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The G43
Waffenmeister: G41/43 Analysis
By Adam Wilson with the help of Simon Patrick and my Dad Neil Wilson

OK, I have been asked put my knowledge of German weapons on to paper so I decided to start with my most favoured gun the G43.


The G43 started life in 1941 after the Germans encountered Soviet's with SVT40's and realised they needed a Similar semi-auto rifle. They came up with 2 prototypes the G41 M designed by Mauser and the G41 W designed by Walther. The two rifle's looked largely the same, both using recoil system's almost identical, running the length of the barrel and having a 10 round fixed box magazine extending below the woodwork (The example shows the Walther design at the top, the example in the middle being the Mauser design and the bottom is the K98 for comparison).



The Mauser design kept the moving parts enclosed as per the Heereswaffenamt's (Army weapons office or HWaA's) specifications, while the Walther design moved them with the automatic reloading system on the outside (This design did not meet the HWaA requirements and should have been dismissed from the start but The HWaA found it to be more efficient, easier and cheaper to produce). This lead to the Mauser design being dropped in favour of the Walther design which was produced by another maker as well as Walther by Berliner-lubecker maschinenfabrik. It is believed that around 120,000 G41's were produced but most not making it to the front until 1943. In the field the soldier's disliked the G41 due to:

a)being muzzle heavy and being overall a heavy weight
b)having to reload the mag with 2 (5 round) stripper clips at a time
c)The constant jamming and fouling it suffered due to its tight tolerances.

gewehr43

Walther were working on a new way of venting the gas to reload the rifle from the start as the one they chose proved to be very unreliable. However, being Germans they refused to copy a Russian design. Eventually, Walther Designers swallowed their pride, and with a few modifications copied the Russian design from the SVT40 and put it onto the G41's action which they modified slightly. So from the barrel back the G43 looks a lot like the G41 (see photo top G43 bottom G41). A detachable 10 round mag was added creating what we know as the G43. The first ones were completed by January 1943 and sent to the Wehrmacht for evaluation. They proved to be such a great design that the OKH immediately ordered the production of the G41 to transfer over to the G43. The change over of tooling meant that full scale production didn't start until October and around 3000 were produced before the end of the year, of these it is believed that only 20 were received by front line troops.



Even with such small numbers it was proposed that nearly all the K98 producer's switch over and produce the G43 instead (This is much like in the US army, being issued almost exclusively with Garand's or carbine's) because the G43 used a lot less machined parts and thus were quicker and cheaper to produce. The forging process also saved on precious raw materials. .

All G43's were made with scope rails to take a newly designed x4 power ZF4 scope so that any gun could potentially be used as a sniper rifle. This was instead of the laborious task taken with the K98 of choosing the most accurate ones of the batch, having to add the mount and then testing them all, as all had to be done by skilled crafts men.

There were two other manufactures who joined in making G43's. The first using the code "bcd" at Gustloff -Werker II Burchenwald concentration camp using prisoners under the watchful eye of the SS guards and the last to follow suit was BLM the same company that made G41's with Walther using the code "duv"(later changing to "qve") on its rifle. So the first few G43's started to be seen in large numbers in mid 1944.Its interesting to note that the bcd's are one of the rarest of codes as the allies bombed the factory in August following intelligence reported that they were manufacturing weapons there. Also many of the weapons were sabotaged by the workers, being mostly Jewish concentration camp inmates. It was therefore decided not to make any of these guns for use with scopes as they were likely to be sabotaged, making them very inaccurate, and since a lot of the metal work was not being heat treated properly, there was a risk that they were likely to explode!

The G43 Gewehr 43 was officially changed to K43 Karabiner 43 on April the 25th 1944, simply for propaganda reasons. Contrary to many references, they did not change the design at all (many say the K43 had a 5cm shorter barrel) and many rifles were still stamped G43 right up to the end of the war.

When the G43 was issued it was issued with one 2 pocket pouch (shown to right a typical late war ersatz leather G43 pouch) and 3 mag's one in the gun and two in the pouch. The pouch was typically worn on the right (although as seen above not all followed this rule and even sometimes even found another and wore 2 pouches) and on the left they had a K98 3 pocket pouch for six 5-round stripper clips giving the same 60 round total as carried with the K98. The Soldat was told to keep his other K98 pouch in his pack. It came with 3 blast off dust covers as with the K98, a butt stock manual and a paper bag with a spare firing pin, firing pin extension and an extractor, extractor pin and spring(shown to left). These were the most likely parts to break and these were kept in the butt stock. The oiler was usually kept in the RG34 tobacco tin cleaning kit, but sometimes it was kept in the butt stock as well. Shown below is a scan from a Soldbuch showing a typical entry of a G43. This particular one belonged to August Wegerhoff who was a Funker (Radio operator) in the 212VGD during the Ardennes attack. It shows the weapon type Gewehr 43, the designation G43, the serial number 5923.H and was issued on the 10th of December 1944.



Overall it is thought that close to 500,000 G/K43's were produced, about a fifth of these being with the x4 scope. It proved a welcome change to the front line infantry man who needed every weapon he could lay his hands on but being semi-auto gave it both advantages as well as disadvantages. The obvious advantage being that you could get off more rounds in a shorter time and a quicker reload time (with pre-loaded mag's). The disadvantages being with the 5 round mag of a K98 you chose your shots carefully , and therefore had a higher hit ratio. The Recoil system of the G43 was prone to fouling and was complicated to clean. I have looked all over for personal accounts from the war on the G43 but so far have found very little but here are some extracts from the memoirs of Sepp Ellenberger, a sniper on the eastern front:

"I accompanied one such group. The carbine with the optical sight interfered with movement during search and destroy missions of this kind. On my return from leave I had discovered that the regiment had a small stock of Model 43 semi-automatic rifles, and after trying out a couple had selected the best, which the weapons and supply NCO guarded with his life. Using explosive rounds over distances up to 100 meters, its performance was awesome. Within a few days the general area was cleared of Rumanian troops and the front stabilized"

"A soldier's chances for survival depend in no small degree on his feeling for what is possible. Here we were being asked to seek out and engage an infantry company that outnumbered us four-to-one and was occupying previously prepared positions, the locations of which we were not sure. I considered this to be a suicide mission and felt very bad about it. I went to the Waffen und Geraet Offizier or WuG (weapons and equipment officer) to exchange my Mauser carbine for a semi-automatic with optic and took another four magazines of explosive rounds with which I filled my tunic and trouser pockets. I then joined the others. That night an Opel Blitz lorry conveyed us to the endangered sector. We sat in the interior of the truck in silence, each man sunk in thought. We knew the dangers of what we faced. When the lorry stopped and the rear flap droppe d down to signal the beginning of the mission, we leapt down, got our bearing, the platoon sergeant issued a few brief instructions and then led us off into the darkness. I took up my position on the flank of the platoon to the rear, weapon at the ready. After an hour dawn began to show through the overcast sky to the each and we found ourselves ascending the gentle slope of a hillside. Suddenly a white star-shell hissed into the night sky and lit the area bright as day. At the same time our ranks received the continuous rattle of murderous MG-fire. The platoon sergeant and six Jager were hit, and fell to the ground groaning and writhing. Some eleven platoon survivors returned fire while five of the seven wounded were dragged out of sight into a shallow depression. The Russians now sprang up from their positions and attacked.
Apparently unnoticed I had thrown myself down some distance from the two wounded Germans remaining in the open, playing dead and hoping to gain for myself the element of surprise. I watched the first two waves of Soviets leave their dugouts, then arose zombie-like from the dead and began firing round after round of accurate fire over open sights at a range of about 80 meters. To be sure of the hit, and for the explosive round to do its work, I aimed for the area just above the hip. With devastating effect each bullet found its mark inside a Russian stomach, destroying a range of inner organs and intestines. The Soviets appeared stunned by having an unexpected apparition firing at them from an oblique angle on the flank, and then became visibly annoyed. Things were not going to plan for them. In the meantime my ten comrades had gathered their wits and were pouring towards the Russians a blistering fire. The magazine of my semi-automatic held ten rounds. Once the first clip was empty, every shot a hit, I swiftly fitted the second and continued firing. I could see the ground strewn with twenty or more Russian dead or writhing in terrible agony. After reloading with the third clip I became the target of a few desultory replies, but the awful screams of their wounded comrades had unsettled them so much that they aborted the attack and, apart from some withering fire in my direction, retired to their trench. I leapt up again and ran in wild zigzags to the two wounded Jager, throwing myself down beside them in an unevenness in the ground which offered very little cover. So far I had come through the action without a scratch, but the dangerous sprint through the hail of bullets to render first aid to my wounded colleagues was of no avail. One was already dead and the platoon sergeant, whose torso had been raked by a machine gun burst, died a few minutes later.
From their positions the Soviets were sweeping the foreground with small arms and light machine gun fire, pinning me down with no hope of escape. The corpses of my two former colleagues were now useful as a bullet trap. while the sergeant's thigh made an excellent rest for my rifle barrel. While the remainder of the platoon gave me supporting fire from the background, my hour had now come. The Soviet positions consisted of two light MG nests at either end of a long trench. I had the inestimable advantage of facing an enemy who seemed to have no idea how dangerous a sniper could be even the distance of a football field away. Through the rifle scope I concentrated on the nearer nest, which was about 100 meters off. They knew where I was, of course, and while MG-fire spattered into the two cadavers, with my first two carefully aimed rounds I exploded the heads of the MG-gunner and his belt-feeder. There seems to be no activity in the other nest, leaving the field clear for me to finish the rest of them at leisure.
During a table talk at his headquarters on 25 September 1941, Hitler said that whereas he had nothing but admiration for the fighting spirit of the Russians, it was characterized by stupidity. How true that statement was, we were now about to discover. There were eighteen Russians in a long trench, and I could only see individuals within it if they stood up or moved incautiously at the parapet. Every so often a Russian would show his head and I would shoot his brains out. It was just like a shooting gallery at the local amusement park.
.........After a few minutes the German infantry rose from their concealment and advanced with caution towards the enemy positions. Nothing stirred. Before us was a charnel ground upon which an entire Russian company had been wiped out to the last man. Over fifty dead littered the field, plus eighteen in the long trench and three machine gunners. It was a scene reminiscent of medieval impressionistic art depicting hell."


This leads me to believe that it was quite accurate and that Sepp liked it although post war shooters seem to say different - from conversations with American shooters they say they are inaccurate and very fragile and do not like them at all.

Loading the G43 was a simple affair (see sequence below). You inserted the mag front first (identified by 2 nipples - see pic 1) until the bottom nipple hit the bottom of the mag well. Then you push the back end in and cock the weapon (if you had just finished a mag the bolt was held open). When ever cocking the rifle you have to let the action fly so that the bolt sits properly and it is stiff to push it. To make the weapon safe you had to cock it and flip the flag safety leaver at the back over to the right. Once this has been done you can take the bolt assembly out. (see sequence, below). This is achieved by;
1. Pulling the bolt carrier to the rear
2. Pushing the bolt holdback button on the side of the carrier
3. Pushing the button just above the safety lever, and
4. Lifting the assembly out of the receiver
The bolt is then ready to be cleaned. With the bolt cleaned and the assembly reinserted the safety was simply flicked back over to the left and you could shoot away until the last round when the bolt carrier and bolt will stay in the rearward position.
© alex at panzergrenadier.net

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