The Story of Simson & Co., Suhl, is a very slim chapter in the epic saga of the Luger. In all the literature--Walter, Kenyon, Datig, Gibson, Reese, Costanzo, Still--there are but a handful of pages concerning this manufacturer, and the essential information can be stated briefly.
After WWI the manufacture of military pistols was severly curtailed by the Treaty of Versailles. This did not affect rework and assembly from parts (Gibson, 1980)--thus DWM's continued operation--but new manufacture was heavily controlled. Erfurt's production equipment was acquired by the Jewish firm of Simson & Co. in 1920, and on April 1,1924 Simson was awarded the exclusive contract to provide P-08s to the 100,000-man German Reichswehr (Ginsberg, vide Still, 1993).
Initial production was rework and assembly. Simson-produced guns bearing Simson-marked toggles were introduced in 1925, with chamber dates from 1925-1928 (1927 and 1928 dated guns are disputed); Blank chamber with Simson-marked toggles; and Blank chamber with S marked toggles. Most collectors regard the S as the beginning of the ordinance code system; however, the codes were not distributed until 1934, and the Simson S appeared before that. There is evidence (Ginsberg, ibid) that the S was applied to "Aryanize" the firm's name, to hide its ethnicity from its increasingly anti-Jewish customer base.
Simson's production contract expired on March 31, 1934, and the company was nationalized and its constituent facilities given to other manufacturers in 1934 or early 1935. Simson's production output is estimated to have been 12,000 guns.
No arms manufacturer could survive in cash-strapped, inflation-ridden Weimar Germany with a decade-long output of 12,000 guns. Simson engaged in the rework and commercial sale of Imperial military Lugers to keep up cash flow, as did DWM. All manner of variations can be found: some with chamber dates, some without; some with Simson-marked toggles and some with their original toggle markings; some with a variety of the distinctive Eagle over 6 Simson inspectors' stamps. There are Police Lugers with a circle-surrounding-S on their left breechblocks: most collectors assert that these are Simson reworks, although the documentation to confirm this is not forthcoming.
The Luger presented here is an example of this rework program. It is a P-08 First-Issue Military retaining all its Imperial markings (which is what initially attracted me to the gun), with an interesting array of other markings and characteristics.
Download Attachment: SimsonL-0312.jpg
Download Attachment: SimsonR-0312.jpg
Download Attachment: SimsonUnder-0312.jpg
Download Attachment: SimsonTop-0312.jpg
A closeup of the left receiver shows that this gun retains all its Imperial markings, including the barrel proof demonstrating that the gun has not been rebarrelled during rework. The side plate and takedown lever are both replacements, being numbered on their exposed surfaces in the military style (rather than hidden on the edges as would be appropriate for a First Issue). Note also the GERMANY export stamp on the frame rail. The sear bar (not pictured) is not relieved, but is stamped with the serial number on its face--an odd contradiction.
Download Attachment: SimsonLRcvr-0312.jpg
The barrel bottom and frame front bear their original markings as well, with the addition of an Eagle/6 on the barrel. There is no barrel gage, as this gun was manufactured before the 1910 marking instructions. The E/6 is haloed, indicating being stamped over the blue; the serial number and suffix are not haloed. Simson number stamps have different characteristics from DWM numbers, this can be seen by comparing the 88 on the barrel and frame with the 88 on the takedown lever and sideplate in the previous picture. I regret that the double-numeral means that there is only the one example.
Download Attachment: BarrelFrame.jpg
This P-08 has had a holdopen added. The exterior end of the pin can be seen, properly unblued on the right side of the frame; along with its inspector's stamp. The much more unusual feature here is a Crown/N Commercial proof mark on the right side of the barrel -and- on the right side of the frame!
Download Attachment: SimsonRRcvr-0312.jpg
The grips are numbered to the gun, and have E/6 marks. It strikes me as unusual that the grip marks are the full Simson & Co. logo as found on the gun's toggle.
Download Attachment: GripsComb.jpg
The magazine is serial numbered to the gun. The magazine base is stamped with both an E/6 and a Crown/N.
Download Attachment: MagBaseComp.jpg
The breechblock is not original to this gun, the 88 clearly overstamps another number. It is interesting, though, that this breechblock is either a P-08 Commercial or another Military First Issue, as the number is in the same place. There is no power-proof stamp on the breechblock, only a hardness test dimple. One wonders where the part came from--another pistol? a parts bin? or...? This question will arise again before the presentation is concluded.
Download Attachment: BreechBlock.jpg
Perhaps the most unusual feature of this Luger is its sideplate. It is noticeably different even at a glance. The island is different--smaller, narrower, soft-edged; the characteristic vertical and horizontal milling marks on the face are absent; the edges and corners are sharp and square; the transition from the face to the bottom edge is a smooth curve, rather than a step. In short, it does not look like any sideplate I have ever seen. In the photo below it is flanked by a 1908 Commercial and a 1911 Erfurt sideplate, for comparison.
The finish is distinctively poor, browned and splotched. There is a bit of its original color visible in the bottom view, and the photograph portrays its bright, almost electric-blue quality pretty accurately.
Download Attachment: SideplateComparison.jpg
I was almost ready to assume that this was some sort of bogus, poorly-made modern replacement, until I took it off and found an Eagle/6 neatly stamped into the back.
Download Attachment: SideplateBack.jpg
If anybody has any theories or comments regarding this sideplate I'm more than happy to hear them.
The rear toggle axle of this gun is serial-numbered. The regulation requiring axle-pin marking was issued in March of 1932; I conclude that this rework was performed after that date.
The final part of the mystery of this Luger--or perhaps the final mystery part--is the rear toggle link. As can be seen in the top photo, above, it's finish is turning brown on its upper flat--not on the rest of the piece however--and the mark stamped there is very strange looking. Under magnification it can be seen that some marking has been peened out, and an Eagle/6 has been stamped in its place.
It is impossible to tell what mark might have been there, the obliteration is quite thorough, but it is in the proper place for an Erfurt inspector's stamp. Now here is the other odd thing. Underneath this piece can be found the RW monogram.
This mark is associated with Mauser. It has been identified as the mark of Mauser Factory principal inspector Richard (?) Weiss (Walter, 1986); and Costanzo notes that it is found on the middle toggle link of 1938 through 1941 models. Why it would be found in this place on this gun, on this piece with these characteristics, is anybody's guess, and I'd certainly like to hear some. It certainly must either stretch the time or place of this rework past the date and confines of the Simson plant, or call into question the interpretation or application of the RW monogram.
It would be interesting to see other Simson reworks in order to identify commonalities. Any informed comments or guesses abut the puzzling aspects of this Luger should prove interesting.