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Maschinengewehr Modell 42 (MG42) General Purpose Machine Gun (1942)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/31/2014

The cheaper-to-produce MG42 was much loved by its Wehrmacht users and respected by the Allies who faced it.

The MG 42 (full designation of Maschinengewehr Modell 42) was a direct result of the small arms shortages that plagued Germany through the middle and later years of the war. The system was designed from the outset to be easy to manufacture and produce in large quantities. As such, the weapon borrowed heavily from the visual appearance of the equally successful MG34 system with some of the manufacturing breakthroughs encountered in the development of the MP40 submachine gun.

The MG42 was a large suppression weapon that was engineered to fire an impressive 1,200 rounds per minute. Because of this rate of fire, the system was also developed with the ability to change the barrel in under six seconds for a trained machine gunner. Firing the Mauser 7.92x57mm cartridge, the MG42 could let loose a lethal volley of hot lead from its 50-round ammunition belt. Designed as both a portable bipod-mounted or tripod-mounted system, the MG42 was a deadly portable weapon. The bipod mounting was prone to degrade the accuracy of the weapon whereas the tripod mount offered up great stability.

Between the MG34 and the newer MG42, the MG42 improved on the internal working components with an entirely new locking mechanism. The MG42 still retained the use of the same ammunition belts and ammunition so the two weapons could feed off of one other from a logistical sense very capably. By the end of the war, the MG42 was the weapon of choice over the MG34 for the German Army. Equally, the Allied forces grew so conscious of the lethality inherent in the MG42 that the very sound of the machine gun firing was noticeable to any trained infantryman - and the sensing of impending danger ahead. If the MG42 system had any drawbacks, it was in that the system required an awful lot of attention in terms of maintenance. Dirt and battlefield debris would regularly cause jamming if left unchecked.

The MG42 would later be used as the basis for the post-war MG3 General Purpose Machine Gun for use in the new modern German Army - but this time firing the NATO-standard 7.62mm round. The American-made M60 General Purpose Submachine Gun would also owe some of its design development to captured German MG42s in post-war.

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Specifications for the
Maschinengewehr Modell 42 (MG42)
General Purpose Machine Gun

Country of Origin: Nazi Germany
Manufacturer: Mauser-Werke AG among others - Germany
Initial Year of Service: 1942

Overall Length: 1219mm (47.99in)
Barrel Length: 0.00mm (0.00in)
Weight (Empty): 25.35lbs (11.50kg)

Caliber: 7.92x57mm Mauser
Action: Belt-Fed Breech Locking Mechanism
Feed: 50-Round Belt
Rate-of-Fire: 1,200 rounds per minute

Nazi Germany