Skip to main content

German Sniper Rifles of World War I and II

While Germany is the Edenic home of modern sniping, they were always one step behind the Soviets during World War II, despite fielding some excellent sniper rifles.

German Sniper Rifles of World War I and II
A World War II German Scharfschutzen scans the terrain before him searching for targets. His rifle is a 7.92x57mm Kar 98k fitted with a turret mounted scope.

It can rightly be said Germany is the Edenic home of modern sniping. It wasn’t long after the first trenches were dug during the Great War that German Scharfschutzen (Sharpshooters) began plying their trade. Initially they pressed optically sighted hunting rifles into service to make life hell for Allied soldiers. However these didn’t hold up to hard military use. So in the spring of 1915 the German Army ordered 15,000 sniper rifles. These were built using Gewehr 98 service rifles carefully selected for their accuracy. The 7.92x57mm Gewehr 98 featured a long 29.1 inch barrel with an overall-length of 49.2 inches and weight of 9 pounds. Built on Mauser’s famous 1898 action it featured a five-round internal box magazine and a bolt with front locking lugs and 90-degree rotation. The basic rifle was simple, rugged and fairly accurate. However, it was also overly long with a slow rate of fire. A veritable hodge-podge of low magnification optical sights was fitted in various ways. Despite the primitive nature of these early sniper systems they proved shockingly effective. Not only were Allied soldiers being struck down from no-where, but his comrades’ morale was being sapped with each shot. German snipers and their telescope sighted Gew 98s instilled fear wherever they plied their trade.

WWII-German-Sniper
The WWI issue Gewehr 98 rifle proved well suited for sniping and was adapted to that role with various mounts and optics. Some of these rifles would later serve again during World War II.

Many lessons though were forgotten during the interwar period. While German snipers were the masters of the art in 1915, by 1941 they were playing second fiddle to the Soviets. To meet the challenge they re-established sniper training in 1942 and fielded a variety of optical sights and mounting systems mated to the Gew 98’s replacement, the Karabiner 98k. Basically a shortened and slightly refined Gew 98, the Kar 98k featured a 23.6 inch barrel and 43.7 inch overall length. Mounting systems for optics included claw, high and low turrets and side-rail mounts. In typical Teutonic fashion they tended to be overly complex, difficult to produce and insufficiently rugged. The scopes, considering the time period, were quite good optically. 4x models from Carl Zeiss, Hensoldt, Kahles, Ajack and others were employed.

WWII-German-Sniper
A variety of optics and mounting systems were fielded with three seen here. From top to bottom: Short side style sniper rifle that has the late (1942 era) Type Three scope base and mount fitted with a commercial 4x power rifle scope marked "DIALYTAN 4X/Nr.61753", long side rail type scope base fitted with a Czechoslovakian made "dow" center focus scope manufactured by the Optikotechna firm in Prerau, Czechoslovakia, short side rail equipped with a K43 "ddx" (Voigtlander & Sohn A.-G., Braunschweig) code scope mounted in a stamped sheet metal mount.

The various models, as a whole, tended to have mediocre triggers and optics mounted uncomfortably high. The vast majority lacked any windage adjustments in the optic, requiring adjustments be made to the mount. The inability to make windage adjustments in the field, low magnification of their optics, lack of match grade ammunition, poor quality service grade ammunition, and some other factors led most German snipers to limit their shots to 600 meters with the vast majority made inside 400 meters.

WWII-German-Sniper
High turret sniper rifle as manufactured by the Mauser factory and fitted with a Dialytan 4x sniper scope. In service from 1939 to the end of the war, turret mount rifles were considered the most efficient design of the K98 rifles.

While some top snipers did successfully engage out to 1,000 meters and beyond this was not the norm. As an example, a Kar 98k fitted with a 4x Ajack scope was tested at the German Infantry School in March of 1945. Firing at 1,000 meters in no wind conditions gave a 12 round group measuring 33 inches high by 51 inches wide. This was considered ‘good’. The most famous use of snipers by the Germans was during the Battle of Stalingrad. Here German snipers hunted their Soviet counter-parts under horrific conditions. Despite the quality of their equipment though the Germans were never able to overcome or even match the Soviet sniper threat. This is borne out in German after-action reports for the duration of the war. The Soviets simply fielded snipers on an unprecedented scale which, in the end, proved more than a match for the German sniper effort.


Top German snipers of the war include Matthias Hetzenauer (345), Josef Sepp Allerberg (257) and Bruno Sutkus (209).


Mauser Kar 98 Kurz Sniper Specifications

  • Action Type: Manual rotating bolt with dual opposed lugs and controlled round feeding
  • Caliber: 7.92x57mm IS
  • Capacity: 5 round internal box magazine
  • Barrel: 23.6 inches, 1-9.4 inch RH groove
  • Overall Length: 43.7 inches
  • Weight: 8.3 pounds without optic
  • Stock: Laminated or hardwood
  • Finish: Phosphate
  • Trigger: standard military two-stage
  • Iron Sights: Inverted ‘V’ blade front, tangent rear graduated to 2000 meters
  • Dedicated Sniper load: Effect Firing sS 198-grain FMJ

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

M134 Mini-Gun

M134 Mini-Gun

While filming the 2018 season of Guns&AmmoTV we had the unique opportunity to fire the M134 Minigun.

Hornady Kestrel 5700 Ballistics Weather Meter with Hornady 4DOF

Hornady Kestrel 5700 Ballistics Weather Meter with Hornady 4DOF

The Hornady Kestrel 5700 combines complete onsite environmental measurements with Hornady 4DOF trajectory solutions.

Firearms News Reviews the S&W M&P 2.0 9mm Compact Pistol

Firearms News Reviews the S&W M&P 2.0 9mm Compact Pistol

Firearms News editor Vince DeNiro runs the Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 9mm compact pistol through a self-defense drill.

Citadel Boss 25 Shotgun

Citadel Boss 25 Shotgun

Dr. Will Dabbs tells you why the Citadel Boss 25 is the way to hunt birds or deer with a shotgun in the 21st century!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

We go behind closed doors at the factory to see how SIG Sauer's ammo is developed and manufactured!SIG Sauer Ammunition — How Good Is It? Ammo

SIG Sauer Ammunition — How Good Is It?

Tom Beckstrand - August 20, 2020

We go behind closed doors at the factory to see how SIG Sauer's ammo is developed and...

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the targets of an unwarranted prosecution by an overzealous Soros-backed St. Louis prosecutor, are slated to speak at next week's Republican National Convention.McCloskey's In the Limelight: Speaking at Next Week's RNC 2nd Amendment

McCloskey's In the Limelight: Speaking at Next Week's RNC

Mark Chesnut - August 21, 2020

Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the targets of an unwarranted prosecution by an overzealous...

For the first time in its 35-year-history, the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference hosted by the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms will be a virtual online event, due to the current COVID-19 situation.2020 Gun Rights Policy Conference Is Online Event Due to COVID-19 Industry

2020 Gun Rights Policy Conference Is Online Event Due to COVID-19

Second Amendment Foundation - July 16, 2020

For the first time in its 35-year-history, the annual Gun Rights Policy Conference hosted by...

In the golden age of daily carry options, the Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP pistol is a helluva deal!Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP Review Handguns

Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP Review

Patrick Sweeney - August 12, 2020

In the golden age of daily carry options, the Springfield Armory Hellcat OSP pistol is a...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

Rikk Rambo pits the LWRC R.E.P.R. MK II 6.5 Creedmoor Elite rifle vs. Alaska's coastal rainforests and remote frozen interior.LWRC R.E.P.R MK II 6.5 Creedmoor Elite Rifle Review Rifles

LWRC R.E.P.R MK II 6.5 Creedmoor Elite Rifle Review

Rikk Rambo - October 29, 2020

Rikk Rambo pits the LWRC R.E.P.R. MK II 6.5 Creedmoor Elite rifle vs. Alaska's coastal...

While Germany is the Edenic home of modern sniping, they were always one step behind the Soviets during World War II, despite fielding some excellent sniper rifles.German Sniper Rifles of World War I and II Rifles

German Sniper Rifles of World War I and II

David M. Fortier - August 13, 2020

While Germany is the Edenic home of modern sniping, they were always one step behind the...

Patrick Sweeney reviews Ruger's classic semi-auto chambered in 7.62x39, and why it's the perfect deer or pig gun! See Ruger for more details.Ruger Mini 30 — Video Review Rifles

Ruger Mini 30 — Video Review

Patrick Sweeney - October 12, 2020

Patrick Sweeney reviews Ruger's classic semi-auto chambered in 7.62x39, and why it's the...

The TNW Aero Survival rifle is perfect for squirrels to deer and everything in between!TNW Aero Survival Rifle Review Rifles

TNW Aero Survival Rifle Review

Vincent L. DeNiro, Editor - October 21, 2020

The TNW Aero Survival rifle is perfect for squirrels to deer and everything in between!

See More Rifles

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW OUR CURRENT ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Firearms News App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Firearms News subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now