By Frederic Franklyn Faust
Designed by famed weapons designer Hugo Schmeisser, the StG 44 is considered by many historians to be the first modern assault rifle. Jargon buster: the StG acronym stands for Sturmgewehr, which when translated from German means (storm (assault)) rifle.
The StG-44 was chambered for a intermediate power cartridge Its case length and bullet weight rather neatly poised between that of a full-power rifle cartridge and pistol ammunition: 7.92 Kurz (Kurz is the German word for short). More specifically, StG's caliber 7.92 X 33mm cartridge case was based on the Mauser 8mm (7.92 X 57mm). The Kurz round provided the foundation for the evolution of the assault rifle, providing both controllable automatic fire and acceptable accuracy at ranges where most combat takes place. The 125-grain spitzer bullet muzzle velocity was 2,250 fps (685 m/s) with muzzle energy of 1,408 foot pounds.
The weapon is gas operated and fires from a closed bolt. Rate of fire varies between 500- and 600-rounds per minute, depending on whether the shooter has selected semi- or full-automatic. When fired in short, fully automatic bursts (2 or 3 rounds) the weapon was quite accurate. More to that point, while the weapon is capable of both full automatic and semiautomatic fire, in the real world the STG 44 is incapable of sustained full auto firing and official German directives ordered Wehrmacht troops to use it only as a semiautomatic weapon. In emergencies, German soldiers were permitted full automatic fire in two- to three-round bursts. The rear leaf sight is graduated to 800 meters, with effective range up to about 400 yards, although the Wermacht claimed an effective range to about 650 yards.
Schmeissser designed his STG-44 to increase the volume of fire of Wermacht units fighting the Red Army on the Eastern Front. More specifically, to counter the Soviet PPS and PPSh-41 submachine guns chambered in the 7.62×25mm Tokarev caliber. A selective fire rifle, it brought controllable automatic fire to the batlefield. While it offered a greatly increased volume of fire, compared to standard infantry rifles, it came too late in the war to make a difference.
A mass-produced weapon, the receiver, frame, gas cylinder, jacket, and front sight hood are steel stampings. Dented (damaged) stampings render the rifle subject to jamming. All of the pins in the trigger mechanism are riveted in place so it cannot be disassembled or repaired. When repair is required an entire, new trigger assembly must be installed. The gas piston assembly, bolt, hammer, barrel, gas cylinder, barrel nut and magazine are machined. The stock and band grip are constructed from cheap, roughly finished wood. Compared to the submachine guns with their folding stocks, the fixed butt make the piece unwieldy. The weapon is bulky, heavy and a little clumsy. It's also heavy, weighing 10.3 pounds versus an AK47's 7.28 pounds and the M1 Garand's 9.5 pounds.
The curved magazine, mounted below the receiver, holds 30 rounds of 7.92-ammunition. The rounds are manufactured with steel cases rather than brass. Inside the case a lead sleeve surrounds a steel core bullet. With an indicated muzzle velocity of approximately 2,250 feet per second and a boat-tail bullet, accuracy of the Sturmgewehr is excellent. Effective range is about 400 yards. The leaf sight is graduated up to 800 meters (872 yards). Recoil is moderate, no big surpise given its intermediate power cartridge.
One curious variation for the rifle is the Krummlauf (in English: curved barrel) comprised of a bent barrel attachment and a periscope sighting device employed in street fighting for shooting around corners without exposing the shooter to enemy fire. Krummlauf was produced in several variants. The I-version for infantry use. The P-version for use in tanks. The later was employed to cover the dead areas in the close range around the tank. The bent barrel attachments had very short lifespan: A mere 300 rounds for the 30° version and an even fewer 160 rounds for the 45° variant.
A final footnote, in August 2012 the Syrian rebel faction, the al-Tawhid Brigade, stumbled upon an arms cache of 5,000 German WW II-era Sturmgwehr 44 rifles in a weapons depot in the city of Aleppo.
© Copyright by Timothy P. Banse
|7.92 X 33mm Kurz|
|Weight||7.28 pounds||10.3 pounds|
|Rate of Fire||600 to 1000||550 to 600|
|300 to 600|
|Cartridge 7.92 × 33mm Kurz||Specifications:|
|Case type||Rimless, bottleneck|
|Bullet diameter||8.22 mm (0.324 in)|
|Neck diameter||9.10 mm (0.358 in)|
|Shoulder diameter||11.40 mm (0.449 in)|
|Base diameter||11.94 mm (0.470 in)|
|Rim diameter||11.95 mm (0.470 in)|
|Rim thickness||1.30 mm (0.051 in)|
|Case length||33.00 mm (1.299 in)|
|Overall length||48.00 mm (1.890 in)|
|Case capacity||2.22 cm3 (34.3 gr H2O)|
|Maximum pressure (C.I.P.)||340.00 MPa (49,313 psi)|