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Popular firearms manufacturers and dealers in Germany

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Germany has, among all the European nations, the broadest reputation for technical building of firearms. In the last century it was dominated by the name Mauser, and more recently Walther and H&K are the names most commonly associated with German arms making. Disarmed after each of both the World Wars, German engineering of weapons designs always won reconsideration for their novelty and application in a wider global view, be it in a Cold War or a war on terror.

Mauser

No discussion on German arms making can fail to include Mauser Waffenfabrik. The arsenal at Konigliche Waffen Schmeiden was founded on July 31, 1811 and transferred to Obendorf shortly thereafter. Andreas Mauser was the master gunsmith, but the company expanded under two of his sons, Wilhelm as general manager and [Peter] Paul Mauser as chief designer. Their first product was the Model 1871 Mauser adopted for Prussian military service. The model experienced several modifications before the next advancement: inspired by France’s adoption of the 8mm Lebel, the German army demanded a comparable rifle. The Model 1888 introduced the 8mm Mauser round. The 1888 copied the Austrian Mannlicher action. The following model, adopted by several nations as the Model 1889, 1890 and 1891 introduced a new Mauser action. This was improved upon by the 1893 (1895, 1896). The pinnacle design was the Mauser 98 that became the standard of German bolt action design. Used for both military and commercial sporting purposes.

Mauser also produced numerous pistol designs, including the famous C96 “Broomhandle, as well as the 1910 and 1914 pocket pistols. Their designs were also produced elsewhere throughout the world under licenses. Limited production between the two World Wars, the Mauser plant in Oberndorf – which in addition to the bolt action rifles turned out other weapons including the iconic P08 Luger and Walther P38 pistols - was bombed out in 1945 and mostly dismantled after the war by the French occupation forces. Several of the surviving designers rebuilt some of the plant buildings to manufacture precision tools: the fetal stage of what would become the arms maker Heckler & Koch. Mauser firearms were refounded in the 1950s to produce commercial sporting rifles and the occasional pocket pistol – often manufactured in cooperation with other companies such as H&K, Walther or Sig. Walther Founded in 1886 by Carl Walther, the Thuringia based plant initially produced sporting rifles. In 1908, they began their first line of pistols in calibers introduced by John Browning, including the .25ACP/6.35mm, the .32ACP/7.65mm and .380ACP/9mm Kurz. In 1929, their most famous sidearm, the Poliziepistole or Walther PP which was followed shortly after by the poliziepistole kurz, or PPK for police pistol short.

During World War II Walther produced their pistols – most noticeably the service model P38 which was a cheaper alternative to the iconic Luger. Walther also was contracted in the production of model 98 Mauser rifles and participated in tenders in cooperation with Mauser to design and produce the model Gewehr 41 and 43 rifles. The latter has often been referred to as “Hitler’s Garand” as it was Germany’s most successful self loading, full sized service rifle. After the war, the factory found itself in the Soviet occupation zone. Fritz Walther started anew in Ulm, Western Germany and by 1957 began production of the P38 pistol for the new Bundeswehr, or West German Army. This model was known as the P1 to differentiate it from the war variant. The company also re released the PP and PPK models as well as began eploring rifle and submachinegun designs for military and police contracts.

In 1993, Walther acquired Umarex, which produces a line of pellet and BB guns. In 1999, Walther teamed up with Smith & Wesson to distribute its products in the US: before this Walther firearms were imported under the Interarms banner.

In more recent years, the company has produced a successful line of personal pistols marketed to both police and private use. These include the P99, PPQ and PPS series.

Heckler & Koch

At the end of World War II, three former Mauser engineers; Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel salvaged what they could of the Orbendorf factory and began making precision instruments for export. Before long, they began exploring their old rifle designs and began exploring the idea of producing weapons for the newly created West German Army, or Bundeswehr. In 1956, in response to a tender by the West German government in search of a new battle rifle, H&K submitted the successful design that became the G3 Rifle. Following up on that success, they introduced the HK54 in 1966. This submachinegun ultimately became the Machinepistole 5 (MP5). Shortly after a variant firing the 5.56 NATO round, the HK33.

Marketed for military and police, the MP5 became a standard use submachinegun/pistol carbine for anti-terror and special weapons teams all over the world. H&K also explored new and novel pistol designs, one of the earliest being the H&K P8 and P13, the socalled “squeeze cockers” as their grip safety required the shooter to squeeze the grip: while a novel design, and a well made pistol, many shooters found the exertion to detract from their marksmanship. Follow up pistols included the bulky USP that was also adopted by special weapons and forces teams throughout Europe and North America. Their more recent VP pistol series, has better, and customizable ergonomics as well as being readily ambidextrous.

In more recent years, H&K’s G33 assault rifle was chosen for use of the German Army, though the rifle, while technologically marvelous and light, given its use of polymers, was found to suffer if overheated in sustained firing as the warmth corrupted the sight picture and lightweight barrel. The replacement, the H&K416 rifle appears more like the Colt M4, though with better fire controls.

Today H&K has subsidiaries in the UK and US as well as Germany and continues to be a prominent presence in providing weapons specifically for counter intelligence, anti-terror and military applications, with civilian markets being a secondary concern.

GSG

German Sport Guns is a relative new comer to the German gun scene. Founded in 2002 and headqurtered in Esne-Honingen, Germany, the company produces predominantly air guns but also replicas of major firearm models, but chambered in .22 Long Rifle. Copies of H&K MP5 and 416 rifles as well as the Colt 1911 and Sig Sauer rifles, GSG endures moderately less scrutiny because of the small caliber – while providing copies of weapons that are easier, cheaper and more utilitarian than their full sized inspirations.

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