MG34 & MG42 Machine Guns

The MG34 was the first modern, general purpose machine gun to be produced in large quantities. Various models of the MG34, with small differences, were produced for the German Wehrmacht during World War II. The MG42 was an improvement over the MG34 and much easier to manufacture. Both weapons were adopted by other countries after WW II.

Werhmacht soldier loading 50-round drum magazine on MG34
Werhmacht soldier loading 50-round drum magazine on MG34.

Today in WW II: 23 May 1943 Adm. Döntiz, commander of the German Navy, calls off the Battle of the Atlantic, recognizing that the U-boat is no longer an effective weapon.  More 
23 May 1944 Allied breakout from Anzio beachhead.
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Wehrmacht MG34 Maschinengewehr

World War II photo of U.S. Rangers firing Maschinengewehr MG34 light machine gun.  Rangers were required to be familiar with enemy weapons as well as their own
World War II photo of U.S. Rangers firing Maschinengewehr MG34 light machine gun. Rangers were required to be familiar with enemy weapons as well as their own.

MG34 (Maschinengewehr 34) was a recoil operated, air cooled light machine gun with a high cyclic rate of fire, 800 to 900 rpm. It had a quick change barrel (necessary because of overheating at the high fire rate) and was very easy to field strip. It incorporated a combined recoil booster, flash housing and barrel bearing and had an innovative high-impact plastic stock.

Specifications:

Weight with bipod 26.5 lb (12 kg)
Weight with tripod 69 lb (31 kg)
Length 4 feet (1.22 m)
Barrel length 24.6 in (0.62 m)
Muzzle velocity 2500 ft/sec (755 m/sec)
Effective range 2200 yds (2000 m)
Rate of fire 800 to 900 rpm
Ammunition 7.92 mm

Ammunition was fed from 50 round open belts, often linked together into 250 round belts, or the belts could be housed in a 50 round metal drum. Another option was the 75 round saddle drum which did not use a belt.

Wehrmacht MG42 Maschinengewehr

Captured German weapons including MG42 with saddle magazine (center) and MG34 (left of center), Tunis, Tunisia, 20 May 1943
Captured German weapons including MG15 with 75 round saddle magazine (center) and MG34 (left of center), Tunis, Tunisia, 20 May 1943. Thanks to Steve for proper ID.

MG42 (Maschinengewehr 42) was also a recoil operated, air cooled light machine gun with a very high cyclic rate of fire, 1200 rpm. Although similar in operation to the MG34, including the valuable quick change barrel, it incorporated many improvements. The MG42 was made of stampings and pressings to lower manufacturing costs, is more reliable, and has an improved feed mechanism (copied in the U.S. M60). The rugged and effective MG42 continued to be produced after World War II, modified for different cartridges, for the military of many countries.

Specifications:

Weight with bipod 25.5 lb (12 kg)
Weight with tripod 68 lb (31 kg)
Length 4 feet (1.22 m)
Barrel length 21 in (0.53 m)
Muzzle velocity 2500 ft/sec (755 m/sec)
Max effective range 2200 yds (2000 m)
Rate of fire 1200 rpm
Ammunition 7.92 mm

Books About the MG34 & MG42 Machine Guns

At the Olive-Drab.com YouTube Channel, the video Automatic Weapons: American vs. German (1943) compares the MG34 & MG42 Machine Guns to the US M-1917 .30 cal. Machine Gun and M-1919 .30 cal. Machine Gun.

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