Tag Archives: Weyersberg-Kirschbaum

Great War Echos along the Copacabana

When the U.S. entered what was then termed the Great War and is now better known as World War I, the country’s Army went from an oversized border defense force to one capable of taking on the Kaiser. In April 1917, when Congress at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson declared war against Imperial Germany, the U.S. had a standing Army of just 127,500. By the end of the war the following November, this grew to a force of well over 4 million.

All those troops needed weapons, and they needed them fast.

Just as the M1917 “American Enfield” .30-06 manufactured by Remington, Eddystone, and Winchester augmented the standard M1903 Springfield rifle, the Army turned to Colt and Smith & Wesson to produce a revolver capable of firing the same .45 ACP rimless ammo that the standard M1911 Government used. For Colt, that meant a variant of its M1909 New Service chambered in .45 ACP. For Smith, this meant revamping the Hand Ejector 2nd Model from .44 Special or .455 Webley to the shorter .45 ACP.

While only something like 15,000 S&W 1st Model Hand Ejector revolvers – known as the Triple Lock because its cylinder locked up with the frame in three places – were made between 1908 and 1915, the simplified 2nd Model (which deleted the third lockup point) saw a bit more success. This was because the British government had ordered almost 70,000 modified guns chambered in their standard .455 Webley for use in the Great War before America joined the conflict. A quick redesign to allow the 2nd Model to run .45 ACP, and Smith soon had their M1917 revolver in production for the U.S. Army.

Over 160,000 S&W M1917s were delivered before the end of the war, and they were often standard issue for specialist soldiers such as dispatch riders, military police, and machine gunners, while the M1911 automatic was more traditionally issued to officers. (Photos: National Archives)

While over 160,000 were constructed for the U.S. Army, and they served through not only the Great War but also through WWII– making it the first truly popular S&W N-frame on the American market– the Brazilians really loved the big .45 ACP. Ordered as the Modelo 1937, the Exército Brasileiro took possession of 25,000 commercial grade M1917s before WWII, carried them to war in Italy, they bought another 12,000 in 1946– taking all Smith had in stock or could make.

The Brazilians liked the revolver so much that, while the 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force that fought in Italy with the Allies in WWII was largely equipped with American small arms, its officers often carried their Modelo 1937s to war. (Photos: National Archives/Exército Brasileiro)

Brazil only fully replaced the Modelo 1937 in the late 1980s with Beretta/Taurus-made Model 92 9mm semi-autos, keeping them in service for some 50 years.

This Model 1917 is from Smith’s second batch sent to Brazil in 1946, as it has a serial number outside the original run, the commercial round bottom U-notch rear sighting notch, and the standard Modelo 1937 national crest. It wears a CAI ST AL VT (Century Arms International St Albans, VT) import mark on the bottom of the barrel, and was likely from the batch of 14,000 surplus guns brought in from Brazil in 1989-1990. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Speaking of keeping dated small arms in use, the Brazilians still run Great War-era bolt guns behind the scenes.

As a bit of a backgrounder, the Brazilians loved them some Mauser rifles. They started with the M1904 Mauser-Vergueiro rifle then went all-in with the Model 1908 rifle, similar to the Gew.98 with a 29-inch barrel. After WWI, in the 1930s Brazil bought the unlicenced Czech 08/34, a K98k clone with a 22-inch barrel chambered in 7mm as well as genuine Oberndorf-built M1935s.

Supplemented by a homegrown variant of the FAL made by the Itajubá-based IMBEL after 1964 and more recently by the IMBEL IA2 in 5.56, Brazil’s Mausers linger on as the homogenized “Mosquefal” M968, converted to 7.62 NATO, used in both training and parades.

Very cold, very old steel, via Solingen/Suhl, Brazil and the Keystone State

So I took advantage of some of the recent freak snowfall on the Gulf Coast to get some shots of two of my newest additions to my bayonet collection. Behold, I give you a pair of pre-WWI stickers for the M1908 Mauser rifle produced for Brazil by DWM in Imperial Germany:

As a bit of a backgrounder, the Brazilians loved them some Mauser bolt guns. They started with the M1904 Mauser-Vergueiro rifle then went all-in with the Model 1908 rifle, similar to the Gew.98 with a 29-inch barrel. After WWI, in the 1930s Brazil bought the unlicenced Czech 08/34, a K98k clone with a 22-inch barrel chambered in 7mm as well as genuine Oberndorf-built M1935s.

BRAZILIAN Model 1908 Mauser bolt-action long rifle # 9101o (7×57) mfg. by DWM in 1909. Photo by Empire Arms

Brazilian sailors on battleship Minas Gervias, the 1920s, dressed for landing party duty– complete with M1908 series bayonets

They continued their love affair well into the 1950s with the locally-built (Itajuba Arsenal) M1954, a .30-06 rifle made with parts of all of the aforementioned Mausers to complement M1903A3s and M1s picked up from the U.S. during WWII.

Brazilian Expeditionary Force soldiers in Italy, 1945. Note the U.S. equipment to include M1903A3 Springfields and M1 Garands. The Brazilian Army switched to the 30.06 for about 20 years following WWII

The 25,000-strong Brazilian Expeditionary Force fought like lions in Italy from late 1944 into 1945 and lost nearly 950 men to combat. They also bagged two German Generals including Generalleutnant Otto Fretter-Pico, shown here surrendering his 148. Infanterie-Division to Brazilian FEB General Euclides Zenóbio da Costa. Italy, 1945

The BEF’s logo was the cobra está fumando, which means “The snake is smoking” A snake smoking a pipe was akin to pigs flying. It is a known saying in Brazil i.e. “It is easier for a snake to smoke than __” Former President Getúlio Vargas claimed it was easier for a snake to smoke than Brazil entering the war against Germany.

Second Sergeant Oscar Cardoso Garcez of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force with a captured German Unteroffizier the latter carrying both the EK1 and EK2, as well as an Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen and a Verwundetenabzeichen wound badge. Note the M1903 over his shoulder

With the exception of this group, however, the Brazilian Army kept using their Mausers for decades as their primary infantry arm.

Take this image of a Brazilian Army soldier talking with local children during the 1964 Military Coup in Rio de Janeiro, for instance.

Though the Brazilians adopted a homegrown variant of the FAL made by the Itajubá-based IMBEL in 1964, some of the older 7mm Mausers went up for grabs on the surplus market then while others were only recently released from “just in case” reserves after decades in arsenal storage. Further, in the 1950s a large number of M1908s were sold to the Dominican Republic under strongman Rafael Trujillo, where they were reconditioned by his San Cristobal Arsenal, ran oddly enough by Hungarian ex-pats, and continued to serve into the 1980s. (More details on this at the bottom of post)

Further, a number of Mausers still show up in images of the Brazilian military.

Brazilian officer cadets armed with what appears to be some well-used Mauser Kar 98k’s, likely Brazilian remade Model 1954s

Which brings us to these particular M1908 bayonets shown at the top.

Some 17-inches overall (18 when in the scabbard) with an 11.75-inch blade, M1908 Brazilian-contract export bayonets were made by three firms for DWM: Weyersberg-Kirschbaum & Cie (W.K. & Cie) and Alex Coppel (ALCOSO) of Solingen as well as Simson & Co. of Suhl, Germany.

The two examples I have are made by W.K. & Cie and Simson & Co., respectively with “β” (beta) inspection marks on both blade and pommel. Still looking for an ALCOSO!

The steel has a gentle patina overall with some light pitting on the spine, likely caused due to interaction with the scabbard interior in humid conditions– after all, they did serve for generations in the same country as the Amazon.

They were grimy with storage but cleaned up very nice with some Ballistol (what else?).  The leather body wood scabbard has brass fixtures and is serial numbered to the blade as per contract.

I picked them up for a song from Springfield Sporters of Penn Run, PA and they had “hundreds in stock” for $30 bucks each. As orders of $65 or more ship for free, I added a Canadian No. 4 Long Branch SMLE bayonet to the mix for $5 to finish it out and I am tickled pink.

Springfield Sporters has these for just $30 bucks. Gott in Himmel!

And finally, here is the footnote on the surplus Mausers bought by the Dominican Republic from Brazil in the 1950s, and liquidated as surplus sometime in the late 1980s/early 1990s after reconditioning them. Details on said reconditioning here from Ian McCollum with Forgotten Weapons: