The Gewehr 41 is a German semi-automatic rifle.
It had become clear that some sort of automatic rifle with a higher rate of fire than most bolt-action rifles was needed by 1940 to improve the military's combat efficiency. With the requirements submitted to two manufacturers, Mauser and Walther, both set out to create a rifle for said requirements, with both rifles turning out to be rather similar.
With the creation of this rifle, some restrictions were imposed on the design; those being that no holes are to be bored into the barrel to tap gas for the action, that the rifles were not to have any moving parts on the surface of the weapon, and that in the event the auto-loading system malfunctioned or catastrophically failed, an auxiliary bolt-action was to be added.
After designs were submitted, it was found that both rifles consistently suffered from gas system fouling issues, due to muzzle gases cooling down there and depositing carbon residue, along with the possibility of the gas trap corroding due to the use of corrosive materials in the primer of the rifle's bullets. The Walther design was also much more successful than the Mauser design, as it had a much cleaner layout among other things. The Gewehr 41 would later be developed into the more famous Gewehr 43 rifle.
Production figures of the Gewehr 41(W) are disputed, with various sources putting production figures between 40,000 to 145,000 units; on the other hand, 6,673 Gewehr 41(M)s were produced, with 1,673 returned to the factory as they were deemed unusable. The G41(W)s saw a high attrition rate on the Eastern front.
Both rifles used a novel "Bang" gas trap system, where propellant gases would be trapped at the cone-shaped gas trap on the end of the muzzle, which helped to deflect the gases to operate a small piston which in turn pushed on a larger piston to operate the action. This gas trap system was notorious for being difficult to keep clean, maintain and disassemble in field conditions, due to the copious use of tight-fitting parts.
The Gewehr 41(M), the less successful design, was the only design that actually respected all of the criteria and restrictions imposed, and as such, was deemed too bulky, too complicated and too reliable among a slew of other reasons. The striker-fired rifle's safety is of the flag-type and when actuated, cams and blocks the striker. The rifle's charging handle resembles a standard rifle turnbolt mechanism; because Mauser respected all the restrictions imposed, the turnbolt charging handle could act like a turnbolt, thus allowing the shooter to manually operate the weapon in the event the gas system failed. The Gewehr 41(M) feeds from a non-detachable 10-round magazine fed by two stripper clips filled with five rounds of 7.92×57mm Mauser each; this made reloading painstakingly long, as similar rifles, like the M1 Garand, had much faster reload times even with non-detachable magazines. The G41(M) was also noted for its accuracy issues, since the front sight was mounted directly on the gas tube which was located in front of the barrel.
The Gewehr 41(W), the more successful design, ignored the last two criteria of not having any moving parts on the surface and the auxiliary bolt handle in case the gas system failed, but was still plagued with reliability issues relating to its gas trap system. It heavily resembles the more famous Gewehr 43, but there are a few notable differences between the Gewehr 41 and 43. The Gewehr 41(W) also feeds from a non-detachable 10-round magazine fed by two stripper clips filled with five rounds of 7.92×57mm Mauser each, while the Gewehr 43 feeds from a detachable box magazine, although the latter did retain the ability for stripper clips to be inserted; this, as with the Mauser design, made reloading of the G41(W) painstakingly long. Another difference between the two is that the Gewehr 43's gas system consists of a short-stroke piston copied from the SVT-40, as opposed to the gas trap system of the Gewehr 41.
- Gewehr 41(W)
The more successful variation that was developed into the Gewehr 43.
- Gewehr 41(M)
The less successful and rarer variation.
- Interestingly enough, while the Gewehr 41(W) was developed by Walther, two factories produced it; Walther itself, and the Berlin-Lübecker Maschinenfabrik factory, or BLW for short. To differentiate the rifles produced by both factories, Walther rifles have AC codes and WaA359 inspection proofs, while BLW rifles have DUV codes and WaA214 inspection proofs. BLW G41(W)s are rarer and are highly valued by collectors.