Rifle Grenade for Shotguns of the German Volkssturm: A Curious Development in the Last Days of the Reich
By Michael Heidler

After Adolf Hitler’s decree for the set up of the German Volkssturm (People’s Army) from 25 September 1944, the number of weapons required for arming all these new troops went beyond the scope of the German armament industry (or what was left of it). Along the 1,450 battalions of the 1st Bann (Aufgebot) in the areas close to the front line reported a requirement of 871,300 handguns – but only 11,245 were available.

Hereto an excerpt from the "Volkssturm Order No. 27/45" decreed by the NSDAP leadership of the city of Celle from 26 February 1945:

"1. Confiscation of hunting weapons: The confiscation of hunting weapons, mentioned in the Volkssturm Order No. 23/45 in paragraph 5, is to be understood that the hunters who are still carrying out the hunt can keep the weapons that are necessary for hunting. But also hunters must provide their surplus hunting rifles to the Volkssturm. An approach must be made to the occasional hunters and the retired elderly hunters about submitting their guns and ammunition."

In addition, surplus barrels from military reserve stocks were used for manufacturing simplified Volkssturm-rifles. For example, the companies Carl Walther and Gustloff-Werke got 147,000 reserve barrels of the MG 81 from air force stocks to produce single-shot carbines.

To strengthen the fighting power of the last-ditch Volkssturm units, the development of weapons and ammunition continued uninterrupted until the end of the war. Early in 1945, the company DWM (Deutsche Waffen- und Munitionsfabriken AG) got a contract to develop a high-explosive rifle grenade for 12-gauge shotguns. Delivery and inventory numbers of shotguns in 12 gauge could not be found, however, it must have been a larger number.

Among them were also many former Luftwaffe weapons. To exercise the discipline of “clay pigeon shooting” practiced by the Luftwaffe before the outbreak of the war, many shotguns were bought as “Handwaffen-Übungsgerät” (hand-weapon training device). If the benefits are questionable, it should be remembered in this connection that the supreme commander of the Luftwaffe, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, incidentally was the Reichsjägermeister (head of the German hunters). He enjoyed hunting and skeet shooting.

A prominent representative of the hunting rifles introduced by the Luftwaffe was the "Drilling M 30" in calibre 12 made by J.P. Sauer & Sohn from Suhl. This weapon was added to the emergency equipment of aircrafts operating in tropical areas. It was stored in a special carrying case including ammunition. According to L.Dv. 4000/10 "Munitionsvorschrift für Fliegerbordwaffen” (Instruction for the ammunition of aircraft armament) its construction enables the release of two shotgun shots and one bullet shot. The left shotgun barrel is also designed for the use of a Brenneke-bullet.

Since the African campaign had ended with a bitter defeat of the Afrika Korps in May 1943, the German Luftwaffe had other problems than to practice clay pigeon shooting. The shotguns were stored or submitted to another use. It’s easy to imagine that the no longer needed shotguns of the Luftwaffe were made available to the Volkssturm.

As shown, the high-explosive grenade was armed with a simple percussion fuze. The tail was made of a bolt with stabilizing wings to compensate for the lack of twist in the smooth shotgun barrel. Information about the propellant cartridges has not yet been found.

Whether this only 80 grams heavy explosive shell reached the maturity for use in combat is not known - at least a short time later the war in Europe found an end.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (August 2012)
and was posted online on July 27, 2012


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