Germany’s WWII Sturmgewehr 44 – or StG 44 for short – assault rifle was developed in the early 1940s. This rifle was used extensively by the German military once it entered into service in 1943 and is considered by some to be one of the top rifles of all time. Many historians refer to the Sturmgewehr 44 as the very first modern assault rifle. Earlier versions from the developmental stage of the StG 44 are MP 43 and MP 44. Though these two earlier versions are developments of the same weapon, a number of differences exist between them.
The Armed Forces History Museum has a Sturmgewehr 44 on display in their Firearms and Ordnance Gallery. This area houses a variety of impressive weapons dating back to the Revolutionary War.
The StG44 design was based on both the carbine submachine gun and the automatic rifle. This assault weapons name was purposely chosen as it means ‘storm rifle’. The designation of the term ‘assault rifle’ resulted in the English translation for this type of arms.
A Brief Look at the History of the StG 44
At the beginning of WWII, the weapons used by the German army were comparable to the ones being used by other military forces – a combination of bolt action rifles and another form of light or medium machine guns. The Germans, however, unlike most infantries placed emphasis on the use of the machine gun as a primary weapon.
Rifles were also found to be more counterproductive in cramped quarters – such as an armored vehicle. As a result, sub-machine guns were issued, but were found to be less effective and not as accurate at ranges beyond 100 meters. As the war escalated, the need for a weapon with intermediate rounds became clear and in 1941, the Polte 8 x 33 mm Kurzpatrone was selected. Some modifications were made – including the rifle cartridge which was changed to a 7.92 x 33 mm.
After World War II
Following the war, the StG 44s design had an effect throughout the world. Post war, Russia began producing the AK-47 and later, the US began producing the M16 and its variants. The use of a weapon with less powerful rounds was already underway in the West with the M1 Garand and the Springfield.
The Sturmgewehr 44 continued to be used by the East German Nationale Volksarmee. Eventually though, it was replaced with variants of the AK-47. Several countries continued to use the StG 44 up into the 1980s.
Specifications for the StG44 Assault rifles
- Service History: 1943 thru 1945
- Designed: 1942
- Total Number Built: Estimated 426,000
- Cartridge: 7.92 x 33mm Kurz
- Action: Gas-operated, tilting bolt
- Rate of Fire: 550 to 600 rounds per minute
- Effective Range: 300 meters for the automatic
600 meters for the semi-automatic
Germany’s Sturmgewehr 44 – StG 44 – was mainly used during World War II, but it did appear in post-1945 conflicts around the world and as recent as August, 2012, close to 5,000 of the MP44 designation were discovered by the Free Syrian Army – they all appeared in good condition.