Look familiar? Those interested in modern arms may think that this weapon is an early Soviet Ak-47. This is the German Sturmgewehr 44. The literal translation means "storm rifle," and is one of the worlds first fully automatic, mass produced assault rifles.
STG44 development commenced in 1942 as a result of Operation Barbarossa -- the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The workhorse of the German army, the bolt action Kar 98 rifle, was no match for the large number of semi and fully automatic Soviet infantry weapons. While German NCOs and select troops carried a variety of sub machine guns, such as the Erma and MP40, these weapons fired a 9mm pistol round that lacked the range and firepower of a larger rifle round. Hence the STG44 --the rapid fire capability of a sub machine gun with the range and punch of a rifle.
German WWII wartime production has always interested me. Infighting in the highly bureaucratic German government caused Hitler to twice suspend production of the STG44. Hitler was obsessed with secret weapons and weapons of massive size. Rather than produce weapons and materials that were simple, relatively inexpensive and quickly manufactured (thus received sooner in the field by the troops), Hitler directed his armament developers to produce the weapons at he believed would instill such fear in the Allies that they would be forced to seek peace. Thankfully, and due to Hitler, the STG44 did not reach the hands of German troops early enough in the war to turn the tide.
Many weapons throughout history have had accessories. The STG44 is no exception, but it has one of the strangest accessories ever produced. Enter the kummlauf -- literally "curved barrel." The kummlauf is a bent barrel extension that could be affixed to the STG44. It's purpose was to allow the user to shoot around corners or over the sides of armored personnel carriers without being exposed to counter fire. A version was also made for tanks. The kummlauf came with dual sports mirrors and in a variety of colors. Kidding -- but it did have a mirror with which to see around corners.
While the STG44 did not alter the course of the war, it did have an impact in the field and earned the attention of Germany's adversaries, specifically the Soviets. The STG44's descendent,the Russian and later Chinese AK-47, played a significant role in the Cold War and beyond.