Gewehr 43 (Video)

German ordnance began looking for a military selfloading rifle to augment the K98k as early as the 1930s, although the pressures of war initially made that development a second priority. By 1941, though, two competing designs from the Walther and Mauser companies had been developed to the point of mass production, as the Gewehr 41(W) and Gewehr 41(M) rifles. These both shared a gas-trap operating system to comply with an HWa requirement that no gas ports be drilled into the barrels. When it came to locking systems, the two designs differed greatly, with the Walther being the more successful of the two. Thousands of examples of both designs were put into field testing, mostly in the East, and it because clear that the gas trap system was not suitable for combat. The Walther company responded with a new version of their design which used a much more modern short stroke gas piston, basically copied from the Soviet SVT-40 rifle.

The G43 was very quickly recognized as a significant improvement over the G41(W), and was very quickly put into production, with approximately 400,000 being manufactured by the end of the war. Well, I found an example of the G43 that I could shoot (thank you, Mike) and took it out for some video…


  1. Very nice. Thank you.
    I’d like one for my collection.
    Anyone have one for sale and where is the best place to explore getting one?
    If I heard you correctly, Ian, the Germany’s actually copied some aspects of the the Russian’s semi-auto rifles. Wow.
    And a few years later the Russians copied Germany’s StGs. Interesting

    • A keen observation, Pat. Weapons designers have seldom failed to recognize a good thing when they see it, and generally don’t hesitate to copy, modify or improve on such a feature. It’s mostly the politicians and military bureaucrats who often but not always, to be fair ) stymie such efforts under the guise of doctrine.

  2. It is pretty clear from the trials and tribulations of the German selfloading rifle effort that the HWa and German firearms companies were not paying much attention to John C. Garand’s efforts in the USA. The Japanese, on the other hand, did read the ‘American Rifleman’ and executed a good copy of the Garand rifle.

    • Garands design is along conventional lines as far as manufacturing is concerned: milled precision parts in abundance. The Germans were looking for technologies that allowed short production times and preferably unskilled labor. Stamped parts are the classic example: a very tricky technology, but once you master it, you can produce at great speeds. Due to its conventional design, the M1 received little attention.

      • I don’t blame the Germans for trying to do something other than copy the Garand design. First of all, their factories were getting the stuffing blown out of them by 24 hour bombing raids. With the environment going boom, there wasn’t much time for precision milling while dodging bomb debris. Secondly, the en-bloc clip feed of the Garand and the risk of the Garand-thumb must have been discovered by German soldiers at the front lines. If I were working in the munition factories, I would hate to make something which could make logistical hassles (limited resources, remember?). And I don’t want the rifle bolt to slam on my thumb.

        Imperial Japan tried to improve the Garand by increasing the magazine capacity to ten rounds. I would suppose the Japanese also anticipated Garand-thumb and added a catch to keep the bolt from slamming after loading, as the Type 4 Rifle was fed by Type 99 5-round stripper clips. You don’t want the bolt to slam before you load the second clip, do you? The Japanese tangent rear sight may have been awkward, though… anyone want to try indirect fire?

        • 10 rounds was the original capacity of the Garand, back when it was designed for the .276 round. It was only after it got redesigned for .30-06 that it ended up with an 8-round magazine.

      • JPeelen has a good point about manufacturability. The American gun designs around that time were great guns, but it took a lot of industrial capability and talent to make them. Lots of forgings and complex machining. Just look at an M1’s op rod: a manufacturing nightmare if there ever was one. Even today, collectors have them rebuilt, because even with the demand I’m not aware of anyone making them from scratch. Even the original trigger guard was a complex machined part. The gas tube is stainless steel and has broached splines. There are some stampings in an M1, but not many. The US was able to get away with that as Garand himself designed the manufacturing methods at Springfield and then during the War experienced arms makers like Winchester picked up the slack, and their pre-war sporting designs were not exactly easy to make either. Browning was a genius, but few of his designs could be accused of being easy to make, and he had designed most of Winchester’s arms that were in production at that point.

        Added to that, the US had been messing around with the M1 for the better part of the thirties and it went through several fundamental redesigns. For such a troubled introduction the Germans may not have taken it seriously.

        The US caught on with the manufacturability issue when the M3 replaced the Thompson at a much lower cost. Then pretty well forgot about it except for flirting with the concept in the Vietnam era as a way to arm freindly forces (Ian has some interesting histories of those on this website). The M16 is a clever design, but not something that could go into production quickly in dispersed factories and shops. Sure, the recievers could be machined by anyone with a CNC mill in their basement, but the bolt carrier would be a headache, as would be the bolt. But now, as then, it really does not matter since there is so much capacity making “modern sporting rifles” for the civilian market.

    • Hi, John :

      Good point there. If memory serves me correctly, Ian had included some information on the “Japanese Garand” either as a full article in its own right, or as part of a related article, some time ago ( I don’t remember exactly which ).

  3. The German Imperial army had looked into semi-auto rifles before WWI. Paul Mauser had promised the Kaiser a rifle and worked very hard to make a fieldable weapon, but never got them to work without having to used lubricated rounds. So the only of the dozen or so iterations he built to actually see front line duty were a few Model 09 given out to observers for the first aerial combat before fixed machinguns were put in.

  4. “These both shared a gas-trap operating system to comply with an HWa requirement that no gas ports be drilled into the barrels.”
    Why the Mauser and Walther choose the less-reliable gas-trap action when they can use short-recoil, long-recoil or toggle-delayed blowback principle without gas ports drilling?
    Were there another requirements which favour gas-trap principle?

      • Recoil mechanisms for rifles didn’t always work out well, since the iron sights could not be placed on the barrel directly (unlike pistols, used in close quarters). And there would be no place for a bayonet lug…

          • Certainly; the shooter will not even spot that barrel is moving. Same objection comes against notion that “guns with moving barrels are not as accurate”. Well let’s look at it realistically: gun experiences during firing (unless in solid mount) so many motions that the barrel total movement is in comparison insignificant. Case in point is the Johnson you mentioned or Barrett M82.

          • You are correct to a fair degree. For other than precision shooting, several “blow back” or reciprocation barred weapons have been very effective. The 1919A4/6 and M2 .50 Cal BMG are examples. Some system designs are good for some things and not for others.

    • They were ORDERED not to drill gas ports in the barrels. That was Waffenamt policy until way late in the game.

      A lot of this is described in great detail in the Collector Grade book “Sturmgewehr!”.

  5. One of the amazing things about weapons development is the amount of “not developed here” mentality that is recognized after the fact. Most every country at some time has fallen victim to this to the determent of their soldiers. If we think about the thousands of Garand’s and M1 Carbines that were falling into German ordnance hands, as well as the fact the Germans were very much aware of the development progress of the M1 Garand we must then ask why did they not see what worked and what did not. I think (opinion time folks)that it was a combination of many factors which we could spend months discussing. As an example, there are reports that it was Hitler himself that dictated no bore porting. Is this a fact .. until an actual document shows up we can only speculate or depend on a German technicians recollection “I was informed that”. This I do know, that when you fire a K/G 43 alongside the M1 Garand you may well gain a lot of respect for what was accomplished and for this weapon

    • The curator of the former Heereswaffenamt small arms collection told me that the army required the barrel not be drilled. (Of course Hitler was not involved.)
      Another requirement was that the bolt operation should be as on the rifle. This led to the oustandingly clumsy arrangement on the G41(M) by Mauser whcih ensured the rifle to be a total failure. Walther just ignored this.
      (I understand that U.S. authorities also require that controls on any new rifle must be the same as on the AR-15 types. So much for lessons learned.)

      Last not least keep timing in mind. The U.S. ground forces first appeared opposite German troops at the end of 1942 in North Africa. From then on the Wehrmacht was continuously on the retreat. I doubt that M1 rifles and carbines were captured in any significant numbers.

      • Hi, JPeelen :

        Very good call and excellent observations. However, I would contend that M1 Garand rifles and M1 carbines certainly were captured and evaluated in large-enough quantities by the Germans, regardless of advance or retreat, for a proper appreciation. It is a matter of record that the Waffen-SS ( particularly armored units ), for example, greatly admired the M1 carbine for its practical combination of intermediate firepower, compactness and light weight, and often used the M1 whenever they could obtain sufficient quantities of the gun and its ammunition.

        The apparent collective failure of the German Army and the German political-industrial machine as a whole to fully incorporate the lessons to be learned from captured M1 Garands, M1 carbines, and sundry other weapons probably has more to do with a combination of bureaucratic inertia, the ongoing momentum already engendered by the entrained existing weapons procurement process, the “not made here” syndrome, home-grown self-interests ( manufacturing and economic factors included ) and, most importantly, the overall inertia ( and consequently slow reaction times ) inherent in any large-scale government, organization or business model. Something on this scale, even when subject to the exigencies of wartime demand, is much more difficult to change in mid-stream than most people realize. Certainly, there are exceptions to the rule, but these are generally exactly that — outliers to the norm. Examples of this would encompass the birth of concepts which gave rise to weapons such as the StG44, generally regarded as the first true assault rifle. This was a small-arms innovation that amalgamated several prior concepts in a practical and concrete form in spite of the gross pressures engendered by the factors mentioned above.

        In the end, one must conclude that, with so many variables in the overall spectrum of political/economic/military wartime possibilities, combined with the changing dynamics inherent in such a situation, that each and every individual variation must be closely examined in the light of its own merits.

        • I second the motion! As usual Earl has captured and synopsized in his usual eloquent form the problems Germany it’s self created and then became victim to. The K/G43 is nothing the Germans engineers need be ashamed of. I would certainly like to own a K43 built exactly as the original but using the production capabilities we have right now. Thanks Earl.

          • You’re welcome, Thomas, as always. I like the idea of a current-production Gewehr 43 as you have suggested. Although it is probably highly wishful thinking on my part, there might still be an off-chance that a small U.S. or European manufacturer will, at some point, make a few, provided there is enough interest to justify the cost.

  6. The usual action sites can be used to purchase a G43. I purchased a G43 on I highly recommend Darren Weavers book, “Hitler’s Garand” for those interested in this rifle.

  7. If you want a real challenge try taking one of these apart and then putting it back together (the really hard part) that was made in 1945 without the bolt catch.

      • The G41(W) video describes the sequence very well and applies to the G43 as well. However the 1945 manufactured G43s without the bolt catch you better hold the bolt assembly together when you remove it from the receiver or parts will go flying. Reassembly is harder.

  8. I really enjoy this site. The videos are very interesting, and it is obvious that Ian enjoys his work. Very interesting video on the German g-43 rifle. I was not familiar with it.

  9. Again, nice piece of specialized gun-journalism. One observation of gas system, in particular ‘stationary-reversed’ piston plus the insert for quick takedown; it resembles strongly current HK line of gas powered rifles. Just like the practice goes, designers look around and take notice before they do anything new. The inventiveness takes a second seat and that’s fine I guess.

      • FAL had a piston of conventional conception, fitting into short (tube) gas chamber. The AR-18 and G-36 are reversed and similar to what we see here. This was core of my note. I had some activity about FAL so I somehow recall it, more less.

      • Not quite; FAL has more conventional (male) piston falling into short gas tube with plug in front. AR-18 and its sibling G-36 are of reversed conception, similar to what we see here. Not that I’d fault FAL design, but removable centre piece is clever touch.

  10. It’s worth noting that the prohibition on drilling a gas port in the barrel was not so insane for the period. Besides what was mentioned in the video, something that is alluded to by Hatcher and other period authors is that, without chroming or stainless steel, gas-operated guns tend to wear themselves out very quickly shooting corrosive ammo. I suspect, but have no confirmation, that the German prohibition was following similar logic. A gas trap would be much easier to clean for the soldiers in the field, and much easier to replace, if need be, than a port drilled in the barrel. This has a lot to do, I think, with why gas trap rifles were so popular for such a long time before the later (non gas-trap) Garands came around.

  11. One big sticky issue nobody seems to have mentioned is the G43’s magazine. Sure, it’s a detachable magazine, but Walther designed the parent rifle to be loaded with stripper clips, with the magazine detachable primarily for cleaning. In practice, soldiers would optimistically get two spare magazines and a pouch of K98 clips–logistical problems with production meant you would not be issued a rifle with at least five magazines instead of having to take the Mauser clips. Like the Lee-Enfield, one needs to load two clips into the magazine in order to be fully loaded, and the process is slower than loading an SKS 10-round clip.

    Got any independent solutions to the problem apart from loading a single clip and hoping this isn’t an all-out firefight? The German answer to the issue: “In our infantry combat doctrine, the general purpose machine gun is the primary source of firepower, which means we bunch around the MG42’s (and we have plenty of machine guns, by the way). That’s bad for Garand-toting GI’s jumping around the battlefield.”

  12. The study of these rifles is very interesting I own a G41 (W), G41 (M) and G/K43’s and they are a fascinating, they really have become one of my favorite collections.

  13. @ Denny/Oct.14,2013/10:40 a.m. ; @ thomas/Oct.14th,2013/11:05 a.m.; @ thomas /Oct.14th 2013/8:03 a.m. :

    Good observations. I agree almost wholeheartedly.

  14. From personal experience operating both the G41 and the G43, cleaning after shooting corrosive ammunition takes about the same time. Instead of a gas tube and piston one has to clean a smaller gas piston nut and cone. Bolt assembly for both rifle sometimes feels like it requires 3 hands.
    After shooting the M1, SVT and 41/43 I believe the 43 is the most user friendly for handling, recoil and follow on shot.

    • Your note is of special value since it is rare that any of contributors (part of Ian) had chance to shoot these weapons.
      I like to make a general note (and this is just my feel in absence of factual knowledge) that in true combat situation, the weapons such as these rifles were not stripped down to last detail. I imagine, that bore and chamber plus piston were priority, rest received just casual care, situation permitting.

      This what I am saying is supported by concept of breech mechanism, being a unit and as you say, “feels like it requires 3 hands”. I consider it quite thoughtful and practical.

      • Denny .. If I might say, you are very much correct as far as my own experience goes. I have carried a variety of weapons under “operational” conditions (where targets shoot back), Asia, Central America and Middle East. In a base camp situation or when with large conventional force cleaning of weapons is possible and for the most part conducted daily. HOWEVER, when engaged in an operation where you are constantly moving, searching, and are subject to becoming engaged at any moment for many days on end; cleaning your weapon is a very rudimentary action at best consisting of brushing certain parts (without disassembly) and checking magazines. In addition to just not wanting to make ANY noise, a day of “busting bush” tends to make one very tired and very hipped. While attached to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in 1965 on a couple S&D (Search and Destroy)operation of battalion size, one their company’s SOP was to only break open the M16, with magazine still in place and using a tooth brush and shaving brush (yep a shaving brush)brush it off, add a dab of grease, and close it up. Magazine in place so only a second was necessary to be shooting if necessary, and always the two man rule. I can well imagine the Germans engineers gave a lot of thought to what the German soldier in a combat situation lasting many days and with minimal cleaning equipment, would or could actually do to keep his K/G43 operating.

        • Thomas,

          thanks for your supportive note. I was not, luckily enough for me, unlike you in actual combat situation, although psychological tension was quite high and so was resultant level of preparedness. Thanks God, never ended up in real war, because that would have been likely end of human race.

          My ‘advantage’ if we can call it that way, is the realism with which I see military force application. This may have to do with the environment and tradition I grew up in; I recall very well what my grandpa told me about his service on Italian front. And surely, we were fed constantly with soviet ‘experience’ to fullest. So, part of seeing the destructive element, it looked like ‘ready to go’ day to day. We got used to it.

          Lastly, I must admit that I am not liable to Hollywood indoctrination; I can trace this with some readers in this and other blogs. That, as you know yourself, has very little to do with realism. It is my honour to converse with a man, who has seen it as it is, in its naked truth – and made it out alive.

        • Since I unintentionally skipped issue of weapon cleaning, I like to shortly return to this subject. We had, during my basic regular training, weekly 1-2 hours allotted to “weapon cleaning”, even if it was not shot just before. It was supposed to instill the practice as a habit in soldier’s mind.

          There was of course a limit as to what we were allowed to take apart (for example, in that design the firing pin remains captured in the bolt). The job was so easy that we mostly filled time with other activities… ))))) In any case, it ended with inspection of bore and gas compartment by our NCOs.

          • Denny .. If I might ask, how often did you go to the range to fire … not just qualification, but firing just for practice and marksmanship maintenance. The US has nearly always had a very poor record of mandatory marksmanship practice firing.

          • From what I recall, it was twice a year emptying 2 magazines in basic training for enlisted men. Not a lot by any standard. Those who were picked into NCO school later (I was one of them) had about twice as much. But what has to be considered is, that the units I was with had as prime task building pontoon bridges (or similar means of keeping first echelon units moving), laying mine fields, demining and doing destruction work (all kinds of explosives). I believe it is called “land engineers”.
            Those who were in mechanised infantry units, have seen lots more of target practise including moving targets.

          • Denny .. We in the US have historically had that same attitude .. “Support or rear are troops don’t need as much weapons training, they are not in the line” and time and time again the REAR AREA has quickly turned into a FRONT area. In addition when front line troops run short many times in the past have the support and rear echelon trip be shoved up front, and cost lives. Our Marines have since inception considered that “Every Marine is a rifleman first, and every other job is secondary”. We in the Army are sometimes a little slow on the up-take. Thank you for your reply .. I like conversing with folks from other countries or that have been in other countries military.

          • In my recollection of doctrines in WP armies and NATO, more specifically U.S. Army as far as small arms use during 60-70s almost switched. We had almost always emphasis on fire power thru volume with not necessarily top precision while U.S. approach of the time was single-shot, accurate shooting. That has changed thru following decades and now we can see the emphasis on volume of fire being a priority.

  15. Denny .. You might not be aware that during and after our Civil War (1861-1865)and until the late 1870’s the US Army had no published formal marksmanship training regulation. There was no specific allocation of funds for “rifle training.” That changed in the early 1890’s and continued to get better all during WW I and WW II. The Korean war showed again the need for controlled automatic fire in a shoulder weapon. The Soviet standardizing first on the SKS, then the AK47 throughout the WP forces brought home the need for the new infantry rifle which had been languishing in development since 1945. The M14 entered service in 1958-59. Beginning in the early 60’s the US Army shifted dramatically away from individual precision marksmanship. This was due to the increased deployments of US Forces to Viet Nam and the jungle environment, where extended range engagement of targets became a non priority, and adding to that, the failure of the M14 rifle to be controllable on full automatic as was originally envisioned, the decision was made to switch to a small caliber, light and selective fire rifle; the AR15 then M16. Along with in came the switch in doctrine from single well aimed shots to high volume of fire at short to medium range. Training on ranges shifted to “Train Fire, Quick Fire, and several other training program that placed emphasis “massive amounts of rounds going down range is sure to hit somebody” mentality as an answer; which proved to be a fallacy. Automatic fire certainly has it place. I am a firm believer in taking the initiative with overwhelming accurate automatic fire, in attack and defense then switching to aimed semi auto fire. Of course this is a very over simplification of a complex subject.

    • Thomas, you views nearly match with my own. Just to fill you little bit on those tactical issues. We were aware (individually and most certainly on higher levels) as to what the U.S. way of doing things was. Myself personally, I followed the trends with keen interest even prior to my military service. And, believe it or not, we had plenty of Western including American movies to see. So much for ‘communism’ or how you want to call it.

      We had a martial/ military system of marksmanship starting with public schools. Yes, kids plinking with air rifles in classrooms or gymnasium. Later we had small bores, this was common at college and hi-school level. There were special events thru curriculum to look after that. In some of it were involved females, but they were relegated mostly to medical services and support to civilians. Civil defence shelters were everywhere and of solid built. On this side of pond I have not see anything of that kind. Plan was big and widespread; like I said before, lucky for us all it did not come to fruition.

      • You are so right .. things can get very very bad very very fast. As you may know; there are millions of hunters in the US, but only very recently has a large portion of the under 50 age group taken a real interest in shooting. Viet Nam took a tool on how shooting and such were viewed. We have had for a long time the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program)which replaced the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) which was created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act. The CMP tries to encourage marksmanship for civilians but is really a commercial operation. As best I know the US never had a mandatory weapons training program on schools. Always voluntary.

        • That’s the thing about American way of life – all too commercial. We had it kind of sickening too – way too ideologically based.

          Is there any way between? Well, you just said it: voluntary, non-profit action. Couple of buddies, share ammo and beer and have fun. Good reading Thomas, thanks!

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