The German Sturmgewehr is a firearm that needs no introduction. It was the world’s first true successful assault rifle (despite what some people have to say about the Fedorov Avtomat) and was used with great success by the forces of the Third Reich. This truly revolutionary instrument of war inspired countless other designs and influenced many small arms developed during the 20th century. It is amazing that these guns still make the news and are often still used in combat.
This particular example we will be reviewing is an early MP43/1 pre-production model. This rifle was manufactured between December 1942 and April 1943. This would have been just after the MKb 42 initial manufacturing tests. In December 1942 Hitler ordered all pre-production test weapons to halt due to some fighting in the Third Reich hierarchy, but going against the fuhrer some men re-designated it the MP-43 to place it under the sub machinegun contract and it was allowed to continue in secrecy (that only went on from 12/42 to 4/43 so this rifle is most likely manufactured in that period). The most April 1943 MP43′s and late production MP43′s were stamped over with STG-44 after Hitler approved the weapon for combat. Those are usually called overstamped 44′s. It does have the earlier front sight, and it does have a stepped barrel so that puts it in the 1943 time frame.
Another interesting note is that this particular example does not have a grenade launcher mount, a feature added to later rifles. These rifles manufacture dates can be pinned down to months, instead of years because they were only made for a short period and made several key changes in quick succession. It also does not have a muzzle nut. This isn’t necessarily a missing piece, since some of the early MP43′s didn’t have one. This rifle would have been issued almost exclusively to SS soldiers on the Eastern Front. Only a very small amount of MP43′s made it into Wehrmacht soldiers hands, and those went to the Fallschirmjäger units. The majority of captured MP43′s to survive were recovered by the Russians, which sold them to eastern block countries through to 60′s and eventually made them to the US through export sales. So, chances are this rifle belonged to an SS soldier on the eastern front. Pretty cool, huh?
This gun appears the manufacturer is Haenel (the original manufacturer, and most prolific). They produced around 185k rifles in total. You can find them by the “fxo” stamp, which is seen on both the upper and lower. However, the barrel is not stamped fxo which it should be. It is interesting to note that serials not matching are common because Haenel barrels do not match.
The Sturmgewehr field strips very similarly to an H&K G3 or MP5 Rifle. The rear pin that holds the stock in place is captive and when removed allows the lower to swing down, which is eerily reminiscent of the stamped H&K firearms. The trigger group even has a sear trip lever in the same location-
The similarities to the H&K designs do however end there, as the rifle does not use the famous roller-locked operating system, but rather a long stroke gas piston much like the AK family. The bolt is also of the non-rotating type and resembles the tilting bolt locking system of the SKS/Siminov rifle.
Holding a Sturmgewehr is holding a piece of history, as each one of these rifles is truly a time capsule that represents a high point in mid 20th century engineering that inspired many designs and designers alike. A special thanks goes out to my friend CJ for helping me research the history of this example. Stay tuned for a shooting review!