The Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr semi-automatic rifle was a late-war German initiative intended to arm the Volksstrum militia for the final defense of Berlin.
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The desperate situation of late-war Germany in World War 2 (1939-1945) was embodied in the "People's Assault Rifle" born from the desperate "Primitiv-Waffen-Programm". One of the program's offspring became the "Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr" and, for production expediency and operational simplicity coupled with a shortage of resources - the weapon proved a raw offering developed with existing components and finished with little flair to help get the weapon onto the streets of Berlin and into the hands of the "Volkssturm", the "People's Army" mobilized by the Nazi Party on October 18th, 1944 for the ultimate defense of Berlin. The Volkssturm were to serve as a last line of resistance against the invading Allies who were making steady gains against the might of the German war machine. More importanly was the arrival of Soviet forces which were sure to wreak particular vengeance against the German capital. As such, all manner of crude weaponry was devised in the final months of the war and the Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr was one such creation. There proved several "Volkssturmgewehr" developments as a whole, all taking the generic name. Some were developed under the Walther, Rheinmetall and even Mauser brand labels in addition to Gustloff-Werke.
The Gustloff submission was chambered for the widely-used 7.92x33mm Kurz (Short) cartridge (the same as chambered by the mid-to-late-war MP43/StG44 Assault Rifle). It utilized a gas-delayed blowback system of operation which allowed for semi-automatic fire from a 30-round detachable box magazine. The magazines themselves were nothing more than those developed for the MP43/StG 44 series. The completed weapon weighed 10lbs and featured a length of 35 inches with a barrel length of 15 inches. Sighting was through basic iron sights with general accuracy listed out to 300 meters. The weapon took on crude, finished form with a rounded receiver running forward to shroud the barrel. The shroud, or sleeve, was attached to the bolt and worked as part of the action, trapping escaping gasses from each successive shot to actuate the next round in the operation. A wooden shoulder stock was affixed at the rear as was a wooden forend under the barrel sleeve. The receiver sides were slab with controls while the trigger was underslung within a thin, rounded ring in the usual way. An ejection port was featured along the right side of the receiver at about the center of the design, ahead of the magazine well positioned just ahead of the trigger group.
Despite its "assault rifle" designation, the Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr was, in fact, more akin to a semi-automatic, repeat-fire rifle such as the American M1 Garand. In practice, the weapon proved as crude to fire as it did in its construction. Aiming suffered from the poor workmanship and hurried design while the action was not truly refined due to the expediency of wartime development and manufacture. There was considerable exactness required of the machining of the gas-sleeve and barrel (which was not always possible) and poor workmanship could lead to stoppages. Additionally, these weapons would have been operated by poorly-trained militia and not professional soldiers, adding little tactical value to the German cause other than machine gun/artillery fodder for the Red Army.
Design work on the Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr began in late-1944 and culminated with limited production beginning in January of the following year. The product (recognized as the MP507) was attributed to the work of Karl Barnitzke who served as chief designer at Gustloff-Werke of Suhl, Germany with the general foundation of the weapon being laid down as early as 1943 (the design based on the MP43/StG44). Production spanned into May of 1945 to which Hitler was already dead by way of suicide in late-April and the German nation capitulated in May. By this time, only 10,000 or so Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr units may have been produced (sources are scattered) and those encountered were clear of any official government inspection marks. An offshoot of the MP507 design was the MP508 which incorporated a dedicated forward grip and it is noteworthy that some forms also came in a select-fire version which would have allowed for full- or semi-automatic fire modes.
The Gustloff Volkssturmgewehr is sometimes assigned the designation of VG 1-5 ("Volkssturm-Gewehr 1-5") and may also be referenced as the "Versuchs-Gerat 1-5" in some sources. Some VG 1-5 weapons survived the war and saw additional ownership in the years following though still proving a rarity.