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What a rimfire! GSG/ATI's Sturmgewehr 44 .22 long rifle.

In the spring of 1943, 2,000 Maschinenkarabiner 42s were delivered to Germany's beleaguered troops of Army Group North on the Russian Front. The impact of the sudden appearance on the front line of a 30-round, selective-fire rifle, later to be named the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44), had to have been a startling event to the Russians. To the German troops, their MKb42s were judged so superior to their bolt-action Mausers and MP 40s that Hitler, who had specifically terminated (or thought he had!) the development of the rifle, was forced to embrace it and order its mass production.

By the end of WWII, Germany had fielded the most advanced small arms the world had ever seen. Given the complex and often strained relationship between the professional military and the Fuhrer, the competing priorities of the various services and the destruction of the Third Reich's production and supply systems, it's astonishing that any of the important advancements in small arms ever saw the light of day. The leading models that come to mind are the MG42 machinegun, the Fallschirmjaegergewehr 42 (Parachutist rifle) and the Sturmgewehr 42/43/44 series.

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We may not have the opportunity to own any of them, but their history is interesting, and through the efforts of German Sport Guns (GSG) and American Tactical Imports, we now have a rimfire version of the StG44 that, from all outside appearances, dimensions and weight, is as close to the real item as you'll find. The story of the original StG44 begins with a cartridge.

THE BEGINNING

WWI was one of the seminal moments in military history with developments like aerial and gas warfare, the tank and the machine gun for suppressive and indirect fire. One of the lessons learned was that most engagements occurred at less than 400 yards, generating the conclusion that you didn't need a full-powered rifle cartridge to get the job done.

The American solution was the secretly developed Pedersen device that replaced the bolt in a '03 Springfield, transforming the Springfield into a magazine-fed, 40-shot semi-automatic, firing a pistol-sized, .30-caliber cartridge sporting an 80-grain bullet at 1,300 fps. Given the deceptive designation of "Automatic Pistol, Caliber .30, 1918," 500,000 Pedersen devices were on order for a planned mass attack on the German lines scheduled for the spring of 1919. The war ended in the fall of 1918, consequently only 65,000 Pedersen devices were ever produced.

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Pedersen then went on to develop the more powerful, but very compact, .276 Pedersen cartridge initially chambered in the M1 Garand until Army Chief of Staff, General McArthur, stepped in and ordered the .276 out and the .30-06 in, given the millions of rounds of. 30-06 stockpiled around the country.

The 400-yard engagement window was not lost on the Germans who pursued their own development of an intermediate-powered, rifle cartridge. It was the famous ammunition firm, Polte of Magdeburg, that designed a reduced-length 8mm cartridge based on the brass and much of the tooling used for the production of the standard 7.9x57 round. The 7.9x33 cartridge, often referred to as the 8mm Kurz, received its final form in 1941. From the 16.5" barrel of the Sturmgewehr, it propelled a 125-grain bullet at 2,100 to 2,200 fps.

On a parallel line of development, the Army Ordnance Department, the Heereswaffenamt, contracted with the Haenel and Walther firms to design a new rifle for an intermediate round. One of the specifications called for using formed sheet metal wherever possible.

Haenel, under the direction of Hugo Schmeisser, had 50 prototypes ready by 1942. The Haenel model was designated MKb42(H) and the Walther model MKb42(W). Both models at this point in time carried the Maschinenkarabiner (MKb) code. The models were shown to Hitler. Like McArthur, the Fuhrer reminded his commanders that they were sitting on 8 billion rounds of 7.92x57. He insisted on the termination of the program with the focus to be on the production of the Walther G43, MG42, MP40 and sniper scopes.

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In a moment of inspired disobedience, the Army Ordnance Department continued the development of both models, but to confuse the Fuhrer's staff and Allied intelligence, they changed the designations to Maschinenpistole or MP42 and MP43. It's the Pedersen story all over again!

After field tests and exposure to combat conditions on the Eastern Front, the Walther model was dropped and the Haenel model adopted as the MP43. The performance of the stamped sheet metal MP43 was so good that in October 1943, Hitler relented and ordered the production of 30,000 MP43s per month with the objective of rearming every division on the Eastern Front with it. A year later, the MP43 was renamed the "Sturmgewehr 44" (literally, the "storm rifle" akin to "stormtrooper") and stamped "StG44." By 1945, Schmeisser had refined the model for easier production as the StG45, but production was very limited in 1945.

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Accessories designed for the StG44 included the "Vampir" infrared night sight, scope sights, cup grenade launchers and the really wild "Vorsatz" 30- and 90-degree, curved barrel extensions with prism sights that permitted the firer to shoot around corners or down from the turret of a tank. Total production of the StG44 family of assault rifles is estimated to have been around 440,000 units but surviving records are incomplete.

The StG44 was a heavy rifle, weighing in at 10 pounds unloaded and 11 pounds loaded. With its sheet metal handguard, it was probably "hotter than a $2 pistol" after a couple of magazines were fired full auto. I suspect it did make a nice hand warmer on the Eastern Front. On the other hand, if it weren't being fired, it would be a cold komrade indeed.

Roy Dunlap in his classic book, Ordnance Went Up Front, greatly admires the StG44's advanced design but reports its sheet metal receiver was so thin that if the rifle ever fell over by itself and the receiver was dented, the StG44 could very well be put out of commission.

There must be quite a few Sturmgewehrs still chugging around because Graf & Sons carry 7.92x33 ammunition currently loaded for them by Hornady with 125-grain hollowpoints at $20.99 a box.

With that background, the introduction of the StG44 semi-automatic rimfire by German Sport Guns is simply sensational. It is one, cool looking clone from its rakish profile to the wooden chest it comes packed in a pine chest, hand-crafted by the Amish in upstate New York, the home of the US importer and distributor, American Tactical Imports.

The detailing of this ersatz Sturmgewehr is remarkable. First, it's a handful, weighing just shy of 10 pounds with an unloaded, polymer magazine; yet, it is a very well balanced rifle and feels good in your hands. The stamped, sheet metal body of the rifle has the folds, ribs and ventilation ports of the original. All the controls and essential features are in the proper places, specifically the complete fire control system and pistol grip, the magazine and magazine release catch, an automatic opening dust cover, the fully adjustable tangent/barleycorn sights and the cocking lever. The buttstock is properly made out of wood and even features the trapdoor compartment on top of the heel, which held a magazine loading device in the original Sturmgewehr.

The overall length of the GSG clone is correct at 37" with a 16-1/4" barrel terminating inside a 1-1/2" ersatz muzzle nut. The rimfire even disassembles like the original with the removal of one pushpin that holds the stock, receiver and fire control system together. Once broken down, the entire breechblock and mainspring assembly can be removed as a single unit for cleaning and lubrication purposes. This simplified disassembly procedure and ease of maintenance had to be great assets to the StG44-toting trooper in the field.

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How does the ersatz Sturmgewehr shoot? The slim, U-shaped hand-guard is exceedingly comfortable. The pistol grip places your hand in the right position for manipulating the safety (reversed from the original) and trigger. The straight stock minimizes movement at the moment of discharge. The double-stage trigger is smooth and releases at +/-6 pounds. As I've mentioned before the weight distribution and balance of the rifle between your hands is outstanding. It's a fine offhand rifle. The blow-back action is adjusted specifically for high-speed and high-quality standard velocity ammunition, and I had no malfunctions with the brands or the 25-round magazine I tested.

The open sights are a challenge though. The hooded front blade is set up as a thin pointed pyramid while the rear tangent sight features a wide U-notch. With a sight radius of 17", I found it somewhat difficult to work with the thin, pointy, front blade, which kept blending into and fading away into the black bulls, so I changed to paper targets in which the bull was predominantly white. The groups improved immediately. Actually, it would not be hard to design a clamp-on scope mount that makes use of the ribs of the receiver. (GSG: that's a hint.)

Like the whole rimfire tribe, the StG44 had a hearty appetite for some particular .22 Long Rifle loads--namely, Winchester Power Point and Remington's Gold HP. Wolf's Super Match was favored as well, but it's expensive fare for a plinker. I shot it just to see how well the StG44 would handle a low-velocity target round. It did, without a hiccup.

In the world of ersatz, military, rimfire clones, it doesn't get any more exotic than the GSG/ATI Sturmgewehr 44. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. It sure would be nice to see a Fallschirmjaegergewehr 42 in rimfire mode.

Tim World's Assault Riffles, by Gary Paul Johnston and Thomas B. Nelson, hardcover, 1,216 pages, @2016, Ironside International Publishers, $69.95, From: A&J Arms Book Sellers, 2449 N. Orchard Ave., Tucson, AZ 85712, (520) 512-1065, www.ajarmsbooksellers.com

Thompson Target

4804 Sherman Church Ave. S.W.

Canton, OH 44706

(330) 484-6480

www.gunsmagazine.com/thompson-target

GSG-STG44

MAKER: GERMAN SPORT GUNS GMBH WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM/GERMAN-SPORTING-GUNS

IMPORTER:

CAN TACTICAL IMPORTS, INC.

100 AIRPARK DR.

ROCHESTER, NY 14624

(585) 328-2212

WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM/

AMERICAN-TACTECAL-IMPORTS

MECHANISM: BLOWBACK, CALIBER: .22 LONG RIFLE STANDARD 6 HIGH-VELOCITY, CAPACITY: 25, BARREL LENGTH: 16-1/4", OVERALL LENGTH: 37", SIGHTS: 0-100 METERS, FULLY ADJUSTABLE, TANGENT REAR; HOODED BLADE FRONT, WEIGHT: 9 POUNDS, 13 DUNCES, PRICE: $595
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Title Annotation:SURPLUS, CLASSIC AND TACTICAL FIREARMS
Author:Bodinson, Holt
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Nov 14, 2012
Words:1736
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