German WWII Ordnance Codes
Last Updated 06/06/2004
I've added some codes found in Folke Myrvang's book MG34-MG42 German Universal Machineguns.
The Wehrmacht code lists were originally published as secret documents in partial volumes, each partial volume covering a specific range of codes. In the introduction to his book referred to below, Pawlas lists the dates on which the various sections of the code list were originally published. These dates are listed in the following table:
|Letter Groups||Date of Edition|
|a-z and aa-zz|| October
From this list one can infer that the codes in each partial volume must have been assigned before the publication date, except for those entries which are written in by hand in the published text.
Two changes have been made to the list of ordnance codes:
Since I first put this list on the WWW, two additional important works about the ordnance codes have come into my possession:
German Military Letter Codes, 1939-45 by John Walter
Liste der Fertigungskennzeichen fuer Waffen, Munition und Geraet issued by Karl R. Pawlas
The practical importance of these two additional works is best summarized in the excellent introduction in John Walter's book, as follows:
"Amongst the pioneering identification guides was German Secret Codes 1930-45 (Deutschland Ordnance Co., Santa Clara, California, 1968), which made a realistic attempt to associate names, codes and products. Gerhard Wirnsberger's Deutsche Codezeichen followed in 1973 but, though correcting many of the earlier booklet's spelling and identification errors, regressed to a list containing quirky mistakes of its own.
"In the summer of 1977, however, Karl Pawlas of Nuernberg reprinted the entire wartime code-book sequence from 'a' to 'ozz'. To this day, however, no-one has found the post-1944 portion, said to have run upward from 'paa', and thus there is still an important gap in the story."
Pawlas' book is almost 800 pages long, and it is thus not practical to give the entire contents here. Walter's book contains a subset of Pawlas' book, the selections being chosen based on their appearing on military equipment (as opposed to items such as drapes, upholstery, waste baskets, etc.). His book is also useful in giving an inverted list (i.e., given the company name one can readily find the corresponding code), as well as detailed information about the types of materiel on which the codes have been found.
Even so, Walter's book has many more entries than appear in Wirnsberger's
list originally listed here. It's really not practical to give the entire
contents of either Walter's or Pawlas' lists. So, I've restricted my
efforts to updating the entries originally given here with corrections
from Walter's and Pawlas' books, adding additional entries only where
necessary to make the list internally complete. Updates to the code list
are shown as
For more information about the codes, the best source I've found is the Introduction in Walter's book, the pertinent information about which is as follows:
German Military Letter Codes by John Walter, 1996, published by Small-Arms Research Publications, P.O. Box 2071, Hove, East Sussex, England BN3 7PU, and distributed in North America by International Military Antiques, Inc., P.O. Box 256, Millington, New Jersey 07946 USA. ISBN: 0-9526927-0-8
From The Standard Directory of Proof Marks, by Gerhard
Wirnsberger, ISBN: 0-89149-006-X, undated, distributed by
Blacksmith Publishers Corporation, Chino Valley, AZ 86323,
USA Blacksmith Corp., Box 280, North Hampton, OH 45349, USA,
GERMAN ORDNANCE CODES
After World War I, Germany was totally disarmed. When Hitler became Reich's [sic] Chancellor in 1933, he began an era of re-armament. This had to be done in secrecy, and to conceal what was going on in the German arms and allied industries, manufacturers were assigned code letters or numbers. This ordnance coding began in 1938, continued [sic] to the last days of the Third Reich.
Early during WWII, Allied intelligence sources discovered the code, and despite concerted efforts, were unable to break the code. Even after the war when tons of documents were unearthed, the entire list of codes was not found, and thus some of the codes are still unknown.
Manufacturers and sub-contractors were assigned codes, and this coding included not only arms, ammunition, but also binoculars and even saddlebags. In short, anything that the quartermaster of any of the military services required, was coded. There were a few exceptions, but arms collectors are not concerned too much with those exceptions since most of them were marked with the name of the maker.
The system of assigning codes was begun in an orderly fashion, but because of the huge demand for military goods and the constantly increasing number of suppliers and sub-contractors, the orderly system of assigning codes was abandoned and henceforth codes were assigned in a haphazard manner. Some of the codes are well-known to collectors - the Mauser byf, the ac assigned to Walther, the RWS code dnf are readily recognized.
Despite efforts both in Germany and in the United States, by researchers and collectors, the list has never been completed. Some of the manufacturers with unidentified codes were originally producing non-military items, and later produced parts, or did some sub-assembly work, or perhaps branched out into making items needed for the growing military might of Germany. Many of these companies were demolished during the war, others ceased to function, still others are in Communist-occupied areas. It seems reasonable to assume also that some of these concerns would just as soon forget their participation - voluntary or involuntary - in this German debacle.
The beginning collector should not be surprised when he discovers two or even more codes on a gun. Sub-contractors marked the part or parts they made, and each part had to be marked with the maker's code. At first these ordnance codes were numbers but in 1941, the number code was changed to a letter code.
To speed up loading of the rather large list, I've broken up the list into 6 smaller tables:
(1) alphabetic ordnance that begin with the letters a and b
(2) alphabetic ordnance that begin with the letters c to e
(3) alphabetic ordnance that begin with the letters f to k
(4) alphabetic ordnance that begin with the letters l to o
(5) alphabetic ordnance that begin with the letters p to z
(6) numerical ordnance codes, that contain numerical values
As usual, I'm not responsible for incorrect information, just for errors in transcription. Please report any errors to me.
German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: a-b
German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: c-e
German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: f-k
German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: l-o
German WWII Alphabetic Ordnance Codes: p-z
German WWII Numerical Ordnance Codes
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