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Book Review
German Automatic Rifles WW2
German Automatic Rifles 1941–45 Gew 41, Gew 43, FG 42 and StG 44
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]


German Automatic Rifles 1941–45 Gew 41, Gew 43, FG 42 and StG 44
Series & number: Weapon 24
Author: Chris McNab
Illustrators: Ramiro Bujeiro, Alan Gilliland
ISBN: 9781780963853

Since the introduction of Henry and Spencer repeating rifles in the American Civil War, rapid-fire rifles dominated the battlefield until machine guns became practical. In the 1880s the first automatic rifle was designed by Mexican general Manuel Mondragón, followed by Søren Hansen Bang of Denmark. At the end of The Great War America had fielded the Browning Automatic Rifle.

Between wars Germany began developing automatic rifles. Their first, the Gewehr 41, used the Bang system but failed; captured Soviet automatic rifles like the SVT-40 helped Germany improve their rifle into the Gewehr 43. Germany now had a useful automatic rifle but they needed something more.

Germany's Fallschirmjäger were seriously formidable elite troops but they were hobbled by inadequate weapons. A program to produce a personal weapon that could operate as a automatic rifle or full machine gun resulted in the amazing FGH 42 (Fallschirmjägergewehr 42 or 'paratrooper rifle 1942'), an advanced weapon that directly influenced the design of the US Army's M60 machine gun.

Finally, Germany fielded the MP 43 / MP 44 / StG 44 family (Maschinenpistole 1943 & '44 or Sturmgewehr 44, or "assault rifle 1944"). This was essentially the same weapon with minor differences. This weapon revolutionized infantry warfare and directly influenced today's military weapons to varying degrees. StG 44s have been observed in battle as recently as 2009!

German Automatic Rifles 1941–45 is brought to us through 80 pages in 10 chapters and sections:

      • Beyond bolt-action
    3. USE
      • Technology in combat
    4. IMPACT
      • Influence in defeat
    7. INDEX

In the back is a one page glossary of firearm definitions germane to this title.

Author Chris McNab imparts his expertise and research to recount the history, development, employment, and legacy of these weapons in great detail. The key to the automatic rifle was the cartridge, which he explains in detail. The debate and development continues today!

Sixty-five pages of the book encompass the above topics as well as successes and shortcomings of the weapons. Plenty of qualifying information is presented with technical data, i.e., standard Kar 98 clips could be used in the Gew 41 & 43; cyclical rates of fire vs practical; weights, balance, lengths and other data.

Bureaucratic trivia too, such as the Gew. 43 was redesignated the Kar 43 in 1944. Bureaucratic bias is demonstrated as well in discussing the Heereswaffenamt circumventing Hitler's official cancellation of some rifles. Mr. McNab reveals facets of the designs which contributed to handling and employment fortes and foibles. He does not ignore the desperate Gustloff VG 1-5 Volksgewehr rifle for the Volkssturm. In addition, scope sights and extra equipment is discussed. This includes the bizarre barrels and sights designed to allow automatic rifle fire from around corners! Effective range and shot dispersion is presented.

Of particular interest are the many firsthand accounts and official reports concerning these weapons. Quoted are US intel reports for a Gew 41 captured in North Africa, plus personal reports from field soldiers who faced these rifles. An example is this recount by an American airborne solider
    ... we waded off the river bank and made our way slowly to a copse of trees abutting the bank, when suddenly, a (what we thought) MG 34 began to pepper our positions…by then had lost three men to the fire. Another string of bullets rattled off from a different position, hitting Lieutenant five or six times, killing him instantly. It was then that I saw the first German raise up and reposition himself, some two hundred yards [183m] over the bank. He was not, in fact, manning a MG 34, but indeed had one of the dreaded FG 42s in his possession. I made to gather my men to find cover, now knowing what we were up against, when a third FG 42 opened up from a wooded area some two hundred and fifty yards [229m] south of our position, hitting five men in the process. Before we could reposition, maneuver, and counter-attack, the Germans had successfully retreated, not being held up by the weight of a larger machine gun. Our squad took eight casualties while only seeing one German.

Other parts divulge German accounts from the Russian Front, including a side discussion on explosive bullets and ammunition preferred by German snipers.

The different rifles are compared in varying detail to America's M1 Garand, M1 carbine and ultimately the M14 and M16.

Mr. McNab fuses WW2 assault rifles with today's entertainment as he mentions that one can find video of these weapons being fired on the internet.

Finally, post-war development is explored. The link between the StG 44 and AK47 is pondered in light of quotes by Soviet inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov denying any influence.

art, graphics, photographs
Dozens of photographs populate the book. Naturally, many are wartime black-and-white shots. Although these are of varying clarity they support the text. Several color photographs display present day rifles from collections; two show modern weapons in the hands of modern soldiers. Ironically the only WW2 color photo is a 1942 shot of an American in training in Kentucky. This is very useful to modelers seeking to replicate authentic colors.

Plenty of original artwork by illustrators Ramiro Bujeiro and Alan Gilliland enhance this title. Three color centerfolds illustrate the weapons in action:
    1. Sniping with the Gew 43: SS sniper team with a Gew 43 semi-auto, Russia, 1944.

    2. The FG 42 in action: Fallschirmjäger engaging Allied troops from the ruins of a church. Both models of the FG 42 are shown to good effect.

    3. The infrared StG 44: Paanzergrenadiers fighting in a forest, March 1945, with a Zielgerät 1229 'Vampir' infrared sight.

Further illustrations include WW2 line art, and a color cut-away of the FG 42 featuring 19 components.

Sidebars and explicative boxes include
    a. Comparative specifications - Gew 43 and M1 Garand

    b. FG 42/I and FG 42/II comparative specifications

Modelers, collectors and historians should find German Automatic Rifles 1941–45 a splendid reference for the Gew 41, Gew 43, FG 42 and StG 44. It's an informative and concise history of Germany's automatic rifles and their influence on the post-war battlefield. I am greatly impressed by the number of personal and official reports concerning these weapons. I also appreciate that it follows the WW2 story with the influence of those guns on weapons today. The artwork is good. The photographic support is excellent.

I have nothing of substance to nitpick in this book and thus heartily recommend it!
Highs: Detailed history and analysis with personal battlefield accounts. Outstanding photographs and illustrations.
Lows: Nothing of substance.
Verdict: An informative and concise history of Germany's automatic rifles and their influence on the post-war battlefield.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781780963853
  Suggested Retail: $18.95 £12.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: May 18, 2013

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Historicus Forma or Silver Star Enterprises. All rights reserved.


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