Göring's Huntress of Predators

Weapons for survival are typically compact, maximally functional, and have a Spartan appearance. This doubly applies to models carried in aircraft cockpits. An exception confirming the rule is the pompous M30 Drilling, manufactured for the German Luftwaffe.

Published 15.06.2024 / RaptorX

By the end of the 1930s, the Luftwaffe had become the pride of the Nazi regime. Led by Hermann Göring - a former World War I fighter pilot and one of Hitler's most active collaborators - it was also the most politicized branch of the armed forces. The Reich Marshal was renowned for his extravagant lifestyle in a luxury residence adorned with artworks looted from across Europe. He was addicted to lavish uniforms as well as morphine, enjoyed fine wines and food, and above all, took great pride in the Luftwaffe.

Hunting Tradition

When Germany launched its campaign in North Africa in 1941, the air force had to be present. Pilots respected missions over exotic landscapes but feared facing attacks from predators in the event of a crash. The issue landed on the Reich Marshal's desk, who was an avid hunter and knowledgeable about hunting and sporting firearms. When selecting a "survival" weapon for his pilots, he turned to the top manufacturer, J.P. Sauer & Sohn.

The renowned company operated in the traditional center of German arms production in Suhl. It boasted a tradition dating back to 1751, and during World War II, most of its capacity was devoted to military production. Besides Mauser, it was one of the most significant producers of bolt-action rifles like the Karabiner 98k, and in the second half of the conflict, its workshops produced the assault rifle Sturmgewehr 44. The company also offered a wide range of excellent shotguns, rifles, and combination guns - including the so-called "drilling" guns. Triple-barreled rifles gained popularity among European hunters around 1900, when technological progress allowed manufacturers to produce affordable, durable, and relatively lightweight barrels made from cast steel.

Göring favored drillings as weapons for self-defense against wild animals and for hunting food. Sauer had been producing them in various styles and calibers since 1930 (hence the designation) and they belonged to the category of Normaldrilling or klassischer Drilling. Such rifles had two side-by-side shotgun barrels of the same caliber, beneath which was a rifle barrel. They featured a break-action design, allowing the barrel set to be folded.

In Heavy Caliber

Enthusiastic hunter Göring ignored the fact that there was limited space in aircraft cabins and opted for grandeur instead of compactness. The pompous weapon weighed 3.4 kg and measured 1,066 mm (some sources state 1,080 mm, while others mention 1,100 mm). All barrels, crafted by the Krupp-Laufstahl company, were 650 mm in length.

The drilling was characterized by a hammerless design, with the top two barrels chambered for 12-gauge shotgun shells. Below these, in Suhl, they mounted a third barrel for 9.3×74 mmR cartridges. This was a popular ammunition developed at the turn of the century, with ballistic characteristics similar to the British .400/360 Nitro Express cartridge. With a 286-grain (18.5 g) bullet, its muzzle velocity was approximately 720 m/s, with a muzzle energy of 4,790 joules. This powerful ammunition was commonly used for safari hunting on the Sub-Saharan plains, where downed pilots faced danger from large mammals. However, in practice, M30s were issued to aircrews flying over North Africa, where hardly any game lived that required such a powerful cartridge. According to some historians, Luftwaffe planners simply made a mistake in studying the realities, assuming that felines existed in the northern part of the continent. Others claim that Göring's personal preference for the 9.3×74 mmR cartridge was the reason. Either way, the combination of calibers and ammunition described allowed the owner to deal with any animal: from common birds to lions or buffalo.

With Two Triggers

The "Em thirty" was equipped with two triggers and a sliding selector located behind the lever for folding the barrel set. When the shooter moved the selector forward, the sight set for a target distance of 100 m flipped up. In this mode, the pilot could fire the rifle barrel with the front trigger, while pulling the rear trigger would fire the left upper shotgun barrel. It was fitted with a special rifled choke for uniform slug-type projectiles like Brenneke slugs. Such ammunition is used in European conditions, for example, in wild boar hunting, because it has significant stopping power and is minimally affected by grass, branches, and other minor obstacles. The disadvantage is its relatively low accuracy. The traditional slug design resembles a ribbed lead projectile with a cup-shaped felt wad attached to improve stability.

Moving the selector lever backward retracted the sight into the outline of the weapon, and subsequently pressing the front trigger fired the right upper barrel, loaded with conventional shotgun ammunition. The Suhl engineers thus used a setting common for most drillings, allowing sequential firing of all barrels without the need to open the action or remove the weapon from the shoulder. The firing mechanism and trigger were located on the lower plate and were inserted into the stock as a whole. It was a system called Blitz, characterized also by the positioning of the spring behind the hammer. The walnut stock with a shaped cheekpiece was finished with a horn buttplate, the pistol grip had checkered sides for a firmer grip, and its underside was protected by a steel cap. The safety was located on the left side of the stock, so the shooter could operate it with the thumb of the right hand.

The Luftwaffe purchased the M30 outside of standard military channels, so the weapon in its military configuration retained a high degree of handcrafting, precise fitting of parts, and luxurious surface finishes typical for pre-war hunting pieces. Despite being limited compared to custom drillings, decorations included pleasing engravings on the case-hardened receiver and were further enhanced by bluing. Göring aimed to emphasize the elite character of the Luftwaffe, deserving the best equipment. The military designation was only hinted at by the eagle symbol.

A Collector's Rarity

The weapon was delivered in an aluminum crate stored under the pilot's seat. In addition to the drilling (disassembled into the stock and barrel set), it included a strap, cleaning kit, and ammunition supply: 20 slugs, 25 shotgun shells, and 20 "bee" cartridges of 9.3×74 mmR. In the latter case, the ammunition had a soft point, which according to international law, a Luftwaffe member could not use against enemy soldiers. The low rate of fire and reloading also hindered the successful use of the M30 in encounters with British or Australian forces.

Given its dimensions and weight (the entire crate weighed 14.5 kg), it might be expected that the drillings would be issued primarily to aircrews of multi-engine bombers. According to the memories of German fighter ace Adolf Galland, however, "during the years 1942–1943, they formed part of the standard equipment for fighters Bf 109 and dive bombers Ju 87 on missions over the desert". It was assumed that surviving pilots would retrieve the crate from the wreckage of the aircraft after a crash or emergency landing - rather than carry it in their arms during a parachute jump. With a bit of exaggeration, it can be said that it was the only survival weapon that had to survive its own peril before it could help someone in need.

Today, it is an extremely rare piece, for which collectors pay thousands of dollars regardless of its condition. The rarity is also contributed by the fact that only a few drillings were produced for the air force - the most common figure being 2,456 units. Production ran only from April 1941 to September 1942 when it was discontinued in favor of more practical models for the Wehrmacht.

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