Sturmgewehr 44 (also known under the designations StG 44, MP 43 and MP 44) was the first successful and mass-produced assault rifle – now a standard infantry weapon in just about every army in the world.
Three distinctive features of the assault rifle are (1) intermediate cartridge – intermediate between rifle and pistol cartridges; (2) detachable magazine – typically for 30 or so cartridges and (3) – selective fire (ability to switch between semi-automatic and fully automatic fire). StG 44 had all three features – it was chambered for a new 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge and had a 30-round detachable box magazine.
Interestingly enough, the term “assault rifle” was coined by no other than Adolf Hitler, who for propaganda purposes used the German word “Sturmgewehr” (which translates as “assault rifle”), as the new name for the MP 43, which thus became known as the Sturmgewehr 44.
Developed from the Mkb 42(H) “machine carbine”, the StG 44 combined the best characteristics of a carbine, submachine gun, and automatic rifle – which made it a highly efficient infantry weapon – far superior to any of “the above”.
By all accounts, the StG 44 fulfilled its role very effectively, particularly on the Eastern Front, offering a greatly increased volume of fire compared to standard infantry rifles.
It would go on to provide a significant influence on the famous AK-47 in the immediate post-WW2 years. Its lasting effect was its major influence on modern infantry small arms development, giving rise to an entire new class of infantry weapons using the name assault rifle (as well as to a radically different infantry tactics).
The key principle of StG 44 — the reduction of muzzle impulse to get useful automatic fire within actual ranges of combat (up to 400m) — was probably the most important revolution in small arms since the invention of smokeless powder.