Stg44 7019

The StG 44, the first true assault rifle

Assault Rifle is a classification of weapons that are in between a submachine gun and a machine gun, meaning they have an intermediate cartridge. Assault rifles generally have a medium range, with varying rates of fire and is generally the main type of weapon used in today's militaries. Assault rifles are also characterized by their selective fire capabilities and detachable magazines. Various assault rifles saw service during World War II, including the now-famous German StG 44, which is often credited as the first effective assault rifle.


Although it is not certain where the idea came from, it is thought that the very first weapon that could be described as an assault rifle was the Russian Federov Avtomat, a select-fire rifle designed by Fedor Tokarev in 1916. The Federov Avtomat was chambered for a 6.5mm cartridge and was capable of delivering sustained automatic fire. However, it did not last long; it was chambered for a Japanese cartridge, and so it was declared obsolete. During the 1930s, fully-automatic rifles were a relatively new concept, with few being produced. Simonov designed the AVS-36, but it had many defects, such as a large muzzle blast and dirt ingress. The AVS-36 was rejected by the Red Army, who adopted the similar SVT-38 rifle instead.[1]

The German Army tried to create an effective assault weapon with the Knorr-Bremse Paratrooper Rifle, which, if it had been successful, would have been the standard service rifle of the Fallschirmjäger. It was made only as a prototype. Details surrounding the Knorr-Bremse design are shady, since only a handful of them were found after the war, often with parts missing.

It was only with the development of the StG 44 did military forces really start to see how effective a fully-automatic rifle could be. Originally designed in 1942, but improved and accepted for military service in 1944, the StG 44 was dubbed as a "super weapon" by Hitler and it was given a special designation - the Sturmgewehr, or "Storm rifle". It proved incredibly effective against the Russians in the Eastern Front, and German veterans praised the weapon's reliability. The automatic fire was more accurate, powerful and longer-ranged than any submachine gun, and the StG 44 was a revolutionary step to the mass-development of assault rifles across the world.[2]

After the war, assault rifle designs were many; the British trialed the Stanley-Thorpe EM rifle, which was unsuccessful,[3] the Russians developed the famous AK-47 and the Americans made the M14, a modified Garand rifle that was capable of automatic fire.


  1. The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Guns, p.291
  2. The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Guns, p.295

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