RIA: German Gewehr 41(M)

When the German military started looking for a self-loading rifle in the late 1930s, they had a pretty strict set of requirements. Most significantly, the rifles could not have gas ports or recoiling barrels, could not have moving parts on top of the action, and had to be capable of being operated manually with a bolt handle like a bolt action Mauser. Four companies tried to get into the resulting rifle trials, but only two were able to build good enough guns to get contracts for field trials. These were Walther and Mauser. Walther ended up winning the competition (largely because they ignored several of the RFP requirements) and their rifle became the Gewehr 43. Mauser stuck to the requirements with their Gewehr 41(M), and it cost them the competition.

38 Comments

  1. Sounds a lot like Harley winning the US motorcycle competition against Indian by delivering a bike with 50% more horsepower than the RFP asked for.

    • “like Harley winning the US motorcycle competition against Indian by delivering a bike with 50% more horsepower than the RFP asked for.”
      The soviet Il-2 attack aircraft is probably most known WW2-era VVS RKKA aeroplane, however it is unknown to many that Il-2 was outperformed in test against Sukhoi Su-6
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-6
      which didn’t enter production only due to lack of M-71F engines.

  2. Very interesting. I daresay I’ve never seen such a detailed review of the mechanism before the video.

    Question: The Sørensen Bang “gas trap” principle here directs the gas backwards, in order to “push” the piston that operates the rods to cam the bolt head out of its locking position and move it back… But in the original Bang principle [I sense a pun…] the gas trap “pulls” an op rod forward to actuate the action via what is, in essence, a highly modified lever action. Yes?

    Again, thanks for the interesting vid. Any information on the rifle in the frigid mud of the sacred Rodina during the Eastern Front? I’d not be surprised to learn it was simply a standard manually operated bolt action there…

  3. Another exceptionally interesting, clear, concise, visually pleasing, and educational video. Thank you Ian!
    Germans sure could make weapons.
    Looks like the G41(M) might be a little heavier than our Garand M-1 that was developed a few years earlier than the German semi-auto.
    Any idea on the weight of the G41(M)?
    Lots of beautifully machined parts too.
    Any input on its accuracy and use as a sniper?
    How accurate does anyone think the G41(M) was with all that stress around the muzzle?
    Regards
    Pat

    • “weight of the G41(M)”
      From: В.Е. Маркевич (in Ручное огнестрельное оружие):
      rifle weight is 4900g (i.e. 4,9kg or ~10.8 lbs), barrel 550mm long, sight graduated to 1200m, sight radius 535mm, whole rifle is 1125mm long, magazine capacity is 10 rounds. It was tested on Russian front, but failed: reliability was low, mass was considered too big.

  4. Oh, one other point.
    Why do you think that the designers did not turn-down the bolt as they did on the K98s and left it as a straight bolt like the WWI’s G98s?
    Pat

    • If you turn down the bolt handle, your trigger finger can’t reach the trigger at all on this rifle! Unlike the K98’s bolt handle which is directly above the trigger, the charging handle on the G41 (M) is above and laterally behind the trigger group, which means you would need to pull a MAS-36 bend in order not to block the trigger.

  5. Thanks for this one. This was a very clear and detailed explanation of a very complex rifle. I do have one question though. How and where does the single operating rod transition to dual rods as they appear at the receiver?

  6. So how on earth do you clear a stoppage if the bolt stops part way? If the charging handle can only engage with the bolt forwards, that seems to be a bit of a fundamental flaw right there. Do you have to open the cover or something?

      • Funny thing is, I had one in my hands a few years back at a visit to a collection at a museum in Holland, but I didn’t get enough time to play with it to spot that flaw right there…

        I wanted to play with all the early semi-auto stuff like the G41(M), but they wanted me to take quite a lot of time to explain the SA80 to the others in the group and to the curator, cos I was the only person they’d ever had in the collection that had been trained on it. It was one of the late Nottingham ones with the gas block not vertical :p

  7. One has to wonder why the RFP was so limiting? General craziness? Why not just say: 7.9 x 57, fed with 5 round stripper clips, GO!

    • How about this: looser requirements may cause you to receive a flood of potentially disastrous designs just because each inventor wants to be as original as possible. This means that while there are a few that will make the cut and become great success stories, finding those select few in a sea of rejects will take weeks, if not months.

      Recoil-operated rifles usually didn’t get far (over-emphasized Chauchat failures, anyone?), and even the really light machine guns that could qualify as automatic rifles would be unfamiliar to most troops of the day. Blow-back rifle designs usually didn’t work that well in the 30’s (poor Pedersen got rejected because of the price tag). And thus, we are left with the ideas surrounding gas-operation. The guys in charge of weapons procurement, saddled with the ideas of giving the soldiers weapons not too different from the toys they already played with years ago, stipulated the three ridiculous limits:

      No moving parts on the outside of the rifle (no snagging dangers here)
      No reciprocating charging handles, must be able to simulate K98 charging step if gas system fails (did anyone want a Garand thumb or a Pedersen thumb, and how about the guys who don’t know how to operate the new-fangled automatics?)
      No holes in the barrel (spare barrels are for machine guns, not for rifles!!!!!)

      • Yes, originality is at cost. Referring to operating principle, there was hardly any successful short recoil rifle I can think of, part of Barrett that is. Would you know any?

        • How about the Johnson Light Machine Gun? It basically qualifies as an automatic rifle, but it was pretty dang expensive and tended to snag on underbrush.

          • The main problem with the Johnson LMGs (including the Dror) was M.M.J.’s thing for a single-column, single-feed box magazine.

            This wasn’t a problem on his M1941 rifle that used a 10-shot detachable box instead of the 10-shot rotary internal magazine of his earlier model rifle, but putting 30 or (in the case of the Dror) 40 rounds of .30-06 or 7.9 x 57 in a single-row magazine ended up with something twice the length of a Bren’s 0.303in box sticking out the left side. It made moving through underbrush with the magazine mounted interesting, to say the least.

            Johnson’s LMG design was well thought-out, except for that magazine. Even with it as an aggravation, the Johnson LMG did good service with some special operations forces during the war.

            There’s also a persistent story (I don’t know how accurate it is) that the Johnson LMG design strongly influenced the development and the physical layout of the Rheinmetall FG-42. Which of course had a more sensible double-row 20-shot box on its portside.

            cheers

            eon

          • The Johnson rifle (not the machine gun version) was well liked by the Marines that used them in WWII, so much that some of them offered to buy them with their own money. If the Johnson rifle had been invented several years earlier it is possible that it may have been adopted by the War Dept, or at least have come along as a substitute-standard and seen greater service. One of its positives was that it was easier to tool up and produce. One of its shortcomings was that using a bayonet on it was questionable, and clearing jams could be difficult with limited access to the chamber.

          • You are right; similarly or even better with rifle. As far as a successful MG I’d think 1919 Browning would quality.

          • “successful MG”
            Other produced in quantity short-recoil MG:
            Swiss Leichte Maschinengewehr 1925 (Lmg 25, also known as Furrer M25 or FM-25) designed by Adolf Furrer and produced by Waffenfabrik Bern which used Kniegelenkverschluss (like Luger pistol) see drawing:
            https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lmg_25 (under infobox)

            British Vickers machine gun

            Soviet KPVT machine gun (14.5mm) is short-recoil.

          • Jacob;

            The Paramarines loved the Johnson weapons because their quick-detachable barrels allowed them to carry them in drop bags like an SMG, but have full-powered rifle-caliber weapons ready when they landed. They considered folding-stock M1A1s a rather inferior substitute.

            I’ve heard that as a scoped sniper rifle, the Johnson rifle was more accurate than the M1C because of its basically “free-floating” barrel. And that the Johnson LMG was easier to hold on target in full-auto fire than the BAR due to its straight-line stock design. I’m inclined to believe both from my own experience with Garands and BARs.

            cheers

            eon

      • @Cherndog – I believe the reason for “no holes in the barrel” was that early gas operated weapons has a problem with gas erosion of the hole, causing a changing gas flow to the piston. This gave early gas systems a bad name.

        Improving metallurgy over the years had made this not a problem, but the facts of this technical advance had not yet caught up yet with the reputation for trouble in the minds of some.

        It should be remembered that the US also gone the same route in so far as gas system was concerned. The Germans were not unique in this regards.

        • “I believe the reason for “no holes in the barrel” was that early gas operated weapons has a problem with gas erosion of the hole, causing a changing gas flow to the piston.”
          When the requirements were claimed? Considering that Germans should be aware of ZH-29 rifle after annexation of Czechoslovakia or Kbsp wz. 1938M after Fall Weiss, which so far I know worked properly having gas port in barrel, it looks like this specification was issued before these event.

  8. The G41 Mauser rifle bolt operating just like MG34 bolt mechanism,obveously this element was made by Borsigwald at Mauser Waffenfabrik..
    Mechanicly this rifle make sense but by gas mechanism functionality its crappy,Carl Walther had overseen this issue in his G41 W series and realized there is something was a little off so he gave orders for German army to capture any enamie trophie rifles that will reveal an advanced gas mechanism design and it did when germans captured Soviet SVT40’s..
    Not waiting any further in events of war Walther already adopt SVT40 gas mechanism and G41 became G43 with a little shorter barrel length..
    Another advantages over Mauser designs Walther made removable magazines making G43 very simple in design and functionality….

    Before G41 systems both Walther and Mauser had been work on numerous selfloading rifles design and some models was function differently and consider valuable for collectors…
    For example Schmeiser in his STG44 rifle selected Walther pattern trigger mechanism unlike Mauser or others version,walther choosed his mechanism based on Czech ZH29 rifle..

  9. The SVT40 is hardly a superior gas system. It requires a fluted chamber to function properly meaning its timing is poor.

    Thank heaven for totalitarian system bureaucracy. Had the nazis simply given a requirement of “we need a rifle that does X” they might have gotten a good rifle. Instead, they micromanaged it it terms of how the desired features would be achieved and got an inferior product. Bureaucrats can never comprehend the creative process because they lack the creativity and consequently have no context for how it occurs.

    Face it, Freedom works.

  10. It is not well known that a pressed steel version in 7.92mm x 33mm was produced with an improved turning bolt design but still with a fixed clip fed magazine. There was one sent to APG after the war but they overlooked it and cut it up. There is a complete one in a French military museum but non- French people are not allowed in military museums

  11. Firstly, I think the Video was one of the Best explanations so far of any Automatic type Mechanisms…Congratulations.

    Secondly, that comment about the Johnson and the FG42…RM used the Lewis Gun bolt and carrier system to make the Bolt system for the FG42 (and subsequently adopted in the US M60 (which was basically a Combination of the FG42 Receiver action, and the MG42 Top cover and feed plate concepts.)

    Other theatres of War: G41(m) were also used extensively by SS-Polizei Units in the Balkans…many of the surviving examples have come out of Italy, rather than Eastern Europe (where the attrition occurred) There is photographic Proof of G41(m) use on the Karser Berg front ( Italy-Slovenia border regions).

    The “no gas-hole in Barrel” concept was supposedly imposed by AH himself, back in the mid thirties, when AR development started in Germany…RM had one of the first Gas-trap Garands in its reference collection ( and a Pedersen as well) when Phil Sharpe and his Ordnance Team examined the RM factories in late 1945.

    Just have to drool at the Photos…not able to import one here.

    Doc AV
    Down Under.

    • In Yugoslavia G41(W) was still in weapon lists in 1985 (yep, not typo, 1985)… G41(M) were there in 1948, but not in 1965…
      It is not that those were supposed to be issued to anyone except in case of whole “shit hits a fan” moment.

      • Well, the Finnish Army had until 1985 thousands of original full-length M91 Mosin-Nagant infantry rifles warehoused, although most if not all had been repaired with new barrels and/or stocks in the 1930s or during WW2.

  12. Great Video
    I have only seen one of these in my entire life back in 1987 in a small gun shop in Ohio. The owner let me handle it and I had the chance to buy it (I don’t remember the asking price) but I regretted not buying it ever since. Several months earlier I had purchased a G41(W) for the princely sum of $200 and did not think I really needed another oddball rifle.

  13. Does the Lewis have the flat spot on the locking cam track, and associated camming angle on the front of some of its locking lugs to initiate locking?

    Or, was that a German innovation?

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