It says a lot about the performance and reliability of the gun if it has been manufactured around the Second World War but still sees use today. The war itself was the largest and most destructive conflict by far in human history. As the name suggests, the war involved many countries such as America, Britain, Russia, France, China, Germany, Japan, Italy, among other countries. It cost millions of human lives. Unlike the First World War where the fights were largely two-dimensional aside from the artillery, technological advancement took the fight to the skies and deep below the waves, making the battlefield three-dimensional.

Through technological advancements, we saw some new firearms that were widely used in the war and still see use today. They have stood the test of time. It makes sense. These firearms are so effective that they radically influenced cartridges and gun designs as well. A lot of them are in use with military or insurgent forces all over the world. Some of them can be seen in the hands of police forces or civilians for recreational shooting and hunting.

Regardless of their uses, I have here a list of 10 guns from the Second World War that is still commonplace today. They are still here because of one simple reason: they are extremely effective.

1. Karabiner 98k 

Also known as the Kar 98k, it served as the main service rifle for the German Army in World War II. Alongside the StG-44, the Kar 98k was one of the most influential guns from the war. Millions of these were produced and used in virtually every corner of the European Theater of Operations. You can pretty much bet that you would see this wherever the Germans went.

Of course, the Soviets captured a truckload of these and they used them as well in both the war and subsequent conflicts. Between the 1930s and 1940s, Germany produced millions of these. In fact, you can tell roughly when the gun was put together depending on the features of the gun. Earlier models were more refined and the quality deteriorated for later models as resources ran dry for Germany. In fact, certain models did not even come with cleaning rods. Some people believe that the lack of cleaning rods suggested that the soldiers were not expected to survive long enough to need to clean their rifles, but nothing is confirmed at this point. Regardless, all models of the Kar 98k performed well. The only real difference was the features or lack thereof.

Karabiner 98k 

The rugged design and affordable price of the rifle make the Kar 98k a valid option for many fighters in various conflicts across the globe. Nowadays, you can find “sporterized” versions that are geared toward hunting and target shooting. To this day, Mauser is still cranking out excellent rifles that are worth checking out, even if you are not interested in this historical piece.

2. M1 Garand

The M1 Garand was chambered in the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. It had a reputation for hitting hard among veterans and having a hasty bite for rookies who had to learn how to reload the rifle properly the hard way. It saw use in both World War II and Korea in the hands of American infantrymen. A lot of countries over the world armed their soldiers with semi-auto rifles, but none of them achieved the same scale as the United States. General George Patton called the M1 Garand the greatest battle implements ever designed as it gave Americans a massive firepower advantage over their enemies in the field.

Since it played such a central role in the war, it was no surprise to see that many Americans looked upon this rifle with a sense of affection and reverence. While it was eventually replaced by the M14 in the 50s and 60s, the M1 Garand is still a central piece for gun collectors, shooters, and hunters alike. The United States produced over 6 million of these, so it is not that hard to find this legendary rifle at a reasonable price.

M1 Garand

3. M1 Carbine

We cannot talk about the M1 Garand without mentioning the M1 Carbine. Unlike the M1 Garand, the M1 Carbine was issued to support personnel such as truck drivers, radio operators, and artillery crews. While they did not see much action in the Second World War, they got some action in Korea and Vietnam. It was eventually phased out and found its way into the hands of gun collectors and shooters. It is chambered in the .30 Carbine cartridge, which might be tricky to find these days, it is still popular among hunters and firearm enthusiasts since the rifle is light, affordable, and packs a light recoil.

M1 Carbine

4. Lee-Enfield

The Lee-Enfield was a British rifle through and through. You could find it in the hands of British and Commonwealth soldiers in the Second World War. It was originally chambered in the .303 British cartridge and was known for being powerful and accurate.

To this day, the Lee-Enfield still holds up pretty well. It is still that reliable, accurate, and affordable rifle. Check the military surplus and chances are that you can find a Lee-Enfield sitting in the pile. I highly recommend you pick it up if you have the chance. It is an incredibly popular gun among target shooters and hunters across the globe.


5. 1903 Springfield

The 1903 was basically the Mauser rifle. The United States saw how good it was and they decided to copy the design and put their name on it. The 1903 Springfield was often seen in the hands of the American military at the start of World War II until it was replaced by the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine.

Even when M1 Garand was fully in service, many American snipers still used the 1903 Springfield and laid down hell in the form of .30-06 Springfield cartridges because it was just that accurate. For this reason, it is a popular choice for shooters, gun collectors, and hunters alike.

1903 Springfield

6. Mosin-Nagant

The Mosin-Nagant was used by Russian and Soviet Soldiers since the First World War. Over 40 million of these were manufactured, so it makes sense that you still see this in circulation today. The rifle embodies the Russian doctrine of quantity over quality as everything about the gun is very simple in design. However, that does not mean the rifle is not durable and effective. You can pick up one of these for very cheap thanks to their rugged construction and the mass quantity in the market. It is a good starting point for hunters and shooters who do not have that much money to spend.


7. Sturmgewehr 44  

Also known as the StG-44, this gun was designed and introduced by Germany in the middle of the Second World War. The look may be familiar to you for a reason. It defined the concept of an assault rifle and it was the first of its kind to be mass-produced. It is indeed an assault rifle as it is a select-fire rifle chambered in an intermediate cartridge and it has a detachable magazine. If you know a bit of German, you would know that the name, Sturmgewehr, literally translates to “assault rifle” and some people attribute that name to the infamous man himself.

The StG-44 is chambered in the 7.92×33 mm Kurtz cartridge. In terms of power and range, the StG-44 was much better compared to a sub-machinegun. In terms of rate of fire and recoil, it performed a lot better than a bolt-action with a full-powered rifle cartridge. As you can see, the StG-44 filled an important niche among infantry guns.

You might think that the StG-44 looks awfully similar to the Soviet AK-47, and you would be right. The latter takes many of the design principles from the former. Of course, Germany did not have the chance to manufacture many of these things, but you can still see them popping up in odd spots across the globe. In fact, there have been sightings of this weapon during the Syrian Civil War.

Sturmgewehr 44

8. PPSh-41  

The PPSh-41 is chambered in 7.62×25 mm, which happened to be what the CZ-52 and Tokarev used as well. This rugged sub-machinegun was used extensively by the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Although it was only good at short range, you can put a lot of lead down range. As the saying goes, the more bullets there are in the air, the higher your chance of hitting something. This sub-machinegun gave the soldiers a lot of firepower. Millions of these were produced and you could find them in the hands of forces that happened to be communists. Even to this day, the PPSh-41 is still being used by military and insurgent forces all over the world, especially in the Middle East and Africa.


9. M1911

As the name suggests, this iconic pistol was adopted by the U.S. Army back in 1911. The Colt M1911 was seen in the hands of virtually every branch of the U.S. military since the First World War. It was eventually replaced by the Beretta M9 in the 80s as a standard sidearm, some Spec Ops units still swear by the M1911. In short, it is the longest-lived service weapon in the United States. Many police forces in the U.S. still use the M1911 and it is incredibly popular among civilian shooters as well.


10. Browning Hi-Power

The Browning Hi-Power saw use on both sides of the conflict in the Second World War. It was not as widely known as other pistols such as the Luger P-08 or the Walther P-38 used by the Germans. But they also issued the Browning Hi-Power to their soldiers after they captured the FN manufacturing plan when they waltz into Belgium in 1930.

On the other hand, the Allies had the original FN blueprints and they continued to manufacture this piece in Canada after Belgium was taken. Canada, Belgium, and Nationalist Chinese armed their forces with the Hi-Power pistol and it was also issued to British SOE, SAS, and some airborne units.

The Hi-Power is still in production today and many police forces, military, and civilian shooters still swear by this versatile pistol.

Browning Hi-Power

And there you have it, folks. These are my top 10 picks for iconic guns from the Second World War. While we must acknowledge the tragedy, the loss of lives, the carnage, and the atrocity from the conflict, we also need to acknowledge the amazing technological advancement in the field that influence firearms today. If you happen to own any of these firearms, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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