Category Archives: Footlocker Find

What’s a Duffle Bag Cut?

It never occurred to us until recently that there were people in the gun culture unfamiliar with the Duffle Bag Cut, until a knowledgeable young gun guy asked us, “What’s a Duffle Bag Cut?” as we described such a cut on a Mauser that Santa brought us this year.

Some of the WeaponsMan related Christmas stuff, posing at the tree. The cut doesn’t show with the rifle at rest.

Thing is, if you grew up in collecting in the 50s, 60s or 70s, many WWI and WWII vintage long guns had this cut, and everybody knew why.

Rear side of the cut, which was done with the stock off the gun. The dual sling swivels (left side for cavalry, bottom for infantry) was often seen on Czech long arms like this early 7.92 mm vz.24.

But circumstances have changed, a lot. The military, especially the military police and the judge advocates, have fallen under the sway of gun control activists, and the guys are no longer permitted to take and keep war trophies.

Taking an enemy firearm as a trophy was widespread (and even encouraged, or at least permitted) in World War I and II and the Korean War. It came under some restrictions in Vietnam, and by the GWOT was totally and utterly banned.

Here’s the nose end of the cut. It looks like it was ineffectually (WECSOG?) glued in the past.

But during its heyday in the 20th Century, war trophy taking was a norm. The weapons were brought back by the frontline troops who took them, the rear-echelon troops who traded for them, and the MPs who confiscated them for their own personal benefit, which was definitely a thing, if you listened to the WWII guys when they were still around to talk.

There was a problem, though. A Mauser or Arisaka didn’t fit in a GI duffel bag (and often, all a troop had for luggage was a duffle bag and a field pack). Enter the Duffle Bag Cut. Someone would cut the stock where the cut would be hidden by the barrel band.

This WWII bringback in a genuine WWII duffle bag (late Great Uncle Ovide’s) shows how the cut made it possible to close the bag on a disassembled Mauser, where even the bare stock would have been several inches too long. .

A permanent alteration to a firearm usually gets collectors all wound up, but this cut now a 70-year-old marker, an authentic part of the gun’s history and the tale it would tell if it could talk. Under the barrel band, it doesn’t hurt the utility of the gun for display, and so few collectors would consider repairing the cut (although any gunsmith not of the Wile E. Coyote School of Gunsmithing could). Those WWII soldiers who brought back Mausers and Arisakas, etc., were looking to keep them as trophies, or have them sporterized as deer guns, and the last few inches of the wood was not of any use on a sporting rifle.

A Duffle Bag Cut should not be seen on a gun with import marks. Instead, it’s the second-best indicator (after military capture or bringback papers) of a GI bringback. And it’s just one more interesting little thing about our Christmas VZ.24 Mauser.

(Note: We were expecting to put the 3rd Part of our M16A2 paper analysis up at this point, but have delayed and delayed and fiddled, waiting for a resource that has been unavailable; should we get our mitts on it again, we’ll have the post Monday morning. We regret the delay. -Ed.)

Footlocker Find: East German Camo Jacket

One good East German deserves another, so the jacket is displayed here with an Ernst Thällmann Werke Pistole Makarow, as the Russian-designed DA autopistol was termed in the soi-disant “German Democratic Republic,” which was neither German nor Democratic, and was only a Republic when considered as opposed to a Monarchy.

DDR NVA Jacket, slightly faded.

DDR NVA Jacket, slightly faded. The interior (wasteband at the bottom) shows the original colors. 

From about 1949 to 1990, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik was a sort of Potemkin state structure set up under Soviet authority in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. The politicians leading it at the outset were lower-level German Comintern functionaries, loyal to Moscow. Many of them spent the war years in Russia working on Soviet propaganda in the German language or as political officers in units of German “volunteers” from the prison camps. A state needs an Army, so these Soviet-controlled Germans quickly stood up an Army in the Red Army mold, with, originally, Russian weapons and equipment. It was called the NVA: Nationale Volksarmee, National People’s Army. (Where the “people” came in, is they got taxed to support it and drafted to fill its ranks. The officers were all Soviet yes-men).

Same setup, a more squarely overhead shot.

Same setup, a more squarely overhead shot. The “leaves” resemble that thematic device beloved of all Teutons, the oak leaf. Some originals of which can be seen in the background. 

In 1953, the East Germans rose for one day, a rising driven by the announcement that everybody’s work quota was going up 10% to pay for this Army, and that they’d better be making quota by 30 June 53. Why that date? The birthdate of German Communist Walter Ulbricht had supplanted Hitler’s birthday as a national holiday, even though Ulbricht was little but the condom Stalin wore when he dealt with the Germans. The rising was spontaneous, disorganized, and suppressed brutally by the Soviet occupation army, the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. The new NVA was not trusted to join the Soviets in shooting demonstrating workers; but an elite “police” force, modeled on the Waffen SS and led by former SS and Gestapo leaders, was.

It was only later that the Russians came to trust the NVA a little — although, always, with Soviet units behind them.

Close-up (all pictures embiggen) showing buttons on a sleeve pocket. These buttons are one-piece plastic moldings and very prone to breakage in the plastic attach loops. Note also the strong cotton twill material.

Close-up (all pictures embiggen) showing buttons on a sleeve pocket. These buttons are one-piece plastic moldings and very prone to breakage in the plastic attach loops. Note also the strong cotton twill material.

Later, they were permitted to make small modifications in their equipment, like the pebbled plastic stocks that distinguish East German AKs. But very little deviation from the Party Line — or the Soviet quartermaster catalog — was tolerated. When NATO was still quite fractious and bumptious and every nation still went its own way, its eastern equivalent, the Warsaw Pact, had unity of command and absolute interoperability of equipment — possible because it was a master-slave relationship, not an association of free states.

According to Camopedia, the first East German camouflage suits were direct copies (or perhaps, hand-me-down supplies) of wartime Soviet recon unit camo. This odd pattern, which seems to owe more to the blotches worn by US Marines but with a peculiarly German grey-blue palette, is described like this:

The M58 Flachtarnenmuster pattern was issued between 1956 and 1967 to units in the East German Army (NVA) and Ministry of Interior (MDI). Also known as Kartoffelmuster (potato camouflage) or Blumentarn (flower camouflage), the pattern generally consists of blue-green, olive green & brown ragged blotches on a field grey background. Several mild color variations have been documented, some of which may appear darker due to their having been coated in anti-gas chemicals (which also gave the fabric a waxy texture). Several types of jacket, trousers, field equipment, shelter half and hood/helmet cover were produced in this pattern.

Slightly out of focus close-up of a button, also showing the twill material and the loose register of the camo print. Not bad for over 50 years old.

Slightly out of focus close-up of a button, also showing the twill material and the loose register of the camo print. Not bad, for over 50 years old.

After the East Germans retired these, they showed up everywhere from Angola to Vietnam, having been surplused to “fraternal socialist states and liberation movements.” We can’t remember whether we picked this one up in Europe or South America in the 80s or 90s.

The East Germans replaced it with a “rain pattern” uniform — the one in which Your Humble Blogger did a penetration test of US Army Europe HQ in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, proving for all time that all Germans do look alike to us Yanks. We’ve still got that suit, too.