Received a pistol with some history

SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
edited July 2017 in R&R
Any firearms aficionados? I recently received a Sauer 38H and wonder if anyone has any insights. I only have cell phone quality pics and am on mobile; I'll add more details later if there's interest.

A relative and his friend were US soldiers stationed in a medical unit in a western Europe POW camp following WW2. All of the carving and engraving was done by a person held there using the limited set of improvised tools he was able to acquire. Given access to one part of the weapon at a time, he was able to craft a very beautiful piece.

cQvKhnvh.jpg


More to follow.

Comments

  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    The caduceus appears in several locations. The engraver is presumed to have included it to recognize the medical degree held by the officer that allowed him to work on this project.

    PjLCI0Y.jpg
  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    The 38H models produced early in the war included a number of safety features. Below the rear sight is the pin that acts as the loaded chamber indicator. Other features include a cocking/decocking lever, a safety switch, and an integrated safety that prevented firing if the magazine was removed.

    3ZyHGGM.jpg
  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    The artist signed his work.

    Fritz Spörer
    Hamburg-Poppenbüttel

    I've blacked out the street address.

    IcXcTsg.jpg
  • Bear_82Bear_82 Posts: 338Moderator
    very nice
    The right of the people to keep and arm bears shall not be infringed.
  • [CLS]_SgtMac[CLS]_SgtMac Posts: 199Moderator
    edited November 2016
    Some amazing craftsmanship there.

    I'd say it's really valuable if you compare it to a factory original without all the artwork...

    http://www.gunbroker.com/item/599339139


  • Keebler750Keebler750 Posts: 3,413Beta Tester
    edited November 2016
    The story itself is interesting and I'd love to hear more! They had access to a weapon IN a camp?!!

    That is an amazing piece of history you have there! Find out what it'll take to make sure it stays preserved! Corrosion is a nasty thing.
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  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    Some amazing craftsmanship there.

    I'd say it's really valuable if you compare it to a factory original without all the artwork...

    http://www.gunbroker.com/item/599339139


    Wow, crazy. Thanks for finding the comparable, may move it to safe deposit. It's more sentimental value for me, couldn't imagine selling it. Supposedly the previous owner tried to get it accepted for exhibition at the Smithsonian, but there just isn't the documentation for it. Everything was based on the first-hand eyewitness accounts of the two officers, both of whom have since passed, so the historical authenticity is only getting harder to prove.

    Two rumors that I've heard were about Fritz's past. One suggestion was that, before arriving at this camp, he was also involved in decorating a pistol gifted to Hermann Goering; firearm collection was something he's less well known for. The other suggestion I've heard about Fritz was that he was involved in engraving plates for Operation Bernhard, the [TOS Violation] plan to flood the UK with fake pound notes and crash their economy. So far, though, my reading has suggested that was primarily the forced labor of Jewish POWs and not likely to have a connection to this piece.
  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    Keebler750 wrote: »
    The story itself is interesting and I'd love to hear more! They had access to a weapon IN a camp?!!

    That is an amazing piece of history you have there! Find out what it'll take to make sure it stays preserved! Corrosion is a nasty thing.

    See above for some tales :) My impression was that the pistol was "found" by the US officer and, after befriending the engraver, decided to let him work his craft on it one piece at a time. After all, what's he gonna do with one pistol grip? The officers involved were part of a medical detachment, so I'm frankly not sure if prisoner, patient, or something else is the actual relationship they had. In about a week I'll have access to a few handwritten notes that may have some clarifying remarks.


    Yeah, I have concerns about keeping it in good condition. Everything's quite stiff, especially the takedown switch. It's certainly not going to see use, but I still need to find a definitive source on the best way to preserve it.
  • Duke_AudiDuke_Audi Posts: 313Beta Tester
    That is a very fine piece indeed. Having been a collector and past member of a very selective association, (which included the then Master of the Armies for the Tower of London) I do have some knowledge on the subject.

    Have you disassembled the weapon to clean and/or inspect it? Often information was hidden on the back side of the grips or under the slide.

    Check out this engraved Sauer 38H. You will find the information included with the description of particular interest.
    http://www.investmentsinarms.com/products/extraordinary-sauer-38h-presentation-quality-engraving-sn-1
    556127a3323e2cfd0355aaa34b6e0b63-full.jpg
  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    Thanks, really interesting link. Disassembled this morning, found nothing on the obverse sides of the grips. Did see what looked like stamped serial numbers and... an H (?) in a few locations.


    H marks on cocking/decocking lever assembly pieces
    NWks2FF.jpg

    Barrel number
    IorOhhw.jpg

    H mark under firing pin
    nJ7nJhb.jpg


    GJrrKoW.jpg
  • Keebler750Keebler750 Posts: 3,413Beta Tester
    edited November 2016
    I'd also recommend being careful with oils from your skin during handling, I think? I forget how that works. Duke? You'd know...

    EDIT - Oh, wait. I see gloves are being used.

    Can see from the latest photos it's in need of some TLC.
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  • Keebler750Keebler750 Posts: 3,413Beta Tester
    edited November 2016
    Also, I note the Leaf carvings appear to be the same as in Duke's link....?!
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  • Duke_AudiDuke_Audi Posts: 313Beta Tester
    Oak leaf with acorns is not a traditional motif for engraving on weapons but has and is still used by some. Do an image search for engraved Colt, Winchester or other high end hand or long guns. You’ll see a wide variety but few with this style of work.
    Makes me think that these craftsmen were used to doing fine silverware and/or furniture prior to applying their embellishments on weapons.
    556127a3323e2cfd0355aaa34b6e0b63-full.jpg
  • SacchoSaccho Posts: 1,577Player
    Reproduced here are the notes left by "C-- T--". I've removed names and personally-identifiable info.
    Known facts
    This pistol was given to C-- T-- by Dr. B-- M-- after his death at age 84 in 2003. Captain M-- served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1945 to 1947 and was the commanding officer of the 260th Medical Detachment which was stationed near Chievres, Belgium during 1946. Staff Sergeant T-- served as senior NCO under Captain M--. The 260th Medical Detachment had 2 officers and 8 enlisted men (the Army’s smallest unit). It took daily sick call for a US Army Combat Engineer Battalion and had oversight for the health care of several thousand German prisoners of war held in a nearby compound until their release in the late fall of 1946.
    Four German POWs had daily assignments in the 260th Medical Detachment dispensary five days a week. Two served as medics, one did clerical work, and the fourth, Fritz Sporer – a very talented craftsman and artisan – worked as an engraver. The army provided him a closet-sized workshop with good light and a small bench with a vise and stool. His only tools were broken, sharp-edged pieces of a carbon steel file embedded in a makeshift wood handle and a wooden mallet along with oil and cloth rags.
    One of Sporer’s projects was engraving the German pistol obtained by Capt. M-- and carving the wooden sides of the weapon’s grip. C-- T-- observed his progress for many weeks during the summer of 1946. They conversed in spite of the fact that Fritz spoke very little English and Sergeant T-- was less than fluent in German. Sporer conveyed that he was drafted near the end of the war with little training as a soldier before being taken prisoner. Fritz said that he had twin sons who were four years old at the time. The beautiful results he obtained under almost primitive work conditions are truly amazing and a tribute to his artistry. The following information is engraved on the pistol in various positions.
    GRAVEUR FRITZ SPORER
    HAMBURG-POPPEN BUTTEL
    [street] NR [number]
    J.P. SAUER + SOHN-SUHL
    CAL 7.65
    34544

    Other facts
    Dr. M-- wrote in papers left after his death that Fritz Sporer had been a principal engraver employed by the World War II German government and among other things had engraved plates to produce counterfeit English pound notes as part of the strategy and plan to invade England. Sporer reportedly did personal engravings for Adolph [TOS Violation] and engraved a similar weapon for Hermann Goering, which M-- believed is at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. The authenticity of this information has been verified.

    Reproduced verbatim, minus the name changes. Personally, I have doubts about the Operation Bernhard connection, and I wonder if the word "not" may have been accidentally left out of the last sentence. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of deeper backup information on it all.
  • Keebler750Keebler750 Posts: 3,413Beta Tester
    Very interesting!! :+1:

    Amazing, the little bits of everything that others know!

    :)
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