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„Die Selbstladepistole Astra 9mm“ [1943-1962]
Old 10-04-2009, 12:42 AM   #1
sgtmonroe
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Default „Die Selbstladepistole Astra 9mm“ [1943-1962]

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Originally Posted by Thomas J. Cullinane Jr. View Post
Unraveling the different types of pistols used by the BGS (P1, SIG P210-4 / P2; Astra 600/43 / P3; P6; P7, etc.) is a project in itself.
I figured I would start a new thread to see if anyone else can help with any more information on the Astra Model 600 aka „Pistole Astra 600/43“ aka „Die Selbstladepistole Astra 9mm“ aka Pistole 3. Here is what I have so far:

„Die Selbstladepistole Astra 9mm“ has a unique, albeit short, history among military handguns. It is solely manufactured in Spain at the request of the wartime German government. As a result of this it primarily serves in German hands for nearly 15 years. To explore the history of it's use by the post-war Bundesgrenzschutz and Bundeswehr one must take a complete look at the handgun's history.

I. WARTIME HISTORY [1943 - 1945]

As a result of positive experience with the Astra Modelo 400 [purchased from the Spanish government during the early 1940s] the Heereswaffenamt request a 9mm calibre handgun to supplement their other 9mm handguns in service. What is presented to the German government is a slightly modified and scaled-down version of the Astra Modelo 400 chambered in the Pistole Patronen 08 [9mm Parabellum]. The new handgun is manufactured by the Unceta Y Compañia S.A. in Guernica, Spain. The company gives the handgun the designation Astra Model 600 while the Heereswaffenamt designate it the „Pistole Astra 600/43“.

The first fifty [50] handguns are delivered to the Oberkommando des Heeres as Testwaffen and are quickly approved for service. These first handguns are Seriennummern 1 through 50. A complete initial contract is placed by the Heereswaffenamt for 10,450 more units of the Pistole 600/43 [bringing the total amount of the "first contract" to 10,500].

Deliveries of the "first contract" of 10,450 units to the Wehrmacht begins in May of 1944. The handguns are shipped through the Franco-Spanish border town of Irún in three separate deliveries as follows:

16. Mai 1944 - Nr.51 – 3000
23. Juni 1944 - Nr.3001 – 8000
16. Juli 1944 - Nr.8001 – 10500

During this period of time, or sometime after the deliveries of the "first contract" have been made [date unknown], a "second contract" is placed with the Spanish government. This "second contract" is for an additional 31,350 units*.

Due to the events of 06 June 1944 these 31,350 units are not delivered to the Wehrmacht and are seized under direct orders of the Spanish government. The Spanish government then finds themselves in a dilemma with what to do with the “second contract“. For their part, the Germans have paid for the order, and at the same time the Spanish government is left with a lot of finished parts and completed guns without the slightest chance of having them delivered to the customer. The seized units paid for by the Germans are thus sent to Parque de Artilleria in Burgos, Spain for storage until the situation can be resolved. This situation, however, does not halt production of the Model 600 which continues until 1945 with a total of 59,400 units being manufactured [which includes the two German contracts].

*NOTE: some sources state the “second contract” is for only for 28,000 units but this number does not concur with the overall production and disposition of the entire production run of the Astra Model 600.



[Image Nr.1] A “first contract” „Pistole Astra 600/43“ bearing serial number 3980.

II. POSTWAR HISTORY PART 1 [1946 - 1949]

With the production run of the Astra Model 600 finished in 1945, a total of 59,400 units are manufactured. All Seriennummern are sequential thus the last Model 600 manufactured is alleged to be Nr.59400. Of these 59,400 units 10,500 make up the “first contract” German handguns and 31,350 units make up the “second contract” not delivered to Germany and, at the time, in storage.

The remaining 17,550 units are completed and are not part of any German contract thus Unceta Y Compañia begins shopping around for buyers. 3,550 units are eventually sold off to foreign governments and elsewhere. The Seriennummern of these units are unknown. Of these 3,550 units 800 are purchased by the Portuguese Navy, 450 by Chile, 200 by Turkey, and 200 by Jordan. Unknown smaller amounts are acquired by the Philippines, Costa Rica, and Egypt for troop trials. The remainder of the 3,550 units appear to have been sold on the Spanish civilian market.



[Image Nr.2] A Chilean marked Astra Model 600. Unfortunately the serial number is unknown.

III. POSTWAR HISTORY PART 2 [1950 - 1962]

In 1950 the West German government, due to restrictions placed on their manufacture of small arms, begins talks with the Spanish government to acquire handguns to equip it’s current state police forces and the soon to be formed Bundesgrenzschutz. The Spanish government immediately recall the 31,350 Pistole 600/43s sitting in storage from the Wehrmacht‘s “second contract”. The West German government reluctantly ends up paying for these handguns a second time in a deal that would have made Donald Trump proud. The handguns, once paid for in Reichsmarks, are re-purchased by the West German government in a total contract for 38,000 units [the original 31,350 “second contract” units plus an additional 6,650 units from the unsold 17,550 units sitting in Guernica - which had dwindled to 14,000 units by 1950]. The contract is for the handguns to be utilized by the Bereitschaftspolizei der Länder and Bundesgrenzschutz and is negotiated at 79,-DM per unit. Also to be included in the contract is 7,6 million rounds of ammunition [at a price of 128,10 DM per 1,000 rounds]. Along with the cold hard Deutschemarken the Spanish government also twist the West German government into throwing in 50 metric tons of copper to seal the deal!

Before the end of 1950 3,500 units are delivered to the West German government with the remainder being delivered throughout 1951. At some point [date unknown] the remainder of the 7,350 units held in Unceta Y Compañia storage are sold to the West German government. With the purchase of the remaining units from Spain the total amount of the Astra Model 600 purchased by the West German government is 45,350 units [31,350 units being the Wehrmacht “second contract”]. The Seriennummern range for the total additional 14,000 units purchased is unknown.*

Even though the handguns are marked MOD.600/43 the West German Landespolizei and Bundesgrenzschutz designate the handgun „Die Selbstladepistole Astra 9mm“.

In 1955, with the forming of the West German Bundeswehr, 3,671 units are removed from Bundesgrenzschutz inventory and transferred to the Bundeswehr. These units remain in Bundeswehr service [the Bundesgrenzschutz still retain a large number in addition to their „SIG Pistolen“] until the early 1960s when they are officially replaced, in both services, by the Pistole 1. When the P1 is officially adopted ca. 1962 „Die Selbstladepistole Astra 9mm“ is redesignated the Pistole 3 or P3.

*NOTE: The Seriennummern range for the “second contract”, that are known to have been positively issued to West German entities, is Nr.10501 through 41850. As noted above some sources indicate that there were only 28,000 units in the “second contract” making the Seriennummern range Nr.10501 through 38500.



[Image Nr.3] A “second contract” „Pistole Astra 600/43“ bearing serial number 17639.

IV. MARKINGS

The initial “first contract” of 10,500 handguns are received in Hendaye, France and are marked with the “eagle over” WaAD20-Stempel als Prüfzeichen on the right side of the rear of the frame. None of the “second contract” handguns ever reach German hands during the war and thus are never Waffenamt marked.



[Image Nr.4] „Pistole Astra 600/43“ serial number 98! Shown is the WaAD20 Waffenamt markings.

The left side of the rear frame, of all units manufactured, are marked in the same manner. A series of three symbols appear in the following order from left to right:

X inside a shield with helmet - Spanish approval mark [Zulassungszeichen]
Star over P - Unceta Y Compañia manufacture date code for 1945*
P inside flaming bomb - Spanish proof mark [Beschusszeichen] for automatic pistols



[Image Nr.5] Astra Model 600 markings. The center “Star-over-P” is a 1945 manufacture date code.

No additional markings were added when the handguns were taken into West German service by the Bundesgrenzschutz and Bundeswehr. Some units utilized by Landespolizei-Niedersachsen have been found to be marked LPN.

*NOTE: A Star over O, also seen on the handgun, is the Unceta Y Compañia manufacture date code for 1944.

V. PISTOLENTASCHE

The standard Wehrmacht holster for the „Pistole Astra 600/43“ is similar in design to that of the holster for the Pistole 38. All are manufactured by Friedrich Offermann & Söhne, Lederwarenfabrik, Bensberg and bear the code dkk and Waffenamt number WaA195. All appear to have been manufactured in 1944.



[Image Nr.6] A wartime „Pistole Astra 600/43“ holster.

The postwar holster is different from the wartime version and have been found to be manufactured by GECO and LARSEN [1955 and 1959 manufacture dates have been seen]. A large number of the postwar holsters are stamped with the serial number of the handgun they are to be issued with [this has helped in determining some serial numbers of the additional 14,000 units purchased outside of the “second contract” serial numbers].



[Image Nr.7] A postwar holster stamped on the back with the handgun’s serial number 50160 thus making the handgun one of the additional 14,000 units purchased by the West German government.



[Image Nr.8] The postwar Astra "technical" manual utilized by the Bundesgrenzschutz [GDV] and Landespolizei [PDV].



[Image Nr.9] der Spieß i. BGS with the Astra, circa 1956.
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Old 10-04-2009, 01:53 AM   #2
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A couple of things I did not mention in the above text due to no solid information:

In a German-language forum a few years ago a gentleman put forth that the Astras taken into the Bundeswehr were indeed marked as Bundeswehr property. He claimed to have one but never posted any images. In his argument he stated they were marked in a similar fashion as the Colt M1911A1s [Pistole 52] taken into the Bundeswehr [of which I have only seen one marked with Bundeswehr information].

Another gentleman [a German collector] states that the postwar GECO marked holsters were strictly a Bundeswehr contract. Again this has not been proven.

And last, I forgot to add this image. It is an entry in a Grenzoberjaeger's Waffen- und Geräte-Besitznachweise indicating he was issued an Astra with serial number 40226 in 1956. This, of course, would be one of the debated "second contract" handguns.

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Old 10-04-2009, 06:05 PM   #3
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sgtmunroe - Awesome thread. I think I have a copy of a "Vizier" magazine somewhere with an article on German Police sidearms including the Astra.

I'll try and dig it up and see if there is anything new to add to your very comprehensive thread.

All the best - TJ
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Old 10-05-2009, 03:45 PM   #4
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sgtmonroe,

Superb piece of research. Looking forward to more of the same in the future.

Gordon
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