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Maschinenpistole MP 40

The very famous MP 38 and MP 40, despite known as "the Schmeisser" by allied troops, was not designed by Hugo Schmeisser, but by Heinrich Vollmer of the company Erma Erfurter Waffenfabrik. The weapon's advantages are reasonable accuracy, easy handling and relative stability even when firing prolonged bursts. A disadvantage was the placement of the 32-round magazines under the weapon. A weak point was the feeding of cartridges to the gun, because of a tendency of the magazine system to get dirty and the non-ideal shape of the cylindrical 9mm-cartridges, the weapon could jam. Another major disadvantage of the MP38 was the bad securing of the loaded weapon; any shock could fire the gun. This was remedied in the successor model, the MP 40. The other difference was that while the MP 38 was milled out of solid metal, the MP 40 was produced as a cheap pressed-steel - construction. Otherwise, the two weapons were identical. An easy way to distinguish the two in pictures are the 4 horizontal positive grooves on the magazine holder of the MP 40; the MP 38 does not have these.

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A late modification of the MP 40 was the MP 40/II that had two 32-round magazines located beside each other so that the gunner could easily switch over to the second magazine after spending the first one. Total production of MP 38 and MP 40 combined was 908,317. Practical range was below 200m, practical rate of fire below 100 rounds/min. The weapon had a folding metal stock; it could not fix a bayonet or use the schiesbecher rifle-grenade firing device but could be fitted with a Schalldämpfer ("silencer"), though this was very rare. Technical data: length (MP 38) 62cm (MP 40) 63cm; length (stock unfolded) 83cm; barrel length (MP 38) 24cm (MP 40) 25cm; weight (MP 38 with empty magazine) 4.22kg (MP 40 w/o magazine) 3.97kg; weight of loaded 32-round magazine: 640g; theoretical rate of fire (system) 400 rounds per minute.
Ammunition: 9mmx19mm Parabellum; Penetration performance: dry pinewood 23cm at 50m, 15cm at 200m; brick wall 4cm at 50m; sheet metal 2mm at 50m; steel armor of 2mm will only be dented.

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The machine pistol magazine pouches were issued in matched pairs. there were two wartime versions, both made of canvas and similar in design, with three pockets, each holding one 32-round magazine. Each pocket was closed by a stud-secured strap, its end retained by a loop. On the lower outside edge of the left pouch was a small square pocket for the magazine loading tool. On the back were two angled belt loops, which caused the pouches to angle inwards when worn on the belt (though it was not uncommon for them to be mistakenly worn reversed.) A "D" ring was fitted on each pouch at or near the outer upper corners to attach to the belt support straps.

The black all-leather model saw very limited pre-war issue. More common was the olive green model with black leather flap straps and retaining belt, and support strap loops; some had leather flaps as well. Another version was made with the leather components entirely replaced by webbing; originally designed for tropical use, they were also issued elsewhere. These were issued in both reed green and olive green. Finally, there was a late war model in light tan canvas with black leather flap and retaining straps.

Sturmgewehr 44

The Sturmgewehr 44 made history as the first real assault rifle; in fact, the term "assault rifle" itself is a literal translation of this weapon's designation. Obviously, the concept of the StGw influenced Mikhail Kalashnikov in his development of the famous AK-47 assault rifle (although the AK has a system of it's own right). The story of the Sturmgewehr is that of the late success of an ingenious and right idea that prevailed despite all efforts to stop it. Many attempts had been made in several countries including germany during the 1920ies to develop an automatic rifle that combined the characteristics of the submachinegun - a high rate of fire and therefore fire volume - with that of the then usual regular infantry rifle - accuracy and projectile power - while at the same time eliminating the disadvantages of the respective weapon types. Most of these attempts failed, because the conservative authorities did not like the idea or -mostly- because these early weapons tried to use the regular powerful rifle ammunition.

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The german breakthrough therefore came when an order was given in April 1938 to develop a weapon that used the specially developed Maschinenkarabiner-Patrone 7.92x33 or Kurzpatrone, later also called Pistolenpatrone 43, that was essentially a shortened Mauser 7.92 mm standard rifle cartridge filled with pistol ammunition powder. Two notable designs emerged. The first was constructed by the company Walther and was called Maschinenkarabiner 42 (W) or Mkb 42(W), the other was designed by Hugo Schmeisser from the company Haenel in Suhl under the designation Mkb 42(H). The two are easily discerned because the Haenel-design has a second barrel housing the gas-operation channel that reaches almost to the muzzle. The latter design was considered superior and went into limited production for troop trials, total Mkb 42 production was 11,833 weapons in late 1942 and early 1943. These were to be kept secret from the high command, especially Hitler himself, as he was a strong opponent to the idea not the least because he feared the large-scale introduction of yet another ammunition type. Hitler nevertheless found out about the limited production and ordered the it to be halted immediately. However, development continued under the cover of an alibi project of producing a carbine for the accepted Mauser rifle ammunition at the company Gustloff. Several aspects of the Walther Mkb 42(W) were incorporated, the gas-operated mechanism was improved and the weapon was given the designation Maschinenkarabiner 43 (G) for the company Gustloff, again to deceive Hitler. Like the chicken bone the witch is shown in Hänsel & Gretel, Adolf was always shown the official Mkb 43(G) that was designed for the regular Mauser 7.92mm rifle cartridge. The weapon that used the actual Kurzpatrone was simply called MP 43 machine pistol in the hope that Hitler would see this as a submachine gun. Eventually the truth surfaced and Hitler ordered the project stopped. However, in the meantime the army that had used these weapons in the trials was so enthusiastic about this new weapon that they eventually succeeded in convincing Hitler to produce the weapon as a replacement for the MP 40. First large-scale use of this new weapon was with the 93rd ID in the northern sector of the eastern front. After small changes the weapon was called MP 44. It was not until July 1944 when several Division commanders personally begged Hitler in his headquarters that the weapon was given production priority. In December of that same year the weapon was given the suggestive name Sturmgewehr or Sturmgewehr 44, abbreviated StG 44 or StGw 44. Total production of the MP 43 and MP 44 / Sturmgewehr was 425,977 at a price of 66.- RM for one Sturmgewehr 44.

The weapon is a gas-operated automatic weapon that can be fired both in selective single-shot and in full automatic mode (toggled by a switch located on the right side of the gun). Recoil reportedly is is arguably low. Because the metal hand guard fore of the magazine heated up quickly when the weapon was fired, gunners usually held the StGw 44 at the magazine instead of the hot handguard. The StGw 44 features a 30-round curved magazine and could be fitted with all known accessories: it could use bayonets or silencers as well as the Schiessbecher rifle grenade device or the ZF 4 scope. The regular sights can be adjusted from 100m to 800m range.

The Sturmgewehr 44 could also be fitted with ZF 1229 Vampir, an infra-red night sighting device. The scope for the Vampir mounted onto the StGw 44 weighed 2.3kg, the support devices were carried in a rucksack and weighed 13kg. 310 of these night-fighting scopes were produced at the company Leitz. Another intriguing invention was the Krummerlauf ("bent barrel"), a bent barrel with a persicope sighting device for shooting around corners. This idea existed in several variants, an "I"-version for infantry use and a "P" version for use in tanks (to cover the dead areas in the close range around the tank to defend against assaulting infantry), versions with 30°, 45°, 60° and 90°, and a version for the StGw 44 and one for the MG 42. Only the 30° "I" - version for the StGw 44 was produced in any numbers. Technical data: length 94cm; barrel length 42cm; weight (w empty magazine and sling) 4.62kg; weight of loaded 30-round magazine: 920g; theoretical system rate of fire: 500 rounds/minuteM; practical rof in full automatic mode 100 rpm; Vo 685 m/s.

Ammunition: Kurzpatrone 7.92x33; this ammunition is known under the designations Kurzpatrone, Infanteriepatrone 7,92mm PP 43 or as 7.92x33.It was a bottle-shaped cartridge, essentially a shortened regular Mauser 7.9mm rifle cartridge. The projectile had a caliber of 7.92mm and weighed 6.95g; the complete cartridge weighed 16.7g (incl. 1.4g powder) and developed a typical Eo of 1,500 Joule. Penetration performance: 25cm of birchwood at 50m; steel helmets were penetrated at ranges exceeding 600m. Total production of the Kurzpatrone ammunition was 822 mio. cartridges until March 1945.

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The magazine pouches were similar in design to the second model all-canvas MP40 pouches and worn in the same manner. They consisted of three magazine pockets curved slightly inward, the base of which were reinforced. Each pocket flap was secured by a stud-closed strap and retaining loop. On the inside edge of the right pouch was a small pocket for the magazine loading device. A similar but larger pocket was fitted to the left pouch to accommodate and accessory bag containing small spare parts. (Some late-war pouches did not possess these pockets.) The two triple pouch sets were linked together by a thin adjustable web strap intended to be worn around the wearer's back waist; this was often removed.

Early versions had brown leather pocket flaps, flap securing straps and retaining loops, base reinforcement, accessory pocket flaps and belt loops. Late war versions usually had these components replaced by canvas and web straps, though the accessory pockets, if present, usually retained the leather flaps. Web flap retaining straps usually had metal tips and inverted "U" metal retaining brackets. Pouches will be found in olive green, reed green, grey and light tan (this being the most common), and sometimes having a red thread somewhere in the weave.


Development of the Maschinengewehr 34 ("machine rifle") was officially credited to the chief engineer Louis Stange of the company Rheinmetall in Sömmerda, although most of the development work had been done by Heinrich Vollmer from the company Mauser

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Werke in Oberndorf by including details from the LMG 32. It was a very good weapon in terms of quality. However, although the MG 34 was a considerable improvement over the WW I - type weapons (the famous 08/15 machine guns of WW I consisted of 383 single pieces!) this quality in design and finish also made for a comparably slow production and a high price of 327.-- RM per weapon; also, 49 kg of raw material were used to machine the parts from. Although a brilliant design - the weapon immediately was agreed upon as the standart machine gun -, the precision machined parts proved to be very sensitive and prone to malfunction in the harsh conditions of field use. The reload mechanism depended on the recoil forces, the weapon had two triggers, one for single (the upper trigger part) and one for automatic fire (the lower trigger part). The MG 34 could use both magazine-fed and belt-fed ammunition (the above-mentioned 7.92mm standard infantry ammuntion). Available were Doppeltrommel ("double drum") saddle drum magazines of 75 rounds and gegurtete Munition ("linked/belted ammunition") belts of 50 rounds (weight: 1.5 kg) and 250 rounds (boxed; weight of a filled 250-round belt box: 8.35 kg). The single belts of course could be connected to make an endless belt.In the role as a light machine gun with bipod the weapon often was used with 50-round Gurttrommel, a small drum magazine containing the 50-round belt.

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MG34 patronenkaste

Ammo belt

To prepare the weapon to fire the drum magazines - by default all later produced models of the weapon were set to fire belted ammunition - the top cover part of the casing housing the breech mechanism had to be changed to a cover part that could accomodate the saddle magazine ammunition. As required by the specifications it was the first true general purpose machine gun: with a bipod as a light machine gun it weighed 12.1 kg, mounted on a tripod it was used as a medium machine gun; the small tripod weighed 6.75 kg, the large tripod (that at 400.-- RM was more expensive than the weapon itself) weighed 23.6 kg. The barrel weighed 2kg, the bipod (which cost 15,- RM) weighed 1kg.

The barrel protector 'Laufschutzer 34' or known to many as the barrel carrier, was issued with every machine gun. Used to protect the barrel and to store a spare barrel when hot barrels were changed. Twin barrel carriers 'Laufbehalter 34' were also manufactured for the MG34 to hold two barrels. A special 'Laufschutzer 42' was introduced with the MG42, manufactured to hold the MG42 barrel. Later in the war, to simplify production and supply the dual purpose barrel carrier 'Laufschutzer 43' was introduced and used from 1943.

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Laufschutzer 34 (MG34 barrel carrier)

The MG34 was 122.5 cm long, the barrel was 60.0 cm long (other sources 62.5cm) and had a rifling of 4 grooves; as mentioned above, caliber was 7.92mm and the V0 of the bullets was 755 m/s; early models could fire at a rate of either 600 or 1000 rounds per minute by toggling a switch on the pistol grip; soon this was abandoned and most models did not have this switch, the weapons were finished at the factory set at a fixed rate between 800 and 900 rounds per minute. After first experiences on the eastern front experiments with a MG 34 S called version took place: with a shorter barrel of 50cm it achieved rates of fire up to 1,700 rounds per minute; however, this drastically reduced reliability and life expectancy of the weapon to a degree where this weapon was considered unfeasible. Another, actually produced version was the MG34/41. The weapon used many new parts, including the spring of the successor MG42, to achieve it's rate of fire of 1,200 /min. Length of the MG34/41 was 112cm; barrel length 56cm; 1,707 (other sources: 1,705) were built from February to June (other sources: May) 1942. Life expectancy of the barrel was 5,000 to 6,000 rounds provided that it was changed according to manual. The MG 34 provided for a quick change of barrel: The barrel was connected to the main body by a hinge mechanism; to change the barrel, the body was simply swung to the side and the barrel could be pulled out without having disassemble the breech mechanism. Because of the sensitivity of the MG 34 for dirt and damages in field use, it was preferred to still put this weapon into vehicles even after the MG 42 was introduced and therefore free up the MG 42 for infantry use. The vehicle-mounted version of the MG 34 was fitted with a schwerer Lauf ("heavy barrel") or Panzerlauf ("armor barrel") that compensated for the lesser change of barrel and the armored housing also protected the barrel to a degree.

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MG34 Werkzeugtasche (toolcase) Contents of the werkzeugtasche

The MG 34 was produced until the end of the war and a total number of 354,020 was built.

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