Military-Grade Awesome

Sturmgewehr 44

Ardennenoffensive, Grenadiere in Luxemburg

You may have seen this photo before. It shows Volksgrenadiers fighting in the Ardennes offensive by Germany in WWII. Like most people, I wondered what kind of rifle the grenadiers are using. It’s a Sturmgewehr 44 (storm rifle 1944), and it’s considered by many to be the first true “assault rifle”.

As the war dragged on, and Germany’s prospects of winning started to fade, the German army ordered a new type of rifle. Rather than the typical carbine used by infantry forces worldwide, this rifle would combine attributes of a carbine with those of a submachine gun and automatic rifle. Thus was born what we today call the “assault rifle”. Legend has it that Hitler himself named the new rifle the Sturmgewehr because he envisioned it allowing his armies to storm enemy placements and turn the tide of the war once and for all in the Third Reich’s favor.

Despite criticism from the Americans and British, the StG 44 proved to be quite an effective weapon. Chambered with a smaller round (7.92×33mm Kurz) than other German infantry rifles, the StG 44 didn’t have quite the same range, but within the 200 yards or so that most infantry combat took place it was plenty accurate. A selectable semi-auto mode allowed German soldiers to conserve ammo compared to their machine gun toting comrades. It also allowed soldiers to control their fire much more effectively, while a full auto mode still game them the ability to get out of trouble.

The major drawback was that it was heavy. Weighing in at 11.3 lb. fully loaded, the Sturmgewehr was not a light rifle. The bulk of its weight is due to the decision to use heavier stamped and welded steels for the receiver while preserving lighter, stronger steels for other parts of the German war machine. Despite this flaw, the StG 44 served the German forces well, particularly on the Eastern Front.

Like many Germany innovations during WWII, the Sturmgewehr 44 would go on to change the face of weaponry. Nearly every military in the world now equips their soldiers with assault-type rifles with the same basic capabilities as the StG 44. Also like many German innovations during WWII, the Sturmgewehr 44 was too little too late.

[Image Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1985-0104-501 / Lange / CC-BY-SA]

  • Number_Six

    It's impossible to look at that photo and not think of those 80 unlucky young American soldiers being murdered in December, 1944, after surrending to an SS division.

    • nanoop

      Being European, I'm not aware of that peculiar slaughter, as there were hundreds of thousands of similar stories.

      The "unlucky" ones were mostly Russian soldiers (13+ million soldiers), and, often overlooked, 10+ million Chinese civilians, this are just the two biggest groups of those roughly 50 million casualties (accurate numbers vary heavily due to lack of proper sources and political/moral abuse of these numbers).

      Each single death because of somebody else's ideology is a waste.

      • Number_Six

        You are correct – one war in China in the 1800s resulted in an estimated 43,000,000 deaths. This was far beyond the casualties of WWI but not ever discussed in the West.

        However, for various reasons the picture above is particularly resonant for a certain demographic, especially as winter begins.

        • War crimes/atrocities against Americans were very rare in the European theater in WWII, especially compared to the Pacific theater. That's another reason it stands out. For the most part Germany's treatment of American and British POWs was probably the equal of Allied treatment of German POWs. Most of Germany's atrocities were committed against civilian populations and the Russians.

  • These things are still in use in Syria in the current civil war! All be it with a few technical updates:
    <img src="×398.jpg"width=500&gt;

    Earlier it was known as Maschinenpistole until Adolf came up with Sturmgewehr.

    • That's both scary and awesome

      • Today an original, legal, and registered Stg 44 is worth about $15k-$20k in the US market. The 5,000 Stg 44s in the Syrian warehouse would be worth seventy five million dollars! (OK, so they aren't legal, can't be registered, and would probably flood the market and lower the price) That would buy a lot of AKs. Heck, even if you torched them and imported them as parts kits, they would probably bring at least $1k each or five million dollars.

        However, you can buy a .22lr semiauto replica of the Stg 44 for about $600. Here's a picture:
        <img src=""width=500&gt;

  • "…a full auto mode still gave them the ability to get out of trouble."

    <img src="; width="300/">

  • And this just popped up on
    7.92×33 is still alive and well in Pakistan and you can have a sort of dual caliber homemade AK-47.

  • TurboBrick

    You forgot to mention the Zielgerat 1229 night vision system that was developed for this…

    <img src="; width="500">

    Basically it's a black spotlight on top of an IR scope with a huge battery backpack.