Weapons on Red Orchestra: Ostfront 41-45. [1]

German Edit

Parabellum 1908 “Luger” Edit

The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to stop producing P08s, although production restarted in 1923. The P08 remained the principal sidearm of the German military throughout the inter-war period. It was issued to all German armed forces and in the infantry found use as an officer’s sidearm, as well as with weapon crews, dispatch riders, signallers, and NCOs.

For all its popularity, the P08 was far from an ideal service pistol, having both poor sights and a complex trigger mechanism. The toggle breech mechanism required precision machining (unsuitable for mass production), was open to the elements and the entry of dirt and grit, and demanded virtually perfect ammunition to function. These drawbacks were somewhat compensated by the weapon’s superb potential accuracy and, considering its precision tolerances and open toggle breech, remarkable reliability in the field.

The Luger was carried by an enormous variety of personnel. Two eight round magazines were issued, one loaded and the other held in a pouch on the holster.

Walther P38 Edit

The P38 was the successor to the Luger, but never managed to replace it. The P38 offered several improvements, notably the introduction of a double action trigger similar to that used in the revolver.

Once the P38 had been loaded, the cocked hammer could be lowered safely. There was no chance of an inadvertent blow against the hammer causing a discharge, as a block was maintained in place that could only be removed when the trigger was pulled. Issue was as great as the Luger. Each Panzer crewman was armed with a pistol, supplemented by one MP40 per tank. Ammunition was carried in the same manner as the Luger.

Mauser 98K [Karabiner 98kurz] Edit

The 98k went into production in 1935, and served throughout World War II as Germany’s standard rifle. During the war, factories churned out huge quantities of 98ks which proved to be reliable and accurate arms. Due to shortages of raw materials, time, and skills, the aesthetic appearance of the guns deteriorated as the war went on. The expensive wooden stock and other wooden parts were replaced with laminated wood, and the finish grew rougher.

The German soldier prized his 98k for its accuracy. The 98 family of guns featured a light action that promoted sure shooting, although at the expense of speed - a Lee-Enfield could get off more shots per minute. The 98k’s V-shaped rear sight marked off ranges from 100 m (109 yd) to 2,000 m (2,187 yd).

The Germans introduced various types of extras, including periscopic and telescopic sights, and folding butts for airborne troops. The 98k acquired the ability to launch rifle grenades in 1941. The weapon is still being made today as a sporting rifle.

Despite the plethora of semi and fully automatic rifles the Germans experimented with and actually deployed, the Kar 98 still provided the bulk of the rifle strength of the Army. It served as a sniper rifle with a variety of telescopic sights, and proved highly destructive in the role.

The rifleman was issued sixty rounds, two five round clips carried in each of the six pouches on his belt.

MP 40 Edit

Germany had begun to develop tactics that called for mobile infantry with plenty of automatic firepower - and the submachine gun was easy for untrained men to learn to use. In 1938, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Wehrmacht High Command, OKW) issued a specification for a submachine gun suited to mobile warfare. The Germans chose Erma’s automatic-fire-only design which, upon entering service August 1938 as the MP38, became the first submachine gun to play a major role in a first-grade army.

In a nod to the future, the MP 38 eschewed wood in favor of plastic and employed a folding metal butt. It retained the blow-back mechanism and telescopic bolt assembly. Below the barrel, a lug prevented the weapon from inadvertently moving inboard while firing from the gun port of an armored vehicle. A 32-round box magazine inserted below the receiver fed the ammunition.

MP 38 production used traditional gunsmithing methods and took an unacceptable length of time to make. The MP 40 was essentially the same gun as the MP 38, although stamped rather than tooled and with design changes that rendered the gun less likely to fire when jolted. Visually, the only difference was that the MP 40 had four horizontal ridges on the magazine receptacle, and the lightening cuts milled into the receiver body were eliminated. Distribution of the MP 40 began in mid 1940. All MP 38s were eventually converted to the MP 40 standard in time.

The MP 38/40s offered the operator accurate and stable fire, even when loosing prolonged bursts. The weapons’ biggest weakness was the magazine/receiver interface, which would occasionally jam on dirt or the cylindrical Parabellum cartridges.

The 'Schmiesser' remains one of the best known German weapons of the war, despite the fact it was not connected with that designer in any way. Germany was the only nation to enter the war already producing a simple machine pistol for its troops. The original weapon, the MP38, suffered from a tetchy safety system, which was anything but safe. This was rectified and production simplified with the MP40.

Gewehr 43 Rifle Edit

The German Army were desperate to get a reliable semi automatic weapon into the hands of their troops on the Eastern Front. Their first attempt, the Gewehr 41, was less than successful, and was issued only in limited numbers. It proved difficult to maintain and produce, and at 5 kg was quite heavy.

When the Germans captured numbers of the Russian SVT 40, they found the mechanism it employed far simpler than the version used in the Gewehr 41, and copied it for their own use. It was an irony that the Red Army gave the German Army some of their best weapons of the war.

The Gewehr 43 proved a far superior design to the Tokarev. It was built with standard fittings for the sniper’s telescopic sights. It could never come close to replacing the bolt action Mauser, but it provided a lethal companion.

Sturmgewehr 44 [MP43/Stgw 44] Edit

The MP43 was an attempt to break the mould of previous designs by using an entirely different cartridge. The same 7.92 mm calibre common to other German weapons was retained; but the round itself was shorter than its predecessor with a much reduced propellant charge. This in turn meant a reduced lethal range of around 500 m. It also generated a lighter recoil effect, which allowed the inclusion of fully automatic fire as well as single shots. This gave the user an advantage over every other rifleman he may encounter in a typical gun battle.

Because of its automatic capability, and the kind of political insanity endemic to Nazi Germany, the weapon was described as a sub machine gun initially. No one wanted to have to retool the war machine to produce the new ammunition. By 1944 it had been accepted as an 'assault rifle' - a term which persists to this day. Grand plans were laid to rearm the Wehrmacht with the new design, but as mentioned numbers were never equal to the task. Following the war, the weapon was heavily studied to provide the basis of the Soviet AK47 and its derivatives.

Ammunition was carried in the same manner as for the MP40. Two pouches, each containing three magazines, with perhaps a further one loaded in the rifle for a total of 210 rounds.

Stielhandgranate 39 Edit

The German grenades in service during World War II relied on blast rather than fragmentation for their effect. The two basic types were the Stielhandgranate (handle hand grenade) stick grenade - often called a potato masher and practically unchanged since World War I - and the smaller, round Eihandgranate (egg hand grenade).

The Stielhandgranate 24 (StiGr 24) consisted of a hollow wooden handle attached to a thin sheet-metal head that contained the high-explosive bursting charge. These grenades used friction ignition, a mechanism widely used in German grenades but rarely by other nations. A cord ran from the head through the hollow handle and out the bottom, where a porcelain bead kept it in place behind a metal cap. To use the grenade, a soldier had to unscrew the metal cap, pull on the bead, and throw. When pulled, the cord would draw a roughened steel pin through a sensitive chemical in the head that would then ignite and set off the detonator.

Because blast, or concussive, effect isn’t as lethal over as big a range as shrapnel is, Germany kept moving to larger grenades. The StiGr 39 was essentially a heavier StiGr 24 with more explosive. After 1942, the StiGr 24 could have its anti-personnel effect enhanced by the manual addition of Splitterringe (shrapnel rings), a grooved fragmentation sleeve clipped over the head of the grenade, but these never saw much use.

While Allied fragmentation grenades were more deadly over a wider area, the German Stielhandgranate could be thrown farther, thanks to the leverage the handle provided.

A later variation, the StiGr 43, had the detonator relocated to the top of the grenade head. This not only simplified manufacture but also enabled the grenade to be thrown without the stick or used as mines or booby traps. For specialized demolition charges or anti-tank work, six StiGr 43 grenade heads could be secured round a seventh in a configuration known as a Geballte Ladung (clenched charge).

Maschinengewehr 34 (MG34) Edit

The German Army finished World War One with the firm conviction that the machine gun was the major arbiter of infantry battle. During the peace that followed, they developed the idea that, rather than using two different weapons in the light and heavy roles, a single 'general purpose' design could be found. This concept was given form in first the MG34 and later the mid war MG42.

It used a combination of recoil and gas in its operation and maintained the bolt group to the rear during firing. They had the facility to change barrels and could be mounted on a tripod for use as Heavy Machine Guns or on a bipod in the light role. German theory ran that a gunner would only have a few seconds to fire at the enemy before they took cover. It was thought that the more rounds he could fire in this time, the more casualties he could cause. It proved to be a dreadfully effective tactic.

The original MG34 proved the soundness of the design, but it was susceptible to stoppages caused by sand and dust and was generally demanding to maintain. Moreover, as a pre-war design it was complicated to produce. The MG42 was commissioned to eliminate these faults, in which it succeeded. There was no question of it replacing its predecessor though and the two types both remained in service side by side.

In the light role, the gunner carried one 50 round belt, loaded into its side mounted drum. His assistant carried four more, plus 300 boxed rounds, while the ammunition bearer carried two further boxes for a total of 1150 rounds per gun. When the ammunition bearer was later deleted from the Rifle Squad, his load was divided among the riflemen.

Maschinengewehr 42 (MG42) Edit

As the MG34 was complex and time-consuming to manufacture, the design of a new version was commissioned, that would be easier and cheaper to make. Manufacturing expertise was called in to ensure ease of production and the end result was the MG42. This relied on modern stamping and pressing processes, rather than the older hand-machining required on the MG34.

At the same time, the action was simplified and improved on. This was so effective that the rate of fire was raised to a terrifying 1,200 rounds per minute. This led to the requirement for a very quick and simple barrel change mechanism, as sustained fire could ruin a barrel very quickly. To put it in perspective, barrel change was recommended every 250 rounds – about 12 seconds of firing!

It was used in just the same fashion as the MG34, but with the drums being far less popular, simply because they only gave 2.5 seconds of firing. The norm was to use the 250-round belt.

Panzerfaust Edit

From very early in the war in the East, the German soldiers were crying out for a better way to engage the mass of Soviet armour, other than attacking with hand-held mines. After some initial tests, the Panzerfaust was put into mass production in October 1943. The initial version only had a range of 30 metres – but even this was better than coming to grips with tanks by hand.

It was launched by firing the small gunpowder charge at the base of the bomb, rather like a large firework. The range was steadily increased during the course of the war to give the infantry more chance. Aiming was a simple process, but requiring experience to get it right, as the bomb was more lobbed than shot and followed a very curved trajectory. However, the shaped-charge warhead was extremely efficient and capable of penetrating 200mm of armour when it impacted correctly.

Soviet Edit

Tokarev M TT33 Edit

The TT33 was designed by Tokarev and manufactured in the Tula State Arsenal, adopted in 1933 – hence the nomenclature. It is apparently based on the standard Browning design, as in the Colt M1911. A number of design improvements to the feed mechanism and magazine made it extraordinarily reliable in action. However, this also included removal of the safety catch. In 1934 the design was simplified slightly, to improve production times of the weapon.

It seems to have been on general issue to infantry officers, although there is some doubt as to how widespread its use really was. In general, the Soviets stopped issuing pistols to other ranks once they had sufficient numbers of sub-machine guns in production.

Mosin-Nagant 1930G Edit

The Mosin-Nagant was another example of a World War One weapon slightly modified to equip the army of World War Two. The Red Army had intended to rearm itself with the SVT series of semi automatic rifles, but the program was never seriously undertaken. Instead, the M1891/30 was the weapon which carried the Soviets to Berlin. Its accuracy was best demonstrated in the sniper role, whose numbers took a heavy toll on the Wehrmacht.

Mosin-Nagant 1938G Edit

The Mosin-Nagant was another example of a World War One weapon slightly modified to equip the army of World War Two. The Red Army had intended to rearm itself with the SVT series of semi automatic rifles, but the program was never seriously undertaken. Instead, the M1891/30 was the weapon which carried the Soviets to Berlin. Its accuracy was best demonstrated in the sniper role, whose numbers took a heavy toll on the Wehrmacht.

The Soviets had also produced a shortened carbine version in 1938, intended for use by mounted troops – the 1938G. It reduced length to 101 cm, weight to 3.5 kg and muzzle velocity to 770 mps. One other result of this was the removal of the bayonet fittings.

Tokarev SVT-40 Edit

The Red Army introduced several types of semi automatic rifle in the years prior to the Nazi invasion. Both the AVS and the SVT 38 served in small numbers before their mechanical failings consigned them to the scrap pile. The basic design of the SVT 38 was improved upon though, and emerged as the SVT 40 detailed above.

Like so many other such weapons, the SVT 40 suffered from the use of the high power rifle round used in its companion bolt action rifles and machine guns. In the Red Army, there was also the added problem that men were often thrust into combat with little training, especially in the niceties of weapon maintenance. The SVT was a complicated machine, ill-suited to be used by conscript recruits. Ambitious plans for the weapon to replace the old Mosin-Nagant came to nought. Instead, it became a support item, used to bolster the fire of a rifle squad in the hands of an experienced soldier or NCO.

Several variants appeared, most notably a sniper version, whose users would lavish more care and attention on the tricky mechanism. A few fully automatic weapons were produced, but proved too troublesome for further development. The weapon was simply too complicated for the needs of the Red Army which was paring itself to the bone to survive.

PPSh-1941G Edit

The “Pah-Pah-Shah” was issued on a scale unsurpassed by any other such weapon, becoming the very emblem of the Soviet infantryman. It was derived from the earlier PPD 1940G, in order to simplify production. Other than that simplification, not much had to be changed, as the PPD was a highly effective weapon in its own right. The barrel jacket extended beyond the muzzle to act as a muzzle brake and compensator, diverting some of the gases upwards and counter-acting the tendency to creep upwards during automatic firing. This meant that the PPSh could be fired on full automatic, without so much of the tendency to leap off the target that other sub-machine guns had. All in all, it was a truly great weapon.

The weapon did not arrive in the hands of the troops in great numbers until 1942, by which time the Red Army was fighting for its life. The lethal effect of the PPSh was much appreciated by the soldiers in the field. Unlike the Sten or M3, the weapon was finished to a high standard and more importantly proved utterly reliable even in the depths of a Russian winter. In fact, it proved so popular that the German Army seized any captured examples for their own use, even modifying some to fire their own 9 mm round.

PPS-43 Edit

The PPS-42 and its follow-on, the PPS-43, had been designed and issued during the siege of Leningrad in 1942. It was more akin to the Sten and M3 in appearance, weighed 3.4 kg empty and 3.9 kg loaded and was 82 cm long. It fitted the same 35 round magazine as the PPSh, but not the drum. Rate of fire was reduced to under 700 rpm, muzzle velocity remaining the same. It could never hope to supplant the PPSh in use, but served alongside from 1943 onwards.

It was designed for simplicity of production and use, being designed and built in the factories in Leningrad during the siege. It was entirely stamped from steel, except for the barrel and bolt and spot-welded together. The only non-metal components are the wooden grip and a small piece of leather acting as a buffer for the bolt. Finish is non-existent and it was produced as cheaply as possible. For all that, it was a reliable weapon. Production history beyond the siege of Leningrad is unknown.

Fragmentation grenade F-1 Edit

This was a conventional “defensive” grenade, with the typical serrated body of its type. It looked very similar to the British Mills pattern, with the main difference that the handle is thrown off axially – in other words, straight up from the body, not outwards. This did make it potentially dangerous in wet conditions, as the handle could slip through the fingers, igniting the fuse.

Like all of its type, it was very simple in design, consisting of an igniter, the delay fuse, a small amount of TNT, all wrapped up in the metal casing, that was designed to shatter on detonation, throwing pieces of shrapnel as far as 30 metres.

Degtyarev DP/DT 1928 Edit

The standard infantry model DP, with its visually distinctive flat drum magazine, was designed by Vasily A Degtyarev. Models adapted for use in tanks were sometimes issued to Rifle formations to make up for a shortfall in numbers.

The DP was the standard Red Army light machine gun throughout the Great Patriotic War. It saw its first major use with the Communist forces in the Spanish Civil War and was modified accordingly from the experience learned.

The DT was the tank version, with a reinforced barrel and a 60 round magazine.

It was a gas operated weapon and proved remarkably reliable in the harsh conditions it was subjected to. It fitted a visually striking drum magazine which actually held 49 rounds, but was deliberately restricted to 47 to prevent stoppages. It did have a facility to change the barrel, but in typical Red Army style a spare was not carried. Given that it only had 6 moving parts, it was a remarkably robust weapon.

PTRD Anti-tank rifle Edit

The ProtevoTankovskoe Rushy’ Degtyarev [PTRD] was designed starting in 1932, to provide the Red Army with a simple and effective infantry anti-tank weapon. The 14.5mm cartridge was one of the heaviest ever developed. It was originally a streamlined steel-cored projectile, replaced in 1941 with a simpler tungsten-cored round more effective at short range. While it looks very simple, this conceals some clever refinements based on the principle of “long recoil”, which has the barrel recoil used to unlock the breech and eject the spent cartridge. A new cartridge is inserted by hand and the bolt closed to make it ready for the next shot. While the penetration was never great, it was capable of penetrating the thinner side and rear armour of many tanks, as well as being accurate enough to find specific weak spots, if used by a brave infantryman!

Both Edit

Satchel Edit

The satchel charge is a simple 3 Kg charge, carried in an engineer’s pack – hence the name “satchel” charge. It is effective against hard obstacles and was usually used for breeching. However, the blast effect also made it extremely useful against enemy armour, so long as someone was brave enough to run up behind an enemy tank and toss it onto the rear deck or the tracks.

References Edit