City saves history by turning over rare StG 44 to Navy museum system (PHOTOS)

The vintage Schmeisser-designed Sturmgewehr was in police custody since 2009 and originally had been mailed by an American GI back home from Europe during WWII. (Photo: Stephen Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

The vintage Schmeisser-designed Sturmgewehr was in police custody since 2009 and originally had been mailed by an American GI back home from Europe during WWII. (Photo: Stephen Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)

A police department in Virginia sat on a seized German military rifle for almost a decade before moving to turn it over to a military museum.

The Chesapeake Police Department seized a Sturmgewehr 44 in 2009 from a felon that could no longer possess the firearm. Seeing that it had historical significance — the StG 44 is considered by many to be the first true “assault rifle” due to its select-fire design and use of an intermediate cartridge — the agency rendered it inoperable and this week moved to have the City Council approve donating the piece to the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command. The resolution was approved 8-0 on Tuesday without discussion.

Contacted by The Virginian-Pilot, the former owner said it had belonged to his grandfather, a World War II veteran who mailed it home to Iowa from Europe and had sat in the attic for years before he inherited it.

While the agency typically destroys seized weapons that can’t be returned to their owners, the StG 44 was retained and officials approached the Navy about the possible donation last fall.

“We have all of the weapons that came afterwards that were based on this design,” said Dave Manning, the command’s curator of small arms and ordnance. “But we don’t have one of these.”

The NHHC is responsible for thousands of artifacts and runs a dozen public museums across the country to include the National Museum of the U.S. Navy in Washington, DC and the Naval Academy Museum at Annapolis.

While an estimated 426,000 StG44s were produced during WWII, many were recycled by Eastern European militaries then went on to serve overseas in the Third World for decades (some 5,000 were allegedly discovered in a Syrian warehouse in 2015). Immediately after the war, several were brought back to the states by returning veterans. Those registered in compliance with the National Firearms Act and still transferable are worth big money — like $30,000 worth of big money.

An original J.P.Sauer & Sohns “ce” Code STG-44 Sturmgewehr Assault Rifle sold by RIAC for $28,750 in 2013. (Photo: RIAC)

They pop up at police “buybacks” from time to time as well.

In both Los Angeles in 2014 and in Connecticut in 2012, WWII-era StG44 rifles appeared. The Connecticut rifle was saved from the shredder and sold to a collector while the fate of the L.A. gun is unknown following the exchange at the buyback, but are almost always destroyed. As reported previously by, a surplus M1911 .45ACP pistol that had once been registered to performer and well-known firearms enthusiast, the late Sammy Davis Jr., was melted in 2016 despite the historical significance.

Four years ago a rare German rifle appeared at an LA buyback. Valued at $30,000 it was traded for a $200 gift card. (Photo: KCAL 9)

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