Recently, GSG launched the Schmeisser StG-44, a .22 look-a-like of the Nazi Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44) of World War II, which was the first mass produced version of what would eventually be known as the modern "assault rifle."
Although the original StG 44 did not play a significant role in battles between German and American troops, more than half a million were constructed from 1943 to 1945 and deployed along the Eastern Front for use in combat with the Russians. The StG 44 fired the 7.92x33 mm Kurz, which was a shortened version of the 8 mm Mauser cartridge. This gun and ammunition combination helped to fill the mid-range combat niche in the German's small arms set. It provided an increased effective range compared to the relatively light and handy pistol-caliber submachine guns, yet it remained controllable during full-automatic firing using a rifle cartridge. Capable of both semi-automatic and full-auto fire with a detachable 30-round magazine, the StG 44 offered superior firepower to the bolt-action rifles in use at the time. It was dubbed the “Sturmgewehr,” which translates as the “storm rifle” or “assault rifle.”
Today, many World War II buffs would love to have the StG 44 in their gun collection, but getting a hold of one is next to impossible. Not many functioning examples of the gun have survived, and because they truly are assault rifles (machine guns), ownership is restricted according to NFA regulations. Collectors can go online to purchase a historically accurate movie-prop version of this rifle, but, as a non-functional replica, they are essentially paying around $300 dollars for a fancy paperweight.
German Sport Guns has chosen to provide a third option in the GSG StG 44. Known for producing high-quality replicas of machine gun platforms with legal-to-own semi-auto actions, it goes one step further to separate its semi-auto replicas from the originals by chambering them for .22 Long Rifle rimfire cartridges instead of center-fire pistol or rifle calibers. As a result, shooters can enjoy the look and feel of the original firearms, while taking advantage of the reduced cost and recoil of rimfire ammunition.
The GSG-StG 44 arrives in a wooden shipping crate reminiscent of those used during the war. The unvarnished pine box has rope handles and a hinged lid branded with the gun's logo, which is a nice touch. Opening the crate reveals the rifle with the shoulder stock separated, a 25-round polymer magazine and a bag containing smaller items such as a cable lock, manual and chamber brush. Fully assembled, with an empty magazine inserted, the rifle weighs 9.72 pounds, which is only a few ounces less than the original StG 44's unloaded weight.
This replica mirrors the original assault rifle in appearance only, but it does a good job of it. It functions with a simple blow-back action instead of a gas system. The majority of the external components are constructed of a die cast alloy instead of stamped from sheet steel, but the components that logically need to be made of quality steel for reliable function and longevity are, including the hand guard, the rifled barrel insert and the bolt assembly. The sights duplicate the functionality of the original with a hooded front blade sight and a rear sight assembly that is easily adjusted for height and windage.
The right-side ejection port is protected by a spring-loaded cover plate that flips open, AR-15 style, when the bolt is cycled. The rest of the rifle controls are located on the left side of the receiver. A generous non-reciprocating bolt handle can be pulled fully to the rear and tipped up to lock the bolt in the open position. A large round magazine release button is located behind the magazine well. Between the trigger guard and the pistol grip is the fire-select switch. In this model, it only has Fire and Safe positions.
Not all of the GSG firearms are intuitively dismantled for cleaning, but the GSG-StG 44 is quite simple. Start by removing the magazine, verify the rifle is completely unloaded, and set the bolt handle in the forward position. Remove the takedown pin from the shoulder stock, and then slide the shoulder stock off of the receiver. This reveals a silver colored receiver end cap. While holding this end cap in place with one hand (to prevent it from flying across the room), rotate the pistol-gripped lower receiver away from the upper receiver to release the end cap.
The end cap can then be removed along with the system parts including the bolt assembly, recoil buffer and recoil spring. The polymer guide rod and bolt handle remain in the receiver. With the lower receiver hinged down and system parts out of the way, the internal workings of the trigger assembly can be cleaned and a full-length cleaning rod can be used to swab the barrel.
This heavyweight iron-sighted rifle was real fun to shoot at the range. If you are looking for a target competition rifle or a hunting gun, there are a few reasons why this is not the rifle for you. First is the lack of any means to attach an optic, which hampers its long-range potential. Second, the gun is quite heavy compared to other field-grade .22 semi-autos on the market. Finally, the trigger, although exceptionally smooth and crisp, was on the heavy side at 6 pounds, 4 ounces.
But here’s the good news. The iron sights were excellent. They could be quickly adjusted to chang distance with little fuss and no tools. The hooded front sight was highly visible through the square-notch of the rear sight. The GSG StG 44 functioned flawlessly with the full range of ammunition tested, from bulk plinking .22 Long Rifle loads to high-velocity hunting-grade hollow points.
Formal bench-rest testing with five-shot groups fired at 25 yards produced group sizes that were consistently well under 2 inches in size. This rifle was particularly fond of rounds specifically designed for use in modern tactical .22s, including the CCI AR Tactical, and the Winchester M-22 rounds, producing 1-inch groups. Pushing the target out to 50-yards for informal bench-rest groups of ten shots or more resulted in groups ranging from 4 to 5 inches.
Shooters rarely pay much attention to a firearm's magazine unless it's malfunctioning, but GSG deserves bonus points for the top-notch 25-round magazine provided with this rifle. It's sturdy, ridged and well constructed. It has a load-assist lever on the right side to compress the magazine spring while reloading to reduce wear and tear on the shooter's fingers. The lever also has a pointer that lines up with numbered notches along the side to show how many rounds are left. The magazine is just another good reminder that GSG wants its customers to enjoy long shooting sessions with their rifles.
This rifle strikes an enjoyable balance between a historically accurate replica rifle and a fun plinking .22. The accuracy and reliability are much better than one might expect to see in a novelty gun. It's not easy to construct a rifle that looks like one design, while functioning like another, but GSG did a good job with this model. So grab a bulk box of .22 rounds and a sack of snacks, and head out to spend an afternoon mounting a successful skirmish along the tin can front with the GSG Schmeisser StG 44.