German Assault Rifle Ammunition Developments 1935-45

By P. Labbett

IN THE MIDDLE of the 1914-18 war a special committee in Germany (under the title of the "Gewehrpruefungskommission") examined the question of the possible replacement of the existing K.98 rifle. Their conclusions were, however, overridden by the wartime necessity of keeping normal rifle production at full capacity. One useful by-product of the work of this committee, however, was the ultimate adoption by the German Army of the MP 18 submachine gun in 9 mm. calibre. After the defeat of Germany in 1918, further examination of infantry armament took place and, among the questions considered, was the possible adoption of a self loading rifle . At this stage the possibilities in this area considered were SLRs chambered for the standard 7.92 mm. x 57 cartridge. It was not until 1934-35 that the development emphasis switched to the consideration of automatic or semi automatic rifles chambered for cartridges of shorter length and lighter weight.

In the mid to late 1930s development was carried out in two different ways, one through private initiative and the other through the direction of the HWA (Heeres Waffenampt) - the Army weapons department. Once again, the requirement to keep existing rifle manufacturing capacity fully occupied in order to re-equip the expanding German Army in the late 1930s made a change to a new class of rifle impossible. It was not until 1942 that manufacturing capacity began to become available for new rifle designs.

According to 0. H. Von Lossnitzer, Director of Weapons Research at Mausers, during his post-war interrogation, the HWA laid down the following general characteristics to govern the design of rifle required. It is not clear exactly when the specification was issued and calibre was not specified.

i) The rifle was to weigh no more than the K.98 and to be lighter if possible, and was to be shorter.
ii) At 600 metres, trajectory and accuracy were to equal the K.98.
iii) To take the existing grenade cup discharger.
iv) To have a cyclic rate of fire no higher than 360-450 r.p.m.
v) To be able to operate in arctic or desert conditions, and be dirt and dustproof. .
vi) To have simple mechanism. .

The development of this type of rifle was carried out under the name of "Machinenkarabiner" (machine carbine) and the development was supported by Generals Becker and Leeb who had been HWA chiefs respectively in the periods 1938 / '40 and 1940 / '41.

The "private enterprise" development of the mid-1930s was carried out by the firm of GECO under a Director called Winter and this led to the production of an experimental 7.75 mm. (also known as 8 mm.) cartridge fired from an experimental Vollmer automatic rifle, both being well tested by the HWA. The 8 mm. cartridge had a case length of 39.5 mm. and overall length was 55 mm. With a 140 grain boattailed bullet a velocity of 2,280 feet per second was achieved. Cases were head stamped "Geco M.35" and were of brass.

A cartridge known as the Winters 8 mm. x 33.5 also existed at about this time and, since Winter was a Geco Director, it is presumed that this was a stage in the Geco development chain.

Directly sponsored by the HWA, the ammunition firm of Polte, in Magdeburg, adopted a different approach. Instead of designing a completely new round they opted to retain the existing 7.9 mm. calibre of the standard infantry cartridge, while shortening the case considerably.

In the Polte development, which started in 1938, a number of different case lengths seem to have been employed, the initial length apparently being 35 mm. By 1940 the case length was reduced and a 1940 dated 7.92 mm. x 30 cartridge was produced. The brass case was head stamped "P.79 1 40". Overall cartridge length was 45 mm. and with a 110 grain boattailed bullet a muzzle velocity of 2,150 feet per second was obtained. With the case length increased to 33 mm. and with changes to the bullet this cartridge emerged as the "Pistolen Patrone 43 m.E." used with the MP.43 Sturmgewehr.

One of the weapon contenders prior to the adoption of the MP.43 was a Walther design, chambered for the 7.9 mm. x 33 Kurz cartridge. At some earlier stage of development Walthers had experimented with 7 mm. short cased ammunition, the' design of which is not recorded. Mausers also experimented with 7 mm. ammunition fairly late in the war, the Mauser development being in collaboration with the ammunition firm of DVM. The cartridge here bore the DWM code number "581" and embodied a 39 mm. length of case, overall cartridge length being 54.7 mm. The spitzer bullet weighed 100 grains. Cases were of brass and had either plain heads or were head stamped with the DWM code number.

A further 7 mm. cartridge was developed for the German air force but not taken beyond the experimental stage. This had a case length of 16.6 mm-. and an overall cartridge length of 56.6 mm. Bullet weight was 140 grains. Another 7 mm. experimental cartridge of pre-war vintage was the 7 mm. x 45 cartridge, apparently also for a Vollmer automatic rifle. The specimen examined bore the head stamp code "N" on its brass case, denoting RWS manufacture. Bullet weight was 112 grains.

A pre-1939 short cartridge, also manufactured by RWS but whose place in the development pattern is unknown, was the 8 mm. x 46 round. This brass cased cartridge was head stamped "N. 8 x 46" and used a standard 7.92 mm service bullet weighing 198 grains. (A similar 45 mm. case length variant also existed.)

The short cartridge development path in Germany ended in the adoption of the 7.9 mm. Kurz cartridge, for the MP42 Sturmgeweher. According to the documents that were recovered in Germany immediately after 1945, the following four variations of this cartridge were approved for service although, in practice, only the steel cored ball bullet seems to have been issued in quantity.

9 mm. Pistolen Patrone 43 m.E. Boattailed ball bullet with mild steel core.
7.9 mm. Pistolen Patrone 43 s.S. Lead cored ball bullet.
7.9mm. Pistolen Patrone 43 S.m.K Hard steel core, lead sheath.
7.9 mm. Pistolen Patrone 43 S. m. KL Small steel core with lead sleeve and tracer canister at the rear.

Article from "Guns Review" Volume 24 No. 4 April 1984.


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