The StG58: The Teutonic FAL

By Will Dabbs, MD

The Germans rolled over Belgium in May 1940 and were not fully expelled until February 1945. This relatively small country endured nearly five years of persecution underneath the Nazi jackboot. Coming as this was on the heels of a previous similar performance in 1914, the Belgians were mighty keen to keep this from ever happening again.

The Germans during World War II, for all their moral depravity, were extraordinary engineers. The Nazis brought us the modern combat submarine, the main battle tank and the assault rifle. While World War II ultimately ended with Soviet troops in Berlin and Hitler dead by his own hand, the revolutionary nature of the German Sturmgewehr assault rifle was not lost on a world brutalized by war.

What a Difference a War Can Make

At the outset of World War II, every major combatant save the United States fielded bolt-action infantry rifles. These weapons were essentially upgraded versions of the weapons with which the world fought the First War to End All Wars. Slow to load and slow to run, these expensive guns could kill at a kilometer or more but were heavy and difficult to manufacture.

By the end of the war, the Germans were issuing large numbers of self-loading rifles, principal among them the revolutionary selective fire StG44. This stamped steel rifle still weighed around 11 pounds but fired an intermediate-sized 7.92x33mm round that offered minimal recoil and only a modest weight burden. Feeding from a 30-round box magazine, these rifles increased the intrinsic firepower of the infantry rifle squad in the assault by an order of magnitude.

While the StG44 rifle was indeed a revolutionary gas-operated design, its intermediate cartridge allowed its true brilliance to shine through. This stubby little round offered power up close where it counted, while consuming markedly fewer raw materials and exactly half the powder charge per round. Despite its diminutive dimensions, the 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge still reached out effectively to 400 meters and beyond.

The Next Generation

By 1946 the Belgians had grown weary of serving as Germany’s gateway to the world, so they embarked on a...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N10 (December 2017)
and was posted online on October 20, 2017


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