The Sturmgewehr 44
The Mashinenpistole 44 also known as the Sturmgewehr 44, was first introduced during World War II, to answer to the Russian weapons of the time. Some people say that the MP44 was the father of the AK, but others dispute that saying that is instead the father of the SKS. Whichever you agree with one thing is for certain this is where the term “assault rifle” was coined.
This weapon was coined originally as Sturmgewehr or as “storm rifle” by Hitler. The term then managed to become “assault rifle.” The term “assault rifle” was not used before World War II. Also, it originated from a Nazi term which in and of itself should ascribe to its relevance in history. It was developed mainly to close the gap between Russian and German small arms requirement.
This weapon was the first to use a shorter cartridge allowing the auto fire to be more controlled. This was a more compact weapon than the original battle rifle allowing for a more increased fire volume at least in comparison to the other rifles of the time. This gun combined characteristics of a carbine submachine gun, an automatic rifle. This weapon was chambered for the 7.92 x 33 mm Kurz cartridge. Which when it was combined with the rifles’ selective fire design allowed for a controllable firepower of a submachine gun in close combat while still holding the accuracy and the power of a karabiner rifle.
At one point Hitler had halted the development of all new rifle programs due to dissent amongst the Third Reich. It’s predecessor, however, the MP43, was not strong enough to fire rifle grenades and not accurate enough for snipers and it was way to minimal for close range bayonet fighting. It is rumored, however, that at a strategy meeting Adolf Hitler had asked his military leaders what it was they needed to have an advantage in the current warfare of the time. One of the leaders exclaimed, “we need more of these new rifles!!” At first, Hitler had no idea whatsoever of what he was talking about.When Hitler saw the new weapon in action, he didn’t like it because he needed a rifle to go long range, but later on, Hitler saw that the troops like the new weapon, when fighting out of encirclements. He was rumored to be very impressed and allowed for manufacture and production for six months on a trial basis only, yet as the weapon proved to be effective production and distribution was then picked up. It was used mostly on the eastern front proving to be well worth the effort that was put forth to include it in the war. As early as 1918 arguments were made for a shorter, smaller, stouter weapon that saved materials, this was ignored largely until about 1941. Soldiers were in need of smaller, lighter weapons that allowed for the carrying of more ammunition.
Certain modifications that were made to the weapon were small changes to the butt, the muzzle, and the shape of the front sight. A great design addition to these weapons was called the Krummlaut, this allowed for shooting around corners from a safe distance. This earned the weapon the title of “the gun that could fire around corners.” Even though this weapon was completely capable of firing in fully automatic function, the military was instructed only to use it in semi-automatic mode, unless it was necessary to use in fully automatic mode and then only as long as was needed. These modifications allowed a well-trained soldier to engage an enemy at a longer distance while keeping close quarter functionality, and it was said to be very useful even in extreme cold. By the end of World War II, there were approximately 426,000 of the weapons produced and issued.
At first the British were very critical of the weapon, saying that it was undependable, locked up easily, and could be bent or broken by merely hitting the weapon against a hard floor. Later the U.S. also said that the weapon was bulky, not very extraordinary, and also somewhat undependable. However, the United States did say that it was an accurate and powerful weapon for its time. Regardless of whether you agree with it being the forerunner of any of our modern weapons in warfare, the fact is still that this firearm, after having undergone several modifications, many stops, and started production late, was definitely a game changer in the arsenal of not only the German army, but any assault type weapon for any other military that came after it. This weapon was somewhat ahead of its time but unfortunately was a necessary evil in the fact that without this design our modern military would not have the handheld firepower that it has today.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency.