History of the Single Claw
Steyr-Daimler-Puch (code bnz) was the only manufacturer that produced the Single Claw sniper during WWII. These rifles were produced in 1943 and 1944 with the majority being produced in 1944. No authentic examples are known to exist outside these years but it is possible that some were produced earlier. Based on observations of authentic examples, production didn’t begin until mid to late 1943 and finished sometime in late 1944.
The conditions at Steyr in 1944 were very difficult. According to Kararbiner Volume IIb by Mike Steves and Bruce Karem, the factory was bombed in February 1944 during production of the b and c block. As a result of the damage done by the bombings, Steyr was forced to move the production of rifles. The d block was the first full letter block produced after work resumed. By the time Steyr able to resume production, there was a protocol change and the rifle’s serial number was moved to the barrel. Prior to this serial numbers were placed on the receiver and are therefore covered by the front base. This is a useful method of dating a Single Claw since the receiver code and year are covered.
Barrel codes are another important tool for dating when a Single Claw was assembled. Rifles assembled in 1943 will have barrels produced at the Letten facility. In late 1943 or early 1944 production of barrels was moved to Steyr. The bombing in February destroyed the barrel making operations. While Steyr was waiting for the barrel production to be relocated to Gusen, barrels from other suppliers had to be used. Due to this, there is a period of time in which 1944 rifles will display a wide range of barrel suppliers and therefore barrel codes. By the summer of 1944 barrel production began at Gusen. Knowing these barrel codes allows for a more accurate dating of when a rifle was assembled.
As a result of these stressed conditions in 1944, many Steyr rifles in general (including snipers) will have factory errors and odd mistakes. Transposed numbers, one incorrect number stamped, and even incorrect letter block stamped examples have all been observed. Interestingly, many authentic rifles are observed in the d block (although certainly not limited to the d block). Perhaps there was a large order of sniper rifles waiting to be filled and this is why so many are found in this letter block.
While Steyr manufactured the rifles themselves, it is currently believed that the rifles were sent to gunsmith Richard Marholdt in Austria for sniper conversion. One reason for this believe is the mention of it a wartime document. Another reason is that the font used in numbering the scope mounts and bases does not match any used at Steyr.
There has long been a notion among collectors, that single claws were issued to the Waffen SS. To date there is no information to support this clam. It is certainly possible that they were used by SS soldiers but the majority went to the army.
Collecting the Single Claw
Since Steyr was the only producer of the Single Claw sniper and it only being produced for two years, it is easy to identify a authentic Single Claw sniper. There are only a few features that will distinguish a sniper rifle from a regular production rifle. Studying non scoped rifles is the first step in authenticating a Single Claw.
Distinguishable features of a 1944 dated Single Claw (aside from the scope) will be a short sniper safety to allow clearance of the scope, stock serial numbered internally (on 1944 rifles) and possibly a checkered sniper butt plate. Checkered butt plates start showing up around c or d blocks, earlier rifles will have the standard smooth butt plate. 1943 dated Single Claws have no differing features other then a scope mounted. It would appear from observation that short sniper safeties were not yet in use. And checkered butt plates did not begin to be used until well into 1944 as previously mentioned.
Single Claws only used two types of scopes. The bmj and the very rarely seen Carl Zeiss scope. Scopes will never have a sunshade as this does not allow for enough clearance to remove the scope. The bmj scopes typically fall into certain serial number ranges since scopes were also being provided for the High Turret and Long Side Rail. From what’s been observed, early scopes fall in a serial range of approximately 64,000 to 66,000 with early square turret knobs. Later scopes will be numbered in the 74,000 to 75,000 range with the later rounded turret knob. For a short period (for some unknown reason) the roll markings on bmj scopes were placed on the right side of the scope tube as opposed to the typical left side.
Although bmj produced the vast majority of the scopes for the Single Claw, Carl Zeiss also produced a small number. These scopes are extremely rare. Serial Ranges for these scopes tend to be in the 78,000 to 81,000 range. They also will not have a sunshade and feature a colored triangle above the logo signifying weather proofing.
Once assembled and fitted together the scope mounts and bases where numbered in five places to match the rifle serial number. The front base, front mount, rear upper ring and rear lower ring were all numbered. In addition, when the release button on the rear base is pressed the rifle serial number can be seen on the lock bar. This is usually numbered on top but can also be numbered on the bottom. The rear ring number is most often found on the front portion of the rings but it has been seen on the back also. Once again displaying the mistakes and oddities that can be found with Single Claws.
The front base on Single Claws will typically have a letter on the left or right side of the claw housing. This is usually an A, Z, O, or M. These are mostly likely inspector stamps for the individual who assembled the base. There is no consistency as to which letter is used and when, they are scattered all through out production. And it is possible to not find a letter at all but this is uncommon. There are two types of front base constructions found. Early bases were constructed of 3 pieces welded together to make the entire base. It included the curved ring that covered the receiver, the block that housed the front claw and a pin to hold the front claw in place. Later bases are constructed of 4 pieces with the only difference being that the claw housing was made into two pieces. When looked at closely these pieces can be seen. It is certainly possible to find early front bases on later rifles.
The total quantity of Single Claws produced is not yet known and may never be known. The total number is significantly less then the Long Side Rail or High Turret. Authentic Single Claw snipers are difficult to find in the collecting market today.