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The Gewehr 43 or Karabiner 43 (abbreviated G43, K43, Gew 43, Kar 43) is a 7.92×57mm Mauser caliber semi-automatic rifle developed by Germany during World War II. The design was based on that of the earlier G41(W), but incorporating an improved short-stroke piston gas system similar to that of the Soviet Tokarev SVT-40, and it incorporated innovative mass-production techniques.
In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa. Just prior to the opening of hostilities the Soviet Red Army had started re-arming its infantry, complementing its older bolt-action rifles with the new semi-automatic SVT-38s and SVT-40s. This was a shock to the Germans, who ramped up their own semi-automatic rifle development efforts significantly.
The SVT series used a simpler gas-operated mechanism, which was soon emulated by Walther in its successor to the G41(W), producing the Gewehr 43 (or G43). The simpler, sturdier design and mechanism of the G43 made it lighter, easier to produce, more reliable and also much tougher than the Gewehr 41; elite German mountain troops would use them as ladder rungs during climbing. The addition of a 10-round stamped-steel detachable box magazine was an improvement over the integral box magazine of the G41(W). The Gewehr 43 was intended, like the G41, to be loaded using 5-round stripper clips without removing the magazine. Soldiers armed with the weapon typically carried one standard stripper clip pouch and a Gewehr 43 pouch with two spare magazines. The G43 utilises the same flapper-locked mechanism as its predecessor. The Gewehr 43 was put into production in October 1943, and followed in 1944 by the Karabiner 43 (K43), which was identical to the G43 in every way except for the letter stamped on the side. The name change from Gewehr to Karabiner (carbine) was due to the fact the rifle was actually two centimetres shorter than the standard Karabiner 98k and therefore the term Gewehr (meaning: long rifle) was somewhat unfitting. The Wehrmacht intended to equip each grenadier (infantry) company in the army with 19 G43s, including 10 with scopes, for issue as the company commander saw fit. This issue was never completely achieved. The iron sight line had a hooded pointed-post-type front sight, and a tangent-type rear sight with a V-shaped rear notch.These standard sight lines consisted of somewhat coarse aiming elements, making it suitable for rough field handling, aiming at distant area fire targets and low-light usage, but less suitable for precise aiming at distant or small point targets. It is graduated for 7.92×57mm Mauser s.S. Patrone cartridges loaded with 12.8 g (197 gr) s.S. (schweres Spitzgeschoß – "heavy pointed bullet") ball bullets from 100 to 1,200 m (109 to 1,312 yd) in 100 m (109 yd) increments.
Gewehr 43s were made by Berlin-Lübecker Maschinenfabrik in Lübeck (weapons coded "duv", and later "qve"), Walther (weapons coded "AC") and the Wilhelm Gustloff-Werke (weapons coded "bcd"). Walther used its satellite production facilities at Neuengamme concentration camp in addition to its main production facilities at Zella-Mehlis to make the rifles (It does not appear that complete weapons were assembled in the camps, similar to how Radom P35 pistols were assembled in occupied Radom, Poland without their barrels, which were built and installed by Steyr in Austria), Wilhelm Gustloff-Werke used some slave workers to augment its depleted staff from Buchenwald concentration camp. The total production by the end of the war is estimated to have been 402,713 of both models, including at least 53,435 sniper rifles: these G43/K43s were used as designated marksman/sniper weapons, fitted with the Zielfernrohr 43 (ZF 4) telescopic sight with 4× magnification. The weapon was originally designed for use with the Schiessbecher rifle grenade launcher (standard on the Karabiner 98k as well) and the Schalldämpfer suppressor, however these accessories were deemed unsuccessful in tests and were dropped even before the rifle made it to serial production.
The Gewehr 43 stayed in service with the Czechoslovak People's Army for several years after the war. Likewise the East German border troops and police Volkspolizei or VoPo were issued reworked G43 rifles, which are recognizable by a sunburst proof mark near the serial number and the serial number engraved by electropencil on removable components.