The Sturmgewehr: A First Encounter, 1943

What was the Soviet reaction to the Sturmgewehr? EnsignExpendable, at his excellent Soviet Gun Archives blog has the answer:

“To the People’s Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade I.V. Stalin:

Since the Spring of this year, forces of the Kalinin, and then Volkhov and Leningrad Fronts have captured, among other weapons, several specimens of new German automatic 7.92 mm carbines, which are a new type of infantry weapon that has not been previously used by the Germans in large amounts until recently.”

And here is the Soviet intel on the gun itself (note the incorrect magazine capacity):

“Enemy tactics and technology
Engineer-Captain Ya. Krutik
1. New German handheld machinegun

The German army has recently adopted a new handheld machinegun, using an intermediate round (an average between a rifle round and a pistol round). The machinegun’s designation is “MK belash 42 (H)”. The automatic mechanism is driven by redirection of gases through an opening in the barrel.

The machinegun can fire automatically or in single shots, for which a switch is present in the trigger guard, next to the pistol grip.

The machinegun is fed with a box magazine, which holds 35-38 rounds.

  • Caliber: 7.9 mm
  • Length: 935 mm
  • Mass: about 5 kg
  • Round mass: 16.8 g
  • Bullet mass: 8.2 g”

It seems their technical advisers were not ones to get excited; this sort of dry technical analysis of impressive new enemy technology is typical of Russian documents from the period.

Ensigns translations of Russian documents really are priceless to non-Russian-speaking Anglophones. Anyone interested in Soviet technology history should head on over to Soviet Gun Archives, as well as his other blog (dealing in armored fighting vehicles), Archive Awareness.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • Zachary marrs


    • mcducky


      • Zachary marrs


    • Grindstone50k


  • Don Ward

    Let the Wehraboo hunt begin…

    In a vast industrial war with fleets of fighters and four-engine bombers, tens of thousands of artillery and tanks and millions of men, the capture of a handful of rifles – no matter how innovative – wasn’t going to excite great alarm.

    Leave it to the shoddy German military and industrial machine to produce penny packets of their newest weapons which promptly get frittered away and captured by the Russkies. It’s like those guys couldn’t even Schwerpunkt!

    • mosinman

      but the Soviets copied everything the Germans made!!11!!
      you can tell just by looking at the rifles that the AK-47 is a total copy of the superior STG-44

      • Dirk Diggler

        Not a copy, but seeing as the designer of the STG-44 and the designer of the AK47 worked in the same building in the years immediately after the war it’s understandable to think maybe they had a talk over the water cooler, or borscht dispenser, whatever Soviet minions had office discussions over. Mikhail confessed to Hugo assisting in the engineering during an interview with a Russian magazine a few years ago.

        • mosinman

          yeah i did hear a bit about them collaborating, but i also heard that the Ak-47 also borrowed from earlier soviet automatic rifle designs as well.
          (my comment above was made in light hearted jest)

          • The design culture in Russia was and still is much different from ours. Being first to invent something is seen as much less important, and copying design elements from another designer’s work was encouraged so long as it made the final product better.

        • RickH

          This has been hashed out time and time again, but after reading many articles & journals, and watching a few interviews with and about Kalashnikov, you come away with the feeling that he had a very light hand in the development of the AK.

        • Pretty sure Schmeisser was living in a completely different part of Russia when the AK was being designed.

          • Buddy_Bizarre

            CJ Chivers in his book “The Gun” claims that there was some overlap where there were at the same location for some time. I can’t recall where that was though.

          • “The Gun” is full of claims, many true, others not so much.

          • Buddy_Bizarre

            Yeah, that’s why I phrased it that way. I forgot about that previous article you also linked & reviewed that after my post.

      • Rich Guy

        Even a HuffPro writer can look at a field stripped AK47 and STG 44 and tell they are almost nothing alike….

  • Mykolayiv

    Footnote to the documents;

    Send this document post-haste to Lieutenant M. Kalashnikov for analysis

    • Asstastic

      Was he a Lieutenant in 43 or still a sergeant?

  • Manny Fal

    American archives: “It’s a handcannon! Launching whoever it hits clear across the battlefield,if it hits a limb it blows it clean off in a spray of red mist”

    • Actually, the American testers back home thought it was clumsy and not better than a submachine gun. They were much more impressed with the FG-42.

      I imagine when they were encountered in combat they made an impression, however.

      • iksnilol

        Are there any American reports on the STG44 and FG-42 available?

        • Yeah, but I am on my phone so I can’t find them right now.

  • northafrican

    the mother of all

  • wetcorps

    Why would they be excited? Just because we like small arms doesn’t mean they are that relevant on a battlefield. Bombs tend to do the job a lot more effectively.

    • Phil Hsueh

      I would think that it had more to do with them not being allowed to or highly discouraged to get excited about German weaponry. Remember, its was Stalin’s Russia after all and the man was known for having killed as many, or more Russians, than Hitler. I’m sure that if you were overheard praising or showing some excitement over a piece of German tech you’d probably get a visit from your residnet political officer and might face a one way trip to the gulag.

      • Zugunder

        Nah, in Russia (dunno about other countries) that’s just how you write all official documents, reports and such even nowadays. You supposed stating the facts, simply write your observations and that’s it. No one cares how much you excited about subject or what you personally feel about it.

      • I don’t really think it worked that way. They probably took steps to prevent any sort of panic centered around an impressive piece of equipment, but saying positive things about the enemy’s kit wasn’t forbidden. They did want to win the war, after all.

        • Phil Hsueh

          I’m not suggesting that they deliberately understated the capabilities or were afraid to discuss its merits but I would think that being a bit overenthusiastic about it and singing its praises a little too loudly would probably not have been too good of an idea in Stalinist Russia.

          • Not at all. Of course, _drawing conclusions_ could be very dangerous and inappropriate. Like, for example, saying that because of X, Germans seemingly care for their soldiers more, or that the consistent craftsmanship of Y is a mark of a more progressive society. (Although you can see that it is also not very professional and/or relevant.)

            But in the engineering department and in any other practical field, a clear understanding of strengths and weaknesses of enemy and allied technology was as crucial as in any other country. You could just as well be accused of “shapkozakidatelstvo” (careless jingoism, recklessness) if you downplayed enemy advantages or “pokazukha” (disinformation, potemkin villages) if you inflated the merits of Russian weaponry. With swift and nasty consequences.

    • claymore

      Actually artillery causes the most casualties on the battle field

      • Manny Fal

        And given the way the Syrian war has progressed, this certainly remains true.

      • wetcorps

        Yeah that’s what I meant, artillery, planes, generally explosives. I’m not big on military terminology outside of guns 🙂

      • Hank Seiter

        In modern warfare, that’s true. But over 70% of the Civil War casualties were the result of rifle fire, nearly 20% was by artillery fire, about 3% with pistol and several percent by sword, knife or bayonet. Damn Napoleonic tactics!

        Artillery fire come into its own during World War I with machinegun fire probably being the most prevalent form of high-velocity death.

    • n0truscotsman

      Every insurgency since the advent of the firearm would disagree with you…

      There remains a symbiotic relationship between small arms and bombs and artillery and tanks (and anything else). This will be eternal.

  • guest


    • Zachary marrs

      SPAM PAPASHA!!1!

    • vasilij

      and only bother to ship about 300k mosins

    • snmp

      Infact, 1 german with an submachine per squad again battilon of battallion soviet soldiers with PSSH41 or PSS43 with tactical suport of DMR with Mosin Nagan (or STV40)

  • hami

    Brad Pitt seemed to like them

    • Zachary marrs

      Cram snack food into it like all the ak fanboys do

    • Hank Seiter

      I hadn’t realize the Stg-44 was issued with a 120 round magazine after watching “Fury”.

  • Hmm. I have an MP43 in the safe I can review if you guys want.

    • Vitor

      Of course we want.

    • Zachary marrs

      Cram snack food in the receiver like all the ak fanboys do

      • iksnilol

        That is tactical feature. You free up lunch space and can use it for other things… like Skittles or more boolet.

        • Grindstone50k

          Skittles go in the pistol grip. Everybody knows that.

          • iksnilol

            Comrade would be forgiven for thinking that. What would comrade think of having both? Having Skittles in pistol grip and receiver! Would be subzero tier (-1) operator thing.

      • SP mclaughlin

        Nonono, you cram schnitzel and pour on Hunter sauce as lubricant.

    • Y-man

      Do you think you have to ask? I think not! We would LOVE to have your review of that… Maybe on my next trip, if I come that way, I *might* just shoot that thing, for the pride of having shot several WW2 Firearms. When I was in Dallas last, you would have been SHOCKED at the reverence with which I even LOOKED at that MP43! LOL!

    • iksnilol

      You really have to ask? DO IT!

      In seriousness though, it would be nice to have a review of it. Bonus points if you compare it with an AK (I presume you have an AK).

    • As long as you don’t conclude the AK is based off of it, sure! 😉

  • Lance

    Of course they where interested. They copied the outside layout of the weapon and 4 years after the wars end. BOOM the AK-47 is born.

  • Don Ward

    The “Russian peasant conscripts” comments are funny since I’d wager hard money that the majority of Stg44s were used by Volksturm and hastily organized formations of Luftwaffe and Kreigsmarine personnel.

    • Grindstone50k

      I was under the impression most went to Waffen-SS units. I could be wrong. I suppose it’s only a google away, though.

  • guest

    And did anyone expect a “shock”? Like the messages from the front being anything as dramatic to germans introducing the Panther? Or the german pilot’s impressions of the me-262?
    The tactics were yet not developed to the gun. The gun itself (compared to existing weapons) could not out-shoot a PPSH or any relevant SMG in close combat, and typical german complexity probably din’t give it any points either. The soviets already knew the Fedorov Avtomat so again no big suprise there either.
    There were no special CQB scopes, no “intermediate” scopes worth noting that worked, and whatever task that could be performed with the STG could just as well be done with existing weapons. And the pointer here imho are the words “handheld machinegun” .because back then nobody could figure out that all frontline infantry weapons except LMGs and dedicated sniper rifles could be replaced by it. In fact I do not even think germans thought this far – hence the only “universal” weapon was the FG and even that left much to be desired.
    Hence the dry technical description.
    And remember it took many years to improve upon the concept, and it is still ongoing, and neither then nor now do infantry weapons even bring any quantum leap in anything. The STG was a gradual improvement on existing concepts (semiauto rifle and smg), not a revolution. This is like saying today someone would be “shoked” by the P-90. Just does not happen. But it does start a subtle trend.

    There is an error in translation. “avtomat” means “automatic”, NOT a machinegun, and is equal to “assault rifle”. The “handheld machinegun” is a result of poor translation.

  • Zebra Dun

    It would be interesting to compare the terminal ballistics of this round against the .30 carbine.
    Did the German’s have the M-1 Carbine in mind while designing this rifle?

  • AJ

    Looks to be predessor to HK 91 .PTR 91? am I close?

  • Leon Brousilovky

    My grandfather used mp/stg at war as second weapon.

  • Leon Brousilovky

    And i found what that “belash” about. Its old type of marking little “b”, “MKb 42 (H)”

  • Well, you should follow the link and you will see that the second quote is not an official in-depth report, or “intel”, as the article says, but just an entry from a pocket reference book or almanac of some sort for soldiers and officers. Note the fancy header and a headline – it’s basically a news article.

  • Hank Seiter

    I’m still waiting to shoot my first STG-44 which I hear is pretty smooth even in rat-a-tat mode. Maybe I’ll get to Knob Creek at some point and rent one to shoot.

    I had an opportunity to purchase an original STG-44 that with a little cleaning and some WD-40 and quadruple ought steel wool would have been considered in very good condition for $7K. No dents, no dings, completely functional. They retail for over $20K, now! Came across it in Texas and unfortunately there were some “paperwork” issues with the rifle that would probably prevent any kind of legal transfer. Also, I won’t be moving from the fascist state of Illinois to a Class III friendly state for a couple of more year so I was prevented from purchasing it for my personal collection anyway. I informed the present owner that unless the rifle has been properly grandfathered in under the 1968 Firearm Act, he might want to be very discrete about its existence until he back-checked what little paperwork he had. He possesses it in “good faith” but who knows how the BATFE thugs or other federal law enforcement agents would over-react if it saw the light of day on a range somewhere.
    BTW, Natchez Shooters Supply now carries the 7.92×33 ammo.

    • jcitizen

      If the weapon has ever been registered even with the military, it can help greatly, but it has to be a US registration, so that can make a difference. Also the state that the attempt is made in has to be amenable to amnesty which isn’t generally know to be possible. I’ve seen new registrations before 1986, but they would be only for SOTs or CLEOs now, because of that NFA law. There have been articles here on TFB about some new suggestions to allow new manufactured receivers again, but no new amnesties on old weapons. They say a museum can get away with murder, however.