The Gewehr 41 was Nazi Germany’s first attempt at a standard-issue selfloading infantry rifle. It utilized a front flap-locking bolt coupled with a Bang-type gas trap operating mechanism. This mechanism has a reputation for not working very well (more on that below), but how well would the rifle hold up in an actual shooting situation, provided they did work? Forgotten Weapons’ Ian and Karl take the G. 41 (W) out to the 2-Gun Action Challenge match to find out:
For those unfamiliar with the G.41(W)’s mechanism, also available on FW is a video overview of the rifle and its action.
The Bang-type gas trap mechanism had some advantages that made it very attractive to designers of the period. It utilized no gas port, which had advantages in erosion characteristics (early powders and primers were very hard on rifles of the time; only with the advent of hard chroming and stainless steel would gas-port designs become practical), and the piston, piston cover, and trap were all removable for easy replacement. However, despite being adopted by both Germany – in the G.41(W) and G.41(M) – and the United States – the original “gas trap” Garand – the system never became truly successful, because of its characteristics which limited reliability.
Trap-type gas systems are unfortunately on the wrong end of the pressure curve. Not only must they be fixed to the end of the muzzle of the weapon, where pressure is lowest*, but they also only provide full power to the system while the bullet is trapped within the muzzle cap – a very brief period indeed. This means that the piston’s frontal area must be massive to compensate for the low pressure of the gas impinging upon it, and that any fouling that increases friction between the piston and its cover will only aid the inertia of the piston itself in resisting the gas pressure against it. Because of this, and because the system is necessarily exposed to dirty propellant gases, the design does not long-term provide ample power to the rifle and short-stroking may result.
Both the M1 Garand and the G.41(W) were modified to delete the Bang-type gas system in favor of more modern gas port mechanisms. The M1 rifles were modified simply by exchanging the gas trap and barrel for a new barrel and gas block. The G.41(W) mas modified with a shorter gas system derived from the SVT-40, new handguards, stock, and sights, and were redesignated G.43.