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Despite the orders of Hitler, the German army was so determined to develop and use the assault rifle that had been designed by Lois Schleisser, that it his the experimental work under a new name. The new weapon was to fire the new Porte kurz (short) 7.92-mm cartridge. Originally the new rifle/cartridge combination was known as the Maschinenkarabiner 42(H) (Machine Carbine, the H stood for Haenel), but no distinct attention was paid once Hitler had issued his ill-advised order until the project name was changed to Machinenpistole 43, or MP 43. With the weapon in this form the army went ahead from the development to the production stage, and the first units were rushed to the Eastern Front where they proved invaluable.

The MP 43 was the first of the assault rifles that would later come to dominate all the world’s armories. The MP 43 could fire a single round, or be switched to fully-automatic fire. This changed the tactics by which the German army fought; no longer were troops dependant on machine gun support, they now carried their own fire support in a relatively light and portable package. The MP 43’s ability in both defense and attack comes from the type of round it fired. The relatively low-powered 7.92 mm shell was adequate for most combat conditions, yet light enough to allow the MP 43 to be fired from the hip while attacking. The shock value of many attacking troops all with their own “machine gun” was often enough to convince allied troops to fall back.

Once the importance of this firepower was realized the MP 43 became a priority of weapon production and more and more urgent requests came from front-line troops. Initial production units went to elite combat units but most went to the Eastern Front where they were most needed. Unusually for wartime Germany, priority went to production rather than research and development. The only major design change was the MP 43/1 which had fittings for a grenade launching cup on the muzzle. In 1944 Hitler rescinded his opposition to the MP 43 and bestowed the more accurate designation of Sturmgewher 44 (StG 44) but there were almost no alterations to the weapon.

Some accessories were produced for the Mp 43 series. One was an infa-red night sight knows as Vampir, but one of the oddest items ever to be produced for any weapon was the Krummlauf curved barrel that could direct bullets around corners. Apparently this device was to be used to kill tank killer squads within cities. The curved barrels were intended to direct fire at angles between thirty degrees and 45 degrees; special mirrored sights were devised to aim around blind corners. Few were actually produced and even fewer were used operationally. The device never worked properly and took up research and development time and resources that could have better been spent on more practical projects.

After the war large numbers of MP 43s were used by several nations such as Czechoslovakia, and were also used during some of the early Arab-Israeli conflicts. A few still turn up in the hands of ‘freedom fighters’ in Africa and elsewhere.

Specifications: StG 44

  • Calibre: 7.92 mm
  • Length: 940mm (37 in.)
  • Length of barrel: 419 mm (16.5 in)
  • Weight: 5.22 kg (11.5 lb)
  • Muzzle velocity: 650 m (2,132 ft) per second
  • Magazine: 30 round box
  • Cyclic rate of fire: 500 rounds per minute
Source: The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II

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