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The Gewehr 43 is a 7.92×57mm Mauser caliber semi-automatic rifle developed by Nazi Germany during World War II. It was a modification of the G41(W) using an improved gas system similar to that of the Soviet SVT-40.
History[edit | edit source]
Germany's quest for a semi-automatic infantry rifle resulted in two designs - the G41(M) and G41(W), from Mauser and Walther arms respectively. The Mauser design proved unreliable in combat when introduced in 1941 and only several thousand were made. The Walther design fared better in combat but still suffered from reliability problems. In 1943 Walther introduced a new modified gas system with aspects of the G41(W) providing greatly improved performance. It was accepted and entered into service as the Gewehr 43, renamed Karabiner 43 in 1944, with production amounting to just over 400,000. The Gewehr 43/Karabiner 43 joined the ranks of the Tokarev and Garand as general issue semi-automatic rifles during the war.
Gewehr 43 / Karabiner 43[edit | edit source]
In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa. Just prior to the opening of hostilities the Red Army had started re-arming its infantry, complementing its older bolt-action rifles with the new semi-automatic Tokarev SVT-38s and SVT-40s. This proved to be somewhat of a shock to the Germans, who ramped up their semi-automatic rifle development efforts significantly.
The Tokarev used a simple gas-operated mechanism, which was soon emulated by Walther in the G41(W), producing the Gewehr 43 (or G43). The simpler mechanism of the G43 made it lighter, easier to mass produce, and far more reliable. The addition of a 10-round detachable box magazine also solved the slow reloading problem. The Gewehr 43 was put into production in October 1943, and followed in 1944 by the Karabiner 43 (K43), which was identical to the G43 in every way save for the letter stamped on the side. The G/K43 was issued in limited numbers in 1944 and 1945 to units of the Wehrmacht.
Total production by the end of the war was 402,713 of both models, including at least 53,435 sniper rifles: the G43/K43 was used as a designated marksman weapon, fitted with the Zielfernrohr 43 (ZF 4) telescopic sight with 4x magnification. The weapon was originally designed for use with the Schiessbecher device for firing rifle grenades (standard on the Kar 98k as well) and the Schalldämpfer suppressor, however these accessories were deemed unsuccessful in tests and were dropped even before the rifle made it to serial production. The rifle was also not equipped to use a bayonet. The Gewehr 43 stayed in service with the Czechoslovak army for several years after the war.
Although a better rifle than the G41(W), the Gewehr 43 was still known for its mechanical malfunctions, mainly due to cheap parts and exposed extracting spring, causing jams if not cleaned constantly. When parts wore out or broke it was difficult to get replacements in the field and many German soldiers simply got rid of it when this happened. It was also a complicated design, and required some practice to know how it all worked. When put up against the M1 Garand, it was apparent that the Gewehr 43 was outclassed by the M1's superior machined parts, extremely reliable design, better gas system, better sights, faster and more reliable en-bloc clip system, simplicity and ease of maintenance, as well as it being general issue to all infantry; whereas for every 50 Mauser rifles produced by Germany during the war, they only produced 1 Gewehr 43 rifle. The German High Command saw this, and decided to issue 3 Gewehr 43 rifles for every platoon, 2 of which were to be used as sniper rifles away from frontline action, fitted with a Zielfernrohr ZF 4 scope.
According to accounts and testimony from German veterans of World War II, many German soldiers disliked the Gewehr 43, and preferred the tried and true Karabiner 98k, or, if they were lucky enough, scavenged American M1 rifles and Carbines whenever possible, despite this being officially against regulations. However, as a sniping platform many German snipers liked the Gewehr 43's semi-automatic abilities, good range, good ammo capacity and accuracy, however extreme long range sniping was best left to the more accurate bolt-action Mauser rifles.
Other Details[edit | edit source]
There were many small variations introduced on the G/K43 throughout its production cycle. The important consideration is that no changes were made to the rifle design specifically to coincide with the nomenclature change from Gewehr to Karabiner, with the exception of the letter stamped on the side. Careful study of actual pieces will show that many G-marked rifles had features found on K-marked rifles and vice versa. There is therefore no difference in weight or length between the G43 and the K43. Variations in barrel length did exist, but those were the product of machining tolerances, differences between factories, and/or experimental long-barreled rifles.
Though most G/K43's are equipped with a telescopic sight mounting rail, the vast majority of the rifles were issued in their standard infantry form without a scope. When equipped with a scope, it was exclusively the ZF 4 4-power telescopic sight. No other known scope/mount combinations were installed by the German military on G/K43's during World War II. Many strange variations have shown up after the war, but all have been proven to be the work of amateur gunsmiths. Rifles with a broken-off butt are common, as German soldiers were instructed to render semi-automatic rifles useless when in danger of capture.