Sturmgewehr 44: The first assault rifle created at the end of WW2

Sturmgewehr 44: The first assault rifle created at the end of WW2

The Sturmgewehr 44 (stg 44) was the first assault rifle to be mass-produced. Its release was established by the Germans during the Second World War. In total, more than 450 thousand copies were produced, and the system is still used in the armies of a number of states.

A distinguishing feature of weapons that differed them from submachine guns of that period was a specially designed cartridge with improved ballistics. It exceeded at times the pistol caliber.

History of creation

The Wehrmacht needed a new machine gun in the 30s of the last century, then a cartridge of 7.92X33 mm was developed, which was adapted for firing at a distance of up to a kilometer. To get an idea of the characteristics of a new type of weapon, research began in 1935-37. The Wehrmacht’s Armaments Directorate got an idea of a new means of warfare, which was significantly different from existing ideas. This is how the concept of light automatic weapons appeared, capable of replacing rifles and light machine guns.

Scheme stg44.

Scheme stg44.

Two contracts for the development of prototypes were presented to the design teams of the Magdeburg firm Polte, which created the transitional cartridge:

– Henelya;
– Walter.
The prototype was named Maschinenkarabiner 1942 or MKb 42.

Scheme MKb 42.

Scheme MKb 42.

In the spring of 1938, a contract was signed with Hugo Schmeisser to develop a new system, literally a heavy submachine gun. The prototype was handed over to the commission at the beginning of the 40th. Later, a similar order was received by Erich Walter’s firm, and by 1941 the first sample was submitted for testing.

Shooting was carried out at the Kummersdorf training ground, where the Walter system received a good mark, but the improvements continued throughout 1941. In April of the following year, two systems were presented to Hitler, and comprehensive tests began in various units. The shooting showed that soon all the shortcomings will be eliminated and it will be possible to begin deliveries to arms.

Production was supposed to increase up to 15 thousand a month by the spring of 1943 and maintain it at this level. However, the commission made new amendments to the requirements, which slightly delayed the launch date. It was necessary to install a tide for the bayonet and mounts for a rifle grenade launcher.

February 1944, Ukraine, Pripiat, a soldier of the 1st Ski Hunter Division, armed with a StG 44 prepares his skis.

February 1944, Ukraine, Pripiat, a soldier of the 1st Ski Hunter Division, armed with a StG 44 prepares his skis.

In the fall of the 42nd, the MKb42 (H) aufschießend model appeared, in which the bolt, butt and sighting devices were changed. This was followed by a comparative test of MKb42 (H) and MKb42 (W) with Kar.98k.

Based on the results of the checks, it turned out that the Henele design is distinguished by its greater mass and cumbersomeness, but at the same time it was as simple and unpretentious as possible. Ease of assembly / disassembly and long aiming line were noted.

 

The production started poorly, for a long time it was not possible to reach the planned capacity. Only the support from the Ministry of Armaments saved the sturmgewehr of Henele.

A number of front-line tests were passed, in which the two systems were also compared. In practice, the Heneel automaton proved to be more reliable and simpler, but less balanced. Schmeisser’s designs were again favored, but improvements were required.

Photo German soldier is carrying an StG-43-44 Sturmgewehr assault rifle.

Photo German soldier is carrying an StG-43-44 Sturmgewehr assault rifle.

The commission demanded to work out the following points:

– the trigger mechanism was supposed to be taken from a Walter machine gun, since it showed the best accuracy when firing single shots;
– to refine the geometry of the sear;
– to install a flag fuse;
– to shorten the length of the gas chamber tube;
– instead of the hole for the exit of residual gases, to drill the holes with a diameter of 7 mm, which would improve reliability in the field;
– to modify the shutter and frame with a gas piston;
– to remove the mainspring guide;
– to remove the tide for the bayonet, which was not needed due to the creation of a new method of attaching the grenade launcher;
– simplify the butt.

 

It should be noted that not only Walter fought with Hennel for the state order. For example, there was an attempt to conduct comparative tests with the FG42, however, they were thwarted due to production problems. By the end of 1943, the first prototypes of the g 44 assault rifle (Gewehr 43), a semi-automatic rifle, appeared.

In 1943, the name of the new weapon was changed several times, changes were made to the design. As a result, the Henele’s layout became a priority, which they were engaged in until the last modernization in the fall of 1943. Then it was decided to change the design in order to install a grenade launcher. After it, the new changes were not made until the very end of World War II.

The assault rifle was adopted for service in 1943, and began to be supplied to the troops under the brand name MP 43.

Some upgrades that increased the reliability and ease of handling the German assault rifle of World War II were introduced at the end of 1943 after a final discussion between the developers and the leadership of the Arms Directorate.

Device and layout

STG44 device.

STG44 device.

It is an automatic weapon which uses a gas engine and which has a long stroke.

The receiver is stamped, produced from steel sheet. A similar method was used to produce USM cases, which were fixed on the receiver by means of a hinge, together with a handle.

It has a pistol grip.

When disassembling the weapon, the described unit leans down and forward.

The wooden stock with a spring was disconnected after pressing the transverse pin, which was assembled on the spring.

Ammunition

Ammunition is fed from a two-row sector magazine, which is designed for 30 rounds. The disadvantage of such system was weak springs, which did not provide the proper supply of ammunition when fully loaded. The optimal load was considered 25 rounds.

To solve this problem, magazines for 25 charges were developed, but they were produced in limited quantities. Later, a stopper appeared, which limited the capacity to an optimal value.

To connect the magazine, it was necessary to press the button lock.

magazines for ammunition stg44.

Magazines for ammunition stg44.

Automation

The assault rifle’s automation is based on a gas venting scheme, in which gases escape through a hole in the barrel wall. Due to the tilting of the shutter along the vertical axis, the barrel bore is locked. The mechanism of this process works due to the interaction of inclined protrusions on the frame and the bolt. The gas chamber is unregulated, its cap can be removed only during service. The gas piston and stem are connected to the valve stem.

A return spring is installed inside the stock, which made it difficult to create a folding model.

Special form of the trigger allows you to fight with single shots and automatically. A mode switch is located on the trigger box; from the outside it looks like a button with grooving, moving in one plane. Automatic fire is designated – D, single – E.

Below the mode switch there is a safety catch, in position F it blocks the trigger.

The barrel length of the assault rifle is 419 mm, which is sufficient taking into account the effective combat distance – over 800 meters.

 

A lot of devices were also developed for shooting from cover, as well as for striking the dead zones of armored vehicles. Not always, tanks and self-propelled guns could operate under the cover of infantry, in this case, the Allied soldiers easily destroyed the vehicles, getting close to them. To cover all non-projectile sectors through the existing loopholes, curved barrels were designed.

StG 44 cover combat attachment

StG 44 cover combat attachment.

Specifications

In almost all respects, the new development bypassed the army systems of that time.

Characteristic: Value:
Weight, kg 5,2
Gun length, mm 940
Bullet initial speed, m/sec 685
The target range shooting distance, m 600
Rate of fire, shots/min 500-600

The muzzle velocity of the bullet was 685 m / s.
Cartridge 7.92X33 had a reduced power in comparison with a similar rifle. This made it possible to halve the recoil. Bullet weight 8.1 g, cartridge – 16.8.

Rifle grenades were thrown due to the use of special cartridges:

– for fragmentation grenades – 1.5 gram powder charge;
– for armor-piercing cumulative grenades  – 1.9 g.
The cartridge is called transitional, since it is larger than a pistol cartridge, but smaller than a full-size rifle cartridge.

The gun has a sector sight, designed for aimed fire up to 800-meter distance. For this purpose, there are notches on the bar, each of which corresponds to an increase in the distance of 50 meters. However, the usual distance for effective combat was 600 meters.

German soldier with StG-44.

German soldier with StG-44.

Combat use

The first application of the MP 43 was full-scale military trials by the 5th Viking Armored Division (Eastern Front). It turned out that the weapon significantly increased the firepower of the soldiers, to the point that the need for mobile machine guns was reduced.

Submachine guns were supplied to arm the best parts of the Nazis, like the Waffen-SS. In the post-war years, weapons were used by the barracks police of the GDR and Yugoslav paratroopers.

Czechoslovak and Argentine factories were engaged in the production.

In 2012, information appeared about the use of weapons by units of the Syrian opposition. Before that, they were used by the regular troops of the state.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main design flaw was weight, with ammunition the weight reached 5.2 kg. The fighters complained about inconvenient sighting devices and the absence of a flame arrester. Due to the latter aspect, especially in the dark, the flash escaping when firing instantly detected positions.

Otherwise, it was an excellent, reliable and unpretentious weapon. If necessary, in the field, it was easy to clean the weapon using the standard maintenance tool kit. For this purpose were supplied:

  • tools for unscrewing the gas chamber;
  • tools for removing the trigger guard;
  • pencil case with a brush.

In addition, the kit included spare parts from among the most vulnerable, like the extractor and its springs.

German soldier with StG-44.

German soldier with StG-44.

In the post-war years, the requirements for the system became stricter, because the reassessment of the characteristics of the machine made it possible to identify more flaws. For example, the receiver, which was produced by stamping and had low strength indicators, was considered unreliable. It was noted that the original design was greatly simplified due to the difficult situation on the fronts and the need to save on everything.

Firing in long bursts adequately from this system was impossible, since it was not possible to achieve effective destruction of targets. Experts came to the conclusion that this combat mode for the MP 44 is not needed at all, in view of its uselessness.

 

It is noted that all the negative aspects were associated with the military doctrine of that time. The optimal requirements for the new class of weapons have simply not yet been formed, so engineers often had to combine contradictory design solutions.

Overall, it was an interesting and technologically advanced weapon.

Read: MG 34 (Maschinengewehr 34) : First universal machine gun

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