Country of origin
7.92 x 33 mm
Cyclic rate of fire
Practical rate of fire
40 - 100 rpm
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.
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
(barrel assembly, front and back sights, magazine), the
(it was originally chambered for the Kurz round), the
(breach and lower receiver), and the
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
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.
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
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
that US troops had expected.
Caches of StG 44s were found in Iraq and Afghanistan during the 2000s,
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.
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.
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.
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 7.92x33 mm, 7.92×40 mm, and
7.62x51 mm. 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.
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
Several reproductions for civilian were also manufactured, though
these all lack as selective fire capability, and were not marketed
for military use.
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