MG-42 – Basics and Firing

Last piece of footage from 2018’s visit to Battlefield: Vegas. I should actually have one more video to upload since I paid to shoot the Reising SMG, but the person working the till/reception clearly didn’t know what that was, didn’t articulate it correctly on the receipt that the RSOs work from when pulling the guns from the racks and I got so caught up in things I forgot to remedy the issue myself before leaving. This also came close to happening to me in 2017 when I shot the BAR since that also was missed from my trolley though luckily on that occasion I realised the mistake myself just as I was about to leave the premises.

I know it’s an incredibly busy venue and there’s a TON of weaponry floating around so this isn’t me saying the staff are all out to scam you by any means, but this was something I meant to mention in a full updated review of BFV which I never got around to so I’ll mention it here instead. If you go just remember you’re paying a lot and it’s a unique experience so don’t get too carried away in the moment and miss out on anything you’ve shelled out for.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. Since I mentioned the MG-42 in the previous post about the Garand I might as well slightly elaborate here. As discussed previously there was a stark contrast between US/Allied doctrine and German doctrine for the infantry. The US standardised on a self-loading infantry rifle (the Garand) in the 1930s, but Germany focused heavily on the MG and manufactured over 14 million K98 pattern bolt-actions for the majority of their forces to use with only around 1 million self-loaders produced – and that’s if you combine the G-41, G-43 and Stg44 production numbers all together.

Now the MG-34 that preceded the 42 had already been a successful general purpose machine gun (unlike the more specific weapons of WW1) however the 34 uses an incredibly complex receiver painstakingly machined from billet, which Forgotten Weapons of course has a great video showing off. Germany naturally wanted a gun that could be produced far faster and more economically, so the 42 makes extensive usage of stampings. The Stg44 is also a largely stamped gun and as we know an infamously successful one. On a related note, original AK-47 type rifles were in fact stamped but when the Russians couldn’t get that quite right they temporarily switched to heavy, expensive machined receivers only to then go back to stampings for the AKM a few years later (as soon as they’d figured the stamping out, likely with the help of a few former Nazi engineers).

The MG-42 fires the same 7.92x57mm cartridge as the K98 that most troops were equipped with and does so at a rate of roughly 1200 rounds per minute – for reference an ROF is more like 600 is typical of other guns of the period. The locking of the action is accomplished via roller delay very much like the entire G3/MP5 family of weapons that came after WW2, so there is no gas piston or gas system of any kind on the MG-42, unlike the Bren gun or BAR. Just one of a great many of examples of how this weapon’s legacy post WW2 is surprisingly wide in scope. Being stamped with looser tolerances than the MG-34 and featuring an ingeniously simplistic operating mechanism, the 42 proved to be a lot more rugged and reliable in use, although the fact it fires so quickly and requires frequent barrels changes made it less than ideal for use in the cramped confines of tanks and the like so the MG-34 was pushed in to vehicular mounts in most instances.

Doctrine placed the MG at the heart of the German squad. In the ‘light’ role the 3 man team for the MG-42 consisted of not just the gunner himself but an assistant gunner and another man dedicated to carrying ammunition. Other riflemen in the squad could also potentially carry a tri-pod or more belts of 7.92 for the MG alongside their K98ks. Given the very high ROF logistics was of course an issue so the gunner had to keep his bursts short and controlled, but even then keeping the beast fed was very much a team effort.

A great number of nicknames emerged for the weapon on account of the fact that at 1200 RPM the human ear cannot pick up the individual shots, instead a continuous cutting or ripping noise is heard when the gun runs at its’ intended speed. Even the incredibly old and well worn example I am firing in this video is still firing at a higher rate than is normal for the vast majority of small arms throughout history.

Many elements of the 42 live today within the MG3 and FN MAG series (e.g. British GPMG and US M240). With the MAG for example the bi-pod and trigger mechanism are almost literally identical to those on the 42, the top cover/feed mech is also incredibly similar as is the attachment for the butt stock. The 50 round drums that were originally produced for the MAG also share characteristics with drums used on the MG-42.

The MG3 was used extensively in the German military right up until the early 2010s and as far as I can tell is still in quite extensive service with various countries around the world even though is it borderline identical to the MG-42. It is finally entering the era of being phased out by newer designs like the HK MG5 in some places, but it’s taken a great many decades of development for anybody to come up with something objectively better.

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