History of the ZF41 Sniper
The study of the Zf. 41 is an interesting one. Much debate has been made over whether it was considered a sniper rifle or simply a designated marksman rifle. Original wartime documentation makes it clear that it’s intent was as a designated rifle. Wartime documents state that the purpose was to “allow for accurate shooting against particularly small or otherwise important battle target and use against targets that are difficult to capture with a small target or naked eye during battle.”However, despite this being the intended purpose of the Zf.41 it is clear from wartime pictures that it was issued to sharpshooters to be used as a sniper rifle.
Often times referred to as the “long eye” by collectors, the Zf. 41 was manufactured by three companies during the course of WWII. Berlin-Lubecker Maschinenfabrik (code duv) was likely the developer of the mounting system with a joint effort from Mauser Borsigwalde (code ar). Surviving wartime documents discussing the Zf. 41 are limited so this is a educated guess. Both firms were delivering rifles by late 1941, but by late 1942 BLM stopped producing K98ks altogether. Borsigwalde continued to produce K98ks (and Zf. 41s) until late 1943. Since BLM and Borsigwalde were no longer able to produce the Zf. 41, Mauser Oberndorf (code byf) continued with the program in late 1943, presumably because of pressure from the German High command who didn’t want to see production of the Zf. 41 to cease due to the time and resources already put into the program. Mauser Oberndorf had already been supplying Borsigwalde with sight bases so it was an easy transition.
Production of the Zf. 41 started at Mauser Oberndorf in late 1943. Despite the end of production of Zf. 41 rifles, BLM continued to supply mounts to Mauser until the end of the war. Mauser produced the Zf. 41 until the summer of 1944, though it is not clear why Mauser stopped at this time. Perhaps it had something to do with the German high command down grading the Zf. 41 from sniper status to regular Karabiner status. In late 1944, starting in the L block Mauser resumed production and would continue into bfy 45 no letter block rifles. There are no legitimate Zf. 41 rifles reported any later then this. The reason for Mauser starting production of the Zf. 41 again is not known. Perhaps it was for use with the Volksstrum, or merely the need for more optic equipped rifles was high.
The earliest Zf. 41 rifles are fitted with an early sight base known as the flat roller. The mount used on these early sight bases features rollers on the inside that are also flat. It was not long before the sight base and mount were redesigned and a beveled roller was used along with an angled groove cut into the side of the sight base. These beveled mounts and sight bases would be used until the end of the war. All wartime mounts were manufactured by BLM and are marked “duv”and “e/214.”
There are some unique features to Zf. 41 rifles aside from the sight base and scope mount. Early flat roller BLM rifles will have a e/214 inspection stamp on the side of the sight base. BLM Zf. 41 rifles with beveled sight bases do not have a e/214. However, it is possible that some early beveled sight bases had them. All mounts on BLM rifle will have the rifle serial number engraved on the scope mount. Mauser Borsigewadle Zf. 41 rifles will not have any extra inspection stamps on the sight base. Like BLM though, the rifle serial number was engraved on all mounts.
Mauser Oberndorf Zf. 41 rifles need to be classified into two groups, 1st production run and 2nd production run. The 1st production run rifles will have a e/135 on the sight base and rifle serial number engraved on the mount. By the time of the 2nd production rifles, the e/135 no longer shows up and scope mounts will be blank with no rifle serial number. Since there are no original wartime documents discussing this, all these features are gathered from observing known authentic examples to find these patterns.
The study of the Zf. 41 scope is fairly complex. There were three variations of scope structure. Type 1 was the first and features a smaller objective and flush elevation knurl. Type 1 scopes were marked ZF41. Type 2 scopes had the internal lenses modified, the center elevation knurl enlarged, and a larger objective added. These Type 2 scopes are also marked ZF41. Type 3 scopes saw even more simplification to the internal lenses with a longer ocular tube. Despite the longer ocular the total length of the scope stayed the same. These Type 3 scopes were marked ZF41/1. The front objective of Type 2 and Type 3 scopes are identical at 24mm. The Type 1 objective is only 22mm.
While the K98k Zf. 41 was being produced, the G41 was also being assembled with a scope. The scopes used on these G41 rifles were identical to the K98k rifles. However, these scopes were marked ZF40* (identical to the ZF 41 Type 2) and the ZF40 (identical to the ZF41/1). It was not long before the G41 was deemed unsatisfactorily as a sniper. However, it would appear that several ZF40* and ZF40 scopes had been produced to be used on G41s. The only companies to make the ZF40 scopes were cag, cxn, dow and possibly eso. cag likely only made the ZF40. dow seems to have stopped production of these scopes altogether when ZF40 scope production ceased. Likely to focus on producing the ZF4 scope for the G43. Once cag stopped producing scopes, binoculars became the focus of the company.
Several of the ZF40* and ZF40 scopes were used on Zf. 41 K98k rifles. These scopes will have their previous designation removed and the new ZF41 or ZF41/1 markings added. Methods of removing these marks vary with examples being seen with the previous markings lined out, scratched out, and machined away. This “re-designation” of the scope was done at the factories producing the Zf.41 rifles. The complexity of the scope was one of the larger issues to plague the Zf. 41 sniper, particularly adjusting the scope for windage. Doing so required removing the shield of the objective. This could only be done by a skillful technician and was not allowed by soldiers in the field.
Original wartime scopes display a wide range of markings on the scope tube (makers code, scope serial number, scope designation and any re-designation). Among these marks can be found four different marks indicating lubrication that was added to the scope. The only four markings seen to date that relate to this are KF, O, + and a triangle.
To date, there are a total of 17 known companies that produced scopes for the Zf. 41 program(including ZF40 scopes). It is not known which maker developed the scope but it is likely that is was cxn (Emil Busch). The primary suppliers of scopes were cxn, cag, and dow. Here is a full list of currently known companies who supplied scopes:
bmj: Hendsoldt & Sohne Optische Werke A.-G. Weztlar
cag: Swarovski, Tyrol, Austria
clb: Dr. F. A. Wholer, Kassel
cxn: Emil Busch A.G., Optische Industrie, Rathenow
ddv: Oculus, Berlin
dow: Opticotechna G.m.b.H., Prerau, Czech
dym: Runge & Kaulfuss, Rathenow
eso: Rodenstock Optische Werke, Munich
emv: Hertel & Reuss, Optik u. Feinmechanik, Kassel
fvs: Spindler & Hoyer, Gottingen
fzg: Feinmechanik G.m.g.H., Kassel
gkp: Rufs & Co, Kassel
jve: Ernst Ludwig Optisches Werk, Weixdorf
kov: Etablissement Barbier, Benard ae Turenne, Paris
mow: Seidenweberei Berga C.W.Crous &CO., Berga/Elster
kay: Ford-Werke A.G., Werk, Berlin
hap: Kohl, S.G, Max Physikalische Apparate, Chemnitz
As previously mentioned, the history of the ZF41 scope is rather complex. For a more detailed outline of this history Ken Tomonari’s website is highly recommended. It can be seen here:
Collecting the Zf. 41 Sniper
The Zf. 41 rifle is the easiest of all German sniper rifles to find in the collecting market. And it is often the least expensive. It is a great rifle to start a German sniper collection with. However, be warned that the Zf. 41 is highly faked. The first thing to look at is the base rifle. Make sure it is a correct maker and year. Mauser Oberndorf are the most common rifles. If the rifle is a 1st production run make sure it has an e/135 on the sight base. This marking has also been faked so make sure it compares well with known originals. All WWII sniper rifles from every country have been faked post war. Fakers tend to make mistakes on the base rifle. First focus on the base rifle to make sure it displays no post war tampering.