The German Maschinengewehr 42 was the successor of the Maschinengewehr 34 air-cooled general-purpose machine gun firing the standard 7.92 × 57 mm Mauser rifle ammunition. The development of new machine gun was initiated in the late 1930s, when it was found that the MG 34 was too well made and, therefore, too expensive and time-consuming to produce in sufficient numbers.
The new machine gun, designated MG 39/41, was made of stamped and cast metal parts, where the MG 34 had used machined steel parts. The MG 42 was spot-welded, and its stock and pistol grip were made of Bakelite plastic to speed production. A small production batch of 1500 MG 39/41 machine guns entered combat trials in 1941, and the weapon was redesignated MG 42 when it was officially taken into production in 1942. The MG 42 proved to be more reliable than the MG 34, it was lighter, more robust, required less metal and only 75 man-hours to produce, compared to nearly 150 man-hours for the MG 34.
The MG 42 served as a squad light machine gun, or sustained fire medium machine gun like the MG 34, but it could not be used as a tank machine gun, because its square section barrel housing did not fit the machine gun port in tank cupolas.
Available Scale Model Kits
- MG 42 Gunner "Helmut", 1:6 Dragon 70236
- German Infantry Weapons Set, 1:35 Tamiya 35111
- MG 42 Machine Guns (5 ea, Vehicle Accessories), 1:76 Vac-U-Cast VA-104
- Maschinengewehr 42
- Type: air-cooled recoil operated general purpose machine gun
- Calibre: 7.92 mm
- Cartridge: 7.92 × 57 mm Mauser
- Length: 1220 mm
- Barrel Length: 627 mm
- Weight: 11.57 kg with bipod
- Feed System: 50/200-round belt, or 50-round drum magazine
- Muzzle Velocity: 820 m/s
- Muzzle Energy: 3600–5000 J
- Effective Range:
- 800 m on bipod
- 3000–3500 m on tripod
- Rate of Fire: 1,500 rounds/min
- Manufacturer: Großfuß, Mauser Werke, Gustloff Werke, and others
- Production: 1942–1945 (750,000 units)
- Service: 1942–1959
After the war, the belt-feeding mechanism of the MG 34 and MG 42 was adopted for the design of the US Army's new M60 machine gun. Modifications of the MG 42 resulted in the MG 42/59 and Rheinmetall MG3, the general purpose machine gun of the modern German Bundeswehr and many other NATO forces.