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Volume 6

Issue 65

Published by

Orbis Publishino Ltd @Aerospace P-ublishing Ltd 1984

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Picture acknowledgements

Co*r ptrotograph: Imperial Wd M6em. l28l: T.J/lmperial Wa Muem 1282: Imperial Wa MNeurL/ Imperiat Wil MEew. 1283: T.J. 128{: Imperial Wa Mwem. 1285: Irnperial Wd Mueum,r'I.J/Imperial

Wd MEeum,rLJ. 1288; Irnpedal Wn Mweum/

Wil Mrem. 1286: Irnperial Wn Msem. t28l: lmperia!

Inpedat Wd M6em. 1289: Imperial Wa M6em.

l29l: Imperial Wu Muem 1292; T,J, 1293r Imperial

Lilcnry/Robert Hut Librsy. 129?; Imperial

Mwun^rnperial wd MEeumlmperial

Wa Muem. (iii): US Amy/US nrmy (iv): US Amy.

Wil Mrem. 1295: Imperia.l Wa Mseu. 1296r Robefi Hut

Wn M$eumRobert

Wu Mweu, 1300: Imperial Wu Mueum/lmperiat

Hut Library. 1298: T.J. 1299: Imperial wd

We ile most gtratefi.I to the WeapoN Mrem, Sch@l of Inlmtry, Wmiroter, for their kind permision to

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fles of

librld llfar ll

World War II saw the decline in impoftance of the

infantryman as marlsman and the firct appexance of his

replacement, the infantrynan as firepower component, After an uncharactertstically tentalive stail, it was Genna ny who,

as so often, led the way.

In any army the new soldier is always trained in the use of one baslc form of sewice rifle, whatever hrs eventual trade may be. During World War

II this was as true as it is now, but the rifle with which the individuai

soldier might be trained varied a great deal. Depending on the particu-

lar nation, the soldier might have been issued with a venerable antrque

while in others he might have received a shiny new model embodying

ail the latest technologry, for the rifles used in World War II varied

erreatiy.

At one end of the scale there were the old bolt-action rifles that had

been in use since long before World War I; and at the other were the

new self-loading or automatrc rifles that eventually led to the first of what are now known as assauli rifles. There were none of the latter in service

when the war started in 1939 but as the war progressed the first

operational models of such weapons appeared in service, These gave the infantryman a greatly rncreased firepower potential, but it was not untrl the true assault rifles (with their lower-powered cartridges) arrived from about 1943 onwards that the full quantum jump from the slow and steady single shots of the bolt-action rifle to the full automatic fire of the

assault rifle was fu1ly appreciated. The bolt-action rifles were usually sound and reliabie weapons, but they lacked the shock effect of an

M anufactured in enormous numbers, the American M I carbine

was designed for rear echelon and

vehicle-mounted troops. I ts light and

easy

handling, however, made it

to the heavy full-sized

preferable

rille issued to many frontJine troops.

assault rifle fired in the fully automatic mode.

Thus World War II was a war of transrtion for the basic rnlantrl,:r-- When the war started, usually all he had to hand was a bolt-action r:.: ::

a weli-tried but frequently elderly pattern, By the time the war wa; :-,-=:

every soldier had at least a foretaste of what the futwe had in store ir- -:-:

form of the assault rifle. There were some odd digresslons along the-,';a,'

the ingenious bu: :::--

such as the underpowered US Carbine Ml and

plex German FG 42. Some natrons, such as the United Krngdom cid:-::

make the transition and relied upon the l:ee-Enfield bolt-action r.::

throughout, but the move towards the self{oading or assault rifle was s _

there.

This analysis does not contain all the rifles used during World Wa: --

but the weapons discussed are typical of the period. Millions of sc.c_e:.

used them under ail manner of conditions, and the survivors will re:-::--

ber them until their last days,

The Gewehr98 was

the standara)inebr tne fulkof theGeman

adyanced as many

army

throughout the war. While notas

1939, theMauser design,

models introduied alter

datingtromthe late 1880s, provided sterling serice

throughout two wofld wars and was a sound, reliable weapon.

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3r:jlj:rrr)l;

:r.,1&.::,rq

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t

a

Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98k

The 7.92-mm (0.312-in) Gewehr 98 was

the rrfle with which the German army

fought through World War L lt was a

Mauser rifle

was based on a desigm

first produced in 1898, but

back to

dating

1BBB, In service

the Mauser action

proved sturdy and reiiable, but in the years following 1918 the German army carried out a great deal of operational

analysis

that demonstrated that the

Gewehr

98 was really too long and

bulky for front-line use. As an immedt-

ate iesult the suwiving

Gewehr 9Bs

underwent a modification progEalnme that changed their designatron to Kara- biner 98b. Karabiner is the German for carbrne, but there was nothing of the

carbine in the Karabiner 9Bb, whose

lengrth was unchanged ftom that of the

changes

originai Gewehr 98. The only

were

the sling

swivels and the ability to use improved

ammunition. To coni-rse matters furth- er the orignnal Gewehr 98 markings were retained.

9Bb was still tn ser-

German armY in 1939

to the bolt handle,

The Karabiner

vice with the

(and remained so througrhout

but by then the standard

the war),

rifle was a

slightly

Mauser

This was slightly shorter than the orl- ginal Gewehr 98 but was stiil long for a

carbine, despite

shorter version of the basic

knovrm as the Karabiner 98k

the letter suffix 'k'

throughout the inter-

such as

in countries

German

largte num-

kurz, or short. This rifle

was based on a commercial Mauser

standing for

model known as the Standard and

v,rdely produced

and even

Czechoslovakia, Belgdum

war years

China, The

placed

in

version was

production in 1935 and

thereafter made in very

bers, At first the standard

ofproduction

II

was excellent, but once World War had stailed the overall finish and stan- dards fell to the extent that by the end

of the war the wooden furniture was

often laminated or of an inferior mate-

rial,

and such items as bayonet IUQIS

of extras

the gadget-minded

were omitted, All manner

were evolved by

Germans for the Karabiner 9Bk, includ-

rng grenadeJaunching devices, peris-

copic slghts and folding butts for

weapons used by airborne trooPs

There were also variations for sniper

use, some with small telescopic sights

mounted half way along

the forestock

and others with larger telescopes

mounted over the bolt achon.

Desprte

all the innovations bY the

World War II, the

Iooking

Germans durinq

the war ended,

Karabiner 9Bkwas still in production as

not all that

the original

different overall from

Gewehr 98, other than in the rough

finish resulting

from wartime shortages

of labour and materials, By that time the Germans had to hand a whole

arrav of Mauser rifles drawn from

neariv all the armies of EuroPe, and

most bf them were used to equp one arm or another ofthe sewices by 1945. Some of these Mausers, most of which were very similar to the Gewehr 98 or

Karabiner

9Bk, were kePt ln Produc-

tion on Czech and Belgnan lines for

German use after 1939-40. Away to the east the Chinese armies were mainly

eouiooed with the Mauser Standard

rrfied that were vrrnrally ldentlcal to the

Karabiner 9Bk.

There rmll alwaYs be arguments

to whether or not the Mauser

as

rifles

were better service rifles than the

l,ee-Enfield, M1903 Springfield or the

Ml

Garand, but although

the Mausers

lacked some of the overall appeal of

the Allied rifles they provrded the Ger- man forces with long and reliable ser- vrce, Few remain in use, but manY are

still prized

many are

as collector's pieces and retained for match rifle use

Specification

Gewehr98

Calibre: 7,92 mm (0.312 in)

Lengrth: 1,25 m (49,2 in)

Length of barret 740 mm (29. I tn)

Weight:4,2 kg (9,26 lb) Muzzlevelocity:640 m (2, 100 ft) Per

second

Magazine: 5-roundbox

Specification

Karabiner 98k Calibre: 7.92 mm (0.312 in)

Lenqrth: t,1075 m (43,6 in) Lengrthof barrel 600 mm (23 6 in)

Weight: 3.9 kq (8.6 lb)

Muzilevelocity: 755 m (2,477 ft) Per

second Magazine: S-round box

The Karabiner 98kwas a slightly

shortened version of the Gewehr 98 which served Germany in World War

Wehrmacht soldiers tr ain for

combat,

armed with Karabiner 98k

The photograph was probably

rifles.

reI E"*"tt 4I(w) and Gewehr 43

The German army maintained anover-

all 'quality control' section that con-

stantiy soright ways in which the Ger-

man forces

could increase their

efficiency,

efflciency,

and

by

rifle to

1940 this section had

improve combat

was dulY

drscovered a need for some form of

selfJoading

A speciflcation

issued to industry,

and Walther and

Mauser each put forward designs that

proved to be remarkably similar' Both

used a method of operatton known as

(after its Danish de-

the 'Bang' system

signer),

in

whtch qases traPPed

the muzzle ate used to drive

back a piston to carry out the reloading

around

cycle, Troop trials soon proved that the

\282

was unsuitable for ser-

vice use and it was withdrawn, leaving

Mauser design

the fleld free for the Walther design which became the 7,92-mm (0,312-in) Gewehr 4I(W),

Unfortunately for the Germans, once

reached front-line the Eastern Front, it

the Gewehr 41(W)

proved

mainly

on

sewice,

to be somewhat less than a

iuccess. The Bang system Proved to

be too complex

under service

for reliable operation

conditions and

it

was

really

making the

too heavy

for comfortable use,

weapon generallY un-

41(W)

also proved-

to be-difficult to manufactwe and, as if all this was not enough, ln action the

handy. The Gewehr

weapon proved to be drfficult and

time-consuming to load. But for a while

it was the only self{oading rifle the

Germans had and it was kept

duction to the extent

in pro-

of tens of

thousands

Most of the Gewehr 4I(W)s were

used on the Eastern Front, and it was there that the Germans encountered

the Soviet Tokarev automatic rifles, These used a gas-operated system

that tapped off gases from the barrel to

operate the mechanism, and once thls system was investiqated the Germans realized that they could adapt it to suit the Gewehr 41(W), The result was the

Gewehr 43, which used the Tokarev

I, and although supposedly acarbine

theweaponwas as long as manY

riflesof theperiod.

taken between the wars, as indicated

by the old and new Pattern helmets being worn at the same time.

Left: Digging in during staqes ol thewar.The

Miuser-designed making it difficult

ranges

the earlY

length of the

98k is obvious,

to handle in

Given the short

confined spaces.

combat

II, the long-range performance of the

tyPical of WorldWar

9 8 k w as largely su Perfluous'

system vlrtually unchanged, Once the

Gewehr 43 was in produclion, manu-

facture of the Gewehr 41(W) promptly

ceased. The Gewehr 43 was much

easret to make and it was soon beingT

large numbers. Front-

the

chruned out in

line troops

ease with

greatly appreciated

which

it could

be loaded

compared with the earlier rifle and it

was a

produCtion short-cuts were introduced

popular weapon. Ail manner of

into the design, including wood laminates and even

the use of

plastlcs for

the finnitu-re, and.in 1944 an even sim-

oler desisn known as the Karabiner 43

was intr;duced, the Karabiner de-

signation belng adopted although the

Gewehr 4l(W) and Gewehr 43 (continued)

overall length was reduced by only

some 50 mm (2 in). Both the Gewehr 41(W) and the later

Gewehr 43 used the standard German

7.92-mm (0.312-in) cartridge, andwere

rn no way related to the assault rifle

programme that involved the 7,92-mm

kwz

carftidge. The retention of the

rifle cartridge enabled the Gewehr 43

to be used as a very eflective sniper

rifle, and all examples had a telescopic

sight mount fitted as standard. The

Gewehr 43 was so good in the sniper role that many were retained in Czech army sewice for many years after the war,

Rifles of World War II

Specification

Gewetu4I(W)

Calibre: 7.92 mm (0,312 in)

Magazine: I0-roundbox

Lengnhof barrel 549 mm (2 1,6 I in)

Developed from the Gewehr 4 I (W)

Lengrth: l. 124 m (44,25 in)

Weight 4.4 ks (9,7Ib)

and influence d

by the T okarev, the

Lengrth of barrel 546 mm (2 1.5 in)

Specification

Muzzlevelocity:

776 m (2,546 ft) per

Gewehr 43 was titted with telescopic

Weight: 5.03 ks ( I 1.09 ]b)

C'ewehr43

second

sr:glr ls as sfanda rd, and was an

Muzzle velocity: 776 m (2,546 ft) per

Calibre: 7.92 mm (0.312 in)

Magazine: lO-roundbox

exce llent sniper's rifl e.

second

Lengrth: 1,117 m (44 in)

g F"iir"t irmjiisersewehr 42

In the stranqe world

internal

was

of Nazi Germany

strife and rivalry flourished

(was even fostered), and in no sphere

more rife than

this intemal feuding

between the German army and the

Luftwaffe, By 1942 the Luftwaffe were

encroaching on the preserves of the

army to an alarming extent for no other

reason than petty rrrangling, and when

the army decided to adopt a self-

loading rrile the Lufhvaffe decided that it too had to have such a weapon. In- stead of following the path followed by the army with its adoption of the kurz round, the Lufwalfe decided instead to retain the standard 7.92-mm (0.312-in) rifle cartridge and asked Rheinmetall

to design a weapon to arm the Lufhvaf-

fe parachute troops, the Fallschirm-

lagel.

Rheinmetall accordingly designed

and produced one ofthe more remark- able smali-arms designs of World War

II. Thrs was the 7,92-mm (0.312-in) Fall-

42 or FG 42, a

schirmjigergewehr

weapon that somehow managed to

compress the action required to pro- duce automatic fire into a volume lrttle largier than that of a conventional bolt

action. The PG 42 was certainly an

eye-catching weapon, for the first ex-

amples had a sloping pistol gnip, an

oddly-shaped plastic butt and a prom-

tnent brpod on the forestock, To cap rt

muzzle attach-

all ihere was a large

ment and provisron

spike bayonet, The ammunition feed

for mounting a

was from a side-mounted box maga-

The FG 42, an early model of which is

seen ft ere, was an attempt

German parachute

capable

of

to arm the

forces with a rifle

providing full-power MG

pedormance.

zine on the left, and the mechanism

was qas-operated, A1l ln all the FG 42

was a complex weapon, but was not

innovative as it was an amalgam of

several existing systems. Needless to say the Lufhvalfe took to the FG 42 avrdly and asked for more,

They did not get them, for it soon trans-

pired that the novelties of the FG 42 had to be paid for in a very complex

manufacturing process that consumed an inordrnate amount of time and pro-

duction facilitres, Thus supply was

slow ard eratic, and ln an attempt to speed production some simplifications

were added, A simpler wooden butt

was introduced and the pistol grip was

replaced by a more orthodox compo-

nent, The bipod was moved forward to

the muzzle and other short-cuts were rntroduced, It was to no avail, for by the

time the war ended only about 7,000 had been made. But it was after the war that the FG 42 made its biggest mark, for many of its desrgn features were incorporated into later designs.

Perhaps the most important of these

was the gas-operated mechanism

which could fire from a closed bolt

positron for slnqle-shot fire and from an open bolt for automatic fire, a1l com-

pressed into a relatively small space.

Above : A drill book photogr aph of

theFG 42 beingfiredin the prone

position wth bipod folded. The FG 42 was a precursor of the modern-

concept assault rifle.

One thing that was not copied

side-mounted magrazine,

to be less than a success in action for

was the

This proved

not only did it snaq

on clothinq or other

items but it tended to unbalance the

weapon when fired.

The FG 42 was a hrghly advanced design for its day and it incorporated

many of the features now used on many

modern assault rifles, Typical of these

was the use of a 'straight

line' layout

from butt to muzzle and the gas-

operated mechanism already men-

tioned. But for all this the FG 42 was too

dilficult to produce, and even

still some bugs that re-

mained to be ironed out before the

there were

by 1945

weapon was really problem-free. But

for all that it was a truly remarkable

deslgm achrevement.

Specification

FG42

Calibre: 7.92 mm (0,312 in)

Length: 940 mm (37 in) Lengilh ofbarrel 502 mm ( 19,76 rn)

Weight 4.53 ks (9,99 lb)

Muzzle velocity: 761 m (2,500 ft) per

second

Magazine: 20-round box

Cyclic rate offire: 750-800 rpm

First operational use of theFG 42 was in Skorzeny's daring commando raid

to free Mussolini. Special camouflage

smocks were worn for the raid, and ffi e usual Fallschirmjager fi elmefs

wereworn,

,

nfX tffisenittenpistole 43 and Sturmgewehr 44

Despite the orders of Hitler, the Ger- man army was so determined to de-

velop and use the assault rifle that had

by

been developed to flre the new

mm (0,312-in) cartridge that it hid the

experrmental work under a new name, Originally the new rifle/cartridge com- binatron had been known as the Mas-

chinenkarabiner 42(H) (the H was for

Haenel),

Hitler had rssued his ill-advised order

but to distract attention once

Louis Schmeisser

Polte htrz (shorl) 7,92-

it was changed to Maschinenpistole 43, or MP 43, Wlth the weaPon in this

USSR

Tokarev rifles

The Soviets have developed

over the

years a considerable talent

for small

arms innovations, and accordinglY

they were early tn the move towards

self-loading

was the

rrfles. The first of these

Avtomaticheskaia Vintovka

Simonova rntroduced in 1936 (and thus

known also as the AVS36) and de-

signed

by

one S. G, Simonov, Although

many

were made and issued for ser-

r,rce, the AVS was not a grreat success

for it produced a prodigtious muzzle blast and recoil, and it was all too easy for dust and dirt to get into the rather

compiex

mechanism, The AVS thus

had but a short service life before it

was replaced,

(Samozariadnyia Vintov-

ka Tokareva) that in l93B replaced the AVS was desrgned by F, V, Tokarev,

not much of an im-

the AVS. It was a gas-

The SVT38

and it was initially

provement on

operated weapon, like the AVS, but in

as possi-

ble the mechanism was far too light for the stresses and strains of prolonged

use Whrle the combination of a gas- operated system and a locleng block cammed downwards lnto a recess rn

the receiver base proved basically

oider to keep the rifle as light

sourd, it qave rise to frequent troubles mainly because parts broke, Thus the SVT3B was removed from Production

during 1940 to be replaced bY the

Continuedonpage 1286

.2.1

form, the army went ahead from the

development

to the production staQle,

and the first examples were rushed to

the Eastern Front where theY soon

proved to be invaluable.

The full development story of the

MP 43 is provided elsewhere, but it

must be stressed that the MP 43 was

the first of what are todaY termed

assault rifles, It could flre single

for selective fire in defence,

was capable

fire for

shots

and yet

of producrng automatic

ihock effect in the attack or for

combat. It was able to do

close-quarter

this by firing a relatively low-powered

round that was adequate

for most com-

bat ranges but which could still be

handled

comfortablY when the

weapon was producing automatlc fire

Tacticalty

on the way the infantry could flght, as

this had a tremendous effect

they were no

ionger dePendent on

supportingr

being able

support fire with them. Thrs enabled

the German infantry to become a far

more powerful

with

that

quantum

flre from

machtne-guns'

personal

to take their own

increase

force because of the

in firepower

compared

conventional

units

could produce

with

those equipped

bolt-action rifles,

Once the importance of thu firepow- er increase had been fu11Y realized,

the MP 43 became a prioritY weapon

and urgent requests

more were

made

by

for more and

the front-line went mainly to

troops. Initial supphes

elite units, but most went to the Eastern

Front where they were most needed

Unusually for wartime Germany, prior-

The SS were among the first units to

acquire

used in

the MP 43, and manY were

the battle of the Ardennes.

Fitst combat use was ProbablY on

the Eastem Front, however, where the weaponwas an immediate

success.

Above: The SW 40 was an ear[Y

Soviet self-loading

r'ssued f o iVCOs or

influentialweapon,

rifle, usuallY

mar ksmen. A mos t

itwas to lend

features to

the Geman MP 43, and

was the startof achainleading to the

modernAKrange.

Right: Marines of the Soviet Northern Fleet in defensive Positions ,

prohably on exercke near Murmansk. The nearest marine has a

PPSh 4 1 sub-machine wn,

remainder being armed Tokarevs.

the

with SW40

rty was gnven to production rather than

development, and the only major

change to the desiqn was the MP 43/i

which had fittings

for a grenade-

launching cup on the muzzle. In i944

Hitler rescinded his opposition to the

MP 43 and bestowed the more accu-

rate designation of Sturmgewehr

(StG 44) upon the weapon, but there

Developed

Kurz

to fire the lower-powered

(short) 7.92-mm round, the MP

43was the firstof the modern assault

rifles. The lower - powered round

followed German combat analyses, which found that batiles were usually fought at ranges which did not

44 require high- power bu llets.

their fire. Few were actuaiiy

After

during

were few if any productron alterations

to the basic design.

Some accessories were produced for the MP 43 series. One was an infra-

produced

used oPer-

and even fewer were

ationally.

the war large numbers of MP

43s were used by several natrons such as Czechoslovakia, andwere also used

red night sight known as Tampir, but

the oddest items ever to be

one of

produced for any weapon was the

Krummlauf cuwed barrel that could

direct bullets around corners,

Apparently this device was developed

to clear tank-killing infantry squads

some of the early Arab-lsraeli

conflicts. A few sttll turn up in the hands

of 'freedom fiqhters' in Africa and else- where.

Specification

from armoured vehicles, but it was a

bizarre device that never worked

stc 44

properiy and yet managed to absorb a

Calibre:7,92 mm (0.312 in)

rreat deal of development potential at a time when that potential could have

Lenqrth:

Lengnh

940 mm (37 in)

of barrel 419 mm ( 16, 5 in)

been directed towards more reward-

Weisht:

5,22 ks (I I 5 lb)

thinqs. The curved barrels were

intended to drrect fire at angles of be-

ing

tvrreen 30' and 45', and special perisco-

pic mirror sights were devtsed to arm

Muzzle velocity: 650 m (2, i32 ft) Per

second

Magazine: 30- round box

Cyc[c rate offire: 500 rPm

DeveEepmex?ff # fEee

Gerfr?€nffi &ssmuE$ ffifrEe

World

War II saw a revolutianary

weapan

carried

by

developrnent in the type of

saldiers.seff_Joerftng

pe-rsonal

priiate

in-the

-

rifles had becomefamiliar

Jg30s,

buf if

i,tla*gei*"i

ii*

a.ii{i

"r

wartime experr'ence that was i" "pb"r:ie"a'nl

the rifle.

the vanguarcl of military innovation the Germans were

surprisingly slow in the

telialtve attemp[s tc produce an aJlomalc rrrje had been ntacc by the Germans

and the oesigns of operatidrrai

analysis carried out by varioLrs sec.tions oi ihe German General Staff came the

v,,ere dropped in the inter-war years. However, out of the mass

J - -i- g World War l, but tne res.tlts were nardly a greai success

automatic or self-icading rifies. A few

For a nation usually in

development of

realization that most

yards) but that the infantry were carrying

at ranges well over 1000m (1,095

infantry combat took pjace aI ranges r,vell under 400r-n

yards) if the infantry"hacj r,.reapons

{437

rifles firing cartridges intended fcr use

firing

)v./eLpowered

cartridges,

not oniy wo.;lC they he abie lo :arry m;rc ur'.*,_ni

also seemed oossible. this ,esearch .Lnt,l 1g34. when a new

tion, but the prospect of automatic fjre Not much was done as rhe result ol

cartridge began a programme of

'eady,,and

this became generally

resembled a conventional 7 .92-mm

rng less propellent; it lacked

deveioprrent. By late 1940 the new round was