Saturday, June 07, 2008

Assault Rifles And Their Ammunition.

The lovely and deadly StG 44.

From the article:

In the run-up to World War 2, the focus switches to Germany. Over a ten year period starting in the mid-1930s, no fewer than five German companies were involved in developing short-cased cartridges suitable for assault rifles: Geco, DWM, RWS, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Polte.

Geco was the first in the field, co-operating with the gun company Vollmer-Werke Maschinenfabrik, to produce the Vollmer SL Model 35 self-loading carbine in a nominal 7.75x40 calibre (the calibre was actually 7.9mm, with a bullet 8.05mm in diameter). This was officially tested with good results, but led to no orders. In 1942 Geco produced a new cartridge also intended for a Vollmer carbine, the 7x45SR. This used a wider case and was far more powerful, with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 m/s. Another cartridge, measuring 7.92x33.5, was designed at Geco and attributed to an H.G.Winter, a director of the firm, but the date and the gun for which it was intended are not known.

DWM designed a 7x39 cartridge in the mid-1930s, for which a Walther self-loading carbine was reportedly made. It was appreciably more powerful than the later 7.92x33 Kurz. However, the interest of the Heereswaffenamt (HWA) was by then focused on Polte developments, so the DWM round also failed to progress further. RWS produced several short-cased rifle rounds in the 1930s, including an 8x45, 8x46 and 7x46, but these developments were taken no further. Rheinmetall-Borsig were involved in a number of prewar experiments concerning 7mm rounds in various case lengths, some of them very long, probably for high-velocity aircraft gun projects. One drawing has been found of a 7x36 cartridge which would obviously have been suitable for assault rifles, but there is no evidence that it was made. The design work may have been done by Polte on behalf of Rheinmetall-Borsig.

This brings us to Polte Patronenfabrik of Magdeburg, who made by far the most significant contribution. The HWA awarded them a contract, probably in 1938, for the development of a short-cased infantry cartridge. This resulted in several different designs of cartridge; 7.9x45, 7.9x30, two different 7.9x33 and a 7x45, all by 1940. In all of these, Polte retained the head and rim diameters of the standard 7.92x57 rifle/MG round, and in all but the 7mm the same calibre as well. This kept production costs to a minimum and no doubt helped to account for the success of their proposals. The final 7.92x33 design (which had less case taper than the first or "transitional" effort) was approved in December 1940, the only subsequent change being to the angle of the extractor groove, which was altered from 45 to 60 degrees in May 1942.

The MKb42(H) by Haenel and the MKb42(W) by Walther were designed around the new cartridge and produced in some numbers for field testing. This led to the development of the Haenel MP43/44 (later renamed StG 44 for Sturmgewehr or assault rifle). Despite initial opposition from Hitler, this was the weapon the Army wanted to back-up their MG 42 GPMGs, and it was produced and used in quantity. However, the end of the war stopped the direct line of development of this significant weapon.

An interesting discussion of the history and uses of an oft misunderstood class of weapons.

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