EXPLAINED: Nazi Germany Had Its Very Own ‘M-16’ Style Rifle

    Warfare History Network

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    Another revolutionary development that is now a staple of modern combat was the a night-fighting system designed for the MP-44. Nicknamed the Vampir, the cumbersome infrared targeting scope would allow the soldier to extend his combat operations to any hour of the day. The system consisted of a battery carried in a backpack configuration, a telescope (or sniper scope), and an infrared searchlight. While the Vampir system reportedly saw use in the waning months of the war, it was never widely distributed, and sources indicate that only some 300 of these units were made.

    With the conflict in Iraq, combat photography is once again prevalent in the media, and it would be impossible to miss images of U.S. soldiers toting the omnipresent M4 weapons system. Based on the venerated M-16 assault rifle (now redubbed the M2), this “system” provides the infantryman with a versatile set of interchangeable assets, which augment his weapon’s mission—eliminating the enemy from the battlefield. This system is state-of-the-art, but its origin dates back nearly 60 years to the early days of World War II Germany.

    The MP-43/44: The First Assault Rifle

    The granddaddy of the M-16, in fact the progenitor of all the world’s assault rifles, is the German MP-44 Sturmgewehr (assault rifle). Its development stemmed from an unusual episode in the history of German armaments production. After the trench warfare of World War I, it was apparent that a new era of infantry combat was dawning. The German solider had been armed with some variant of the bolt-action Mauser rifle since the 1870s, and by the early 1930s, as Germany secretly rearmed in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, all weapons were subjected to scrutiny, especially infantry small arms.

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