Polish Arms  1918-1962


by Dan Reynolds
Poland lost her independence in 1795 and the country just disappeared from the map, being swallowed up by Russia and Germany, and there it remained until November 11, 1918 when
Poland won its independence following WW1 and established its eastern border after     defeating the Red Army in the Russo-Polish War.  She was caught between two major powers,  Germany and Soviet Russia, both, who had territorial claims on her border areas.  It also had a dispute with Lithuania over the city of Vilnius.  She had to maintain strong-armed forces to survive.

Upon establishing independence, Poland was armed with various foreign rifles.  Poles had served in three armies during the Great War. Imperial Russian, Imperial Austro Hungarian and French.  From Germany, she received the machinery from Danzig Arsenal to produce the Mauser Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98AZ.  From France, she had received M86/93 Lebel and Mannlicher Berthier M07, M07/15 and M16 rifles and carbines.  From Austro Hungary, she had Mannlicher M88/90 rifles and M1895 rifles and carbines, as well as a few M1903/14 6.5mm Mannlicher Schonauer rifles.  During this time they also modified some captured Steyr Mannlicher M1895 rifles to a short rifle configuration but apparently left it in the original caliber of 8X50R.  From Russia, Imperial and Soviet, she had M1891 Mosin Nagants of all types, including some  captured/reissue types in 8x50mm.  She also had some .303 Pattern 14 Enfields, which may have either been given as British aid or captured from the Soviets.

The Mauser was selected as the standard rifle type and existing rifles of this type were reworked and copies of the German Gewehr 1898 and Kar.98AZ were produced at arsenals established at Warsaw and  Radom.  The Kar.98AZ Mauser, later officially adopted in the 1920's as Kar.98A, was originally called Kar.98AZ for German Aufpfanzvorrichtung meaning with bayonet, and Zusammenstellen meaning stacking rod.  Minor changes were made in design detail, and the quality of steel and workmanship was inferior to the original German products, these being more like the German later World War "* marked" expedient weapons in terms of fit, finish and inter-changeability of parts. Karabinek (English figurative translation = Rifle) and Wzor (English figurative translation = Model of the Year) along with a number are used in official designations of Polish rifles and carbines. Thus Kb Wz 1898 means Rifle Model 1898. The letter K added to Kb modifies it to mean short rifle or carbine. A carbine has a bent down bolt handle. Thus KbK Wz. 1898 means Short Rifle/Carbine Model 1898.

The Kb Wz 1898 was the Polish made copy of the Gewehr 1898 with simplified tangent sight and butt stock bushing.  The KbK Wz.1898 was the Polish copy of the German Kar. 98AZ with altered stacking rod, butt plate, sling attachment points and upper band.  The trigger guard was also changed so that it was the same size as the Gewehr 1898. Production of the KbK Wz.1898 began in late 1924 at Warsaw.  Some later versions made at Radom had straight bolt handles, these presumable being intended for infantry.  Variants with stock bolts and modified handguard are found.  German made Kar.98AZ in Polish service may be found altered to incorporate Polish design changes, this presumably being done when weapons required rebuilding.

In 1929, a new short version of the Mauser, the KbK Wz29 , seemingly based on the Czechoslovak VZ24 made at the ZB  rifle factory in Brno, Moravia, was adopted.  Despite its close appearance to the Vz24 it was not an exact or licensed copy.  It should be pointed out that Slavic languages have a great deal in common and this is true of Polish, Czech and Slovak. Vz is an abbreviation of what may figuratively be translated into English as "Model of the Year".  Thus Vz24 would be translated as Model of 1924. Wz in Polish would be the same, as in Wz29 being Model of 1929.  In an attempt to achieve a greater degree of standardization, some Polish made KbK Wz. 1898 and German made Kar. 98AZ carbines were converted to KbK Wz. 1929 form in an Army facility in Warsaw (Zbro- jownina NR.2) but this proved too costly, costing far more than an entirely new Mauser.  The infantry short rifle version KbK Wz29 had a horizontal bolt handle and the cavalry short rifle or carbine had a turned down bolt handle.

A .22 training rifle was made as the KbKS Wz.1929.  The S= sportowy ( English figurative translation = sporting or training).  The bolt was altered to fire rimfire ammunition.  The handguard is stamped with 22 to readily show that this is a trainer.  Standard Mauser rifle sights are used and user must mentally move decimal point one digit left for approximate range so that 300 meters would be setting for 30 feet.  Some 7.92mm KbK Wz.29 Mausers were converted to KbKS Wz.1929 pattern.

In 1926, a front company was established by the Polish War Ministry to handle sales of surplus war material and later it evolved into a full scale weapons dealership, buying, selling and trading.  It was known as SEPEWE for the initials of its Polish name (which could be translated into English as "War Material Export Organization") or by dealers as the "Syndicate".  In the early 1930's, it bought a group of reworked  Mausers in 7.92x57mm from Soley Grimard & Co. in Liege.  It would have later dealings with this company. The Poles used many second hand and refurbished parts in their rifle production.  The Poles traded for and purchased used Mausers on the world arms market.

The secondary official standard rifle was the Mosin Nagant Model 91/98/25 in 7.92x57mm.  These were made by reworking captured stores of Mosins Nagants in 7.62x54R by commercial firms in Poland in the 1920's.  The goal was to have all rifles in issue to regular and reserve forces use 7.92mm ammunition.  All the other rifles on hand were considered surplus as soon as new Mausers could replace them.  Surplus arms were sold or traded to pay for production of new Mausers for the Polish Army.I

During the Spanish Civil War, many Polish Mausers including KbK Wz.1929 were sold to the Reds through brokers in order to earn hard currency to pay for more new Polish made Mausers for the Army. Click on Link for more information. http://www.carbinesforcollectors.com/spaintable.htm

In 1935-39 they produced a shoulder-fired Mauser bolt action antitank rifle called the Kb Ppanc Wz35 (Antitank Rifle Model 35.)  It had a 47-inch barrel, muzzle brake, bipod, open sights, a detachable 4-round box magazine and fired a 7.92x107mm armor piercing cartridge based upon the standard 7.92x57mm Mauser rifle round, differing only in the case length, bullet mass and propellant charge.  Captured versions of Wz35 were used by the Germans and Italians in WWII. (M.Kreca)

In 1936 a slightly modified long Mauser based on the Gewehr 1898 was placed in production at Radom. It was the Kb Wz. 1898A. It was of better quality manufacture than the earlier Polish made Kb Wz.1898 which was produced in limited numbers in the period 1923-24. It remained in production until Germany captured the Radom Arms Works in 1939. It would seem strange that an obsolete form of Mauser would be placed into production at the same time the more modern form KbK Wz.1929 was being made in large numbers and Poland was selling off to the Spanish Reds some existing stocks of the Gewehr 1898 and some Kb Wz.1898 rifles. The reasons are these: the Polish Army perceived the need for accurate rifle fire at long range and thought the long Mauser barrel would give greater velocity and accurate fire at longer range in the hands of well trained marksman, and for every rifle sold to Spain two new ones could be made for Poland.

 ln the 1930's an attempt was made to sell the Wz.29 to Argentina and other South American nations. In 1938 or 1939 Yugoslavia acquired Polish KbK Wz.29 rifles as well as M91/98/25 rifles.  Numbers and route of transfer are not known.

Polish bayonets of the period covered by this article are well covered in another web page at this link: http://www.bagnety.pol.pl/pbp/wersja_angielska/przed_22.html.

After the defeat of Poland in 1939 by Germany and Soviet Russia, large numbers of Polish Mausers were taken over by these powers.  Some came into Romanian control by Polish troops crossing into its territory where they were interned.  The Germans failed to efficiently secure many Polish rifles in a timely fashion.  The collection and preservation of rifles was poorly organized.  At times, rapidly advancing German troops would simply remove bolt and smash the butt stock at the wrist, other times just leave the rifles in a ditch.  Over the course of weeks some would be taken by local Poles and eventually find their way to the Home Army or just a peasant's barn.  The rest would rust away until clean up units collected what they could find.  Eventually the Germans sorted the rifles they collected and those unserviceable were used for parts, and, along with parts captured at Zbrojownina Radom these were sent to Steyr where they were used in the production of M29/40 Mausers for the Luftwaffe and Kreigsmarine.  The M29/40 Steyr Mausers were stamped G29/40 on rail. G=Gewehr(German for rifle).

During WW2, the Polish Home Army was chiefly armed Mauser rifles of Polish pattern as well as captured German issued Mausers.  As the Soviet armies drove the Germans westward, the USA and the British recognized the Communist controlled "Lublin Government" and as Polish troops in Soviet controlled units of the Red Army moved into Polish lands, a puppet administration was established.  The Home Army revolted in Warsaw against the Nazi occupation at the behest of the Allies as the Soviet Red Army stopped their advance on the Vistula River until the Home Army was destroyed.

The new "Polish Army" was armed with Soviet Russian rifles, M1891/30, M1938, M1944 Mosin Nagants and SVT40 Tokarevs in 7.62x54mmR. Operations against anti-communist partisans of Polish and Ukrainian origin went on into the late 1940's.  The resistance groups had Mausers and Mosin Nagants of various models.

Communist era Eagle
no Crown

Information corrected
by Remov

The production of the Mosin Nagant M1944 started in 1950 and was finished in 1955 and not 1962 as has been previously published   This rifle was called, by the Polish Army, the "7,62mm kbk  wz.1944".  During this time there were about 373,000 kbk wz 1944's produced in Poland.

The training 5,6mm (.22LR) rifle was designed by Bohdan Szpaderski and was called "karabinek sportowy wz.1948" (or "kbks wz.48" for short).  In fact it was based on the Polish kbks wz.31 made before WWII and not on the Russian Mosin.  It was produced from 1950 to the late 50s in large numbers.  It was bolt action .22LR training rifle, weight 3,8kg, length 1130mm, barrel length 630mm, sight line 530mm, Vo=350m/s.

The SKS wasn't called "KsS Wz.49" as we previously reported, but "7,62mm karabinek
samopowtarzalny Simonowa" or "7,62mm ksS" without wz, which means "wzor", or mark in English.  The word “wzor” has always been translated as model which we now find is wrong.

Post War Polish Rifles
by Remov

Polish-English Dictionary (part I):
karabin (kb) - a rifle
karabin samopowtarzalny (ks) - a self-loading rifle
karabin szturmowy (kbs) - an assault rifle
karabin wyborowy (kbw) - a sniper rifle
karabinek (kbk) - a carbine
karabinek-granatnik (kbkg) - a carbine-grenade launcher
karabinek sportowy (kbks) - a sport/training rifle
pistolet (p) - a pistol
pistolet maszynowy (pm) - a submachine gun

Here is the full list of all individual weapons used in the Polish Army after WWII. without machine guns.
(7,62mm x 54R)
(1) 7,62mm karabin wz.91/30 (7,62mm kb wz.91/30)
(2) 7,62mm karabinek wz.38 (7,62mm kbk wz.38)
(3) 7,62mm karabinek wz.44 (7,62mm kbk wz.44)
(7,62mm x 39)(4) 7,62mm karabin samopowtarzalny Simonowa (7,62mm ksS)
(5) 7,62mm karabinek AK (7,62mm kbk AK)
(to the mid 60s known as "7,62mm pistolet maszynowy Kalasznikowa" =
"7,62mm pmK")
(6) 7,62mm karabinek-granatnik wz.60 (7,62mm kbkg wz.60)
(7) 7,62mm karabinek AKM (7,62mm kbk AKM)
(8) 7,62mm karabinek-granatnik wz.60/72 (7,62mm kbkg wz.60/72)
(9) 7,62mm karabinek AKMS (7,62mm kbk AKMS)
(10) 7,62mm karabinek-granatnik wz.74 (7,62mm kbkg wz.74)
There were also some special versions adopted - with tritium sights
and AKMSP, with rail used to mount a night vision sight AKML * and
The folding stock is a little different than in normal AKMS and versions
with gas light sights and rail used to mount a night vision sight - AKMLP **
(5,45mm x 39 )
(11) 5,45mm karabinek wz.88 Tantal (5,45mm kbk wz.88 Tantal)
(12) 5,45mm karabinek wz.89 Onyks (5,45mm kbk wz.89 Onyks)
(13) 5,45mm karabinek-granatnik wz.74 (5,45mm kbkg wz.74)
(5,56mm x 45 NATO)
(14) 5,56mm karabin szturmowy wz.96 Beryl (5,56mm kbs wz.96 Beryl)
(15) 5,56mm karabinek wz.96 Mini Beryl (5,56mm kbk wz.96 Mini Beryl)
(16) 5,56mm karabinek-granatnik wz.74 (5,56mm kbkg wz.74)
(17) 5,56mm karabin szturmowy wz.04 Beryl (5,56mm kbs wz.04 Beryl)
(9mm z 18 Makarov)
(18) 9mm pistolet wz.64 (9mm P-64)
(19) 9mm pistolet wz.83 (9mm P-83)
(20) 9mm pistolet maszynowy wz.63 (9mm PM-63)
(21) 9mm pistolet maszynowy wz.84 Glauberyt (9mm PM-84 Glauberyt)
(9mm x 19 Parabellum)
(22) 9mm pistolet wz.94 WIST (9mm WIST-94)
(22a) 9mm pistolet wz.94 WIST with integral laser pointer (9mm
(23) 9mm pistolet maszynowy wz.84P Glauberyt (9mm PM-84P Glauberyt)
(24) 9mm pistolet maszynowy wz.98 Glauberyt (9mm PM-98 Glauberyt)
(sniper rifles)
7,62mm x 54R
7,62mm karabin wyborowy SWD (7,62mm kbw SWD)
7,62mm karabin wyborowy SWD zmodernizowany (7,62mm kbw SWD-M)
7,62mm x 51 NATO7,62mm karabin wyborowy TRG-21 (7,62mm kbw TRG-21)
(training rifle)
5,6mm (.22LR)
5,6mm karabinek sportowy wz.48 (5,6mm kbks wz.48)

* in fact this is AKML/, the last letter I've marked "L/" is a Polish
diacritic mark, resembling a letter "L" with oblique line crossing it
"/"-shaped, looks a bit like the British pound sign
** the same as above AKML/P