Friday, February 20, 2015

Japanese Arisaka Rifles

by Mishaco

In 2012, i wrote 2 threads dedicated to Japanese firearms. One covered the Type 14 Nambu; and the other, the Type 94 Nambu. Both were on pistols, but I've been wanting to do a 3rd and final thread on Imperial Japanese rifles. 2013-2014 was a busy period and I simply didn't have the time, or honestly the motivation. Now though, here it is: a thread dedicated to the Arisaka family of rifles and carbines, spanning from the late 19th century to World War II. There has been some Arisaka talk in the milsurp thread lately, so I hope this one is timely.

In case you missed them, condensed versions of the two Nambu threads will be coming soon as well.

Type 22 Murata Rifle & Carbine
(A standard Type 22 Murata, functional and complete except for the small upper handguard)
Before getting into the Arisaka series, lets first look at Japan's first smokeless powder rifle, the Type 22 Murata. It was designed by Tsuneyoshi Murata and was an improvement upon his earlier creations. The Type 13 and 18 Muratas were single shot bolt actions, firing an 11mm black powder round. They were heavily based upon the French Gras and German Mauser M71, with a bit of the Dutch Beaumont thrown in for good measure. The Type 22 combined the Type 18's bolt system, with an under barrel tubular magazine copied from the Portugese Kropatschek M1886. More importantly though, it fired Japan's first small diameter, smokeless powder cartridge; the 8x53mm which was also named after Murata. As with all cartridges of the day, except for 8mm Mauser, it had a rimmed casing.

The new repeating rifle was adopted by the Japanese military in 1889. It had a 29.5" long barrel and a tube which could hold 8 cartridges. It also had a magazine feed cut off and no manual safety. Its bolt was a two piece design, with removable head. The stock was a long single piece, with a very small upper handguard section. A sectional cleaning rod was stored in the buttstock. In 1894, a carbine version of the T22 went into production for a brief time. It had a 19.5" barrel and a 5 shot tube. Considering how young Japan's firearms industry was at the time, Murata rifles exhibited good fit and finish, and benefited from strict quality control.
The rifle and carbine were in frontline service for only about a decade, before being replaced by the more advanced Arisaka. Some second line troops continued to carry them until at least 1905 though. When manufacturing ended at the Tokyo Arsenal in 1899, over 100,000 T22s had been produced. It was Japan's primary rifle during the First Cino-Japanese War and many were still around for the Russo-Japanese War. By WWI though, all had either been retired or given to schools to be used as trainers. The 8mm Murata cartridge too quickly fell out of use.

Type 30 Arisaka Rifle & Carbine
(A Type 30 long rifle, with its unique hook safety and brass tipped cleaning rod)
The Type 30 was the first and the original Arisaka rifle. Developed in the mid 1890s by Colonel Nariaki Nariakira Arisaka at the Tokyo Arsenal, it was the standard frontline infantry long arm of the Japanese Army from its adoption in 1897 until it was officially replaced in 1905. Naturally, examples remained with secondary units for years afterwards, In fact, some were even used by hastily trained troops during the final year of WWII. That said, the only major conflict in which the T30 was Japan's main long arm was the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. By WWI, all front line troops had been re-equipped with more modern rifles. Japan rarely tossed old hardware out though, so most T30s were either put into long term storage or turned into trainers.
The T30 was a manually operated bolt action rifle, which fed from a 5 shot vertical magazine. Its bolt was similar to that of the German G.88 'Commission Rifle' and its magazine was heavily influenced by the double column Mauser pattern, but it had one improvement. The floorplate could quickly be removed for cleaning or to unload the weapon, by simply pushing a button located inside the trigger guard.
It fired the small diameter, round-nosed 6.5x50mm cartridge. This round used smokeless powder and a semi-rimmed base. It was accurate, flat shooting, and produced little smoke or felt recoil. It was a good anti-personal round. On the otherhand, it performed poorly against armor.
Other features of the T30 included standard long range adjustable latter sights, a two piece buttstock, and a long cleaning rod under the barrel. One of its most identifiable features though, was its hook type safety. To switch the rifle from safe to fire, one hooked a finger around it, pulled back, and rotated counter-clockwise.
(A complete Type 30 Carbine, an uncommon variant today in any condition)
During the late 19th century, the Tokyo Arsenal manufactured 554,000 standard long rifles, with a 31.5" barrel; and 45,000 short carbines, with a 19.4" barrel. Most were destined for Japanese use, however some were sold to neighboring Asian nations. Interestingly, during World War I some were sold to the British Navy. Others were given to Tsarist Russia.

Type 35 Arisaka Rifle
(An original Japanese Navy Type 35 rifle with the unique manual dustcover and squeeze rear sight)

After the Army adopted the T30, the Japanese Navy felt it too needed a more modern standard service rifle. In 1902, it selected the Type 35 Arisaka, which was a product improved version of the T30. Changes included a wider hook safety, a new pattern of rear sight (only found on the T35), a stronger extractor, a gas port in the bolt in case of a case rupture, and a manually operated dustcover. This forward sliding cover was used only on the T35 and Siamese contract Mauser. It covered the front part of the action when the firearm was not being used, and then had to be slid up onto the receiver by the user before firing.
The T35 was only produced from 1902 until 1904. Just over 10,000 were built before it was superceeded by a more advanced pattern of Arisaka. It was an intermediate step, a footnote really, but it was the first Arisaka on which Kijiro Nambu had some design influence.
Virtually everyone of these rifles went to the Navy. They were rotated out of frontline service by the end of WWI, however in a way the T35 had a twilight career in the closing days of WWII.
(A so-called last-ditch Type 02/45; Type 35 action, training rifle small parts, and unusually put into a leftover Type 30 stock)

In 1945, old obsolete T35 barreled actions were pulled out of long term storage and put into 1 piece trainer stocks. They were finished out with sights, barrel bands, magazines, and triggers scavenged from damaged or rejected rifles; many parts even made from cast iron and intended for use on trainers. About 1,500 such mutts were assembled during the last desperate days of the war. Most were given to the Navy, who seemed to always get the leftovers. The Japanese never really even thought to give them an official designation. Today, collectors most commonly refer to them as Type 02/45s, but I myself prefer Substitute Type 35. It is more in keeping with the Japanese naming system. Honestly, these rifles probably saw more actual combat than the original T35 did back during the early 20th century.

Type 46 and 46/66 Siamese Mauser Rifles
(A Type 46 Siamese Mauser, unconverted and still in the original 8x500mmR caliber)

An interesting side story to the Arisaka is the Type 46 Mauser manufactured by the Tokyo Arsenal for the government of Siam. It was adopted in the year 2445 according to the Buddhist calender, which was 1903 for most of the rest of the world. Originally, Siam wanted to purchase Model 98 pattern Mausers from DWM in Germany; however, it did not have adequate funding to equip its entire military with enough rifles. Likewise, it could not afored to setup a domestic factory and also pay for the licensing at the same time. So a compromise was hit upon. A license was obtained from DWM, and the Tokyo Arsenal agreed to build the new rifles under contract for Siam. Production lasted from 1903 until roughly 1908, with over 40,000 rifles delivered.
The Type 46  was primarily an M98 Mauser pattern firearm. It used a 98 style bolt, internal staggered 5 shot Mauser box magazine, and Mauser style sights. Nevertheless, it did have a few uniquely Japanese features, such as the manually sliding dustcover from the Type 35, Arisaka style receiver tangs, and a stock very similar to other Japanese rifles. One completely unique feature was the Type 45's buttstock compartment, which was designed to store a muzzle cover rather than a cleaning kit. All rifles as delivered from Japan came with a 28.3" long barrel. However, the Siamese did convert some into carbines, designating them as the Type 47.
The rifle was originally chambered for the round-nosed 8x50mmR Type 45 cartridge, which was inspired by, but not the same as the Austrian 8x50mmR used in the M1895 Steyr. In 1923, a new 8x52mmR Type 66 pattern of high velocity spitzer style bullet and loading was introduced for the Siamese Mauser, and most rifles were upgraded to fire it. These rifles had their chambers reworked and sights recalibrated. They received the new  designation of Type 46/66.
In 1938, Siam changed its name to Thailand and found itself one of the few non-colonised/still independent nations in East Asia. Its military used the Type 46/66 during WWII, first against the colonial french and later against invading Japanese. The design prooved to be reliable and robust, and it gave the small nation a bit of an edge. Many rifles would remain in military service up through the 1950s, and some police departments would not turn theirs in until the 1980s.

Type 38 Arisaka Rifle & Carbine
(A standard earlier production Type 38 long rifle, with original dustcover)

The Type 30 was a well built and accurate firearm, but it was not as durable and reliable as the Japanese had hoped for. It was somewhat sensitive to dust and moisture, and could on occasion experience double feeds. This is why the T30's production run was so brief. Just a year or so after its original introduction, work had already begun on its replacement.
The team responsible for the new rifle was headed by Japan's most well known, and possibly best, firearms inventor, Kijiro Nambu. Nambu had previously worked on the T35, but his influence was much more pronounced with the new rifle. What he came up with was adopted in 1905 as the Type 38. Basically the T38 was a heavily modified T30, hence why it was still considered an 'Arisaka.' It had a one piece bolt borrowed from the M1893 Mauser and an improved trigger. It had a non-rotating extractor, which resolved the double feeding issue. To protect the action from dust and the elements, a ssheet metal dustcover was added to the receiver. It slid automatically with the bolt, making it less complicated to use than the manual cover of the T35. It was the T38 that first introduced the now familiar plum shaped ovular bolt knob, which was meant to be easier to grasp than a round one. Two small vent holes were added over the chamber area of the receiver, so gas could escape in the event of a ruptured cartridge. A leaf spring rather than a coil was used in the magazine, which gave it a longer service life. Finally, the T38 had a new style of safety. It was a large checkered knob, which the user pressed and rotated to activate. It was easier and faster to use than the old hook type. Along with the new rifle, a new high velocity pointed spitzer type version of the 6.5mm round was put into service.
(An earlier production Type 38 carbine, with side mounted sling swivels)

The new rifle was definitely a success. It was in production for over 3 decades, and was in frontline use during both WWI and WWII, as well as saw extensive use during the occupation of China. It was originally built as both a 31.5" barreled rifle and a 19.5" barreled carbine, like the T30 before it. Later though, during the 1920-1930s, some long rifles were cutdown by arsenals into so called "Cavalry rifles." Most of these T38 short rifles had a 25" barrel, though a few seem to have had a 24" one instead. Their sling swivels remained on the bottom, which is an easy way to spot one today. The final variant in the line was the Type 97 sniper's rifle, which appeared in 1937. It was a standard T38 rifle, fitted with a 2 to 4 power scope and mount. It also had a turned down bolt handle to clear the optic. No one knows exactly how many T38s were built in all, or even when manufacturing ended exactly, but 3,400,000 is a good estimate I'd say.
(A somewhat rare Type 38 short rifle, cut down from a long rifle by the Japanese in the 1930s)

The T38 really wasn't a special or unique military rifle for its day. It was no more accurate than many others, no easier to use, held 5 rounds as was common, and cost about the same to build. What it did do was to give Japan a truely modern and effective long arm. It had no serious flaws and a very strong receiver, so it remained in service for longer than any other rifle before in Japan.
The T38 was the first Japanese firearm to be widely exported to the West. In 1910, the government of Mexico contracted with the Tokyo Arsenal for a run of T38s chambered in 7x57mm Mauser. However, only a few hundred were actually delivered before a new political party gained control in Mexico. Then during WWI, Japan sold a total of 150,000 T30 and T38 rifles to the British military. Most were used as trainers, some were given to the Navy, and the rest went to the Home Guard. Similarly, about 620,000 T30 and T38s were sold to Imperial Russia during the same war. The Russians respected the 6.5mm Arisaka round, ever since facing it a decade earlier in their war with Japan.
Many of the Arisakas sent to Britan were eventually used to equip Czech soldiers towards the end of WWI. Others were used to arm White Russians fighting against the Communists in 1919. As for those sent to Imperial Russia, thousands were captured or left behind during Finland's revolution in 1917. So the young FDF found itself with Japanese rifles, and needing all the firearms it could get, kept them in active service.

Type 44 Cavalry Carbine
(A Type 44 carbine, first variant with dustcover and spike bayonet)

Introduced in 1911, the Type 44 Cavalry Carbine was a major production modification of the T38 Carbine pattern. In general terms it is the same, using a 19.5" barrel, 5 shot magazine, and straight bolt handle with sliding dustcover. However, there are many differences too. The T44 has a redesigned stock with reshaped forend and an angled front sling swivel. Its 2 piece cleaning rod was stored in its buttstock, which meant it had to have a new pattern of buttplate. It had a rotating trap door, with slotted latch on the side used to open it. Of course the biggest difference between the T44 and the original T38 Carbine was the T44's underfolding spike bayonet. The bayonet had a rather large assembly, complete with hooked cross guard, which was intended for use during bayonet fights. The spike itself locked securely into place with a spring loaded push button. The Japanese took the T44's bayonet seriously. When it was felt to be too weak, the housing was increased in size. Still feeling it wasn't quite strong enough, it was then updated by moving the two main screws further apart.
A late production Type 44 third variant with strengthened bayonet housing)
Approximately 91,000 of these carbines were produced, with the final ones delivered to the military around 1942. The T44 saw extensive use by Japanese cavalry in China, especially in areas without good roads and/or transportation. It was prized for its lightweight and compact size, and having the bayonet right there could also be handy at times. Many soldiers who weretransfered from the mainland to fight the Americans on Pacific islands, took their T44 carbines with them. The pattern prooved to be well suited for jungle warfare too.

Type I Carcano Rifle
(A typical Type I rifle manufactured in Italy for the Japanese Navy)

The supply needs of the Japanese Army were always given priority over that of the Navy, even when it came to smallarms. After years of fighting in China, Japanese industry could barely produce enough T38s to meet the Army's needs, so very few new rifles were made available to the Navy. By the middle of the 1930s, the Navy was experiencing a severe rifle shortage. With none of the Japanese arsenals able to help out, the Admiralty turned to one of its nation's allies, Italy.
Between 1937 and 1939, Italian factories supplied 60,000 so called Type I long rifles to the Japanese Navy. These rifles were an odd mix of Arisaka and Carcano. They fired the 6.5mm Arisaka round and had an internal 5 shot box magazine. They also had a two piece stock. On the otherhand, the Type I had a Carcano style bolt, complete with Carcano safety.
The Type I was used by guard units protecting Naval bases, as well as by the Special Naval Landing Force (aka Marines). Other examples spent the war stored away in lockers, on board Imperial vessels. It was a well built firearm, which when used in combat prooved itself just as accurate and reliable as any T38.

Type 99 Short Rifle
(A Type 99 long rifle produced by the Nagoya Arsenal in 1940)

The Type 99 was a major update of the Arisaka pattern. While fighting in China during the 1930s, the Imperial Army saw first hand how effective the 8x57mm Mauser round could be. While the 6.5mm Japanese round was well suited for dealing with normal soldiers, many found it lacked penetration when used against light armor or structures. The T38 itself was a dependable rifle, but by the standards of the era, it was felt to be too costly to manufacture; both in terms of raw material and labor. Thus the Nagoya Arsenal was tasked with designing a new rifle, which was both more powerful and less resource demanding to produce than the T38.

In 1939, after a relatively short but intensive development process, Nagoya presented the Type 99 to the Imperial military. The new rifle fired the 7.7x58mm round, which was essentially the same as the British .303 but with a more modern recessed rim casing. The T99 was the first rifle to be adopted by any military for general issue which featured both a chrome lined bore and chrome plated bolt face. This then very modern step was taken to allow the rifle to resist rust and corrosion better in humid Asian climates, thus extending its effective service life. The magazine floorplate was henged to the receiver, so it couldn't be lost in the field and its release redesigned so it could not be accidentally hit. The round safety and sliding dustcover were both carried over from the T38, as was the familiar two piece buttstock. The T99 had several interesting but rather pointless standard accessories too, such as a folding monopod, fold-out anti-aircraft sights, and a push button cleaning rod retainer.
Nagoya made the T99 more powerful and modern, and it also found ways to make it cheaper and faster to mass produce. The receiver forging was simplified and required fewer finishing machining steps. Instead of two smaller vent holes over the chamber, it had only one larger one. The buttplate, barrel bands, magazine floorplate, receiver tangs, and trigger guard were all switched from being made from milled parts, to ones created from stampings. Also, the barrel bands were attached with screws, rather than spring clips.
(An earlier production Type 99 short rifle, with monopod, AA sights, and dustcover)

The original plan was to build the new T99 as both a traditional long infantry rifle and as a short cavalry carbine. However, it was quickly discovered that with the new 7.7mm round, a 31" barrel did not offer signifigantly better performance, than one with an intermediate length such as 25". At the same time, many felt that 7.7mm produced too much muzzle flash and felt recoil, when fired from a short 19" carbine barrel. As a result, a short pattern rifle version of the T99 became the new standard in 1940. Only about 38,000 long rifles were ever produced, and the carbine variant never made it past the prototype stage. So the overwelming majority of T99s had a 26" barrel. Though a true sniper's rifle version of the T99 was never officially adopted, many standard short rifles were fitted with a scope and had their bolt handles turned down. The T97 remained the standard and was honestly better suited as a long range weapon, thanks to its flatter shooting 6.5mm round and longer 31.5" barrel.
From 1940, until the end of the war in 1945, a total of 9 Japanese Arsenals turned out approximately 2,600,000 T99 short rifles. In the beginning, it was planned that the new rifle would completely replace the older T38 series, but it never fully did. Japan needed all the firearms it could make during the war, so T38 manufacturing was not even haulted until 1942. The rifle itself remained in frontline service with hundreds of thousands of troops right up til the end. All that said, the T99 saw very widespread service in every theatre of the war, and extremely heavy combat.

Type 2 Paratrooper Rifle
(A standard Type 2 in reasonably good shape with the AA sights intact)

Japan was one of the few nations to put a takedown type paratrooper's rifle into general production, during WWII. Work on the Tera project began at the Nagoya Arsenal in 1940, immediately after the T99 short rifle had gone into mass production. The military desired a full power bolt action rifle which could be carried in a compact case, and which could quickly and easily be made ready for combat.
The first major prototype which was seriously considered was the Type 0, which appeared in late 1940. It was a heavily modified T99, with a 26" long barrel. It separated into 2 halves, of roughly equal length and weight. The barrel and receiver were connected together by an interrupted thread system. Additionally, the bolt handle could be unscrewed to allow the package to be quite thin. Unfortunately, it was quickly discovered that the T0 simply was not strong enough to fire thousands of rounds of 7.7mm or be continuously assembled and taken apart. It was too weak. Only a few were ever made. Just as a side note, I've seen this model referred to as the Type 100, but going by the Japanese naming system in use at the time, Type 0 is correct.
The next idea put foreth was the Type 1, which was based on the T38 carbine. In fact, it was a T38 carbine that had had its buttstock chopped off behind the trigger guard and reattached with a henge. The henge was nothing special, little more than something one might find on a door, but it did allow the carbine to be made more compact for transportation. It was quite short too, with its 19" barrel and folded stock. However, it fired the older and weaker 6.5mm round and the stock was prone to cracking and splitting. About 300 of these were constructed, with most owned by the Navy.
Neither the T0 nor the T1 made it out of the prototype stage, but then in 1942, Nagoya got things right with the Type 2. The T2 returned to the 2 piece T99 takedown pattern, but used a strong sliding wedge to connect the two halves. Also, the bolt handle was not removable, allowing it to be more durable and not easily lost. The T2 was very much like the T99. It had a 26" barrel, sliding dustcover, button released cleaning rod (slightly shortened to fit the front half), and even anti-aircraft sights. The stock behind the rear sling swivel was ever so slightly changed though.
Between 1942 and 1944, Nagoya produced thousands of the paratrooper's rifle. Modern estimations range from a total of 19,000 up to 24,000. The rifle changed little during its production runexcept that the last few thousand lacked anti-aircraft sights.

Substitute Type 99 Rifle
(A midwar production Nagoya Type 99 with some simplifications)

Though on paper, the T99 was produced right up until the final day of the war, in reality the final examples made were so different from the original design, that they were designated as Substitute Type 99 rifles. Today, the ST99 is most commonly called a 'Last Ditch Arisaka' by collectors. One might think that these rifles were produced only during the final months or year of the war; but in reality, over a million were made during a 2 year production run.
Changes and manufacturing shortcuts began to appear on new T99s as early as the Spring of 1943. Before we get into the various stages and steps, please keep one thing in mind; different alterations were implemented at different factories, at different times. Also, sometimes leftover or previously rejected parts were used, so a later rifle could leave the factory with an earlier pattern part. There is no real set, firm order or schedule, just a gradual transition from the original T99, to the Substitute 99. With that in mind, here's how things loosely progressed.
The two earliest features to be deleted from the T99 design were the monopod and anti-aircraft sights. The pod was unstable anyway, and the sights were useless, so not having them in no real way detracted from the rifle. The rear sight was still an adjustable latter, it just lacked the fold-out AA wings. Soon after, the push button retained long cleaning rod, was switched for a short rod, which simply screwed into the stock. This little rod was to be used as a weight, tighed to the end of a rope pull-through.
Next, the iconic plum shaped bolt knob was dropped in favour of a slim cylinder, because it was much faster to machine. Finally by late 1943; early 1944, rifles started to come out of the factory without dustcovers. The receivers themselves retained the grooves for a cover but time was saved by not including the piece itself. Not a big deal either, since most soldiers removed the cover as it rattled and complicated bolt removal. Fit and finish of these midwar rifles was still quite high, and the receiver was still marked Year Type 90-9, but 1944 would see more radical changes and a dramatic drop-off in quality control.
Cosmetically, the design began to really change. The barrel bands were simplified as was the safety knob. The knob went from having a fine checkered finish, to course checkering, to a pattern of simple diagonal straight lines. Finally, they stopped doing anything to it, except smoothing out the weld. The adjustable rear sight soon was replaced with a simple fixed peep, welded directly onto the barrel. The front sight lost its protective ears too. It was at this point that the bluing applied to the metal parts started to really decline. Most factories stopped chrome plating the bolt face, though they did continue to line the bore. The receiver even ceased to be stamped with the model designation.
Shortcuts with the stock were also taken. It was no longer finished with Urushi lacker, and instead was simply stained with various substances. The two piece buttstock, became a 3 piece, with the forearm being a separate part. The upper handguard was shortened to about half of its original length, exposing the forward half of the barrel. Even the rear sling swivel was simplified at some factories, going from being attached with two screws to only one. The biggest change with the stock though was the buttplate. It went from being made of steel with a cupped shape, to being made of plain straight wood. It was held to the buttstock by two or threee nails to save on metal for screws.
(A true last-ditch Substitute Type 99 from Nagoya, with all the latewar shortcuts)

By the end of 1944, the ST99 was looking pretty crude, but was still a servicable repeating bolt action rifle. The receiver and barrel might not be polished or deeply blued, but they were still properly forged and heat treated. More changes aimed at conserving steel and time would come about in the final year of the war.
For example, the weld on the back of the safety was left in the rough and no attempt was made to machine it smooth. The welds on the barrel bands and bayonet lug were also left unfinished. The cleaning rod and its channel in the forearm were both deleted altogether. The stamped magazine floorplate and trigger guard were both simplified, and the forearm lost its finger grooves. The wrist area of the buttstock was ever more hastely carved, to a point towards the end when it was nearly as rough as raw wood. Some factories simplified the receiver by omitting the dustcover grooves or even the serial number. Others adopted a very basic bolt latch and very crude barrel bands. Two even did away with both sling swivels completely. Instead, a rope was used as a sling, with one end tighed in a hole in the buttstock, and the other looped around the barrel. Not surprisingly, the bore was no longer chromelined in many of these late rifles.
(A very latewar Substitute Type 99 produced in the Summer of 1945 by Kokura)

What is surprising to some today is the fact that even these crude looking late war rifles were and often still are, safe to operate. Japan was fighting a desperate war during the final years. It needed as many firearms as its factories  could produce. So every possible frill and unneccessary step was removed. How a rifle looked, didn't matter one damn bit, however a rifle that would possibly injure its user did. Critical parts such as receivers, barrels, and bolts were still kept to a high standard in terms of durability and reliability. It also helped that the Arisaka pattern action was overbuilt and very strong to begin with. Only rifles made during the final weeks and days of the war, might be considered suspect, as by that time the proof testing system had completely broken down. By that point, random parts were literally being thrown together by untrained workers, who were deeply afraid for their very lives.
For two years, the Imperial Japanese Army fought numorous engagements with the Americans using Substitute Type 99 rifles.

Type 99 Naval Special Rifle
A typical Type 99 Naval Special short rifle, with trainer adjustable sights, no cleaning rod channel, and cast iron receiver)

I almost just lumped this variant of the T99 in with the Substitute 99s, as it is another late war creation. It is just different enough though, that I decided not to do that. In 1944, Japan's Special Naval Landing Force did not have nearly enough Arisakas for its needs. With all factories already at maximum output, the Navy itself tasked its own production yards with coming up with an inexpensive and quick to build rifle.
The T99NS was made nearly entirely from cast iron, including the receiver. In fact, the only two parts made of true hardened steel were the barrel and the bolt. Everything else, including the bolt handle,  safety, trigger, sights, and buttplate was cast. The rifle also lacked sling swivels and was to be used with a rope sling. To keep the thing from exploding in a soldier's face, what the designers did was to machine the barrel with an extension, which is what the bolt lugs locked into, rather than the receiver as on other Arisakas. In away, it is not unlike the system used in the AR15/M16.  As a result of this locking system, the T99NS receiver was much wider around the chamber area. Most rifles were made with a 26" barrel, but some came out with a 22" carbine length. This wasn't done because the Navy wanted a short weapon. It was done to further save on precious steel. Earlier examples had adjustable sights and later ones had a fixed peep. As the war continued, the upper handguard was cut back, as had been done on the Substitute 99.
About 6,000 of these rifles were delivered to the Naval Landing forces between mid 1944 and early 1945. They were used along side the Italian made Type I and older T38s. They would be joined by other last ditch creations, such as the Type 02/45.
Though in theory the T99NS was strong enough to withstand the 7.7mm round, modern collectors nearly universally agree that these rifles should not be fired today.

Type 99 Production
Nagoya - 1939-1945 - Series 1-8 & 10-12
Kokura - 1939-1945 - Series 20-25
Toyo Kogyo - 1939-1945 - Series 30-35
Tokyo Juki Kogyo - 1940-1945 - Series 27 & 37
Izawa Jyuko - 1940-1945 - first 10,000 in Series 4 & first half of 9
Howa Jyuko - ?-1945 - second half of Series 9
Jinsen - ?-1945 - Series 40
Mukden - ?-1945 - Series 45
(Serials in a Series ran from '0' to '99999')

Notes Regarding The chrysanthemum
The chrysanthemum or just 'mum' is often mentioned and discussed when it comes to Arisakas. I will say this right-out, most real collectors like to have it, but the lack of one is not a deal breaker for them if a rifle doesn't have it. This is because there are just some rifles, such as a Series 12, you simply can't find with the mum intact. Plus, a scrubbed or defaced mum is just part of the rifle's history.
You find them either scrubbed off by a milling machine, or scratched off with a sharp object, such as a bayonet tip. The scrubbed ones were done by Japanese factories before surrendering the firearms to the Allies. The scratched off ones could have either been done by a Japanese or an American soldier in the field. While it is true that Japanese soldiers were ordered to do this before handing over their rifles; to date, no firm evidence has been uncovered that US Gis were actually ordered to do the same. That said, I am sure it was considered common courtesy to do so, and it was an informal rule. You will find more earlier rifles with their chrysanthemums intact than you will latewar ones. You will also find those rifles with theirs only partially defaced by either a single slash mark or light sanding. Don't let a missing mum keep you from buying an otherwise nice Arisaka, though feel free to use it as a negotiating point to get it at a better price.

Well, there you have an overview of the Japanese Arisaka rifle series. Now, i know other goons have these firearms too, so please share them. If someone has a question about theirs or is looking at buying one, please ask it here. Someone will try and help I am sure. I just thought we needed a resource for the Arisaka, as collecting and shooting them are becoming more and more popular these days. For me, I just find them interesting and fun World War II relics. Especially since the majority here in this country today are true 'vet bring backs' too. I remember the first time i saw that Tales of the Gun episode with various Japanese smallarms in it back in the 1990s on the History Channel (you know? back when that was actually a half-decent thing to watch!). I knew right then that one day I would have to own at least an early T99 with all the goofy gadgets and a late one with all the crudity.
As it turned out, the very first Arisaka I bought was the Type 30 long rifle you saw earlier. A local shop knew I was wanting one, so when they traded for it, they called me to ask if I wanted it for $200. I had someone drive me up there and i looked at it. I really was wanting a T99 in 7.7mm, but after a bit of considering, i bought it. I am really happy I did, as T30s in this condition are not exactly easy to find. That same day, i bought my second Arisaka. On the way home, we stopped into a pawnshop, and I asked the owner if he had any 7.7mms. He said no, but then thought and went into the back. Much to my delight, he came back with a latewar T99. He said he'd basically give it to me, if i promised I'd never ever try and shoot it. He was so afraid of it, he hadn't even logged it into his books. That rifle is the Series 25 you saw above. So on my very first day of Arisaka ownership, i was very lucky and ended up with two quite nice examples. Finally, about a year later I found my gadgety early T99 at a local gunshow. I paid $250 for it, and it too is the one you saw in this thread. Good fortune and good memories surround my 15+ year collecting of Arisakas and Nambus. Plus, when i started, I could buy them quite cheaply because not too many others were interested in Japanese stuff. Today though, that is changing and prices are starting to really climb. Most recently, i picked up my T35, which was the last major Arisaka variant I was needing to round out my collection. Plus hey, Navy marked firearms are always nifty right? I've had a lot of fun finding these guns and learning about them, so I wanted to share.


STG-44 and Semi-Auto Reproductions (STG-44/22 and PTR-44)

by Mishaco (and wikipedia)

Alright, this week I've been very pressed for time, so I am phoning this one in a bit. Specifically, i lifted the History section from wikipedia, with some changes and additions from myself. I have my own comments and opinions below though. Just this week I've had a lot of things at work to occupy my time, but I had to celebrate my new (to me) German PTR44 semi-auto rifle. I am also doing a look back at the GSG STG44-22, and comparing both to original WWII rifles.

MP 43, MP 44, and StG 44 were different designations for what was essentially the same rifle with minor updates in production. The variety in nomenclatures resulted from the complicated bureaucracy in Nazi Germany. Developed from the Mkb 42(H) "machine carbine," the StG44 combined the characteristics of a carbine, submachine gun, and automatic rifle. StG is an abbreviation of Sturmgewehr. According to the legend, the name was chosen personally by Adolf Hitler for propaganda reasons and literally means "storm rifle" as in "to storm (i.e. "assault") an enemy position," although some sources dispute that Hitler had much to do with coining the new name besides signing the order. After the adoption of the StG 44, the English translation "assault rifle" became the accepted designation for this type of infantry small arm. Over the course of its production, there were minor changes to the butt stock, muzzle nut, shape of the front sight base and stepping of the barrel.

The rifle was chambered for the 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge. This shorter version of the German standard (7.92x57mm) rifle round, in combination with the weapon's selective-fire design, provided a compromise between the controllable firepower of a submachine gun at close quarters with the accuracy and power of a Karabiner 98k bolt action rifle at intermediate ranges. While the StG44 had less range and power than the more powerful infantry rifles of the day, Army studies had shown that few combat engagements occurred at more than 300 m and the majority within 200 m. Full-power rifle cartridges were excessive for the vast majority of uses for the average soldier. Only a trained specialist, such as a sniper, or soldiers equipped with machine guns which fired multiple rounds at a known or suspected target could make full use of the standard rifle round's range and power.

The British were critical of the weapon, saying that the receiver could be bent and the bolt locked up by the mere act of knocking a leaning rifle onto a hard floor. A late-war U.S. assessment derided the weapon as "bulky" and "unhandy", prone to jamming, and meant to be thrown away if the soldier could not maintain it.[12] Many of these criticisms are more a testimonial of the Allied aversion rather than an accurate view of the weapon's characteristics, which were proven highly effective during combat in the war.[13]

Development History:
In the late 19th century, small-arms cartridges had become able to fire accurately at long distances. Smokeless powder propelling small jacketed bullets were lethal out to 2,000 metres (2,200 yd). This was beyond the range a shooter could engage a target with open sights, as a man-sized target would be completely blocked by the front sight blade. Only units of riflemen firing in salvos could hit grouped soft targets at those ranges. That fighting style was taken over by the widespread introduction of machine guns to make use of the powerful cartridges to suppress the enemy at long range. Weapons for short range were semi-automatic pistols, and later automatic submachine guns, firing small pistol rounds. The gap in cartridge ranges caused research into creating an intermediate round. This type of ammunition was being considered as early as 1892, but militaries at the time were still fixated on increasing the maximum range and velocity of bullets from their rifles.

In the spring of 1918, Hauptmann (Capt.) Piderit, part of the Gewehrprüfungskommission (Small Arms Proofing Committee) of the German General Staff in Berlin, submitted a paper arguing for the introduction of an intermediate round in the German Army with a suitable firearm. He pointed out that firefights rarely took place beyond 800 metres (870 yd), about half the 2 km (1.2 mi) range of the 7.92×57mm round from a Mauser Model 1898 or Maxim MG 08. A smaller, shorter, and less powerful round would save materials, allow soldiers to carry more ammunition, and increase firepower. Less recoil would allow semi-automatic or even fully automatic select-fire rifles, although in his paper he called it a 'Maschinenpistole.' The German Army showed no interest, as it already had the MP 18 to fire 9 mm pistol rounds and did not want to create a new cartridge.

In 1923, the German Army set out requirements for a Mauser 98 replacement. It had to be smaller and lighter than the Mauser, have similar performance out to 400 metres (440 yd), and have a magazine with a 20 or 30 round capacity. Bavarian company Rheinisch-Westfälische Sprengstoff (RWS) experimented with rounds in the 1920s, and German companies developing intermediate ammunition for aerial machine guns showed interest. Development of the future infantry rifle did not start until the 1930s. RWS offered two rounds, one with a 7 mm bullet and one with an 8 mm bullet, both in a 46 mm case. German company Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken had the 7×39.1mm round, and Gustav Genschow & Co (Geco) proposed a 7.75×39.5mm round. Geco's automatic carbine was the Model A35, a further development of the SG29 semi-automatic rifle. The weapon was complicated and unsafe to handle.

The German Government started its own intermediate round and weapon program soon after. German ammunition maker Polte of Magdeburg was commissioned to develop the rounds in April 1938 and signed a contract with the Heereswaffenamt (HWA). At the same time, the HWA contracted C.G. Haenel of Suhl to create a weapon for the round. HWA requirements were for a rifle that was shorter and with equal or less weight to the Kar 98k and as accurate out to 400 metres (440 yd); and be select-fire with a rate of fire under 450 rpm. It should be rifle grenade compatible, reliable, maintainable, and have a "straightforward design". Fifty rifles were to be delivered for field testing in early 1942.

At the start of the Second World War, German infantry were equipped with weapons comparable to those of most other military forces. A typical infantry unit was equipped with a mix of bolt action rifles and some form of light or medium machine guns. One difference from other armies was the emphasis on the machine gun as the primary infantry weapon. In contrast, allied doctrine centered around the rifleman, with machine guns employed as support and point-defense weapons. German units tended to be machine gun "heavy"; carrying more ammunition for the machine gun than for the rifles; using belt ammunition for their more modern section-level weapons to maintain a higher rate of fire; and generally thinking of the rifle as a support weapon. Although newer rifle designs had been studied on several occasions, the infantry squad primarily centered around the machine gun.

One problem with this mix was that the standard rifles were too large to be effectively used by mechanized and armored forces, where they were difficult to maneuver in the cramped spaces of an armored vehicle. Submachine guns such as the MP 28, MP 38, and MP 40 were issued to augment infantry rifle use and increase individual soldiers' firepower, but suffered from a distinct lack of range and accuracy beyond 100 metres (110 yd). A small fast-firing weapon would have been useful in this role, but again the need did not seem pressing.

The issue arose once again during the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Red Army had been in the process of replacing its own bolt action rifles in the immediate pre–war era. Increasing numbers of semi-automatic Tokarev SVT-38 and SVT-40s were reaching Red Army units, though issue was generally restricted to elite units and non-commissioned officers. Submachine guns were extremely widespread, and issued on a far larger scale; some Soviet rifle companies were completely equipped with PPSh-41 submachine guns.

This experience with high volumes of hand-held automatic 'assault' fire forced German commanders to rethink their small arms requirements. The German army had been attempting to introduce semi-automatic weapons of its own, notably the Gewehr 41, but these early rifles proved troublesome in service, and production was insufficient to meet forecasted requirements. Several attempts had been made to introduce lightweight machine guns or automatic rifles for these roles, but invariably recoil from the powerful 7.92x57mm round made them too difficult to control in automatic fire.

The German solution was to use a round of intermediate power, between that of a full-power rifle cartridge and pistol ammunition. Experiments with several such intermediate rounds had been going on since the 1930s, but had been constantly rejected for use by the army. By 1941, it was becoming clear that action needed to be taken, and one of the experimental rounds, the Polte 8x33mm Kurzpatrone ("short cartridge") was selected. To minimize logistical problems, the Mauser 8 mm rifle cartridge was used as the basis for the final 7.92x33mm intermediate round, which also utilized an aerodynamic spitzer rifle bullet design.

the MKB.42(h):
Contracts for rifles firing the 7.92x33mm round were sent to both Walther and Haenel (whose design group was headed by Hugo Schmeisser), who were asked to submit prototype weapons under the name Maschinenkarabiner 1942 (MKb 42, literally "machine (ie. fully automatic) carbine"). Both designs were similar, using a gas-operated action, with both semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes.

In December 1940, a prototype rifle from Haenel and Walther was tested by the HWA at Kummersdorf. It had multiple jams, several barrels got bulged, and one had a catastrophic failure. Testers blamed the results on poor quality ammunition. In February 1942, 10 million 7.92 mm rounds were ordered for field testing. On 9 July 1942, field and comparative tests were conducted with the ammunition and Haenel MKb 42(H) rifle. 3,654 shots were fired; 11 cases were separated, 67 rounds were duds (56 fired on second trial), and many other rounds stovepipe jammed. Failures were blamed on the prototype stage of the weapon's design.[14]

The original prototype of Haenel's design, the MKb 42(H), fired from an open bolt and used a striker for firing. The receiver and trigger housing with pistol grip were made from steel stampings, which were attached to the barrel assembly on a hinge, allowing the weapon to be folded open for quick disassembly and cleaning. The Haenel design proved superior to Walther's MKb 42(W), and the army then asked Haenel for another version incorporating a list of minor changes designated MKb 42(H). One was to include lugs for mounting a standard bayonet, another to change the pitch of the rifling. A production run of these modified versions was sent to the field in November 1942, and the users appreciated it with a few reservations. Another set of modifications added a hinged cover over the ejection port to keep it clean in combat, and rails to mount a telescopic sight. A run of these modified MKb 42(H)s in late 1942 and early 1943 produced 11,833 guns.

Ultimately it was recommended that a hammer firing system operating from a closed bolt similar to Walther's design be incorporated. The gas expansion chamber over the barrel was deemed unnecessary, and was removed from successive designs, as was the underbarrel bayonet lug.

By March 1943, 2734 MKb 42(H) were accepted into service, followed by 2179 in April alone and 3044 in May; these numbers correlate well with the Haenel estimates for these months (2000 and respectively 3000). Additionally, Haenel estimated that 3,000 were made in June and 1,000 in July, resulting in a high estimate of 12,000 units for the MKb 42(H). However, the Haenel production figures from June 1943 onward do not differentiate between the last batches of MKb 42(H) and the first batches of MP 43/1. Other sources seem to accept only the more conservative estimate of 8,000 units. How many Walther MKb 42(W) were produced is even more uncertain. Some sources suggested as many as 8,000, but conservative estimates put the number at about 200, and say that most of these remained in the Walther factory until the end of the war. Production began in November 1942 and was to reach 10,000 per month by March 1943. The total number of MKb42(H)s manufactured between November 1942 and September 1943 was 12,000 rifles, with only about 1,000 produced per month.

The MKb 42(H) was mostly used on the Eastern front. By one account, the gun saw action as early as April 1942 when 35 of the only 50 prototypes then in existence were parachuted into the Kholm Pocket.

the MP 43, MP 44, & StG 44
(an early standard production rifle marked MP.43)
As work moved forward to incorporate the new firing system, development of the MKB.42(h) halted when Hitler suspended all new rifle programs due to administrative infighting within the Third Reich. Hitler ordered that newer submachine guns were to be built, and he strongly disagreed with the use of the Kurz ammunition. In Feb. 1943 the MP43/1 was demonstrated for Hitler. Reports claim he turned pale when he saw it, and remarked "Now you come with the same stuff again which I don't want to see anymore, even though you gave your baby a new name." However, the rebuke was ignored by the Supreme Command of the Army - and troop trials continued. To keep the MKb 42(H) development program alive, the Waffen Amt (Armament Office) re-designated the weapon as the Maschinenpistole 43 (MP 43) and, making a few improvements, billed the weapon as an upgrade to existing submachine guns.

Much time was wasted trying to make the MP 43 a replacement for the Kar 98k rifle. This goal was eventually realized to be impossible for several reasons: the MP 43 cartridge was too weak to fire rifle grenades; the MP 43 was too inaccurate for sniping; and the MP 43 was too short for bayonet fighting. In September 1943, it was decided that the MP 43 would supplement rather than replace the Kar 98k. As a result, the optical sight base, grenade-launching extended muzzle thread, and bayonet lug were removed from the design.

Adolf Hitler eventually discovered the designation deception and halted the program again. In March 1943, he permitted it to recommence for evaluation purposes only. Running for six months until September 1943, the evaluation produced positive results, and Hitler allowed the MP 43 program to continue in order to make mass production possible. Finally in Oct. 1943 Hitler agreed that the MP40 should be replaced by the MP43. "The change has to occur expeditiously," he ordered. However, he also made it clear that the full power semi-auto G.43 was still the weapon that should replace the K98k as the general issue rifle of Germany.

The first MP 43s were distributed to the Waffen-SS; in October 1943, some were issued to the 93rd Infantry Division on the Eastern Front. Production and distribution continued to different units. In April 1944, Hitler took some interest in the weapon tests and ordered the weapon (with some minor updates) to be re-designated as the MP 44. In July 1944, at a meeting of the various army heads about the Eastern Front, when Hitler asked what they needed, a general exclaimed, "More of these new rifles!". The exclamation caused some confusion (Hitler's response is reputed to have been "What new rifle?"), but once Hitler saw the MP 44 being demonstrated, he was impressed and gave it the title Sturmgewehr. Seeing the possibility of a propaganda gain, the rifle was again renamed as the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44), to highlight the new class of weapon it represented. The designation translates to "Storm (Assault) rifle, model 1944", thereby introducing the term "assault rifle".

A common belief of Hitler's influence over the Sturmgewehr was that he was against an intermediate rifle round. In reality, he could have ordered the project to be cancelled entirely if he had wanted to, especially if it had actually been hidden from him. Numerous reports and company correspondence reveal frequent presentation of the rifle's stages of development to Hitler. Rather than being opposed to the entire idea, his apprehension seemed to be from reluctance to send a new weapon to the front in too small numbers. Industry would not be able to replace some 12 million Kar 98k rifles in a short time, and the already strained logistics structure would have to support another cartridge. The Sturmgewehr was faster, easier, and less material consuming to make than a Kar 98k, but required more complicated machinery. Without sub-suppliers to quickly produce components, companies could not manufacture sufficient numbers to replace the Kar 98k quickly. Introducing the new assault rifle in small amounts that would not make an impression on the front would be counter-productive. Hitler instead wanted to introduce it on the largest scale possible, which has been misinterpreted as his resistance to new technology.
(A partially disassembled MP.44)
Production soon began with the first batches of the new rifle being shipped to troops on the Eastern Front. By the end of the war, a total of 425,977 StG 44 variants of all types had been produced and work had commenced on a successor rifle, the StG45(m). The assault rifle proved a valuable weapon, especially on the Eastern front, where it was first deployed. A properly trained soldier with a StG 44 had an improved tactical repertoire, in that he could effectively engage targets at longer ranges than with an MP 40, but be much more useful than the Kar 98k in close combat, as well as provide covering fire like a light machine gun. It was also found to be exceptionally reliable in the extreme cold of the Russian winter. The StG 44's rate of fire varied between 550 and 600 rpm.

The 1st Infantry Division of Army Group South and 32nd Infantry Division of Army Group North were selected to be issued the rifle, both being refitted from heavy losses on the Eastern Front. Ammunition shortages meant the 1st ID was the only division fully equipped with it. The Kar 98k was retained as a specialist weapon for sniping and launching rifle grenades. MP 40s were used by vehicle and artillery crews and officers. The StG 44 was issued to all infantry soldiers.

A primary use of the MP44/StG44 was to counter the Soviet PPS and PPSh-41 submachine guns, which used the 7.62x25mm Tokarev round. These cheap, mass-produced weapons used a 71-round drum magazine or 35-round box magazine and though shorter-ranged than the Kar98k rifle, were more effective weapons in close-quarter engagements. The StG 44, while lacking the range of the Kar 98k, had a considerably longer range than the PPS/PPSh submachine guns, a comparable rate of fire, an ability to switch between a fully automatic and a default semi-automatic fire mode and surprising accuracy. The StG 44 was an intermediate weapon for the period; the muzzle velocity from its 419 mm (16.5 in) barrel was 685 m/s (2,247.4 ft/s), compared to 760 m/s (2,493 ft/s) of the Karabiner 98k, 744 m/s (2,440.9 ft/s) of the British Bren, 600 m/s (1,968.5 ft/s) of the M1 carbine, and 365 m/s (1,197.5 ft/s) achieved by the MP40. Furthermore, the StG44's inline design gave it controllability even on full-auto. In short the StG44 provided the individual user with unparalleled firepower compared to that of all earlier handheld firearms, warranting other countries to soon embrace the assault rifle concept.

The StG 44 was employed for accurate short-range rapid-fire shooting (similar to how the MP 18 was used when it went into service). The assault rifles in a squad added firepower when the machine gun had to cease fire or move. When attacking a position, Kar 98k riflemen would use grenades against it at close-range, while StG 44 riflemen would fire in rapid semi-automatic or automatic bursts to keep the defenders suppressed.

The magazine follower spring had a short service life, so soldiers were ordered to load no more than 25 rounds to extend the reloadable life of the spring. In January 1945, a magazine was introduced fitted with a fixed plug to restrict its capacity to 25 rounds.
(A late production rifle marked STG.44)
One unusual addition to the design was the Krummlauf; a bent barrel attachment for rifles with a periscope sighting device for shooting around corners from a safe position. It was produced in several variants: an "I" version for infantry use, a "P" version for use in tanks (to cover the dead areas in the close range around the tank, to defend against assaulting infantry), versions with 30°, 45°, 60° and 90° bends, a version for the StG 44 and one for the MG 42. Only the 30° "I" version for the StG 44 was produced in any numbers. The bent barrel attachments had very short lifespans – approx. 300 rounds for the 30° version, and 160 rounds for the 45° variant. The 30° model was able to achieve a 35x35 cm grouping at 100 m.

The Sturmgewehr was also at times fitted with the Zielgerät 1229 infrared aiming device, also known by its codename Vampir ("vampire"). This device consisted of a large scope, rather like modern starlight scopes, and a large infra-red lamp on top, the scope being able to pick up the infra-red that would be invisible to the naked eye. The user had to carry a transformer backpack powered by a battery fitted inside the gas mask canister. Electric cables connected the power unit with the IR reflector, with the cathode ray tube mounted on the rifle imaging IR from the spotlight. The Vampyr had only 15 minutes of battery life, but was able to sight within 200 meters in total darkness. A conical flash hider was added to the barrel to keep the muzzle blast from blinding the shooter.

There really were no clear distinctions between the MP.43, MP.44, and STG.44. Production changes and updates occurred, but were not associated with anydesignation changes. Officially, the MP.43 was renamed to MP.44 on April 25, 1944, and it in turn became the STG.44 on October 22 of the same year. However, the new names were only on paper, and did not begin appearing on the weapons themselves until later. In fact, all 3 names would continue to be used until the end of the war. Ones marked MP.44 started showing up in late 1944, and the STG.44 rollmarking would only appear on rifles built in 1945. Even a small unknown number were built late in the war with MP.45 stamped on them. In the end, the majority would be marked MP.44. All were the same model of select fire rifle.

After the war, Hugo Schmeisser claimed that 424,000 MP 43/MP 44/StG 44 rifles were built between June 1943 and April 1945 in four plants: 185,000 by C.G. Haenel in Suhl; 55,000 by J.P. Sauer & Sohn in Suhl; 104,000 in Erfurt; and 80,000 by Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in Steyr, Austria. This was less than the 1.5 million ordered (hey people on wikipedia can do basic math afterall!), and far less than the 4 million planned.

Post-war use:
The Sturmgewehr remained in use with the East German Nationale Volksarmee with the designation MPi.44 until it was eventually replaced with variants of the AK-47 assault rifle. The Volkspolizei used it until approximately 1962 when it was replaced by the PPSh-41. Other countries to use the StG 44 after World War II included the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, where it was used until being replaced first by the self-loading Vz.52 and later the select fire Vz.58. The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia used it for decades, finally replacing it with domestic AK47 variants in the 1970s.  Actually though, units of the Yugoslavian 63rd Paratroop Battalion were equipped with it until the 1980s, possibly keeping the STG.44 in active service longer than any other professional military unit. Even after it had been retired from all standard militaries, the old Sturmgewehr would appear in the hands of rebels and guerillas all over the world, but most notably in Africa and the Middle East. In the end, the only reason some aren't still being used is the fact that there is virtually no surplus ammunition left for them anywhere in the world. Argentina manufactured their own trial versions of the StG 44 made by CITEFA in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but instead adopted the FN FAL in 1955, because it used the then more common and powerful 7.62x51mm NATO round, which also lacked connections with the Third Reich.

Of course, the STG.44's largest post-war role was its influence and legacy. Its very name "assault rifle" has been used to represent a whole class of military smallarm; a class the STG.44 was itself the sole pioneering member of. Its general specs of a select fire infantry weapon, firing an intermediate caliber round, feeding from a detachable magazine, air cooled, closed bolt, pistol gripped, and with a medium length barrel...all of those could be used to define dozens of military rifles from the latter half of the 20th century. The AK47 and G3 most directly show how they were influenced by the STG; however rifles like the FAL, Vz.58, and even the M16 all owe their existance to it as well. Today, the Sturmgewehr's historical importance really can not be overstated.

the Sturmgewehr in the field
The MP/STG44 was issued with 6 30 round magazines, carried in two sets of magazine pouches made of  canvis and leather. Late in the war, these pouches were sometimes made from burlap instead. Ammunition came in boxes of 15 rounds each. A special leather sling was designed for the rifle, however it could accept a standard K98 or MP.40 sling as well. The buttstock had a vertical compartment carved into it, which was closed with a spring loaded trap door. Typically, several items were stored there. These included a tool which could remove both the gas plug and steel handguard, a compact magazine loading tool, a pull-through cleaning rope, and a rolled up instruction manual for soldiers in the field. It is a rather small compartment, and it is quite amazing so many items managed to fit in there. Most of the time, the weapon's threaded barrel was covered by a simple muzzle nut, though several accessories were made to screw on in its place. Also, some STG.44s made towards the end of the war lacked threading altogether.

The MP/STG was constructed of mostly stamped and welded steel, which was made very thick, so lower quality metal could be used. Because of this, it was quite heavy at 11.5 lbs with an empty magazine. This meant it weighed overa pound more than the K98 short rifle. The flip side to this fact however, was that it was quite controllable in full-auto thanks to its weight. It used a long-stroke gas piston, which was fixed to the bolt carrier (i.e. op-rod). The charging handle was also part of this assembly. The bolt itself was quite heavy and locked into the receiver with a tilting action like many other self-loading rifles of the period. The weapon used a single long, massive return spring; which was housed inside the buttstock. The buttstock itself was made of wood and the pistol grip panels were made of either bakelite or wood also. The handguard was made from a single sheet of stamped and curled sheet steel. The front sight was drift adjustable for windage and protected by a removable hood. The rear sight was slide adjustable for elevation out to 800 meters. The dustcover was spring loaded, and therefore automatic. There were separate controls for safe/ready and single shot/automatic fire. There was no bolt hold open feature of any kind built into either the receiver or magazine itself, so the bolt would close on an empty chamber when the magazine was exhausted. The weapon was far less complicated than the G.43 rifle, with fewer pins, springs, and assemblies. It was easier to disassemble and maintain too. The whole thing came apart with the press of a single push pin, which would later inspire the West German G3 battle rifle.

demilled WWII MP.44
This is an original MP.44 demilled to current BATF requirements. I have been using it to compare various parts with those of my PTR44.

the PTR SSD PTR.44
This is my very own PTR44, manufactured in Germany by SSD and imported into the USA by PTR Inc.

PTR imported 200 of these rifles back in 2009. Of those 150 were sold to the public, with the remaining 50 either broken down for parts or given away as test guns to firearms reviewers. Many of the stripped receivers were later sold off by Recon-Ordnance for people to use with their original WWII MP.44 parts kits to make legal semi-autos. I remember my friend reading the ad for these back then, and lusting after one so hard that i felt like i had a case of blue balls. They were $4,299.95 back then, factory new, with 1 - 30 rd SSD magazine. They also advertised MP.38s, which never materialized.

The PTR44 is chambered for the original 8mm Kurz round, and there was a time when i thought an STG.44 would be neat chambered in something else such as 7.62x39mm, 7.62x33mm M1 Carbine, or even 9x19mm Parabellum. However, after reading how closely linked the Sturmgewehr's development was to the 7.92x33mm round itself; i understand now that you really can not have one without the other. Plus it really is a really nifty looking bullet; so wide and short. Plus, the skinny and long mags it feeds from are definitely unique. So even though its expensive and relatively hard to find, I agree SSD made the right call.

Honestly, this is a firearm i never ever thought I would be able to own. Recently though, I found one with a very motivated seller. We chatted and got on just fine, but all of the issues associated with the PTR44 scared me. So I gave him a pretty low-ball offer. Much to my surprise, he accepted it and even picked up shipping. Less than a week later, it was in my hands! He sent it with 7 magazines, an original sling, takedown tool, the original PTR manual, a reprint German buttstock manual, blank fire adapter, several boxes of blank ammo, and a single box of what turned out to be original Nazi-German 8mm Kurz dated 1945. He shipped it quickly and well packaged. It is in great condition, well oiled, and witha clean gas system. It has been fired, this I knew before buying it. The dealer I bought it from told me its former owner was a big-time German collector and reinactor.

After comparing the various parts on the PTR44 with those in my MP.44 parts kit, I have to say I am extremely impressed with how closely SSD replicated the whole thing. Not just the outside, but even the internals are the same down to the bolt group and fire control parts. It weighs 11.5 lbs just as an original would, and has the same dimentions and specs. It has an authentic buttstock and pistol grips, even though these are US made as part of its 922(r) count. It takes original WWII magazines, and in fact all the original parts that I've tried in it drop right on. It has a very nice feeling trigger and even has a real selector switch, which is perminantly fixed in the single shot position (internally, the FCG is missing all of the parts associated with full-auto though, so its perfectly legal). So as far as being a replica, the PTR44 knocks it out of the park. It really is made to original specs, except for again, lacking the FA feature. Well, that and the scope rail on the side. That isn't original spec. for a production MP.44, though it will take a ZF4 scope and i understand why they included it for modern shooters.

However, as most of us know by now, there have been serious issues with these firearms. Probably the biggest one is reports of the bolt carrier (op-rod) breaking. This is followed by some bolts cracking. Both issues have been attributed to incorrect heat treatment. Other issues include increased wear on the underside of the receiver where the hammer comes through, poorly fitted FCG parts, and shitty magazines that don't fit or feed properly. Really all of these issues can be attributed to American made parts PTR was forced to install to make the rifle comply with 922(r). These include the buttstock, grip panels, hammer, disconnector, trigger, magazine follower and magazine floorplate. Though many problems have appeared, other owners insist that their PTR44s have fired hundreds of rounds without issue. I tried installing the bolt group from my kit into my PTR44, and I was happy to find out that mine is one of the ones that does not have the smaller end section. It seems that some of them had this done, so an original full-auto bolt carrier could not be installed. So worst case, I will just start using an original bolt group if my carrier or bolt give problems. The 2 original SSD mags mine came with do fit loosely, but the other 5 seem higher quality reproductions and fit much more securely. I am hoping this means they at least will feed reliably. I asked the seller if he could contact the former owner to ask if he had had any work done to this rifle or if he knew of any issues I should be aware of. I was saddened to learn the owner had died last October, and this dealer was selling off his guns for his estate. He did say the owner took very good care of his guns, and often took them to gunsmiths for upgrades. So I won't be learning anything more than I already know. I would like to think that guy, since he was a serious collector and history buff, would be happy that one of his prized guns will be well cared for and loved in its new home. In the end, for what I paid, even if I have to replace something, I will still come out ahead.

For a closer look at the PTR44, checkout Forgotten Weapons's review

...And one more PTR44 video

the ATI GSG STG44-22
These are photos of a factory new STG44-22, which is built in Germany by GSG and imported into the USA by ATI.

The STG44-22 is quite a nice replica, especially for the money. When these first came out, they were $550 but now days, CDNN has them for around $350 new. It is weighted close to an original at just at 10 lbs, but despite GSG's attempt to weight it, it is still about 1.5 lbs lighter than either an original or PTR44. Good try though, and they put a very nice wood stock on it, which is made very close to an original, right down to the trap door and steel brackets. The receiver is a cast zinc alloy, and so its details aren't quite as sharp and exact as they could be. It does have a spring loaded dustcover and henged trigger frame, even a faux fire selector; so again, good effort on GSG's part. The rear sight isn't the same as original, and the bolt notch is entirely a modern thing. The front end is a single cast piece sleaved around a small diameter barrel. I wish they had at least made actual muzzle threads for those with .22 LR suppressors and to make it that much more authentic, but you can't have everything i suppose. The handguard is stamped steel and it does have realistic sling swivels. The .22 magazine is roughly the same dimentions as a real one, but it is made of polymer and has that goofy loading button on the side I really could have done without. It holds 24 rounds as standard.

For more info, checkout My review of the STG44-22

Military Arms Channel's look at the STG44-22

...And a comparison of the STG44-22 with an original STG.44