MG 42 Maschinengewehr General Purpose Machine Gun
According to many World War II combat veterans, one of the most terrifying sounds in the world was the distinctive “rip” of a Nazi MG 42 general-purpose machine gun. Capable of firing-off over 1,200 rounds per minute (rpm), the Maschinengewehr (shortened, MG) was indeed a weapon which demanded both fear and respect.
One of the most reliable and mass-produced machine guns of the Second World War, German infantrymen regularly insulated themselves against Allied assaults by assailing enemy troops with an almost impenetrable curtain of hot lead. Its fearsome volume of fire earned the MG many nicknames, including “Hitler’s buzz saw” and the “linoleum ripper.”
The Mauser-style series of German machine guns saw extensive use, on multiple fronts, over the course of both world wars. The precursor to the MG 42, the MG 34, was introduced during the early interwar period, easily outperforming its American and European counterparts, such as the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and the Bren gun. Subsequent models, included the MG 34S and the MG 39, eventually led to the adoption of the MG 42. Each successive revision corrected prior design flaws, such as the MG 34’s sensitivity to dirt and grit. Years of research and field testing culminated in one of the finest machine guns ever produced.
To be fair, many people have often embellished upon the MG’s cyclic rate of fire over the years. Both the MG 34 and MG 42 were issued with various firing mechanisms that dictated their desired firing rates. When configured for antiaircraft operations, the MG could be fired in bursts that exceeded 1,200 rpm. More often, however, the machine guns were employed as antipersonnel weapons, delivering approximately 950 rpm. The real value of the MG series of machine guns rested with their cooling rate and easily exchangeable barrels, which allowed for greater sustained rates of fire than Allied machine guns; a feature that undoubtedly turned the tide of many engagements.