I got upset with my high school quarterback the other day – kid can’t throw a damn corner route to save his life. It’s not that hard! Just a three-step dropback, let the receiver get a little bit of separation, and let it go. At any rate, kid can’t get it. Claims that his throwing arm just can’t get the job done – not strong enough. Look, kid, I don’t give a shit if your mom took thalidomide when she got knocked up with you – I’m just asking you to make the play. Let the receiver curve around the cornerback, and that’ll help you make it happen.
Fitting that we’re talking about a weapon that’s all about trying to get curvature happening this week. Was it more effective than my misfit student? Let’s find out!
Country of origin: Germany
Purpose built: To curve bullets around objects when firing
Years used: 1943-44
What is it? Well, it’s not a weapon in and of itself, that’s for sure. The Krummlauf was actually an attachment available for a variety of Nazi firearms used during World War II, including both rifle-sized and tank-sized versions. The most common of these, however, was the version designed for the standard-issue Sturmgewehr-44 assault rifle, the most common weapon used amongst German infantry during the war.
The Krummlauf (literally “curved barrel”) was produced not only for a variety of different barrel and ammunition sizes, but also with a variety of different angles of curvature – they could be found with 30-, 45-, 60-, and 90-degree curves. Of these, only the 30-degree version was produced in any notable quantity.
In order to be aimed effectively, the Krummlauf also came with a periscope attachment for the barrel, in order to allow the user to see around or over the obstacle in front of them.
Ultimately, the Krummlauf, like many of the other far-fetched Nazi weapons, did not end up turning the tide in their favor in the final years of the war. While it did, in fact, technically work, it ultimately was not a reliable enough design to use on a routine basis for German troops.
Why didn’t it work? The 30-degree barrel had a lifespan of only about 300 rounds, which is an incredibly short amount of usable time; because of the nature of its design, gases in the barrel would build up to extreme pressures, causing the bullets to fracture; when the fragments exited the end of the barrel, it ended up creating an unintended shotgun effect – somewhat useful at a close range, but not effective at all for any target at a distance.
The Nazis attempted to deal with the pressure buildup in the barrel by adding a few ventilation holes in order to allow for the gases to release as the bullet was fired, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough to effect the structural integrity of the bullet (or lack thereof, really) in any meaningful way.
For the 90-degree barrel, the lifespan was even shorter – it could only fire 160 rounds in total before being completely obliterated. Ultimately, the cost of the barrel attachment versus its effectiveness led it to it falling into disuse.
What could make it better?
Barrel’s gotta be able to last a hell of a lot longer than just 300 rounds of firing, and the ammo needs to be made better so that it won’t just fracture when placed under pressure as it enters the curved part of the barrel. Yes, those two are obvious, but to me, maybe try experimenting with a titanium alloy or something in order to make the design better? I dunno. I know football, not metallurgy.
As it turns out, there have been a few designs trying to accomplish the same goal as the Krummlauf – albeit with far different designs than the German version. The British periscope rifle, invented by Australian Lance-Corporal William Beech, was a modified Lee-Enfield rifle connected to a periscope, fired by pulling a trigger – it was used in the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War. In more recent years, the Israeli Defence Force developed a high-tech weapon known as the CornerShot – it features a small-calibre handgun mounted on a hinged chassis, attached to a video camera. The weapon can be pointed around a corner, while the camera, connected to the weapon’s sights, allows the user to aim, and also fire, at an adjustable angle. A secondary trigger is also connected, making it more comfortable and natural to hold in the hands, although the weapon’s primary trigger can also be engaged if needed.
Ultimately, I think I gotta go tell this kid to get inspired by watching the movie Wanted. If Angelina Jolie can curve a bullet just with her mind, I see no reason why his little arm can’t figure out how to throw a damn corner route. Thalidomide ain’t an excuse – it’s an opportunity.