Before The Sturmgewehr: Assault Rifle Developments Prior to 1942

The author clears a double-feed on a malfunctioning StG-44.

The author clears a double-feed on a malfunctioning StG-44.

The assault rifle is the defining individual weapon of warfare in the latter half of the 20th century, and the 21st. It’s history is deeply intertwined with the political and war-making developments of the era. Fast, mechanized maneuver warfare, the decline of cavalry, the continuing refinement of artillery, and perhaps most of all, the invention of the infantry mortar, meant that large formations of men firing powerful rifles at targets thousands of yards away dissolved, and were replaced by men with carbine-length bolt action rifles fighting through trenches, between bocages, and in jungles. Though by World War II trench warfare had faded from dominance, infantry were still expected to assault positions and fortifications, often more heavily defended than the trenches in the First World War were. This need, and the greatly reduced emphasis on long-range ballistics, formed the bedrock of requirements for what would later be called “assault rifles” in the West.

The weapon that lent its name to these rifles was the German Sturmgewehr, which was the first of its type to be issued in large numbers to the troops of any nation. However, it was not the first of its kind in the world. What follows is a collection of widely forgotten rifles that were important to the development of the late 20th Century’s primary individual weapon, though not all strictly qualify as “assault rifles” by all definitions. Some of the more well-known weapons (such as the BAR or Chauchat) have been left off this list for the sake of brevity, despite also being important milestones in the history of the modern assault rifle.

 

The Cei-Rigotti (Italy)

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The Cei-Rigotti. Image source: curiosarmas.blogspot.com

One of the earliest rifles that catches our attention is the Italian Cei-Rigotti of 1900, a very short, handy automatic weapon chambered for a rifle caliber. When this (rather obscure) rifle is discussed in literature, it is usually cited as being in Italian 6.5 Carcano caliber; however, all the examples known to the author are actually chambered in the 7.65mm Argentine caliber, making it a very powerful weapon in a full-size rifle caliber. Further, the rifle’s magazines were not quick-detachable, meaning it had to be reloaded via stripper clips. Because of its characteristics, it fails to meet some definitions of the term “assault rifle”, but it’s clear that it was designed to be a light, handy carbine, firing powerful rifle ammunition with an automatic fire mode. The Cei-Rigotti was a highly advanced design for 1900, featuring several elements that wouldn’t become common on rifles until half a century later. It was short-stroke gas piston operated, with a rotating bolt connected to the gas system by an operating rod on the right side (in a manner foreshadowing the Garand rifle). The bolt unlocked via a cam track in the bolt body into which a lug on the op rod fit, much like a Lewis Gun. While the action was based on that of the Carcano rifle, the Cei-Rigotti was a newly manufactured weapon, not a conversion of existing rifles.

 

The Rossignol ENT B1 (France)

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The Rossignol ENT B1. Image source: forums.guns.ru

Moving West from Italy, in France in the same year, the French undertook a modernization program to replace their bolt action Lebel rifles with self-loading weapons. One of these projects was the Rossignol ENT B1, a self-loading rifle in a 6x60mm round with an automatic fire mode. Despite being select-fire, having a detachable box magazine, and arguably being chambered in an intermediate caliber, the ENT B1 weighed over twenty pounds, and was probably not very convenient for a normal infantryman to carry. The ENT B1 seems to have been a gas-operated rotary bolt design utilizing an operating rod. Interestingly, the ENT B1 was intended to function as both an infantry rifle and a light machine gun, arguably making it one of the first “family of weapons” designs in military history. Not much else is known to the author about this rifle.

 

The Fedorov Avtomat (Russia)

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The Fedorov Avtomat. Image source: wikipedia.org

One of the more well-known early developments is the Fedorov Avtomat rifle, designed by a Russian Imperial Army captain of the same name starting in 1906. The original experimental rifles were chambered in a cartridge of Captain Fedorov’s own design, a powerful 6.5x57mm caliber producing 3,140 J to 3,850 J (depending on the source). This cartridge was possibly too large for controllable automatic fire, but the Fedorov rifle was later redesigned in 1915 for the 6.5x51SR cartridge, which produced only 2,500 J, and the new rifles fed from detachable box magazines, not stripper clips like the older models. The Fedorov mechanism was recoil-operated, with a tilting locking block similar to that of the much later Vz. 58 rifle, but attached to the barrel instead of the bolt. Even if the initial concept fired full-power ammunition, the 1915 Fedorov Avtomat probably represents the first weapon in history to unambiguously qualify as an assault rifle. Some sources say Fedorov intended his rifle to be an individual weapon, but in service with the Russian Army, it was most often used as a light machine gun.

 

Winchester Model 1907 (Select-Fire) (USA/France)

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Select-fire Winchester 1907. Image source: raigap.livejournal.com

About 2,500 Winchester Model 1907 selfloaders were ordered by the French Army during World War I as trench-clearing and aircraft guns. Many were modified at the Winchester factory with large-capacity magazines and select-fire capability. Fielded and used in combat in 1917-18, these modified Winchesters possibly represent the first assault rifles to enter service with any army (the Fedorov did not enter service with the Russian Army until 1918). The Winchester 1907 was a blowback rifle, firing powerful round-nosed .351 WSL ammunition, equivalent in energy to the later 7.62x39mm intermediate cartridge of the AK rifle.

 

Winchester Model 1917 Machine Rifle (USA)

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The Winchester Model 1917 Machine Rifle and its pointed bullet loading of the .351 WSL cartridge. Image source: mpopenker.livejournal.com

The United States itself contributes to the story of very early assault rifles, too. The Winchester Model 1917 Machine Rifle was a curious internal development of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, originally intended as an anti-observation balloon weapon. The rifle fired a rimless, modified version of the .351 WSL cartridge called .345 Winchester, with an incendiary spitzer projectile (for anti-balloon work), fed from twin 20 round magazines (emptying the right magazine first). Despite the odd intended purpose of the rifle, its utility as a close combat weapon was apparently quickly realized by its designers, as some examples were reportedly fitted with bayonet mounts. Firing the low-pressure .345 WSL cartridge meant the rifle could use the inexpensive and simple open bolt blowback system of operation, The rifle had many advanced features, such as a straight-line stock, raised sights, tubular construction, and a separate trigger module.

 

Ribeyrolle CM 1918 (France)

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The Ribeyrolle CM 1918. Image source: forums.gunboards.com

The French continued development of light, handy automatic weapons following their acquisition of Winchester 1907 self-loading rifles. The Ribeyrolle CM 1918 carbine fired an 8mm necked down variant of the .351 WSL cartridge, with the same 198gr spitzer bullet as the larger 8mm Lebel cartridge in service with the French Army at the time. There is not much data available pertaining to the Ribeyrolle “Mitrailleuse Carabine”, but it was fairly heavy, at 5.1kg (11.22lbs), and featured a bipod and bayonet mount. It was rejected in part for the weight, and in part for having poor accuracy beyond 400 meters. This insistence on maintaining good long-range performance would be a major institutional barrier to acceptance of the assault rifle idea in many countries, including the United States.

 

Modelo 1921 MAF (Italy)

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The Modelo 1921 MAF. Image source: iaaforum.org

Little information is available about this Italian carbine. The Moschetto Automatico per Fanteria Modelo 1921 was chambered for a 7.35mm or 7.65mm short cartridge firing a 135gr spitzer bullet at about 2,000 ft/s. The Italians, while recognizing the value of a short, controllable weapon with high ammunition capacity and good range, apparently seemed to be concerned with the consumption of ammunition, as the MAF did not have full auto capability. Later, the Italians would adopt a version of their bolt-action Carcano carbine as a standard infantry weapon, but chambered for a 7.35x51mm cartridge of very similar power to 7.62×39. It’s not hard to imagine that the Italians wanted their own automatic carbine, but did not feel that their logistics could keep up with thousands of troops blazing away on full automatic. Whether this reflects the designers’ actual intent, however, is unknown.

 

Furrer “Pistolengewehr” MP. 1920/1921 (Switzerland)

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The Furrer Model 1920. Image source: theswissriflesdotcommessageboard.yuku.com

Resembling an over-grown World War I sub-machine gun, the Furrer “Pistolengewehr” was the work of Swiss engineer Adolf Furrer, the director of Waffenfabrik Bern. Like Furrer’s submachine guns, the Pistolengewehr was a toggle-action short-recoil operated weapon with a side-mounted 30 round magazine and conventional wood furniture. The initial 1920 model fired a 7.65x35mm cartridge based on a shortened 7.5×55 Swiss case which used a 123gr round-nosed bullet at a little over 2,000 ft/s, but the later 1921 model would use the same cartridge necked down to 7mm with a spitzer projectile. Some have suggested that Furrer’s research was used in Germany as the basis for their early select-fire intermediate caliber carbines, but this connection remains speculative.

 

Weibel/Danrif Rifle (Denmark)

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The Weibel m.32. Image source: www.thm-online.dk

Very little is known to the author about this 1932 Danish weapon. Even the name of the designer is uncertain, with some sources claiming it was a gentleman named Weibel, and some sources pertaining to the cartridge giving the name Danrif. It is known that it fired a 7x44mm cartridge with almost no case taper, with an 8 gram bullet and a muzzle velocity of 810 m/s. The rifle was apparently intended as a light machine gun to replace the Madsen, not as an individual weapon. This is similar to Finnish use of 7.62×25 sub-machine guns in the light machine gun role. Development ceased with the outbreak of war in 1939.

 

Korovin Avtomat (Russia)

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The Korovin carbine. Image source: mpopenker.livejournal.com

Like the Weibel, there is scant information available about this Russian carbine from 1933. The 8.9mm nominal caliber and magwell size suggest it was chambered in the American .351 WSL caliber, though this is not known for certain.

 

Vollmer M35 (Germany)

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The Vollmer M35/II. Image source:defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com

Following a series of German self-loading rifles firing intermediate cartridges, from the Republican era and through Hitler’s rise to power, the Vollmer carbines began development in 1935. Firing a 7.75×40.5mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity of 705 m/s using a 9.5 gram bullet, it used a Bang-type gas trap gas system operating a rotary locking bolt, and firing from an open action. Development of the weapon continued until 1939 due to interest from the Heer and Luftwaffe, but was discontinued before the start of the Second World War.

 

ZK-412 (Czechoslovakia)

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The ZK-412. Image source: raigap.livejournal.com

The most recent of all the weapons featured in this article, the ZK-412 rifle, also called the MK SS-42, was an independent Czechoslovakian project begun in 1939. The first prototypes were finished in either 1941 or 1942, depending on the source, just before the first German machine carbine prototypes were constructed. The weapon used a top-mounted fixed gas piston with nested recoil spring and under-hanging bolt carrier with a rotary bolt, very reminiscent of the later Kalashnikov rifle. It fired a round nosed 8 gram bullet at 670-720 m/s, and had the ability to penetrate a steel helmet at 600 meters. When in 1942, the German SS Führungshauptamt ordered Czechoslovakian designers to design a number of advanced weapons for the war effort, Skoda presented the already complete ZK-412 design. According to some sources, the weapon was trialled on the Eastern Front, and even captured, however this information cannot be confirmed by the author.

 

Closing Statement

The history of the assault rifle before the appearance of German automatic carbines on the World War II battlefield is colored by a dizzying array of concepts, features, and theories of operation. Perhaps this highlights the true significance of the Sturmgewehr – Germany during the Second World War did not invent the concept, nor were they the first to execute it or put it into practice, but the weapon their engineers created synthesized a number of concepts and design practices into one entity that heavily influenced virtually all weapons of its kind thereafter – and Adolf Hitler gave it a name that stuck.

 

Any errors or mistakes contained in this article are the fault of its author alone.

 

Works Cited:

  1. Hans-Dieter Handrich and R. Blake. Stevens, “Sturmgewehr!: From Firepower to Striking Power.”
  2. Gary Paul Johnston, Thomas B. Nelson, and Daniel D. Musgrave. “The World’s Assault Rifles.”
  3. Оружейная экзотика “Чешский автомат ZK-412. Чуть раньше “Штурмгевера”” http://raigap.livejournal.com/67917.html
  4. Guns.ru, “Шоша – жертва черного пиара?”, http://forum.guns.ru/forummessage/36/205475-3.html
  1. Defense and Freedom, “Interesting Hardware Stuff” http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2009/05/interesting-hardware-stuff.html
  2. Statens Forsvarhistoriske Museum, “7 x 44 automatgevær, Weibel M/1932” http://www.thm-online.dk/perioder/31/52/52-b5125/
  3. The Swiss Rifles Message Board, “Adolf Furrer’s 1921 assault rifle…”, http://theswissriflesdotcommessageboard.yuku.com/topic/3449#.UzoZR_ldXPA
  4. Max Popenker, “как много нам открытий чудных”, http://mpopenker.livejournal.com/1687654.html
  5. Max Popenker, “штурмгевер Бёртона”, http://mpopenker.livejournal.com/1242608.html
  6. Forgotten Weapons, “Cei-Rigotti”, http://www.forgottenweapons.com/early-semiauto-rifles/cei-rigotti/
  7. IAA Forum, “WRA Co .345 S.L. Brass”, http://iaaforum.org/forum3/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=14240&view=next
  8. IAA Forum, “Italian intermediate power cartridge, 1921?”, http://iaaforum.org/forum3/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=15378
  9. Anthony G. Williams, “Assault Rifles and Their Ammunition: History and Prospects”, http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/Assault.htm
  10. cartridgecollectors.org, “Cartridge of the Month October 2010”, http://cartridgecollectors.org/cmo/cmo10oct.htm
  11. municion.org, “Furrer 7.65×35″, http://municion.org/Swiss/765x38Furrer.htm
Related

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a long time firearms enthusiast who enjoys refining his understanding of small arms both on the range and in the drafting room. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to small arms design and theory.


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  • http://ikocher.blogspot.com iKocher

    I was looking up the subject of this post (specifically semi auto rifles) just yesterday. I would like to add the Mondragón rifle it came up yesterday while researching the Cei-Rigotti.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      He did well on this one!

      • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

        Thanks, Phil!

        • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

          You bet it’s a well deserved comment for your work here.

          • The Hun

            Wow- it’s getting to feel like an episode of “Oprah” on TFB tonight.

          • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

            You get an obscure assault rifle! You get an obscure assault rifle! EVERYBODY GETS OBSCURE ASSAULT RIFLES!!!

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      To my knowledge there was not a select fire Mondragon variant. Of course, the history of selfloaders and assault rifles is deeply intertwined, but an article has to have limits! ;)

      • http://ikocher.blogspot.com iKocher

        I wasn’t aware the Cei-Rigotti was select fire! Very Cool!

        Edit: That would probably be the “automatic fire mode” ;)

        • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

          Very cool, indeed!

  • Anymous

    Loved the post, you hear a lot about the StG44 but never the rifles you researched here. Really an eye opener.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Glad you liked it!

  • Dustin in Amarillo

    Top notch article!

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      I am very happy you liked it! Thank you for reading!

  • IXLR8

    Excellent! A nice start for your new book….
    Great information.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Thank you for your kind words!

  • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

    No sooner does this article go up, than I learn something new and have to make a change to it!

  • Zugunder

    Nice article! Gonna spend some time reading all those works you referred to, thanks.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      No problem!

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      That will keep you busy for a good while. Pleasantly so!

  • http://www.pontifex.roma.it/ Kwisatz Haderach

    Italian here, the title of should be “modello 1921 MAF” The text says “senza la raffica”, which means without burst.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Thanks for commenting. I did mention that the MAF did not have full-auto capability, which is how I interpreted the “senza la raffica” line. Does it mean something else?

      • http://www.pontifex.roma.it/ Kwisatz Haderach

        Yes, that’s correct, “raffica” can mean either burst or full auto.

    • dp

      In that case you may be familiar with 1935 Breda, semi-auto rifle http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breda_Mod._1935_PG
      I had once chance to examine it and was impressed; it had quite fancy mechanism.

      • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

        The 7mm version was even select-fire. I certainly thought about including it in this article, but deadlines being what they are…

  • Graham 1

    I haven’t heard of some of these rifles, great article!

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Thank you!

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      At that point in time there were huge numbers of rifles and machine guns being developed. Most weren’t very successful while others flourished and became icons right up to today. There’s really no telling how many one of a kind guns are out there still.

      • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

        That’s the truth. This article is by no means intended to be a “comprehensive” overview of pre-war assault rifles, just a collection of a few relatively well-documented ones.

  • dp

    Nathanial F: this is substantial and very pertinent piece of work coming in right time. Congratulation!

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Thank you for commenting!

  • Jace D

    This is yet another reason I come here. The always great historical articles are my favorites!

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Thanks!

    • dp

      Very true, history is necessary stepping stone when entering any viable considerations.

  • dp

    On Fedorov’s gun: “The original experimental rifles were chambered in a cartridge of Captain Fedorov’s own design, a powerful 6.5x57mm ….”
    I believe the original round this gun was designed for was 1895 Mosin 7.62x54R. Then followed 6.5×50 Arisaka.
    Regarding the locking link/block – it cannot be related to Vz.58; it is kind of funny titter-totter. Vz.58′s lock is remotely derived from Walther P-38.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Fedorov did indeed have a 7.62x54R version of his rifle, the Model 1912. A picture of it can be seen here: http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20131115155237/guns/images/5/51/Fedorov_Model_1912.png

      However, his original design was in a large 6.5mm cartridge, which can be seen in this article: http://ammo-collection.com/index.php?title=6,5%D1%8557_%D0%A4%D1%91%D0%B4%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0

      I was not intending to imply that the Fedorov’s locking block was somehow related to that of the Vz. 58, just to describe them as mechanically similar, which they are.

      • dp

        Actually, that looks like very, very decent shot which could have/ should have replaced mentioned 1895 Mosin, long time ago. Thanks for adding to my knowledge!

        • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

          At the turn of the last century, it was still assumed by most that infantry combat would often take the form of company-sized bodies of men firing at each other in volley fashion from thousands of yards away, as had happened in the Second Boer War and the Spanish American War. The most “high tech” experimental calibers of the era reflected this. Cartridges like .276 Enfield, 6.5 Fedorov, and even .30-06 Springfield assumed that combat would take place at these long ranges – up to 3,000 yards away – and resembled what we today would call “magnum” rifle cartridges as a result.

          • dp

            Perhaps so. You still enter situations when you need some “reach” – say up to 800yrds or more. Than there are situations when 100 is plenty. So, there are 2 choices: either two different weapons with distinctly ammunition OR new type od ‘modular shot’. The latter not being invented yet and there the effort should be directed.

          • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

            800 yards really is crew-served weapons range these days, not rifle range.

          • Geodkyt

            At 800m, you go to mortars, GPMGs, or even (if you REALLY trust them) DIVARTY.
            Even in the days when rifles were designed for shooting to 1000 meters, anything over 500 meters (Heck, 300 meters for most armies) was considered an “area” target, not a “point one”
            SNIPERS, in WWI, using very good maps, easily identifiable range markers (because rocks, trees, etc., were THAT accurately surveyed in teh static conditions of teh trenches) considered 500 yards pushing it with a telescope sighted rifle, rested position, and a mainly staionary target. McBride commented that, even under IDEAL conditions, at 300 yards or farther, it was almost always IMPOSSIBLE to tell if you hit your mark while sniping.
            Yes, our snipers do much, much better these days — but expecting line infantry to do better than snipers with hand fitted sniper rifles and telescopes is a bit silly.

          • Geodkyt

            Another point to consider is that it was essential that the primary infantry weapon of the day be capable of taking out HORSES at combat ranges (as much to deal with artillery as cavalry).

            In fact, the current 7.62x51mm NATO ball round (interestingly enough) has inherited a 19th Century US Army requirement that it be capable of “killing or disabling a horse at 1000 yards” by virtue of teh fact that even after the explicit anti-equine performance requirement was dropped, it remained included by incorporation in later spec requirements by the language that said that each successive round must be at least as capable in wounding performance as the previous round.

            So, yes, your M14s, FALs, G3s, and AR10s were spec’ed to hold off cavalry charges. {grin}

  • guest

    Very informative article, but several weapons should be disqialified due to being automatic rifles and not even remotely assault rifles.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      As mentioned in the article, not all the rifles meet all definitions of the term. Unfortunately, when some of the corner cases are examined, the validity of many definitions of the term get very hazy.

      • guest

        Since you put so much effort in this article, which again I have to say is interesting to read, maybe you should do an in-depth article about AK development. I know this is kicking a dead horse, but perhaps due to your writers not speaking any russian you missed out on what IMHO is the “cornerstone” in the AK development – the army trials. They had two at which AK failed , and at the second trial re-appeared as a complete redesign after having “borrowed” pretty much everything from AB-46 rifle.
        I think this is the most understaded historical fact, and the AK discussion otherwise (unfortunately) boils down to Discovery-channel like pointing of fingers at Schmeisser and StG-44.

        • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

          Maxim Popenker, a sometimes contributor here, has expressed his desire to write an article covering early AK development. While I think I could take a shot at it, Max is far more qualified to cover the subject than I am.

          • guest

            Wow, you have HIM write articles here? The man is a living gun history book. Please let him do that!

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Max has contributed to both TFB and Forgotten Weapons. He is not only incredibly knowledgeable but also quite friendly and open-minded.

  • El Duderino

    Mondragon?

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      The Mondragon was a self-loading rifle, and while the history of self-loaders and assault rifles is intertwined, some weapons had to be left out for length and time concerns.

  • Zapp Brannigan

    No mention of the M1 carbine? It had a short barrel, making it handy. If the round it used was a little more powerful, it would have matched the performance of the 7.62×39.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      As mentioned in the article, not every gun could be included in the article, due to length and time constraints.

    • Phil Hsueh

      But does the M1 carbine really classify as precursor to the modern assault rifle? If anything I would think that it’s more the early ancestor of the modern PDW since it was meant to be pistol replacement giving troops who didn’t need a full sized rifle for their duties but could use something more than just a pistol.

  • Fruitbat44

    A really great article. Okay it does, rightly IMHO, have the caveat that it’s only a brief article and not a fully comprehensive survey. But it’s introduces, what was to me anyway, some completely unknown elements of firearms history.
    Hmmm . . . I do wonder if any of these proto-assault rifles had been fully adopted what, if any, difference it would have made to history?

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      I don’t know that a lot of nations before the end of World War II had the kind of logistics train needed for their soldiers to always be blazing away on fully automatic with rifle cartridges. However, it was obvious from fairly early on that something smaller than the standard rifle cartridge was needed (in part to improve this wanting logistics situation). Both world wars threw a wrench in these ideals, though, and the full size 3,000 meter rifle cartridge soldiered on until the mid to late ’40s for most nations. It’s not difficult to imagine, I think, that if the world wars hadn’t occurred, or had occurred differently, that maybe more nations would have taken the plunge earlier in the ’20s or ’30s and issued intermediate caliber bolt actions, if not intermediate caliber selfloaders.

      I think it still would have taken a while for the select-fire assault rifle to catch on fully. That was really facilitated by the Jet Age and the massive impact high performance aeroplanes had on logistics.

      • Phil Hsueh

        Even leading up to WW II rate of fire amongst the troops was something of a concern with the US Army with some of the Brass being against the adoption of the M1 Garand for fear that a semi-auto firing rifle will cause soldiers to fire too much ammo too fast thereby wasting their ammo. This was the same reason why the Army never adopted the lever action repeating rifles during the Civll War and Indian Wars period because they’d rather have soldiers firing in slow, measured volleys so as not to waste ammo. Heck, even after the adoption of the M16 the issue of accurate fire came up, it was the reason why the Marine Corps opted for a 3 round burst function instead of full auto for the M16A2, they felt that full auto was a waste of ammo since their research indicated that only the first 3 rounds out of a longer burst had any real chance of actually hitting their target.

  • Blake

    Fantastic well-researched article. Such a comprehensive list of sources is rare on teh intarwebz…

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      Thank you.

  • Hrachya H.

    Nice article, thanks!

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      You’re welcome.

  • gunslinger

    thanks

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      No problem.

  • iksnilol

    how can you argue that 6×60 is an intermediate cartridge?

    It is an interesting read, I will give you that.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      It depends how you look at it. Certainly, the 6×60 is a very large cartridge by today’s standards, but given the powder chemistry of the time, it would have been probably only a little more powerful than 6mm Lee Navy (performance figures on the 6×60 not being very forthcoming). Given this, and the fact that it was designed explicitly with shoulder-fired automatic and semi-automatic rifles in mind, you might say it was “intermediate-ish”.

  • dp

    Here is something to look for in near future: http://sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=2414
    It is about 6.5x40mm round which is potentially superior over M855, 6.8SPC and 6.5Gren. With muzzle velocity and bullet weight similar to M43 it outperforms all so far known. Emphasis is on long range reach (yes, again).
    I apologize, since it is kind of “monkey wrench” in the gears, but it gives food for thought as to what can be the next. It is essentially just continuation of saga.

  • PeteRR

    What about the M1 carbine or the full auto version, the M2? Intermediate cartridge and magazine fed.

    • http://196800revolutionsperminute.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel F.

      As mentioned in the article, some of the less obscure guns were not included for brevity and time concerns. Further, the M2 Carbine dates from after 1942.

  • 101nomad

    History is to learn from, especially others mistakes, hurts less than making your own. Always enjoy reading up on the older firearms. Everything has to start somewhere.

  • asasello

    Przydałby się Thompson 1923.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Excellent article, Nathaniel — thank you. This is a very good and well-researched synopsis of the ancestry of the modern assault rifle, and I like the way you have pulled together the chronological evolution of these highlighted events.

    Incidentally, the Ribeyrolle CM1918 was the brainchild of one of the designers of the oft-maligned Chauchat CSRG ( Chauchat, Sutter, Ribeyrolle & Gladiator, the first three being the designers and the last being the manufacturer ) M1915 / M1918 LMG. It would be interesting to find out more about how the CM1918 performed in actual field trials.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.meaker Don Meaker

    <of course there is the M-1 Carbine, firing an intermediate round, and developed as a selective fire weapon. In 1944 they were being issued with select fire, and with 30 round magazines.

  • LilWolfy

    Great article. Another rifle design that is interesting, but was sold on the civilian US market, was the Remington Model 8 in 1906, first named the Remington Autoloading Rifle. The Russians borrowed from it in a few ways for the Kalashnikov, and held onto the selector design for several of their rifles to the current era even. Check this one out:

    http://i45.tinypic.com/dc6cy1.jpg

  • Luis N

    Shouldn’t the BAR be in this list? Ive read that browning intended it for it to be something like the assault rifle.

  • Pham

    I think the Mondragon rifle deserves to be on the list as well. Started from the Mexican Army and later used by the German Army during WWI.

  • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

    The M2 carbine can be considered an assault riffle too !!!!!!!!

  • Ted Unlis

    This article neglected to mention the Remington Model 8 Special Police rifle sold to U.S. law enforcement during the 1930′s by Peace Officer Equipment Co of St Joseph Mo. The modified Model 8 in 35 Rem caliber was the rifle used by legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer in the fusillade from lawmen that sent Bonnie and Clyde to Hell on May 23, 1934 in Bienville Parish LA.

    http://thegreatmodel8.remingtonsociety.com/?page_id=659