the Nazi Party and the Volkssturm were produced during the same period. It is not known exactly how many Volkssturm VK98/VK5 Rifles were manufactured at the Steyr factory but it was less than 10,000 and they are rare today because they were typically sent directly to Volkssturm units fighting on the eastern front where, once captured, would be in the Soviet zone.

The history of the Steyr factory is an interesting one. In 1934, Steyr merged with Austro-Daimler-Puch to form Steyr-Daimler-Puch and was located in Steyr, a statutory city in the Austrian state of Upper Austria. Once Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich as part of the Anschluss, the Austrian armament industry was incorporated into the German Reichswerke Hermann Goring industrial conglomerate. Afterwards, Steyr’s General Director, Georg Meindl, suggested using slave labor from concentration camps to augment workers at Steyr. The request was approved by the Reichswerke Hermann Goring and the SS and prisoners were brought by guarded trains from the Mauthausen-Gusen Camp 30 kilometers away from Steyr. Later, on January 5, 1942, Steyr’s General Director Meindl, who was also a SS Brigadefuhrer in the SS, wrote a letter to SS Gruppenfuhrer Ernst Kaltenbrunner recommending a new satellite prison camp be constructed to house prisoners nearer the Steyr factory. Kaltenbrunner approved and shortly afterwards the Steyr-Münichholz concentration camp was created. This camp was considered a subcamp of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Upper Austria. In addition to producing arms in Steyr-Daimler-Puch corporation factories, prisoners also built air-raid bunkers in the town of Steyr.

Most of the prisoners who worked at Steyr originated from Spain, France, Poland, Italy, Greece, Russia, and Czechoslovakia. Their total number varied between 1,000 and 2,000. In April 1945 however, the number rose to 3,090, as several death marches with inmates from the Wiener Neustadt subcamp went through the town. Many prisoners died from malnutrition, working constantly at a fast pace irrespective of weather conditions, and lack of health treatment. A number were also killed in air raids on the Steyr factories in February and April 1944. The exact total number of deaths, however, remains unknown to this day. The names of 226 inmates show on the records of the city crematory. Inmates who went sick were usually sent back to be killed at the main camp at Mauthausen. The camp at Steyr was liberated by U.S. troops on May 5, 1945.

This VK 98 Rifle is all original and is in fine condition. The original beech stock is present. The stock is essentially a slab side stock that was made at the KASTO Maschinenbau GmbH in Achern, which is in southern Germany. KASTO is the name formed by the founder Karl Stolzer and it was, and remains to this day, a prominent manufacturer in Germany. The company was founded in 1844 by Stolzer, a carpenter, and it grew to a manufacturing concern making “machines with wooden constructions and iron-plated parts.” KASTO also manufactured sawmills and saw mill plants and it was in this capacity in late WWII that Steyr subcontracted with KASTO to manufacture stocks for the VK 98 rifles. The boxed “Kasto” stamp is on the right side of the butt. There is also a “6” stamp just forward of the sling slot. There is a 1 ½” crack just forward of the front trigger guard screw but it is solid and does not flex. There is another 1 ¾” crack that starts at the front stock bolt that moves to the rear but it is also solid. The stock bolt is modified to act as the bolt disassembly tool and it retains a dark gray phosphate finish. The Trigger Guard is stamped steel and is secured by two single-slot screws, one of which also secures the rear of the receiver. The front sling swivel is simply a piece of wire that runs through the stock and the wire is spread open on the right side of the stock. The forward receiver screw is recessed and it has a washer.

The sling is the original, improvised sling made from WWII German Battlepack K98 Ball Ammunition Boxes. These straps are canvas and have the original red stripe down the middle with two black stripes on the sides. The original boxes held 300 rounds. The sling is secured by a blued buckle through the stock and is secured at the swivel end by a simple steel buckle.

The original Bolt is present and it retains 95% plus of its original phosphate finish. The machined extractor collar retains most of its original blued finish. The Bolt and Handle exhibit the rough finishing typical of the Vokssturm firearms but it is entirely serviceable. The bottom of the bolt handle root has a hardness test punch mark and a serif “V” stamp, which indicates it was a Volkssturm contract. The top of the bolt handle root has a “V” stamp and the numbers “768,” but it is important to note that Volkssturm rifles were not manufactured with serial number matching parts. The original Firing Pin is present and is in fine condition. The Firing Pin Spring retains its blued finish and has 32 coils. The original Cocking Piece is present and it retains the majority of its original finish. The original Bolt Sleeve is present and it retains 98% plus of its original phosphate finish. As part of the simplification of manufacturing, the VK 98 omitted the pressure pin and Bolt Sleeve Lock Spring from the design. The original Safety is present and retains most of its original blued finish. There is a hole on the left, rear side of the Bolt Sleeve, which is a cavity in the original forging. While this would never have been satisfactory on a military contract K98k Rifle, it was more than satisfactory on the Volkssturm Rifle since it did not render the rifle inoperable. The original Extractor is present and retains 98% of its original blued finish.

The original Magazine is present and is simply pressed steel that is spot welded on the front and back. The magazine, which holds five rounds, simply sits in the magazine recess in the stock. The original stamped steel Follower is present and it retains the majority of its original finish. The original Follower Spring is present and it retains 98% plus of its original blued finish.

The original Receiver is a standard K98k forging that still retains 98% of its original phosphate finish. The original Trigger is present and it retains 95% of its original blued finish. The original Sear retains 98% of its original phosphate finish. The Sear Spring remains in the white and the sear still works correctly as it interfaces with the cocking piece. The bottom of the Receiver has a serif “V” Volkssturm contract stamp and several other inspection stamps, including a sans serif “B” stamp. There is a “3” inspection stamp on the bottom, rear of the receiver. The original Bolt Stop and Bolt Stop Spring are present and both retains the majority of their original finish. The Bolt Stop Screw is unmarred.

Over the chamber on the receiver is the correct “bnz45” stamp, which is Steyr’s wartime code, “bnz,” followed by the year of manufacture. Dovetailed just forward of this stamp is the Rear Sight, which is a simple notch. These rifles were zeroed to 100 meters and the sights were not adjustable.

The original Barrel, which came from a correct K98k rifle blank, still retains 98% of its original phosphate finish. The rough milling marks are still present throughout its length. On the right side of, towards the breech, is a “V” Volkssturm contract stamp and a shield stamp with “bnz” over a “1,” which is the WWII Steyr barrel finisher code. VK 98 Rifle Barrels were not machined to the same specifications as regular K98k rifles, but have a sharp taper about ¾ down the barrel in which the last quarter of the barrel was roughly the same outside diameter as a standard 98k rifle barrel. The Front Sight is the original, and very crude VK 98 Front Sight, which is a steel band that is tack welded to the top of the barrel on the front and rear sights. The Front Sight Extension and Front Sight Post, which is a folded piece of stamped steel, are then roughly welded to the band. The original crown is present but, interestingly, all known examples of Steyr VK 98 rifles have a counterbored muzzle that is approximately 10 mm and that extends back to about the end of the front sight band, when the rifling begins. The original rifling is still very crisp and there is frosting in the grooves.

The left side of the barrel, just forward of the receiver, has the rifle serial number “7116.” Just forward of the serial number is the wartime proof stamp, which is the Nazi Eagle stamp. Since this rifle was a Nazi Party contract and not one for the Wehrmacht, there are no Waffenamt stamps on Volkssturm rifles.

This is a very rare example of a “last ditch” WWII Nazi Volkssturm Rifle that was manufactured by the Steyr factory in Austria. These rifles are historically significant on several fronts. First of all, they are examples of rifles ordered by the Nazi Party itself, not the German military, for issue to Volkssturm troops. They were truly last ditch weapons issued to last ditch troops in a last ditch, and easily foreseeably doomed effort to hold off the Soviet Army in the last days of the war. These Volkssturm weapons are a symbol of irony in that they exhibited a very crude production quality that stands in marked contrast to the beautifully finished firearms manufactured in both Austria and Germany during and before the war. Second, the Volkssturm rifles manufactured at the Steyr plant are symbolic of the slave labor used by German, and Austrian, industry during the war. As noted previously, the Director General of the Steyr plant in Austria was the equivalent of a brigadier general in the SS and was able to persuade the SS to establish a concentration camp near the Steyr plant to minimize the cost of transporting concentration camp inmates working at the Steyr factory. Even the Kasto facility where the stock was manufactured used slave labor from concentration camps. It is a poignant example of the intersection of the high level of engineering and production of a company like Steyr with the low, base and terrible use of concentration camp slave labor to manufacture firearms for a regime that, had they been successful, would have perpetuated the use of the very slave labor that manufactured these rifles.

This rifle is in fine, original condition and, although crudely manufactured and finished, it remains in fully functional and firing condition. Very few of these rifles survived the war and surviving examples are rarely seen today.

This rifle is C&R eligible. This rifle will also come with an historic writeup and a CD containing all of the photos in the listing as well as original Colt Historical Letter. I accept Visa and MasterCard and charge NO FEES. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you would like additional photos posted.