A History of the Gewehr 41 and 43 by Adam Wilson.

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© 2006. No un-authorised use.

The G43 started life in 1941 after the Germans encountered the Soviet SVT40 semi-automatic rifle and realised they needed a similar weapon to bring their army up to modern standards. It is believed that around 120,000 G41’s were produced with the majority not being issued for front-line service until 1943.

German armament manufacturers produced two prototypes; the G41 M, designed by Mauser, and the G41 W, designed by Walther. Both these prototypes were designed with the standard 7.92 rifle caliber which was the typical caliber used in Germany during the war period. The two rifles looked largely the same, both with almost identical recoil systems that ran down the length of the barrel and a ten round fixed-box magazine, which extended below the woodwork.


Mauser’s design enclosed all the moving parts of the rifle as per the specifications of the HWaA (Heereswaffenamt or Army weapons office). In contrast, the Walther design moved these parts and shifted the automatic reloading system to the outside of the rifle. Although this design did not meet the HWaA requirements, it was actually found to be easier, cheaper and consequently more efficient to produce the rifle in this state of design.

The Mauser design was therefore dropped in favour of the Walther design. The Walther design was also later produced by another armament manufacturer; Berliner-Lubecker maschinenfabrik.
A K98 & two G43's

A K98 & two G43's.

Examples of German Rifles of World War Two

Top: The G43
Second: The Walther design
Third: The Mauser design
Bottom: the K98 (for comparison)

In the field, German soldiers were reported to have disliked the G41 because the muzzle was too heavy (the overall weight was 3 lbs more than the K98), the fixed ten-round magazine had to be reloaded with two five-round Ladestreifen (loading strips) and the rifle constantly jammed and fouled due to its tight tolerances.

Bicycle troops with G43's slung over their shoulders

Bicycle troops with G41's slung over their shoulders.

In January 1943 a detachable ten round magazine was added to the G41 and sent to the Wehrmacht for evaluation. This created what we know as the G43. From the barrel back the G43 looks very similar to the G41 (see photo above for reference) and proved to be such an impressive design that the OKH (Army High Command) immediately ordered that production of the G43 should replace the G41. However, due to the changeover of tooling, full-scale production could not and did not start until October 1943. Around 3000 G43’s were produced before the end of the 1943, but of these it is believed that only a mere twenty were received by front line troops.



Even with such small numbers it was proposed that nearly all of the K98 producers were to switch over production to the G43. The US army had been issued almost exclusively with the M1 Garand and the Germans similarly hoped that they to could mass-produce a semi-automatic rifle. In terms of effective mass production, the G43 was quicker and cheaper to produce. This is due to the fact that the G43 used fewer machined, and subsequently, more forged parts, whilst the actual forging process also saved on precious raw materials.

All of the new G43’s were created with a scope rail, which was intended to attach the newly designed x4 power ZF4 scope. Therefore, any example found could have potentially been used as a ‘sharp-shooter’ rifle. This was intended to replace the hitherto laborious task of choosing the most accurate K98’s from a production batch, then add the scope mounts and then testing the entire batch –all of which had to be done by skilled craftsmen.

Panzergrenadiers with the G43

Panzergrenadiers with the G41.


The G43 in Action

The G43 in action.
Two other manufactures made the G43. The first, which used the markers code “bcd” on the rifle, was Gustloff-Werker II which used slave labour at Buchenwald concentration camp. The second was BLM, which was the same company that had produced the G41 under Walther and used the code “duv” (which was later changed to “qve”).

It is interesting to note that the “bcd” code was one of the rarest to be found as the allies bombed the factory in August 1944 after receiving intelligence reports that weapons were manufactured there. A number of the workers, mainly Jewish inmates, sabotaged many of the weapons during production.

As a result it was decided not to manufacture any of the Buchenwald G43’s for use with scopes, as it was perceived that they were likely to be very inaccurate. Furthermore much of the metalwork was not being heat-treated properly and there was a high risk that rifles were likely to explode when fired – an unsettling prospect for any Landser!


Even with such small numbers it was proposed that nearly all of the K98 producers were to switch over production to the G43. The US army had been issued almost exclusively with the M1 Garand and the Germans similarly hoped that they to could mass-produce a semi-automatic rifle. In terms of effective mass production, the G43 was quicker and cheaper to produce. This is due to the fact that the G43 used fewer machined, and subsequently, more forged parts, whilst the actual forging process also saved on precious raw materials.

All of the new G43’s were created with a scope rail, which was intended to attach the newly designed x4 power ZF4 scope. Therefore, any example found could have potentially been used as a ‘sharp-shooter’ rifle. This was intended to replace the hitherto laborious task of choosing the most accurate K98’s from a production batch, then add the scope mounts and then testing the entire batch –all of which had to be done by skilled craftsmen.

Panzergrenadiers with the G43

Fallschirmjaeger's with the G43.


Panzergrenadiers with the G43

G43, MP44 & a Panzerfaust by a foxhole.

The Gewehr 43 name was officially changed to Karabiner 43 (K43) on April 25th 1944, simply for propaganda reasons. Although many enthusiasts state that the K43 had a barrel that was 5cm shorter, the rifle’ design itself did not change in the slightest. Perhaps of greater irony - many of the K43 rifles were still stamped “G43” right up until the end of the war.

If one is considering purchasing a G43, current prices in England range from £1500-2000 for a new spec (non-strippable) and anywhere from £2000 upwards for an old spec (strippable). A matching sniper rig could cost up to £5000. The G41 is much harder to find and it is estimated that it is likely to cost between £5,000 and £7,500. The G41 is rarely seen in the UK market but the G43 can be found in ‘dug-up’ condition from £30 onwards.