This is intended for people interested in the subject of military guns and their ammunition, with emphasis on automatic weapons.
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What is the correct meaning of the following German words as used by the German military?
Gewehr (as in G36) -- Does it mean gun, or rifle?
Maschinengewehr = machine gun, or machine rifle?
Sturmgewehr = assault gun, or assault rifle?
You are opening a can of worms, because a living language is never really logic.
"Gewehr" is a very general term for a small arm held with both hands, for which no English equivalent exists, as far as I know. Shotgun (Flinte) and hunting rifle (Jagdbüchse) both belong in this category. Büchse has a more civilian context. Nobody calls a sniper rifle a Scharfschützenbüchse, its a Scharfschützengewehr.
Gewehr as in G3 or G36 (described as "automatische Handwaffe" or automatic small arm in the respective field manual) would best be translated assault rifle.
Maschinengewehr got its German name around 1900 because it fired rifle-ammunition (Gewehrmunition) in a machine-like fashion. That way also the Maschinenpistole (pistol-ammunition) and the Maschinenkarabiner (intermediate ammunition) got their names.
The name Sturmgewehr was created around October 1944. The first use I am aware of was on Hitlers decree that announced its adoption (with a manual addition "44"). I think it was selected because of the well known names Sturmboot and Sturmgeschütz. The latter is translated assault gun. Sturmgewehr is not official Bundeswehr terminology as far as I know. Early field manuals of G3 and its predecessor G1 used "automatisches Gewehr", the "automatic" indicating selective-fire capability. The official term for semi-automatic only, as pistols are, is "halbautomatisch".
Edit: Machine guns are "vollautomatisch" (fully automatic).
Many thanks! Exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for!
Büchse has a more civilian context. Nobody calls a sniper rifle a Scharfschützenbüchse, its a Scharfschützengewehr.
Thanks Jochem - but in that case, why are anti-tank rifles called Panzerabwehrbüchsen?
that's an interesting question, because in Russian nomenclature anti-tank rifles are called "??????????????? ?????", where ????? is generally used for smoothbore weapons (shotguns) and rifles are generally called just that - ????????.
The Wehrmacht "Raketenpanzerabwehrbüchse" (or Panzerschreck) was another terminology specialty, being a) smoothbore and b) a rocket launcher.
Edit: Max, just to inform you that your cyrillic letters are displayed as "????????????" only. I cannot tell if its a problem on my computer or caused by this forum software. On the IAA forum, for example, cyrillic letters are displayed correctly.
seems like a Delphi forum problem with Cyrillic fonts :(
"Gewehr" is a very general term for a small arm held with both hands, for which no English equivalent exists, as far as I know.
Hehe. Make that firearm. earlier the word Seitengewehr meant sidearm and usually referred to a sword.
Sorry, no. The translation of firearm is Feuerwaffe with identical meaning in both languages. Feuerwaffe is a much broader term than Gewehr.
The Seitengewehr is indeed a sidearm (Seitenwaffe). But Seitenwaffe in German military includes the pistol carried by officers and selected NCOs and men, where it was part of the uniform. See for example the decree "Tragen der Seitenwaffen" in Heeres-Verordnungsblatt 1932, page 125.
Sorry, I wasn't clear. Today a "Gewehr" Is a firearm that is used with two hands, I fully concur. If we go 150 years back and look at the term "Seitengewehr", you will find that it still means sidearm. But those days your sidearm was cold steel, not a firearm.
That was the point I was trying to make. The term Gewehr originally (or at least at that time) just seems to have mean "personal weapon" and developed from there.