Firearms

Firearm of the Week, the Maschinengewehr 42 Light Machine Gun (LMG), Machine Gun of 1942, MG42

The need arose on the battlefield for an easily transportable machine gun to compliment the German Blitzkrieg, a new type of warfare. The High Command placed the MG30, which had promise, into the hands of the artist Paul Mauser. This resulted in the Machine Gun of 1934, or MG34. However, as with most German weapons of that era, it was complicated and it did not react well to dust. Can you say Tiger Tank?

Machine Gun of 1934 MG34
The lock of the MG34 was so complex and required such fine manufacturing tolerances that it was prone to wear down in dirty and dusty environments. This would cause a catastrophic and permanent failure. However, it still was a very successful weapon and it was instrumental through out the Second World War. Nevertheless, a better weapon was waiting in the wings.

That weapon would be the Maschinengewehr 42 Machine Gun of 1942 or just the MG42. The allies in World War II feared no single weapon more. It possessed an unbelievable rate of fire—around 1,200 to 1,500 rounds per minute! At its best, the MG34 could reach 1,200 rounds per minutes, but this was unsustainable and quickly wore the lock and barrel out. The MG34 was a great basic idea that suffered from over-engineering. Can you say Tiger Tank?

Machine Gun of 1942 MG42
When compared to other machine guns of the time, like the French FM 24/29 LMG at 450 rpm, the Browning 1917 M17A1 LMG at 600 rpm, the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) at 500-600 rpm, and the Japanese Type 11 LMG at 400-450 rpm, the MG42 had no equals. To help deal with the sound of this terrifying weapon, American soldiers had to watch training films so they knew what to expect from the MG42. The distinctive sound the gun made prompted soldiers to give it nicknames such as Hitler’s Bonesaw, Hitler’s Buzzsaw, or Hitler’s Zipper.

When fired, a monstrous cartridge exited the muzzle. The 7.92×57 Mauser, which when rounded up represents the 8mm Mauser, which is what we have come to know it. With around 2,700 ft-lbs of kinetic energy, this caused a storm of overpowering projectiles to fill the air. It was inescapable in most circumstances when caught in the field of fire.

9.3X62-30-06-8X57 Mauser-6.5X55-.308
At that rate of fire, the barrels would quickly become too hot and start to melt. However, the real genius of the gun was the ability to change barrels within seconds by an experienced gunner. Technically speaking it is roller-locked, short recoil operated, gas assisted, belt feed, light machine gun. That just sounds cool. Easily carried as a light infantry weapon, or used as suppressing fire from a mounted position, it would soon become an invaluable weapon for the Germans. The fact is that it was the best light machine gun of World War II, hands down.

As history tells us, it would not be enough to win the war. At places like Utah and Omaha beaches, it was evil personified and would leave its mark on history like no other gun before or after. It would see battlefields in the bitter cold of the Russian Steppes and the burning deserts of Africa. The MG42 was home in either condition. With almost 400,000 built during World War II, it was everywhere.

MG42 on the Job with belt fed drum magazine
At the end of the war, the original blueprints would disappear and the true MG42s would pass into history as very collectible masterpieces. Yugoslavia would produce a version known only as the Model 53. It makes one wonder where those blueprints went. Germany would produce versions as late as 1958 and 1959. These later version MG42/58 and MG42/59 would become the MG2 and MG3 respectfully. The American M60 would take many ideas from the MG42 design. Next to the M1 Garand, there was not a more effective and superior weapon on the battlefields of World War II.

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Comments (3)

  1. read twice that we tried, & stupidly failed, to back-engineer, adopt, the ’42 after WW2 (wow); ended up w/ M60, a relatively bad design; would like to see a non-belt-drum-fed version, w/ various drum-capacities (50,75,100,150?); w/ good ammo-bearer, that would be quite an improvement in continuity of fire, over belt-changing under live, effective, suppressive fire; also nice in the assault, & keep ammo cleaner, eliminate brass belts shining

  2. I HAVE OWNED AN MG42, 1919A4 AND STILL OWN A MG34.
    I HAVE BEEN IN THE FIREARMS MANUFACTURING BUSINESS FOR OVER 50 YEARS.
    THE MG34 IS BUILT LIKE A SWISS WATCH, THE MACHINING IS BEAUTIFUL.
    THE MG42 IS LIKE A “MADE IN JAPAN” POST WAR TONKA TOY. I BEATS ITSELF TO DEATH.
    THE MG42 LIKE THE FG42 AND THE MP44 WERE DESIGNED AS DISPOSABLE WEAPONS TO BE CARRIED BY DISPOSABLE TROOPS.
    THE GERMAN HIGH COMMAND FELT THAT IF THESE WEAPONS SURVIVED MORE THAT ONE BATTLE THEY WERE AHEAD OF THE GAME. I DO NOT MEAN WEARING OUT BUT BEING CAPTURE OR DESTROYED IN COMBAT. THE BATTLEFIELD STATISTICS PROVED THIS OUT.
    THIS PHILOSOPHY CARRIED ON WITH SAME ENGINEERS DEVELOPING THE POST WAR CETME AND THE H&K G SERIES RIFLES AND SMG’S.
    IN THE RUN UP TO ‘D’ DAY THE U.S. TOOLED UP TO BUILD THE MG42 IN US CAL.30.
    THE PRODUCTION CAPACITY WAS SET TO START AT AROUND 400 A DAY. IN THE RUSH TO HAVE THEM FOR THE INVASION THEY MADE ONE ERROR, THEY FORGOT TO ALLOW FOR THE DIFFERENCE IN THE CARTRIDGE LENGTH. FEED TRAY WAS OK, BUT THE TIMING WAS OFF IN THE BOLT TRAVEL. THE ENTIRE PROJECT WAS CANCELED. TO REMAKE THE DIES WOULD HAVE TAKEN TOO LONG.
    THERE IS ONE SEQUESTERED AT THE SPRINGFIELD ARMORY MUSEUM IN SPRINGFIELD MA. MOST PEOPLE THINK IT IS A GERMAN MADE M34 AT FIRST GLANCE. SPECIAL PERMISSION IS NEEDED TO SEE IT.

    I HAVE U.S. MADE BELTS THAT I USE IN MY MG34.
    IN MY OPINION THE BROWNING 1919A4-A6 ARE THE BEST OF ALL THE WW2 LMG’S THEY ARE THE MOST DURABLE AND RELIABLE OF THEM ALL.

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