One of the German army's conclusions from the 1940 Blitzkrieg was that most
infantry combats took place at ranges much closer than the 800-1000m range
of the contemporary rifles. Thus the army commissioned Haenel and Walther
to design a new machine-carbine (Maschinenkarrabiner, MKb). The two
resulting models were very similar, both using a curved 30-round box
magazines below the barrel and easy to produce. Roughly 3,500 of each model
were made and sent to the German troops in Russia. They quickly earned a
fine reputation and respect from the trorps. For some mysterious reasons,
however, Hitler ordered a halt to further development of the gun. The army,
on the other hand, supported Haenel to put the gun into full production.
The name was changed from Maschinenkarabiner 42(H) to Maschinenpistole 43
or MP 43 to fool the Führer.
The MP 43 was to become what today are called assault rifles. Single shots could be fired for defensive fire. It could also fire automatic shots for shock effect, covering fire or close-quarter combat. Automatic fire was possible because relatively low-powered rounds were used; they were effective with normal combat ranges and yet allowed shots to be fired repeatedly. This capability of automatic fire freed the infantrymen from support fire by a machine gun, and enabled the soldiers to carry their own support fire. With the MP 43 the German infantry's combat power increased trememdously. The low-powered ammunition's disadvantage was compensated by a high rate of fire and much better accuracy.
The MP 43 proved invaluable on the Eastern Front. Quite abnormal for wartime German practice, production rather than development was emphasized. The only altered version was the MP 43/1. It was equipped with a grenade-launching cup on the muzzle. In 1944, Hitler lifted the ban and designated the gun with the more accurate name Sturmgewehr 44 (assault rifle) or StG 44.
The basic design of the gun was not changed, but some extra parts were also made. An infra-red night sight called Vampir was one. A more peculiar addition was a curved barrel called Krummlauf. It could direct bullets to an angle between 30o and 45 o, and a special periscope sight was created for aiming. It would allow troops to fire around corners but was mainly designed for armored fighting vehicle crews to ward off tank-killing infantry.
After the war, several nations like Czechoslovakia retained and used many MP 43s. Some were used in the Arab-Israeli conflicts. And some still show up amongst the "freedom fighters" in Africa.
|Click on one of the thumbnails below to view the full picture.|
|Technical data and/or diagram of Maschinenpistole 43/Sturmgewehr 44.|
|An MP 43/StG 44 being carried by a Gebirgsjäger.|
|Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the Luftwaffe General who was ultimately made commander of all German troops in Italy, tries out an MP 43 assault rifle in fornt of other officers.|
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