German Troop Trials “Push-Button” Gewehr 41(W)

When the German Army wanted a new semiauto service rifle in 1941, it received submissions from two companies; Walther and Mauser. Walther’s design didn’t strictly meet the criteria set forth, but it was clearly the better rifle and would eventually win the competition. This involved conducting troop trials, and Walther got an initial contract for 5,000 rifles for those trials. That first batch of rifles differed in several ways from the version that was ultimately put into mass production. Most substantially, the first version of the G41(W) had a push-button bolt release on the left side of the stock. After loading two stripper clips, one would push the button to close the bolt. Of course, one could also simply pull the bolt handle back slightly and release to do the same thing – and so the bolt release button was removed to simplify production. In addition, the bolt guide rail on the receiver would be lengthened on production, optics mounting rails were added (although never really used), and the serrations on the spring guide rod were dropped.

24 Comments

    • It should not bother anyone these days. It is a misplaced Indian symbol of prosperity occasionally seen on Hindu temples (in Bengal). The German version/interpretation was called “hakenkreuz” meaning “hooked cross”. I never heard name “swastika” while living in Europe. It sounds as silly name for me.

      There was one town in northern Ontario, Canada with that name; those who gave it the name surely did not have any sinister reason for it.

      • Swastika derives from Sanskrit “su vas tika,” meaning “he is well.” Hakenkreuz is a modern vulgarization, IMHO. The symbol itself is one of the few that occurs in both the Old and New Worlds.

        One more thing I have against the nazis is their act of puking on that fine old emblem.

        Kinda wish you’d pixel it out, Ian. Thanks.

        • It appears the Ian has spammed me so, my suggestion (and offer to provide) via email that flags be replaced with geographic representations of the countries/empires &c. responsible for the “FW”, and my offer to produce those images has been binned.
          Our loss

        • & to Ed & Ian…here we are a community somehow interested in the instruments of the worst virus man has ever created (or inherited from his predecessors). Until we can cure the disease that is our human condition, why pixilate anything? Symbols get coopted all the time but they mean what they mean in the present and I can understand why just the sight of the 3rd Reich flag would make anyone with a conscience want to vomit. Just putting down the tracks for my train of thought here but, as a Geographer (MS) my thinking would be that a redesign of the title frame for FW video posts could feature the national boundaries of the country/state/empire at the time of production of the piece involved, rather than the flag. That might confuse some folks but it would also educate them as well. If you have stayed with me this far, thanks.

    • People focusing on the symbol remind me that most people are incapable of rational thought; they think that there is “magic” in that thing or idea, and believe that banning it will somehow fix the problems it represents.

      It’s a lot like many of the political movements themselves: They rail against their enemies, describing them in the same terms they think of as belonging to that symbol, never realizing that they themselves are exhibiting the exact same mentality and belief systems they claim to repudiate.

      Morons, all of them. Symbolic thought is the real enemy, not the symbol. You reduce everything to “symbol X bad”, and you cease any form of rational thought or self-knowledge of your own actions. The reality is this: The history includes the symbol, and if you want to erase it, you’re actually erasing history itself at the same time.

      Hell, I want to see the swastika as it was used, for branding, in its original context. Why? Because that serves to teach and remind us that whenever you run into similar things, you should be wary of them. The prevalence of the swastika in the imagery is, for me, a warning sign about the lack of rational thought that went into that whole political system. Failure to include it, to make believe that by banishing the symbol, you’re somehow “fixing the problem”? Magical thinking at its most delusional; much like the idea that you’ll solve violent crime by banning weapons. The problem isn’t in the artifacts, it’s in the minds of men. Failure to comprehend that is a sign of an essentially immature and foolish person.

      And, as with guns, if you ban the one thing, they’ll find another to substitute for it. You accomplish nothing with a ban, other than stroking your own preening ego and assurance that you’re “doing the right thing”.

      Reality? Wake up and smell the coffee; the mentality behind the swastika is still there, still active, and just uses something else that’s more marketable in today’s circumstances. All you accomplish with this BS is making believe you’ve “done something” about those awful people who used swastikas as symbols.

      Meanwhile, we hired them to build moon rockets and do a bunch of other crap we thought was important, never mind that they managed slave labor camps under the swastika-waving regime. Go figure; if it were me, I’d have had swastikas all over the place when I put those people through the same death-camp system they built and managed, until every card-carrying member of their party had gone through the crematorium. That would have been doing something effective about it; banning the symbol they waved while electing them to office again in post-WWII Germany because it was “convenient” was not at all effective.

      But, you go on feeling morally superior and all better about the issue. You’ve done something; you banned a symbol.

      I wonder why other symbols aren’t held to the same standard. I mean, if the swastika is so evil, what of the Japanese Imperial chrysanthemum? The hammer and sickle of the Communists? Why not ban the British “Broad Arrow”? I mean, surely if we tote up the proportional damage done around the world, they’d all be in the same class as the swastika, would they not?

      Childish thought patterns, frankly. History is history, and should be remembered in its entirety, as it happened, with everything surrounding it. Context is important; remove the symbols, and a lot of the context goes away with it. Which, I suspect, is the idea; you hide it all, and your responsibility and complicity also goes away. Nobody wants to remember that Time had Hitler as “Man of the Year” or that everyone in the world thought he was a “Great Man” right up until they didn’t. I’ve lost track of the number of positive things I read in the material from the 1930s that I reviewed during my historical reading, stuff that everyone today wants to forget. If Hitler had died in 1938, he’d be held out as this wonderful world-heroic figure for everyone to admire. By everyone, including the rat bastard enablers that allowed him to reach power in the first place, like the German and American industrialists that supported his bid for power, and the Soviet idiot who pumped resources into the Reich so that he could conquer Western Europe.

      But, by all means: Comfort yourself by banning the symbol. It’s obviously what caused the problem, in the first place.

      Idiots.

      • Speaking of symbols if we are to go this “offended by anything” route, as firearms are, unlike symbols, from ground up designed to kill people and are in wars and other occasions used only for such purpose,
        wouldn’t presenting any picture/video of any firearm in eyes of extremist SJW be the ultimate “evil” symbol (?)

    • Hey, please don’t misinterpret my comment as some sort of woke attempt at revisionist history.

      As you may have noticed, Ian’s past videos usually redact the swastika, that’s all.

      • I caught that; apparently, nobody else did.

        The fact that Ian has to blur the symbol in videos in order to get past the censors while the current leadership of the nation that used them is engaged in enabling another outright breach of the peace by today’s closest proxy for that regime? Laughable. If you’re going to ban the swastika while building training areas for totalitarian military forces to use getting ready to invade another sovereign nation? You’ve pretty much lost any moral high ground you might have gained from banning the symbol used by your genocidal predecessors. Not to mention all the nice industrial plant you sold other totalitarians, which enabled them to create chemical weapons so they could go after their hated ethnic minorities…

        I wouldn’t mind the hypocrisy so much, but to be lectured and hectored by these creatures? I’m no longer willing to sit silent.

        And, again: It’s a sign of moral degeneracy and an inability to actually think. You ban the swastika, but buy oil and gas from a regime that sponsors the massacre of civilians in Syria? That bombs civilians there? You enable them to build up a military force to go adventuring in other people’s lands? Then, preen to me all about how moral and great you are, because you banned a symbol?

        Yeah. Not a fan of that BS. I’d rather they left everything slathered in swastikas, all over the damn place, so that they have that memory rubbed in their damn noses every day they go walking the streets of their cities, reminding them of the time they all got in line behind a genocidal maniac that telegraphed exactly what he was going to do in a best-selling book they all bought.

        Kinda the way their main trade client has been doing for the last twenty years. Anyone who was surprised by the events of February 24th just hasn’t been paying attention.

  1. there exists a pressed steel G41 M in 7.92 x 33mm that was cut-up after examination at
    APG after the war. The remains were sold at Knob Creek for 18 dollars about 20 years ago

  2. Whenever I look at the various full-power semi-auto rifles they fielded back in the day, I find myself wondering what the hell they were thinking.

    Mid-century tactical thinking was seriously deranged; they were sitting there ignoring some very basic facts, like the minor quibbling little detail that with the machine gun becoming prevalent, there was no longer any point to enabling and paying the price for your individual weapons being capable of delivering long-range volley fire to area targets. Which is, in the final analysis, what they were doing with those rifles and cartridges that made them worth the trouble. If you no longer needed a platoon’s worth of long-range rifle fire to engage squad- and platoon-sized targets at 1200m or greater, what was the point of a full-house old school rifle cartridge in the individual weapon? It didn’t exist, and nobody noticed that fact.

    After the advent of the MG down into the squads and platoons, the individual weapon’s primary role became local security and self-defense for the MG teams. Or, it should have, in any sane tactical system. What the M1 and all the other semi-auto rifles should have been was something in a smaller cartridge and with a bigger magazine, partnered up with decent effective LMG and MMG support weapons plus mortars. The Germans eventually got it more-or-less right with the StG44/MG42 pairing, but… Man. Hardly anyone else did, because they were trying to “do it all” with the individual weapon, when that weapon’s role in long-distance area denial and interdiction fires was long surpassed by the MG.

    I’m not a fan of any of their thinking, TBH. Soviet, German, American, UK… Whoever. All of them had issues with their small arms and tactical systems, with the Germans getting it “more right” than nearly anyone else. If I had to lay out a “perfect scheme” for mid-20th Century combat, I’d have something like the MG42 and the Japanese “knee mortar” integrated into every fire team of every squad, three fire teams per squad, and probably 16 men under an experienced NCO for a full squad. The individual weapon would be something like a downsized M1 Garand in a cartridge reasonably lethal out to about 400m, max, with a minimum 10 round magazine. I’d probably have to start there, and let evidence show the need for bigger magazines, going up to a max of 30 rounds.

    These days? No idea whatsoever, other than to say that the drone revolution is changing the complexion and complexity of modern war, perhaps to a point where it changes all the other rules as well.

    Of course, the Russians are so damn inept at basic fieldcraft that I can’t help but think that any lessons we try to draw from what’s going on in Ukraine right now is an exercise in futility. Every time I log on to watch combat reports coming out of Ukraine, I want to yell at the screen, telling the idiots to spread out, pick up their trash, and recognize that they absolutely have to camouflage against overhead observation. Which they almost never do… Too many Ukrainian-released reports strike me as so much “fishing in barrels”. If the Russians weren’t the aggressors, here? I’d pity them for their child-like incompetence. As is, well… Payback is a bitch, and her name is “Bayraktar”.

    • “(…)If you no longer needed a platoon’s worth of long-range rifle fire to engage squad- and platoon-sized targets at 1200m or greater(…)”
      I suggest simple arms race as explanation, that is we need that before vicious enemy has or is about to get such capability? That might be conclusion after examination of captured examples of karabin samopowtarzalny wzór 38M or MAS-40.

      “(…)full-house old school rifle cartridge in the individual weapon(…)”
      What you see as “old” book-keepers might call already in system. Adding new cartridge to system costs.

      “(…)What the M1 and all the other semi-auto rifles should have been was something in a smaller cartridge and with a bigger magazine(…)”
      So… Pedersen T1 https://modernfirearms.net/en/military-rifles/self-loading-rifles/u-s-a-self-loading-rifles/pedersen-t1-eng/

      • I’ll simply leave it as this: When the tactical and operational conditions that you based your weapons on change, you ought to change your weapons along with them.

        By the time WWI was over, nobody was doing long-range volley fire with bolt-action rifles. That really went out shortly after the advent of the machinegun, but nobody recognized that fact or the implications thereof.

        Since they had to do an effective recapitalization of the small arms during the 1930s, anyway? Someone should have had the wit and wisdom to recognize the realities of how they were fighting, and equip accordingly.

        Taking Garand- and BAR-armed troops up against enemy formations armed with the MG34/42 and better tactical doctrine was just a sadly destructive effort, and one we should have avoided. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a hell of a lot of clear thought going on during the post-WWI era, so far as evaluating what had just happened. It took the US until the early 1960s and encountering the Soviet small arms suite dating to the post-WWII era before they really recognized any form of reality, and that only took them around 40 freakin’ years.

        We could have, and should have done better by the troops. The delusional “individual rifleman uber alles” philosophy held back US tactical development for far too many years. Alvin York notwithstanding, you’re really a lot better off plumping your money down on crew-served firepower being your maneuver element, not individual soldiers whose training and professionalism is questionable because you don’t want a standing army cluttering up the place.

        It’s really kind of odd: By rights, the US is the nation that should have come up with and implemented the high firepower/low training doctrinal pattern, while the Germans should have been the ones to say “Yeah, we’re gonna have our very well-trained armies relying on their skill-at-arms with their individual weapons…”

        The fact that it’s the exact opposite sort of indicates how maladapted the US military can be to any form of reality. If the US Army had spent the 1920s and 1930s running military training camps with an emphasis on low-level fire and maneuver leadership and marksmanship…? Yeah; I could kind of see the Garand as being the small arms solution. Being as they did not, and meant to form up a mass-service conscript army with limited to nearly zero training? WTF, man? Did that make sense? If there was anyone who was going to substitute heavy firepower for training and organizational efforts, that should have been the American military.

        Instead, they issued the Garand, the BAR, and nothing else for the infantry squad. It took until late in the war before they even bothered to develop the M1919A6, and that was the least elegant of half-ass kludges you could possibly imagine. The fact that that thing was the primary belt-fed MG on issue throughout the 1950s? Again, WTF? Shouldn’t a key “lesson learned” from WWII have been “Yeah, we really need a good MG that can do the job the BAR isn’t doing…”?

        If you could look at the whole thing and just say “Yeah, they’re just slow learners…”, I don’t think I’d mind as much. The problem for me is that I lived dealing with similar issues for most of my career, and it just frustrates me no end. We were telling the idjits running things during the early 1990s that we’d be having to deal with mines and IEDs in the rear areas, just like the South Africans were, and they told us “No, we’re never going to get into that sort of war…”

        Remind me again how that worked out?

        I think you can trace a very clear outline of organizational incompetence and inability to recognize change, let alone adapt to it, throughout much of the US military system. The fact that you can do the same with a bunch of other nation’s militaries at the same time ain’t much comfort.

        I think people knew, but the problem is that the ones who did understand it all were not the ones in charge. And, that’s the critical issue we need to acknowledge and address. This problem ain’t going away; if anything, it’s getting worse. I remain convinced that the NGSW program is not an answer to our issues with small arms, and I do not anticipate that that program is going to be more than a failed multi-billion dollar boondoggle that gains us little and costs us logistically. And, when you look at it, the same syndromes are present there in the DNA of the NGSW program that were endemic to the post-WWI inability to recognize reality. It’s all wishful thinking, all the way down…

        If you want to understand current failures, you have to understand and acknowledge the historical ones, as well. I don’t think we do enough of that, and we’re going to pay the price.

        • I’ve always believed that nobody in Army Ordnance or the staff wanted to learn.

          Talking to my uncles who were in WW1, WW2 and Korea about the way they were trained, what I got was that the primary mission objectives of the United States Army were;

          1. Getting Parade Right

          2. Maintaining the lifestyle of senior officers (Cavalry was really a riding club for same)

          3. Beating those $%*($#! Marines at Camp Perry every year.

          The whole “marksmanship tradition” thing was a target range conceit. It had exactly jack s#!t to do with actual combat, and everybody knew it.

          And they knew it as far back as before the bloody American Civil War. Allow me to quote something I wrote a long time ago on that subject re the Wilson breechloading rifle;

          (quote)
          However, the Ordnance Committee was so impressed with the mechanical part of the design that they requested that Wilson alter two P-1853 Enfield rifle muskets and one Whitworth rifle to his system for further trials. The P-1853s were fired for accuracy at 300, 500 and 800 yards prior to the alteration, so their accuracy after the alteration could be compared to that of their original muzzle-loading configuration.

          Again, the same problem reared its ugly head, and the March 26, 1861 report from the committee noted that, “the wild and capricious shooting of the converted Enfield is mainly owing to the action of this wad on the apex of the bullet, immediately on the latter leaving the barrel.”

          (My commentary on above)

          Oddly enough, the Calisher & Terry carbine, which used exactly the same system, seemed to suffer no adverse effects from it as far as accuracy. Or perhaps the Ordnance Board didn’t expect the same accuracy from a short-barreled cavalry carbine that they did from a full-length rifle-musket.

          In actuality, if they were expecting the average soldier, or cavalryman, to hit anything much beyond 250 yards/230 meters or so with either one, they were in for a disappointment. The brutal fact of the Civil War, and the Crimea, was that the fancy ladder-type sights on rifle-muskets and even carbines like the Spencer were largely useless due to the ballistics of their ammunition. They were often graduated to 1,000 yards/meters, when the .52 to .58 caliber Minie’ balls backed up by 50 to 60 grains of “musket” (FFg) black powder they fired were rarely capable of hitting a man sized target beyond 300.

          And the Ordnance experts knew this, though they would never admit it. Their test targets showed this. Man-sized target boards, six feet high by two feet wide, were used for accuracy testing out to 200 yards. At 300 to 500 yards, the target board was still six feet high, but it was now also six feet wide. At 500 to 800 yards, the board was eight feet high and twelve feet wide. At any range beyond 300, out of ten rounds fired, from a rest, no time limit, a single hit was considered “passing”.

          According to Ordnance tests of their own 1861 Springfield .58 vs. the British Pattern 1853 Enfield .577 in 1862, either one would hit the first (6′ x 2′) target nine times out of ten at 200 yards. At 300, they would hit the second (6′ x 6′) target eight times out of ten. At 500, they would hit it four times out of ten. At 600 yards, neither one could hit the third (8′ x 12′) target more than twice out of every ten shots. At 800 yards, both “shot so wildly that no records could be kept”, in the words of the official report.

          The “superior long-range accuracy” of the rifle-musket is largely a myth. The fact is that the difference between the rifle-musket and the smoothbore musket was that the rifle-musket had better consistency at normal combat ranges. Since the “ball” went straight out the muzzle without “bouncing” as it went up the bore, it essentially went the same direction every time.

          Modern tests have shown that a smoothbore musket, with a tight-fitting patched ball, gets about the same results as a rifled musket with a Minie’ ball out to 150 yards. It becomes unable to consistently hit a man-sized target at 250 yards, but again, that’s not much worse than the rifle-musket. Neither one was much use in actual combat beyond 200 yards, except in massed volley fire, no matter what “Civil War historians” think.

          Most rifle-muskets or light-infantry rifles equipped with fancy (and expensive to make) ladder-type rear sights would have been as well served by the kind of rear sight that the Second Model Maynard Carbine of 1862 was fitted with. While the First Model, actually designed prewar as a light sporting arm, had a luxurious tangent rear sight on the wrist of the stock with a sliding peep, graduated to 1,200 yards (!), the “war emergency” Second Model replaced this expensive and largely useless attachment with a simple two-position “flipover” rear sight on the barrel. It had two V-notches instead of a peephole (which were easier to “pick up” in a hurry, as when Johnny Reb was giving you an argument), and the two “leaves” were set for 100 and 200 yards.

          A typical rifle musket would have worked just as well in actual combat with the same setup.
          (close quote, emphasis mine)

          Look at the rear sight of the Second Model Maynard (1862). Now look at the rear sight of the MP38/40 (1939). The resemblance is striking.

          The Tommies reviled the rear sight of the No.4 MK I rifle, a two-position flip which supposedly needed the bayonet fixed or unfixed to adjust for ranges between 100 and 500 yards. In fact, a flip sight with peeps or notches for 100 and 250 was probably all they actually needed.

          The even more reviled fixed 100m rear sight of the late production Carcano M38 in Italian service was probably even more to the point. It served the same purpose as the “upside down D” battlesight setting on the SKS and AK. Hold center chest on the guy out to 300 meters and the bullet will hit him somewhere on a vertical line between his shirt collar and his belt buckle. Problem solved.

          The armies (especially ours) have always known that the “marksmanship tradition” was total bulls#!t. But they clung to it for purely prestige reasons, just like the generals loved the cavalry- because Polo Sundays.

          When somebody (CONARC) and somebody else (Infantry School) actually looked at the way men actually got killed or wounded in battle (Project SALVO 1947-49) and that was matched with actual analysis two years later (Commentary on Infantry Operations and Weapons Usage Korea 1950-51, S.L.A. Marshall 1951), it turned out that the best all-around weapon for infantry in actual combat at the time was the M2 Carbine. Which makes perfect sense, actually, and was one of the steps to the AR-15/M16.

          Which worked just fine in actual combat- until Army Ordnance took charge of the project. “We’re sorry, but we just don’t like it. DuPont, please load the ammunition with ball powder; that will save money and also make sure this odious little Not Invented Here gadget fails. Hurray for the M14.”

          The Osprey book on the M16 (Osprey Weapons # 14, The M16 by Gordon L. Rottman) describes in detail exactly how far Ordnance was willing to go to f**k the AR-15/M-16 project. Never mind court-martial followed by getting the Talcott treatment; somebody should have been hanged.

          The same attitudes persist today. Things haven’t changed much since 1861.

          Rant off.

          clear ether

          eon

          • Eon:

            Splendid rant!

            I do wonder about the No4 rifle’s original simple rear sight.

            I agree with you that it would have been fine for 99% of all combat shooting. Very few British conscripts in 1939/45 would have had any firearms experience, so why would they have complained? No-one cared about their opinion anyway.

            I can only feel that more senior soldiers, who were used to the beautiful rear sight of the SMLE, felt that the No4’s simple two position aperture sight was an insult to real riflemen. It might be fine for combat, but it was no good for target shooting at Bisley. It’s the same mindset which gave the M1903 Springfield the most beautiful rear sight in history. No practical use to a combat soldier, but essential for Camp Perry.

        • “(…)Being as they did not, and meant to form up a mass-service conscript army with limited to nearly zero training? WTF, man? Did that make sense?(…)”
          Was 1920s U.S. doctrine calling for mass-service conscript army XOR relatively small in relation to population force?

    • “Of course, the Russians are so damn inept at basic fieldcraft that I can’t help but think that any lessons we try to draw from what’s going on in Ukraine right now is an exercise in futility.”

      Wait before you make your judgement. And also – read a different variety of sources. The situation is too complex and is constantly developing. None of us knows how long it will last and what will come out of it. I am under impression it is politics which guides the strategy. This is definitely a “different” kind of war; more like WW1 in 21st century.

  3. So, just to be clear as the day is long, the “push-button” bolt release was not needed to prevent “Garand Thumb”. This is better explained (or I just had to see it a second time) in FW: Mauser’s Gewehr 41(M) Semiauto Rifle.
    Maybe just COVID brain fog on my part here but, did anyone ever think of adding this feature to a stripper or en-block rifle that had a follower hold-open where it would actually have been non-redundant?

  4. Interesting how Soviets were miles ahead in this category of firearms. While Germans were sweating G41, Soviets has already their AVS-36 long time in inventory. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVS-36

    Sergey Simonov was a talented designer; there are drawings of AVS-36 somewhere on net. If you search hard, you find them. Looking at his later SKS I am amazed how well ahead he was with that one too. Interesting is that the trigger mechanism and some other details are not the same between the two.

    • Yeah, but as Ian found out, the AVS-36 was totally impractical for an infantry rifle. In full auto, the thing bucked like a mule. You’d be lucky to hit a barn-sized target with a magazine dump.

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