I have often heard that soldiers (particularly Allied soldiers) would swap their weapons for enemy weapons during World War II. Allies would take German weapons, like the MP40, that were seen as a step up from some of their weaponry. Unfortunately, I cannot recall where I have heard these rumors from.

Are the rumors of soldiers swapping their weapon for enemy weapons true? This quora post answers some questions about the logistics behind why swapping weapons is poor. As well, replies to this reddit post point towards soldiers collecting souvenirs and armies procuring large quantities of weapons to be re-chambered and distributed. My question is specifically about the exchanging of weapons for "better" enemy weapons.

I can understand soldiers on the front line taking whatever weapons are available to them if theirs suffered a catastrophic malfunction or ran out of ammunition. However, this poses difficulties when resupplying, given the drastic differences in ammunition types between armies. Even if they did manage to obtain ammunition, once they're removed from the front lines would they even be allowed to retain the weapon? I would imagine that they may even be reprimanded for losing their service weapon.

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    It's plot point in "Band of Brothers" that one of the soldiers really wants a German pistol (a Luger). It does not end well for him. wikiofbrothers.wikia.com/wiki/Corporal_Donald_B._Hoobler
    – AllInOne
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 15:30
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    Using captured weapons was pretty much a routine in some armies, but maybe not at a personal level. Do you want info about that practice?
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 20:36
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    there are a lot of pictures of German solders holding russian PPH sub machine guns - why reprimand an otherwise good soldier who becomes more efficient with a better weapon? The pragmatic response is to ignore it and save the resentment from occurring. Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 7:47
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    Not a direct answer, but the British captured large quantities of Italian weapons in North Africa (c 1 million rifles and commensurate support weapons). Many of these were sent to Greece which was builidng an army to resist Italian invasion. Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


It did happen sometimes, and not only out of personal initiative of the soldiers but as a concentrated effort by the armies.

It mostly happened in the Eastern Front, were the Germans captured great quantities of Soviet materiel (and not only personal weapons), to the point that it became practical to give them to their own troops. Additionally, "second rate" materiel was given to the Axis allies, who lacked industrial capacity and were always starving for weapons.

In fact the Germans even had a standard way to rename the weapons; weapons of Russian origin would have a (r) in the name, Polish ones would have a (p), (f) stood for French...

Sometimes the weapons would be modified to adapt them to the ammunition of the receiving army, sometimes they would be passed to the troops "as is".

Some examples:

And it would not end with personal weapons. In particular, the Germans seem to have been very fond of captured Russian artillery, like the 7.62 cm Pak 36(r), which was a conversion of several different Russian models.

And of course, the tanks:

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Images from https://www.quora.com/Were-there-instances-of-captured-Russian-equipment-being-used-by-the-Nazis-in-the-Western-front-during-World-War-II

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    As the question asker specifically mentioned "exchanging of weapons for "better" enemy weapons", it probably would be good to point out that this was not because of weapons being "better" or "worse", but because this was a much better alternative to having a deficit of weapons. Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 4:02
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    @Danila Smirnov: Yes, this seems more like using captured weapons in addition to what you already have, rather than e.g. trading your M-16 for an AK-47.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 17:00
  • Great answer with good examples. This is probably the closest I will get to an answer about front line soldiers changing weapons. Knowing that they were sometimes given enemy weapons "as is" implies some logistics were in place to service these weapons.
    – ToyGunner
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 11:30

Another problem with using enemy weapons in combat was sound - Soldiers would get used to the sound of each weapon, and if they didn't know better (think fog of war) would shoot in that direction assuming enemy troops were there as well.


Did some looking around and found some examples of where sound was important:

  1. In the second answer to this question, a mention is used of using enemy weapons as part of a patrol to confuse the enemy.
  2. The rangers at Pointe Du Hoc suffered four dead from "friendly fire" after using enemy weapons.
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    This would be improved with some actual examples of this happening. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 21:08

Souvenirs mostly and alternatively used secondary weapons perhaps. Problem was American ammunition didn't fit German guns which were at that time metric and unless you could somehow convince the German army to supply you generally American troops didn't have the capacity to carry enough America ammo to negate resupply much less significant secondary German ammo.

Having said this an exception might be the Marines and Japanese soldiers in the Pacific. At Guadalcanal the marines fought without resupply for three months and relied on Japanese supplies including guns and ammo. According to John B George's Shots Fired in Anger, the Japanese used Dutch German and British arms in that battle. Japanese used Dutch Mannlichers, British Enfields and German Mausers and Krags on Guadalcanal.

Having said all this I've seen several German Lugers which were were valued souvenirs during WWII, I even saw a German Mauser infantry rifle which at the time I saw it the former American Army Air Corps, bomber crewmen, rear gunner who had traded for it explained to me how superior it was to the US army's M1.

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