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German Automatic Rifles 1941–45

German Automatic Rifles 1941–45 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review May 2013 Title German Automatic Rifles 1941–45
Author Chris McNab Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781780963853
Format 64 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $18.95


At the end of World War I, bolt-action rifles, pistol-caliber sub machine guns and larger, crew-operated machine guns dominated standard-issue infantry weapons.

The realities of Great War trench-fighting changed that mix.  Militaries worldwide sought self-loading rifles – semi-automatic and automatic designs – to boost personal firepower.  And during World War II, the ancestors of today's "assault weapons" first appeared.

Nazi Germany's critical contributions dominate the latest installment in Osprey's acclaimed "Weapon" series.  And German Automatic Rifles 1941–45 certainly tells a terrific tale of "impressive innovation and real engineering achievement".

After introductory notes on military rifle development, author Chris McNab details three pioneering designs – the Gew 43, FG 42 and StG 44 (MP 43/44).

Contents climax with the legendary Sturmgewehr – Nazi Germany's revolutionary StG 44.  The design pioneered the paradigm for virtually all modern assault weapons.  It, McNab observes, "broke the mold in firearms design and proved the assault-rifle concept".

A concluding "impact" section outlines the postwar fates of Nazi German automatic-rifles.  And there McNab unearths some fascinating nuggets.

Brazil, for instance, produced a .30-06 version of the Gew 43 – the Itajubá Model 954 Mosquetão ("Big Muskett").  And the FG 42 circuitously sired the NATO M60 LMG.  Both careers, however, effectively ended with V-E Day.

But the StG 44 continued, serving as the standard-issue rifle in East Germany and soldiering in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Vietnam and Lebanon.  Argentina nearly produced its own version in the late 1940s.  Whether it really inspired Russia's legendary AK-47, though, remains historically contentious.

Photos, drawings and paintings season Osprey's study.  While technically competent, Ramiro Bujeiro's action illustrations unfortunately lack the puissant punch of, say, Osprey colleague Steve Noon's outstanding work.  Alan Guilliland's cut-aways, by contrast, proved excellently informative.  An index and summary of primary and secondary sources complete contents.  And the whole thing is annotated!

History has vindicated Nazi Germany's design approach.  A smaller round, McNab concludes, "offered advantages in full-auto fire, recoil control, volume of ammunition carried and performance over practical combat ranges."  And by Vietnam, the U.S. military finally agreed.

I really enjoyed this little book.  Make it to your introduction to this seminal subject.

Highly recommended.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!