By Kent Saunders
The annual Spring Gun & Militaria Show in Kassel, Germany is, I am told, dwarfed by the annual Fall Show in November, but if you happen to be in the area in mid-April, there is more than enough there to make it worth the trip.
German weapons laws are quite different from what we have here in the U.S. Whereas in the U.S. we consider the receiver to be legally the firearm, in Germany the parts which are legally controlled are the barrel and the bolt (die lauf und die verschluss). This means that Germans who are of 18 years of age or older may legally own without registration any deactivated military surplus firearm which would be an NFA registered item in America. The barrel and the bolt must be de-milled. The barrel is usually drilled through with 6 or more holes of bore diameter, and the bolt chopped at a 45 degree angle so that it may not support a cartridge. Weapons which have been more recently deactivated must not be able to be disassembled, but there are many older examples that can be field stripped completely.
Imagine a Russian PPSh 41 for under $250 at the low end, or a Czech Vz 26 for about the same, with nice MP40’s and Stg44s in the neighborhood of 1,800-2,000 Euros. German military weapons are understandably very popular in Germany compared to those of other nations, much the same as everyone wants an M4 in the U.S. In between those ends of the price range, you might find a Bundeswehr surplus G3 for around Euro 300, or one of the “Russian” M1928A1 Thompsons in excellent/new condition for about Euro 500, and an Uzi about the same. MG42’s (usually Yugoslav marked M53s) run about Euro 500, and AK47s or AK74s are all over at Euro 180 to 250, depending on what country and condition.
Recent changes to the German weapons laws allow the ownership of any submachine gun and any water-cooled belt-fed manufactured prior to September 1945, although the owner needs a collectors license and may not take these guns to a range to shoot them. Air cooled belt-feds of any date of manufacture and any other full auto weapons are still not allowed except for dealers, these still being considered weapons of war according to the new categorizations. Silencers (schalldampfer) are legal to own if they are for air rifles or for other guns if one has a dealer’s license.
In another interesting twist, weapons which were manufactured as selective fire are legal to own if they have been made incapable of firing full auto. Thus, it is not uncommon to see a Russian Stetchkin machine pistol here and there, and when I was the guest of retired Krieghoff gun maker Andreas Fink at his club near Gunzburg, I was surprised to find that many of the club members owned converted semiautomatic Stg 44s of vintage manufacture rather than the modern production semiautomatic guns built by Sport System Dittrich in Germany. SSD is also making semi MP38s as well as both 1st and 2nd model FG42s, all of which were on display at the show.
Other guns which are legally forbidden from import into the U.S. by the 1994 Clinton Crime Control Bill are available to German and other EU citizens. The most interesting example of which was the Franchi SPAS 15, a 12 gauge selective auto loading/pump shotgun fed by box magazines of 6 or 8 round capacity and cost about Euro 800.
Many of the vendors at the Kassel show travel the “Waffen und Militaria” show circuit much the same as is done in the U.S., and so such a show anywhere they are held in Germany can be an interesting experience for an American.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V16N3 (September 2012)|