StG 44 the Game Changing Assault Rifle

The Stg 44 stands as the inaugural assault rifle to achieve success in combat, setting the stage for future developments in assault rifle technology. Designed as a hybrid, the StG 44 merged the characteristics of a carbine, sub-machine gun, and automatic rifle, offering a versatile solution to soldiers on the battlefield.

Utilizing the 7.92 x 33mm cartridge, the StG 44 was capable of delivering substantial firepower, with a firing rate of 500 to 600 rounds per minute. Its design enabled effective engagement at distances up to 300 meters in automatic mode and up to 600 meters in semi-automatic.

The selective fire feature of the gun allowed operators to toggle between the rapid fire of a sub-machine gun for close encounters and the precision of a bolt-action rifle for mid-range combat. Weighing in at 5.13 kg when fully loaded and measuring 94 cm in length, the StG 44 was notably more compact than its contemporaries, enhancing its portability and ease of use.


Contrary to expectations, the StG 44 primarily served as a support weapon. It filled the gap when machine guns were reloading or repositioning, offering continuous fire support. During assaults, it was deployed to suppress enemy defenses, enabling riflemen armed with Kar 98s to advance with grenades and breach enemy positions.

The StG 44's official designation stands for "Sturmgewehr 44," which translates to "Assault Rifle, 1944" in English, reflecting its year of introduction.
The StG 44’s official designation stands for “Sturmgewehr 44,” which translates to “Assault Rifle, 1944” in English, reflecting its year of introduction.

The StG 44 distinguished itself as a formidable firearm of its era, excelling in its role as a source of support firepower. Notably, its design and functionality significantly influenced the development of subsequent assault rifles, including the iconic AK-47.

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The Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44), heralded as the first successful assault rifle in history, represents a pivotal innovation in military firearms, marking a significant evolution in the design and functionality of infantry weapons. Developed and deployed during the tumultuous years of World War II, the StG 44 not only altered the landscape of combat but also laid the groundwork for future generations of assault rifles, influencing designs for decades to come.


In early 1918, Captain Piderit of the German Army’s Small Arms Examination Committee in Berlin, presented a proposal advocating for the adoption of an intermediate cartridge accompanied by a suitable firearm. He argued that most combat engagements occurred within 800 meters, significantly less than the effective range of the 7.92×57mm Mauser Gewehr 98 rifle and MG 08 machine gun’s 2 kilometers.

A more compact, lighter round would conserve materials, enable soldiers to carry additional ammunition, and enhance overall firepower.

Gewehr 98

The reduced recoil could facilitate the use of semi-automatic or fully automatic select-fire rifles, though Piderit referred to the concept as a submachine gun. Despite these arguments, the German Army, already equipped with the 9mm MP 18 submachine gun, showed no interest in introducing a new cartridge type.

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By 1923, the German Army began considering a replacement for the Gewehr 98 that was smaller, lighter, and capable of similar performance up to 400 meters, with a magazine capacity of 20 to 30 rounds.

During the 1920s, the Bavarian firm Rheinisch-Westfälische Sprengstoff (RWS) and other German companies experimented with intermediate rounds, also aimed at aerial machine guns. It wasn’t until the 1930s that serious development began for a new infantry rifle.

Karabiner 98k

RWS proposed two ammunition types, one with a 7mm and another with an 8mm bullet, both housed in a 46mm case. Additionally, Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken introduced a 7×39.1mm round, and Gustav Genschow & Co (Geco) proposed a 7.75×39.5mm round, with Geco’s Model A35 automatic carbine emerging as an advanced yet complex and unsafe design.

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Subsequently, the German government initiated its intermediate cartridge and firearm program. In April 1938, Polte of Magdeburg was tasked with developing the ammunition, while C. G. Haenel of Suhl was contracted to design a corresponding weapon.

Approximately 132,000 Karabiner 98k sniper rifles were produced by Germany

The specifications demanded a rifle lighter or equal in weight to the Karabiner 98k, accurate up to 400 meters, capable of select-fire with a firing rate below 450 rounds per minute, compatible with rifle grenades, reliable, maintainable, and straightforward in design. The army expected delivery of fifty rifles for field testing by early 1942.

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At the onset of World War II, German infantry units were equipped comparably to their international counterparts, primarily with bolt-action rifles and various machine guns. A challenge arose with the standard rifles being too cumbersome for mechanized and armored forces, leading to difficulties in confined spaces.

To increase the infantry’s firepower, especially in close quarters, submachine guns like the MP 28, MP 38, and MP 40 were distributed, although these weapons were limited in range and accuracy beyond 100 meters.

Operation Barbarossa

During the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Red Army increasingly deployed semi-automatic Tokarev SVT-38 and SVT-40 rifles among elite units and non-commissioned officers, while some rifle companies were fully armed with PPSh-41 submachine guns. The German army, witnessing the effectiveness of the Soviets’ automatic fire, reconsidered their small arms strategy.

Efforts to field semi-automatic weapons like the Gewehr 41 faced challenges due to reliability issues and insufficient production to meet the army’s needs. Attempts to introduce lightweight machine guns or automatic rifles struggled due to the uncontrollable recoil of the powerful 7.92×57mm Mauser round in automatic mode.

The PPSh-41 utilized stamped metal parts, significantly reducing the complexity and cost of production compared t
The PPSh-41 utilized stamped metal parts, significantly reducing the complexity and cost of production compared t

By 1941, the need for a solution became urgent. Despite the development of various experimental rounds, the German Army opted for a new approach, choosing the Polte 8×33mm Kurzpatrone, a “short cartridge.”

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This design utilized a spitzer bullet and the fundamental cartridge design of the standard 7.92×57mm Mauser rifle round but reduced to 7.92×33mm Kurz. Although not ideal, this decision aimed to avoid logistical complications.

StG 44 & Submachine Guns

As the war progressed, it became increasingly clear to the German military leadership that traditional infantry weapons were not fully suited to the demands of modern warfare. Bolt-action rifles, such as the Karabiner 98k, offered excellent range and accuracy but were slow to fire and cumbersome in close combat.

Conversely, submachine guns provided high rates of fire and were effective at short ranges, but lacked the accuracy and hitting power needed for engagements beyond close quarters.

M1 Garand gun

This gap in capabilities highlighted the need for a new type of weapon that could offer the best of both worlds: the firepower and rapid-fire capabilities of a submachine gun, combined with the range and accuracy of a rifle.

The concept of an “assault rifle” emerged from this strategic necessity, aiming to equip soldiers with a more versatile and effective weapon system that could adapt to the varied and often unpredictable conditions of combat.

StG 44 project

The German military’s quest for such a weapon led to the development of the StG 44. Initially met with skepticism and resistance from traditionalists within the military establishment, the project gained momentum as the realities of the war underscored the limitations of existing infantry arms.

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The StG 44 project was propelled forward by the support of key figures who recognized the potential of an intermediate weapon to enhance the mobility, firepower, and overall effectiveness of the German infantry.

Approximately 425,000 to 500,000 units were produced during its limited production run from 1944 to 1945.
Approximately 425,000 to 500,000 units were produced during its limited production run from 1944 to 1945.

As the first weapon of its kind, the StG 44 was a groundbreaking development. It was designed to fire an intermediate cartridge, the 7.92x33mm Kurz, which offered a compromise between the long-range lethality of rifle rounds and the short-range effectiveness of pistol ammunition.

This innovation allowed soldiers to carry more ammunition and maintain effective fire over the medium distances that characterized most combat engagements during the war. The introduction of the StG 44 came at a critical juncture in the conflict, as German forces faced increasing pressure on multiple fronts.

StG 44 Design

At its core, the StG 44 was engineered to fulfill a novel concept: to provide infantry with a weapon that could effectively engage targets at both close and intermediate ranges, bridging the gap between the bolt-action rifles and submachine guns of its era.

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This ambition led to a design that was revolutionary, incorporating features that were advanced for its time and would later become staples in the design of modern firearms.

One of the most critical innovations of the StG 44 was its use of the intermediate 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge. This choice of ammunition was a departure from the high-powered rifle cartridges and pistol rounds used by rifles and submachine guns, respectively.

The StG 44 was equipped with a detachable box magazine with a standard capacity of 30 rounds, which was quite high for its time.
The StG 44 was equipped with a detachable box magazine with a standard capacity of 30 rounds, which was quite high for its time.

The intermediate cartridge offered a balance of power and recoil, enabling soldiers to carry more ammunition and maintain control of their weapon during automatic fire, a crucial advantage in the fast-paced engagements of World War II.

The StG 44 also introduced a selective fire mechanism, allowing the operator to switch between semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes. This versatility meant that a soldier could engage targets accurately at longer ranges using semi-automatic fire, then switch to fully automatic to suppress or eliminate enemies at closer distances.

StG 44 Was a Departure

The design included other forward-thinking features such as a detachable magazine, which facilitated rapid reloading, and a relatively ergonomic layout that improved handling and control.

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Aesthetically, the StG 44 was a departure from the sleek and polished appearance of traditional firearms of the time. Its design was utilitarian, emphasizing functionality and ease of manufacture over form.

This approach reflected the exigencies of wartime production and the need for a weapon that could be produced efficiently in large quantities. Despite its somewhat crude appearance, the StG 44 was robust and reliable, traits that were highly valued in the harsh conditions of the battlefield.

It was used extensively by the German Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the latter stages of World War II.
It was used extensively by the German Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the latter stages of World War II.

The weapon’s impact on the development of military small arms cannot be overstated. Its successful integration of an intermediate cartridge, selective fire capability, and other innovative features demonstrated the effectiveness of the assault rifle concept and influenced the design of subsequent firearms. The StG 44’s legacy is evident in the characteristics shared by modern assault rifles: intermediate cartridges, versatility in firing modes, and a focus on functionality and ergonomics.

Tactical Impact

Its introduction marked the birth of a new class of firearm—the assault rifle—which bridged the gap between the long-range accuracy of traditional rifles and the close-quarters firepower of submachine guns. The StG 44’s design allowed soldiers to engage effectively at both medium and close ranges, offering a versatility previously unseen on the battlefield.

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The tactical impact of the StG 44 can be best understood by examining its performance and use in various combat scenarios. With its selective fire capability, soldiers could switch between semi-automatic fire for engaging targets at medium range and fully automatic fire for suppressive fire and close combat situations.

A US NCO inspects a German StG 44 in a German weapons workshop
A US NCO inspects a German StG 44 in a German weapons workshop

This adaptability meant that infantry units equipped with the StG 44 could maintain a high rate of fire during advances or defensive actions, increasing their overall combat effectiveness.

Moreover, the StG 44 utilized the 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge, which provided a balance between the long-range performance of rifle cartridges and the short-range effectiveness of submachine gun ammunition.

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This intermediate cartridge allowed for more manageable recoil in automatic fire, enabling soldiers to maintain control and accuracy during sustained bursts.

Reduced Weight

The reduced weight and size of the ammunition also meant that soldiers could carry more rounds, enhancing their sustained firepower capability without significantly increasing their load.

The tactical advantages conferred by the StG 44 led to changes in infantry tactics. Squads could now engage the enemy at various ranges without the need to rely as heavily on support from machine guns or artillery.

The flexibility of the StG 44 facilitated more dynamic and fluid infantry operations, allowing for rapid movement and the ability to quickly adapt to changing battlefield conditions. Its effectiveness in close-quarters combat and urban warfare environments further underscored its utility and demonstrated the need for a new approach to infantry armament.

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In summary, the StG 44’s tactical impact was profound, heralding a new era in military tactics and the development of infantry weapons. Its introduction not only enhanced the combat capabilities of soldiers on the front lines but also influenced future weapon development, setting the standard for what would become the modern assault rifle. The StG 44’s legacy is reflected in the design and function of contemporary military firearms,

StG 44 Post War Use

The Sturmgewehr continued to serve within the ranks of the East German Nationale Volksarmee under the designation MPi.44, until it was phased out in favor of domestically produced versions of the AK-47.

The East German Volkspolizei utilized the rifle until around 1962, subsequently replacing it with the PPSh-41, although it remained in use by other security forces for some time after. Ammunition production for the weapon persisted in East Germany until at least 1961.

Somali women militants of the Ogaden region, one of them holding a StG 44
Somali women militants of the Ogaden region, one of them holding a StG 44

Beyond Germany, the StG 44 found post-war service in countries like Czechoslovakia, where it was used but not officially adopted, and Yugoslavia, where it equipped units such as the 63rd Paratroop Battalion into the 1980s. Eventually, these rifles were either transferred to reserve forces or sold to allies in the Middle East and Africa. France also utilized captured StG 44s within its colonial Foreign Legion units.

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In Argentina, trial versions of the StG 44 were developed by CITEFA during the late 1940s and early 1950s. However, Argentina opted for the FN FAL in 1955, favoring its use of the more widely available and potent 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge, and distancing itself from the weapon’s Nazi origins.

StG-44 Replica

In the modern era, Germany has seen the manufacture of new semi-automatic civilian versions of the MKb 42(H), MP 43/1, and StG 44 by Sport Systeme Dittrich (SSD), with distribution by HZA Kulmbach GmbH. These reproductions are chambered in the original 7.92×33mm Kurz and are compatible with standard magazines.

Although the PTR-44 by PTR Industries was briefly available, it was discontinued due to its high cost and limited demand. Conversely, a .22 rimfire replica by German Sports Guns (GSG) has been produced in significant numbers at a more affordable price, representing the most accessible reproduction of the StG 44.

Captured StG 44s in Algeria in the 1960s
Captured StG 44s in Algeria in the 1960s

Hill & Mac Gunworks (HMG) has discussed plans to produce a StG-44 replica in various calibers, including the original 7.92×33mm Kurz as well as modern alternatives like 7.62×39mm, 5.56×45mm NATO, and .300 AAC Blackout, although these have not yet come to fruition.

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Currently, 7.92mm Kurz ammunition is being produced by Prvi Partizan in Serbia ensuring the continued legacy and operational capacity of this historic firearm.

Influence and Legacy is Big

The StG 44 holds the distinction of being the first assault rifle widely adopted for service and mass-produced. This innovation, which focused on reducing muzzle impulse to enable effective automatic fire at combat ranges, is regarded as one of the most significant developments in small arms since the adoption of smokeless powder.

The influence of the StG 44 on subsequent firearm design is profound and far-reaching, as evidenced by its impact on iconic weapons such as Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK-47 and Eugene Stoner’s M16, among others.

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The concept of the assault rifle, as exemplified by the StG 44, was rapidly embraced by the Soviet Union, which led to the development of the AK-47. The AK-47, while sharing the StG 44’s use of an intermediate cartridge and general design philosophy, employs a rotating bolt mechanism, distinguishing it from its German predecessor.

The introduction of automatic fire capability to the M1 carbine, resulting in the M2 carbine with its 30-round magazines, reflected a similar acknowledgment of the assault rifle’s utility in the United States.

AK-47’s Development

The degree to which the StG 44 influenced the AK-47’s development remains a subject of debate. Despite differences in their mechanisms and the absence of direct copying, the capture of numerous StG 44s by the Soviets likely provided valuable insights to Kalashnikov’s team.

Moreover, Hugo Schmeisser, a key figure in the StG 44’s development, was compelled to work in the Soviet Union post-war, potentially contributing further to Soviet small arms development. The 7.62×39mm cartridge of the AK-47 was directly inspired by the StG 44’s 7.92×33mm cartridge, as evidenced by Soviet efforts to develop a similar intermediate cartridge following examination of the German round.

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Post-WWII, many Western nations persisted with traditional full-caliber rifles, though the adoption of the 7.62×51mm NATO round indicated a shift towards less powerful ammunition. This trend was not entirely new; earlier, the U.S. Army had recognized the benefits of smaller, less powerful rifles with the adoption of the M1 carbine.

The influence of the StG 44 continued in Western small arms development, with several countries exploring assault rifles that combined selective-fire capabilities with reduced-power cartridges. The U.S. further innovated with the development of small-caliber, high-velocity (SCHV) bullets, culminating in the M16, while the Soviet Union introduced the AK-74, adopting a similar SCHV approach.

If you do find an original StG 44 then be prepared to spend a lot of money, one recently sold at auction in the USA for $70,000.