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"Some Notes on German Weapon Development" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military intelligence report on German weapon development originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


a. General

The goal of all modern armies is the maximum production of good and efficient weapons in a minimum variety of types. The advantages of limiting weapon types to the smallest number consistent with effective warmaking have been shown to be numerous. If weapon designs are highly standardized and relatively few in number, equipment can be produced swiftly and abundantly by mass-production methods. Further, the training of troops is simplified and facilitated, and if the weapons themselves can be used in interchangeable roles (the dual-purpose AA/AT guns are a familiar example), battle efficiency is greatly increased.

Nazi Germany has been most consistently and successfully devoted to the principle of limiting the variety of weapons to the smallest number which will give the required combat strength and effectiveness.

Since the original basic designs upon which the equipment of the present German army was produced, there has been no pause in the intensity of development which followed. As the German army gained experience, newer and more efficient designs of equipment were produced, and existing types were modified as circumstances required. German designers learned their lessons rapidly, and the result is that even standardization carried on to an extreme, as it undoubtedly is in German equipment, has little or no effect upon the development of better and more efficient weapons. Italy has tried hard to conform with the rapidly changing requirements which the present war has brought about, but, hampered by a chronic lack of adequate designers, adequate raw materials, and adequate facilities, she is always just one step - and sometimes just one hundred steps - behind. There has been much for Italy to learn since Italy felt the full weight of modern armaments, and, with an increasing German influence in control, the Italian armament industry is at least making an effort not to be left too far behind. Evidence from many sources, obtained during or immediately prior to present operations, makes it possible to collate what is known about certain new equipment, and makes it possible to draw some conclusions. The following is a partial list of certain enemy equipment identified in the course of recent operations.

b. German Kampfpistole

The Kampfpistole itself is the normal, light-metal signal pistol, slightly bored out and rifled, and has a caliber of 27 mm. The only projectile so far identified is an HE grenade with a direct-action fuze operating on impact. The accurate range is very short, and the maximum range is not more than about 100 to 150 yards. There is little effective fragmentation, and the effect is only to project an "offensive"-type grenade a little further than it could be thrown by hand.

c. Rifle Grenades

(1) Grenade Launcher (Schiessbecher)

This is a heavy-metal grenade launcher in two parts, having a caliber of 30 mm. The main body can be clamped to the muzzle of any rifle model 98 (except Models 98a and 98/40) and carbine model 98K. The clamp itself fits just behind the front sight. Into this component is screwed a cylinder forming the rifled bore of the cup. The rifled cylinder is the male portion and has a very rapid right-hand thread. A special tool is supplied with each cup for assembling.

(2) Grenade Launcher Sight (Granatvisier)

The sight is a simple attachment clamped to the left-hand side of the rifle just to the rear of the rear sight and comprising a "U" notch rear sight and blade front sight, on a base revolving about an axis and aligned by a small spirit level. There are two range scales, reading respectively from 0 to 250 meters for low-angle fire, and 250 to 50 meters for high-angle fire. The graduations apply to the HE round only; when firing the AP round, 75 meters on the low-angle scale correspond to a range of 100 meters, and 50 to a range of 65 meters.

(3) HE Grenade (Gewehr Sprenggranate, or G.Sprgr.)

The projectile consists of a blackened steel body with an aluminum nose fuze and a grooved collar fitting into the rifling of the grenade launcher cup. The fuze operates on impact, but the shock of discharge also initiates a delay system in the base which, in the event of the nose fuze failing to function, detonates the explosive filling after a delay of 5 seconds. The collar carrying the rifling may be unscrewed from the body and the igniter string pulled, in which case the projectile can then be thrown as a hand grenade, operating after 4 1/2 seconds. The effect is equivalent to that of a "defensive" type of grenade, the radius of fragmentation being given as about 30 yards.

(4) AP Grenade (Gewehr Panzergranate, or G.Pzgr.)

This is a form of armor-piercing rifle grenade. It incorporates the hollow-charge principle. In appearance the grenade is a long cylinder, partly steel and partly aluminum, with a black, rounded-metal nose cap and a base plate slotted to facilitate removal. The forward half of the cylinder is constructed of steel and contains the bursting charge, a light metal diaphragm shaping the hollow charge. The rear aluminum half of the cylinder, which carries an interrupted collar with 8 right-hand grooves to fit the rifling of the launcher cup, contains a fuze and explosive train. The weight of the bursting charge is exceedingly small compared with the total weight of the grenade, and the general design is unnecessarily complicated, with considerable waste of efficiency. There is no provision for use as a hand grenade.

(5) Practice Grenade (Gewehr Sprenggranate Ub.)

This round is fitted with a smoke generator, 6 holes for smoke emission being drilled in the side of the body.

(6) Cartridge and Packing

Each grenade is packed with a bulletless, blank rifle cartridge in a cardboard container, which may be marked with the German nomenclature. The cartridges are not interchangeable between rounds of different types. The containers are black with a white spot on the end for AP rounds, and gray for HE rounds.

(7) Range

HE - Maximum range 250 yards (approx).

AP - Moving targets are to be engaged at ranges of less than 100 yards, the vulnerable parts of tanks being penetrated, according to an enthusiastic but probably over-confident handbook, at ranges of under 50 yards. The latter range probably represents the degree of accuracy of aim, since the actual effect is not dependent upon range.

d. 200-mm Spigot Mortar

An effective introduction is the 200-mm spigot mortar (see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 16, p. 32). Although intended for the destruction of obstacles, minefields, and gun emplacements, it is not considered that the effect would be sufficiently great to mark an advance in minefield clearance methods. The probable appearance of the projectile is an egg-shaped body containing the bursting charge, with a long tubular tail having fins at the base. The tail probably breaks off in one piece on detonation of the round, and there will be considerable blast effect with comparatively little fragmentation. It is possible that incendiary, smoke, and other chemical agents may be used.

e. Small Arms

(1) Pistol P.38

Although not a very new design, this pistol, which incorporates good design points of many previous types of pistol, is gradually replacing existing models.

(2) Machine Guns

A new model, the MG 41, is reported to exist. A still newer model, MG 42, exists and is more satisfactory than the MG 41 (see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 20, p. 28).

The newer types differ from the MG 34 in having an increased rate of fire, and being lighter in weight. An increase in the rate of fire of ground MGs over the MG 34 (cyclic rate 900 rpm) is likely to prove of doubtful value, since the increased expenditure of ammunition will present difficulties without obtaining any real advantage.

(3) 20-mm Flak 38

This weapon is a development from, and an improvement upon, the 20-mm Flak 30 which has proved quite successful. It does not represent any radical change in design, but is simpler, more accurate in operation, and incorporates many minor improvements.

(4) 20-mm Flakvierling

This equipment consists of four 20-mm Flak 38s on a single, highly mobile carriage. Although probably intended for AA use, it can be used against ground targets and is a very useful marine equipment.

f. Hollow-Charge Ammunition

For reference to the use of German hollow-charge ammunition, see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 19, p. 27.

g. Rocket Weapons

See Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 18, p. 26.


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