I will be at Table C17 at the Knob Creek MG Shoot on April 10, 11, 12
is your source for English translations of original German gun manuals
for rifles, pistols, machineguns, accessories, and German military
training and equipment manuals for reenactors and historians. If
you need a German weapon manual or want to learn about the German military
but don't read German, you've come to the right place.
This webpage was updated on Mar. 22, 2015.
Original German weapon, field, training, and accessory manuals are tough to find, expensive, and of course, written in German. With WWII and earlier manuals, they are often written in the old style German. If you collect manuals that's fine, but if you want or need the weapon operating and troubleshooting information, or are interested in the WWII German army and how it operated, you've been out of luck unless you could read the old German (Fraktur font - see old German here), and tracked down a 60 to 90 year old manual. To see what others have to say about these manuals, click on the link: WWW.MG42.US
140 German, 1 Swedish, and 1 Russian manuals have been translated to English. A few of these have been combined into single volumes, and two are available in the original German as well as English. All are now for sale on the Manuals, Reenacting, Rifles/Pistols, and Russian pages. I'm currently working on translating other manuals, and I still have many more waiting to be done, ranging from the Bergmann MP 32 to a Field Cook Unteroffizier manual, plus other manuals that will be of interest for reenacting and general history lovers. All will be translated as my time allows. I do have a full-time job to pay the bills, so these things always take longer than I would like.
The German language is difficult to translate because of the loose and multiple meanings of many words. Accurate translations of gun manuals are usually only possible with the manual's subject item available for inspection and disassembly. Members of the collector community have been very supportive in lending their hardware or providing access to their guns and manuals so that I can accurately complete the translations.
Great care has been taken in providing the most accurate and easy to understand translations, as well as the best quality graphics possible.
Most manuals are 5.5”W x 8.5” H, with a heavy paper cover (exceptions are noted). These manuals are high quality, professionally printed on acid-free paper and are not the usual poor quality photocopied photocopies often found on the web. I've bought a few of those, and I was disappointed too. I go to great lengths to produce a quality product, and regularly receive compliments on the quality of my translations, both for the text, and the manual itself.
The original manuals are the only source for the information they contain, are very rare, and of course, expensive. The thick collector books for some of these guns are great for history, development, production statistics, and pictures of the accessories, but lack useful details or don't even mention the actual hands-on operation, training, repair, and troubleshooting for the guns themselves. If you've wanted an original "owner's manual" for your German MG or other German gun, or wanted to know the fine points of German army training, these books and manuals that have never been translated before are now available in English.
Click on the Gun Manuals and Reenacting links to see a listing of the available translations. All prices include U.S. postage (either first class, or priority mail). If you want more than just a few manuals, inquire about a postage discount. When the package weighs more than 13 ounces, I may be able to send it cheaper by using a priority mail flat-rate package. Foreign orders are welcome, please email me for the cost of the additional postage. The larger the order, the bigger the postage savings. Often, about 8-10 manuals can be sent overseas for no extra postage fees, but larger orders may require customs fees for the buyer. Decide what works best for you, then contact me to work out any details. You may prefer to have your order sent in a few separate packages.
New manuals are always wanted. I'd especially like to find the manuals - HDv 181/1 through 4, but all other manuals will be considered. Let me know what you have. If it is worth the work, I'll translate it. I don't need to buy it, or even borrow it. It can be scanned and emailed to me, or as some people have done, the book can be loaned to me and I'll return it promptly after I scan it. Of course, either way, this means you get a copy in English for free when it's finished.
If you're looking for a German manual you don't see here, I may have it or know where I can get it. Ask and I'll let you know what I can do. I've emailed scans of a few pages to those in need of something I don't have translated yet, and found manuals for some very rare pieces that aren't in demand enough to translate.
If you'd like to know about a manual for something in particular, send me an email with your request. Email addresses will not be used for any other purpose, shared with anyone, nor made public.
To give you an idea of the amount of work involved in translating the old German, click for a picture of an original page from an MG 08/15 manual. You'll see why translating these manuals can take a ridiculous amount of time to complete.
School Shooting Instruction is ready. See the Reenacting page.
Kit 34 - The tobacco can rifle cleaning kit - now in English. See the
Tank Fighting - How to stop and disable tanks, what to do to defend from attacking tanks. See the Reenacting page.
MG 34 - Method of Operation - Shows how the gun works internally. 32 illustrations. See the Manuals page.
Instructive Examples for Combat, from 1939, is now in English. See the Reenacting page.
The new Russian MG squad manual is ready. See the Russian Manuals page.
The Austrian Schwarzlose heavy machinegun from WWI was a unique and unusual design in the history of machineguns, and not particularly common on the collectors market. A double manual is now available: A 1913 and a 1936 manual have been combined to make a very thorough and well illustrated guide to the operation and care of this classic piece of hardware. One booklet contains both original manuals. See the MG Manuals page.
The German 88 Flak cannon was a legend in it's time, and now you can read the operator manual for it
in English. See the bottom of the MG Manuals page.
pages for details.
It's Not Easy
These manuals have been translated the hard way, one word at a time by manual labor. There is no computer program I've found which produces an accurate, or even understandable translation for the old German. The results from a $400 translator program are OK (sometimes) for modern German, but are incoherent when translating 60+ year old military books. I have 22 German/English military dictionaries, 1 German-only military dictionary, 3 standard German/English dictionaries, all dated from 1925 to 1945, as well as a standard modern German/English general dictionary, a German/English Technical and Engineering dictionary, and two sets of English dictionaries (one old, one modern) to help determine the correct translation of the text. I have used everyone of them, at one time or another.
I often have the actual gun or equipment sitting next to me for examination in order to be sure that I choose the correct meaning from among the several different English possibilities for translating the German word (It's good to have friends who lend me such things). The manuals were written for people with the gun at hand, so a lack of clear, concise text is understandable for the originals. I do my best to make it fully understandable for readers who don't have a $30,000 gun in front of them to see how it works.
The guns and equipment which I don't have are either loaned to me by other collectors, or I'm allowed access to them for examination and disassembly. I have had several people help me through emails with explanations and descriptions. This allows me to provide concise wording in my translations. Sometimes I've had to translate the German to English, then look up the English definition in a World War II era English dictionary because the English word is not in common use anymore and I want to be sure I get it right. It all takes a ridiculous amount of time.
This is not a "type it in and hit the Translate button" job. I've tried computer translation programs, both online and on disk. They may be adequate (at best) for modern German, but of course were not designed to properly work with text from a 80 year old manual with special vocabulary and uncommon meanings. The results are useless, so the hard way is the only way for this job to be done right. A barrel used to be a "lauf", but modern German uses the word "rohr". "Lauf" in modern German can mean "run". The bullet is propelled "through the run" rather than the correct "through the barrel". It is much worse sometimes.
The words used for different parts of the gun, and even the meanings of some of the words, have changed in the 60 to 100 years since these manuals were first published. Each word of the original manual has been translated and typed in, and each illustration has been scanned and usually enhanced, touched up, or cleaned of the old "freckles" and crease-line flaws that have appeared through the decades.
I do not speak German, nor do I write it. I have learned to read it, and can read the old German font so that I can translate these manuals. Speaking and reading/writing any language are actually two separate things. Children learn to speak years before they learn to read and write. I learned to read German, and then the old German. Maybe some day I'll learn to speak the language too, but at this time, I have no need.
Every effort has been made to keep the picture and diagram quality as high as possible, but most of these fragile old manuals were printed on low quality, rough surface paper which wasn't intended to last for decades and certainly didn't preserve well. Some pictures were poor quality to start with, and have steadily deteriorated since being published. The pictures in the translated manuals in many cases have been improved from the originals, but there is only so much that can be done with an original, poor quality picture. If a picture isn't what it ought to be, the original was likely a lot worse. On some manuals, I've spent more time working on the pictures than doing the actual translation, and I even have a few manuals that I won't translate because the pictures are so bad they can't be restored. Producing a quality product is important to me, so I make every effort to reach that goal. You're not going to find a 3rd generation copy of a bad photocopy in the manuals I produce.
All manuals are printed on acid-free paper directly from the computer files by a high resolution printer. Bulk printing from photographic plates or using a photocopier is cheaper, but degrades the quality (I tried), especially when the graphics were marginal to begin with. Those methods are just copies of an original print, and can't be as good as the actual original. Printing each page directly from the computer ensures that each page is the best it can be, but the limiting factor is the original manual. Some manuals for sale will have better quality graphics than others because of the source material.
A Very Limited Market
These manuals fill a need in an extremely small market. If a fortune was waiting to be made by translating and selling these manuals, someone else would have done it 50 years ago. The expense to acquire the original manuals for translation is high because the manuals are very collectible and more rare than some of the guns themselves. My most expensive purchase of an original manual so far is $300, but recently I saw an original HDv241 for the MG42 sell for over $700. Fortunately, that excellent manual was scanned and emailed to me a few years ago by a collector in Oklahoma (thanks Brad). The manuals are very time consuming to scan, translate, type in, reword, restore the graphics and insert them in the text, and then set up for printing. When learning to read the old style German script, just to determine the spelling was quite a task in itself. I have 7 months of (part time) work in the 1940 Battalion Tactics manual alone, with several others taking 3 months, and the Reibert taking 11 months. As my experience has progressed in translating German, these manuals are finished much faster than they used to be, but they are still very time consuming to complete. My real job and family obligations limit the time I have for this hobby, so results take far longer than they should if this were a real job.
Printing a few thousand (or even several hundred) copies of each manual would certainly lower the price per manual, but that's only if the copies would sell. The limited number of buyers for a particular manual would mean a garage full of unsold copies, and each new manual completed would result in a further investment that would take years or decades to recover. For example, the question of how many MG26(t) (ZB-26) automatic rifles are out there, and how many people will be interested in buying a manual for one, has an effect on the price of the manual. If I work for 3 weeks and only sell 30 copies in 4 years, the price for the manual has to reflect that. The ZB-26 is a fine gun, and I have completed a 1940-dated 48 page manual, but I know that I can't afford to sell 60 hours of work (plus printing costs) for $5 a copy. The cost for printing 20 manuals at a time is much higher per manual compared to the cost per manual for printing a thousand or more. Buy a few hundred manuals and we can make a deal!
You may notice I've reduced prices on some of the manuals. If I sell enough copies of a particular manual, I can reduce the price as I recover some profit for my time and expenses. The more I sell, the cheaper the cost to produce these manuals. Any business has to make money to survive, but I'll try to keep the prices as reasonable as I can. The more manuals I translate, the faster I become, which means I can sell the more recently translated manuals cheaper. The initial cost of the original manual, weeks or months spent translating it (the older it is, the harder it is to translate), the number of pages, and if color printing is involved, all determine the selling price. U.S. first class or priority mail postage is included in the price and I don't add "handling" charges to pad the cost. I always hated buying something priced at $15 and having it cost $25 by the time I paid for it, so I don't run my business that way. Let me know if you want several manuals. When I save time, postage, and gas going to the post office, I can pass the savings on to you. It may not be more than a few dollars, but it is only fair. The larger the order, the bigger the savings. This especially applies to foreign orders, as I can send several manuals for only a bit more cost than just one or two.
Please keep in mind that I'm not doing this because I have too much money and nothing to do when I come home from my real job. By not copying the manuals for your buddies, you enable me to sell more, which means I can afford to buy and translate other manuals.
Members of the collector community have been very encouraging and supportive by lending their manuals and allowing me to disassemble and examine some very expensive hardware (such as the MKb and FG42). Their help is greatly appreciated, and keeps these translations from being awkward and inaccurate. Some of the manuals have the names of those who have allowed access to their collections or have loaned me their original manuals, some from the U.S, and some from other countries. These guys should be commended for their contributions to the gun collecting community. If you recognize any of the names, be sure to tell them thanks for all of us when you see them. Without their help, these manuals couldn't be as accurate as they are, some wouldn't have been translated, and some I wouldn't even know about. I certainly appreciate their help, and letting them know that others do too is good manners to say the least. They share their collections in this way to advance the sport for the benefit of us all. That's first class behavior. A life-long collector who gave me a great deal of support and full access to his collection in the years before he died, once told me that he didn't feel that his collection was his personal property; it belonged to History. He just got to enjoy it for a while. Very nice.
As I've been translating non-gun and training manuals that are of special interest to military historians and reenactors, I'm finding the same support I've had with the gun community. I can only wish I had started doing these types of manuals a few years earlier.
Your Support is Appreciated
When I started translating these manuals, I wondered why nobody in the last 100 years had translated any of them. Certainly there was a need and interest for it. Now I know why: it's hard, takes a ridiculous amount of time, and will never make enough profit to be a full time job, or even pay a decent hourly wage like a real job. It is, however, a great hobby.
There are no other sources for the information contained in these aging manuals. These are the original training, operating, and maintenance manuals for these guns and accessories, and military instruction manuals that were the primary sources of information for the German armed forces. This work needs done before the old books start to crumble and are lost forever, or are hidden in collections where they will never be seen by people who have an interest in the arms and training of the German military.
Your support is appreciated and allows me to continue the work.
To see how to place an order, click on the "Orders" link.
Contents of this page © 2015 by John Baum