Germany's quest for a semi-automatic infantry rifle resulted in two designs - the G41(M)
and G41(W), from Mauser and Walther arms respectively. The Mauser design proved
unreliable in combat when introduced in 1941 and only several thousand were made. The
Walther design fared better in combat but still suffered from reliability problems. In
1943 Walther introduced a new modified gas system with aspects of the G41(W) providing
greatly improved performance. It was accepted and entered into service as the Gewehr 43,
renamed Karabiner 43 in 1944, with production amounting to just over 400,000. The Gewehr
43/Karabiner 43 joined the ranks of the Tokarev and Garand as general issue
semi-automatic rifles during the war.

By 1940, it became apparent that some form of a semi-automatic rifle, with a higher rate
of fire than existing bolt-action rifle models, was necessary to improve the infantry's
combat efficiency. The army issued a specification to various manufacturers, and both
Mauser and Walther submitted prototypes that were very similar. However, some
restrictions were placed upon the design:

no holes for tapping gas for the loading mechanism were to be bored into the barrel;
the rifles were not to have any moving parts on the surface;
and in case the autoloading mechanism failed, a bolt action was to be included.
Both models therefore used a mechanism known as the "Bang" system (after its Danish
designer Soren H. Bang). In this system, gases from the bullet were trapped near the
muzzle in a ring-shaped cone, which in turn pulled on a long piston that opened the
breech and re-loaded the gun. This is as opposed to the more common type of gas-actuated
system, in which gasses are tapped off from the barrel, and push back on a piston to
open the breach to the rear. Both also included 10-round magazines that were loaded
using two of the stripper clips from the Karabiner 98k, utilizing the same
German-standard 7.92x57mm Mauser rounds.

The Mauser design, the G41(M), failed. Only 6,673 were produced before production was
halted, and of these, 1,673 were returned as unusable. The Walther design, the G41(W),
is in outward appearance not unlike the Gewehr 43. Most metal parts on this rifle were
machined steel, and some rifles, especially later examples utilized the bakelite type
plastic handguards. The Walther design was more successful because the designers had
simply neglected the last two restrictions listed above.

These rifles, along with their G41(M) counterparts, suffered from gas system fouling
problems. These problems seemed to stem from the overly complex muzzle trap system
becoming excessively corroded from the use of corrosive salts in the ammunition primers,
and carbon fouling. The muzzle assembly consisted of many fine parts and was difficult
to keep clean, disassemble, and maintain in field conditions. The rifle was redesigned
in 1943 into the Gewehr 43 utilizing a gas system somewhat similar to that on the
Tokarev series of rifles, and a detachable magazine. Ironically, the M1 Garand rifle
followed a similar course being first designed with a gas trap mechanism which was
quickly discarded in production.

G41(W) rifles were produced at two factories: Walther at Zella Mehlis, and Berlin
Luebecker. Walther guns bear the AC code, and WaA359 inspection proofs, while BLM guns
bear the DUV code with WaA214 inspection proofs. These rifles are also relatively
scarce, and quite valuable in collector grade. Varying sources put production figures
between 40,000 and 145,000 units. Again, these rifles saw a high attrition rate on the
Russian front.

In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa. Just
prior to the opening of hostilities the Red Army had started re-arming its infantry,
complementing its older bolt-action rifles with the new semi-automatic Tokarev SVT38s
and SVT40s. This proved to be somewhat of a shock to the Germans, who ramped up their
semi-automatic rifle development efforts significantly.

The Tokarev used a simple gas-operated mechanism, which was soon emulated by Walther in
the G41(W), producing the Gewehr 43 (or G43). The simpler mechanism of the G43 made it
lighter, easier to mass produce, and far more reliable. The addition of a 10-round
detachable box magazine also solved the slow reloading problem. The Gewehr 43 was put
into production in October 1943, and followed in 1944 by the Karabiner 43 (K43), which
was identical to the G43 in every way save for the letter stamped on the side. The G/K43
was issued in limited numbers in 1944 and 1945 to units of the Wehrmacht.

K43 with scope railTotal production by the end of the war was 402,713 of both models,
including at least 53,435 sniper rifles: the K43 was the preferred sniper weapon, fitted
with the Zielfernrohr 43 (ZF 4) scope with 4x magnification. The weapon was originally
designed for use with the Schiessbecher device for firing rifle grenades (standard on
the Kar 98k as well) and the Schalldämpfer suppressor, however these accessories were
deemed unsuccessful in tests and were dropped even before the rifle made it to serial
production. The rifle was also not equipped to use a bayonet. The Gewehr 43 stayed in
service with the Czechoslovak army for several years after the war.

There were many small variations introduced on the G/K43 throughout its production
cycle. The important consideration is that no changes were made to the rifle design
specifically to coincide with the nomenclature change from Gewehr to Karabiner, with the
exception of the letter stamped on the side. Careful study of actual pieces will show
that many G-marked rifles had features found on K-marked rifles and vice versa. There is
therefore no difference in weight or length between the G43 and the K43. Variations in
barrel length did exist, but those were the product of machining tolerances, differences
between factories, and/or experimental long-barreled rifles.

Though most G/K43's are equipped with a scope mounting rail, the vast majority of the
rifles were issued in their standard infantry form without a scope. When equipped with a
scope, it was exclusively the ZF 4 4-power scope. No other known scope/mount
combinations were installed by the German military during World War II. Many strange
variations have shown up after the war, but all have been proven to be the work of
amateur gunsmiths. Rifles with a broken-off butt are common, as German soldiers were
instructed to render semi-automatic rifles useless when in danger of capture.