An Even Earlier Encounter With The Sturmgewehr: 1943

In November of last year, we blogged about an early Soviet encounter with the MKb.42(H), the open bolt machine carbine that would become the famous closed bolt MP/StG.44 assault rifle. Ensign Expendable, author of the Soviet Gun Archives blog that provided the material for the previous article, has posted another, probably even earlier source on the Soviet reaction to the weapon:

“Main data:
  1. Automatic fire provided by gunpowder gases passing through the gas opening.
  2. The barrel locks via the bolt tilting.
  3. Uses a special shortened round, similar to the rifle ones.
  4. Range: up to 800 meters.
  5. Has a selector for automatic and single-shot fire.
  6. Equipped with a bayonet for hand to hand combat.”
The intelligence brief reads:
“Carbine-machinegun MK-42
The model 1942 7.92 mm carbine-machinegun with a 30-36 round special magazine (uses shortened 7.92 mm rifle bullets) is carried on a strap affixed to the stock and across from the bayonet lug. It’s easy to disassemble. Judging by the design, the magazine is also used as a foregrip (there is no sign of an attachable bipod). Externally, the gun is composed of the following parts:
  1. Barrel
  2. Front sight with safety
  3. Gas piston pipe
  4. Barrel shroud
  5. Rear sight
  6. Bolt
  7. Magazine
  8. Base with pistol grip and trigger guard
  9. Stock with an opening for accessories
The striker mechanism of the machinegun-carbine is composed of the following parts:
  1. Gas piston
  2. Operating slide
  3. Bolt base
  4. Bolt (there is a safety on the bolt plunger and a handle for pulling it back)
The bolt is composed of the following parts:
  1. Bolt case
  2. Extractor
  3. Firing pin
Judging by the design of the cooling system, it can be expected that the rate of fire and automatic qualities of the machinegun-carbine are not high.”

Ensign informs us that he does not have a date for the document, but believes it to be early 1943 from context. He points out that the previous (and most likely later) document makes mention of other MKb.42(H)s being captured by Russian forces before; this document does not make any mention of previous captures.

The MKb.42(H) was a sound weapon, and with the relatively minor modification of moving from open to closed bolt operation in the MP.43 model, the basic design would become one of the most-produced German small arms of the late war. However, their impact on the war was relatively small, both because the importance of small arms was vastly reduced by 1945, and because there were difficulties getting rifles, and especially magazines and ammunition, to the front. Allies who captured German depots found thousandsĀ of thousands of rifles, unshipped and unissued; ironically this meant that many of these very serviceable brand-new weapons found their way to the Middle East and other parts of the world, and have subsequently had a long if somewhat obscure post-war service life.


A well-worn MKb.42(H) in the hands of a man, who appears to be a Polish fighter, judging by the crest on his cap. Most likely this picture was taken towards the end of the war, around or after the liberation of Poland. Image source:


The MKb.42(H) itself served through the end of the war with German forces.

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


  • mechamaster

    Wow, the hidden history of Mkb42. Did not realize that some mint-condition large batch of the captured weapon go to middle east.

  • Wolfgar

    The first mass produced modern assault rifle and still one of the most controllable full auto’s utilizing constant recoil. I have read that the supply of ammunition was also in short supply during the war and could never meet demand.

    • Esh325

      While I never fired a STG44 or any versions of it, I imagine a lot of its controllability comes from that it’s made to be heavier than it actually has to be. Controllable fully automatic seems to have been something lost on a lot of post war assault rifle designs. Even the M16 and M4 with its 5.56×45 isn’t really even regarded as being a truly effective fully automatic or burst rifle.

      • mechamaster

        If I remember correctly, Tim from MAC and Ian from ForgottenWeapon review the full auto Stg44 in Battlefield Vegas.

        They explain it’s like the power of 7,92Kurz is like modern .300 Blackout. And yes, it’s heavy and slower cyclic rate of fire that makes the recoil in full auto a little bit controllable.

      • I have fired fully automatic M16A1s, an StG-44 and an Ultimax 100. The latter is very controllable thanks to its constant-recoil setup; it’s a very slick light machine gun to be sure. The StG-44 is certainly a more controllable gun than, say an AK, but the M16A1 is, in my opinion, its equal, and is much, much lighter. I don’t have any idea why someone would say a full auto AR-15 is “not controllable” aside from being woefully inexperienced with full auto guns. The M16A1 is a very controllable assault rifle, one of the most controllable there is, and it’s very lightweight at that. Having said that, the Ultimax 100 is in a class all its own.

        The StG-44 uses very, very tame ammunition. Original loads were 125gr at about 2,200 ft/s, so approximately the same performance as very sedate .300 Blackout loads. Note that it does this with a case about the same length as the .300 Blackout, but much wider (12mm case head vs. 9.6mm), and it’s operating at lower pressure. This tends to reduce the “snappiness” of the recoil, and considering the StG-44 has a loaded weight of anywhere from twelve to over thirteen pounds, one shouldn’t expect recoil to be very bad at all. Indeed, it isn’t.

        Now, it is true that even AKs of comparable weight, like the Yugo pattern with RPK trunnion, recoil quite a lot more, especially on full auto. This is because they are very overgassed and their bolt slams into the back of their receiver with a lot of force. The StG-44 and AR-15 have a much softer collision in this respect.

        • Wolfgar

          The DI gas system has lower recoil impulse compared to a piston run AR. The 5.56 will recoil less than even a sedate 7.92X33 round utilizing a much heavier bullet. Example 7.62X39 vs 5,45X39 round. The 5.45X39 is a higher pressure round yet has less recoil compared to the 7.62X39’s heavier bullet.. Weight is important to recoil but the STG-44 has a longer recoil stroke resulting in a slower rate of fire and lighter recoil. All things being equal the STG-44 and M-16 are examples of great engineering with the latter having the advantage of years of product improvement.

        • Esh325

          Mostly the statement about the M16A1 comes from the literature I’ve read. The only fully automatic I’ve fired was a UMP in .40 S&W. My understanding is that the AK-74 is actually more controllable than even the M16A1 due to the muzzle brake,the 5.45×39 having slightly less recoil, and the ROF being lower.

          • AK-74 absolutely is more controllable thanks to its brake, but the M16 isn’t hard to control by any measure.

  • ZF

    Thanks for the post! I love seeing these articles since they give a nice history of firearms.

  • Don Ward

    Yet again, a guy wishes that Grandpa would have held onto some of the war relics he picked up instead of trading them for Lucky Strikes. It’s like 18-20 year olds are the same throughout history!

  • More proof that Kalashnikov was a fraud.

      • Wolfgar

        I missed that post Nathaniel, excellent job. You should make a book of your post as they would be a worthy investment to any firearm collection. You stated the AK piston has sealing rings to create turbulence to mitigate gas leakage. Up until now I thought they were just grooves to clean carbon.

  • Wolfgar

    In the 1965 movie Battle of the Bulge, Henry Fonda took German prisoners and one of the rifles inspected was a STG-44 with grease in the barrel. Sorry no video clip.