Optics on Sturmgewehrs: Was This Really A Thing?

We regularly see the MP43/44/StG44 portrayed with an optical sight (a ZF-4). But was this really something that the German Army actually issued? Well, in a word…no.

The first iteration of the Sturmgewehr, the MKb-42(H), was designed to potentially fit a ZF-41 long eye relief optic on its rear sight tower. A few of these setups were made during testing, but he General Staff dislike the mount and wanted something more solid.

The next iteration was a test in September and October 1943 comparing the new ZF-4 optic on the MP43/1 and the G43. The same type of mount was used for both rifles, and the MP43/1 had a stamped mounting rail spot welded to the right side of its receiver. However, it performed quite poorly in testing – much worse than the G43. The MP43 accuracy was awful (about 11 MOA on average), the optic was useless in bursts, and the scope couldn’t hold zero during burst fire. A followup test was done in January with ten more Sturmgewehr, and the same basic results were found again. The stamped receiver of the Sturmgewehr was simply not a solid mount for an optic.

That was the end of any possibility for making the MP43 or its later iterations into a marksman’s rifle. A few later-war guns were fitted with the mounting rail, but most likely for use with the Vampir night vision system (which was a close range affair and didn’t require a very repeatable mount).


  1. Optics in the 1940s were really in the developmental phase of find out what works, what breaks and what needs to be done to correct the situation and develop better mounts and optics inside the tube. precise repeatability and system durability with antifog coated lenses were still 20 years plus down the road.

  2. Any semi-auto infantry ‘small’ arm with ranging up to a long rifle’s – is IMO better without a fully automatic capability.

    Lots of rounds down range are NOT as useful as many think, unless they are aimed and fired accurately. Full auto from a personal carry weapon rarely IS. I was and sort of still am a MARKSMN, BTA I was trained with British ideas.

  3. Any semi-auto infantry ‘small’ arm with ranging up to a long rifle’s – is IMO better without a fully automatic capability.

    Lots of rounds down range are NOT as useful as many think, unless they are aimed and fired accurately. Full auto from a personal carry weapon rarely IS. I was and sort of still am a MARKSMAN, BTA I was trained with British ideas.

    • The problem here is that you’re confusing the issue.

      Aimed fire is a component of a successful combat action. It is not, however, the only component. You have to factor in Finagle, and psychological factors.

      I’ve got no doubt but that the Marines in the early days of Vietnam were probably some of the most proficient and highly-trained marksmen on the planet at that time. They were still losing firefights in actions where they were being overwhelmed by volume of fires that weren’t being delivered by exquisitely-trained marksmen. Similar to how well-trained German infantry got overwhelmed by large formations firing Shpagin 7.62mm submachineguns at them, inaccurately.

      Volume of fire delivered is a significant factor. You can lose a firefight or any other action simply because of that volume; you have to be able to return like volume when appropriate, or you’re screwed.

      I can’t honestly think of any post-WWI action that I’ve ever studied wherein single riflemen firing accurately won an engagement all by themselves, going up against opponents armed with automatic weapons. Anywhere. Ever. I stand to be corrected, on that, but I’m unable to recall ever having read of such a thing.

      You could probably get away with a semi-auto only individual weapon, but you’d better have copious amounts of automatic rifles and light machineguns scattered amongst the ranks of those poor bastards, or someone is going to clean house on their entire formation.

      Like it or not, automatic fire is a necessity. It may only really be a sop to the psychological factors, in a lot of cases, but it is still a requirement by all military forces for damned good practical reasons, derived from experience.

      I’d submit that this is one of those questions about which we simply do not have enough real verified information to really say much of anything profound. The research hasn’t been done, the data hasn’t been gathered, and I suspect that it may never be. It may very well be that the individual rifleman firing on fully automatic is an unnecessary superfluity, but I’ll be damned if I could think of any way to prove or disprove that thesis, short of wiring some unit for sound and sending it off into battle with some means of tracking who the hell actually shot who in combat.

      We ever do that? I’m expecting some rather shocking surprises that will likely upend a lot of “conventional wisdom”.

      • I don’t quite agree. The Australian Army never has believed in spraying poorly-aimed / un-aimed fully automatic fire at the enemy. It was frowned on. Wasting ammo was what it was called.

        But, we don’t have a record of failing despite that, do we?

        And, the 9th Division used aimed rifle or accurate Bren-LMG fire at the highly rapid German’s MG34 and MG42 teams – and succeeded – at Tobruk. The .303′ Bren has a very tight beaten zone

        I was trained as a Marksman in 1976. And, those values were still in place at that time.

        US forces were then renowned for brassing up enemy positions with lots of ammo.

        So we have two different traditions here, I ween.

        US forces were at the time recovering from their withdrawal / defeat by the Viet-Minh and Viet-Cong.
        I joined the army in 1968, and aimed fire was still andalways the go, from that time on.

      • Twaddle! If you are not being HIT, you are not being hit and can continue aiming and hitting.

        You are writing about USMC and US Army firing. Not about the Australian Army’s values.

        And those are to aim to kill! And it is how I was taught, and how I taught and coached.

      • Australian soldiers are not known for failing in action but accuracy of shooting is still the aim! 😉

        With an SMG or anything fully auto you get in close – if you can – and spray!

        Have you ever had to carry SA ammunition, a pack, webbing pouches, water bottles, rations, wound packs, and a weapon!?

        Wasting ammo is a waste of the soldier’s effort and that was still the value system in our quite successful army~

      • I disagree, US forces were famous for their use of this tactic; and were not well regarded in Commonwealth units because of it. Trust me that this is the case!

        British Commonwealth forces have always believed in aimed fire. Aimed fire is way more effective than you think. And it doesn’t waste ammunition, like US tactics just do.

        Two very different military cultures, are what’s in conflict here.

  4. High speed photography was available back then. Did nobody notice that the whole gun whips like a noodle when you shoot it? The welded-on reinforcements should have been obvious

    • As a former Marksman in the Australian Army I was never issued with a scoped anything.

      I did manage to keep a GP35 Browning and its Holster for a good part of my service of 8 years.

      • But the Australian Army had the good sense to never attempt to mount a ZF-4 to the BHP. And had they, they would’ve found it a much more rigid platform for optics than a Sturmgewehr.

        • In my time in the Australian Army the standard rifle was the FN-FAL, which Britain and the Commonwealth called the SLR-l1A1. The only ergonomically good place to put a scope was the sheet steel cover for the action. NOT a good option, and so it wasn’t done AFAIK. The FAL’s rear peep-sight is solidly mounted to the action-body -adjustable? – and the vertically adjustable foresight is mounted at the action-body’s forward end. The gap is sufficient to give good accuracy up to Marksman standard. It’s what I qualified on.

          We did still have heavy-barrelled SMLE’s selected out for fine accuracy and which did get a scope.

          NB there are still, likely milliards or .303″ ammunition in storage!

          The current infantry arm is the Steyr-AUG a Bull-pup design with a built-in scope. It is too small and is thus is shit for parades. As a member of the Royal Military College – Duntroon’s guides.

          I get to watch a fair few parades there and IMO&E ‘present arms’ just no longer cuts it. So, no implicit threat, even with a bayonet fixed. And, I’d doubt the weapon would be any use for bayonet fighting being too light!

          Geez I’m OLD!!! 😉 and 😉

          • Psychological factors are trained in by culture; pop your head up in Iraq with any infantry small arm up to and including an M2HB, and the populace remained entirely unimpressed. Have some guy with a pistol get out, unholster it? Prepare to witness terror incarnate.

            Why was this? In Iraq under Saddam, anyone with a pistol and the balls to draw the damn thing was likely a regime member, entitled to basically kill anyone and everything in sight, giving orders to all the rest. The pistol came out, you were well and truly screwed. This was a cultural norm with Iraqis.

            One of my female medics related an incident to me that illustrates this fact. They’d gone out into the countryside doing things, and she’d been working with our PA (physician’s assistant, who we had in lieu of an actual battalion surgeon…) doing the usual medical public service stuff. She’d spotted a kid with some really obvious and egregious issues that she and the PA thought ought to be MEDEVAC’d to higher; as I recall, it was burns or something. The community was highly resistant to the idea, once they brought it up; they wanted the magic cream to fix the burns that we had, wanted to hear nothing about actual burn treatment. Eventually, this all got horribly confrontational, and neither the PA nor my former medic were going to back down. They got the PL engaged in it, and there’s this entire platoon of heavily armed infantry trying to persuade this little village of desert-dwellers that they ought to let the child get on the helicopter they’d called. The village was apparently willing to go up against thirty or so heavily-armed guys with everything in the US Army inventory. The impasse came to an end when something threatening was said, accompanied by a knife. My old medic said “F*ck this…” and drew her M9.

            Cue a moment of shocked silence, followed by instant and total obeisance and compliance. That kid and the mother were bundled into a helicopter and flown off, not to be seen for six months or so while the kid was under treatment. Apparently, the whole “woman with drawn pistol” thing set off engrained behavioral patterns, and they realized that they might all die at her behest, or something. She never went that way again without receiving copious and exquisitely careful cooperation and compliance.

            Whole thing was remarked on by the entire chain of command at the time, and they started using pistols instead of machineguns when warning off vehicles getting too close to convoys. It worked; Iraqis would ignore lasers and M2HB machineguns being aimed at them and visibly loaded, but you pull out a pistol? Collective crapping of pants and they veered off.

            The whole thing is cultural. You don’t have the reflexive intimidation of a guy with an SLR using an AUG simply because the reflexes haven’t been programmed in… Yet.

          • Fascinating stuff.

            I must say that I am glad I never had to shoot anyone who was not following my instructions / commands!!

        • Folk’s opinions on the Browning GP35, aka High-Power, as appears in movie ‘Serpico[, would be welcome.

          As B’n Intelligence Sgt, I was issued with a ‘High-Power’ which I wore in a shoulder holster, plus an Armalite clipped to the bottom front of my Land-Rover’s driver’s seat.

          It took me quite a few visits to the short firing range and a fair few mags to be confident in firing the thing. One handed and two handed, mind!

          IME&O pistols are a very dangerous weapon for ‘one on one’s own’ accidents.

          Y’all may be surprised that I don’t own any guns. SWMBObeyed aka TMFW&Finance (?Ask) hates guns, and I do have a TEMPER!

          I developed it as an NCO!!

  5. ok, let’s back up a step or two. this post started off about the stg44. I have a replica from PTR41 with scope rail and replica zf4 scope. taking time to aim, the rifle will print sub 4inch groups at 100 yards.not great, but definitely minute of bad guy. also have an original zf4 scope (from my g43) and that scope and mount fit the stg just fine, and produce the same results. as far as the augs go, have one of those also with a Steyr scope, and it will hold sub 2 inch groups at 100yards. I have never had the honor of serving in the military, but have done a lot of reading. in my humble opinion, rapid fire does have value depending on situations, but aimed, sniper fire is invaluable in many cases.

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