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StG 44

Assault rifle

StG 44

The German StG 44 was the first operational assault rifle

 
 
Country of origin Germany
Entered service 1944
Caliber 7.92 x 33 mm
Weight (unloaded) 5.2 kg
Length 940 mm
Barrel length 419 mm
Muzzle velocity 650 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 500 rpm
Practical rate of fire 40 - 100 rpm
Magazine capacity 30 rounds
Sighting range 800 m
Range of effective fire ~ 200 m

 

   By the time the Nazi conquest of the Soviet Union started to bog down in late 1941 it became apparent the trusty bolt action Karabiner 98k bolt-action rifle was wilting from the fearsome Communist small arms arrayed against it.

   This distressing selection included the PPS and PPSh-41 submachine guns, the Tokarev SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle, the ultra reliable Mosin Nagant bolt-action rifle, and even the odd-looking Degtyaryov DP-28 light machine gun. The Wehrmacht clearly needed a new small arm and two firms—Walther and Haenel—were contracted with developing it. Some accounts trace the involvement of both with the project as early as 1939.

   It was Haenel who succeeded thanks to Hugo Schmeisser’s development team. Critical to their R&D was designing a weapon that was effective in engagements within 300 meters. The resulting product was the Mkb 42 that entered low rate production (between 10 000 to 11 833 were made) and was even field tested in the Eastern Front.

   The new “machine carbine” was chambered for the “fat” full powered 7.92 mm Kurz round developed in 1938 and was unlike anything produced at the time. It used a stamped steel body buttressed by a wooden stock and was a gas operated selective fire weapon that utilized a tilting bolt.

   Its performance was further tweaked and the improved MP-43 was soon ready for widespread adoption, except the program was buried under the Wehrmacht’s chaotic procurement system as the war turned against the Nazis. It was only in late 1944, on October 22 to be specific, that Adolf Hitler personally christened the impressive weapon the Storm Rifle—henceforth named the Sturmgewehr 44 (German for "Assault Rifle 44") forever after—and it started pouring out from the factories of Haenel, Walther, Mauser, and Oberndorf-am-Neckar.

   Too little, too late. Only 425 977 StG 44’s were made in total and these weren’t enough to save Germany from defeat. The StG 44 had its own share of faults too. Its futuristic stamped steel look meant the barrel assembly and foregrip covering it were prone to overheating. This explained why soldiers using the StG 44 either wore mittens or gripped its magazine well when firing it.

   It had a recoil spring extending to its wooden stock, which meant any damage to the stock jammed the rifle. Its sighting range was modest and the rear sight’s location would have been better if closer to the stock.

   Furthermore, its curved 30-round magazine had a faulty spring and risked dropping from the lower receiver as it emptied of rounds. But a very unusual feature of the StG 44 was the part of the lower receiver occupied by the pistol grip could swing out from the magazine well. This literally opened the rifle and allowed for efficient cleaning and re-assembly.

   The onset of the Cold War buried the StG 44’s reputation, consigning it to a last ditch oddity that never caught on, even though the rifle’s form and function had a huge influence on small arms development in the East and West.

   The StG 44’s various parts impacted the most successful modern rifles ever produced: the AK-47 (barrel assembly, front and back sights, magazine), the FN FAL (it was originally chambered for the Kurz round), the M16 (breach and lower receiver), and the Heckler & Koch G3 (stock, upper and lower receiver, and pistol grip although the StG 45 prototype has more in common with the G3).

   But even when it was subsumed by the first generation of true assault rifles the StG 44’s career was far from over. Given its production run that was close to half a million weapons (425 977 including Mkb 42 and MP-43). In addition to Nazi Germany, the StG-44 was also used by the Soviet Union (who captured large stocks of them) during the World War II. It also found a new lease on life in the Eastern Bloc during Cold War, with operators including Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Israel, Poland, and Yugoslavia. They were also long-lived in service with several of these nations. The StG 44 became the preferred rifle of Yugoslavia’s airborne units well into the 1980s and its combat record actually grew over the years. It had token appearances in the Balkans during the 1990s.

   Significant quantities of the StG 44 found their way to many exotic locations, including war zones in Asia and Africa. It’s believed StG 44’s in the original Kurz rounds were manufactured in Argentina during the 1950s. The StG 44’s reached the United States as war trophies brought home by the US soldiers. In December 2012 a woman from Hartford, Connecticut, tried surrendering an StG 44 to the police in exchange for a gift certificate but was dissuaded from doing so—the firearm was simply too valuable.

   StG 44’s have been used, photographed, and captured during the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Vietnam War, and in East Africa’s violent eruptions. During the infamous Battle of Mogadishu in 1992, many of the rifles carried by the Somali gunmen were found to be StG-44s, not the AK-47s that US troops had expected. Caches of StG 44s were found in Iraq and Afghanistan during the 2000s, and they have occasionally been noted in use by insurgents in these countries. In 2012 a sizable StG 44 cache was looted by Syrian rebels who later released footage of their exploit.

   The StG 44 is currently basking in the feverish attention of American gun collectors. Since 2012 startup firearm manufacturers and distributors in the US began selling replica StG 44’s as sporting rifles. The demand for these Nazi throwbacks has been brisk enough for StG 44’s to be made available in multiple calibers, i.e. 7.62, 5.56 ( .223).

   The Sturmgewehr’s appeal has returned to its homeland. In recent years the German bespoke gun shop EL BE Tac has been selling a collection of replica Wehrmacht and Waffen SS semi-automatic weapons including the StG 44.

   70 years after it entered mass production as a battlefield game changer the StG 44’s future appears to be in the gun closets of private owners. It’s another surprise twist in the long and eventful saga of the first successful assault rifle.

 

Variants

   MKb 42: Prototypes for the series.

   MP-43: Original production model. It was designated as a "Maschinepistole" ('MP', for submachine gun).

   MP-44: Improved MP-43, and the definitive production model. Relabeled later as the StG-44.

   Krummlauf (attachment) – This accessory is an attachable, curved barrel extension, allowing the StG-44 to fire around corners without exposing the operator. It was designed for use inside armored vehicles, but could also be used as a standalone component.

   Gerat 06: weapon with components and featured from the MP-43, StG-44, and MG-42 machine gun. Did not enter production.

   CB-51: Spanish variant of the StG-44. Several variants were developed, variously chambered in 7.92x33mm, 7.92×40mm, and 7.62x51mm. Did not enter production.

   Franchi LF-59: Italian assault rifle utilizing the action and several other components from the StG-44. A carbine version, the LF-58, was also developed. Neither were accepted into service.

   M44: Yugoslav Army designation for the StG-44.

   StG 45 – A simplified variant developed in 1945 that had a roller-delayed blowback firing mechanism. It later influenced the Spanish CETME Modelo A rifle and subsequently the Heckler & Koch G3.

   Several reproductions for civilian were also manufactured, though these all lack as selective fire capability, and were not marketed for military use.

 

Miguel Miranda

   Article by MIGUEL MIRANDA

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StG 44

StG 44

StG 44

StG 44

StG 44


 
StG 44

StG 44

StG 44

StG 44

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