At the beginning of World War II, the United States was the only nation that equipped its soldiers with semi-automatic rifles as their standard issue service rifle — in this case, the M1 Garand. These semi-automatic rifles provided greater firepower as they did not require the rifleman to manually cycle the weapon’s action as with earlier bolt action rifles. By the end of the war, the small arms capabilities of the major powers had rapidly evolved. Fire superiority and combined arms tactics had come to dominate the battlefield. Both the Soviet Union and Germany developed their own semi-automatic rifles during the war. While this increased the average infantryman’s firepower dramatically, Germany also developed a new kind of infantry weapon: the assault rifle. This concept combined the high rate of fire and controllability of pistol-caliber submachine guns with the range and accuracy of a standard infantry rifle, creating a weapon which could be fired fully automatically like a submachine gun, but remained accurate to ranges up to 400 meters. This was well within the typical combat distances that fighting was found to take place at during World War II. This new type of rifle ushered in a revolution in infantry small arms, profoundly changing how future wars would be fought. The German MP43/StG44 assault rifle fired a new kind of smaller “intermediate” ammunition. In terms of stopping power, this was halfway between a full-power rifle round and a small-caliber pistol round. This compromise reduced recoil rendering assault rifles more controllable in full automatic mode.

Read More- War on the Rocks

Image courtesy of War on the Rocks

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