Of all of the world's military rifles, one of the most exotic and hard to find in US collections is the German StG44. Even though it was mass-produced and nearly a half-million were cranked out, most US firearms junkies have only seen one behind the glass of a museum display or on the History Channel.
What is the StG44?
When Germany entered World War 2 in 1939, their primary rifle was the K98 Mauser. The K98 was a bolt action 8mm beast that was a slightly modified pre-World War 1 design. It was solid and reliable but heavy and had a slow rate of fire. When the Germans started meeting Soviet Frontovki carrying semi-automatic Tokarev SVT-38 and SVT-40s in 1941, and then increasingly found themselves on the business end of British Sten SMGs and US M1 Garands in 1942, they decided to up the ante and go auto. Choosing the 7.92x33mm Kurz ('short') intermediate-sized round, they asked both Walther and Haenel to design a handy select-fire carbine around the bullet. The Haenel team, headed by the famous Hugo Schmeisser (not to be confused with Hugo Stiglitz), came out on top.
Their weapon, dubbed the assault rifle (Sturmgewehr) model 44, was still very heavy, at 11.5-pounds, but was compact at just over 37-inches and most importantly could fire 550-rounds per minute cyclic from its detachable 30-round magazine. More than 425,000 were manufactured in less than 18-months by C. G. Haenel Waffen und Fahrradfabrik. It was arguably the most advanced combat rifle in World War 2 and increased the combat effectiveness of the average German infantry platoon by a large degree. It was so far advanced for its time that Soviet engineers are believed to have used it as a basis for the AK-47.
Today the StG44 is still found all over the world as evidenced below in this video from a Syrian warehouse where rebels just stumbled across what may be the biggest mother lode of nice examples found since 1945. Reports suggest that there may be as many as 5,000 in this Syrian cache.
The SSD StG44 Semi-auto clone
A semi-auto version of the good old StG44 is being produced by SSD (Sport Systeme Dittrich) in Germany in the original 7.92x33mm Kurz, but of course is semi-auto only. These reproes, dubbed the PTR44, go for anywhere from $5000-$6000 a pop. This is a bargain considering that the real deal (which requires a Form 4 and a tax stamp) run over $15,000 and the vintage magazines by themselves cost $120.
The New StG44 Rimfire
American Tactical Imports, known for bringing several of Europe’s most interesting new toys into the country has teamed up with GSG to bring a true plinking version of this classic assault rifle to the US. GSG (German Sport Guns) founded in 2002 by Dietmar Emde, Manfred Nienhaus and Michael Swoboda, became within a short period of only a few years one of the leading manufacturer of firearms in rimfire chamberings. GSG is best known in the US for their 22LR versions of the MP5, AK47, and M1911. This new rimfire semi-auto, the Schemessier GSG-STG44 is set to retail for $599.95 once it starts coming into the country in good numbers. With a 16.5-inch barrel and a 25-round magazine, it is visually similar to the classic StG44, without the price tag or the hard to find 7.92x33mm Kurz chambering.