By Jim Krieger
Born in the crucible of WWII, the Schmeisser MP 44, better known by its military designation of Sturmgewehr 44 (“StG 44”) was designed to be a main battle rifle that could be rapidly mass-produced, and that could be fired in fully automatic mode while remaining controllable for accuracy by an average soldier. To achieve that degree of control, a new cartridge was developed that was 40% shorter and held less powder than the 7.92 X 57 mm standard infantry rifle round. The cartridge, measuring 7.92 X 33 mm, was designed to bridge the gap in power between an infantry rifle and a submachine gun.
To achieve production speed and reduced cost, the StG 44’s receiver, trigger group and fore-end were made of welded and riveted stamped sheet steel. The shoulder stock, upper receiver and trigger group were held together with a spring-retained roll pin that allowed for rapid field-stripping. The rifle incorporated a gas-driven piston and rod, riding above the barrel, that were attached to a bolt carrier. The recoil spring was behind, and compressed by, the bolt carrier. It was fed from a detachable 30-round box magazine.
The German word “Sturmgewehr” means “storm rifle”, but at the end of WWII it was mistranslated by allied intelligence analysts as “assault rifle”, and that name has stuck ever since. The StG-44 was the first mass-produced assault rifle, and one of the first in a line of military rifles, from various countries, that have detachable box magazines, and are composed of stamped-steel receiver sections held together in a user-serviceable configuration. Some of these rifles have achieved an iconic status among shooters and historians, but their prices, and the fact that they can fire full auto, puts ownership beyond the means of many enthusiasts.
Seeing the interest in these iconic rifles, in 2006 German Sport Guns (“GSG”) began producing semi-auto copies of them chambered for .22 Long Rifle. Among their first offerings were copies of the Heckler & Koch MP5, the AK 47 and the 1911A1. Their most recent offering is the StG 44. I reviewed their 1911A1 when it first came to market, and having found it to be accurate and reliable, as well as a visually faithful reproduction of the original, I was eager to try the StG 44. I was not disappointed.
I have a friend who has a 1944-production StG 44 in his collection, so when the GSG copy arrived, we made a side-by-side comparison. Two things are immediately apparent when the original and the copy are compared: the original is heavier, and the copy is remarkably accurate in appearance. Visually, there is almost no detail of the original that is not faithfully copied on the GSG version. Hefting each reveals about a two-pound difference; the original is about 11 pounds, and the copy is a little over 9 pounds. The magazine is a different story. The GSG magazine is well designed, very solid and well made, but it is clear, even at some distance, that it is a copy. There are two other differences. On the original, the slot in the receiver for the reciprocating cocking handle extends from under the back of the rear sight base to the front of the shoulder stock cap; on the copy, it extends only half that distance, and has a handy vertical cut at the back that allows the cocking handle to be rotated upward about 75º to manually hold the bolt open. The other difference is that the full-auto / semi-auto selector button is cast into the zinc-alloy trigger group, and does not move. Like the original, the ejection port of the GSG rifle has a spring-loaded dust cover that is held closed by a detent until the bolt travels rearward and releases it, and the shoulder stock has a spring loaded trap-door recess for an oiler bottle.
Admittedly, nine pounds is mighty hefty for a .22 semi-auto rifle, but given the negligible recoil, it contributes to a steady hold, particularly for rapid follow-up shots. The sight radius is 16.5”, and the sights are comprised of a hooded blade on the front, and a spring-loaded notched rear sight blade that adjusts for both windage, and elevation from 100 to 1,000 meters. Quoting from the owner’s manual, GSG recommends using “ . . . high quality utility and high-speed rounds.” Additionally, the right side of the magazine well is imprinted “cal. .22LR HV” which, presumably, means “high velocity”, or perhaps “hyper velocity”; the manual does not specify the meaning.
At the range, the StG 44 got a lot of attention and interest. After answering questions from other shooters for about ten minutes, we were able to get down to business. The first task was to visually inspect the bore, and, since it was a brand-new rifle, to swab it to remove any excess shipping lubricant. That done, I unpacked a smorgasbord of .22 LR ammunition, six types in all, ranging from standard-velocity Remington .36 grain hollow points to CCI Stingers. What the magazine lacks in visual fidelity to the original, it more than makes up for in design and construction. It is formed of what appears to be a sturdy glass-fiber-reinforced compound, and holds 25 rounds. The follower includes a button that protrudes from the right side of the magazine box, and allows the follower to be held in the fully depressed position while rounds are dropped in. The follower also has a sturdy steel pin that protrudes from the top of the magazine when empty to hold the bolt open after the last shot.
The GSG StG 44 has a 17.2” barrel, and given that, and the fact that I had never fired the rifle, I settled on the 50 yard range. Firing from a standing, unsupported position, I was able to keep all of the rounds in about a 4.5” group. Moving to a supported position while seated at the bench, the group shrank considerably, to an average spread of about 2.3”. The tightest bench-fired group, at about 1.9”, was fired with RWS “High Velocity” 40 grain rounds. Out of 100 rounds fired, there was one stove-pipe, and one failure to chamber, neither of which is of great concern from a brand new rifle and a brand new magazine. The trigger has about a quarter-inch of take-up, and breaks fairly cleanly at about 4.5 pounds. The sights are perfectly adequate, and the windage, metered in quarter-turns of the rear sight blade screw, offers fairly accurate adjustment.
All in all, even at 9+ pounds, the GSG StG 44 is a lot of fun to shoot, and the accuracy is very reasonable considering the barrel length, sights and trigger pull. With an MSRP of $624, and market prices hovering around $500, GSG’s StG 44 is a good value, and a great addition to the company’s stable of reproduction military rifles.
Jim Krieger is a firearms writer who lives in Texas. © Copyright 2013 Jim Krieger