The WG-66 submachine gun might not ring a bell for most, but it’s a fascinating piece of weaponry history from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the 1960s. While simple in design, this firearm had its complexities and a story worth exploring.
In Search of a New Firearm
In 1966, the GDR’s Ministry of Defense recognized the need for a new submachine gun for their National People’s Army (NPA). The NPA was already equipped with Soviet Kalashnikov rifles and Makarov pistols, but they wanted something in between. This led to the birth of the WG-66 submachine gun project.
The GDR took inspiration from the Czechoslovakian Scorpion vz. 61 and decided to hold a competition to find the right manufacturer for their vision. Veb Geräte – und Werkzeugbau Wiesa (GWB) from Saxony stepped up to the plate.
Design and Cartridge Selection
Choosing the right cartridge was a critical early decision in the WG-66 project. They settled on the Soviet 7.62×25 mm TT cartridge due to its energy, ballistics, and compatibility with the desired weapon characteristics. Interestingly, the army already had significant reserves of these cartridges despite production halting in 1959.
The WG-66 aimed for simplicity and cost-efficiency in its design. It featured a free bolt, various firing modes, and a folding rear stock. Inside, a 7.62 mm rifled barrel was housed, complete with a slot for a suppressor. The gun’s ergonomics were somewhat lacking, but it offered two magazine options: one holding 10 rounds and another with a larger capacity of 35 rounds.
Testing and Challenges
Testing the WG-66 began in November 1967, and while its technical performance was deemed acceptable, issues with ergonomics and a heated front casing arose. As a result, modifications were required.
Initially, the NPA planned to acquire around 50,000 WG-66 submachine guns. However, economic concerns came to the forefront. Producing this model would cost no less than 410 marks per unit, while imported Scorpions were available for 290-300 marks each.
A Costly Proposition
Calculations revealed that producing the WG-66 in large quantities—around 300,000 units by 1975—would be economically viable. However, this raised concerns about production capacity and the potential surplus of submachine guns. Getting these firearms onto the international market posed challenges, and the long-term sustainability of production was in question.
The Shift to a New Cartridge
To address these challenges, the GDR Ministry of Defense explored the possibility of transitioning the WG-66 to a new cartridge, the 9×18 mm PM. This move would make the firearm lighter and reduce its cost to around 330 marks per unit. However, this proposal didn’t receive the necessary support, as the military had already lost faith in the WG-66.
The End of the WG-66 Saga
In early 1970, the WG-66’s fate was sealed. The Ministry of Defense ordered the cessation of all work on this submachine gun model. Instead, the NPA turned to foreign-made firearms, marking the end of the WG-66’s brief but intriguing journey.
In retrospect, the WG-66, while ultimately unsuccessful, offers a glimpse into the complexities of firearms development during the Cold War era. Its story highlights the delicate balance between performance, cost-effectiveness, and market competition in the world of weaponry. Although it didn’t achieve the recognition of some of its counterparts, the WG-66 remains an intriguing piece of firearms history.