posted on Sep, 18 2003 @ 02:28 PM
The whole concept of the assault rifle is very interesting.
The Wehrmacht was the first army to employ what we consider to be the modern assault rifle: The StG44, or Sturmgewehr 44.
The StG44 was the world's first truely effective assault rifle. It was introduced by the German army late in WWII, and if the war had continued
another year, the SG44 would have replaced every other rifle, light machine gun, and submachine gun in the Wehrmacht, including the antique Karabiner
98k and MP38. After the war the StG44 resulted in the outright replacement of almost every infantry gun in the western world, serving as the direct
inspiration for the Russian AK47, the most prolific gun in the world, and the indirect inspiration for practically everything else.
In the early stages of the war, the German army had considered the rifle to be a "support" weapon only. The primary weapon of the infantry was the
machine gun, and in a typical squad the soldiers carried considerably more ammunition for their MG34 than they did for their own rifles. The MG34
could pour out considerably more fire than all of the rifles put together, so they were almost an afterthought.
In combat things were never so simple. The machine gun proved to be far too large to be operated on the move, meaning that the troops could use only
their rifles while engaged in the blitzkrieg. Of course the static defense they faced had no such limitations, so the attackers were always outguned.
These problems were magnified in the cities and towns, where the weapon could not be brought to bear on their targets before they disappeared into the
For this reason the troops started making increased use of submachine guns, forming squads known as assault troops which could keep up a high rate of
fire while on the move. Unfortunately the submachine gun's use of pistol-sized rounds made for poor range, and the assault troops were really only
useful in urban settings. Once out in the country it was back to the rifles again.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that the Red Army had been in the process of replacing their own rifles in the immediate pre-war era. Increasing
numbers of semi-automatic Tokarev SVT38 and SVT40's were reaching the units, meaning that they outgunned their German counterparts considerably.
The solution was to use a round of "intermediate" power, somewhere between that of the full rifle cartridge, and the pistol rounds. Experiments with
such intermediate rounds had been going on since the 1930s, but had been constantly rejected for use by the army. By 1941 it was becoming clear that
there actually was a problem to solve, and a new round was developed, the 7.9x33mm Kurz (short).
By the end of the war, over 440K StG44's were produced. The assault rifle proved an invaluable weapon, especially on the Eastern front, where it was
first deployed. A properly trained soldier with an StG44 had a greatly improved tactical repertoire, in that he could effectively engage targets at
long range across open terrain, or in close range urban fighting, as well as provide cover fire in all situations as a machine gun role.
The wisdom of the assault rifle concept has been born out in that, with the exception of a few specialized positions such as the sniper, virtually
every soldier in every army today carries a descendent of the SG44.
Interestingly, the original nominclature for this weapon was going to be "MP43", where the MP stoood for "machine pistol". This was kkeeping in
tradition with previous German personal automatic weapons, such as the MP-42, or "Schmeisser". Hitler understood the value of this new weapon, and
wanted to give it a new, poppaganda-effective name, hence the term Sturmgewehr, or "Assault Rifle".