Evolution of the Sturmgewehr: MP43/1, MP43, MP44, and StG44

MP43/1: https://jamesdjulia.com/item/52359-1-397/
MP44: https://jamesdjulia.com/item/52520-5-397/
StG44: https://jamesdjulia.com/item/52725-1-397/

Today we are going to look at the evolution of the Sturmgewehr – from the MP43/I and MP43 to the MP44 and StG44, what actually changed and why?

 

40 Comments

  1. Okay, let’s get this in context. We start with a pair of “machine pistols” made by Hanael and Walther respectively, both of which use the same nonstandard cartridge (neither pistol nor rifle cartridge by anyone’s opinion). Users gave their critiques which call for a hybrid of the two. Further development results in a new weapon that still masquerades as a pistol caliber gun, but operates more like a rifle combined with a light machine gun. In comes Hitler and he finally sees the potential of the now battle-tested weapons he once believed would make logistical support a nightmare! Too bad the thing was too late to make a difference… or am I wrong?

    • Not much.

      Intermediate rounds were something every major army experimented with between the wars, hence all those .276 inch, 7mm, and 6.5mm experimental rounds that showed up in self-loading rifles like the Pedersen, Garand, ZH-29, and etc.

      The major stumbling block was the Great Depression. Everybody knew that a new rifle and a new intermediate round was what hey wanted; nobody could afford both. That’s how we ended up with the .276 Garand being redesigned to .30-06.

      The myth about Hitler being opposed to the assault rifle on the grounds of his WW1 experience is just that. He was an infantryman who didn’t see much point in a rifle round that was too powerful for controlled automatic fire and could reach out further than you could see, anyway.

      The main reason the MP designation was retained for so long was to fool Allied intelligence. And it worked; there is still a photo of a British display of captured German small arms in London in 1945, with an MP44 right next to an MP40, that describes the MP44 as a “simplified MP40 intended for rapid production”. Umm, no, one look at the two would tell you they are as different as cats and dogs.

      Goebbels, the propaganda minister, apparently dreamed up the Sturmgewehr monicker. Haenel, Walther and etc. always called them Maschinenkarabiner- “machine carbine”, which is probably the best all-round term for this type of rifle.

      There’s been a lot of confusion over these arms for the last seventy-plus years. Most of it unnecessary.

      cheers

      eon

      • Thanks for correcting my spelling of Haenel. The whole point of Hitler’s interference was logistics of production, not doctrine. What good is a new rifle when tooling for making it and the new cartridge isn’t available? Hitler wanted transition to the new weapon to occur by large scale issuing to the troops, not by individual unit purchases of such wonderful toys coming from a single factory. The latter case results in supply shortages of ammunition, among other things… yet again I could be wrong.

        • No, no… Not spelling. The point, it wasn’t Hitler. It was Kraut intelligence, they weren’t thick. Nobody is in war, apart from Boko Harem who ban map reading…

          Unless… They don’t, really.

          • “Boko Harem who ban map reading”
            This reminded me about Heeresgruppe Weichsel and of its commander – H. Himmler, which has at best vague understanding of how maps works, nonetheless issued orders to single battalions (Heeresgruppe is equivalent to Front) to travel lot big distances (scale? what is that?), possibly to looking like “I am doing something”. Eventually Gotthard Heinrici become commander of that Weichsel which was much more competent.

          • Personally I think Russia hasn’t done anything wrong.
            In Crimea… We forced their hand, bit late now though with endless shoite.

        • “The whole point of Hitler’s interference was logistics of production, not doctrine. What good is a new rifle when tooling for making it and the new cartridge isn’t available?”
          BTW: Because Hitler seems very comfortable (if that is right word) answer, or lazy man’s answer. Why we lose this or that battle? Because Hitler. Why German Army was equipped with this or that but not this or that? Because Hitler and so forth.

          • Hitler was clever but… A product of his environment, he thought the “West” would unite against Communism.

            Germany post WW1 wasn’t an environment anybody else, really recognised. Apart from, maybe the Soviets…

          • “Fatalist.”
            Hitlers advertised himself as emanation of providence, considering speeches. Whatever he believed in it or used it was only tool of propaganda I don’t know.

          • See the doc “How Hitler Lost The War”;

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5KZgcEX8w8

            The conventional wisdom among historians is that nobody in the Wehrmacht went to the jake’s without specific written orders from the Fuhrer. And that everything was done exactly his way and no other way because the entire Wehrmacht was s**t-scared of him, or at least Himler’s SS and Gestapo.

            To call that an oversimplification is an understatement. Granted, in terms of strategic acumen Hitler was probably the worst grand strategist since Napoleon Bonaparte. He was also petulant, opinionated, and prone to seemingly pull decisions out of thin air based as much on his occult beliefs as actual objective conditions.

            But that was about average for the German high command. It wasn’t Hitler who thought that “remote viewing” (a delusion that afflicted both KGB and CIA in the postwar era) was how Allied ASW forces were finding and killing U-boats in the Atlantic. (MAD was a closely guarded secret during the war; see history of PatRon 63, “MADcats” based at Port Lyautey, Morocco 1942-45.)

            And it wasn’t Hitler who ordered the Me262 modified to carry bombs; that was designed in from the start. The holdup in getting it into service was because Junkers couldn’t deliver the Jumo 004 turbojets as fast as they’d said they could, and the engines could only go 6 to 7 hours between teardowns and overhauls instead of the 20 hours Junkers had sworn they could do.

            Most of the other things Hitler got blamed for below the strategy level were concocted by surviving German general officers after the war to alibi their own mistakes. If Himmler had survived to stand trial, it would have been interesting to see him explain why he had spent a lot of the SS’ budget on items like researching the history of the shapes of students’ hats at Oxford or the suppression of the Ulster harp. (?)

            Th doc says that in a few short years, Hitler “took a rational, enlightened, cultured country…and seemingly drove it insane”.

            I think the only reason he could do that is that the culture was already heading in that direction under its own power. And that he wasn’t the only one making important decisions on grounds that nobody was ever able to satisfactorily explain.

            Nazi Germany has been defined as “a philosophical debating society…with tanks”. ( The Morning of the Magicians, Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, 1967.)

            Mostly, it teaches us that philosophers make lousy politicians. And worse military commanders.

            cheers

            eon

          • “But that was about average for the German high command. It wasn’t Hitler who thought that “remote viewing” (a delusion that afflicted both KGB and CIA in the postwar era) was how Allied ASW forces were finding and killing U-boats in the Atlantic. (MAD was a closely guarded secret during the war; see history of PatRon 63, “MADcats” based at Port Lyautey, Morocco 1942-45.)”
            Work of Bletchley Park was also of importance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletchley_Park#German_signals

    • Dear Mr. Cherndog: “Too bad the thing was too late to make a difference”? For whom? We’re talking Nazi Germany here, the nation that most deserved to lose a war in all modern history. Thank your heavens it was too late to make a difference! Very truly yours,

      • You do have a good argument in that Nazi Germany deserved to lose the war. But I have to ask the obligatory question: why did American top brass regard the StG-44 as technical hum-buggery tantamount to worthless once samples had been captured? Said top brass dismissed the concept of the assault rifle as a master of nothing but cool looks. “You can’t hit a barn from half-a-mile-away with it. You can’t bring it to bear in a room-to-room scuffle unlike a pistol. You can’t win a fist fight or a bayonet fight with it, since it’s too fragile for the job (we easily smashed its receiver with a carpenter’s hammer). The ammunition won’t fit in any other long gun! This ‘assault rifle’ can’t do ANYTHING but look cool. Therefore, gentlemen, it is WORTHLESS as a proper weapon.” The UK had a slightly different opinion, and developed a potential war-winner at Enfield only to have it scrapped by America’s demand that all NATO long arms use 7.62×51 as the standard cartridge. Am I totally wrong?

        • Well, the Stg44 version wasn’t exactly great.
          Quality control had slipped badly, materials were substandard, and the British Small Arms (Enemy) Section stated in their report that the StG44’s stamped receiver was made of significantly thinner and poorer-grade sheet metal than the prior MP43 and MP44 versions, to the point that if you leaned it against something and then nudged it to fall over, it would either crack or at least dent and bend the receiver when it hit plain dirt, let alone rocks or whatever. It’s worth noting that German troops who liked the MP43/MP44 hated the StG44, which they considered a cheap knockoff of the earlier versions.

          As for the caliber, the U.S. Army was devoted to he “marksmanship tradition” of engaging point targets with aimed rifle fire over open sights, using “come-ups”. Which can work in combat (a cinematic example is Steve McQueen’s use of the M1903A1 Springfield in The Sand Pebbles), but for the most part isn’t really relevant to the way wars were actually being fought, in which rapid automatic fire in concentrations was settling the argument at what might be termed the maximum practical range for rifle-caliber weapons, i.e. from 100 to 400 meters.

          Army Ordnance wanted a rifle firing the .30-06 that in the hands of a trained rifleman could hit point targets out to 1,000 yards. They didn’t explain where in the ETO, PTO, or CBI you could actually see somebody that far away, let alone take him under fire with anything much less than a .50 caliber Browning.

          (Even air combat wasn’t a long range activity. Most gun duels between B-17 or B-24 gunners and German fighters were at ranges under 200 yards. U.S. fighter pilots normally harmonized their ‘fifties’ to converge at 250 yards. WW2 heavy MGs and 20mm or 30mm cannon hadn’t increased the ranges of dogfights compared to WW1, they just made hits a lot more lethal than rifle-caliber MGs had in the first go-round.)

          Ordnance continued on this track, while the Infantry School and later Continental Army Command (CONARC) were interested in very high-rate-of-fire weapons with relatively low recoil impulse, to literally mow down the enemy at ranges under 200 yards. (look up “Project SALVO” sometime.) They finally got what they wanted with the M-16, while Ordnance held on to the 7.62 x 51mm like grim death. In the end, they wound up with it as the GPMG and sniper’s caliber, which is what it should have been to start with.

          So yes, by Army Ordnance’s standards, the StG44 was a piece of crap. And no, it wasn’t great, or even “good” compared to its predecessors, due to poorer manufacture.

          But that didn’t invalidate the concept. Except in Ordnance’s eyes.

          They would later make a mess of the M-16 project, trying to make a 200-meter rifle perform like an 800-meter one.

          Ironically, in AFPAK they’v found that 200 meters really isn’t enough, and 800 is about as far as you can hit somebody with a machine gun. The Muj are delighted to go after you from that far out, usually with 7.62 x 54R- or just mortars.

          That doesn’t mean that the “intermediate” advocates were wrong,and the “marksmanship tradition” boys were right. It just means you better read up on the last war in a region before going into a new one there, and tailor your plans- and equipment- accordingly.

          The nice thing about history is that you can learn from other peoples’ mistakes. And unlike them, you don’t have to pay the piper in blood.

          cheers

          eon

          • I think you could make the case that the Army Ordnance folks never understood what they were dealing with, and were also nearly entirely ignorant of what our own troops were doing out on the front lines in order to adapt to the actual conditions of combat.

            All you have to do is look at how they evaluated the MG42, claiming that it was an inferior weapon that wasted ammunition, while the M1919A6 was superior in every way–Which it was not.

            Actual practice in combat by the end of the war had both the US and Germany doing very congruent things, in somewhat different manners. The Germans pointed the way towards the dual-caliber solution down in the squads that the Soviets eventually embraced, and which the US eventually copied. Where the Germans had been MG-centric before the war, and during most of it, they’d gone to a model with more dispersed firepower out with the riflemen, and MG teams in support. The US, which had started out with the Garand and the BAR in the squad, eventually put the M1919A6 out with the squads as belt-fed firepower. By the end of the war, the firepower, structure, and weapons of the two armies looked a lot more alike than they had at the beginning.

            And, yet… Nearly none of this was captured on the US side, and turned into doctrine. If you talk to the veterans of the war, you hear time and time again that “…we threw the book out, and did what worked…” as a constant refrain. And, yet… “The Book” didn’t change from mid-war to about the 1950s. All the lessons learned in blood in Northern Europe failed to make it into institutional knowledge, and after the post-WWII demobilization, they went back to reconstruct a working military without a lot of that practical knowledge.

            Either that, or the US Army Ordnance people were exceedingly delusional. With the M14/7.62mm NATO, we got the ultimate National Match rifle, optimized for Camp Perry, and since the combat in Vietnam didn’t match up very well with Camp Perry, well… The result was the M16, and we’ve now got a family of small arms and calibers that aren’t quite optimal for every solution, but which can be made to work.

    • “We start with a pair of “machine pistols” made by Hanael and Walther respectively”
      It should be noted that Deutsch Maschinenpistole term denotes sub-machine gun, not machine pistole.

      “thing was too late to make a difference”
      I doubt if it would matter anyway, surely such weapon give advantages over enemy armed in self-loading rifles and/or bolt-action repeating rifles, but nonetheless this is tactical advantage, so it would have little effect (if any) at strategic level matters.

      • No single weapon or weapon system short of nuclear weapons would have made a huge difference in WW2. It was the first true combined arms war from start to finish, although combined arms tactics had emerged already during WW1, and had played a vital role in the Allied victory.

        If we consider the Germsn small arms procurement in general during WW2, their greatest error was not adopting the SMG in large enough numbers early enough. The production numbers reflect that: there was about ten K98k rifles made for each MP38/MP40. For most of the war a German infantry squad had only a single SMG, although specialized SMG armed assault units were formed during and after the Battle of Stalingrad. Significantly more SMGs in 1942 or 1943 would have made more difference than the relatively small number of MP43/MP44/StG44 did in 1944 and 1945.

        • “No single weapon or weapon system short of nuclear weapons would have made a huge difference in WW2. It was the first true combined arms war from start to finish, although combined arms tactics had emerged already during WW1, and had played a vital role in the Allied victory.”
          Right. Then I should write that Sturmgewehr would have smaller impact than many other weapons, for example artillery seems, which Germans seems also lacking on basing of wide usage of captured Soviet artillery pieces.

  2. Hi Ian,
    Again ….. Thanks for another excellent explanation.

    Next time you want to show the difference between butt stocks …. may I suggest laying the rifles butt stock to butt stock (with muzzles disappearing off screen). That angle would display both butt stocks in silhouette?
    Or maybe your table was too short??????

  3. I thought this was a very good episode. I would like to add something about literally no difference. The mp43/1 the mp43 and the mp44 all used the same serial numbers as made by fxo. As an example mp43/1 and mp43 get mixed together in the 1943 c and d range when the mp43 first starts to be produced. Mp43/1 mp43 & mp44 ALL get mixed together in 1944. As far as I know and I am always open to evidence there are no a & b range 1943 mp43.

  4. Excellent video. I like the slower camera movement with close ups, because you can see the details a lot clearer. What a crude gun btw. Why was the rear sight not placed on the end cap (the metal piece on the butt stock)? Too much wobble?

    • 1. Putting it over the chamber meant that generally, the relationship between barrel and sights didn’t change much with repeated field-stripping and reassembly, thus preventing degradation of accuracy to certain extent.

      2. In combat, most shooting is snap-shooting. A long eye relief rear sight is faster to pick up than a peep or V-notch right under your nose.

      3. In full-autofire, a rear-mounted rear sight can give you a nasty case of “Kaibab eye”, rather like a short eye-relief telescopic sight on a hard-kicking big game rifle like a .375 H&H or .458 Winchester.

      Getting a black eye and/or a nasty cut on your eyebrow from your rear sight is, as Eddie the Computer once said of Magrathea, “a whole bunch of no fun”.

      cheers

      eon

  5. Great post Ian. I don’t think that the quality was bad considering the conditions german industry was in. The fact that there are still working guns circulating is in my mind an evidence that they were good enough for the situation the third reich was in.

  6. Question:
    Seems to me–and therefore must be long self-evident to everyone else!–that there were *two* influential German infantry weapon outgrowths from WWII:
    1) the “Sturmgewehr”–thanks, eon, for the Goebbels vs. Hitler epistomology of the moniker–in which the idea of an intermediate power cartridge suitable for the majority of probable ranges <300m for infantry gunfights meets the perceived needs of ordnance officials and tacticians: "It's a rifle…!" "It's an SMG!" It's two/Two/TWO weapons in ONE!" U.S. Ordnance thought of it as merely the latter, and thought its virtues as a rifle were not that great. Postwar developers in Belgium, briefly the UK, briefly Spain, briefly France and the USSR 7.62×39 development recognized it as desireable.

    2) The FG42–The Luftwaffe's Fallschirmjäger thought that lightly armed infantry needed a sort of "everyman's automatic rifle" that could be employed as a rifle at longer range, as a self-loader offering rapid follow up shots, and as a quasi-LMG capable of bursts from detachable magazines and using a bipod. Postwar, rifle grenades get added in, and one sees the Swiss in particular going down this route with the "all-in-one" Swiss militiaman expected to defend the mountain with a quasi-LMG, a rifle, and grenade launcher all-in-one in the form of the StG.57 after considerable experimentation and refinement, only to belatedly get behind the SCHV 5.56mm once the Cold War and threats of being embroiled in a Third World War receded. Also Italy with the BM-59, briefly the U.S. with the M14 program–take the M1 carbine, M3 Greaser, M1 rifle, and BAR and "presto!" The M14! … only not so much. Also some outliers like the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces' Type 64 and so on. Prototypes like Stoner's 63 and the extreme URZ concept of Czech J Cermak.

    Obviously, at least to you lot, "modularity" has shifted rather decisively into a basic receiver to which all manner of barrel-lengths and various gewgaws can be attached, witness the ergonomics of the AR–"the accidental rifle"–becoming almost ubiquitous in most modern designs of late.

  7. The first place I saw an MP44 was on the 1965 movie, “Battle of the Bulge.” It was another decade before I learned what the gun did and its significance. A more important weapon for German infantry was the Panzerfaust–a revolutionary weapon that didn’t really make a difference either. Nor did the jet fighter. The V2 rocket can be credibly termed a wast of resources.

    All that was good.

    President Eisenhower did not like “Battle of the Bulge” and it may have been because the Americans were depicted as negative stereotypes–fools, hustlers, burn-out cases. For example, one American colonel from G2 examined the MP44 and commented that there was grease in the barrel and it hadn’t been fired. New equipment on the front line with clearly substandard soldiers? What were the real soldiers carrying, then?

    The past and History are not the same thing. People like Ian have to nudge us so that history and the past are closer together. One lesson is Napoleon’s axiom that “quantity has a quality of its own.” As with the MP-18 of the Great War, Germany’s MP-44 was too little and too late.

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