Shortly after Nazi Germany occupied France in July 1941, contacts were established between the German Armed Forces and the Spanish armament industry. Impressed with the quality of Astra’s arms, Germany soon made substantial purchases. From that moment until late 1944, Astra’s primary interest was to fill these requisitions. The first shipments were sent between October and November 1941 and consisted of 6,000 M400 (1921) pistols in 9mm Largo (Bergmann) and 6,000 M300 pistols in 9mm Corto (.380ACP).
In 1943, when it was clear that the war would be a prolonged conflict, Germany dispatched two engineers to Astra. Their purpose was to help Astra redesign the Model 400 (1921) for the 9mm Parabellum, then the regulation military cartridge of Germany and most of central Europe. In short order, Astra introduced the M600, a single-action, internal hammer blowback pistol that was a scaled-down M400 (1921) fitted with an M300/M400 (1921) Navy magazine release.
Germany designated the new pistol the “Pistole Astra 600/43.” The first fifty guns, serial numbered 1-50, were submitted for testing to the “Oberkommando des Heeres,” the German High Command, and soon accepted. Quantity shipment commenced in May 1944. Over the next two months, Astra exported an additional 10,450 guns to the German Armed Forces in occupied Hendaye, France. Unlike the test pistols, the production guns had their slide marked with the Astra U/C logo. Upon receipt by Germany, the guns were acceptance stamped with an E/WaAD20 on the right tang and issued with black leather holsters, stitched with white cotton thread, that held an extra unnumbered magazine. The majority of these holsters were made by Freidrich Offerman and Soehne of Bensberg, whose military code, “dkk,” was marked on the obverse side along with the last two digits of the issue year. Many of these holsters were also struck with a waffenamt E/WaA195 acceptance stamp.
The Allied invasion of France interrupted Astra’s shipments to the German forces that had been previously stationed in Hendaye and Bordeaux, France. That also left Astra with nearly 30,000 completed guns and parts, many of which had been ordered and paid for by Nazi Germany. Once WWII was over, the undelivered pistols were forwarded to the Spanish government. An additional 3,550 guns that had been in the process of being assembled but had not been paid for were completed and exported beginning in October 1950. Of these, 800 were sent to Portugal, 450 to Chile, 200 to Jordan and 200 to Turkey. Smaller quantities were sent to the Philippines, Costa Rica, Egypt and other countries.
Amongst today’s collectors, the Astra M600, in the Nazi serial range, is one of the more desirable of the military procurement pistols. To be certain that your example is original, it needs to be in the correct serial range and have the right side of the tang marked with waffenamt that consists of a E/WaAD20. The gun should be finished with a rust blue, and have wood checkered panels and an unnumbered magazine marked with the Astra E/U logo on the lip extension. In the course of disassembly you should ensure that the major components should be stamped with a matching number.
Knowing the penchant, a number of unscrupulous vendors have placed waffenamt markings on alt-of-range pistols. Further, in the course of reworking, many of these guns have been redipped, now having a darker hue, and in the process, blueing the previously unfinished inner surfaces.
A final caveat, as mentioned above, none of the magazines were numbered. For reasons we made unclear, many of the reworked and redipped guns had their magazines struck with a matching serial number. So, if the magazine is numbered, view the gun with suspicion.
WWII German Army procurement M600 #10133. Early production features included the Astra U/C logo on the slide, a two-line slide address and PIST PATR 08 on the barrel hood. All the waffenamt procurement pistols, serialed between 51-10500, were stamped WaAD20 on the right tang. Contrary to the inserted advertisement circa 1964, there was no documentation to suggest that M600s were the “choice of the Luftwaffe.”
As WWII pistols escalated in value, unscrupulous vendors began to fake Nazi markings. This late M600 was made for the German Police and marked LBPN on the frontstrap. It was later struck with fraudulent Nazi police proofs on the right tang and left trigger guard web.
M600 #21872, that was never delivered to the German military, should only have had the usual post war markings. The E/L police stamp on the right tang and barrel hood were counterfeit, applied to deceive the uninformed collector.
Customized M600 with ventilated slide and modified safety. The frame was altered to have a solid contoured backstrap sans safety. Fraudulent markings include the E/WaA 103 (code for Fabrique National of Belgium) on the left side, the bore diameter of 8.82 as found under 9mmP Luger barrels, and the scatted Nazi eagles on the right slide, tang and magazine base.
Astra M600 Nazi Range pistols currently available from Historic Investments: