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Did the Germans have better small arms and a fire power advantage over the Allies?


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#1 DaveOB

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:55 AM

I think there is the impression among some that German small arms were better than the Allies and that they held a significant firepower advantage at the squad level but is it true?

#2 von Poop

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 12:25 PM

Attached File  can-of-worms.jpg   69.88KB   0 downloads


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The tough thing about that query is: What is 'better'? In this context?
Sooo many variables, over time, geography and 100 other situations.
Not that I don't think it's always an interesting question, more that it's very hard to do much more than assert, and that it's almost impossible to come up with a definitive answer.

Germany might lay claim to greater efforts at specific innovation, but they sort of had to try, and even those innovative efforts like MP44 likely had innumerable harmful impacts in other areas of supply. They had that solid heritage of small arms design, but then so did many other participant nations.

My first thought is 'Who was considering turning out Volskgewehr type stuff for issue to supposedly main line units?'
Hint: It wasn't the allies...
KodiakBeer on last ditch Nazi rifles

Second thought: Did most participant nations have access to adequate smallarms of all types?
Probably...


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#3 von Poop

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 12:52 PM

I've probably got these wrong (I'm easily confused on this stuff), but rough 1944 TOEs for US & German Rifle companies from:
http://www.militaryr...rg/freebies.htm

Cleverer people can doubtless pick better comparisons.
 

US:
US%20rifle%20company%2044.jpg

 

Heer:

German%20rifle%20company%201944.jpg

Much of that equipment goes bang, but maybe it ain't what you do but the way that you do it...
What do you want? Horses, or Beeps & Jeeps backing up those things that go bang?  I mean, they're all going bang reasonably effectively within fairly narrow limits.
How many German Companies were at full strength in a scratch Kampfgruppe? Etc. etc.
They did like their machine guns, but you've somehow got to feed those massive rate of fire MGs, and a look at the wider TOEs for allied units shows a decent amount, just differently deployed. The US Company has other heavier weapons the German does not.
Can anything in that German list punch like the .50cal?
Swings/Roundabouts.


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#4 Pacifist

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 12:56 PM

For the armies at large not using the relatively small production run weapons.

 

The Germans had the superior MG34/42.

The Americans had the superior Garand.

The Mp40/Thompson were close enough not to matter.

Pistols don't mean much in war.

 

The British stuck with the reliable weapons they began the war with.

The Italians stuck with the unreliable weapons they began the war with.

The Japanese relied on their soldiers being willing to die to win the war.


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#5 DaveOB

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 02:02 PM

The list shows a pretty wide gap in automatic weapons. Not good if your trying to close those last few years yards to a position. Did the US issue more automatic weapons later in the campaign? You would think they would have to.

#6 Kai-Petri

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 02:08 PM

the Germans were starting to be  heavily underpowered in men so they had to cover that somehow and made weapons like MG42.


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#7 Pacifist

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 02:14 PM

There was a decent gap which is why the western allies became such proponents of company level mortars and on call artillery.


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#8 DaveOB

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 02:18 PM

Hmm artillery won't help much if your 30 yards from the enemy positions.

#9 Mussolini

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 04:48 PM

I don't think you can compare weapon to weapon without also looking at the tactics used as well, since that generally governed the types of weapons used and how they were employed and also how effective they were in combat. I am no expert on the matter, but I believe the Germans considered rifleman to act in support of the LMG/MG's they used, while the Americans (for instance) took the opposite approach. 



#10 KodiakBeer

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 05:15 PM

Von Poop:  They did like their machine guns, but you've somehow got to feed those massive rate of fire MGs, and a look at the wider TOEs for allied units shows a decent amount, just differently deployed.

 

 

That reminded me of a clip of two German machine gunners talking about the the MG34 vs the MG42 in some documentary.  Early in the war they used the 34 and remarked that it shot like a "sewing machine."   The rate of fire was low enough to keep it supplied more easily, you didn't need to swap out hot barrels as often.  It did the job.

 

They both preferred it over the MG42.  It was hard to keep a 1200 RPM machine gun supplied with ammo, and the barrel needed to be swapped too frequently to keep it running when you really needed it. 

 

They're both well designed weapons and were widely copied after the war.  Yet, those copies usually slowed the rate of fire to the typical 800 rounds per minute of other nations squad automatic weapons, and for the reasons those two old soldiers opined about - too difficult to keep supplied with ammo, and that rate of fire heated up the barrel so quickly that you couldn't maintain sustained fire without frequent barrel swaps.  Once you get both barrels heated up, you have to swap them even more often.


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#11 Sheldrake

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 05:33 PM

There were two big advantages to the high rate of fire from the MG42.

 

Most casualties occurred in the first few seconds of an engagement before the target took cover. A weapon which fires 50 rounds into a killing area in first three seconds is likely to inflict more casualties than a weapons which fires 25. 

 

Allied troops believed the German weapons were superior. IIRC there was even an training campaign to try to persuade US troops not to fear the MG42. There is a certain morale advantage in wielding a small arm which frightens the enemy. 


Edited by Sheldrake, 10 January 2017 - 05:34 PM.


#12 Mussolini

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 06:41 PM

Its very distinctive sound certainly helped spread the fear.



#13 lwd

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 06:52 PM

The list shows a pretty wide gap in automatic weapons. Not good if your trying to close those last few years yards to a position. Did the US issue more automatic weapons later in the campaign? You would think they would have to.

The US had a lot of mg's at higher levels from what I recall that could and were allocated to front line units as necessary.  If you are advancing the BAR may be more useful than a LMG in defense the opposite is more likely.   On the other in defense a HMG (either a water cooled 30 cal or a 50 cal) has more long term firepower than the German LMGs.  US troops could also usually count on armored support (either tanks or TDs) as a US infantry division usually had more armor attached than a German armored division had on paper much less in reality. 

 

Not sure how important they were but I'd put a Thompson above the German sub guns as far as firepower goes. 



#14 USMCPrice

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 07:57 PM

The list shows a pretty wide gap in automatic weapons. Not good if your trying to close those last few years yards to a position. Did the US issue more automatic weapons later in the campaign? You would think they would have to.

 

Different philosophies. The Germans built their squads around the machine gun. The US used their machine guns more in the supporting role as they did their mortars. The US squads relied more on fire and maneuver, thus the high percentage of BAR's. An automatic rifle is better in the assault, that's also why the Marine Corps went to two per squad with the series "E" TOE and three in the "F" and "G" series (total 27 per company), (the M-1919 also went from 4 to six). The US Army also bumped the BAR up from one per squad to two unofficially, doubling the number in the squads and platoons. Also, the US heavy machine guns (.30 cal water-cooled, M-1918) were carried on the battalion level and parceled out to the companies based upon need.

As other posters have mentioned, it's also accurate that the 1200 rpm cyclic rate of the MG42 was largely unusable and unsustainable. On the MG 42 barrel changes had to be made at 250 rds, or you trashed the barrel and thus the gun. This drops the effective rate of fire down significantly. In the defense the .30 caliber water cooled was superior for maintaining a sustained rate of fire.


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#15 RichTO90

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:55 PM

Different philosophies. The Germans built their squads around the machine gun. The US used their machine guns more in the supporting role as they did their mortars. The US squads relied more on fire and maneuver, thus the high percentage of BAR's. An automatic rifle is better in the assault, that's also why the Marine Corps went to two per squad with the series "E" TOE and three in the "F" and "G" series (total 27 per company), (the M-1919 also went from 4 to six). The US Army also bumped the BAR up from one per squad to two unofficially, doubling the number in the squads and platoons.

 

Actually, the often repeated statement that the "US Army also bumped the BAR up from one per squad to two unofficially, doubling the number in the squads and platoons" appears to be as mythical as the idea that the 57mm AT gun was unofficially dropped and the manpower used as infantry. It may in fact be based upon the 15 December 1944 ETOUSA authorized theater modification to the Parachute Infantry Battalion, which authorized it the BAR as an augmentation to the M1919A6.

 

In fact, the BAR was chronically short in supply in the ETOUSA. In August 1944 it was highlighted as a particular shortfall. It was so bad that some divisions, such as the 90th ID, fashioned expedient devices to make ersatz M1919A6's - in the 90th's case it was the "spike mount", which was a simple spike/spade replacing the M1919A4 tripod. Mac MacDonald, famously an Infantry "Company Commander" categorically stated that the 2d ID did not have any excess automatic weapons, least of all BAR, as late as December-January 1944. The same story has been told by other infantry platoon and rifle commanders.

 

The misconception may stem from the simple fact that the Infantry Rifle Squad was considered viable in combat so long as it had a squad leader, a rifleman capable of fire and maneuver with rifle and grenades, and a BAR gunner and that after losses, a 10 or 12-man "platoon" looked a lot like a rifle squad with two or three BARs.

 

The "solution" to the "problem" presented by the German automatic weapons "superiority, which was eventually used by most infantry units in the ETO was to make maximum use of existing TO&E systems in ways not planned for in doctrine. Thus, many Infantry regiments "liberated" the .50 caliber HMG mounted on the various Service and HQ company vehicles for AA defense and used them on tripods to augment the firepower of the Weapons Company MG Platoons. They also began to heavily utilize the MGMC in direct fire support rather than as AA weapons when possible. The Quad-.50 M16, M17, and M17A1 were available in substantial numbers...the theoretically "mobile" AAAW Battalions attached to Infantry Divisions in the ETO each had at least four platoons of them, each with four mounts. A single platoon attached to an Infantry Battalion was a tremendous augmentation of sustained firepower, since each mount could cycle barrels allowing for near continuous 400-800 rounds per minute nearly indefinitely. There is a good reason the Infantry nick-named them "Meat Choppers".

 

Then of course there was the Separate Tank Battalions and Tank destroyer Battalions, which were often used to "trump" German automatic weapons firepower.


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#16 KodiakBeer

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:31 PM

Different philosophies. The Germans built their squads around the machine gun. The US used their machine guns more in the supporting role as they did their mortars. The US squads relied more on fire and maneuver, thus the high percentage of BAR's. An automatic rifle is better in the assault, that's also why the Marine Corps went to two per squad with the series "E" TOE and three in the "F" and "G" series (total 27 per company), (the M-1919 also went from 4 to six). The US Army also bumped the BAR up from one per squad to two unofficially, doubling the number in the squads and platoons. Also, the US heavy machine guns (.30 cal water-cooled, M-1918) were carried on the battalion level and parceled out to the companies based upon need.

As other posters have mentioned, it's also accurate that the 1200 rpm cyclic rate of the MG42 was largely unusable and unsustainable. On the MG 42 barrel changes had to be made at 250 rds, or you trashed the barrel and thus the gun. This drops the effective rate of fire down significantly. In the defense the .30 caliber water cooled was superior for maintaining a sustained rate of fire.

 

A question I've often asked (and never got an answer to) is the adjustable cyclic rate on the MG42 via swapping bolts.   You could get 800 rpm, 1200 rpm or 1500 rpm by changing bolts.  I assume that 1500 rpm bolt was something only available in aircraft or specialized uses/units, but the 800 rpm vs 1200 rpm bolts would seem to solve much of the logistic and barrel heating issues.  Yet, you never hear about German units slowing the cyclic rates with that 800 rpm bolt. 

Was it simply an issue of lack of general availability of the slower bolt?  Soldiers are generally tinkerers with their weapons.  You'd think MG teams would have that in their bag of tricks for when logistics were at a distance, but you never hear about this in combat use.

 

Anyone have insight here?  


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#17 DaveOB

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:08 AM

Does anyone know if smg's were issued to US troops above the allowances of the to&e. The Russians especially made enormous use of smg's in the assault. Did the US use them in a similar way?

#18 OhneGewehr

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:00 PM

Which allied weapon was really bad except the Sten and the Grease Gun?

 

German soldiers usually were better trained than their opponents and often highly motivated. Maybe some defeats against the Wehrmacht were excused with their better equipment, but the usual soldiers uses the K98 kurz almost the entire war. Which was a reliable and accurate weapon, but was obsolete in the second half of the war.

 

The MG 34 could never be produced in sufficient numbers, in the first years of the war, the Wehrmacht uses all types of machine guns they could get. The czech ZB 26 was a standard Wehrmacht machine gun too.

 

The MP 40 was a rare weapon compared to the K 98 and usually in the hand of the spuadron leader.



#19 TiredOldSoldier

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:50 PM

I believe the "heavy" bolt that reduced the RPM  of the MG42 to 800 or so was either post war (so MG59 and MG3 not MG42) or a pretty rare item. And  there was "official" no airborne use of the MG42, though there were AA mounts,  the LW late war  RCMG was the MG81 that had an even higher cyclic rate than the MG42 (an that using the overpowered V cartriges).

 

But I'm no small arms expert.


Edited by TiredOldSoldier, 11 January 2017 - 12:51 PM.

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#20 KodiakBeer

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:47 PM

I believe the "heavy" bolt that reduced the RPM  of the MG42 to 800 or so was either post war (so MG59 and MG3 not MG42) or a pretty rare item. And  there was "official" no airborne use of the MG42, though there were AA mounts,  the LW late war  RCMG was the MG81 that had an even higher cyclic rate than the MG42 (an that using the overpowered V cartriges).

 

But I'm no small arms expert.

 

There's frequent technical references to the variable cyclic rate with the different bolts.  Just nothing on the actual employment of these bolts.


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#21 lwd

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 04:36 PM

Which allied weapon was really bad except the Sten and the Grease Gun?

Those both had some issues but I don't think I'd call them "bad".  Indeed the Grease Gun was quite good if you are looking at price to performance some marks of the Sten were also good from what I've read.  Now as a military weapon the Liberator Pistol is very questionable but then it wasn't used or intended as such. 

 

Other possibilities the 1.1" AA MGs had some issues from what I recall but given adequate care and training (sort of like the stabilization on the Shermans) they apparently performed at least adequately.



#22 OhneGewehr

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:02 PM

Those both had some issues but I don't think I'd call them "bad". 

The Sten and the Grease Gun were cheap weapons made cheaply. But they work and their bullets were as deadly as the ones from a MP 40.



#23 USMCPrice

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:41 PM

The Sten and the Grease Gun were cheap weapons made cheaply. But they work and their bullets were as deadly as the ones from a MP 40.

 

The grease gun was reliable, simple and fairly accurate. It was well liked and used extensively by Special Ops types early in the Vietnam War.


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#24 lwd

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 07:45 PM

The Sten and the Grease Gun were cheap weapons made cheaply. But they work and their bullets were as deadly as the ones from a MP 40.

My understanding is the Grease Gun was pretty reliable as well.  The Sten varied between Marks as to reliability again from what I've read.  You also didn't want to hold it by the magazine.  I've heard that the MP 40 had some reliability problems but that may have been due to using 9mm rounds other than the ones it was designed for.  I'll let others detail any lethality differences between a .45 and a 9mm.  The Sten did give one a remote room clearing option that neither of the other two had.



#25 KodiakBeer

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 08:14 PM

The original grease gun had some serious issues.  They were cleared up quickly and within months the new variant was out and worked pretty well.


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