The Gewehr 43 or Karabiner 43 (abbreviated G43, K43, Gew 43, Kar 43) is a 7.92×57mm Mauser caliber semi-automatic rifle developed by Germany during World War II. The design was based on that of the earlier G41(W), but incorporating an improved short-stroke piston gas system similar to that of the Soviet Tokarev SVT-40, and it incorporated innovative mass-production techniques.
History Germany`s quest for a semi-automatic infantry rifle resulted in two designs – the G41(M) and G41(W), from Mauser and Walther arms respectively. The Mauser design was introduced in 1941 and at least 12,755 were made, but it proved unreliable in combat. The Walther design fared better in combat but still suffered from reliability problems. The problems with both designs stemmed from a demand made by the Army that the rifles will not use holes drilled into the barrel, known as ports, to run the automatic loading mechanism. Meeting this requirement meant the designs had to use uncommon mechanisms that were simply unreliable and highly prone to fouling.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union led to small numbers of the SVT-40 being captured and returned to Germany for examination. These used a simple gas mechanism powered from a port cut into the barrel about 1/3 of the way back from the end, and replaced the conventional stripper reloads with a modern box magazine. It was clearly superior to the G41`s, and simpler as well. In 1943, Walther combined a similar gas system with aspects of the G41(W) providing greatly improved performance. It was accepted and entered into service as the Gewehr 43, renamed Karabiner 43 in April 1944, with production amounting to just over 400,000 between 1943 and 1945.
Gewehr 43 / Karabiner 43 In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa. Just prior to the opening of hostilities the Soviet Red Army had started re-arming its infantry, complementing its older bolt-action rifles with the new semi-automatic SVT-38s and SVT-40s. This was a shock to the Germans, who ramped up their own semi-automatic rifle development efforts significantly.
The SVT series used a simpler gas-operated mechanism, which was soon emulated by Walther in its successor to the G41(W), producing the Gewehr 43 (or G43). The simpler, sturdier design and mechanism of the G43 made it lighter, easier to produce, more reliable and also much tougher than the Gewehr 41; elite German mountain troops would use them as ladder rungs during climbing. The addition of a 10-round stamped-steel detachable box magazine was an improvement over the integral box magazine of the G41(W). The Gewehr 43 was intended, like the G41, to be loaded using 5-round stripper clips without removing the magazine. Soldiers armed with the weapon typically carried one standard stripper clip pouch and a Gewehr 43 pouch with two spare magazines. The G43 utilises the same flapper-locked mechanism as its predecessor. The Gewehr 43 was put into production in October 1943, and followed in 1944 by the Karabiner 43 (K43), which was identical to the G43 in every way except for the letter stamped on the side. The name change from Gewehr to Karabiner (carbine) was due to the fact the rifle was actually two centimetres shorter than the standard Karabiner 98k and therefore the term Gewehr (meaning: long rifle) was somewhat unfitting. The Wehrmacht intended to equip each grenadier (infantry) company in the army with 19 G43s, including 10 with scopes, for issue as the company commander saw fit. This issue was never completely achieved.
Gewehr 43s were made by Berlin-Lübecker Maschinenfabrik in Lübeck (Weapons coded "duv," and later "qve"), Walther (Weapons coded "AC") and the Wilhelm Gustloff-Werke (Weapons coded "bcd"). Walther used its satellite production facilities at Neuengamme concentration camp in addition to its main production facilities at Zella-Mehlis to make the rifles (It does not appear that complete weapons were assembled in the camps, similar to how Radom P35 pistols were assembled in occupied Radom, Poland without their barrels, which were built and installed by Steyr in Austria), Wilhelm Gustloff-Werke used some slave workers to augment its depleted staff from Buchenwald concentration camp. The total production by the end of the war is estimated to have been 402,713 of both models, including at least 53,435 sniper rifles: these G43/K43s were used as designated marksman/sniper weapons, fitted with the Zielfernrohr 43 (ZF 4) telescopic sight with 4× magnification. The weapon was originally designed for use with the Schiessbecher rifle grenade launcher (standard on the Karabiner 98k as well) and the Schalldämpfer suppressor, however these accessories were deemed unsuccessful in tests and were dropped even before the rifle made it to serial production.
The Gewehr 43 stayed in service with the Czechoslovak People`s Army for several years after the war. Likewise the East German border troops and police Volkspolizei or VoPo were issued reworked G43 rifles, which are recognizable by a sunburst proof mark near the serial number and the serial number engraved by electropencil on removable components.
Other details There were many small variations introduced on the G/K43 throughout its production cycle. The important consideration is that no changes were made to the rifle design specifically to coincide with the nomenclature change from Gewehr to Karabiner, with the exception of the letter stamped on the side. Careful study of actual pieces will show that many G-marked rifles had features found on K-marked rifles and vice versa. There is therefore no difference in weight or length between the G43 and the K43. Although G43`s have threaded muzzles with removable nuts for a blank adapter, the K43 does not have this feature. Variations in barrel length did exist, but those were the product of machining tolerances, differences between factories, and/or experimental long-barreled rifles. An unknown number of late-war K43 rifles were chambered for the 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge and modified to accept StG44 magazines.
Though most G/K43s are equipped with a telescopic sight mounting rail, the vast majority of the rifles were issued in their standard infantry form without a scope. When equipped with a scope, it was exclusively the ZF 4 4-power telescopic sight. No other known scope/mount combinations were installed by the German military on G/K43`s during World War II. Many strange variations have shown up after the war, but all have been proven to be the work of amateur gunsmiths. Rifles with broken-off butts are common, as German soldiers were instructed to render semi-automatic rifles useless when in danger of capture.
Used by - Nazi Germany - German Democratic Republic