Two German Curiosities of World War Two: Sturmkampfgewehr and Granatkarabiner
By Michael Heidler
One of the most widespread infantry weapons of the German army was the rifle grenade launcher for the Mauser Karabiner 98k. A wide range of different grenades, like high-explosive, hollow charge, flare, smoke, etc., made it an effective weapon. However, besides this established weapon some other grenade-throwing devices were devel-oped later in the war. One of them, the “Sturmkampfgewehr” (in short “StKG”), was made in small numbers. Another one, the so called “Granatkarabiner,” seems to be a prototype only.
The Sturmkampfgewehr (StKG)
The Sturmkampfgewehr is an interesting modification of the Karabiner 98k rifle, of which some pieces supposedly were captured by the U.S. Army at the military training area and proving ground Hillersleben in 1945. By replacing the rifle barrel with a new smooth barrel in caliber 4 (26.5mm) the weapon could be used to fire the gre-nades “Wurfkörper 326 LP” and “326 LP n.A.” (neue Art / new mod-el). As the letters “LP” indicate, the grenade was originally designed for use with a flare pistol (Leuchtpistole).
No documentation exists on the production and the intended purposes of the weapon. In a meeting of the Reich Ministry for Ar-mament and Ammunition on April 1, 1944 it was proposed to give the pioneers a “carbine with cut-off barrel” for fighting armored vehicles. But more details are not mentioned in this report. Unfortunately, the authenticity of some Sturmkampfgewehres is extremely doubtful. For example, most of the known weapons show a distinctive cut-out recess in the receiver that is similar to the K.98ks that were converted in Norway for caliber .30-06 Springfield. So it is highly probable that a lot of weapons were made after the war by use of (maybe decommis-sioned) Norwegian K.98k rifles. It is easily conceivable that they could have been line throwing devices of the Norwegian military that were later “upgraded” for the collector market by adding faked German markings. There is way too little information left to distinguish between originals and post-war copies.
The Sturmkampfgewehr in the former Aberdeen Proving Ground ordnance collection for example bears the markings of the Erfurt Maschinenfabrik (S/27) from 1938 on the receiver. According to the markings, the date of the conversion was the year 1944. The weapon’s serial number 087 seems pretty high. The other markings say “StKG” and “Kal.4,” together with the ordnance acceptance numbers WaA77 on the receiver and WaA63 on the barrel. The sight is made of three notches, a fixed one for 50 meters and two hinged ones for 75 and 100 meters. Some more similar weapons are known to exist, such as one in the collection of the German army at Hammelburg, a well-known training area for urban warfare and house-to-house fighting.
After the war, the idea was followed up in the form of a rifle grenade. According to a technical report of the Mauser-Industrie-Werke Karlsruhe AG development division from March 14, 1961, the company was concerned with the “Development of an explosive gre-nade caliber 2.6cm for firing from a signal pistol and shoulder weapon (smooth barrel).” In the first place of the distributing-list the German Ministry of Defense in Bonn is mentioned. So this report was proba-bly used to make a proposal for the development of a new weapon for the still young Bundeswehr (post-war German army).
The report also describes a “Granatgewehr” (grenade rifle): “In-stead of the signal pistol, a rifle of simplest design is to be used. Its development was conducted in the years 1943 and 1944… The rifle had a barrel length of 45 cm and a sight for 100, 200 and 300 meters. The weapon caused a stable flight with relatively low recoil forces and a further advantage is the minor muzzle blast. Blasting tests showed a good fragmentation effect. For this design, mostly currently available ammunition components were used. It is easily possible to convert the formerly used caliber 2.6 cm to a larger one e.g. 3 cm.” The photo of the grenade rifle that is pasted in the report shows significant differ-ences to the World War Two Sturmkampfgewehren.
The former Aberdeen Proving Ground ordnance collection also keeps a unique “Granatkarabiner” (grenade carbine). This weapon is also noted to have been captured by the U.S. Army at the Hillersleben proving ground in 1945, but no documents regarding this are left. It’s an extensively modified Karabiner 98k. The rifle barrel was shortened (total length of the weapon: 109 cm), the front shaft cut off below the receiver, the trigger guard removed and a large padded shoulder stock attached, together with a large eyelet and a bipod of the light machine gun MG 34. The rifle grenade cup launcher on the muzzle of the gun is taken from the Granatbüchse 39 (converted 7.92mm anti-tank rifles) and is not removable. Only the rifled tube can be twisted off. A sight is totally absent.
In literature (see R. Law: Backbone of the Wehrmacht / Kar98k Rifle) this weapon is designated as an experimental weapon, but this allegation must be rejected. The Karabiner 98k rifle with grenade launcher has proved excellent in combat (except for the weak grenade launcher sight). Also, the Granatbüchse 39 was still in service. It seems that this weapon was rather a handicraft of a technically gifted soldier. There have been a lot of ingenious men in the German army – and they had to be found to benefit from their skills. Many astonish-ingly useful items could be made from damaged weapons, ammunition or equipment. Sometimes the “inventor” was favored by fortune and his construction was published in the German military do-it-yourself newspaper Von der Front für die Front (from the front, for the front). This newspaper should be read by all soldiers to use the contained suggestions and instructions for helping themselves if needed.
Another possibility is the use of the weapon as a simple grenade launching device for testing ammunition at Hillersleben. The padded stock for absorbing the recoil forces would have been comfortable during a longer test series and precise aiming wasn’t necessary.
In the absence of significant documents the ultimate truth is still deep in darkness. All that is left today are some weapons without a traceable past.
(Thanks to Dr. Bruno Baumgarten (Germany) for photos of the Sturmkampfgewehr.)
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