Early WWII German Semi-Automatic Rifles

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Gewehr 41

The Gewehr 41 was Germany’s first attempt at a semi-automatic rifle in the class of the American M1 Garand. The designation Gewehr 41 was given to two different weapons (although they look rather identical, they differ a lot and are not based on each other). A first weapon made by Mauser, the Gewehr 41 (M) (“rifle 41”, “M”-suffix denominating the producer Mauser) or G 41 (M) failed miserably, only 6,673 (other sources: 14,334) were produced before production was halted, and of these the army returned 1,673 as unusable. The story on the Gewehr 41 abbreviated G 41 produced by Walther isn’t much different; although it had a much simpler and reliable system that also eased production, this second G 41 still was both barrel-heavy and very sensitive to dirt because of the gas-nozzle located at the muzzle. This unfortunate placement of the gas-extraction at the muzzle was necessary because the advising army weapon’s bureau insisted that no holes be drilled into the barrel itself (!). The weapon was very unpopular among the troops. Still, 122,907 were built well into 1944.
Both the the G 41 (M) and the G 41 could be fixed with bayonets, early models often were fitted with the small 1.5x scopes, late G 41 mounted the 4x scopes. The weapon at right shows a G 41 with Zielfernrohr 41 scope of 1.5x magnification. Neither model could use the Schiessbecher rifle-grenade firing device. Both weapons featured an internal magazine for 10 rounds, it was loaded with 2 of the regular Mauser 5-round clips; the regular Mauser 98k ammo pouches were used.. Technical data for G 41 : length 114cm; barrel length 55cm; weight (empty) 4.6kg; Vo 745m/s; ammunition: Infanteriepatrone 7,92×57

Gewehr 43

After the weapon’s bureau of the army nullified their requirement that there be no holes drilled into the barrel itself for the gas-mechanism to work for the automatic rifle system, the company Walther went on to develop the Gewehr 43. This new semi-automatic rifle had the extraction nozzle drilled into the barrel and featured a removable 10-round magazine. The G 43 was a beautiful design which was much cheaper and faster to produce. The weapon’s designation was later changed to Karabiner 43, abbreviated K 43, although the weapon really wasn’t a carbine; it was envisioned to replace the Mauser Karabiner 98k as the standard infantry rifle. Production started in October 1943; total production until the end of the war was 402,713 including at least 53,435 sniper rifles: the well-designed and well-machined K 43 was a preferred sniper weapon and was fitted with the Zielfernrohr 43, also called ZF 4, scope with a magnification of 4x. The weapon could use the Schiessbecher device for firing rifle grenades and could use a Schalldämpfer silencer; however, the G 43 could not fix a bayonet. Technical data: length 112cm; length barrel 55cm (versions with barrel lengths of 60cm, 65cm and even 70cm existed); weight empty (w/o magazine and w/o scope) 4.1kg; weight magazine (empty) 230g; weight Zielfernrohr 43 scope: 1.3kg; ammunition: Infanteriepatrone 7,92×57; Vo 745m/s; practical rate of fire 30 rounds per minute;

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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