The MG 34 was the German armies standard machine gun upon entering into WWII and is recognized as one of the best machine guns in military history. It was, however, expensive and laborious to produce, which led to the introduction of the MG 42. These guns highlight the high watermarks of machine gun design in WWII.

Learn everything a collector should know about the MG 42 and the MG 34. Find out what differentiates the two, and why the German MG’s were superior to the Allied forces machine guns throughout WWII.

The German MG 42 Machine Gun: History, Features, and Collectors Facts

When the Maschinengewehr (MG) 1942 machine gun entered WWII, it earned the name, “Hitler’s Buzzsaw.” The MG 42 fired at nearly twice the rate of any other machine gun, except for the MG 34. In fact, the MG 34 set the standard for the world’s best general-purpose machine gun at the beginning of the War. 

The MG 42 was such an effective general-purpose machine gun, and so widespread across the german military, that it forced the US Military to produce misinformation. WW2 MG 42 propaganda films were produced for US troops, which depicted the effectiveness of the MG machine guns as inferior to that of the American machine guns

The film claims that “their bark is worse than their bite,” depicting the German guns as highly inaccurate in combat. Allied forces, however, were dispelled of this notion when they reached Europe. Despite the effectiveness of Allied combat tactics, the MG 34 and MG 42 were the finest performing general-purpose machine guns on the battlefield in WWII. 

Comparing the MG 42 to the MG 34

The MG 34 was an infantry support machine gun that was highly maneuverable and extremely accurate. It featured an automatic fire rate of up to 900 rounds per minute, as well as semi-automatic firing. For the German Army, the biggest drawback to the MG 34 was the cost of production. 

The MG 42 was in response to the high maintenance aspects of the MG 34. The 34 was highly accurate and produced a high-rate of firepower, but relied on precision manufacturing and high-quality metals. This made the MG 34 expensive and slow to manufacture, unlike the MG 42. 

The MG 42 hinged on a design meant for mass production. Even though the German army continued to produce the MG 34 until the end of the war, it was heavily supplemented by the MG 42.

The manufactured parts were welded together by hand, but the rest was done by machine. The MG 42 was produced using stamped and pressed metals, saving over 30% of the manufacturing time. The gun fired 7.92mm ammunition from a 50-round chain or 250-round ammunition belt. 

German Machine Guns in Combat: The Pros and Cons of the MG 42

The MG 42 was a well-designed machine gun for the European battlefields of WWII. One of its greatest innovations was a removable barrel that allowed the soldier to remain behind cover when changing barrels. The weapon was so effective against Allied troops that the Germans placed MG 42 gunners in the front lines of their infantry, with riflemen behind the machine guns for support. 

The gun, however, had several drawbacks. It was known to overheat easily, which counteracted the effectiveness of its high rate of fire. If a soldier held continuous fire for too long, it was out of commission. 

Even though the MG 42 could fire at a higher rate than any other gun in the world doesn’t mean it was unstoppable. For all the fear it produced in Allied troops, the MG 42 machine gun used so much ammunition that each platoon included eight additional men, just to carry ammunition. So, for every four MG 42’s, the Americans had five Vicker machine guns. 

Find an MG42 at Gun Auction

The MG 42 showed the world a terrifying new type of firepower that changed warfare forever. When under fire, Allied troops had little choice but to bunker down and wait for the German gunners to reload, change barrels, or for an allied tank to provide reinforcement. But, at the end of the day, one bullet that hits the target is better than 10-bullets that miss. 

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