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Walther Gewehr 43 (G43 / Gew 43) Self-Loading, Semi-Automatic Rifle (1943)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 12/11/2013

With help from the Soviets, the Gew 43 improved upon the Gew 41 but was never the semi-automatic rifle envisioned by the German Army.

The Gewehr 43 (Gew 43) became the next evolution of the Walther Gew 41(W), a self-loading, semi-automatic rifle that failed to impress. In 1940, the Germans enacted a program to deliver a standard semi-automatic rifle to their infantry ranks to help improve their outmoded bolt-action rifle units. The Americans and Soviets each were issuing their troops with such weapons, leaving the Germans with little choice. However, the Gew 41(W) proved too difficult to mass produce, fielded a complicated gas system prone to fouling and was difficult to reload in the heat of battle. The weapon was fed by two strip clips into a fixed internal box magazine. Once squaring off with the Soviet Army along the East Front, German infantry came face-to-face with Tokarev automatic rifles. Captured rifles of this class were then evaluated and dissected by the Germans to reveal a gas-operation system that tapped gasses from the barrel to feed its automatic action. Conversely, the Gew 41(W) was designed with a complicated muzzle-based gas actuated system of operation which made the gun "muzzle-heavy" and unnecessarily temperamental. With the better technology in hand, the Walther firm set to work on an improved form of the Gew 41(W) and ultimately delivered the Gew 43 in 1943. In something of an ode to its enemy designers, the original Soviet gas system of the production Gew 43 remained largely intact.

While outwardly similar to the Gew 41, the Gew 43 fielded a number of improvements over its predecessor. The bolt locking system of the former was retained but the aforementioned gas system itself was of an all-new design. Additionally, the 10-round magazine was now made a detachable box though still utilizing the capable 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge. This cartridge was the same as used in the standard-issue German Army Kar98 service rifle. A sight mount was directly machined onto the receiver for the fitting of an optional Zf42 series optical crosshair sight.

With production ramping up, the Gew 43 was delivered into the hands of German soldiers by the end of 1943 and placed into action immediately against the Red Army. From there, the series would go on to see combat elsewhere though, owing to limited availability, it tended to be found mostly with German special units. The appearance of the Gew 43 led to the stoppage of all production for the Gew 41 series but the Gew 41 still saw operational use - such was the dire state of the German Army towards the end of the war that any automatic weapon was better than none. German troops lucky enough to handle the newer Gew 43 ultimately respected her powerful and rugged man-stopping, self-loading qualities but the series often lacked when compared to her contemporaries.

The powerful 7.92x57mm Mauser rifle cartridge, when coupled with a scoped Gew 43, made for an effective sniper weapon system. The weapon's self-loading action worked well as the operator did not need to operate a manual bolt mechanism to ready the next shot - he could simply keep scanning for available targets and fire repeatedly until his magazine ammunition supply was spent. The optical sighting scope was fitted to the upper rear end of the receiver along two support points and all Gew 43 sniper rifles for the German Army were issued (when possible) in this simply-modified fashion.

At any regard, the Gew 43 surpassed the original Gew 41. Attempts were constantly being made to simplify the production process with plastic and even laminated wood used in the furniture to replace valuable materials needed for the German war effort. The latter months of the war saw Gew 43s leaving factories with some rather rough finishes due to haste. In 1944, the "Karabiner 43" was even brought online as an a more simple form of the base Gew 43 design. Though designated as a carbine in name, the Karabiner 43 was only shorter than the original by some 2 inches to help make her a more portable weapon system. This version was further differentiated by its larger trigger guard.

When the war in Europe concluded in May of 1945, production of the Gew 43 still continued to some extent thereafter. The Czech Army became a notable post-war operator, admiring the system's usefulness, particularly in the sniper role. In all, 402,713 Gew 43 rifles were produced - seemingly a large amount but a figure that did not truly reflect complete success for the gun. Comparatively, the American war-winning M1 Garand self-loading rifle saw production figures reach 6 million and even Soviets managed 1.6 million units of their Tokarev SVT-40 semi-automatic rifles. With that said, at least fifty Garands were produced for every one Gew 43.

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Specifications for the
Walther Gewehr 43 (G43 / Gew 43)
Self-Loading, Semi-Automatic Rifle

Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer: Carl Walther Waffenfabrik AG / Berlin-Luebecker Maschinenfabrik - Nazi Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1943

Overall Length: 1130 mm (44.49 in)
Barrel Length: 546.00 mm (21.50 in)
Weight (Empty): 9.04 lb (4.10 kg)

Caliber: 7.92x57mm Mauser
Action: Gas-Operated, Semi-Automatic
Feed: 10-round detachable box magazine
Muzzle Velocity: 2,328 ft/sec (710 m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 30 rounds per minute
Range: 1,640 ft (500 m; 547 yds)
Sights: Folding Rear; Front Post; Optional Scope

Gew 43 - Base Production Series Designation

Karabiner 43 - Simplified production form of the Gew 43 rifle; appearing in 1944.

Czechoslovakia; Nazi Germany