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World at War: German Infantry Weapons of World War II

Updated on September 12, 2013

German Infantry Weapons of WWII

German Infantry with MP40
German Infantry with MP40 | Source

Books about the German Army

The German Infantry

The quality and economy of German equipment was as an important a factor to American success in World War II, as the quality and economy of our own. Naturally, a lot of study went into German Infantry Tactics, and especially the nature and quality of German infantry weapons. In the paragraphs below, I will give you some information about the mainstay arms of the German Army, the Heer.

While German infantry rifles may have seemed technologically outdated, their focus on machine guns as tools of attrition and maneuver made them quite effective against Russian arms. At the same time, German tanks were able to provide much needed maneuver support that helped put an end to American weapon and equipment superiority.

Walther PP

Walther PP
Walther PP | Source

Walther PP

The Walther PP is known throughout the world, mostly for its appearance in the James Bond franchise. However, few realize that this favorite pistol of a very British (at least to Americans) super-spy got its start in the Wiemar Republic. This became the standard sidearm of German Officers, State Personalities, and special forces during the Nazi era.

The weapon uses a 7.65 mm projectile, commonly, and operates via gas pressure causing blow-back and re-chambering. It is semi-automatic, and has a comparable pistol range (roughly 100 m effective at best).

Karabiner 98k

Standard German Infantry RIfle Circa WWII
Standard German Infantry RIfle Circa WWII | Source

Karabiner 98k

The Karabiner served as the German Infantry Rifle for the Second World War. It was used primarily by forces of the German Army, though some limited naval use as well. The Karabiner, while reliable, was inferior technologically when compared to the M1 and other semi-automatic firearms. It could only fire one round, before it required manual action to fire the next, as opposed to semi-automatics, which fired, reloaded, and readied as one action cycle. It is possible to imagine that this decreased volume of firepower might have actually made German forces less capable in defensive roles, and especially in urban combat.

This was acceptable, though, as more resources were used to develop other arms that were essential to the success of the German Blitzkrieg. And certainly the campaigns of the early war, all the way up to the end of the German advance during Barbarossa, was testament to this.


MP40 | Source

Submachine Guns

Known as 'Machine-Pistols', these weapons are between the size of a pistol and a carbine. More importantly though, they fire pistol ammunition, and are automatic. High Volumes of fire from these and german machine guns allowed for maneuverability for infantry elements during the war.

It is estimated by many that the material and ammunition needs of these weapons quickly outpaced the ability of German industry to feed them. As a result, these weapons remained mostly in the hands of NCOs and special operatives.


MG34 | Source

Assault Machine Gun

The MG34 was the standard Light (or 'Assault') machine gun. Meant to be carried by one soldier, including ammunition, it was capable to be transported by foot, and set up in a matter of moments, to provide suppressive fire. This allowed the weapon to be used in offensive operations, and it was a key part of the infantry role during Blitzkrieg.The weapon is gas operated, and fires a round almost 8mm at fully automatic rates. They utilize drums instead of belts, to prevent ammunition bands from getting corrupted and for easier fitting. 


German MG42
German MG42 | Source

Hitler's Bonesaw

The MG 1942 (MG42) was one of the most distinctive and feared weapons of the second world war, no matter which front, or whom it was fighting. Known as Hitler's Bonesaw or the Devi's Chainsaw, the weapon featured a very high rate of fire, which coupled with its 7.92 ammunition, give it a high-pitched sound much like a chainsaw. 

The weapon was recoil-operated, with gas assist, meaning that the actual momentum of the weapon's recoil was used to blow the bolt back, and chamber another round. The gas expelled from a cartridge was used to assist in this process, possibly as a redundant action, which might account for the weapons purported reliability.

In terms of Doctrine, the weapon was used primarily as a Light Machine Gun, though it broached the upper end towards a medium machine gun. This meant usually the weapon could be operated by one person, and carried by infantry, however sometimes an assistant was given to help carry ammunition, or it might be mounted on a vehicle of some sort.


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    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Edited today. I will edit against to account for the MP 38, the 44, and a few other infantry weapons. Though not until I've tweaked all 99 of my other Hubs.

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Great Point Kris.

      Thanks for reading Phdast!

    • profile image

      Kris 6 years ago

      the MP 44 was not mass produced because the ammunition needs would have been too high. It would require tens of thousands of extra workers and more materials to produce sufficient amounts.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good Hub full of lots of interesting information. And with good accompanying pictures.

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      The Soviets officially had a Semi-Automatic Rifle as their primary infantry side-arm, however, in actuality, most of their field divisions were using whatever they could scrounge. As a result, during the first year or two, Soviet Soldiers used whatever was available to them.

      However, Regular Army Divisions that came in from the East (fresh from recent skirmishes with Japan in the late 30s), and Guards Divisions were specifically outfitted with the Soviet Semi-Auto.

    • Jason Oleinik profile image

      Gleb Oleinik 6 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

      Very interesting Hub. As far as I know the Soviets were using mostly rifles at the time, so semi-automatic weapons were very powerful in the Soviet Campaign.

    • daryl2007 profile image

      daryl2007 7 years ago

      This is one great Article I love it, full of interesting facts!!! Keep it up!!! I have great War stories here:

      Great facts about MG42!!!

    • profile image

      JRob 7 years ago

      you left soooooo much out. in the pistols you should have talked about the lugers and the p-38's. the luger , although quite old and some consider obsolete was still the favorite sidearm of the German general staff. the p-38 at the beginning of the war was the most advanced pistol of the time being the first double action auto.

      the 98k mauser (while inferior to semi auto american weapons) was a bolt action rifle that was still more reliable and accuarate than the british enfield and russian mosin nagant rifles.

      german submachine guns you mentioned the mp40 but you should have started with the mp38.

      there was no mention of the gew 43 semiauto rifle...major player in the german cronology of weapon development.

      you definetly should have talked about the mp44. especially since it is argueably the first true assault rifle. although never put in massive production ( because by the time it was developed mass production was impossible due to constant aeriel bombing) it should be mentioned.

      and last...the mg 34 was developed to use belt fed and later utilized the drum to for the weapon to be versatile and to limit the number of troops for use.

      the mg42 was definely a 2 man operation it should have been noted the the trouble with the weapon is that the barrel had to changed quite often..the weapons very high rate of fire cause potential barrel melting if the barrel wasn't changed. ( same drawback on the amercan m-60 years later).

      other than those was a great article

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Karabiner 98k is a Mauser weapon. Thanks for comment though.

    • Chapter profile image

      Chapter 7 years ago from Indonesia

      how about mausser? Afghanistan people use mausser to attak uni soviet army

    • MPChris profile image

      MPChris 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Very True. For whatever reason, I had operated under the assumption that the MG42 never entered massive service use, like the Sturmgewehr. However, upon second look, nothing I read actually supports this.

      Good call.

    • jeffduff profile image

      Jeff Duff 7 years ago from Southwest Wisconsin

      You forgot the most effective German infantry weapon of the war, the MG42 machine gun. You might want to add a paragraph or two to this hub, about the MG42 and it's influence on all future machine gun designs. You could also mention the panzerfaust hand-held rocket ('bazooka').

      Also, would it be an idea to expand upon this topic and write a hub on each of the German infantry weapons? Just an interesting suggestion ...


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