1955 year. 10 years after the well-known events in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Bundeswehr was created. The Ministry of Defense, the Bundeswehr itself, all other services. The question arises quite correctly of what and how the new army of the new Germany will be armed with.
As you know, in the Wehrmacht, the main small arms had a caliber of 7.92 mm. In principle, it would be quite realistic to continue design and production operations, using the experience of the past. Not to mention the fact that the production of cartridges in old factories would be easy.
But not in that case. The Bundeswehr was created with one goal – to join NATO and become the basis of a bloc in Europe, since the “cold war” was in full swing, Soviet tanks on the banks of the English Channel were quite a serious threat, and apart from Germany, in Europe, which remained on the capitalist side, there were, as it were, potential no armies were observed.
Well, not to count on the “winners” from France?
This means that the Bundeswehr should have been armed in NATO standards, respectively, all the old practices had to be forgotten.
Our hero, cartridge 7.62 x 51, was born, of course, in the USA. The American military department, having analyzed the entire course of the Second World War, came to the conclusion that the modern army needs a new cartridge.
In general, having pretty much worn out with a rather impressive number of cartridges in the infantry (M1A1 carbine – 7.62 x 33, M1A1 Springfield rifle – 7.62 x 63, Colt M1911 pistol and Thompson’s PP – 11.43 x 23, M3A1 submachine gun – 9 x 19, the M2 machine gun – 12.7 x 99, BAR was generally produced for 4 types of cartridges), the American commanders decided that the army needed a universal weapon that combined the capabilities of a machine gun and a rifle.
Naturally, the cartridge for this weapon should have been, in theory, smaller than the standard .30, but with approximately the same characteristics.
The challenge is not one tens of millions of dollars, but very in time the Olin company developed a new smokeless powder, called Ball Powder (spherical powder). The grain of this gunpowder had a strange shape, but it gave out the necessary power.
And the Americans, rolling up their sleeves, rushed to work. After all, even then the creation of NATO loomed on the horizon, and whoever can provide the bloc with new weapons, in theory, will not just be covered in chocolate.
All US gunsmiths plowed from 1947 to 1953. The case was taken from the .300 Savage cartridge, but it was slightly modified. There was also a Winchester cartridge, but it was slightly larger (.308).
Winchester on the left, Savage on the right
In December 1953, the USA, France, Great Britain, Italy and Belgium agreed that the standard for the new NATO cartridge would be 7.62×51, based on the American T65 cartridge.
Let no one be surprised by such a set of negotiators, it is not with Holland and Canada to discuss weapons issues …
And then the Belgians took the stage. And according to the approved drawings and sketches, they created a simply wonderful cartridge with an SS 77 bullet, which had a tapered tail section and a lead core.
Well, if such cool guys as Fabrique Nationale d’Arms de Guerre, that is, FN, have a cartridge, then the development of a new rifle is a stone’s throw.
Of course she appeared. The famous Fusil Automatique Legere, aka FAL.
And in December 1954, the Belgians presented their rifle to the Germans, who did not yet have the Bundeswehr, but had border guards.
It cannot be said that the Germans were idle. As after the lost World War I, of course, they quietly worked on weapons. Abroad. Specifically in Spain, at the CETME firm.
By the way, looking at whom, it is worth talking about the similarity with the same StG44 …
At CETME (Centro de Estudios Tecnicos de Materiales Especiales, Center for Technical Research of Special Materials), Ludwig Forgrimler, the former head of the advanced development department of Mauser, who fled to Spain with a whole team of cool engineers, worked tirelessly.
The Spaniards, of course, were not at all against such fugitives.
In January 1955, the first evaluation tests of the rifles took place. And then the whole year the picky Germans made their choice, after which the Federal Border Guard (there were no more troops in the FRG) decided to purchase a batch of FN FAL.
Here the fact that the Belgian company beat two birds with one stone played a role: it supplied a rifle and a cartridge for it.
However, not everyone in Germany was happy with this. The Germans understood perfectly well that today is an ally, and tomorrow … After two world wars – quite justifiably, by the way.
And having acquired a Belgian rifle, the pragmatic Germans “consoled” the Spaniards, after whom their compatriots were looming (the Germans also do not abandon their own), having bought a license to manufacture CETME.
Then began, as always, a historical detective story.
In 1957, the CETME production license, developed by former Mauser employees, was handed over to the Heckler & Koch company by the German government. Which, ironically, was founded in 1949 by three former Mauser engineers. Heckler, Koch and Sidel.
Based on the developments received from CETME, Heckler & Koch made two models at once, which went down in history. That is, MP5 and G3. And G3, in turn, supplanted FN FAL completely. For it is necessary to support domestic producers.
But you say, enough is enough, it was as if it was about the patron!
That’s right, I agree. Cartridge.
And the Germans had a complete mess with cartridges, oddly enough. The fact is that the Belgians went a little too far with secrecy. It is clear that everyone wants to be monopolists, but FN has gone too far.
Even having bought a rifle, received cartridges for it, the Germans did not receive all the information about the characteristics of the cartridge. That in general caused discontent and the search for another manufacturer.
The Germans were in a not very comfortable position. The “cold war” has already begun, cries of the Soviet threat have already begun, but there is no army, the rifles are not native and with cartridges for them is a complete nightmare.
In general, after 10 years everything was like in 1945, that is, sad.
Therefore, it was decided to make the cartridge ourselves.
Fortunately, a company such as Dynamit-Nobel AG, or DAG, lived and felt great in Fürth. And the German command of the nascent Bundeswehr turned to them with a request to help with the patron.
But the conditions were quite serious: the development and serial production of the German cartridge 7.62 x 51, “similar to the cartridge of the FN company.”
“Dynamite” acted simply: they collected cartridges from all possible manufacturers and began work. The internal DAG competition was attended by cartridges from FN, the American manufacturer Western, French cartridges with a steel case and cartridges from Spain by CETME.
The best were all the same Belgian cartridges, and it was decided to copy them. And at the same time, it is also easy to rip up the barrels for rifles. In order not to pay the full program for consumables, because FN categorically refused to sell the license.
It was decided at first to outsource the production of barrels to the firm “Sauer and Son”, but they at first refused, citing the lack of the necessary equipment. Then they decided they would try.
Then there were problems of a different plan, because the samples of cartridges and the drawing of the FN company were not enough to develop their ammunition.
But the Germans would not have been Germans if they hadn’t gotten out of it. It is very difficult to say how the German industrial intelligence worked, but they worked no worse than the Abwehr. Not only did they obtain secret information on the Belgian cartridge, they also studied .308 cartridges from Remington and Winchester just in case, plus samples of cartridges were obtained from Portugal, where the production of NATO 7 cartridges has already begun. 62 x 51.
As a result, the DAG got a cartridge that is really similar to the ammunition of the FN company. It was, however, slightly different in size. The German bullet was slightly longer and heavier than the Belgian one. 29.3 mm versus 28.8 and weight 9.5 grams to 9.3. But not a critical difference, is it?
On January 3, 1956, an order was signed at the DAG plant in Fürth-Stadeln to switch to the production of the 7.62 x 51 mm cartridge.
The era of the German 7.92 mm cartridge is over.
By this time, the company “Sauer and Son” coped with the barrels for rifles and, taking over the acceleration, began to produce barrels not only for rifles, but also for a machine gun. Yes, the machine gun of the new army was also very necessary, so the famous MG42 was remade under the new cartridge 7.62 x 51.
The alteration did not work out right away: if the FAL was fired with a new cartridge quite correctly, then the “bone gnaw” had reliability problems. And problems in full.
When firing in bursts with a new rifle cartridge, the rate of fire was the same as with the FN cartridge, and lower from the machine gun. Plus, with the new cartridge, the machine gun showed not quite satisfactory accuracy. Plus, the trajectory of the new bullet made by MG42 was very flat.
In general, not a bad start, but it would be imprudent to fight this. The patron demanded finishing.
At the same time, we decided to start producing a plastic training cartridge.
But while the cartridge was being brought up, problems began with the FAL rifle itself. The Belgians constantly made changes, as the buyers demanded as a result of numerous competitions. And as a result, the Belgians changed the design of the gas outlet and the diameter of the gas outlet.
But by that time, “Heckler and Koch” already actually had a G3, so the Germans were not very upset and the plastic blank cartridge continued to be developed for the G3.
And with a machine gun helped … the Soviet Union!
By the summer of 1956, the situation with the MG42 was virtually deadlocked. The machine gun stubbornly refused to fire a new cartridge. Neither Belgian nor German.
And then suddenly Johann Grossfuss returned from the Soviet Union, the former director and owner of the plant in the city of Döbeln, where, in fact, the MG42 machine gun was developed and passed all tests.
In 1945, Grossfuss was unlucky, he ended up in our sector of responsibility. He was instantly figured out, recognized as an entrepreneur who helped the Wehrmacht and had income from this and was indirectly guilty of deaths.
In general, Grossfuss served 8 years and returned with a great desire to establish the production of MG42 in honor of the nascent Bundeswehr at his former, and now owned by “Rheinmetall” plant.
At first, Grossfuss was not allowed to work, but then the structures of the Bundeswehr still decided that such a valuable frame should not be lost.
As a result, the machine gun was taught to shoot, and by 1957 the Bundeswehr actually possessed two of the three components: it had an automatic rifle and a machine gun. Yes, in 1959, the domestic G3 replaced the foreign FN FAL.
In 1955, the Bundeswehr was formed in the Federal Republic of Germany. The task of the new army was clear: integration into NATO. In a very short time, the Germans perfectly coped with the task of developing both a new cartridge and their own weapons under the patronage of the NATO standard.