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 the weapons of snow and steel

It is interesting to note that the Germans, who prided themselves on weapons that featured extremely high quality finishes, tightly fit parts for accuracy and highly refined actions for smooth operation, initially looked upon Soviet equipment with disdain. Often labeling them 'crude,' 'sloppy' and 'poorly designed,' they quickly learned to appreciate them when they became bogged down in the Russian winter. For example, Germans initially regarded the Soviet TT-33 pistol as too penetrative, failing to deliver all of its energy into a target as it passed through instead of stopping inside a target during normal summer conditions. However, once winter set in and their 9mm pistols wouldn't penetrate the layers upon layers of clothes the Russians wore, they quickly began to admire the TT‘s ability to penetrate, and under these conditions it did stop inside the target. In some cases, the German troops began to prefer Russian weapons to their own. The Soviet troops had an equal amount of distrust for German equipment that never went away, but for completely different reasons, most notable being that the complex and tightly fitted German weaponry, while of excellent quality, often froze up solid in the depths of the Russian winter that would often plummet to temperatures as low as 30°F below zero. While pistols were always a prized trophy to capture for soldiers, in general the Soviet equipment was better suited to the conditions of fighting in Stalingrad. The German army itself, however, was often better armed and equipped, with troops who were better trained, better fed, and had better materiel to draw from than the Russians, who were often woefully and dangerously under supplied. While the weapons themselves are not integral to the story of Snow and Steel, They are interesting and soaked with a history all their own. Perhaps this will give the reader some further insight not only into the soldiers that carried and used these weapons, but also into the history and background that made up the battle of Stalingrad. These weapons were used, fought with and carried daily in Stalingrad, and were as necessary to the average soldier as (and in many cases were more important than) air, food or water.


TT-33 Pistol

Caliber: 7.62 x 25 TOK

The 1933 Model Soviet TT (Tokarev-Tula) was the standard military side-arm for the Soviets from the 1930s to the 1950s. It uses a high-velocity 7.62 x 25 Tokarev Caliber pistol round, well known for its good penetration capability. This cartridge has such excellent penetration, that it can easily defeat modern day lighter ballistic vests (class I, IIA and II). The bottlenecked cartridge gives a flat trajectory but also a considerable muzzle blast. Because of the cartridge's very high velocity, there is a potential for the weapon to be very accurate, though the sights may not be the fastest. Reliable, simple to clean and maintain, and far more combat effective than the revolvers it was meant to replace, it was well liked and well respected by Soviet troops. Even after its replacement in 1952 by the 9mm Makarov pistol, many troops chose to carry TT-33 pistols by choice, whether officially sanctioned or not.

It is interesting to note that the TT-33 pistol has no safety device in its design, with only a half cock notch in the lockwork. The gun was usually carried one of two ways; either with a round in the chamber and the hammer resting on the half cock notch, or no round in the chamber, in which case the gun was drawn and cocked in one fluid motion. Since the winters were so harsh in much of the soviet union, cold hands or thick gloves could make the draw and cock method problematic, so the former method was generally preferred. In an interestig historical side note, Fedor Tokarev, the TT33's designer, was once asked why he didn't add a manually operated safety to his pistol, and he replied "Why? It's a weapon, of course it isn't safe."

Mosin Nagant M91/30 Rifle

Caliber: 7.62 x 54

The Mosin Nagant bolt action rifle. Standard military rifle for the Soviet infantry from 1930-1944. The rifle had a 5 round integral magazine that could be loaded off chargers or 'strippers' as they are sometimes called. It was issued with two ammunition pouches, a cleaning kit, and a bayonet. During certain periods of the war, the ammunition pouches and cleaning kits weren’t issued, as the Russian army was losing so many weapons, and more importantly men, to the Germans. In some cases, every other man was handed a rifle, with the man without a rifle told to pick up the rifle of his fallen comrade when he was killed. The war caused further shortages in ammunition as well as making transportation to the front difficult, so sometimes it was hard to get. As the war dragged on, more and more rifles were needed to replace the ones lost or captured, which in many case were recaptured later as Germany began to lose the war. By the end of the 1944, approximately 17.4 million M91/30 rifles had been produced. Based on the earlier Tsarist designed M1891 Mosin Nagant rifle, the M91/30 was simply the M1981 redesigned with modern Metric sights replacing the archaic Arshin system, a slightly shorter barrel, a newer, easier to use, more simple to manufacture bayonet, a cylindrical receiver (replacing the previous octagonal one), and a hooded post front sight (replacing the blade on previous weapons). Even with it’s slightly shorter barrel, it was still a long rifle. As the bayonet was almost always simply left on the rifle permanently, the end result was often as long as the operator was tall. A very simple, easy to use weapon, it was also very powerful and hard to break, making it an excellent weapon for the average conscript in the Red Army.

Mosin Nagant M38 Rifle

Caliber:7.62 x 54R

A shortened version of the M91/30 Mosin Nagant Bolt action rifle. Nearly identical in all respects, except that the barrel is slightly thicker and significantly shorter. This rifle was made primary for isue to auxiliary and crew served weapon soldiers. The design was to allow these type of soldiers some sort of last line of defense should their lines get overrun and enemy troops close within small arms distance. As this was usually unlikely for rear echelon and large weapon gun crews, what was needed was a weapon that was small, light, handy and easy to carry around. Further, this rifle does not accept a bayonet as it would be very unlikely to encounter hand to hand fighting (or any fighting for that matter) for these type of soldiers. These shorter carbines are known for their ferocious kick and large, bright muzzle flash, courtesy of the abbreviated barrel.

Mosin Nagant M91/30 PEM Sniper Rifle

The idea that large amounts of troops could be tied up or high priority targets could be taken out by a single marksmen was not lost upon the Soviets. While the Soviets produced several variants of snipers and put more snipers rifles in the field than any other country, the PEM Sniper Rifle would be the correct sniper’s rifle for use in Stalingrad. It was the model 91/30 selected for accuracy, then hand fit and assembled for optimum performance, and finally fitted with a telescopic sight of Soviet manufacture but based upon Zeiss designs. The rifles were fitted with a unique over-the-bore mounting system that incorporated a base that mimicked the shape of the receiver. The base was retained on the rifle with 6 screws, 3 per side and often times silver soldered as well for additional security. The scope was of a 30mm tube diameter with standard European three-post reticle. While not as accurate as the K98K sniper, it was certainly accurate enough to take precision aimed shots up to 500 meters away, and an especially skilled marksman could get shots as much to 800 meters. In the areas of and around Stalingrad, it would be uncommon to shot past 500 meters. Because of the Mosin Nagant bolt system, the bolt handle had to be extended and turned down to allow the use of the optic. This bolt, however, kept the rifle from freezing up, and made it a very reliable, solid and accurate performer thought WII.

SVT-40 Rifle

Caliber: 7.62 x 54R

The Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva, Obrazets 1940 goda (Tokarev Self-loading Rifle, Model of 1940) Semi-automatic rifle. Designed by Fedor Tokarev, who also designed the TT-33 pistol. Being semi-automatic, it would fire one shot with every pull of the trigger, and self extract the spent case and load the new cartridge. This design, along with its 10 round detachable box magazine, was thought to be superior for combat by its design team. The rifle was originally designed to replace the Mosin Nagant M91/30 rifles, though it never did. As the Germans invaded into the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of these rifles were lost. If German soldiers could capture one of these weapons they would usually prefer to use this instead of their own weapons, as the German army would not field a semi-automatic rifle until the very end of the war. As so many men were conscripted into the red army, many of whom could not even read or write, and also because of its potential for high volume accurate fire, It was decided that the SVT-40’s would only be issued to officers and specialized well trained troops, as it was felt that only they would fully utilize the weapon's potential.

PPSh-41 Sub Machinegun

Caliber: 7.62 x 25 TOK

The Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina (Shpagin Machine Pistol) model of 1941, the standard military submachine gun for the soviet army during WWII. Often called a “Pah-Pah-sha“, it was a fully automatic submachine gun, and was one of the most mass produced weapons of WWII. Designed by Georgi Shpagin, it had a simple blow-back action, a 35 round box or 71 round drum magazine, and used the 7.62 x 25 TOK caliber pistol round. It was made with metal stampings to ease production, and its chrome-lined chamber and bore helped to make the gun very low-maintenance in combat settings. It had very few parts, was easy to field strip, clean and maintain, making it a very reliable and robust weapon. It was admired for its low recoil, reliability, and lethality at close range, as well as its extremely high rate of fire at 900 rounds per minute. Over 6 million of these weapons were produced by the end of the war. The average infantryman would keep one of the drum magazines as the initial magazine in the weapon, and use the box magazines as reloads whenever possible. Though 35-round curved box magazines were available from 1942 on, although they could often be harder to get than the larger capacity drum magazines, sometimes necessitating the use of drum magazines only. The Germans also loved the weapon, so much so that it was the second most common submachine gun in the German Army.

Russian Maxim M1910 Belt Fed Heavy Machinegun

Caliber: 7.62 x 54R

The Russian M1910 Maxim machine gun was the standard military heavy machine gun through most of WWII. The Russian Maxim was a water cooled belt fed heavy machine gun used by both the Russian and Soviet armies. It was adopted in 1910 and was a variant of Hiram Maxim’s Maxim gun chambered for the standard Russian rifle ammunition. The M1910 was normally mounted on a cumbersome wheeled mount with a bullet shield, although there were some rare light tripod mounts that were made as well as various naval and aircrafts mounts. With the heavy wheeled Sokolov mount, the weapon tipped the scaled at 139 pounds, though without the mount it was considerably lighter. Still, it was a heavy gun. It was recoil operated, and fired at 600 rounds per minute off of 250 round belts that were usually made of cloth, or, more rarely, metal. The metal links were usually not preferred as they were much harder on the internals of the gun and caused more wear than the cloth belts. With a few simple tools it was possible to remove the starting tab on one metal belt and then connect another belt together to make a longer belt, however. A very reliable weapon, it was well liked, but it did have many drawbacks. It was considerably heavier than the German MG2, making it far less mobile, and did not have as fast of a rate of fire as its counterpart either. Further, it lacked the ability to quickly change barrels, something that is often needed in heavy machine gun as the rate of fire can burn out barrels very quickly. However, for what it lacked in refined features it made up for in brute force. The gun could fire in longer bursts that many of its contemporaries as the water contained in the tubular water jacket around the barrel kept the barrel from burning up quicker than it would without it.

F-1 Hand grenade

The F-1 hand grenade, was the standard military service grenade for the Soviets in WWII. A lemon sized grenade, with a steel ribbed exterior that both helped to prevent hands from slipping and increased its damage. When the grenade pin was pulled, the fuse to the grenade became chemically active. If the safety spoon was released, the fuse began to burn away. Average fuse time was 3.5 to 4 seconds. When the fuse burned away, the grenade would explode its 60 gram charge of TNT, causing the ribbed case to also fly apart in many tiny pieces,throwing out metal fragmentation to further injury anyone not caught within the immediate explosive blast. The explosive blast was deadly within 10 meters, and shrapnel could maim, injure or kill to about 30 meters. Though obsolete and no longer in production, it can still be encountered in combat zones the world over.

Satchel charge

A satchel charge is a powerful, man-portable explosive device used by infantry troops. Satchel charges are used to demolish heavy stationary targets such as railways, obstacles, bunkers, or bridges. Satchel charges can be made out of almost any explosive, but usually contained 4 to 8 blocks of high explosive, with a pull cord priming assembly, in a canvas or similar material bag with a shoulder strap (hence, a “satchel charge“). Part or all of this charge could be placed against a structure or slung into an opening. As with any explosive, however, certain care must be taken with these, as fire, high heat or another explosion close by could set off a satchel charge, with disastrous consequences if unexpected.

Soviet M39 85mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

The standard Russian anti-aircraft (AA) gun of the Soviet armed forces. This AA gun fired a powerful 85mm shell, featured a multi-baffle muzzle brake and a bullet shield for protection from small arms fire. While not intended as an anti-armor weapon, the designers did have the foresight to allow the gun an extremely wide range of movement, to include lowering the gun to near level with the ground. Although it was harder on the mounting and chassis, fired in this manner it was amazingly effective. It could effectively fire 10-12 rounds per minute. It was an extremely effective weapon as AA guns went, though AA guns in general were generally not all that effective at shooting down aircraft as it might seem. The average shots fired to successful hits ratio was over 500 rounds fired to shoot down one aircraft.

T-34 Medium Tank

It is the wildly held belief that Soviet T-34 tank was the best all around tank of WWII. At the time of its introduction, it was the heaviest armored tank the Soviets had ever produced. Few tanks if any, were faster, making it a hard target for other tanks to hit. The T-34 was superior to the German tanks in every way until very late in the war, when the Panther and Tiger tanks were introduced. These tnaks, however, had not yet been produced and so were not in Stalingrad. The T-34 weighed in at 26.5 tons, and carried a 76.2mm cannon and two 7.62 x 54R DT Machine guns. It was light enough to cross bridges that would have collapsed under heavier tanks, but well armed enough to put up a fight once it got there. The T-34 was also one of the first tanks to utilize sloping armor. The all around sloping armor plates were more likely to deflect anti-armor rounds than traditional armor. As the Stalingrad tank factory became surrounded by heavy fighting, the situation there grew desperate: manufacturing innovations were necessitated by material shortages, and many unpainted T-34 tanks were driven out of the factory and directly to the battlefield. An amazingly effective tank, the biggest shortcoming it had was production. With materials being short, the tank simply could not be produced fast enough and in the numbers needed by the Soviet army. As the German invasion took the Soviet Union by surprse, they had not built up as many of the tanks as they now required, and new production was hampered by shortages. At the time of Stalingrad, while the T-34 tank was the best tank available, it was outnumbered as much as 10 to one by the Germans Panzers, making it a valuable and rare commodity. Thanks to its excellent design however, the tank was easy to manufacture compared to other tanks, and eventually the tank was being turned out at a fast rate, helping turn the tide of the war. The Stalingrad factory kept up production until September 1942, and the T-34 was produced in the Soviet Union until 1956.


P.08 Pistol

Caliber: 9 x 19 Parabellum

The P.08 pistol, a standard pistol for the German army from 1900-1942. Often incorrectly called the “Luger” by popular culture, it is notable as being the first firearm to use the 9mm cartridge so popular in handguns today. Extremely well made and finished, it was very expensive and complicated to manufacture, as it required very skilled labor and hours of hand fitting to complete. Because of its extremely complicated nature, it was prone to jamming and failure, and was very particular about which magazines it would use. In Stalingrad, however, if it was not kept near the body for heat its complicated action often froze solid. Further, the 9 x 19 Parabellum cartridge, while an excellent performer under normal circumstances, did not perform well in regards to penetration. Because of the extremely harsh winters, Soviet soldiers often wore layers upon layers of thick clothing to protect themselves. Sometimes this thick clothing would slow the bullet down so much (or sometimes completely) that it would fail to cause enough damage to kill or injure. Its distinctive shape has made it one of the most recognizable handguns in history. In spite of all its negatives, it was still one of the most prized trophies a soldier would lust after.

P.38 Pistol

Caliber: 9 x 19 Parabellum

The P38 pistol was a standard pistol for the German army in WWII. This pistol is a 9 x 19 Parabellum caliber pistol that was designed by Walther to replace the costly and sometimes fitful P.08 with a easier, faster to produce, more reliable handgun. It was the first semi auto pistol to be accepted by a military that had a double action trigger as well as a decocking mechanism. It was extremely reliable, well made, and easy to take care of. While it did not have the classic lines or appeal of the earlier P.08, it was a more effective and efficient combat pistol. However, due to its ammunition, it did suffer the same issues as the P.08 in regards to terminal performance.

K98K Mauser Rifle

Caliber: 8mm Mauser

The Karabiner 98 Kurtz (Carbine model of 1898 short) standard infantry rifle for the German army. Adopted in 1935 as a final change in the Mauser line, mainly to make the weapon shorter and therefore more handy, this bolt action rifle had a 5 shot integral magazine, hooded front sight, charger loading system, bayonet lug and weighed approximately 5 pounds. The 8mm round it fired was the most powerful bolt action round used in WWII, and as such it was quite effective. The rifle was usually issued with two ammunition pouches, a cleaning kit, and a knife style bayonet could be attached to the bayonet lug for hand to hand combat. The bolt action system used in the Mauser is the basis for nearly every commercial bolt action rifle sold today because the action is so adaptable, as well as its ability to withstand excessive amounts of overpressure without damage to either the weapon or the operator. This strength comes at the cost of a more tightly machined and complicated bolt, that had bad tendency to freeze up in the extremely cold Russian winters. Special care had to be taken to use oil sparingly, and to work the bolt occasionally to keep the bolt from freezing shut. If the bolt became frozen, many soldiers would be forced to try to kick their bolt open. If that failed, the last hope was to urinate on it in the hopes the heat of the liquid would unfreeze the bolt enough to get it unlocked. Thorough cleaning would be required after going to such an extreme measure. In general, the K98K was an excellent all around rifle that was both powerful and accurate.

K98K Sniper Rifle

Caliber: 8mm Mauser

For accurate long range sniper use, certain K98K rifles selected for being exceptionally accurate during factory tests were fitted with an optic, and then specifically hand fit, finished, bedded and adjusted to give the optimum results as a sniper rifle. The K98K sniper rifle had an effective range up to 800 meters (875 yards) when used by a skilled sniper. The Rifle used a German Zeiss Zielvier 4x (ZF39) telescopic sight, which had a bullet drop compensator built into the scope in 50 m increments for ranges from 100 meters to 800 meters to allow for fast shooting at varying distances. There were some more rare variations of this scope that had the same compensation up to 1000 meters. Because of the shortages caused during the war, as the war progressed several other sights were pressed into service, such as the ZF42, Zeiss Zielsechs 6x, Ajack 4x, Hensoldt Dialytan 4x and Kahles Heliavier 4x. Several different mounts were produced by various manufacturers. Approximately 132,000 of these sniper rifles were produced by Germany. Exceptionally accurate, it was an excellent sniper rifle, however, it did suffer the same tendency to freeze as the standard K98K rifle.

MP40 Submachine gun

Caliber: 9 x 19mm Luger

The MaschinenPistole (Machine Pistol) Model of 1940 is a submachine gun developed in Germany and used extensively throughout WWII. The MP40 was characterized by its relatively low rate of fire and low recoil. Approximately 1 million would be made before the end of the war.One idiosyncratic and visible feature on most MP38 and MP40 submachine guns was an aluminum or plastic rail under the barrel which was used as a support when firing over the side of open top of armored vehicles. The barrel lacked any form of handguard, so soldiers were often burned on hot barrels if their support hand strayed. The weapon also featured a folding stock, resulting in a shorter weapon when folded, but it was not durable enough for hard use and hand-to-hand combat. Although the MP40 was generally reliable, major weak points were its 32-round magazine and its tendancy to freeze in the harsh Russian winters. Initially MP40s were generally issued only to paratroops, platoon or squad leaders. The majority of soldiers carried K98K rifles. However, experience with Soviet tactics caused a shift in thinking, and as the war progressed it became more and more frequently issued, especially on the Eastern Front. During the battle of Stalingrad, more troops requested the MP40 than it was possible to supply.

MG42 General purpose machine gun

Caliber: 8mm Mauser

The MaschinenGewehr (Machine gun) model of 1942, standard German general purpose machine gun during WWII. The MG42 was extremely well known for its reliability, durability, simplicity, and ease of operation. Its most notable feature, however, was its ability to produce a shocking volume of suppressive fire. The MG42 has one of the highest rates of fire of any single-barreled light machine gun, firing at 1,500 rounds per minute, which results in a very distinctive muzzle report. The sound was so distinctive, that Soviet soldiers sometimes referred to it as “The Linoleum ripper”. The MG42's belt-feed and high rate of fire burned through barrels quickly, but the quick-change barrel system allowed for a new cold barrel to be inserted and the gun made ready to fire again literally within seconds. This allowed for the weapon to be operated longer in comparison to other similar weapons, provided the operators could keep a steady supply of cold barrels. The weapon was very light for a machinegun at just under 12 pounds, making it extremely portable, and it could be fitted with various mounts, including bipod, tripod or fixed position. Considered by many to be one of the best belt fed machine gun ever produced, it is still in use today.

M24 Stielhandgranate

The Model 24 Stielhandgranate (English: "stick hand grenade") was the standard hand grenade of the German army from the end of WWI until the end of WWII. The very distinctive appearance led to it being called a "stick grenade", and is today one of the most easily recognized weapons of the 20th Century. This grenade was introduced in 1915 and refined throughout the years. A friction igniter was used, a method that was uncommon in other countries, and yet widely used for German grenades. A pull cord ran down the hollow handle of the grenade, ending in a porcelain ball. These were kept inside the handle by a screw on cap. When the cap was unscrewed, the ball and cord would fall out. Pulling the cord dragged a roughened steel rod through the igniter causing it to spark, thus starting the five-second fuse. The unique design of this grenade not only allowed it to be used as a conventional explosive or hand grenade, but also as a trap as well. For example, it could be hung from fences to prevent them from being climbed; any disturbance to the dangling grenade would cause it to fall and ignite the fuse.

Junkers Ju 87D “Stuka”

The Junkers JU 87, or Stuka as it was commonly called (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, "dive bomber") was the main German ground attack aircraft through most of WWII. The Stuka's design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the plane recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot passed out from the G-forces induced during its 600 KPH dive. It further featured inverted wings, spatted undercarriage and its most memorable feature, the infamous Jericho-Trompete ("Jericho Trumpet") wailing siren, which become the propaganda symbol of German air power. The sound of this siren soon became synonymous with an incoming bomb, and thus impending doom, striing terror into the troops facing it by sound alone. Typical armament was one dual barrel 8 mm Mauser MG81Z machine gun with an extremely high rate of fire, one 500KG bomb and four 50KG bombs. The Battle of Stalingrad marked the high point in the career of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka.

Panzer IV

The Panzer IV was the workhorse and main tank of the German tank army during WWII. It saw combat in all theaters and was the only German tank to see production for the entire war. The Panzer IV became the most numerous tank in German divisions. Although outclassed in Stalingrad by the T-34 tank, it was initially available in far greater numbers than their Soviet counterpart. Soviet tanks were so few and far between in Stalingrad, that often times they only faced infantry for opposition. The Panzer was easy to maintain and simpler to produce than other German tanks. First produced in 1940, the 22 ton machine was progressively improved as the war went on, mainly by the addition of an improved gun, increasing the main armor and adding spacer and skirt armor to protect against anti-tank weapons. Zimmerit paste, to prevent magnetic charges from being attached to the outside armor by enemy infantry, was also introduced on the Panzer IV. About 12,000 Panzer IV tanks (derived chassis included) were produced during the war, more than twice as many as any other German tank.

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