Category: Military Weapons

Top Ten Military Pistols

When assembling a list of top ten military pistols throughout history, a number of combinations could be compiled based on design, cartridge, performance, reliability and/or practicality.  Since so many aspects can be taken into account, a definitive top ten list is difficult;  however, a number of the pistols listed below would appear on just about anyone’s top ten list of military pistols.

10.  H & K UPS – Heckler & Koch’s UPS (Universal Self-loading Pistol) made this top ten list because of its accuracy and reliability.  The pistol’s design was influenced by the Model 1911 pistol.  The H&K UPS has a modified Browning-type action and a patented recoil reduction system, which not only lowers the recoil effects on the pistol but also the forces experienced by the shooter.

The control level function on the USP can be moved so either a left or right handed shooter can use the pistol.   The trigger firing mode can be easily converted from double-action and single-action modes and double action only mode.

A number of features such as a fiber-reinforced polymer frame, conversion capability to nine trigger firing modes, oversized trigger guard for use with gloves and patented lock-out safety device add to the weapon’s overall appeal.

9.  Colt Single Action – The Colt Single Action was in-service from 1873 to 1892.  This pistol is a single action revolver designed for the US Government service revolver trials in 1872.

This particular revolver was available in over 30 different calibers and several barrel lengths.  The overall appearance of the Colt, however, has remained consistent.  Production on this revolver was halted twice, but brought back to meet demands.  Though popular with ranchers, lawmen, outlaws, etc., today the models are mainly sought after by collectors and re-enactors.

After three generations and several variants, the Colt Single Action has more than earned its place on the list of top ten pistols.

8.  C96 Mauser Broomhandle – The C96 Mauser Broomhandle is a weapon that proved the viability of the semi-automatic pistol in both commercial and military use.  The C96 has an integral box magazine located in front of the pistol’s trigger and other design features include its long barrel, the wooden shoulder stock – which can also double as a holster – and its broom handle shaped grip, which is how the pistol earned its nickname ‘Broomhandle’.  The C96 had a high-velocity cartridge (7.63 x 25mm) which, when combined with its long barrel and shoulder stock, aided in in the Mauser’s superior range and penetration.  The C96 Mauser was produced from 1896 to 1937 and remained in service from 1899 through 1961.  After its introduction, the C96 quickly became a favorite among British officers and was used as a military sidearm in a number of conflicts.  A number of variants have evolved from the C96, and they have been used in over a dozen countries.

7.  Luger 9 mm – A semi-automatic pistol, the Luger 9mm was produced from 1900 to 1945.  The Luger’s patented toggle-lock re-coil operation that was widely utilized by the Germans in both WWI and WWII.  Though originally introduced with a 7.65 x 21mm Parabellum, the Luger is most noted as being the pistol for which the 9 x 19mm Parabellum cartridge – aka:  the 9mm Luger – was developed. The Luger 9mm is still highly prized and sought after by collectors who admire it for its design and its known accuracy.  Many of the Lugers from WWI and WWII were taken home by the Allied soldiers and remain in circulation to this day.

 6.  SIG P226 – This semi-automatic pistol is manufactured in Switzerland and can be chambered for a 9 x 19mm Parabellum, a .40 S&W, .357 SIG and a .22 Long Rifle.  It utilizes John Browning’s locked breech, short recoil.  A safety design feature of the P226 prevents the firing pin from making contact with a loaded round until the trigger is pulled.  This pistol also features a double-action, firing mode which can be attained by simply pulling back the trigger.  The P226 also utilizes a higher capacity magazine.  The SIG P226 is used by many special operation units throughout the world.

 

5.  Beretta 92F – This Italian designed semi-automatic pistol fires a 9 x 19mm Parabellum.  Manufacturing began in 1975 and continues to present day.   The original model was produced from 1975 to 1976, but current day production consists of four different designs using four different calibers:  9 x 19mm Parabellum (92 Series), .40 S&W (96 series), 9 x 21mm IMI (98 series) and 7.65mm Luger (98 and 99 series).

The Beretta 92F has been the primary side pistol for the American forces for the past 25 years.  This pistol has low recoil, an open slide design – which permits even feeding and discharge of bullets – and is easy to use.

 

4.  Browning Hi-Power – The Browning Hi-Power first went into production in 1935, but manufacturing of this single-action, 9mm semi-automatic pistol continues to present day.  This pistol is one of the most widely used military pistols in history.  The pistol was based on a design vision of the infamous John M. Browning, who passed away before it was finalized.  The Hi-Power is considered by many to be the best single-action 9mm pistol.  The Browning Hi-Power is still being used today by many military forces throughout the world.  In all, it has been used in over 50 countries.

3.  CZ75 – The CZ 75 is a semi-automatic pistol made in the Czech Republic. Introduced in 1975, production on the CZ 75 began in 1976 and has continued since.  This all-steel construction pistol features a staggered-column magazine and hammer forged barrel.  While it is the most common gun in the Czech Republic, the CZ 75 is admired and used by many due to its quality and versatility.  The patent on this CZ 75 protected the pistol’s design in the Czech only.  But since the pistol was exported to a number of countries, manufacturer’s abroad who began producing their own version of the CZ 75 pistol.

The CZ-75 is used by law enforcement agencies around the world and is noted for being easy to use, reliable and well-balanced.

2.  Glock-17 – This Austrian design, semi-automatic pistol has been in service since 1982.  The design took advantage of the previous H&K polymer construction and though first thought of as an odd handgun, the Glock 17 has since become the dominant handgun used by the Austrian and US law enforcement.  Glock pistols make up for 65% of the market share of hand guns in the United States.  The Glock changed the world of pistols and has become the defining gun of the past 25 years.

 

1.  Colt 1911 A1 – In the 100 years following its introduction, the Colt 1911 has served as a inspiration for most pistol designs.  Currently, there are more manufacturers of the M1911 pistol than any other cartridge handgun design at any given time.   This single-action and semi-automatic pistol was designed by John Moses Browning.  The M1911 and its variants were used in the United States Army from 1911 through 1985.  This pistol saw combat in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  The Colt M1911 introduced the .45 ACP cartridge and remains a popular choice today among competitive shooters.

A number of exceptional pistols have graced the market since they were first modernized and introduced over 100 years ago.   This particular list will undoubtedly be refuted by some, but it would be difficult to dispute the Colt M1911 as the number one choice on this list of top ten military pistols.

AK-47 Assault Rifle

One of the most well-known, highly recognized assault rifles of current day is the AK-47.  This infamous rifle was developed by the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Kalashnikov.  Its official Russian name was Avtomat Kalashnikova but it was also referred to as Kalashnikov, or AK.  Russian’s also used the slang word ‘Kalash’ when referencing this weapon.  Many consider it the number one rifle in the military.

The development of this weapon began in 1945 and by 1946 (just after the end of WWII) a prototype – AK-46 – was produced for a military trial.  The following year, a newer version with a fixed-stock was received by selected units within the Soviet Army.  The AK-47 was formally accepted into the Soviet Armed Forces in 1949.

Design History

The concept of an assault rifle was first recognized by the Germans during WWII.  Statistics showed that the majority of fire fights incurred during the war occurred within a 400 meter range.  Contemporary rifles available at that time proved to be overpowering for these small arms combat situations.  The design included the need for the power of a submachine gun combined with the range and accuracy of a rifle.  The first design vision resulted in the Sturmgewehr 44.

The Russians were consistently outgunned by the German military throughout WWII and was definitely impressed with their Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle.  Desiring their own assault rifle, the Russian’s held a design competition and the AK-47 surfaced.

Features of the AK-47

The AK-47s design is simple making it easy to produce.  The weapon is relatively compact and is easy to clean and maintain.  The gun’s reliability, however, comes at the sacrifice of its accuracy.  The rifle is not intended for long-range engagements.  The service life of the AK-47 Assault Rifle averages 6,000 – 15,000 rounds.

Specifications

  • Type:  Assault Rifle
  • Service History:  1949 to Present Day
  • Produced:  1949 to 1959
  • Total Number Produced:  75 million (estimate)
  • Weight:  10.5 lbs.
  • Barrel Length:  16.3 inches
  • Cartridge:  7.62×39 mm M43/M67
  • Rate of Fire:  600 rounds per minute
  • Effective Range:  440 yards

Over a dozen different variants of the AK-47 assault rifle have been produced since its inception; they are used by over 60 nations throughout the world.

Austria’s Semi-Automatic Glock Pistol

Austria’s Semi-automatic Glock is a series of pistols designed and produced in Austria.  Though the founder Gaston Glock was inexperienced in both the designing and manufacturing of firearm, he was an engineer with extensive knowledge of newer advanced synthetic polymers.  His knowledge proved to be instrumental in developing the successful development of the company’s initial line of polymer framed pistols -with the Glock-17 becoming known by some as one of the top pistols ever manufactured.  Glock is also credited for introducing the firearms industry to ferritic nitrocarburizing – an anti-corrosion treatment for surface parts of metal guns.

A variety of pistols from around the world are on display in the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, FL.  Step into this gallery and witness the power that is housed within. 

Though the market initially resisted Glock’s ‘plastic gun’ concept, the company’s pistols are one of their more profitable product lines.  Glock pistols command 65% of the US handgun market for law enforcement agencies.  Glock also supplies a number of national armed forces and security agencies throughout the world.

Development of the Glock Pistols

The Austrian military made an announcement in 1980 that it would be replacing the Walther P38 handgun – a WWII era weapon.  Their Ministry of Defense outlined the basic criteria for this new service pistol.  In 1982, Glock learned Austrian Army’s plan to procure a new weapon and begin assembling a team of European experts in the handgun field.  He chose a variety of people – including some from the military, some from the police force and he even chose civilians involved in sport shooting.

It wasn’t long before Glock had his first working prototype.  Between Glock’s use of synthetic materials and the newer production technology, the design was very cost effective, making it a viable candidate.  The Glock 17 (so-named as it was the company’s 17th patent) passed every endurance and abuse test and was chosen over a number of pistol designs from well-known manufacturers to be the official replacement of the Walther P38.  Both military and police forces in Austria adopted the Glock 17 (aka:  P80 – Pistole 80) into service in 1982.   Many consider the Glock-17 one of the top pistols of all time.

Interest in the Glock 17 Spreads

As news of the Austrian trial results spread, interest not only grew in Western Europe, but overseas as well.  This was particularly true in the United States where the US military were also seeking a replacement for their military issue M1911.  Though invited to participate in the US trials, Glock declined as providing the US with this weapon would have required extensive changes in their production equipment.   Shortly after though, this pistol was accepted into service by the armed forces of Norway and Sweden.  Because the weapon surpassed all previous durability standards set by NATO, it was given status as the standard NATO-classified sidearm.

Specifications

  • Service History:  1982 to present day
  • Production History:  1982 to present day
  • Total number built:  2.5 million
  • Glock 17 cartridge:  9 x 19mm Parabellum
  • Action:
    • Short recoil
    • Locked Breech
    • Tilting Barrel
    • Muzzle Velocity:  1,230 feet per second
    • Effective Range:  55 yards

A number of variants emerged within the 9x19mm Parabellum design.  Other variants included the 10mm Auto (Glock 20 and 29), the .45 ACP (Glock 21, 30 and 36), the .40 S&W (Glock 22, 23, 24, 27 and 35), the .380 ACP (Glock 25 and 28), the .357 SIG (Glock 31, 32 and 33) and the .45 GAP (Glock 37, 38 and 39).

Within its first 10 years, this pistol reached sales in excess of 350,000 in over 45 countries; the U.S. alone accounting for 250,000 of that total.  To date, more than 50 countries worldwide have utilized Austria’s Semi-Automatic Glock pistol.

John Moses Browning

John Moses Browning was born in Ogden, Utah on January 23, 1855.  He is one of the most prominent firearm designers in US history.  John worked in his father’s gunsmith shop where he learned the basic principles of both engineering and manufacturing.  His father – Johnathan Browning – encouraged him to experiment with new ideas.

First Rifle Design

The first weapon John Browning developed was a single-shot rifle with a falling block action design.  Soon after, Browning began to produce this firearm at a manufacturing operations plant he opened.  As rifle samples rolled off the line, Winchester Repeating Arms Company – seeing Browning as possible competition -took an interest and sent someone to assess the rifle.  Impressed with what they discovered, Winchester purchased the rifle design.

Browning and Winchester Collaborate

Beginning in 1883, Browning and Winchester worked together on a number of rifles and shotguns.  Their partnership proved to be successful, but ended when Browning designed and proposed a semi-automatic shotgun.  When Browning presented this to Winchester, he proposed a change to the customary ‘single fee payment’ with licensing being given exclusively to Winchester.  Instead, Browning was asking for royalty fees which would be based on unit sales, in lieu of the single upfront fee payment.  The offer was rejected.

Browning began looking outside Winchester, but when the president of Remington Arms died prior to Browning offering them a proposal for this newly designed gun, he began looking overseas manufacturers to produce his shotgun.  He turned to Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, with whom he had previously negotiated firearms licenses.  The Belgium company accepted his proposal and production began.  The shotgun was named the Browning Auto-5.  The Browning Auto-5 became a very popular 20th Century shotgun.  Shortly after the success of the Browning Auto-5, Winchester began to shift their reliance on Browning, which later proved to be the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Other Noted Accomplishments

Though Browning influenced just about every firearm category with his various designs, his most famous was no doubt the M1911 pistol.   Some additional noted accomplishments include the Browning. 50cal machine gun, the Browning Automatic rifle and the aforementioned Browning Auto-5.

Nearly a decade later, most of Browning’s designs remain relatively unchanged.  The first of his 128 gun patents came at the age of 24.  He continued to design products up until his death in 1926.  In fact, John Moses Browning died of a heart attack as he worked on a self-loading pistol design idea for Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, a design which was eventually completed in 1935 by a Belgium designer named Dieudonne Saive.

Today’s Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the World

This list of Top Ten Armies (Military Powers) in the world is subjective at best.  Unless you looked at specific aspects and judged based on that criteria alone, the list cannot be definitive.  One can look at a nation’s defense budget or the size of their enlisted members, or combine the two.  Another area for consideration is the amount of armor a nation has inventoried including tanks, helicopters, aircraft and ships.  This top ten took in a little of all of that, but it is still one perspective looking at the Armies around the world.  Input and educational pieces on other armies not listed here, or any additional information that may have been omitted, are welcomed.

Before listing the top ten, one country fell just short of making the list, but certainly deserves to be mentioned – North Korea.  They not only have one of the largest Special Forces in the world – 120,000 members – they have a very large inventory of armor.

10.  Pakistan

Pakistan is known for their good upper leadership.  Founded in 1947, their three branches of service totals more than 600,000 people – all volunteers.  They have close Pakistan Aircraftties to the militaries of the US and China.  Pakistan’s budget of over $5 billion is smaller than all the other top ten militaries, but it does exceed the overall defense budget of a number of other countries around the world.  While Pakistan has about the same number of naval craft as the United Kingdom (see below), they have more aircraft and helicopters and an incredible total of 9,000 tanks and armored vehicles.  They have assisted the United States in their War on Terrorism by fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and along their own borders.

9.  United Kingdom  

British Forces include three branches of service, – the navy, the army and the air force. Below are some figures for the United Kingdom – the figures presented could vary slightly:

  • British HelicopterActive Military (including army, navy and air force) – 197,700
  • Reserve – 212,000
  • Paramilitary – 152,000
  • Aircraft and Helicopters – 1,800
  • Tanks and Armored Vehicles – 5,500

Despite having one of the smallest numbers of active military, the militaries of the United Kingdom are a sustainable force and their SAS is among the world’s top Special Forces.  Britain is a steadfast ally of the U.S.

8.  Iran

Iran militaryIran has one of the best small forces in the world.  Half of this countries government’s income goes towards defense.  Their modern day military was first founded in 1923 and currently boasts over 500,000 active members.  In addition, its defense budget of $10 billion has allowed more aircraft than the US and UK combined and almost the same amount of aircraft and helicopters as China, a country with a much larger force and budget.

7.  Turkey

Turkey militaryTurkey’s Army dates back over 2,000 years.  Their modern day militaries were not established though until 1920.  Turkey has over 600,000 members in its military forces and its budget is close to $19 billion.  This country comes in fourth for the total number of tanks and armored vehicles – 11,000 plus.  All Turkish males – once they reach 20 years of age – are required to serve in the military.  There are very few exceptions to this requirement.

6.  Germany 

Germany's Leopard IIMuch of Germany’s notable military history began with the rise of Hitler.  They were responsible for the start of WWII when they invaded Poland.  When the war was over, the country divided and the West German Army was formed.  It wasn’t until the 1990s the country reunited.  Currently, Germany has more than 200,000 active military members who are well-trained and well-equipped.  Germany boasts of one of the best tanks in the world – the Leopard II.

5.  France

France's MilitaryFrance’s military does not have the reputation as a super power, but its numbers would say differently.  Their military totals over 360,000 members spread throughout their navy, air force and paramilitary branches.  All three branches are very well rounded, but many feel their navy is bar far their strongest branch.  France’s defense budget comes in just over $58 billion.  Despite this impressive budget, it still has the smallest number of aircraft and helicopters than any other country on this list.

4.  India

India has a more advanced Air Force and very-well trained Special Forces.  They have four branches of military and also additional paramilitary units.  Their active military India's militaryhas more than 1.3 million members.  India has an additional 2.1 million in reserves and their paramilitary has 1.3 million members.  In all, India has more than 4.7 million total members.

Despite their large number of service members, India’s aircraft and helicopter and tank and armored vehicle totals put them only in the center of the list of countries listed here and they do have the smallest naval craft fleet.  Some estimates of nuclear warheads in India’s possession go as high as 80.

 

3.  Russia

This former superpower still has a large amount of equipment in its military inventory.  They have well over 1.2 million active military members and an additional 750,000 in Russian Militarythe reserve.  Their paramilitary total comes in at around 5,000.  The total military budget for Russia is in excess of $64 billion.  Only two countries have a higher military budget than Russia – the United States and China.

The current known Russian force was first founded in 1992, but Russia’s military history dates back to as early as 863.  Between the ages of 18 and 27, all male Russians are drafted into the country’s service for a period of 12 months.  A few exceptions, such as being a student or the parent of two or more children, serve as exemptions to this otherwise steadfast rule.

Russia is known to have the largest number of nuclear warheads on hand, but most of them are not active.

2.  China

Founded in 1927, the People’s Liberation Army of China has more than 2.3 million China's militaryactive service members in its military making it the largest active force in the world. With a reserve of 800,00 and a paramilitary of 1.5 million, in all, China has more than 4.5 million military members.   China’s defense budget of $129 billion is continually increasing each year by an average of 12 to 15%.  This total makes it the second largest defense budget in the world – second only to the United States.  China is believed to house as many as 240 nuclear warheads.

1.  United States

The US military has history dating back to 1775 when it first formed forces (Continental Army) to fight in the Revolutionary War.  The US Army has been involved in every major world war as well as the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism.

United States militaryThe defense budget for the United States is more than the combined totals of the previous nine countries coming in at over $689 billion.  The US has just over 1.4 million active military members, another 1.4 million reserve members and 11,000 in its paramilitary.  The US ranks second behind Russia in the total number of warheads, but it does have the largest number of active warheads.  The United States leads in the overall aircraft and helicopters – 21,000 – but is just barely ahead of China with its total of tanks and armored vehicles.  The United States also has an impressive 12 aircraft carriers in its fleet.

This list of today’s top ten armies (military powers) in the world, certainly sheds light on the overall power of these nations given their impressive numbers in members, equipment and budget.

The Modern M1911A1

The roots to the modern M1911 A1 can be traced all the way back to the original World War II 1911 pistol, which has been active within the US military since its inception over a decade ago.  The M1911A1 is a single action, .45cal pistol, which does not require manual cocking for each shot fired.  Some feel the single action is an overall drawback for this weapon, but the smooth trigger pull actually allows for greater accuracy than those that are designed with double-action.

Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and feel the power housed throughout this extensive gallery.  Authentic weapons – including a 1911 pistol – from around the world dating throughout history can be witnessed in this astonishing collection.  The oldest piece on display is a very rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.

Present-Day Production

Today, a number of different manufacturers still produce the M1911A1, including Colt, Remington, Kimber, Springfield Armory, SIG Sauer, Smith & Wesson and a few others.  Each manufacturer has specific options available, and a few, in addition to the full-size model, produce a Commander and Compact version.

The overall line of 1911 pistols is considered to be one of – if not – the greatest pistol in history.  Some of the WWII 1911s are still around today and known to be fully functional and some have been noted to have fired more than one million rounds and still remain viable.

 Design and Use

The M1911 was the design vision of the infamous John Moses Browning, a well-known gunsmith of the early 20th Century.  His original 1911 design was influential in the development of the several other pistols, including the Heckler & Koch, HK-USP.

Some branches of the US military – including the USMC Special Operations Command – continue to use the M1911A1 as well as several law enforcement agencies both in the US and abroad.  This pistol also remains popular with the general public as a personal defense weapon and also for recreational purposes.  The single-stack magazine keeps the M1911A1 slim, making it easy to conceal.

The Modern M1911A1 pistols continue to be a popular choice, more than 100 years after its initial production, due in part to its simple, reliable design and the patriotic spirit it represents.

Remington’s Model 1100 Shotgun

Brief Overview of the Remington Model 1100 Shotgun

Remington’s Model 1100 Shotgun is a classic that changed the American shooter’s perspective of auto-loading shotguns.  This cutting edge model was designed by both Wayne Leek and Robert Kelley.  The Remington 1100 is a semi-automatic, gas-operated shotgun that became a quick favorite among sportsmen due in part to the significantly reduced coil and the model’s reliability.

 

Introduced in 1963, the Remington Model 1100 maintains an impressive record for firing the most shells (from an auto-loading shotgun) without any malfunctions or any parts requiring cleaning or replacing.  The shotguns record – an impressive 24,000 rounds.   The Remington Model 1100 Shotgun, considered by many to be one of the top shotguns in history, is the best-selling (auto-loading) shotgun in United States’ history.

History and Specifications for the Remington Model 1100

  • Manufacturer:  Remington Arms
  • Production Run:  1963 to Present Day
  • Total Produced to Date:  Over 4 million
  • Action:  Semi-automatic
  • Weight:  8 pounds with 28” barrel
  • Overall Length:  Varies
  • Barrel Length:  18 – 30 inches
  • Cartridge:  12 gauge, 16 gauge, 20 gauge, 28 gauge, .410 bore

Remington Model 1100 Series

  • Competition Synthetic
  • Classic Trap
  • Competition
  • Premier Sporting Series
  • Sporting Series
  • TAC 4

A common feature on semi-automatic shotguns (including the Model 1100) is a shell catcher.  Using this is especially beneficial when shooting Trap as it prevents close promiximity members of the squad from being hit with spent shells.

Though the Remington Model 1100 is quite often used for water fowl hunting and trap and skeet shooting, a couple of countries have used it in their militaries.  The shotgun is believed to be used by the Mexican naval Infantry and the Malaysian Special Operations Force.  In the United States, the Model 1100 is mainly utilized by law enforcement agencies.

Germany’s WWII Sturmgewehr 44 – StG 44

Germany’s WWII Sturmgewehr 44 – or StG 44 for short – assault rifle was developed in the early 1940s.  This rifle was used extensively by the German military once it entered into service in 1943 and is considered by some to be one of the top rifles of all time.  Many historians refer to the Sturmgewehr 44 as the very first modern assault rifle.  Earlier versions from the developmental stage of the StG 44 are MP 43 and MP 44.  Though these two earlier versions are developments of the same weapon, a number of differences exist between them.

The Armed Forces History Museum has a Sturmgewehr 44 on display in their Firearms and Ordnance Gallery.  This area houses a variety of impressive weapons dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The StG44 design was based on both the carbine submachine gun and the automatic rifle.  This assault weapons name was purposely chosen as it means ‘storm rifle’.  The designation of the term ‘assault rifle’ resulted in the English translation for this type of arms.

A Brief Look at the History of the StG 44

At the beginning of WWII, the weapons used by the German army were comparable to the ones being used by other military forces – a combination of bolt action rifles and another form of light or medium machine guns.  The Germans, however, unlike most infantries placed emphasis on the use of the machine gun as a primary weapon.

Rifles were also found to be more counterproductive in cramped quarters – such as an armored vehicle.  As a result, sub-machine guns were issued, but were found to be less effective and not as accurate at ranges beyond 100 meters.  As the war escalated, the need for a weapon with intermediate rounds became clear and in 1941, the Polte 8 x 33 mm Kurzpatrone was selected.  Some modifications were made – including the rifle cartridge which was changed to a 7.92 x 33 mm.

After World War II

Following the war, the StG 44s design had an effect throughout the world.  Post war, Russia began producing the AK-47 and later, the US began producing the M16 and its variants.  The use of a weapon with less powerful rounds was already underway in the West with the M1 Garand and the Springfield.

The Sturmgewehr 44 continued to be used by the East German Nationale Volksarmee.  Eventually though, it was replaced with variants of the AK-47.  Several countries continued to use the StG 44 up into the 1980s.

Specifications for the StG44 Assault rifles

  • Service History:  1943 thru 1945
  • Designed:  1942
  • Total Number Built:  Estimated 426,000
  • Cartridge:  7.92 x 33mm Kurz
  • Action:  Gas-operated, tilting bolt
  • Rate of Fire:  550 to 600 rounds per minute
  • Effective Range:  300 meters for the automatic

600 meters for the semi-automatic

Germany’s Sturmgewehr 44 – StG 44 – was mainly used during World War II, but it did appear in post-1945 conflicts around the world and as recent as August, 2012, close to 5,000 of the MP44 designation were discovered by the Free Syrian Army – they all appeared in good condition.

United States M16 Assault Rifle

The United States M16 assault rifle was designed in 1956, but production did not begin until 1963.  This rifle is considered one of the top rifles of the military.  The M16 first entered into service in the US Army during the Vietnam War as an effective weapon against jungle warfare – becoming standard issue by the US military by 1969.  After Vietnam, the variants of the M16 have remained the primary service rifles of the US armed forces.  This assault rifle is also used by a number of militaries throughout the world.  To date, more than 8 million M16s have been manufactured world-wide, making this assault rifle the most produced firearm of its caliber.

Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Feel the power insisde this extensive gallery of authentic weapons from around the world dating throughout history.  Included in this display is an M16 Assault Rifle. 

About the M16

A lightweight, air-cooled assault rifle, the M16 is built using steel, an aluminum alloy, composite plastics and polymer.  This 5.56 x 45 mm NATO cartridge rifle is magazine fed, capable of 12 to 15 rounds per minute of sustained firing and 45 to 60 rounds per minute of semi-automatic firing.  Its muzzle velocity is 3,110 feet per second and the M16 has an effective range of 550 meters point target and 800 meters for an area target.  The barrel length on the M16 is 20 inches and it only weighs 7.18 lbs. (without ammo).

Originally, the rifle experienced a jamming problem known as ‘failure to extract’.  This occurs when the spent cartridge does not eject from the chamber, but remains lodged inside, even after the bullet as left the muzzle.  The source of this difficulty was due to the new gunpowder used in the M16 which had not been adequately tested.

Though the first M16s were relatively light, later variants were heavier due to the thicker barrel (only forward of the handguards) profile, which made it more resistant to damage and slower to overheat engaged in sustained fire.  The M16 also features a carrying handle, a rear sight assembly located on top of the receiver and a ‘Low Light Level Sight System’.

Another attribute of the M16 is a recoil spring located in the stock (right behind the action), allowing a dual function of operating both the spring and the recoil buffer.  During automatic fire, the alignment of the stock with the bore reduces the muzzle rise, but since the recoil does not have a significant effect on the point of aim, faster follow-up shots are possible, reducing user fatigue.

Combat and Current Use

The M16 variants are still being produced today.  Since its inception, this assault rifle has been used in a number of combat situations including Vietnam, the Invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

Beginning in 2010, the US Army started phasing out the M16, replacing it with the M4 carbine, which in effect is a shortened derivative of the M16 variant – M16A2.  The United States M16 Assault rifle is still being used throughout the world with an estimated 90% still in operation.

World War I Snipers and Their Rifles

Throughout World War I, snipers were often used in the trenches in an effort to take out enemy soldiers as their heads peered over the top of the opposing trench.  At the start of WW I, only Germany issued scoped rifles to their troops.  The effectiveness of the German snipers resulted in their reputation – which was due in part to their training, but also due to the high-quality lenses manufactured by the Germans – as the deadliest and most efficient sharp shooters during the war.  The lack of Russian counter-parts, also allowed their specially trained snipers to execute their kills with no danger of a sniper counterpart.

As success of the German snipers spread, the British Army opted to begin its own training school, dedicated specifically to sniper training.  Major Hesketh-Prichard founded and headed up this first school and is credited with developing a number of sniping techniques, including spotting scopes, working in pairs and developing observational skills.

Sniper Rifles of WWI

Though rifles were used throughout the infantry, they were a critical component for a sniper. Below is a list of some of the more common rifles used by snipers throughout World War I:

  • German Mauser Gewehr 98 – In service from 1898 – 1935

British Pattern 1914 Enfield – Designed 1914-15 – declared obsolete in 1947

British Lee-Enfield SMLE Mk III – SMLE:  1907 – present day

US M1903 Springfield – US issue 1905 – 1937

Russian M1891 Mosin-Nagant – 1891 – present day

Sniper rifles in WW I were noted for their range and accuracy.  However, despite the sophistication of the weaponry, they were not a substitute for the training, dedication and marksmanship of the sniper.  The history of the sniper dates back as far as the American Revolutionary War, and their story continues on to present day.  Snipers have been an integral part of wars throughout history – World War I snipers are no exception.