Shooting the Gustloff VG1-5

Edit: Sorry, guys! I managed to link to an unrelated video. It’s fixed now. 🙂

The Volksturmgewehr Gustloff (commonly and incorrectly called the VG1-5) was a last-ditch rifle developed by Germany at the end of World War II. Only a few thousand were made, and they did not make a significant impact on the war. The rifle was intended to are the Volksturm, the German equivalent of the Home Guard – basically old men and children. It was semiauto only and chambered for the 7.92×33 Kurz cartridge used in the MP44/StG44 (it also used the MP44/StG44 magazine). Mechanically, the Gustloff is somewhere between a direct blowback and delayed blowback design. It has a delaying feature which we will discuss in the video, but the gun works equally well without it.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to shoot and disassemble a Gustloff VG1-5 recently and debunk one of the common internet beliefs about the gun. Enjoy the video!


  1. is the real video.

    What just astonishes me is that the VG1-5 is the third reich industry at their most desperate, last-ditch-just-get-it-out-the-door… and it STILL seems more labour-intensive than an akm. It’s like the engineers had some unshakable artisan code. “jes, Ich know ze Russe is ootside, büt, büt… I hav my Honour! It iz not done!”
    And it is a beautiful blowback carbine-pistol.
    (Wonder if… a new one in 10mm Auto…)

    • I disagree about how labor intensive it is compared to the akm. Just think about machining an akm bolt carrier. Now think about the breach block on the vg 1-5. A lathe operation and one pass on a horizontal mill and you’re mostly done. Same thing with the trunnions. The vg 1-5 trunnion is a block of steel with a hole in it. akm trunnion, I don’t even know where to start.. oh and a 10mm auto on would be cool.

  2. Great Review !
    I also think that it’s rather a direct blowback design than a delayed blowback gun … because if the bullet has reached that far end of the barrel when the holes start and the bolt is still open in safe distance, then it pretty much relies on bolt weight (+ spring tension). But who knows? Germans have always been very precise gun makers and perhaps they’ve calculated everything well !

  3. now that is one complex, labour intensive weapon to manufacture, the front gas ports remind me of an MG42 in an opposite way, if they were further back maybe the recoil and slide weight would be reduced. Steyr had a pistol on that gas delayed blowback principal, it never got far though.

  4. Have you guys ever considered upgrading your video recording device to something that records in high definition? If you’re going to make more videos of super rare guns like this one or other firearms that have never been fired on video before, please consider it!

  5. It’s cool that we have a resource in the internet where we can see cool guns like this. Most of us would never get to see these if all we had were our local gun stores. Although we get much that is bad on the internet there are some really cool things too. And I imagine for collectors and gun smiths that the internet is a totally awesome resource for parts and information on obscure guns!

    Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Chamber inspection opening? Them Krautz are LAZY, didn’t even have to rotate the gun to see through the ejection port. When you rectract the slide just a triffle, you’ll have a beautiful vista of the chamber, as lit through the ejection opening.

  7. Many thanks for the vid.

    Ian V Hogg, shows photos of a stamped and welded construction, gas delayed blow back “volks pistole”, in his “Encyclopedia of small arms” but (in his usual and very annoying style – almost but not quite as annoying as Smith), he did not indicate where the example is housed, or give any references for his sources of information.

    I’ve used a Steyr GB, it is an unbelievably large pistol, with a mag that feeds from alternate sides, making re-loading a less painful operation than most high capacity wonder nines. IIRC, it was 18 shot. The size and weight made it very pleasant to shoot.

    I haven’t done the maths, but I suspect that the Steyr uses gas to spread the felt recoil impulse over a longer time interval, and to decelerate and buffer the slide impact on the pistol’s frame, and thus allow a lighter recoil spring to be used, at least as much, if not more than it uses gas to delay the blowback.

    The ?Rogach pirate copy of the Steyr, allong with the Campo Giro, Astra and one of the HK pistols all used simillar weight recoiling elements with plain blowback in 9mm Largo and 9mmP, but the Spanish pistols had to use brutally strong recoil springs.

    • The Volkspistole was very much experimental, and was tested both as a gas-delayed action and as straight blowback. There is one at the NFC (“Pattern Room”) in England, and we happen to have done a video on it which will be posted in a couple weeks. 😉

  8. When pointing out a part use a laser or brightly colored pointer and count to 3 (3 seconds).

    Good job as always.

  9. Thanks for another great video. This rifle is one that I have for year been interested in. You did point out a few design/construction things that I had questions about or didn’t know. Keep up the great work.

  10. In the HK P7 pistol the gas piston area is too small and it takes too much time to fill the piston chamber with gas to have any effect on the actual locking of the bolt. It is only a recoil buffer for the slide.
    In the VG1-5 the orifices are very close to the muzzle plus the gas chamber is pretty large. I think it does not help to lock the bolt.

    Can you tell something about the extractor and the ejector? Does the cartridge chamber have flutes?

    • Thanks for asking about the extraction and chamber fluting! It’s a question that I’ve been wondering about for a while too.

      Although the case is 6mm (~1/4″) shorter than the 7.62x39mm Soviet round, the full .47″ diameter case body means there’s a lot more of a shoulder to promote case separation or shoulder splitting.

      even Oerlikon cannon designs, with their purposely designed straight or minimal shouldered, and well greased cases, had an interrupter, to prevent the bolt going forward, if a case neck got left behind in the chamber, suggesting that it happened often enough.

      The 5.45mm Soviet round had an increased thickness of “rim” to prevent the extractor from biting through it, due to lack of primary extraction in the rotate bolt to lock AK designs.

      I’m guessing that the VG1-5 has inherently tighter head spacing than an AK (the case is constantly being pushed up to the shoulder in the chamber – as opposed to the tolerances inherent in case, locking lug and locking seat design and manufacture in the AK)and therefore there may be less radial case expansion during firing, and less tendency for the case to stick.

      I wonder whether the gas delay (as well as its buffering function) was to marginally slow the case and bolt movement – just sufficiently to prevent the case shoulder getting torn off and left behind in the chamber?

      I’m guessing that bolt mass alone kept the initial movement sufficeintly small to keep the case head web in the chamber, and the case walls supported until the bullet cleared the bore.

  11. The VG1-5 did have a fluted chamber according to a couple of sources. “Desperate Measures” and the 1972 Guns & Ammo Annual(test firing, etc). I’d guess that the gas delay has more to do with the longevity of the rifle and the controllablity. The MP507 was 1st designed as a selective fire rifle. The full auto feature was removed. MP507 was the real model id of this rifle & is what is often used by German historians currently.

    • Martin,
      Many thanks for sharing the fluted chamber and model number info.

      Tying your reply and Markus’ together;

      I seem to remember reading that the H&K P7 had difficulty meeting the requirement to survive a given number of rounds fired without breakage. In that light, gas buffering makes a lot of sense.

      It is interesting that despite the desperate situation, that the complications of gas buffering were developed, rather than taking the expedient route of firing from an open bolt and using advance primer ignition to both allow a lighter bolt and to spread the recoil impulse over a longer time period.

  12. Keith,
    I suspect that Barnitzke had worked the gas buffering system out before designing this rifle in his experiments. Given that he(and staff?) spent 3 weeks designing this rifle, he stayed with what he had worked with already.

  13. The chamber has three flutes that are in the neck and shoulder section and slightly into the body.The round hole in the slide is to check quickly if the slide is fully closed, however there is a trigger blocking bar that does not permit the trigger to be pulled until the slide is forward. Enjoyed the video.

  14. If the gas ports were further back in this kind of design would a true gas delayed blow back be possible with an intermediate round ?

    Has it been done ?

  15. Ian, do you maybe know what is the total mass of the “slide” ? Also, the total mass of the rifle ?

    Also, was this gun ever being tested with the gas ports on the barrel blocked, to see if there is any difference, and thus to find out if this gas delay system is actually delaying the slide by any means, or it is in practice as you say really just a plain blowback intermediate round rifle ?

  16. Sorry, Storm, but I didn’t have a scale around to check the weight. I’m told it ought to be about 6.5 pounds of reciprocating mass, and that sounds about right. The whole gun comes in at probably 8-9 pounds, and it’s very front-heavy.

  17. Yes, apparently for that caliber, the said mass is OK. What are you thoughts in reworking this system to either 7.62×39 (I suppose better solution) or 5.56mm (which I suppose is more trickier due to higher pressure) ?

    One interesting thing is that, now freshly liquidated HZA Kulmbach from Germany (apparently the business wasn’t going too well?), that made FG 42 and MP 44, MP38 etc. reproductions, made also this VG reproduction, but slightly modified; the barrel was 16.5 inches long compared to original 15 inches, undoubtly to comply with US federal laws.
    But the other thing is that the mass of rifle was 1 kg higher (5.5 kg for their BD 1-5 reproduction) than what I’ve seen so far for original “VG 1-5” (or Gustloff VG, Gerat 507).
    That makes me wonder that either actual mass of the original german rifle is heavier than “facts presented” 4.5 kg, or, more likely, HZA Kulmbach reworked this design by adding (even) more mass to the slide, probably working on the safe side because they (and very much likely it is in the original rifle too as you stated) simply couldn’t make it work to benefit in some kind of breeck locking with existing gas system, so they wisely opted to add more mass, than to compromise the overall safety of the rifle. And I doubt that 1.5 inches added in barrel length increase the bullet velocity and thrust on the bolt to the degree that 1kg heavier bolt is needed.

  18. How about a modified version in something like FN 5.7 or even a .221 Fireball or .300 Whisper? Shorter cartridges, less powder, but a modified blowback operation like that… What about something even more special? A bullpup version based on the pistol-type slide with the end cover, with the magazine in the pistol grip? I smell a project:P

  19. On 5:40, little correction, it could puzzle the viewers;
    gas does not fill the “slide” (that Ian is pointing finger to), but rather the front slide support cylinder thats on upper left.

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