Assault Rifle

An assault rifle is a fully automatic selective-fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles were first used during World War II. Though Western nations were slow to accept the assault rifle concept after World War II, by the end of the 20th century they had become the standard weapon in most of the world's armies, replacing battle rifles and sub-machine guns. Examples include the StG 44, AK-47 and the M16 rifle.

The Germans were the first to pioneer the assault rifle concept, during World War II, based upon research that showed that most firefights happen within 400 metres (1,300 ft) and that contemporary rifles were over-powered for most small arms combat. They sought to develop a select-fire intermediate powered rifle combining the firepower of a submachine gun with the accuracy and range of a rifle. This was done by shortening the standard 7.92×57mm cartridge to 7.92×33mm and giving it a lighter 125 grain bullet, that limited range but allowed for more controllable automatic fire. A smaller, lighter cartridge also allowed soldiers to carry more ammunition "to support the higher consumption rate of automatic fire."

The result was the Sturmgewehr 44, which the Germans produced in large numbers; approximately half a million were made. Unlike previous rifle designs it introduced an over-the-barrel gas system, straight stock and pistol grip to reduce recoil and improve handling characteristics. "The principle of this weapon...was probably the most important advance in small arms since the invention of smokeless powder."

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