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Old March 11, 2013, 10:50 PM   #1
bedbugbilly
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Can someone explain in regards to Germany and WW II . . . .

Why Germany did not develop a standard semi-auto rifle for their infantry but instead maintained the use of the bolt action Mauser?

I've often wondered about this . . . yes, I have owned Mausers - still have a nice one that a relative brought back in WW I and I once had two different WW II Mausers that were "European Custom Sporterized" rifles - excellent workmanship and excellent shooters - used them for a number of years deer hunting.

But . . . when Germany began their "blitzkrieg" in 1939 . . the common infantry soldier was equipped with the bolt action Mauser. Yes . . they faced other armies who were also equipped with bolt action rifles - the Russians, the Brits, the French and so on. However . . . they also had developed some excellent machine guns, tanks and of course the dreaded "88s". They developed the V-1 and V-2 and in late war, the "jet" fighter.

The Americans entered the war with the Garand and the M-1 Carbine - yes, I know that some units utilized the 03, 03-A3, 1917 Enfield and such, but overall, the Americans had a weapon that was dependable and capable of semi auto fire which in he hands of a trained infantryman, seems to me would outclass and out shoot a bolt action rifle (Mauser).

So . . . I'm just curious as to why they didn't develop a semi-auto rifle in mass quantities - similar to the Garand - for mass issue to their infantry? Was it a belief that the common soldier would "waste" ammunition or something else? At the end of the war, supplies were certainly limited due to factories being bombed, etc. - but it seems as though if they had developed a semi-auto rifle for their main infantry weapon, in the beginning of the war, it may have worked in their favor even more as they "blitzkrieged" their way across Europe.

There can be no debate in regards to the capability of the German soldier in WW II and their ability to cause casualties with the bolt action Mausers and over the years, in talking with many WW II Vets, they had a respect of the German soldier in regards to their fighting abilities and a special respect (and fear) of their excellent machine guns and artillery. My father-in-law was a BAR man in the 34th Division and these two things he feared most - the 88 barrages and the German machine guns - both in N. Africa and the Italian campaign.

This may seem to be an odd place to post this question and I hope I'm not violating any rules in regards to that. I have seen so many excellent posts on this forum in regards to milsurp weapons and thought that some others may be interested in this topic as well. I've often wondered about this and hope that someone can explain it.

Thanks for any information and thoughts - greatly appreciated!
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Old March 11, 2013, 11:24 PM   #2
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they did make one, it was called the gewehr 43. it was designed to be a multi task rifle, so they all had rails to accommodate sniper scopes but also had open sights so that they could issue it to general infantry.

the M1, even though it was technically the MBR of the US armed forces was still very limited in numbers by the US entry in 1941. the US had the thompson and the M1 but germany had the MP40 and sturmgewehr, a full fledged assault rifle, it wasn't until the war started going badly and germany started capturing russian SVT40s that they realized that a semi auto general issue weapon was necessary. by the time the G43 hit the scene germany was just not able to crank them out fast enough and compounding the problem, most soldiers(especially the snipers) preferred the mauser's accuracy, and simpler design.
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Old March 11, 2013, 11:53 PM   #3
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The German tactic was one machine gun per squad, the rest of the squad was for support. The bolt action rifle was good enough for WWI, it was good enough for WWII. Americans on the other hand relied on one machine gun per platoon, where the German rifle man supported the machine gun, the American machine gun supported the rifleman. That is the basic concept, but there really isn't any clear black or white answer. Perhaps if Hitler had waited one more year as his generals wanted, Germany may well have had a good auto loading rifle. If Hitler had not insisted that the new development of the jet engine be used on bombers instead of a fighter, the war might have lasted longer. Why did Hitler declare war on the US and open up yet another front when he was already fighting the Russians and British. Why did Hitler keep making the huge Tiger tank and wasting resources against the wishes of his Panzer Generals. There are thick books writen on all of these subjects, they are the best way to gather the info yuou seek, on the net you are just going to get some half baked opinions.
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Old March 12, 2013, 10:56 AM   #4
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They made two, actually, the Gew 41 and the Gew 43.

The 41 wasn't particularly successful, but the G43 was a very good design.

As for why the Germans didn't develop a rifle before the war for mass issue...

Several reasons.

1. They were rebuilding an army largely from scratch, and the K98k was available, and proven. Semi-autos weren't really available, and certainly weren't proven at that time.

2. Given that they were trying to get their military back online, there wasn't a lot of manufacturing bandwidth left over to start full-scale production of an entirely new rifle.

3. It's very likely that a semi-auto rifle would have been fielded and in wide-scale circulation had Hitler kept to his original war plans, the ones that he kept telling his military of no war until mid to late 1940s.
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Old March 12, 2013, 11:12 AM   #5
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Keep in mind that although the first select fire rifle was invented in the late 1890s, they had a very poor record of reliability and accuracy, both critical issues for a general issue weapon. Full auto weapons firing pistol cartridges were not considered accurate or powerful enough for use as a main battle rifle. Germany was operating under severe restrictions as to what it could produce under the terms of the Versailles Treaty and the economic crisis that followed WW1. The Mauser 98 was the standard weapon of most armies in the world, the US was the first to have a semiautomatic general issue rifle, and the Germans were already deep into the war by the time the USA entered the war in late 1941. Although they had some of the best designers and engineers on the planet at the time, once you commit your assets to supporting a war, you are pretty much locked in. Once we started around-the-clock bombing of the European mainland and those assets became increasingly difficult to maintain in operating condition, it was hard to change and update designs that were already in place and fight a war on two fronts at the same time.

It's easy to look back and ask "what if" questions, but the facts are what they are. The Germans had the European continent pretty well tied up until the USA started into the whole fracas, and even for 3 years after that. They had pretty much locked up the natural assets and the manufacturing facilities of the entire continent. So although things were tight, they had all of the goods and the capability to produce military hardware until we bombed the factories into rubble. Our manufacturing facilities could not be touched, and we had the natural resources to produce equipment and supply all the Allied combatants. Pretty hard to compete with that.
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Old March 12, 2013, 11:14 AM   #6
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Really the semiauto service rifle was an anomaly when WWII broke out, so I guess the Garand is the oddball there.
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Old March 12, 2013, 12:08 PM   #7
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At the start of WWII, only two major nations issued a semi-auto rifle, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The U.S. rifle, the M1 (Garand) was well developed, and mass production was underway, but the Soviet rifles were still not fully developed and the production facilites, interrupted by the 1941 German invasion, never were able to make enough semi-autos to equip the huge Russian armies. That is one reason the Russians turned to the simple and easy to produce submachinegun to arm so many front line troops.

In Germany, Hitler discouraged research and development of semi-auto and selective fire rifles believing, from his WWI experience, that the bolt action "carbine" was perfectly adequate.

Nonetheless, the Germans made and issued three semi-auto rifles. The first two were the G.41M and G.41W, the letters standing for Mauser and Walther respectively. Both rifles were issued for what amounted to extended troop trials, and the simpler Walther offering became the basis for the G.43.

The G. 43 itself was not a fully developed design, being rushed into production, but it had advantages and was issued in large quantities.

Regardless, the outcome of WWII really was not much affected by the small arms used. The Allies did not win because the U.S. had the M1 rifle, or the Russians had the SVT 40. The huge technological advantage the U.S. had in mass production and the advantage the Soviets had in both production and manpower would have made the difference if all the armies had had only bolt action rifles. When a squadron of P.51's descended on a German troop convoy or a supply column with all guns blazing, it didn't matter much whether the Germans had K.98k's or G.43's, they were in deep trouble.

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Old March 12, 2013, 12:40 PM   #8
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James K and Mike Irwin make very good points, I had forgotten about the G41, there isn't much literature about it that I've run across so it rarely comes up in conversation. however I would like to offer my own opinions towards this statement:
Quote:
Regardless, the outcome of WWII really was not much affected by the small arms used. The Allies did not win because the U.S. had the M1 rifle, or the Russians had the SVT 40. The huge technological advantage the U.S. had in mass production and the advantage the Soviets had in both production and manpower would have made the difference if all the armies had had only bolt action rifles. When a squadron of P.51's descended on a German troop convoy or a supply column with all guns blazing, it didn't matter much whether the Germans had K.98k's or G.43's, they were in deep trouble.
now I will largely agree with you here however there are a couple situations to look at. in the south pacific where much of the fighting was in rain forests and swamps things like P51s, tanks and artillery were largely irrelevant. the heaviest thing you could post were machine guns. had the Japanese adopted a semi auto rifle then the entire south pacific campaign could have ended much differently as the marines were still largely issued 1903s. in this situation the japs had few machineguns and no SMGs while the US had plenty of both, the advantage of firepower(mixed with better supply chains) is what turned the tide in the south pacific, not tanks, planes and big guns.

you are largely correct in the case of the african and european campaigns though large amphibious landings like normandy where you have machine gun fire raining down on you would have been even more catastrophic had everyone been using bolt actions instead of the mix of semi, bolt and full auto weaponry that we hit the beaches with. the rest of the war however were pretty much won but tanks planes and big guns
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Old March 12, 2013, 12:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bedbugbilly

Why Germany did not develop a standard semi-auto rifle for their infantry but instead maintained the use of the bolt action Mauser?

Long story, short: Because a crazy man, who held absolute power over the country, didn't think it a good idea.



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Old March 12, 2013, 01:16 PM   #10
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If the Germans were outgunned, they were probably the last to know it. And Allied forces using semi-autos, probably wouldn't be the first to try and tell the Germans.
Those Krauts were skilled with their k98s.
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Old March 12, 2013, 02:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Long story, short: Because a crazy man, who held absolute power over the country, didn't think it a good idea.
We had our own crazies who determined that the M1 Garand had to be be 30-06 and be equipped with 8 round en block clips instead of 10 round magazines. If our general staff had not been so bone headed they would have adopted the .280 British that had half the recoil of the 06 and could have fit 10 in a clip or 12 in a magazine instead of the 8 we were forced to accept. I don't think the enemy getting shot would have much cared about the difference between .284" vs .308" in diameter. I think a lot of recoil shy people would have been better marksman with the lighter bullet. If the Germans had not been so boneheaded themselves they would have picked up on the fact that long range sniper rifles weren't much good in the hands of the average trooper in urban fighting situations. It could have been a lot worse for Europe if they had gone to the 43 earlier.
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Old March 12, 2013, 03:13 PM   #12
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I am not an expert, but my guess would be different priorities with their very limited resources. Why did they have to use 600,000 horses to move supplies along with mostly "stolen" trucks from countries they invaded to invade the USSR? Why did they not recognize the need for spare parts for the stolen trucks and their own tanks would be required when crossing a territory as large as the Soviet Union? Why did they wait so long to start trying to build more subs?

Lots of questions and the only answer I can come up with was different priorities and limited resources.
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Old March 12, 2013, 03:29 PM   #13
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Part of the answer lies in the fact that German ground tactics of the period were centered around the machine gun. The duty of the rifleman was to protect the machine gun. Hence rifle firepower was secondary.

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Old March 12, 2013, 03:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
now I will largely agree with you here however there are a couple situations to look at. in the south pacific where much of the fighting was in rain forests and swamps things like P51s, tanks and artillery were largely irrelevant. the heaviest thing you could post were machine guns. had the Japanese adopted a semi auto rifle then the entire south pacific campaign could have ended much differently as the marines were still largely issued 1903s. in this situation the japs had few machineguns and no SMGs while the US had plenty of both, the advantage of firepower(mixed with better supply chains) is what turned the tide in the south pacific, not tanks, planes and big guns.
Er... after 1943 they had plenty of aircraft support, landed tanks, and battleships. Don't forget the Navy often pounded an island for days with naval big guns and aircraft before sending the marines in.
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Old March 12, 2013, 05:56 PM   #15
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Old Grump, which .280 British are we talking about? The one I'm thinking of, the one for the EM-2, was a post-war development, and even if it had been proceeded with it might not have been ready in time for Korea, let alone WW2. As for the other, that was a pre-World-War-One effort, a 165 grain bullet moving at almost 2800fps; so much for light recoil from that one.

Are you perhaps thinking of the .276 Pedersen?
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Old March 12, 2013, 06:09 PM   #16
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John Garand worked on his rifle for about 16 years, 1916-1932, before it was acceptable, then it took another 4 years to rework it after Douglas MacArthur disapproved of the .270 round. Even after it was accepted there were problems-the 7th round stoppage and the change from the gas trap to the gas port. And my understanding is that while working on his rifle Garand also envisioned the production procedures that would be needed. And even with our larger population and industrial base it took a while for us to get production going.One of my M-1s has a serial number in the 600,000 range. It was made in May, 1942. The various Tokarev rifles fielded by the Soviets did work that well. As noted, German tactics gave first place to the machine gunner with the riflemen functioning mainly as support. Also the whole German war machine of WWII was organized and run in a much less illogical and rational manner-downright cockamamie, IMHO, decisions as to what weapons,tanks and planes to produce were all to often made by Hitler himself on the basis of his "intuition" with little thought to the actual needs of the forces or the capacity of industry.
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Old March 12, 2013, 06:16 PM   #17
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Er... after 1943 they had plenty of aircraft support, landed tanks, and battleships. Don't forget the Navy often pounded an island for days with naval big guns and aircraft before sending the marines in.
a battle ship was barely able to hit another battle ship at 5 miles on the open seas where they could see it, no less take out a bunch of small targets, dug in, and hidden in thick forests.

there was a reason that they had to barrage for days before a landing and those same barrages did not continue once troops were on the ground.
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Old March 12, 2013, 06:21 PM   #18
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We had our own crazies who determined that the M1 Garand had to be be 30-06 and be equipped with 8 round en block clips instead of 10 round magazines. If our general staff had not been so bone headed they would have adopted the .280 British that had half the recoil of the 06 and could have fit 10 in a clip or 12 in a magazine instead of the 8 we were forced to accept. I don't think the enemy getting shot would have much cared about the difference between .284" vs .308" in diameter. I think a lot of recoil shy people would have been better marksman with the lighter bullet
The Garand had been designed to use the 7mm/.276 Pederson with a ten round enbloc clip.
The decision to redesign the rifle to use the .30-06 was based on the huge stockpiles of that cartridge already available along with the thousands of MGs LMGs and BARs already chambered for it.

While the lighter cartridges have their place, the pentration power of the .30-06 was of great value in the jungles of the pacific and forests of Germany.
The use of thick body armor by the Japanese early on, along with lighter armored vests used by Japanese Air Comandos meant penetration was a very important factor to consider.
The .30-06 AP bullet could defeat most light armor and gun shields at intermediate range, and disable heavy built truck engines.
All in all the .30-06 proved to be the better choice considering the battles fought.
The more recent call for 7.62 designated marksman rifles points up the short comings of intermediate cartridges.

The pre WW1 British .280 was a full power battle cartridge noted for heavy recoil and vicious muzzle blast, along with rapid erosion. No smaller than other MRB cartridges.
The British tested the .276 Pederson autoloading rifle but did not adopt it.
The post WW2 .280 British was the assault rifle cartridge.
Both the latter cartridges are near identical to the 6.8 Remington as far as performance goes.

Most pre WW2 European autoloaders, including the Tokarev 38, were not particularly well suited to combat.
Also Germany built a great many of its 98K rifles using Mauser actions built in occupied countries, they also used tens of thousands of captured rifles and rifles converted to 7.92, they could not even produce enough bolt action rifles in Germany to equip their forces much less first generation autoloading MBRs.
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Old March 12, 2013, 07:12 PM   #19
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That is not quite correct on the Garand. Garand's rifle was originally made to handle the .30-'06 M1 ball cartridge. Pedersen (of Pedersen device fame, and Remington's chief designer) had developed a rifle that operated on a delayed blowback (unlocked breech) system. It could not be made to work with the powerful .30 ammunition, so he designed the .276 Pedersen* round, an intermediate cartridge, firing a 125 gr bullet at about 2600 fps.

The army board decided to adopt the .276 caliber as the service rifle cartridge and both Garand and Pedersen rifles were made up for that caliber for testing. The result was that the Garand design was selected as the better of the two and production approved.

So when MacArthur, well aware of the billions of rounds of .30 ammunition on hand, plus the inadvisability of the proposed retention of .30 for machineguns, thus adding a supply headache in case of war, cancelled the change of ammunition, it meant the end for the Pedersen design, where Garand simply reverted to his original .30 rifle, which was further tested and ultimately adopted.

The decision was not only good from the standpoint of economy, but the .30 was needed for penetration of vehicles and light armor, something the lighter .276 bullet would not have done as well.

*Not to be confused with the British .276 Enfield, a very large cartridge with a base over .52"; that was the cartridge the Pattern 1913 was made for and the reason the Pattern 1914 and U.S. Model 1917 have that huge magazine bulge.

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Old March 12, 2013, 07:26 PM   #20
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Quote:
Quote:
Er... after 1943 they had plenty of aircraft support, landed tanks, and battleships. Don't forget the Navy often pounded an island for days with naval big guns and aircraft before sending the marines in.
a battle ship was barely able to hit another battle ship at 5 miles on the open seas where they could see it, no less take out a bunch of small targets, dug in, and hidden in thick forests.

there was a reason that they had to barrage for days before a landing and those same barrages did not continue once troops were on the ground.
More than 5 miles, but of course they would pull up relatively close. You also had cruisers and destroyers, plus constant air sorties from Navy and Marine aircraft, including during the actual invasion.
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Old March 12, 2013, 09:04 PM   #21
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Two reasons...daytime American bombing, and nighttime British bombing.
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Old March 12, 2013, 09:53 PM   #22
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In most cases american sea power proved to be of extremely limited use in neutralizing Japanese island defenses.

Weeks of bombardment at Iwo Jima had almost no effect on Japanese military capabilities.
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Old March 12, 2013, 10:22 PM   #23
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The 276 Pederson was a good round with a weird but not serious design flaw, the tapered case. To use in a magazine it would have had to be curved instead of straight like the one we use for the M14. Even with that the efficiency of the 7MM bullet would have been an advantage in the field.

The 270 British later renamed the 280 for the FAL was supposed to be adopted by us but again we pulled big bully and made them adopt our cartridge instead. My time line was wrong but still we pushed our 7.62X51 which I love, made NATO adopt it then thrice cursed Lemay and MacNamara foisted the gopher round on our troops after Britain and our allies switched to our 30 caliber. Our rationale was because there was no way our vaunted heroic General Staff was ever going to adopt a sub 30 caliber. So we keep ditching the idea of a European round because it had a funny metric designation instead of a good American number which of course made it superior.

Common sense seems to get seriously lost when military men get above the rank and file and move into the rarefied air of politics. Honor pffft, that doesn't pay as well.

We don't do any better then the Nazi's did because politics determines all of our military strategy. If it didn't how come we have been in one fight after another since WWII except for maybe 12 years since WWII ended. We don't declare war and we do not win wars anymore. Gutless, nutless politicians and General Staff. If a general tries to speak truth and common sense it seems to get him retired. We learned nothing from the Nazis defeat.
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Old March 12, 2013, 11:05 PM   #24
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The FAL prototypes were chambered for a FN propriatary 7mm short cased cartridge similar to but not identical to the British .280 short cased intermediate cartridge which an experimental bull pup Enfield assault rifle and LMG was chambered for.

The US 6mm cartridge that the Lee Straight pull rifle had been chambered for was the basis of experimental LMGs and it became obvious early on that a .30 or larger was better suited to the purpose.
The 7.62X51 ( a good ol metric designation if there ever was one) has never come up short in its intended role, so long as fed the proper ammo for whatever purpose it is put to. You can't say the same for the 6.5 cartridges used by the Japanese, Italians, and some others.
The 7mm Mauser is pretty much in the same class as the 7.62X51.

Every combatant of WW2 that started out with a 6.5 cartridge adopted a 7.7 or 7.35 to replace it, or fielded MGs in .30 or 8mm rather than use their own standard infantry cartridge for that purpose.

The only real objection to the 7.62X51 has been controlability in full auto fire from a lightweight rifle.
The Japanese got around this by issuing cartridges with a lighter load for use in selective fire rifles. The Spanish did much the same when they first fielded the CETME rifle, though the purpose was more to ease extraction till the fluted chamber was developed.
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Old March 12, 2013, 11:10 PM   #25
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Can someone explain in regards to Germany and WW II . . . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Irwin View Post
1. They were rebuilding an army largely from scratch, and the K98k was available, and proven. Semi-autos weren't really available, and certainly weren't proven at that time.

2. Given that they were trying to get their military back online, there wasn't a lot of manufacturing bandwidth left over to start full-scale production of an entirely new rifle.
Do want to add a little bit here...

To think Germany needed to completely rebuild after WWI is a little bit of a stretch. Yea, 100,000 men in the armed forces is small, but there were ways to get around it... such as para-military organizations (prime example, the SA). Those 100,000 men were mostly comprised of officers, so that the leadership could quickly fill into a larger body (what occurred when the SA was dissolved and those members joined the Army). Aircraft were acquired in secret, but using them for non-military purposes got them in the know. When the Nazis came to power, it wasn't as hushed as it was prior, and then Hitler reached a point where he didn't care what the winners of WWI knew (all did not want to go to war and kill another generation).

As was mentioned, most European armies used the Mauser design. If a conquered country had a large arms plant (or multiple ones), convert the rifles over to what you use, and crank them out. If it were the Soviets doing the land grabbing, they probably would have designed a combo so they could get more rifles into their soldiers hands... like a longer 7.62x39 (main thing, not rimmed).

It was a good thing that there wasn't a smaller conflict that the US used the Garand in prior to WWII (like a Spanish Civil War). If people found out the background of that rifle before the war, and seen its strengths/weaknesses, there would have been A LOT more deaths.
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