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Old July 1, 2013, 11:31 PM   #1
AL45
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Tracing the history of a military weapon

Is there a way to trace the history of a military firearm using the make, model and serial number? I would assume that there is information on who each firearm was issued to and where and when that person served.
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Old July 2, 2013, 12:20 AM   #2
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No. At best you will find out what branch of the service the rifle was issued to.
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Old July 2, 2013, 11:50 AM   #3
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A K31 might be the only exception.
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Old July 2, 2013, 03:26 PM   #4
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Research can reveal certain things. I know that there are records of shipments of guns that are likely to have been issued to a certain unit, or a certain ship.
For instance, there are serial number ranges for trapdoor Springfields and Colt single actions that make them likely to have been issued to Custer's 7th Cavalry.
There's an advanced collector of M1911 pistols who used to display at a local gun show, who was able to trace a couple of his pistols to battleships that were moored in Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
When we're talking less significant weapons, associated with less significant dates and places, there isn't going to be as much interest, and so not as much research.
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Old July 2, 2013, 03:30 PM   #5
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As jsmaye said, the K31s can be kinda cool. And if you can't find much out about the rifle, you're still holding a very nice piece of hardware.
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Old July 2, 2013, 04:01 PM   #6
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Old July 2, 2013, 04:16 PM   #7
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It is weird how some guns get around. Sometimes a couple units are rotating and a new unit is being formed. The units leave some of their weapons behind for the newly formed one. That is how you hit areas with old weapons still in service. The units leaving donate their oldest stuff. When I was in Europe it was not uncommon to find 1911's in a lot of the units. I remember an M-2 machine gun with a 4 digit serial no# made by Colt. The barrel support had oval air cool slots instead of round. It could have been left over there since WWII for all I know.
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Old July 2, 2013, 04:57 PM   #8
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How many times has this question been asked and answered? ten times, a hundred? There may be some very limited exceptions, but with only a weapon serial number, for all pratical purposes, it is impossible to trace a weapon to a single indiviual. With a name and a serial number , there have been very rare cases of guns being matched, very rare cases. We are not talking about which unit or ships they were issued to. as posted, that is sometimes possible, but the poster wanted to know who it was isssued to. John Holbrook is the collector who collects Navy 1911's, He has a vast collection of 1911's ( some look new ) that were issued to certain ships, but even he would be hard pressed to name a single gun to a single person . ( seem to remember that he has a couple of Navy 1911's that are traceable to an indiviual, but he had the gun, name, serial number and papers. )
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Old July 2, 2013, 09:00 PM   #9
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nope, no paper trail. the only way you'd know for sure is if a GI listed his serial number in his journal or letters home but most didn't really care that much about it to do so.
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Old July 11, 2013, 12:26 PM   #10
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In a recent issue of the "Garand Collectors Associations" quarterly, there was a story of a man that looked for the M1 He was issued in Korea and with him in the early years of Vietnam at every gun show he attended for decades..... He still remembered the number.

His Son contacted CMP and they actually had the rifle, After it's service, it became a demilled drill rifle, and let out to a VFW post until it's return only a short while before the Son's inquiry.

CMP was able to return the rifle to serviceable condition and sold it to the son,... Then as a surprise, He got his Dad down to his VFW post on a ruse,.... And had the rifle presented to him..... (I think I got that story right) It was a really good story.

But the rifle was reunited with it's history by the man remembering the SN of the rifle issued to him.
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Old July 11, 2013, 03:00 PM   #11
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Interestingly enough, the German WWII Soldbuch (paybook) had the serial number of the weapon issued to the soldier*, as well as his home town, unit, service history, information on any injuries or wounds, hospital stay if any, and so forth. They were a gold mine for American intelligence during WWII. U.S. ID cards provided only name, branch or service, rank, serial number and religion.

*Often incomplete, missing the suffix letter, date, etc., but good enough for accountability purposes.

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