This book explores the origins, development, combat use and lasting influence of Nazi Germany’s automatic rifles, focusing on the Gew 41(W), Gew 43/Kar 43, FG 42 and MP 43/StG 44. The Blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939-40 convinced many observers that most infantry combat took place at closer ranges than the 750-1,000m for which most contemporary rifles were designed. In addition, current bolt-action rifles could not provide the rate of fire required for such engagements. From 1941 Germany’s arms designers took note and produced a new series of infantry firearms that not only transformed squad firepower, but also laid the foundations for postwar assault rifle design.
The Gew 43/Kar 43, fitted with a telescopic-sight rail as standard, was one of history’s first semi-auto sniper rifles. The FG 42, designed specifically for airborne soldiers, had a landmark straight-in-line design and other features frequently seen in subsequent small arms, notably the US M60 machine gun. Most influential was the MP 43/StG 44, arguably the world’s first true assault rifle, which delivered formidable full-auto fire from a shortened 7.92mm round. This weapon also went on to influence the design of the greatest assault rifle of all time – the AK-47.
This study not only provides a detailed technical description of each weapon, but also explores how the firearms performed on the battlefields of World War II. The combat takes us from the FG 42 in the hands of Fallschirmjäger at Monte Cassino through to StG 44s being used by Waffen-SS soldiers on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. Postwar service is also studied, such as the Gew 43’s adoption by the Czech Army and the StG 44’s use by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. Setting each firearm in its tactical and historical context, and employing striking photographs and full-colour artwork, firearms expert Chris McNab sets out the absorbing story of this distinctive and influential series of weapons.