EPU Gun of the Week

German Sport Guns StG-44 reproduction

Originally posted October 17, 2015.

So... it should be obvious from the premise of this blog that I'm a gun collector. I'm sure that, if I ever find myself in the kind of trouble with the law where the cops come and rummage through my stuff, I'll be the subject of the standard screaming headline about how POLICE FIND ARSENAL IN AREA MAN'S HOME. Heck, if they really want to spin it, they can truthfully say that most of them are military weapons.

Of course, that's not the whole story; to tell that they would have to mention that they're almost all military weapons from the late 19th century through World War II. My SMLE No. 1 Mk III*, for instance, is a straight-up infantry rifle... from 1915. (Actually mine was made in 1918, but, I digress.)

(As an aside, that asterisk there isn't for a footnote, it's part of the rifle's designation. "Number One, Mark Three Star," the slightly improved version of the No. 1 Mk III. Version 1.3.1, if you will.)

So yeah. What I'm getting at here is that what I'm not, in any sense, is a Tactical Guy. I collect stuff I think is interesting, not stuff I think would come in handy if I needed to overthrow the government of Penobscot County or something silly like that. (One thing I've got next to no interest in is the perennial AR-15 and its various derivatives. I mean, OK, sure, M16A4 is one of my favorite Upotte!! characters, but that doesn't mean I actually want one of the dang things. In the civilian market today, they're the rifle equivalent of those street racer cars from the first Fast & Furious movie. Meh.)

Anyway, you get the idea. There's very little in my modest collection that's modern, and much of it is anything but. Until today, the newest thing in there was a Zastava M57A - which is itself quite new, but the M57A is a slightly improved clone of the Tula Tokareva 33 (as in 1933) that Zastava - in the same way that they do automobiles - just never bothered to stop making, so I don't think that should count. :) Which is why it might seem a bit out of character that today i went out and bought a brand new rifle.

Until you find out that the rifle in question is a reproduction of the Sturmgewehr 44, anyway. :)

A little background for those of you who are not gun nerds: The StG 44, as its name implies, was a German weapon from the latter stages of World War II. In some ways it was an outgrowth of the earlier Fallschirmjägergewehr 42 project (Return to Castle Wolfenstein veterans may recognize the FG 42), though it was mechanically completely different. The StG 44 was an experiment in creating a compromise between the compactness and rate of fire of a submachine gun like the MP 40 and the range and power of a full-size rifle like the FG 42, without the FG 42's notorious weight, punishing recoil, and general unwieldiness.

The way they managed this was by using what we would now recognize as an intermediate cartridge - not pistol-caliber (one of the defining characteristics of submachine guns), but not a full-length, full-power infantry rifle cartridge, like the old 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge the FG 42 used. As it turns out, the only people on the modern mechanized battlefield who really need a full-power rifle like that are snipers; the average infantry soldier operates in a smaller envelope and receives no benefit from all that range and bullet energy. The result was a compact and handy package that provided everything the general infantryman could possibly require - the prototype for what we now call an assault rifle. (That's where the term comes from: it's a direct translation of the German Sturmgewehr, literally "storm rifle", with "storm" used, as it is in English, in the sense of taking by storm, i.e., assaulting.)

After the war, the Allies harrumphed about how the Germans' love of gadgetry and geegaws had led them down the garden path and caused them to develop this silly, underpowered, overengineered toy gun that would never have any usefulness in real man's combat - and then, after dragging their heels for varying lengths of time, frantically developed their own equivalents, sometimes with (at least at first - looking at you, early-model M16s) fairly limited success.

Anyway. History lesson over, for the most part, but you can probably see why I might be interested in such a thing even though it verges on modernity. However, original StG 44s are very rare, preposterously valuable, and - being fully automatic - require a lot of fafftastic and expensive paperwork to own. Plus, 7.92x33mm Kurz ammunition is not what a person would call cheap or plentiful on the ground these days.

Imagine, then, my surprise and delight to discover that there's a company making semiautomatic reproduction Sturmgewehr in .22 Long Rifle rimfire, which, while no longer quite as cheap or abundant as hydrogen molecules, is still a damn sight easier to get ahold of than 7.92mm Kurz. And that they're not very expensive at all. And that, with a little poking around, I was able to find one, brand new, for about half of the already very reasonable original list price.

So... well, retail therapy? Yes please! I picked mine up today.

(a lovely wooden crate)

It came in this lovely wooden crate (which says on its endplate that it was handmade by Amish craftsmen; one can only speculate as to what they think about what their product is meant to contain).

(a lovely wooden crate with a partially dismantled rifle in it)

Some assembly required, but only a little. (Not shown here: the ziplock bag full of the instruction manual and whatnot. It only came with one magazine, I bought the second one you see there separately. A bit annoyingly, the little sectioned-off area for the magazine is barely not big enough to fit a second one. But then I'm not going to keep it in the crate most of the time anyway, so that's not really a major problem.)

left side profile of GSG StG 44

At this point you may be thinking, "Hang on, I know I've seen that profile before. Isn't that...?" The answer depends on who you ask. If you ask the Russians, it is a total coincidence, gosh, go figure huh? that the AK-47 looks so much like that. Basically nobody else believes them, but that's been their story since 1947 and they are sticking to it. :) And to be fair, they had already developed their own intermediate cartridge, and the rifles are fairly different mechanically.

Anyway, you can't really see it from here, but that marking above the magazine is the old Schmeisser logo (the StG 44 was designed by Hugo Schmeisser), which is a nice touch. Below it is the logo of the importer, American Tactical Imports. Oddly, the actual manufacturer's name (German Sport Guns) appears nowhere on the rifle, although there is a "GSG" marking on the other side. They presumably constructed their name (which is in English even on their German website) so that it reminds people of the German Federal Police special operations unit, GSG9. Amusingly, that rear sight is a tangent sight, adjustable out to something like 600 meters, which is frankly a bit ambitious for a .22. :)

All right, at this point I'll admit that it's not really a faithful reproduction of the StG 44. The original rifle's gas operating system was far too complicated and robust to be necessary for a simple .22 rimfire gun. It's basically a normal straight-blowback .22 semiauto rifle dressed up in an StG suit. The thing is that it's a really good StG suit. The makers went to considerable lengths to make it handle as much like original as they could. It's very nearly as heavy as an original, for instance, even though it totally doesn't need to be. The metal parts are die-cast, but in shapes that faithfully reproduce the original stampings. The wooden parts are real wood. The magazine is plastic, but it's very thick plastic (it can afford to be, the ammunition is tiny) and pebbled to very convincingly mimic the powder coat finish on the metal. It even has the little spring-loaded dust cover over the ejection port that pops open when you work the charging handle. A lot of effort and attention went into this thing - it may be just a .22, but it's not a toy.

Full disclosure: I haven't actually shot it yet, having just picked it up today, and the weather's not supposed to be good enough to take it out to the gravel pit for a little while. I have read that it's optimized for the high-velocity types of .22LR ammunition and can thus by a picky eater, but given its overall air of quality, I'll be very surprised (and disappointed) if it turns out to be anything but an excellent shooter.

I hope it's good, because the same company also makes a similar .22-caliber cosmetic repro of the MP 40...

Editor's Note, 2017/04/24: My attitude toward modern rifles has softened somewhat since I originally wrote this, in part because both the AR and the AK, as systems, are so old now that there is retro action to be had in both families if you look hard enough. I still haven't bought one of GSG's .22-caliber MP 40s, though now that they're reportedly going to be making a proper 9mm version, maybe I don't need to.