To bolster troop and civilian morale, the German High Command is now widely
advertising the general issue of an automatic small arm which Adolph Hitler
has personally designated the "Assault Rifle 44" (Sturmgewehr 44). The
much-touted "new" weapon is actually the familiar German machine carbine
with a more chest-thumping title.
As reported in the February 1945 TACTICAL AND TECHNICAL TRENDS, recently
manufactured M. P. 43's previously had been re-designated
M. P. 44, although only slight changes had been made in
order to accommodate the standard rifle grenade launcher. M. P. 43's of
earlier manufacture incorporating the same changes were merely designated
M. P. 43/1. The completely new name of Sturmgewehr (assault
rifle) may be intended to erase any recollection of the mediocre quality of the
earlier M. P. 43's, at least so far as new troops and the
public are concerned. In any event, the introduction of the title Sturmgewehr, together
with the accompanying blast of propaganda concerning the weapon, is but another
example of German efforts to exploit the propaganda value inherent in weapons
with impressive-sounding titles, such as Panzer, Tiger, Panther,
and Flak 88. Since the Sturmgewehr is more easily mass-produced
than a rifle or machine gun because of its many stampings and low-power ammunition, and
because a machine carbine is needed by desperately fighting German infantry in
their efforts to stem the assault of American troops, it is natural that the
Germans should make every effort to capitalize on its propaganda potentialities. By
dubbing the M. P. 43 the Sturmgewehr, Hitler may
also succeed in deceiving many Germans into thinking that this weapon is
one of the many decisive "secret weapons" which they have been promised, and
which they are told will bring final German victory.
History of the Weapon
The true history of this weapon is that, as a result of their combat
experiences earlier in the war, the Germans rather tardily decided that
they needed a weapon representing a compromise between the submachine gun (or
machine pistol) and the rifle. Their requirements called for a gun with
the full automatic feature and retaining the handiness and lightweight
ammunition of the submachine gun but having greater effective range and
accuracy than is possible with a submachine gun firing pistol-type
ammunition. It is now believed that the new weapon was developed from an earlier
model known as the Maschinen Karabiner (M. Kb. 42) because
the general design is similar and the type of ammunition fired is comparable.
models of the Sturmgewehr 44. From top to bottom are shown
the M. P. 43, the M. P. 43/1, and the M. P. 44.
The present weapon incorporates a number of progressive changes made with the
intention of giving the German infantry a suitable small arm for ranges
beyond those of close-quarter fighting. First termed Maschinen Pistole
(M. P. 43), it was successively designated
M. P. 43/1, M. P. 44, and finally
Sturmgewehr 44. Now one of the most common weapons issued to German
troops, it is intended in a general way to serve the same purpose as the
U.S. carbine, M1. As finally developed, the gun is a fully automatic,
air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, shoulder weapon, firing from a closed
bolt and a locked breech. A standard rifle grenade discharger can be fitted
to the muzzle in front of the foresight.
In their attempts to produce a light, accurate weapon having considerable fire
power by mass production methods, however, the Germans encountered difficulties
which have seriously limited the effectiveness of the Sturmgewehr. Because
it is largely constructed of cheap stampings, it dents easily and therefore is
subject to jamming. Although provision is made for both full automatic and
semiautomatic fire, the piece is incapable of sustained firing and official
German directives have ordered troops to use it only as a semiautomatic
weapon. In emergencies, however, soldiers are permitted full automatic fire
in two- to three-round bursts. The possibilities of cannibalization
appear to have been overlooked and its general construction is such that it may
have been intended to be an expendable weapon and to be thrown aside in combat
if the individual finds himself unable to maintain it properly.
The incorporation of the full automatic feature is responsible for a
substantial portion of the weight of the weapon, which is 12 pounds with a
full magazine. Since this feature is ineffectual for all practical purposes, the
additional weight only serves to place the Sturmgewehr at a disadvantage
in comparison to the U.S. carbine which is almost 50 percent lighter.
The receiver, frame, gas cylinder, jacket, and front sight hood are
all made from steel stampings. Since all pins in the trigger mechanism
are riveted in place, it cannot be disassembled; if repair is required, a
whole new trigger assembly must be inserted. Only the gas pistol
assembly, bolt, hammer, barrel, gas cylinder, nut on the front of the
barrel, and the magazine are machined parts. The stock and band grip are
constructed of cheap, roughly finished wood and, being fixed, make the piece
unhandy compared to the submachine guns with their folding stocks.
The curved magazine, mounted below the receiver, carries 30 rounds
of 7.92-mm necked-down ammunition. The rounds are manufactured
with steel cases rather than brass; inside the case is a lead sleeve
surrounding a steel core. With an indicated muzzle velocity of
approximately 2,250 feet per second and a boat-tail bullet, accuracy of
the Sturmgewehr is excellent for a weapon of its type. Its effective
range is about 400 yards, although the Germans claim in their
operating manual that the normal effective range is about 650 yards. The
leaf sight is graduated up to 800 meters (872 yards).
Operation of the piece is simple. A loaded magazine is placed into
the receiver, the cocking handle drawn back fully, and then released. The
weapon is then ready for firing. A safety lever on the left side
of the trigger housing should be retained in the safe or up position
when the weapon is not being fired. Since it is impossible to determine
whether or not a round is in the chamber, the weapon should be considered
loaded at all times. A change lever for switching from single shot
to automatic fire is located above and to the rear of the safety
lever, protruding slightly on either side of the housing. For single
shots, the lever protrudes from the left side so that the letter "E" will
be visible; for automatic fire, the lever protrudes from the right
side so that the letter "D" will be visible.
The following steps are necessary for stripping and cleaning:
1. Press down retainer spring on butt locking pin and pull out pin; at
the same time press the butt forward to counteract the force of the
2. Permit the return spring to extend and then remove the butt.
3. Lift out return spring from butt.
4. Swing grip and trigger group downward about its front retaining pin.
5. Draw cocking handle to the rear and remove pistol and breechblock.
6. Place a punch in a hole provided in the gas block screw, and
unscrew gas block following a right-hand thread.
7. Insert a screwdriver under lip in rear of hand guard and remove.
The mechanism is now sufficiently exposed for inspection and cleaning. Further
stripping is not possible since all pins and rivets have been preened
in production assembly.
of the Sturmgewehr, with nomenclature of its components.|
All things considered, the Sturmgewehr remains a bulky, unhandy
weapon, comparatively heavy and without the balance and reliability
of the U.S. M1 carbine. Its design appears to be dictated by production
rather than by military considerations. Though far from a satisfactory
weapon, it is apparent that Germany's unfavorable military situation
makes necessary the mass production of this weapon, rather than of a
machine carbine of a more satisfactory pattern.