There was in the German army an overall "quality control" department
that was responsible for devising ways to make the German armed
forces more efficient. By 1940, it became apparent to this section
that some form of a self-loading rifle with a higher rate of fire
was needed to improve the German infantry's combat efficiency. The
army issued a specification to the gun producers and both Mauser
and Walther submitted prototypes that were very similar. Both models
used a mechanism known as the "Bang" system (after its Norwegian
designer Soren H. Bang). In this system, gases from a fired bullet
was trapped near the muzzle and used to pull a piston that opened
the breech to automatically reload the gun. Springs then would
return the muzzle cone and piston to their original positions so the
cycle would continue. The Mauser model was shown unsuitable for
combat use and subsequently the Walther design was adopted. It was
put into production in 1941 as the Gewehr 41(W).
The Gewehr 41(W), however, did not perform very well on the battlefield. The Bang system was too complicated and broke down frequently under the stress and wear of combat. And the gun itself was too heavy for handy use. Reloading the gun also proved difficult and time-consuming. Since it was the only self-loading rifle available to the German army, it had to be produced in numbers. And even in the factories, the Gewehr 41(W) was hard to mass-produce.
In 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. On the Eastern Front the Germans captured many Tokarev 7.62mm SVT38s and '40s self-loading rifles. The Tokarev rifle employed a much simpler but more effective gas-operated mechanism, which was duly copied by the Germans into the Gewehr 41(W). The product was the Gewehr 43. The Gewehr 43 was immediately put into production to replace the Gewehr 41(W). The new model was easier to produce in large quantities and was lighter and easier to reload. As a result it was a popular weapon among the troops. Many short-cuts were incorporated into the manufacturing process. Sometimes wood laminates and plasitc furniture were used. In 1944, a shorter version of the Gewehr 43 was produced, and it was known as the Karabiner 43 even though it was only 50mm shorter.
Both the Gewehr 41(W) and 43 accepted the standard German 7.92mm cartridge. This made the Gewehr 43 a very lethal sniper weapons, and all versions were equipped with telescopic sights as a standard accessory. The Gewehr 43 was excellent in its sniper role and stayed in service for the Czech army for several years after the war.
|Click on one of the thumbnails below to view the full picture.|
|Technical data and/or diagram of Gewehr 41(W) and Gewehr 43.|
|A Latvian member of the Waffen-SS with a Gewehr 43 fitted as standard with a telescopic sight.|
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