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Luftwaffe drilling: world's most expensive survival arm.


The concept of a survival weapon for aircraft pilots and crews is a valid one. During the 1950s, U.S. Air Force crews were sometimes supplied onboard their aircraft with the M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon. It was a superposed (over/under) combination gun with a caliber .22 Hornet rifle barrel over a .410-bore shotgun barrel.


The originals were made by Ithaca and sold only to the U.S. military. As the barrels are only 14 inches in length, it was, and is, a title II firearm governed by the restrictions of the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. CZ of Czechoslovakia manufactured a version with barrel length of 18.5 inches, which was imported by Springfield Armory of Geneseo; Ill. and marketed as the M6 Scout. Its salient features were design simplicity and cost-effective manufacture.

During World War II, the German Luftwaffe issued a survival weapon to some aircrews, principally to those of the Afrika Korps in North Africa, that was at the opposite end of the spectrum from the inexpensive and simplistic M6 Aircrew Survival Weapon.

Today the stuff of legend and one of the most desirable and expensive World-War-II-era German small arms, a specimen of the famed, and somewhat mysterious, Luftwaffe drilling recently fetched $31,600 at auction. What exactly is it and what makes it worth the price of a new, albeit mid-size, Mercedes?

The word drilling comes from the German word drei (three) and signifies a three-barreled gun. Although it's available elsewhere, the drilling is most highly favored in the German-speaking countries. The hunting preserve system of 19th century Germany was especially amenable to the potential presented by a firearm that was both shotgun and rifle.

The hunter could hunt all year with just one weapon, especially if he had a sub-caliber insert for one of the shotgun barrels. While not optimal for any single kind of hunting, it provided a hunter with an alternative for any occasion that might suddenly arise in the small, densely wooded areas of the German hunting preserves.

A drilling, although once thought of as a "forester's weapon," is among the most expensive of all hunting firearms, principally because of the great amount Of handwork involved in the making of a drilling of the traditional type.

The most common drilling is the so-called shotgun drilling, which is a combination of two shotgun barrels and one rifle barrel. But, there are also other combinations, such as two side-by-side rifle barrels with the shotgun barrel below them, or else diagonally beside each other in the old Suhl manner. The Luftwaffe drilling is a traditional shotgun drilling.

Designated as the M30 by the Wehrmacht, it was manufactured by J.P. Sauer & Sohn, in Suhl. Thuringia. Founded in 1751, the company's production facility remained in Suhl for two centuries, moving to Eckenforde in 1951.

During World War II, J.P. Sauer & Sohn manufactured the K98k German bolt-action service rifle and the cal. 7.65mm Sauer 38(H) pistol, the first series production handgun to feature a cockine/decocking lever.



The M30 is a standard commercial-grade drilling with light engraving, a raised Cheek piece and checkered pistol grip and forearm. The side-by-side barrels are 12 gauge smoothbores. chambered for the shorter European 65mm shotshells. The rifle barrel is chambered for the 9.3x74Rmm cartridge.

Still a fairly popular German hunting cartridge for combination guns. the 9.3x74Rmm round originated in the early 1900s. probably in response to the British .400/360 Nitro Express. The 9.3x74Rmm is a dangerous game cartridge, equivalent to the 375 Flanged Nitro Express. It earned an excellent reputation in Africa against large game, up to and including elephant.



The 258-grain soft-point and 280-grain SP RWS factory loads leave the muzzle at 2460 and 2280 fps, respectively. What the Luftwaffe anticipated encountering on the arid region deserts of North Africa is anyone's guess. Most likely, this was a rifle/shotgun combination already in the J.R Sauer & Sohn catalog that was chosen by someone who thought the desert was filled with dangerous game.

The only difference between the M30 and an actual commercial version is the Luftwaffe shrouded Eagle "2" Waffenamt Stempel on the top flat of the forward locking lug, and the Luftwaffe Eagle with Swastika die stamped over the chamber of the right shotgun barrel and on the right side of the buttstock.

Over the years, I have owned two Luftwaffe drillings. The one I currently own is dated "641" (June, 1941) and is serial numbered "335919". It has been reported that between 1941 and 1942 a total of-2,456 Luftwaffe drillings, were delivered out of a total order of 4,000.

Why the order was not completed is unknown, although wiser heads may have prevailed as the war began to turn against Germany by the end of 1942 and J.P. Sauer & Sohn became preoccupied with the increasing demand for far more important K98k rifles and 38(H) pistols. The reported M30 Luftwaffe drilling serial number range is 334660 (April, 1941) to 339755 (September, 1942).

Although World-War-II-era German propaganda photos show the M30 drilling being loaded on aircraft loose and assembled, it was in reality issued knocked-down and stowed aboard the aircraft in an aluminum case painted Luftwaffe blue-gray. (Note: at this stage, it's probably not wise to lift this case by its leather strap, which will, most often now be quite fragile and fully loaded with the gun, ammunition and accessories the weight is just over 32 pounds.) Stenciled on top of the case is "drilling M30 mit Munition u. Zubehor ce" The manufacturer's code "ce" Was assigned Sauer & Sohn. J.P., Gewehrfabrik, Suhl and appears on K98k rifles and 38(H) pistols manufactured during World War II.


Inside the ease, in addition to the gun 'itself, stowed in two pieces, is a leather sling, two 10-round boxes of 9.3x74Rmm H-Mantel (Half Metal Jacket, i.e., Soft Point] rifle cartridges, 20 rounds of 12-gauge Brenneke slugs and 25 rounds of 12-gauge shotshells loaded with 3 1/2mm pellets and a cleaning kit consisting of a three-piece wooden or brass rod. bore brush, mop and wire bore tool. A list of the contents is stenciled inside the lid of the case. Felt strips inside the case protect the gun itself.

There was also a 32-page, waterproof instruction booklet (missing from my M30) and a test target from the factory, with the serial number of the gun and the date n was tested (September 10, 1941 in this instance). The patterning target information (each shotshell was loaded with 136 3 1/2-mm pellets) is quite explicit, giving the number of pellets impacting in each concentric ring of the test target, and the total percentage of pellets striking the five rings of the target for three shells fired through each of the two smoothbore barrels. The rifled barrel was zeroed at 100 meters.

The M30 drilling is approximately 42 inches in overall length and the three barrels are each about 25 5/8 inches in length. The barrels were fabricated from the highest quality Krupp steel (called Laufstahl) and so roll marked. All of the gun's components carry eagle-over-"N" nitro proofing. Both the buttstock and forearm were carved from first-grade, tightly checkered Nutze (walnut). The M30 drilling weighs about 7 1/2 pounds.

The degree of hand fitting is apparent throughout and examining this gun and then imagining it being stowed an a military aircraft as a survival weapon is dumbfounding, to say the least. While this is certainly not why they lost the war, Ws a revealing insight into the Teutonic mindset. The engraved screw heads, scroll engraved Sauer logos, and the elegantly case-hardened breech and trigger guard, as well as the case-hardened sling swivels, forearm latching mechanism. pistol grip cap, Greener-type safety lever (on the left side of the action) and selector all with scroll engraving throughout. exhibit a level of quality far above any small arm ever fielded before, after or during World War II. It's easy to understand why this is the single most desirable, and valuable, firearm to come out of the war.

The M30 drilling is built on a so-called Blitz lock system, with double underlocking lugs and Greener crossbolt and sideclips. In a Blitz lock, which was the first cockless, or hammerless, drilling, the entire lock mechanism for the three locks--strikers, springs and trigger rods--is mounted on the trigger plate. The cocking lever operates in the same manner as in the Anson & Deeley system; although it must be somewhat longer, as the striker pieces are located behind the breech box.

Almost all early self-cocking drillings had Blitz locks, and they are predominantly used in designs with Roux breech mechanisms (in this system the lock mechanism is cocked by a lever under the trigger guard that also acts as the breech opener). The very real shortcoming of the Blitz lock is the extremely short gap between the rest and the striker's pivot point on the one side, and the rest and the rod pivot point on the other.

As a consequence, high forces are applied to the rest entry and this increases the very real danger of misfiring. To counter this, a very high trigger pull weight is required. This is usually undesirable for hunting purposes. In theory, the Blitz lock is the worst possible for a drilling and its continued use was a function of its simplicity and subsequent cost-effectiveness.

To fire the rifle barrel, you must push the sliding catch on the tang directly in back of the breech-opening lever-forward. So doing both raises the 100-meter open V-notch rear sight blade and engages the forward trigger, which is used to fire the rifle barrel, centered under the side-by-side shotgun barrels.



This front trigger is a European "single-set" type, which is activated by sliding the trigger manually forward until it audibly clicks into the set mode. The rear trigger is a standard type and fires the left barrel, which is choked to fire Brenneke slugs to the rifle sight's 100-meter point-of-aim.

Sliding the rifle's selector catch rearward both lowers the rifle's rear sight and permits the front trigger to fire the right shotgun barrel. It is thus theoretically possible to fire three shots without opening the breech or lowering the drilling from the shoulder.

Quite a bit heavier than U.S.-type hollow-base slugs, the solid Brenneke slugs have raised ribs designed to stabilize the projectile in a smoothbore and propel their way through even the most tightly choked barrels without damage.

A base wad screwed to the Brenneke slug further stabilizes the slugs and adds even more mass. Brenneke 12-gauge slugs are formidable against both human targets and dangerous game up to and including large cats, both lions and tigers. The 3 1/2-mm shotshells accompanying the M30 drilling are approximately the size of Number 2 duck loads.



In retrospect, all of this is quite preposterous for use as an aircraft survival weapon system. So, who was responsible for weird Opium fantasy? it doesn't take much deductive intuition to conclude that Hermann Goring, Hitler's chosen successor, last commander of the legendary Richthofen Squadron, Chief of the Storm Troopers and of the German Air Force, prime minister of Prussia, president of the Prussian State Council, Reich master of forestry and game, Hitler's special commissioner for the Four-Year Plan, chairman of the Reich Defense Council, Reichsmarschall of the Greater German Reich(and chairman of the Scientific Research Council was behind this wasteful small arms farce.

One of the Third Reich's more colorful villains and a very real morphine addict, Goring (aka "Der Dicke" or "The Fat One" by the German people) amassed incredible wealth-and indulged in a seemingly endless appetite for jewels, exquisite wines; art masterpieces (plundered from all over Germany's occupied territories), hunting preserves and opulent firearms of all types. Who else would put an expensive, engraved hunting firearm aboard "his". Luftwaffe's aircraft and who else had the power to see that it was done?

Toward the end of 1942, the war was starting to turn against Germany on the Eastern Front and Goring's influence within the Nazi power structure was eroding, as his vow to keep the Wehrmacht forces trapped at Stalingrad supplied by air proved to be another of his all too many pompous illusions.



I cannot locate any documentation of the M30 drilling's actual service in the field, but 30 years ago General Adolph Galland, commander of the Luftwaffe's fighter arm during the war, stated, "In 1942 .and 1943, the M30 drilling was standard equipment for our fighter a/c: Me-109 and Stuka bombers to operate in the desert (North Africa). The purpose was to shoot animals for survival." In my opinion, very few, if any, were ever used for that purpose.

Few reading this will ever have an opportunity to examine, let alone acquire, an M30 Luftwaffe drilling. Of the only 2,456 apparently produced, the number that survived the War and the ravages of time are truly miniscule. It is by far and away the most rare of all German World War II firearms. As a consequence, its value has reached astronomical levels and will only continue to escalate.

Some have been refinished and there are even reports that some have been counterfeited. Because of its distinctive nature and peculiar markings it would be difficult to successfully fake a Luftwaffe drilling. But, the temptation is certainly there because of its great value, and as with so many other articles of German World-War-II-era esoteric militaria, Caveat Emptor prevails.
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Title Annotation:Mostly Machine GUNS
Author:Kokalis, Peter G.
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 10, 2009
Previous Article:Gas vs. bolt guns.
Next Article:Gun control's "brass ring".

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