World War II may have been separated by over twenty years from World War I, but in all honesty, WW2 was really a continuation of the earlier war. This is because it was WW2, and not WW1, that saw a true end to the empires that had dominated the globe for centuries, and saw two new superpowers arise in the form of the United States of America and the Soviet Union.
But even though WW2 may have been a continuation of WW1, the weapons and technology that developed during the war were far superior in almost every regard. The small arms industry in particular changed dramatically. World War 2 would be the last war where soldiers were primarily armed with bolt action rifles, as semi-automatics and submachine guns and portable automatics began to take shape and go into mass production.
Here are the most overlooked weapons of WW2, remember to vote for the top below:
The STG44 was easily one of the most influential firearms ever made in history. As the war was waging, Germany recognized that the future of small arms was automatic weapons and not the traditional bolt actions. The STG44 was, at the time, a rather radical concept. The concept called for an intermediate cartridge in a semi-automatic to fully automatic carbine or rifle. An intermediate cartridge meant it would be less powerful than the full length rifle calibers at the time such as the .30-06 or the 8mm Mauser, but much more powerful than the 9mm or .45 ACP submachine gun rounds at the time. The rifle could then have a faster rate of fire than a bolt action while hitting targets at further distances than the submachine guns.
Hundreds of thousands of STG44s were built for the German army, but there were too few of them to have any meaningful effect, and for the duration of the war the chief service rifle remained the Mauser 98K. Germany also attempted to make a cheaper version called the STG45 in an attempt to mass produce them, but only a select few were built, most if not all of them prototypes.
The standard issue submachine gun for the United States of the Second World War, and by far the most famous, was the Thompson submachine gun. The M1928, M1, and M1A1 were the specific variants that were issued. The Thompson was indeed an excellent weapon, but it was also very heavy for a submachine gun and on top of that it was expensive to produce. To remedy this, in 1944 the United States military adopted a new submachine gun called the M3 Grease Gun.
The M3 Grease Gun may not have been as visually appealing as the Thompson, but it was indeed cheaper to produce by a long shot. It was issued in large quantities at the end of the war, and continued to be issued to the United States military up until the 1990s, when it was still being used by tank crews.
The Walther P38 was the standard issue German sidearm of World War II, so by that measure, it’s not ‘overlooked.’ But one aspect about the P38 that is heavily overlooked is its influence. For example, the Beretta 92FS, or the standard issue sidearm of the United States military since 1985, is basically a design copy of the Walther P38. Furthermore, many modern day pistols owe their heritage back to the P38. The double action and single action firing system for the P38, combined with the safety and decocking lever present on the side, was groundbreaking for the type and largely came from the Walther PPK pistols from earlier.
The P38 continued to be used as the standard sidearm for the German military and police up until 2004, when it was replaced by the 9mm Heckler & Koch USP, also known as the P8. This certainly says a lot about the overall design qualities of the P38 pistol. Today, the P38 really is one of the most under appreciated pistols ever made.
No, not the MG42. The FG42. The FG42 and the MG42 are two completely different weapons. The FG42 was perhaps Germany’s first attempt at making an assault rifle type weapon, even though the gun that truly fulfilled that role was the later STG44. The FG42 was primarily intended for use with paratroopers. It was designed as a selective fire rifle that would be the same size and weight as the standard issue K98.
The FG42 is notable for the magazine located on the side of the weapon. In addition, it became one of the most influential firearms of all time. For example, the M60 light machine gun that the United States army adopted after World War II was based largely off of the design of the FG42.
The Gewehr 43 was an attempt by Germany to build a semi-automatic rifle similar to the M1 Garand of the United States or the SVT-40 of the Soviet Union. In 1941, Germany and its Axis allies launched a massive invasion of the Soviet Union. The Soviets were in the process of trying to rearm their soldiers with the SVT-38 and SVT-40 rifles to replace the aging Mosin Nagant bolt actions from the 1890s. The Mosin Nagant was never fully replaced, but the Germans were nonetheless shook by the fact that the Soviets indeed had a semi-automatic rifle to field when they did not.
Inspired by captured SVT-38 and SVT-40s, the Germans began development of their own semi-automatic rifle. The result was the Gewehr 43. This rifle has a ten round magazine, which can either be reloaded by detaching the magazine and inserting a fresh one, or by loading two five round stripper clips into the magazine. Germany attempted to phase out the K98 in favor of the Gewehr 43 by issuing dozens of Gewehr 43s to each company, but because only 400,000 were built in contrast to the millions of K98 rifles this was never fully achieved. Many Gewehr rifles were outfitted with scopes, and these were then used as DMR’s, or Designated Marksman Rifles.
The Welrod was an assassin’s pistol developed in World War II by the British. The pistol was very unique because it was magazine fed, but also a bolt action and had an integral suppressor. The pistol indeed has a very distinctive look, but the main standout to it was its quietness. When fired, it produced a noise of only 73db, which easily made it one of the quietest pistols at the time. It was chambered predominantly for the 9mm Luger round and held 6 rounds in the magazine.
The Welrod pistol was dropped into Europe for use with resistance fighters. The main purpose behind the rifle was to use it to assassinate German officers, especially higher ranking ones. Production was very limited to only a few thousand units, but it saw plenty of service and continued to be used after the war. In fact, far more Welrod pistols were built after World War II than were built during it, and it continued to be used as late as the Falklands War between Great British and Argentina.
One of the most overlooked pistols of the Second World War was the Radom P35. Today, this is regarded by collectors and historians as being one of the finest pistols of the Second World War. It was influenced very heavily by the Browning Hi Power, but features an improvement in the form of a decocking lever on the slide, which the Browning Hi Power lacks. It also held just 8 rounds in the magazine compared to the 13 of the Browning.
The P35 became the standard issue pistol of the Polish military in 1936. When the Germans easily overrun Poland in 1939, they captured large quantities of the Radom pistol and issued them to their troops, especially to their paratroopers towards the end of the conflict.
The De Lisle Carbine was developed by the British. It was a short carbine based off of the Lee Enfield rifle, that most prominently features an integrated suppressor. The primary purpose behind the De Lisle Carbine was for use by commandos on secret missions. To this day, it is widely regarded as being one of the most quiet firearms ever made.
Only around 130 De Lisle carbines were made, so their use was extremely limited. In addition, even though the actions of the rifle were based off of the Lee Enfield carbines, the De Lisle was actually chambered for and fired the .45 ACP round, which would be much quieter to fire than the larger .303 rounds that the Lee Enfield was typically chambered for.
The M1 Garand was adopted by the United States military as its standard service rifle, but a rifle that had tremendous influence on the M1 Garand was the Pedersen rifle. This was because the developer of the Pedersen rifle, John Pedersen, significantly increased the bar for those who were seeking to create the U.S. military’s next rifle. The Pedersen rifle itself was a semi-automatic in the age where bolt guns were the norm.
The German military used a lot of different handguns during World War 2. The Luger had been the standard issue pistol for World War I, but by the late 1930s it was definitely showing its age and was expensive to produce. As a result, Germany adopted a new service pistol called the Walther P38, which was much cheaper to make. However, Germany was unable to build enough P38s for the military, so they turned to other handguns as well.
One of these handguns was the Mauser HSc. The pistol utilized a blowback action and double action/single action system very similar to the Walther PPK pistol; in fact, the general shape of the HSc is incredibly similar to the PPK. Around 300,000 HSc pistols were built, and issued to officers in the army and the navy. In addition, many German soldiers who were not personally issued sidearms by the military would buy HSc pistols commercially and carry them in the field. The HSc was chambered for the .32 ACP round and held 8 rounds in the magazine.
Most bolt action rifles of World War 2 and World War 1 either had the rounds fed individually or via a stripper clip. The 1892 Black Rifle, in contrast, was loaded using a seven round rotary magazine. Now granted, this rifle was not used in World War 2, but it could have been because it was submitted as a rifle to the United States military, who ended up going with the M1903 Springfield. But still, the 1892 Blake Rifle is still worth discussing because it’s a very unique rifle from the era.