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Were German weapons of WWII superior to U.S. weapons?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Exposure, Dec 17, 2006.

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  1. Exposure

    Exposure Member

    Apr 13, 2004
    The wilds of Maine
    This post is not meant to inflame anyone. And it is obviously just for fun. I thought it might make kind of an interesting discussion though.

    My personal take is that the Germans really knew what they were doing in arms design. A few of the firearms that really impress me, and this is just my personal, very uneducated opinion:

    1. The MG-42 lives on today in a very similar form from its original design.

    2. The MP-44 certainly was ahead of its time. While it came about to late, and in to small a number it was, and remains, an awesome weapon. Does the AK-47 owe its roots to the MP-44? I have no idea but they certainly seem similar in several aspects. I know that Mikhail Kalashnikov vehemently denies this so don't stomp on me for saying that, it is just an observation!

    3. The MP-40 set the stage for pistol caliber subguns for the next 60 years. (Thompson lovers don't jump me for that one!) It was innovative in its relatively cheap construction. (Now the Greasegun lovers will probably jump me!) Only recently have most militaries started to go away from the idea of a pistol caliber subgun.

    These are just 3 of the weapons I am thinking of right off the top of my head that were really awesome examples of forward thinking.

    Please note that I am not saying the U.S. didn't have fantastic firearms during the same period. But they are all LONG since retired. I certainly don't want to get on the wrong end of any of them I might add! But I do have a thing for German WWII firearms and really think they had some great stuff!

    With that said, please don't flame me to badly! haha!
  2. Rob62

    Rob62 Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Georgia, USA
    I think when one compares the basic infantry rifles - Mauser 98 vs M1 Garand there is no comparison. The M1 Garand was clearly a superior combat weapon. I think the MG's were sligtly better on the German side. The MG42 IMO was/is one of the best MG designs ever.

  3. bthest86

    bthest86 Member

    May 7, 2006
    And pistols too. M1911 stomps the Luger as a combat pistol. Not sure about the P38.

    The MP-44 and AK-47 are two completely different weapons.

    The Germans had some nice MGs that were better than anything the allies had and the MP40 was a good SMG but probably not better than a M1928 or M1A1. The MP-40 was certainly cheaper to make.

    K98 was a good bolt action. It wasn't better than an Enfield Mk4 and certainly not better than an M1.

    Their self-loading rifles were all mediocre or just plain bad. (With the exception of the Stg44 of course)
  4. SoCalShooter

    SoCalShooter Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    That's for me to know and not you!
    Hmmm...absolutely not

    Colt 1911-a1
    M1 Garand or Springfield 03
    Browning Automatic Rifle
    Thompson sub machine gun
    M3 Grease gun
    m1 carbine
    Browning .30cal machine gun
    Browning .50cal machine gun

    Luger 9mm
    FG 42
    Gewehr 41
    MG 34 and MG 42
    Cannot recall a heavy MG.
  5. Joe Demko

    Joe Demko Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Just two minutes from sanity.
    The Luger wans't standard issue. The P-38 was. The P-38 was supplemented with Lugers, Radoms, and whatever else the Germans could scrape up. The K-98 is arguably superior to the 03 Springfield depending on configuration.
  6. SDC

    SDC Member

    Jan 8, 2003
    People's Republic of Canada
    Yes in some respects, but no in others; I know I'd rather have to do a barrel change on a MG34 or 42 under fire than have to do the same change on a Browning. If I was a grunt with a rifle, I'd certainly want the Garand over any similar full-power rifle the Germans had.
  7. jaysouth

    jaysouth Member

    Sep 1, 2003
    Middle Tennessee
    Weapons and their designs are important, but do not win wars.

    Doctrine, training and tactics win wars.

    The U.S. was the first to be able to mass artillery fire from multiple batteries onto one single target. At the end of the war, the Germans had very good artillery pieces but each batterys fire could only be directed by its organic observer. The Americans could use one observer to direct the fires of every battery within range. Good fire direction procedure was paramount to good artillery pieces. Jap artillery fire was 18th century primitive in comparison.

    Our tanks sucked, they were underpowered, underarmed, under armored and very vulnerable to German anti-tank efforts. The germans were a generation ahead of us in tank design. However, we mastered combined arms while the Germans were still fighting with WWI tactics.(yes, I know who Gen. Hans Guderian was, and have read his book)

    It could be argued that the germans had superior infantry weapons to ours. However, our doctrine and ability to combine arms and fire were vastly superior. An american forward observer could command the fires of organic artillelry, support artillery, Infantry mortars, Air corps assets as well as navel gunfire. The german observer was conneted to only one battery, usually by a telephone wire. We also developed aerial observers that the germans never learned how to counter.

    In addition, this American observer could be an Infantry corporal, an Artillery LT, a tank commander, a fighter pilot or a negro truck driver if he could get into a firenet and authenticate his identity.

    If you were a German infantryman in a defensive bunker, you bore the brunt of everything the allies could muster to throw at you on land, sea and air. The only German counter fire was six guns that the observer on the front was connected to, if he could visually observe the battle scene.

    It ain't the bow, it ain't the arrow, its the indian and his tribe.
  8. GRIZ22

    GRIZ22 Member

    Nov 4, 2006
    You need to understand the concepts of the infantry tactics of the U.S. and Germany at the time of WWII. The U.S. philosphy was that machine guns support the infantryman. the infantry goes to seize the objective and the machine gun supports their movement. Germans saw it as the infantryman supports the machine gun. The machine gun beats down the enemy and the infantry moves in to exploit the successes of the machine gun.

    1. The MG 42 was better than the Brownings of the time. The M60 was almost a copy of the MG42 but wasn't because a few dimensions were copied incorrectly and the prototype didn'y work well. Nonetheless, many MG42 features were copied in the M60. We made up for the shortcoming by having the BAR. 2-3 BARs could put out the fire of a regular machine gun and be a lot more portable. The BREN gun was close but not issued as freely as the BAR.

    2. The MP44 was certainly ahead of it's time but when it was put in use a change to a new infantry rifle. Things were going bad for Germany then. Besides, infatry only needed a rifle to explout the gains made by machineguns and a 98 Mauser filled that job. The AK 47 was developed independently of the MP44. The 7.62X39 was invented for the SKS first. You can look at the M1 carbine as being the prototype assault weapon. The point it falls short on is power when compared to rifles of the time but gets plus points for being easier to hit things with vs a pistol (which it was designed to replace.

    3. The MP40 was only a few years ahead of the M3 subgun. While most armies have gotten away from subguns they are finding they are great weapons for fighting in urban terrain. A M4 is about the same size and has ammo compatability and no additional training issues.

    The M1 was without a doubt the best battle rifle of WWII. No other country had the industrial capacity to outfit their troops with a semi-auto battle rifle issued to almost all troops. There was no need to look for another pistol as the 1911 worked well for nearly 40 years after WWII.

    The Germans had the best technolgy for conventional weapons. They had the best tanks and were the first to use guided bombs. All the technology was beaten by our industrial capacity. There are stories of a platoon of Tiger tanks taking out a company of Shermans. When we learned the weak spots in the Tiger the Germans had no way of taking on the 10-15 tanks we had to their 1. Technology isn't everything.

    As jay said above our ability to fight and combine the air, land, sea battle is what won us the war. I think 80-85% of casualities in WWII were inflicted by artillery,
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2006
  9. Hoppy590

    Hoppy590 Member

    May 25, 2006
    MA :(
    small arms, US wins
    Armor, US looses
    Sea power, its a toss up, depending on what were talking about. but for the most part germans had a good lead
    airpower, germans at the begining of the war, allies by the end

    one thing the germans could never defeat, no matter how superior the weapons were, is the "Arsenal Of Democracy"

    on the same grounds of all the hippys saying "we coulnt win ww2 with out the russians" they couldnt have won WW2 with out us. that why its an alliance. they needed supplies, and a second front. so they needed the west. we ( the US) needed england as a foot hold, England needed us for supplies and as assistance after being bombed silly. and we needed the russians sheer numbers and commitment.

  10. mordechaianiliewicz

    mordechaianiliewicz Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    Western Missouri
    Depends on the gun your talking about
  11. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 19, 2002
    • M-1 Garand is superior to the Mauser 98 by virtue of being equally reliable and semi-automatic to boot. However, we had nothing that could compare to either the FG-42 or the Stgw-44.
    • The 1911A1 is superior as a pistol to either the Walter P38 or the P-08. Browning's design is more reliable than the P-08 and fires a bigger bullet than the P38.
    • The MG-42 was superior to our M1919. Faster bullet hose, stamped constuction made it cheaper to manufacture.
    • MP-40 v. Thompson. The MP-40 was good and easily made since it was stamped. The Thompson was expensive to make and required a machinist. In terms of modern guns, the MP-40 was better. However, a better comparison would be against our M3 Greasegun. Well, can't say much about the latter except that it was cheap to make and did fire a better bullet.
    • German Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon is superior to our bazooka. Bigger rocket meant greater probability of knocking out a tank.
    • German Panther & Tiger I and Tiger II was superior in terms of armament and armour to our Sherman; even if the latter was armed with the 76 mm gun. To its credit, the Sherman was more reliable, generally more mobile and could cross more bridges without it collasping beneath it. Thankfully there were more of them too. The British modified Sherman Firefly with its 17pdr anti-tank gun was the only Sherman that could take on a Tiger or Panther with confidence. But the Brits didn't have enough 17 pdrs to share with us. :mad:
    • P-51D Mustang was superior in range and turning and climb over the Me-109G. It was equal to the FW-190 but outranged the Butcher Bird. However, it was clearly inferior in terms of speed and armament to the Me-262. Then again, we're talking propellor aircraft v. jet now.
    • B-29 Superfortress. Germans never did develop an adequate four engine long range bomber that they mass produced even on the scale of the B-17 yet alone the superb B-29.
    • Type XXI Uboat - beats anything of ours that could dive.
    • Iowa v. Bismarck - hands down, Iowa wins. Bigger guns and more of them. Superior secondary battery which was also capable of AA fire. Better radar and could turn like a destroyer. Then again, look at when they entered service. The Bismarck was an early war ship and the Iowa class a late war battleship.
  12. MaterDei

    MaterDei Member

    Sep 23, 2003
    Great post, jaysouth.

    I've got nothing to add other than to point out that our supply chain was unencumbered (albeit long) while the German supply chain was constantly being attacked from the air once we defeated the Luftwaffe. Never underestimate the power of beans, benzene and bullets.
  13. Ian

    Ian Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Some of the German small arms were better than US equipment, but I don't think you could make an across-the-board judgment that either country was better overall. The German MG42 was (is) an excellent weapon, and the StG44 was definitely on the cutting edge of gun design. However, the Garand was also an excellent weapon both objectively and in comparison to the issued German Mausers.

    In addition, German pistols really weren't anything special, and they had no heavy machine gun equivalent to the M2.

    As for the MP40, I'm not sure it holds much importance as a firearm design. Were it not for the war and the necessity to make a lot of cheap SMGs, the world probably would have stuck with refining the expensive and detailed pre-WWII guns (Thompson, Suomi, MP18, etc) and we would have better SMGs today. Instead, WWII sidetracked development onto the "cheap and crude" path and delayed the creation of modern SMGs like the MP5.
  14. Glockfan.45

    Glockfan.45 member

    Sep 7, 2006
    Democratic Peoples Republic of Illinois
    While you will get no argument from me on some german firearms superiority (MG42/34, MP44, MP40) the US had some good designs at the time as well (M1911 vs. P38, M1 Garand vs. K98, M2 vs. did the Germans have a comprable heavy MG?).
    Not at all accurate. The M2 is still in wide use with the Army and Marines(as well as the militaries of many other nations), the M1911 is still being used by select units. So far as I am aware only the MG42 is still in use by a few countries. Now the Germans certianly had the U.S beat in aircraft, and armor design, but they just never had the numbers in those areas we did. One thing I think none of us will argue over is that Japan was certianly nobody to envy when it came to guns.
  15. Ian

    Ian Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Even Japan wasn't totally lost. I'd take an Arisaka over a Mauser 98...
  16. RockyMtnTactical

    RockyMtnTactical Member

    Oct 21, 2006
    Without a doubt.

    I also think we had some other great weapons in the Thompson, M1 carbine, as well as the M1911.
  17. RNB65

    RNB65 Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Richmond, VA
    Without reading anyone else's responses to color my opinions, here are my thoughts --

    The MG-42 was and is a remarkable weapon. The quick change barrel design was brilliant. It's one major flaw was it's high rate of fire. It was a prodigous waster of ammo and any type of sustained accurate fire was virtually impossible due to the intense recoil. When a German gunner pulled the trigger on an MG42, he hung on for dear life because he had no control over what followed.

    Agreed. It brought an end to the era of the full power cartridge and ushered in the era of the intermediate power cartridge used by almost all of today's combat rifles of the world. Had this rifle been developed earlier in the war and issued in large numbers, the Eastern, Western, and Northern Italian fronts would all have been far bloodier affairs.

    The MP40 was a good gun, but it had it's share of problems. I'd take the Russian PPS43 as the best sub gun of the war.

    But the answer to your question is no, German guns were not superior to the US guns of WWII for two reasons --

    First, the most widely issued German rifle in WWII was the Karabiner 98k infantry rifle -- an 8mm bolt-action rifle with a 5rd magazine. The typical German infantryman was far undergunned compared to his US adversary who was armed with an 8rd semi-automatic M1 Garand.

    Second, the failure of the German's to develop a heavy machine gun comparable to the US Browning .50cal. The .50BMG was a perfect fit between the .30cal rifle cartridge and the 20mm cannon and was one of the most effective US weapons of the war. Virtually every machine bigger than a motorbike used by the US during the war (land, sea, or air) was armed with .50cal machine guns. The Germans had nothing similiar and it cost them dearly.
  18. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Northern Indiana
    I suspect our biggest asset in WWII was that Hilter was the leader of the Germans

    At the beginning of the war, the Germans had excellent aircraft, far superior subs, tremendously superior armor, superb navy, and excellent firearms. Their tactics, training, and discipline were superb. You can argue pistols all you want. Pistols don't win wars. Don't even have a reasonable effect. Rifles were maybe a toss-up with a slight advantage going to the Americans.

    IMO, their biggest downfall was the arrogance and lack of military knowledge of their leaders and particularly Japan. If Japan had held off on Pearl Harbor, England would have been screwed.

    It totally amazes me that the thing the Americans went after were the ball bearing factories. Who in the world would think of that?? But hey, if you can't roll, you can't move.

    FWIW...IIRC, I saw on the History Channel that more wounded are caused by artillery and mortars than anything else.
  19. Joe Demko

    Joe Demko Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Just two minutes from sanity.
    As an interesting side-question, which of the totalitarian leaders did the most damage to their own war efforts? My money is on Josef Stalin.
  20. oneshooter

    oneshooter Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    TEXAS, by God
    The Germans had a chance to use the Polish BAR, and found that they did not like it. HOWEVER, they did know a superior weapon when they found it!


    Livin in Texas
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2007
  21. hockeybum

    hockeybum Member

    Nov 26, 2006
    we had the Thompson, it doesn't get much better than that :D
  22. telomerase

    telomerase Member

    Mar 11, 2003
    The bear-infested hills of Grafton NH
    You mean Panzershreck, that was the rocket launcher. Panzerfaust was short-range recoilless launcher series.

    And our bazooka would penetrate OUR tanks just fine... not to mention our "tank destroyers", duplicate bureaucratic empire. I guess the idea is to penetrate the other side's, though...

    I'd like to put in a good word for the M1 carbine (ducks). It was the best 5.5-pound gun of the war... big upgrade from the pistol, better than lots of heavier subguns at medium range.

    Whoa, heavy competition there. Hitler didn't give land to the Ukrainian etc. peasants, chased off his "Jewish Physicists", didn't use the thousands of tons of nerve gas he had (some people claim the Germans thought everyone else had it... pretty stupid, because they knew that we were still dragging mustard gas around Italy when they bombed a mustard ship in a harbor).

    Roosevelt & co. weren't exactly "Mr. Efficiency" either... just had ten times the money to work with!

    Stalin it is, though, given the potential of his country. He is the reason that Roosevelt had more money than the other combatants combined... he wrecked the Russian economy long before the war.

    ABTOMAT Member

    Feb 23, 2006
    Just one thing I'd like to point out here: German armor was not great as people like to think. They get too much credit from folks who just look at the sex appeal. I'm not saying it was bad, just that it wasn't all that it's cracked up to be.

    At the start of the war (the actual war, not US involvement) the German tanks were basically windup toys. They had such great success because their forces were fast, attacked by surprise, and none of the little countries they invaded had decent mechanized forces. The French actually had a far superior tank (the Char B1) but didn't have enough and their tactics were garbage.

    After a while they really got things moving with the model III and IV panzers. Those were the bread and butter of the German tank forces for a long time. The IV was used throughout the war. But the Sherman was a match for them. Even the M3 was used against them in Africa.

    Now, the ones everyone likes to talk about are Tiger, Panther, et al. They all had powerful guns that could blow right through most Allied tanks of the time. That was the big advantage. Past that there were problems. The biggest was the mechanical design. All the later German tanks were too complex, slow to build, underpowered, and unreliable. They never could keep a unit together because so many broke down.

    The Tiger's armor was vertical and only super heavy in front. Standard Shermans could kill them from the sides and heavy tanks could do it from any angle. It was obsolete fairly quickly but the Germans never had enough newer tanks to replace it. The Panther was a great tank but still unreliable. The really big tanks were strong but virtually imobile.

    The Sherman was so effective not only because we had a lot of them, but because we could keep them running in large numbers. The later upgraded versions with heavy armor, suspesion, and great big guns were a match for all but the heaviest German tanks. The big British tanks were pretty good towards the end of the war, and the Russian Stalin tanks could destroy anything else out there.
  24. antsi

    antsi Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    I suspect our biggest asset in WWII was that Hilter was the leader of the Germans

    The German generals were certainly more sober and realistic than Hitler and with a more moderate leader who listened to his military experts, the Germans wouldn't have done so many crazy stupid things.

    Like starting the war in the first place.

    People often opine that the Germans could have won the war if it hadn't been for Hitler. Without Hitler, that war with that alignment of forces would never have been fought.
  25. Jim K

    Jim K Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    German armor was good but suffered from the "too few, too late" problem. The Germans never did master the concept of mass production.

    Just FWIW, a question. Does anyone know of any WWII battle that was won or lost SOLELY due to the quality of the individual weapons on one side or another? Even in the U.S. Civil War, where sometimes one side had repeating rifles and the other had muzzle loaders, it was rare for a battle to be decided on that basis alone. In WWII, I can't think of any. The U.S. was usually victorious through a combination of air superiority, artillery and tank quantities, mass numbers, and general tactics, not because the M1 rifle was better than the K.98k or the M1911A1 better than the P.38. The latter idea, that we won the war because of a superior pistol, is absolute nonsense, given the amount of non-use of pistols in warfare.

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