The StG 44. Or Sturmgewehr 44. Or MP 4 - y'know what, who cares about the name? Let's just get straight to the point. The StG 44 is documented as the first successful assault rifle. Nazi technology controlled by Hitler. Sieg heil.
Anyway, if anyone tells you that the first successful assault rifle is the AK-47, give them a fistful of your knowledge. Anyway, while the StG 44 is the first successful assault rifle, it isn't the first assault rifle. In fact, a few weapons came before it. In this post, I will detail these few weapons that came before the legendary Sturmgewehr. This is: Before the Sturmgewehr.
Let's start off in the year 1893, with a very unusual British rifle.
An odd rifle by any standards, very little is known about this rifle. Its two designers used an odd slam-fire mechanism in the weapon, making it "fully automatic". Other than this, nothing is known.
The Cei-Rigotti is an Italian carbine, capable of semi-automatic or burst fire. Created in 1900, the rifle was fed from an integrated box magazine loaded by stripper clips (that's a freakin' joke, gonna take at least 20 seconds to load); reports say that some variants have a fifty round capacity. Well, that's massive. Couple that magazine capacity (doe) with a fire rate of 900 RPM and you have yourself a bullet hose that is 80 years older than a FAMAS. Other than that, not much information is available on this weapon.
The Rossignol ENT
The ENT is a French carbine. Once again, it was designed in 1900. The ENT had a much more manageable rate of fire of 600 RPM, and loaded from an actual box magazine. Now, that's innovative. For the time. Anyway, while it had a box magazine and was capable of full-auto fire, it weighed in at 20 lbs and that is never good to hear. Not much else is known.
The Federov Avtomat was a "bullpup" assault rifle made in 1915, way way way before Mikhail Kalashnikov rose to fame with his AK-47. It had a 25 round box magazine situated behind the foregrip. The gun saw use in World War I but then again, it fired so slowly that even a Browning Automatic Rifle can beat it.
The Lewis automatic rifle was a prototype rifle made around 1916, intended to compete with the Browning Automatic Rifle; while the Lewis was lighter, it was never accepted into service and never passed the prototype stages.
The Winchester Model 1907 was a blowback-operated semi-automatic rifle first produced by Winchester in their early days, in 1907. Firing the rare and obscure .351 WSL cartridge, the gun was pretty popular and sold until 1958. Many were eventually converted at the Winchester factories to incorporate full-auto fire, and used a 20 round box magazine instead of the 5 and 10 rounders they originally used.
The Winchester Machine Rifle
The Winchester Model 1917 Machine Rifle is an obscure 1917 prototype assault rifle made by the Winchester company. It featured two magazines on the top of the rifle, each holding 20 rounds and fed rounds into the gun one by one. It featured a rate of fire of 800 RPM; pretty good for a gun with only one barrel.
The Ribeyrolles is yet another French design, designed in 1918; 18 years after their unwieldy Rossignol prototype. While better than the Rossignol, it was also rejected due to accuracy problems beyond 400 meters and for it being fairly heavy, at 5.1 kilograms, including its bipod and bayonet mount.
Skipping ahead a few more years, brings us two more designs, with one being a mouthful.
The Modelo 1921 MAF
The Modelo - y'know what? I might as well just say the full name. The, ahem, Moschetto Automatico per Fanteria Tipo Terni Modelo 1921 (now that's a mouthful) is an "automatic rifle" produced in 1921. The main problem with the rifle was that it had no full-auto capabilities, making me question myself as to why in the world it is on this list. Other than this, nothing much is known, other than the fact that it has a detachable box magazine.
The Furrer Pistolengewehr
Basically, this is a giant Furrer submachine gun produced in 1921. It held 30 rounds in a stick magazine on the right side of the gun, and fired them at 700 RPM, even with that odd toggle-knee joint (which would probably be seen more often on a Luger or a Pedersen rifle than a gun of this size) on the left side.
A 1932 Danish design, the Weibel would probably be considered a LMG in modern times. Anyway, the Weibel had a 20 round detachable box magazine, along with a bipod. It fired at 400 RPM, and was pretty heavy at 25 lbs.
One year later, yet another design rises from the ashes; the Korovin Avtomat.
The Korovin Avtomat
Literally almost nothing is known of this weapon from 1933. It had an 8.9mm nominal caliber, and probably fired the .351 WSL round. Not even a picture of the magazine has surfaced. How clever.
The M35 was a series of experimental rifles from 1935. Firing an odd 7.7x40.5mm cartridge, it used a Bang-type gas trap system and fired from an open bolt. Rounds were fed by a 25-round detachable box magazine. Take that and the fact that the rifle fires at 1000 RPM and you have Hitler's original buzzsaw. Sieg heil.
A few more years have passed, and now we're in the 1940s. Yet another design rises from the ashes, this time, it's Czechoslovakian.
The final weapon on this list, this is a 1942 prototype rifle design. It did use some mechanisms similar to the later AK-47 which came 5 years later; a top mounted fixed gas piston with nested recoil spring and an under-hanging bolt carrier with a rotary bolt.
So, there you have it. A few automatic rifles that came before the Sturmgewehr. Now, let's see which came first.