Nazi Germany's Sturmgewehr 44 (also known as StG44), dating back to the last years of World War II, literally invented the term 'assault rifle' (which is no more than 'Sturmgewehr' translated into English).
Every so-called assault rifle manufactured since the Second World War owes its categorization, and most elements of its design, to the original weapon. Wikipedia describes it thus:
The rifle was chambered for the 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge. This shorter version of the German standard (7.92×57mm) rifle round, in combination with the weapon's selective-fire design, provided a compromise between the controllable firepower of a submachine gun at close quarters with the accuracy and power of a Karabiner 98k bolt-action rifle at intermediate ranges. While the StG 44 had less range and power than the more powerful infantry rifles of the day, Army studies had shown that few combat engagements occurred at more than 300 m and the majority within 200 m. Full-power rifle cartridges were excessive for the vast majority of uses for the average soldier.
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The assault rifle proved a valuable weapon, especially on the Eastern front, where it was first deployed. A properly trained soldier with a StG 44 had an improved tactical repertoire, in that he could effectively engage targets at longer ranges than with an MP 40, but be much more useful than the Kar 98k in close combat, as well as provide covering fire like a light machine gun. It was also found to be exceptionally reliable in extreme cold. The StG 44's rate of fire varied between 550 and 600 rpm.
A primary use of the MP 44/StG 44 was to counter the Soviet PPS and PPSh-41 submachine guns ... The StG 44, while lacking the range of the Kar 98k, had a considerably longer range than the PPS/PPSh submachine guns, more power, a comparable rate of fire, an ability to switch between a fully automatic and a default semi-automatic fire mode and surprising accuracy ... Furthermore, the StG 44's inline design gave it controllability even on full-auto. In short, the StG 44 provided the individual user with unparalleled firepower compared to that of all earlier handheld firearms, warranting other countries to soon embrace the assault rifle concept.
There's more at the link.
After World War II, thousands of StG 44's were captured by Soviet forces and distributed to their new client states in Eastern Europe. From there, as they were replaced by Soviet AK-47's and other weapons, the former German guns were exported to clients in Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria and Iraq. US forces reportedly found many of them in Iraq during the Iraq War. In 2012, the Free Syrian Army stumbled upon a container filled with 5,000 StG 44's, and posted this video of their discovery.
Now comes news that Syrian rebels have adapted the venerable StG 44 to a remote-controlled 'robot' weapon. War Is Boring reports:
The Syrian civil war is producing a multitude of remotely-operated, custom-made killing machines — sniper rifles and machine guns which a shooter can trigger remotely with the push of a button.
Remotely-operated guns are common in militaries around the world. The United States has thousands of them mounted on tanks and other armored vehicles. The U.S. Marine Corps is testing a smaller machine-gun robot called MAARS, and other gun-bots have appeared in South Korea, Israel and Russia.
But their adoption by rebel groups is an innovation arising from an intermingling of war, cheap personal computers and cameras. The devices typically use cables to hook up the guns to control stations. Aside from the gun, a complete setup only costs a few hundred bucks worth of off-the-shelf components and some technical skills.
After that, it’s just a matter of swiveling the now-teleoperated gun with a joystick, gamepad or a keyboard and triggering the firing mechanism.
It’s a highly effective means of denying an area to the enemy while covering one’s self from fire.
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And the types of weapons are as diverse as the firearms seen in the conflict. FSA rebels in Aleppo ... even converted a World War II-era German StG-44 into a remotely-triggered sniper rifle.
Again, more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis. Here's the FSA remote weapons system.
So an original 'assault rifle' manufactured in 1944/45 is still fighting on the front lines of battle more than 70 years later - and gussied up with the latest technology to boot! I bet Hitler never dreamed of that possibility . . . Soviet AK-47's made in the 1950's are still around (some still in service), and US first-generation M16's from the Vietnam War era are popular with collectors (and very expensive); but every one of them can bend a knee to the ancestor of them all.
(It's not just assault rifles from World War II that are still fighting. It's reported that land-mines laid by the millions during that conflict, and never removed, are now being dug up by ISIS and emptied of explosives to supply materials for improvised explosive devices. Read more at the link.)
If only it were legal to import those Syrian StG 44's to the USA, there are collectors here who would pay through the nose to own an example of the world's first and original assault rifle. If only . . .