A Problem with Military Firearm Serial Numbers
By Doug Bowser
My first experience with a misidentified serial number on a military firearm was in Florida. I bought a sporterized K98k 8x57mm rifle in New York and took it with me when I moved to Florida. I decided to sell it and took it to a local Pawn Shop. We discussed the deal and the dealer called in the serial number to the local Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Deputy arrived and arrested me for having possession of stolen property. All they had on file was the 4 digit serial number. I had the receipt for the rifle in my files, so I was able to get out of Dutch easily. I had to make bail and hire a Lawyer. The problem is, German and WW1 British firearms have serial numbers that keep the enemy from knowing how many firearms are in existence. To have the total identifying serial number, you must have the manufacturer’s name or code, year of manufacture, the 4 digit serial number and the suffix letter. In Nazi firearms the first serial number in any given year is 0001a. This goes to 9999a and then changes to 0001b, etc. When the number goes past the letter z, it starts out as 0001aa, etc. I got out of trouble but it cost me $600.00. I went to the Pawn Shop to complain and tell them they owed me $600.00. He said he did not owe me anything. I told him, if he was to engage in selling firearms, he needed to increase his knowledge. I was a member of 5 gun clubs in the area and I informed the club’s membership how badly I was treated by the Pawn Shop. In a few months, they were out of business.
About 10 years ago, I bought a Luger. It was sent to me on my C&R license. I received the pistol and it was very nice. It was of Mauser manufacture in 1940, serial # 4368b. After I had the pistol for a few weeks I received a phone call from the Rhode Island State Police. Sgt. Gomez told me I was in possession of a stolen firearm. He was going to have my local police agency pick it up that day. I asked him what the serial number was. He told me 4368. I asked where the rest of it was. He did not know what I was talking about. After I explained the serial numbering system and talked to him for over an hour, he agreed it was not the same pistol. I sent him scans from a book of the explanation of how the serial numbers were used in WW2, he was satisfied. He got a photo of the stolen pistol and it was very rusty and pitted.Be careful how you record serial numbers on Nazi and British firearms from WW2, It could save you a lot of trouble