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The StG-44, or Sturmgewehr 44 is a gas-operated assault rifle that was developed and used by Germany during World War II.

Description

The StG-44 was about 90 centimeters long and weighed about 5.2 kilograms while loaded.[1] It had a magazine capacity of 30 rounds and was chambered for the 7.92x33 mm Kurz cartridge.[2] The StG-44 commonly is said to have been the first effective assault rifle. The rate of fire of the StG-44 was around 500 rounds per minute and the muzzle velocity was 684.8 meters per second.[3] The iron sights of StG-44 were leaf-type and a telescopic scope could also be attached.

Another attachment for the StG-44 was the Krummlauf, which allowed the user to fire around corners,[4] although it did not function very well. When Hitler finally approved of the StG-44, he wanted to set a fear factor to his new "Super Weapon", and called the weapon Sturmgewehr, which, translated into English, means "Storm rifle" (storm in the sense of an assault).

History

With the development of the new 7.92x33 mm cartridge that was supposed to replace the full-power 7.92x57 mm cartridge that was in use at the time, the German Army set about creating a new rifle to fire the new cartridge. This was kept a secret from Hitler, who demanded that the troops should only be equipped with full-power rounds, believing them to be superior. The German Army also secretly tasked Haenel and Walther, two large arms manufacturers, to create an automatic rifle that would utilize their new ammunition. The results were the MKb 42(H) from Haenel and the MKb 42(W) from Walther.[5]

After vigorous trials, the MKb 42(H) was found to be the better model and it saw limited service on the Eastern Front, where combat veterans welcomed it. The feedback from the troops was positive, and so the MKb42(H) was modified and improved. The result was the MP 44. It was designated with the "MP" (Maschinenpistole, the German word for "submachine gun") prefix in a futile attempt to fool Hitler into thinking it was a submachine gun chambered for pistol cartridges, since he had not approved of the development of a new rifle. The MP 44 saw service with the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front, and it was considered revolutionary by the troops.[6]

Eventually, Hitler learned of the production of the development of the MP 44. At first, he was angry and threatened to shut down production for it. It was only after veterans of the Eastern Front intervened and told the generals how much they needed this new weapon did Hitler consider allowing it. When Hitler was questioning his generals about what they would need to win the war in the east, one general replied "We need more of these new rifles!", and so Hitler finally tested the StG-44 himself. After tests by Hitler who became impressed with the weapon, it became re-designated the StG-44 with no modifications made to it.

StG 44-8

StG-44s being used by Volksgrenadiers during the Battle of the Bulge.

The StG-44 was used to counter Soviet Troops utilizing PPSh-41s and other submachine guns. It was used throughout the Eastern Front. It also had a better range compared to the PPSh-41 thus making it highly successful on the Eastern Front. However the StG-44 was not only used on the Eastern Front. StG-44s were also used in the German counter-offensive known as the Battle of the Bulge. In May 1945, the Germans wanted to replace the StG-44 with the lighter StG-45, however, before the StG-45 could be mass-produced, Germany was defeated by the Allies, so the StG-45 never replaced the StG-44.

About 500,000 StG-44 rifles were produced in total during the course of the war. Today, surviving StG-44s are mainly found only in museums, but the design was incredibly influential on many firearms designers across the world. It is often said that Mikhail Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, was influenced by the Sturmgewehr after he examined captured German rifles.[7]

References

  1. http://world.guns.ru/assault/de/mp-43-mp-44-stg44-e.html
  2. http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=51
  3. Lüdeke, Alexander. Weapons of World War II. Parragon Book Ltd. (2007), Page 12
  4. http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/smallarms/p/stg44.htm
  5. http://efour4ever.com/stg44.htm
  6. The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Guns, p.294
  7. Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armour, p.278


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