German Combat Pistols – Did the Guys Who Brought Us the Tiger Tank Really Think This was Enough Gun?

World War 2 was the world’s bloodiest, most expansive conflict. For the first time in human history, man’s quarrels with his fellow man were settled via warfare around the globe fought on an industrial scale. Never before or since has there been such killing.

Today’s generation seems awash in a lamentable soul-drenching ambiguity. The good guys are never fully good, the bad guys are never fully bad, and classical mores once held sacrosanct are now open for moral dissection. Where previously our enemies were vilified on grounds that were cultural, spiritual, and anthropomorphic, nowadays such stuff smacks of racism and is pitilessly suppressed. The moral challenges for American youth are implicit and insidious. When playing cowboys and Indians, for instance, for whom should one root?

Alas, the Second World War was not encumbered with such. The Axis powers were undeniably evil. Ethnic cleansing was their tool, and world domination their goal. For what more detestable combination might Roosevelt and Churchill have hoped? We find in the Nazis the alpha villains. Convinced as they were of their innate superiority in all things martial, industrial, physiological, and cerebral, they were imminently hate-able, to coin a phrase.

Despite the Nazis’ unambiguous moral failings, they did produce both superb weapons and comparably superb soldiers. In the words of a friend who was there, “The SS would frequently leave a sniper or two behind whenever they bugged out of a position. You had to always be careful moving into someplace the Germans just left. Those SS men were just bad, ruthless. We never took those SS men prisoner.”

Additionally, the weapons and tactics the Nazis gifted to the world changed the face of warfare. Blitzkrieg morphed into our own Air-Land Battle Doctrine and that became whatever the Army calls it this week. At its heart, it is simply combined arms warfare, and the Germans invented it all.

The Nazis birthed the transoceanic combat submarine, the ballistic missile, the smart bomb, and the assault rifle. In most every field of martial endeavor, those legendarily industrious Germans developed weapons that eclipsed those of their enemies. The German Tiger tank, as an example, was extolled as the baddest war machine on the battlefield. For all their martial acumen, however, the Germans issued their soldiers some of the most pathetic combat handguns. While certain designs like the P08 Parabellum and P38 were indeed serviceable enough, the sundry small caliber pieces really seem incongruous to a race that considered themselves supermen.

The PzKpfw VI Tiger 1 was a fearsome and potent killer on the World War 2 battlefield. Despite a penchant for such remarkable weapons as these, the Germans persisted in issuing some remarkably anemic combat handguns.


The Exigencies of Total war

Truth be known, for all its touch and go drama, World War 2 was over soon after it began. Germany lacked the population base and natural resources to sustain total war on multiple fronts, while Japan was little more than a glorified island bereft of substantial natural resources. Both nations entered the war for their own reasons, but neither could hope to match the manpower reserves of the Allies or the massive industrial output of the United States. Additionally, the competing manufacturing mindsets between the Axis and the Allies doomed them from the start.

I do so love poring over World War 2-era German small arms. The MP40, as an example, is simply festooned with acceptance stamps and maker’s codes. Everything large enough to accept it is identified with a serial number. Even the firing pin on the iconic German burp gun sports one. Trying to build these guns this way must have been a constant nightmare independent of day and night bombing by the British and Americans.

Sepp Dietrich, shown here on the right, was Hitler’s driver before the war. He rose to command the 6th Panzer Army during the Battle of the Bulge and carried a Sauer 38H in .32ACP in combat.

By contrast, while the Germans were engraving their MP40 firing pins with individual serial numbers American industry was churning out 65,000 M1 Carbines per day. There were no spare parts made available for the earliest American M3 Grease Guns. If something about these stamped steel subguns broke you were to simply run over it with a tank and go draw another one. It was such as this that won us the war.

The Germans never had enough weapons. Before the end, old World War 1-era Maxims and captured small arms by the bushel basket were reissued for the final defense of the Reich. Handguns, in particular, were imported from every corner of their occupied territories.

Germany’s elite formations like the Fallshirmjagers and Waffen SS were fearsome soldiers. Despite their legendary moral failings, they were typically disciplined and courageous soldiers.


Variety is Definitely Not the Spice of Life

The Nazis got their guns wherever they could find them. Quality ranged from impeccable to abysmal with everything in between. The Germans issued more than 300,000 Browning Hi Powers made under occupation in Belgium. Designated the Pistole 640(b) in Wehrmacht parlance, the Hi Power was arguably the finest combat handgun of the war.

Always pressed for weapons, the Germans employed no less than twenty-two major handgun types during World War 2.


A bit more than 100,000 Astras served the Reich. Around 350,000 Polish wz. 35 Vis 9mm pistols were issued to German troops, and there were 480,000 P38’s produced by three manufacturing firms before the capitulation. While most of these guns at least fired a proper cartridge, there were literally hundreds of thousands of handguns issued for use by the Kriegmarine, Heer, Luftwaffe, and Waffen SS that fired the 7.65x17mm round. Called the .32ACP on this side of the pond, this diminutive cartridge was the brainchild of the luminary John Moses Browning and seems almost pathetic by modern ballistic standards.

The Browning Hi Power, built for the Germans on captured manufacturing lines in occupied Belgium, was arguably the finest combat handgun of the war.

While ammunition supply and spare parts for some twenty-two major handgun types must have driven many a kraut supply sergeant to drink, the preponderance of these small caliber handguns fell into just a few major types. Within these tiny little guns, we find some fascinating historical insights.

The FB vis 35 was an outstanding Polish handgun built for the Germans in captured facilities.

Small-Caliber Details

Some of the most popular German wartime pistols were remarkably anemic by modern standards. From left to right, the Mauser HSc, the Sauer 38H, and the Walther PPK all fired the .32ACP cartridge.

An FN Model 1910 chambered in .380ACP armed one Gavrilo Princip when he fired the shot that killed Archduke Ferdinand and started World War 1. The subsequent Model 1922 used the same action but sported a longer barrel and magazine. Designated the Pistole 37(u) by the Germans, these two guns were rather uninspired direct blowback designs, but they did incorporate a tri-modal safety system. Used principally by the Luftwaffe, these trim FN pocket guns were also used by the SS, Wehrmacht, and German police. They were also still available commercially up until 1942.

The Mauser HSc was a remarkably advanced design. Sporting rakish lines and superb ergonomics, the HSc was a great pocket gun. It was not so remarkable as a general service weapon.

The Mauser HSc was light-years ahead of its time. Sporting rakish lines that seemed to be drawn directly from Saturday afternoon sci-fi serials, the HSc incorporated certain features not bested in pocket guns even today.

The Mauser HSc

The exposed hammer was only barely thus and remained both easily accessed and snag-free. The slide locked to the rear on the last round fired but closed automatically when a fresh magazine was rammed home. Literally, nothing is faster even today. The magazine release was located on the heel after the European fashion, and there was a manual safety on the left rear aspect of the slide that did not drop the hammer.

The rotating drum-shaped hammer on the Mauser HSc is easy to manipulate without being obtrusive. It is superbly well executed.

The Sauer 38H was a prescient design that incorporated a proper thumb-activated magazine release and, on early guns, a slide-mounted safety. The really nifty aspect of this gun was a manual cocker/decocker located under the right thumb. This handy appendage activated and deactivated the hammer fully shrouded within the slide. In fact, the typical German Landser generally referred to the gun as the “H” for “Hammerless” though this was not quite true. The gun had a hammer it just wasn’t visible unless the pistol was disassembled.

The Sauer 38H, though underpowered, was a prescient design. The 38H introduced the left-sided cocker/decocker that eventually found its way into the SIG P220-series pistols.

The decocker eventually found its way onto the side of every modern SIG P220-series pistol in the world. Uber-Nazi Sepp Dietrich, the SS commander of the 6th Panzer Army during the Ardennes Offensive, carried a Sauer 38H.

The decocker on the Sauer 38H predated a similar feature on the HK P9S and SIG P220.

The Walther PP first drew breath in 1929 and its abbreviated progeny, the PPK, went on to become one of the most recognizable handguns in history thanks to a certain well-known fictional British MI6 agent.

The Walther PPK was derived from the Walther PP developed in 1929. Its use by James Bond, Ian Fleming’s fictional MI6 agent, made the diminutive gun one of the most recognizable in the world.


Operating via a direct blowback action like all of these small-caliber handguns, the PP introduced the planet to the Single Action/Double Action trigger on an autoloading pistol. This same trigger system found its way onto almost all of the 1980’s Wondernine pistols that displaced the classic wheelgun from every Law Enforcement holster in America.

The Beretta 92F, SIG P226, and S&W family of autoloaders all trace their parentage to this seminal design.

The Walther PP-series introduced the world to the classic Single Action/Double Action trigger in an autoloading handgun.

Something Even Smaller

There were actually a few pistols used by Axis forces even smaller than these .32ACP heaters. The Mauser 1910 fired the 6.35mm round we call the .25ACP. While predominantly used during the First War to End All Wars, a few of them made their way into the Second. The .25ACP is a breathtakingly tiny cartridge that fires its 50-grain quarter-inch bullet at about 760 feet per second. I once saw a guy in an urban ER who had been shot in the left knee with a .25ACP and was literally not even aware of it until I showed him the x-ray with the bullet in his joint capsule.

There were some Axis handguns even smaller than the .32. The Mauser 1910 on the left and the Beretta 1919 both fired .25ACP rounds. While the 1910 was more accurately a First World War weapon, many were still brought back by Americans fighting in the Second.

My wife’s grandfather was a true American hero. Personifying the Greatest Generation, he fought as an Infantryman from North Africa through Sicily and then up the Italian peninsula. His tour of duty ended when the Nazis were beaten, and he was in combat for nearly two years. Of all the trinkets and mementos he acquired during his service, one of the most intriguing was a .25-caliber Beretta Model 1919 he took from a captured Italian Army officer. This truly tiny combat pistol could hide in the palm of your hand and was likely not dangerous past about twenty feet.

My wife’s grandfather fought all through Italy during the last two years of World War 2. He brought a Beretta 1919 .25ACP pistol like this one back that he took off of an Italian officer.

Motivations and Cerebrations

The Germans approached war differently than did we. The Allies were comprised of democracies, and for the Allies a handgun was an implement of war pure and simple. Our 1911 was a handheld close combat killing machine par excellence, while the various British double action revolvers were robust and reliable come what may. Whether wielded by a General Officer or a PFC, our pistols were designed to be effective close range mankillers.

From left to right, the .25ACP, .32ACP, .380ACP, 9mm Parabellum, Russian 7.62x25mm, and American .45ACP. Note that the German cartridges pale alongside the American .45. The bullet fired by the .45ACP was fully twice the weight of that launched by the 9mm.

By contrast, the Germans were an aristocratic people whose officers typically, early on at least, came from refined stock. While their 9mm handguns certainly had numerous laudable features, the small caliber pistols they used were really optimized more for carrying than shooting. These men used their handguns as badges of rank, for last-ditch defense, and as a sort of crowd control tool. Given the abysmal terminal ballistics of these pipsqueak cartridges, they were in these narrow applications just barely adequate.

Special thanks to for the replica German gear used in our photographs.

***Shop GunsAmerica for your next Pistol***


About the author: Will Dabbs A native of the Mississippi Delta, Will is a mechanical engineer who flew UH1H, OH58A/C, CH47D, and AH1S aircraft as an Army Aviator. He has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning and summited Mount McKinley, Alaska, six times…always at the controls of an Army helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains. Major Dabbs eventually resigned his commission in favor of medical school where he delivered 60 babies and occasionally wrung human blood out of his socks. Will works in his own urgent care clinic, shares a business build-ing precision rifles and sound suppressors, and has written for the gun press since 1989. He is married to his high school sweetheart, has three awesome adult children, and teaches Sunday School. Turn-ons include vintage German machineguns, flying his sexy-cool RV6A airplane, Count Chocula cereal, and the movie “Aliens.”

{ 45 comments… add one }
  • Tim December 2, 2020, 2:03 pm

    Goring carried a US made 38 special. Figure that out.

  • Colman Webster June 21, 2020, 8:29 pm


  • Frank March 20, 2020, 9:52 am

    Hiya, Will. I’m a fellow Mississippian, and was the first on-the-ground manager of a certain Refuge outside of Cleveland. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful member of the Greatest Generation, who fought as a Rifleman under Patton. His story was remarkably similar to that of your wife’s grandfather. I wonder…

  • lawrence powell February 14, 2020, 12:51 pm

    Your basic premise is wrong, therefore your article is mostly a waste of words. German WWII handguns were not battlefield weapons or even defensive weapons, so their caliber was inconsequential. The pistols were a tool used against an unarmed populace for a shot in the back of the head. Also for officers’ dress uniforms.

  • Roger July 17, 2019, 1:55 pm

    After the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, they had the CZ factory making the same .25 ACP copies of the Browning .25 ACP that they made pre-war. They were marked: AUTOMAT PISTOLE DUO CAL 635 and F DUSEK OPOTSCNO, 44; a German proof mark is high on the left side of the slide.
    Mine still works like a CZ should.

  • MORRIS GRAHAM October 8, 2018, 12:19 pm


  • John22 June 30, 2018, 10:32 am

    This article contains undeniable truth – the German Reich never really organized their production capacity for all-out warfare until the final two years of the war, unlike Britain, the Soviet Union and the USA. Until late 1944, German government supervised a poorly organized war plan which allowed far too complex designs to reach the production stage. From temperamental lightweight tank engines to the P-38 (which has more parts than two alarm clocks), the Germans failed to realize that the best is the enemy of the good enough.

    The fact that the Germans pressed into service foreign weapons (not just pistols, but also rifles and automatic small arms) from all over Europe is proof of their key failure to realize that war on two fronts would require enormous numbers of soldiers over an extended period of years. Why did they employ .32 and .380 pistols? For the same reason – lack of manufacturing capacity and a failure to plan for all-out war. Since there were not enough 9mm pistols to go around to begin with, equipping senior officers, airmen, and local police with .32ACP pistols freed up more P-38s for frontline troops.

    I do agree that some stereotypes need to be reviewed here – the Luger was in fact quite reliable when fed the proper brass-cased ammunition it was designed to use and kept in its protective holster when not in use. A 9mm pistol was considered adequate by most combatants as a serious defensive sidearm in European warfare – the Germans did not encounter a large number of complaints about the effectiveness of this caliber in WWI, while larger caliber weapons such as the .455 were being discarded by the British, who adopted a .38 revolver firing a 200-gr bullet at 650 fps.

    The British use of the .455 and American .45ACP is more a legacy of both nations’ in colonial warfare, where existing smaller caliber weapons proved insufficient against highly aggressive and religiously motivated warlike indigenous peoples. While you’ll get no argument from me that a .45 FMJ bullet is more effective than 9mm FMJ round in stopping effectiveness, the German philosophy of balancing effective range, penetration, and weight of ammunition load vs. stopping power meant that the .45 round would never meet their requirements as a pistol and submachine gun round. The British Army came to the same conclusion.

  • Marc June 28, 2018, 7:40 pm

    The Beretta 92F is a direct descendant of the Walther P.38, not the PP or PPK which were unlocked breech firearms.

  • Norm June 8, 2018, 3:07 pm

    Another great article Dr. Dabbs. I have but one comment . . . Unwritten Axis doctrine held that the higher your rank, the smaller your pistol. Hitler was known to have carried one of the tinier Walther .25s in a custom leather pocket, sewn into the front pocket of his trousers.

  • Paul Kendall June 8, 2018, 7:30 am

    Good article on the variety of weapons used by the Germans in WW2, and a reminder that their production capacities, while resilient, were not as great as one might have imagined, requiring them to press other countries’ firearms (not just pistols) into service.While you show the .380 (aka 9mm Kurz) round in the photo, I didn’t see much commentary on the fact that many of the 7.65mm handguns mentioned were also chambered for the 9mm Kurz, and many officers carried that version of the same weapon. Usually, the higher the rank, the smaller the caliber, as generals have a lot less use for their pistols than the lower ranks, especially company-grade officers.

  • Chris Baker June 5, 2018, 1:50 pm

    “this diminutive cartridge was the brainchild of the luminary John Moses Browning and seems almost pathetic by modern ballistic standards.”

    And yet, if someone were to shoot you with a 32 ACP, assuming the shooter was a halfway decent shot, you would be just about as likely to die as any other round. I can hit a 4″ plate at 40 feet with my Beretta Tomcat in 32 ACP. I’m sure most people’s heads are larger than that.

    It’s all well and good wanting to carry a “major” caliber weapon but some of us must make do with what we can physically handle. Being handicapped I would have trouble carrying my GP100 but my Beretta is easy. I hope it never comes out except at the shooting range but if someone is being an idiot, I will protect myself and my loved ones and if I can get a shot off, I doubt he will shoot anyone else.

    To many people worry about the power of the cartridge and not enough worry about actually hitting the person they need to hit. Bullets whizzing past don’t do any good at all no matter what kind of handgun or rifle/shotgun they come out of.

    • Brandon June 5, 2018, 7:32 pm

      You carry a tiny gun, good for you. The rest of the law abiding gun owners are thrilled to count you in the ranks. There’s never enough good guys with guns and everyone counts tremendously.
      However, if you really felt your choice adequate why must you attempt to rationalize it and then make desparaging remarks concerning others abilities that choose larger calibers? You do yourself and all the rest of us a disservice.

      • Louis Menyhert July 16, 2019, 1:08 am

        I saw a friend taken out in Salvador when he ignored security rules and someone with a 22 nailed him. Any firearm is dangerous as the man who handles it. While I prefer a hefty caliber I am not going to lug a 6 gauge when a 380 will do. In fact a sig 365 with a 15 round magazine is incredible, though I carry with a 12 round magazine and have the 15 as a backup.

        Whatever gun you carry, practice, practice, practice.

  • ROGER FRANCO June 5, 2018, 6:53 am

    Hi Will, You did an excellent job on that article. From being involved with gun show management for several years, I’ve held every one of the guns mentioned in my hand. I considered most of them as a joke. The greatest generation were a practical lot. They didn’t need a status symbol to carry into war. Just a kick ass weapon that would answer the call when needed. I have an inherent love of all things in the old weapon category. So I still find, even the anemic little German side arms, interesting. The only one out of the lot that is still worth its carry weight is the Browning High Power. I’ve always considered it to be high art. To this day its erganomic design is copied by modern manufacturers. To the guys that are wigged out about the uniform, Haven’t you ever been to a cowboy shoot? When I dress cowboy, that doesn’t mean that I want to kill Native Americans.

  • Kurt Feltenberger June 5, 2018, 12:08 am

    65,000 M1 Carbines per day? In 100 days, they’d have made 65 million and after a year or so they could have issued one to everyone in every Allied country, and after another six months or so, every pet could have their own carbine, too…

    • Paul Kendall June 8, 2018, 7:23 am

      You have to remember that they did not start Day 1 of production at 65K, nor end the last day at 65K. This was the max number produced per day during production, not a daily production figure.

    • Norm June 8, 2018, 3:11 pm

      Despite Paul’s comment below, your math still needs a bit of work.

  • Fergus June 4, 2018, 9:39 pm

    The Germans regarded side arms as actual weapons of war-the allies regarded them as symbols of rank. The Germans utilized everything they could because they had an inadequate industrial base, but the quality of their weapons is demonstrated that they are still in service today. The P-38 was a reliable and deadly weapon and is still in service today though it is obsolete. Its accuracy was outstanding and I would not show the disdain the author has for this excellent weapon. Its interesting to see him attack .32 caliber weapons since mouse guns are making a comeback today for personal defense. The personnel who used .32 were generally not front line soldiers but staff officers, aircrew or naval personnel or members of security or police units.I am not one of those who demands a 45, which I find to have a limited capacity and is not as accurate as many 9mm pistols. I love the SIG 210 which makes anyone look like a marksman. The same cannot be said of the 45.British pistols were not used as a combat weapon in the same sense as the Germans employed them. For example, the Germans actually developed a \”battle pistol\” to fire various grenades and signal flares. They also developed stocks for pistols to function as a sort of carbine. No allied nation approached the Germans in their tactical use of pistols as a weapon of war.There are various areas to criticize the Germans, their logistics were wanting, and their intelligence was lacking. But to attack the quality and reliability of their standard arms reveals someone with fundamental limits in his knowledge of German use and production of small arms.

  • Fergus June 4, 2018, 9:39 pm

    The Germans regarded side arms as actual weapons of war-the allies regarded them as symbols of rank. The Germans utilized everything they could because they had an inadequate industrial base, but the quality of their weapons is demonstrated that they are still in service today. The P-38 was a reliable and deadly weapon and is still in service today though it is obsolete. Its accuracy was outstanding and I would not show the disdain the author has for this excellent weapon. Its interesting to see him attack .32 caliber weapons since mouse guns are making a comeback today for personal defense. The personnel who used .32 were generally not front line soldiers but staff officers, aircrew or naval personnel or members of security or police units.

    I am not one of those who demands a 45, which I find to have a limited capacity and is not as accurate as many 9mm pistols. I love the SIG 210 which makes anyone look like a marksman. The same cannot be said of the 45.

    British pistols were not used as a combat weapon in the same sense as the Germans employed them. For example, the Germans actually developed a “battle pistol” to fire various grenades and signal flares. They also developed stocks for pistols to function as a sort of carbine. No allied nation approached the Germans in their tactical use of pistols as a weapon of war.

    There are various areas to criticize the Germans, their logistics were wanting, and their intelligence was lacking. But to attack the quality and reliability of their standard arms reveals someone with fundamental limits in his knowledge of German use and production of small arms.

  • Rall S. June 4, 2018, 9:09 pm

    Regarding the handguns, how interesting it is that we can credit John Browning for the best 2: 1911.45 & Browning HiPwr. The double stack magazine in the HiPower, and its reliability places it ahead of Lugers and P38s. Keep in mind that European 9mm rds are hotter than American non+P 9mm loads. Luger owners know, if you’re actually going to shoot it , avoid jams by feeding it Euro-spec ammo. The HiPower has no issues, period. The 7.62 & 7.65 Euro rnds are hot, performing well out of Russian Tokarevs & PPSh’s, and the interwar Broomhandle Mauser.

    Regarding the broader commentary, you can only stereotype so far. Yes, the German mfg took a quality vs quantity approach, and in the ColdWar, the US military took the SAME approach, but never had to face the steamroller the Germans did. Hitler & the German General Staff made several strategic colossal blunders in ‘42, mostly in Russia. Handgun variety didn’t cost the Germans any battles. Another stark fact is the astronomical losses Stalin was willing to take, to steamroller the Germans on the defensive. The best small arms & tanks & planes the Germans could devise, couldnt save them from the steamroller of the East Front.

    The moral/ethical side is a no brainer, they had to lose. To quote an old German civilian: 5% of Germans were truly evil, 5% were truly good/resisting what was happening to them, while 90% powerlessly followed the ruthless powers like sheep. The old Prussian traditions, spit & polish of the Kaiser’s army, simply perished in the flames of WW2, with 50+million other humanity. It is a stark reminder on the dark side/deep innate tendencies within homo.sapiens, which continues to display the warlike, territorial behaviors it has always displayed throughout history. I’d advise the faint-of-heart to NOT google image search “isis atrocities”…SSDD. Which is why, ethically/morally speaking, they have to lose as well…by gun, missile, jdam, whatever works the best.

  • Michael Dean Miller June 4, 2018, 7:16 pm


    45 ACP… cuz old, slow and fat is what you need.


  • Sam Kersh June 4, 2018, 4:20 pm

    To damn the German pistols because of their caliber then call the Browning High Power the finest pistol of WWII is asinine as it, too, is a 9mm firearm. No, the finest pistol was and is the 1911 .45ACP handgun.

  • IDAN GREENBERG June 4, 2018, 3:37 pm

    As usual, I found Dr. Dabbs writing interesting and enjoyable to read, with excellent photos.. As a person seriously interested in this period of history, as well as a former firearms/ ammunition professional and old enough to have known many of the participants, including Allied, Soviet, German and Austrian soldiers, as well as Holocaust victims/ survivors, I wish to comment on some of the specifics of this article. Both the Imperial Japanese and their Fascist Allies planned fast wars of conquest, with diplomatic negotiated endings, with their major opponents and compliant puppet regimes in those lands actually conquered. What the Axis powers got instead was a prolonged, slug fest, war of attrition, they had gambled against and could not win. Even in the lands they conquered they made few friends wherever they went and these subject peoples were mostly far from compliant, greatly aiding the Allied cause. All in all and in hindsight, the Axis powers overestimated their own abilities, resources, weapon systems, allies and UNDERESTIMATED THEIR PRIMARY ENEMIES. Even in their early relatively successful, periods of the conflict, those the Nazis fought against, including Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, French, Greeks, British, Soviets, Luxembourgers and Belgians all gave them nasty military surprises, and caused occasional localized routs and retreats. In the Pacific, the early Japanese campaigns against the Chinese, Americans and British, were far from walkovers, thinning and depleting their relatively irreplaceable resources. All of this significantly contributed to the Axis powers inevitable defeat.
    As for Axis firearms, particularly produced after the war began, there were great variances in quality, particularly in German rifles and ammunition, which contemporary combat accounts and my own experiences confirm. Allied firearms and ammunition quality were generally much more uniform and often better, with the bad guys often preferring Allied/ Soviet firearms to their own, where permitted and ammunition was available. The iron sights on various allied combat rifles, for example, were superior, or at least comparable to those used on Nazi, Italian and Japanese general issue rifles, particularly in non-ideal light situations. And while certain famous German weapons and concepts, such as the 88mm artillery piece, Tiger/ Panther tanks, Sturmgewehr assualt rifle, ME 262 fighter jet, MP 38-40, Beretta 38 series sub machine guns and double action trigger pistols, were effective, they were not substantially superior, when compared to Allied countering weapons. Had the squadrons of British Gloster Meteor Jet fighters of 1944 -45, been used to counter the ME 262, rather than shoot down V1 flying bombs, I am sure that the Meteors would have usually prevailed. Stalin 2 and Pershing T26 tanks, once introduced, were capable of besting Tigers and Panther tanks, many of which were lost due to mechanical failure, rather than combat.
    As for German generals and various officers carrying .32/ 7.65mm pistols, so did American Generals, including Patton and Eisenhower, who were photographed at times carrying .38 revolvers, and Colt Model 1903 .32ACP and/ or Colt Model 1908.380 ACP pistols. Indeed American armed forces never had enough handguns during the war and numerous soldiers, sailors and airmen were issued 1917 Colt and Smith and Wesson .45 revolvers, .38 special revolvers, as well as the 1903/1908 Colt .32 and .380 pistols, though the latter were offered to officers and used by the O.S.S. as concealed defensive handguns as well. Though we might deride them now, a .32 automatic was more than enough gun, for killing a defenseless holocaust victim kneeling in front of a ditch, with a close range shot to the back of the head. The .32 ACP cartridge has a surprising amount of close range penetration and has put down many people with one shot, if shot in a vital area, though I would not PREFER IT, over a larger caliber handgun. It’s relative lack of recoil, make for easier rapid follow up shots and it can be shot very accurately, in a close combat situation. I only question Dr. Dabbs facts on the Gavrilo Princip pistol, that Princip used to murder the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. I have been informed that the caliber was 7.65mm Browning/ .32ACP and the murder weapon was the earlier (and also John Browning designed) FN Model 1900 pistol, not the 1910. Which is correct? I have seen the car they were murdered in, at the the Austrian Military Museum in Vienna, preserved from the day it happened, with the blood stains on the back seat and the bullet holes in the car body. The metal surrounding the holes was still shiny and the holes appeared to me to be from a .32, not a .380. Comments?,
    Finally as for Dr. Dabbs, or whomever the model was dressing in the field uniform of the Waffen SS, to demonstrate the Mauser HSC pistol, I think that rather than glorifying (whatever that is), that sorry organization, it merely demonstrates what our brave soldiers and that of our other Allies, had to go up against. As a Jewish American man, who lost at least 2/3rds of his family in the Holocaust, to the Nazi’s and their collaborators and whose Father and Uncle served in our military during WWII, I have sometimes felt uncomfortable seeing American re-anactors dressed in SS uniforms, instead of much less infamous Wehrmacht uniforms. I asked one gentleman, why his re-enactor unit chose an SS outfit, instead of a Wehrmacht unit. He told me that in their re-enactments they always lose, so since they always lose, why not play the baddest of the bad? That they were, though I think most of our combat battle casualties were caused by units other than the SS, simply because they were not the vast majority of the German armed forces deployed against us. And many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were committed by Belorussians, Romanians, Hungarians and other peoples under Nazi influence, or domination. But the World War II European Theater American combat vets I have known, mostly hated the SS and often would not take them prisoner, but kill them as soon as they could. Though not Jewish, I think most of them would object to seeing guys in SS uniforms more than I would. They definitely reacted angrily to the recurring myth that the Holocaust mass murder of Jews and other’s never happened. Even more than I did, as they had told me what they had SEEN…. I wonder if there are any WWII German re-enactor groups in Israel?…. Food for thought. Anyway, great article!!

    • Bruce June 4, 2018, 10:20 pm

      Thank you so much for putting this well-done article in the light that I saw it. I commented as an American Jew whose uncle fought in WW2 and received the Bronze Starr with clusters. He hated the SS more than the regular German Army. He would take prisoners who were not SS, but SS never. He would never speak of the war until the last years of his life (he died last year).
      I asked him about the Berretta and the Luger he gave me and he opened up because he had bone cancer and knew he was leaving this world. Wow! No bragging and a little crying, just facts. He fought from Italy thought the occupation of Germany. Two purple hearts. Ther Greatest Generation, For sure.
      Again thanks for your insight and your comments.

    • Chris Baker June 5, 2018, 1:59 pm

      Just think of what might have happened had Hitler not abrogated his treaty with Russia and just concentrated on Britain and Africa.

  • benjy June 4, 2018, 12:55 pm

    The Saur 38H has to be the heaviest handgun I have ever had. The Radom P 35 is one of the best made guns ever. I also like the High Power.

  • Wayne June 4, 2018, 12:47 pm

    Not a 9mm fan but, owned a p38 and shot squirrels with it at about 30 yds.
    While I was in army was issued probably 6 different 1911s, lucky to be able to be to hit tree limb let alone a squirrel with any of them.
    Shot placement is important.

  • John M. Miller June 4, 2018, 11:25 am

    Doc Will, You have hit it out of the park again !! Great article with the understanding of a combat pistol VS a badge of rank.
    Of course, the great number of oddball pistols pleases today’s collector, as you point out, a headache to the German armorer.
    I enjoyed your photos, more interesting than the usual static profiles. Keep up the good work !!! CHEERS Ole Miller

  • Southern shop June 4, 2018, 11:03 am

    I believe we live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

  • Jim Jadwin June 4, 2018, 10:40 am

    First things first. Russia, another Evil country, and arguably the most evil, fought on the side of the Allies If body count is an indicator of the amount of Evil, Stalin was worse than Hitler. And while the Tiger Tank made their enemy shake in their boots, Stalin’s simple principle of “quantity is a quality all its own” was proven at the battle of Kurst. The germans were outnumber outnumbered by the Russian T-34 and as a result lost the battle.

  • Dan F. June 4, 2018, 10:31 am

    Just like today, the guys who needed and actually used handguns had good ones. Those who carried pistols as status symbols were usually in positions where they didn’t have to care about the efficacy of their sidearms. 9mm was plentiful at all times, and I really doubt ammo supply for line units was ever that big a problem.

  • Norm June 4, 2018, 10:21 am

    Not only were pistols considered to be a badge of rank, but the smaller caliber you’re pistol was, the higher your rank was assumed to be.

    • Norm June 4, 2018, 10:22 am

      That’s “your”, not “you’re”.

  • AK June 4, 2018, 9:59 am

    “While ammunition supply and spare parts for some twenty-two major handgun types must have driven many a kraut supply sergeant to drink, ..”

    Not really, regarding ammo. You were issued one box of 25 rounds per pocket pistol; this was expected to last the war. Just another indication how insignificantly the Germans and Europeans viewed the role of the handgun as a tool of combat. Same with spare parts…if it broke, just junk it and get another.

  • AK June 4, 2018, 9:55 am

    Pistols in European armies were culturally, more of a badge of rank than a fighting tool. Americans by our history, looked on handguns as fighting tools. Hence, Walther PPKs vs 1911’s and .45 caliber 1917 Colts and Smiths. Having said, the P-38 was a Euro-alternative attempt to bridge the gap between the pocket popguns and what Americans brought to the fight.

  • Bruce C June 4, 2018, 9:19 am

    Interesting article. I have many of these pistols in my collection. I am not sure that I particularly care about the underlying tone of this article. While we can all understand that these weapons are a part of history, I see no reason for dressing up like a despicable Nazi SS soldier to shoot them as a part of this article. Hmmm! I wonder where this gentleman’s real sympathies lie?

    • Phil June 4, 2018, 1:04 pm

      Bruce – Ever hear of getting into period dress? There are lot\’s of re-enactors out there who will disagree with you.
      You should visit Conneaut, OH in August.

      • Bruce C June 4, 2018, 1:42 pm

        If you feel that wearing the SS logo represents anything you wish to be associated with then I do not understand. Had you worn the standard German uniform from WW2 I would have understood somewhat better. How that despicable uniform has anything to do with these firearms for an article about them completely escapes me. As I said I own Lugers, P38’s, Mausers, and numerous other weapons used by the Germans. Perhaps sharing with you that I am Jewish, and have a cousin with tattoos on her arm (she was 4 yrs old when taken) might give you a better insight to my disgust for that SS uniform.
        Good article, ruined by poor judgement I would say.

        • Phil June 15, 2018, 3:05 pm

          We all have our opinions. Personally, I’d never have a tat after reading the book “Rise and Fall of The Third Reich”
          when I was in the 10th grade. And I don’t like to see people dressed in black pajamas and conical hats. That’s my opinion. However that won’t keep some from doing those things if that’s their prerogative.

    • JCitizen June 4, 2018, 1:38 pm

      I for one enjoyed his article, and especially the very accurate reproduction uniform. It isn’t enough to look at fuzzy WWII black & white photos with barely enough detail to see what the article is about. Acting out the typical German soldier, is a great way to get a clear color picture with great details, that bring us back in time to what it was really like during this terrible time in human history.

      I really enjoyed the whole theme, and the photos of the range of pistol ammo standing side by side for comparison was icing on the cake! I would also thoroughly enjoy an article about the typical pistols used in the wild west, and yes, I’d expect some cowboy action shots with accurate period clothes used by the typical range ruffian. We’ve all seen the original tin type photos of the era, and they don’t provide enough detail IMHO.

  • Jerry S. June 4, 2018, 8:11 am

    I believe Hitler tried to fight the Second World War with a WWI mentality. He wouldn’t allow development of semi-auto rifles to proceed for a long time. He held his jets to a bomber role. He built huge tanks that were a technical nightmare at times. It was all grandiosity and I guess we should be glad for that fault. Had he even started the war when his generals had suggested, about 5 years later, he might have changed the world…..we will never know now.

  • REM1875 June 4, 2018, 7:12 am

    A friend of mine was a Luftwaffe Officer, a Dr and he told me officers had to purchase their own side arms … was what was available and what they could afford that often made the decision until other …ahh…avenues could be explored…..

  • Jerome Gabrovic June 4, 2018, 6:45 am

    This was in interesting and informative article.

    In my opinion, there biggest downside was not having a rifle as fast and reliable as the M1 Garand.

  • Martin B June 3, 2018, 5:31 pm

    In the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS equivalents, pistols were not intended to be battle tools – they had other weapons much more capable in that role. The true purpose of the pistols was as execution tools, in cases of desertion or mutiny within the ranks, but much more likely, as part of the ethnic cleansing as Hitler’s armies marched through Russia. In these cases, a tiny pistol of minimal calibre will still get the job done. Said job being utterly abhorrent for any other combatant force. Yes, these Nazis were very brave against terrified, unarmed civilians, but found their match in the Russian troops who opposed them and killed nine out of every ten Nazis killed during the war. We would do well to remember that.

    • Don Cornelius sr. July 17, 2019, 10:29 pm

      Indeed, thank you for your wisdom and clarity. These truths are hidden from the current generation by the nazis that run the current indoctrination doctrination camps and institutions, known as public education.

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