Shooting around Corners without leaving your Head out in the Open
Guns that shoot around corners are more than grist for the mill of an old Bugs Bunny plot in a Saturday morning cartoon. They’re real, and were first used, with limited success, by the German army in World War II. The weapon in question was the STG44 Krummlauf, a variant of the standard STG44 assault rifle. Why on earth would you want to shoot around a corner? The better question is why on earth wouldn’t you? It’s a lot safer than standing out in broad daylight where the enemy can take shots at you any old time they like. Read on to learn more about this amazing, short-lived, and very rare weapon.
Creating the Krummlauf – (English: “curved barrell”)
German engineers during the war were perhaps the best and most creative in the world. They were literally weeks from producing their own atomic bomb when Berlin finally fell. Rarely a week goes by that some bit of forgotten Nazi genius isn’t shown on the History Channel, so it’s no surprise they were the first to invent a gun that could shoot around corners.
They started with a standard STG44 assault rifle, and outfitted it with a special barrel attachment that curved either 30 or 45 degrees. How the heck do you aim something like that from a position of safety? The Germans thought of that and installed a periscope sighting device that allowed the weapon’s operator to at least have a chance of hitting the target. Tests at the time showed that a skilled marksman could put a group of bullets in a 35x35cm square at 100 meters. There were a few problems to be overcome before the so-called “corner shot” rifle could be pressed into service on the battlefield.
Almost immediately, engineers realized that the curved barrel would have a short life span. For the 30 degree model, 300 rounds was the maximum number of bullets that could be safely fired before the barrel failed and broke apart. The 45 degree version was even less sturdy, firing only about 160 rounds. The curved trajectory put both barrel and round under great stress. Bullets tended to break apart into multiple fragments, like a shotgun, from the undue pressure of having its path forcibly changed.
The workaround solution the engineers came up with was to drill small vents in the barrel to release the gas pressure driving the bullet. The result was a slower velocity (and shorter range) for the weapon. There was no discernible effect in making the barrel longer-lasting. The vents created an unintended consequence when the hot gases from the vent would blow back into the user’s face.
Real World Use – CornerShot
According to Rock Island Auctions, 20,000 units of the STG44 Krummlauf were ordered but only 500 were delivered to be used on the battlefield. The curved rifle was intended to be be mounted inside armored vehicles and tanks, on a turret up top, that allowed for a full 360 degree field of fire while the trigger man remained safely inside the vehicle.
U.S. troops didn’t know what to think of this curved barrel anomaly. It was likely considered to be a joke weapon that did little or nothing to change the course of the war. Still, there are more than a dozen countries that have experimented with variations on the corner shot idea in recent years. None have gained widespread use in police or military applications, though (unsurprisingly) the Israelis have been as successful as anyone.
Like the Krummlauf, the CornerShot is an accessory meant to be attached to a traditional weapon. Current CornerShot configurations support such pistols as the Beretta, SIG Sauer, and Glock. There is even a 40mm grenade launcher variant when you need more power. The CornerShot was developed by Lt. Col. Amos Golan of the Israeli Defense Forces, with financial backing from American investors. The weapon is able to take on a variety of mounted accessories including cameras, visible and infrared lasers, flashlights, suppressors, and rubber bullets. Future plans to make it available for the United States M-16 are underway.
Was the Krummlauf gambit a desperate attempt for Hitler’s troops to gain advantage in the final days of losing a war? Perhaps. The bottom line with this attempt to shoot around corners is that it is difficult to defeat the laws of physics. A bullet put into high velocity motion wants to continue in a straight path. To shift that path to a noticeable extent incurs the wrath of Mother Nature. Even though there have been subsequent attempts to achieve a result similar to what the Nazi regime was after, results have not met with widespread success, even with modern materials and technology. For now, those brandishing weapons will have to continue to expose themselves to return fire, which is never much fun.