Story and photographs by the team at Legacy Collectibles
Towards the end of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, the soldiers of the 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne, are sent to Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” retreat in the Bavarian Alps. There, Nazi leaders had a getaway resort where they could enjoy an opulent lifestyle away from the public eye. As depicted in the miniseries, this is where the real boys of the 101st found a treasure trove of war souvenirs, and this is where the story of our shotgun – engraved with the initials A.H. – begins.
This style of shotgun, known as a Drilling, is uniquely German. The engraved Krieghoff Neptune variation combines a double-barrel, 12-gauge shotgun with an 8×57 JR-caliber rifle barrel. The gun metal is ornate, featuring high-relief engravings depicting woodlands with deer. The serial number, 15450, indicates that the gun was made in 1931 and then sent to a master engraver to embellish the gun to its current condition. The bottom of the trigger guard is where the initials are located.
1934 – 1935
Heinrich Krieghoff was in Sewanee, Germany, where he demonstrated a gas-operated rifle to Adolph Hitler, Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess and Paul von Hindenberg, possibly to gain favor for a military contract, which he received the following year to produce 10,000 Luger pistols. It is believed that Krieghoff offered Neptune Drillings to Göring and Hitler at this time. We do know that Göring, a German politician, military leader and leading member of the Nazi Party, owned a Kreighoff Drilling, which has been documented in books and period photos, and has his initials, H.G., engraved in the same location – bottom of the trigger guard – and in a similar style as the A.H. Neptune.
In May, the US Army’s 506th Parachute Regiment raided Hitler’s Berchtesgaden retreat in the Bavarian mountains and a soldier reportedly took the Drilling as a souvenir. The 506th is one of only a few units in the US Army to be transferred to the Pacific theater (also depicted in Band of Brothers). Due to weight restrictions while traveling, the paratrooper could not take the shotgun home with him, so he sold the souvenir to 1st Lieutenant Robert J. Lucas, who managed the mess hall and bakery, for $5. Lucas took the gun home with him and settled in central Illinois sometime after the war. His wife reported that the shotgun was kept under their bed for 50 years, and they never discussed its significance with anyone.
After Lucas’s death, his family began researching the gun’s history, discovering that the weapon may have belonged to Hitler.
Randall Gibson, author of the book The Krieghoff Parabellum, collector and gun enthusiast, examined the Drilling and told the family that the gun “very likely” was given to Hitler as a gift in 1934.
The family put the Drilling up for auction with Mid-West Gun Exchange and sold it to a private collector.
The A.H. Krieghoff Drilling was sold to Legacy Collectibles in a private transaction.
There are no documents to prove that this Drilling was presented to Hitler at the demonstration, or while he was touring the Krieghoff factory in 1934. All Krieghoff company documents were destroyed before the Allied armies took over the factory in 1945. The only documentation of a similar gun, that was given to Göring, comes from period photographs of him with the gun.
While Göring, an avid hunter, was photographed several times with his Krieghoff Drilling, there are no photos of Hitler with agun. This does not disprove the validity of this A.H. Drilling. Hitler was seldom photographed with any gun because he reportedly was a vegetarian and was opposed to hunting.
We do know that Krieghoff was in the presence of Hitler on numerous occasions, which would have given him many opportunities to offer a gift.
This Krieghoff Drilling variation is slightly shorter than standard shotguns, perhaps due to Hitler’s smaller stature if it was, indeed, made for him.
The similarities of both the H.G. and A.H. Drillings, the time frame, the documented origin of the A.H., and multiple meetings between Krieghoff and Hitler lead one to believe it is highly possible. The additional fact that this gun has A.H. inscribed in the same spot as the H.G. on Göring’s gun led one expert to declare that it’s very likely this is indeed Hitler’s shotgun. AmSJ
Editor’s note: Legacy Collectibles is the nation’s leading provider of authentic and historical firearms. For more information on this Drilling and all the supporting documentation, you can visit them at legacy-collectibles.com.