The Maschine Gewehr 42 (German for Machine Gun 42), also simply known as the MG 42, was a machine gun that was used by Germany during World War II.


The MG 42 had an extremely high rate of fire compared to other weapons at the time. It could fire 1,200 to 1,500 rounds per minute. Since the bullets are traveling at such a great speed, the human ear can not easily distinguish the sound of individual bullets firing. This distinctive ripping noise earned it the name "Hitler's buzzsaw" or "Hitler's zipper". The MG 42 fired 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser cartridges and used a recoil clearing system, and had an air-cooling system mounted on barrel exterior.[1]

The MG 42 was designed as a successor to the costly MG 34. And, while it sometimes replaced the older machine gun, both weapons were manufactured and used throughout World War II. The MG 42 was much more forgiving in raw materials and production costs than its predecessor, while maintaining maximum functionality and reliability. [2]

The weight of the MG 42 was about 11.5 kilograms and the length was 121.9 centimeters.[3] It also could be fed by a 50 round drum or 250 round cloth belt that was fed into the gun and it could not only be mounted on a bipod, but a tripod as well.

Captured MG 42 on Lafette tripod in the American sector, Normandy 1944

A Lafette 43 stationary tripod mount.

Several different mounts for the MG 42 existed. Standard bipods were collapsible and light for mobility and infantry support. Two types of tripods existed, the stationary and anti-air variants. The stationary tripod, the Lafette 42, was a large apparatus that surrounded the weapon. It featured adjustable knobs for straight vertical and horizontal movement, and some models even possessed a telescopic sight on the rear right horizontal strut. The anti-air tripod was a simple device akin to that of a photographer's tripod, complete with an extendable neck.

Other mounts include the "Zwillingsocket 42", a dual-mounted version for air defense.[4]

The MG 42 had to have its barrel removed and replaced after about 150 bullets. This was caused by extreme over-heating which itself is caused by the high rate of fire.[5] One drawback of the MG 42 besides overheating was that it was susceptible to failure caused by dirt clogging, but only in the most extreme of conditions.

The machine gun's accuracy also left much to be desired compared to its contemporaries, but it made up for this with its excessive rate of fire. [6]


Waffen-SS Officer in Caen with an MG 42, 1944

A Waffen-SS officer in Caen with an MG 42.

The MG 42 was used on all fronts that German forces were present and it was also captured and used by Allied forces. The MG 42 was so tough an adversary for Allied troops that during training, troops were taught to know the distinctive sound of the MG 42. Other distinctive features of the MG 42 were the side handle and and single trigger.[7] It was also used in famous battles such as the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of Cherbourg.

The MG 42 eventually became the inspiration for a plethora of modern machine guns including the German MG3, the Austrian MG 74, the American M60, the Spanish CETME Ameli, the Swiss MG 710-3 and MG 51, and some components for the Belgian FN MAG.


  4. MG 34 and MG 42 Machine Guns, page 56

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