Gewehr 41(W) 2-Gun Action Match

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.

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


  • MountainKelly

    Very neat seeing one in action. The 41 and 43 are very interesting pieces of historical engineering, glad to see the former used!

  • Vitsaus

    Great link here. I’ve always been curious about that G41, read nothing but bad things about it, and it always struck me as a very clear example of how inefficient and beaucratic the 3rd Reich was. The gun was the result (according to my understanding) of a list of features that were required, and the muzzle trap system was seen as the only way to comply with the standards they were given. The G43 was not with out shortcomings, but it was not in service long enough to really gauge its worth fully.

  • Lance

    As for WW2 rifles Id say the US M-1 and the Russian SVT-40 were the best of the auto loaders. G-41 had too many issues and was improved on and became the G-43.

    • The Gerat 03 is my personal favorite, along with its adorable little brother, the Gerat 05.

  • MPWS

    Obviously, Germans came late into game and had to stumble thru administration nonsense. Now, let’s imagine for second, had they their new rifle developed at beginning of war; what would happen to opposite side? It would have been devastating.

    This is not to pretend that other forms of war machinery e.g. artillery and air-force had prevalence.

    • Herr Wolf

      yeah- I spend a great deal of time imagining “what if” WWII alternative scenarios

    • Porty1119

      Contemporary Wehrmacht doctrine viewed the machine gun (MG34/42) as the main component of the infantry squad, with riflemen serving primarily as security and ammunition bearers for the gun(s). I’m not convinced that a semiautomatic service rifle would have changed that too much- an MG42 still provides the weight of fire of upwards of twenty SLRs.

    • Don Ward

      Answer? Radioactive Berlin.

  • Grindstone50k

    Excellent article and video!
    That is a really cool course of fire.

    One thing that stands out for me, the barrel of the G.41W seems really thick. I know it’s basically shooting a short 8mm round, but still it seems very wide, at least close to the muzzle. Is it a thicker barrel? Does it affect the weight and recoil otherwise? Or is it just a muzzle device?

    • Check out Ian’s disassembly video of it. The contour you’re seeing is the gas system cover and gas trap. The barrel is inside it.

      • Grindstone50k

        Ah, makes perfect sense now. I can see how that would be a problem.

  • Zebra Dun

    I’ve often wondered why the German’s didn’t simply copy the Garand completely in 7.92.
    Seems a reasonable Idea, perhaps they had the StG in mind.