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Preview – Hill & Mac Gunworks StG 44

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Photos by Straight 8

A Modern Throwback to a WWII-Era Assault Rifle

In terms of its overall effect on small arms design, the StG 44 had more influence than any other single 20th century firearm. There, we said it. Despite an almost fanatical loyalty to the United States and a love of the guns it has produced, we’re going to insist that this is the one model that changed everything. And it almost never happened.

As is usual when a revolutionary design comes along, its major components were already in use in other applications. The iPhone wasn’t groundbreaking in the technologies it employed, but putting them all together in a way that solved the problems of many users ensured its place in technological history.

Sturmgewehr44 hillandmacgunworks

The StG 44 was the iPhone of the German Wermacht, and it solved problems with 125 grains of steel jacketed lead.

After encountering the Soviet mix of SVT-40s and Ppsh 41s on the Eastern Front during WWII, Germany’s weapon designers dusted off plans previously shelved due to logistical concerns. It’s not that they hadn’t been working on an intermediate round and the rifle from which to fire it, it’s just that bureaucracies as a rule take an inordinate amount of time to get shit done — in this case, about 20 years. There’s nothing quite like a good ass kicking to concentrate the mind, however, and when the wheels came off of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the German high command resurrected the program to use a chopped-down version of their 8mm Mauser service rifle cartridge in a select-fire, magazine-fed weapon. And lo, the assault rifle came to pass.

In order to circumvent Hitler’s prohibition of new rifle programs, the assault rifle’s development flew under the radar, camouflaged by the somewhat obvious means of renaming it as a submachine gun. The fruits of this scheme, designated the MP 43, was deployed in small numbers to infantry on the Eastern Front who loved it, as it provided greater range and power than a 9mm SMG, with way more firepower than a bolt-action rifle — all crammed into a handy package. Six months after its initial deployment, Hitler found out about the ruse, renamed the gun the “Storm Rifle” of 1944, and allowed people to congratulate him on his brilliance. Unfortunately for them, however, the weapon’s arrival failed to make any difference to the war’s outcome, a situation no doubt appreciated by GIs and Tommies throughout Europe.

Despite being too little, too late, the combination of features offered by the Sturm Gewehr has resonated with every significant military since 1945. Or at least, it eventually would, even with the mendacious seat warmers of the U.S. Ordnance Board, who inflicted the M14 on U.S. troops before finally tumbling to the fact that a full-auto 7.62×51 rifle is about as useful as a carpet fitter’s ladder.

One of the design criteria of the StG 44 was that it was to consume less in the way of high-quality materials than the K98 service rifle. This was achieved through the use of a 1mm thick, stamped receiver, housing a short trunnion. The trunnion served as the locking mechanism to contain the pressures of firing, and, apart from the bolt, was the only piece of high-strength steel in the entire gun.

The StG 44 operates by means of a long-stroke gas piston attached to a carrier, which operates a tilting bolt. On firing, propellant gases enter a gas block located near the muzzle and push the piston rearward. After approximately 5mm of travel and before the bolt has unlocked, the piston exposes a series of vents that exhaust gas to the atmosphere. Being shoved to the rear, the carrier continues and a camming surface on its lower side engages a lug on the bolt, lifting it up 2 degrees and out of engagement with the trunnion’s locking surfaces. Bolt and carrier continue rearward, extracting the spent case, compressing the recoil spring and eventually returning to chamber the next round, after which the carrier cams the bolt downward and into battery.


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