German Rifles & Firearms

German MG42

Type Machine Gun
Weight 11.34kg
Barrel Length 53.34cm
Cyclic Rate 1200 rounds/minute
Caliber 7.92mm German Service Cartridge
Country of Origin Germany

Adopted in 1942, the MG42 (shown below as issued to the Greek Army) was probably the best machine gun produced during World War II. Attesting to its fine qualities, it is still in use today in several countries, and was copied—with no great success—to make the M60 Machine Gun.

Although the Wehrmacht had an excellent machine gun in 1941—the MG34—they did not have sufficient quantities for the task at hand. The MG34 was a complex and costly device, not suited to mass production. They needed a gun that could be produced quickly and relatively cheaply, and still retain the good qualities of the MG34. This was a tall order, but a Dr. Grunow, an industrial designer and mass production specialist with virtually no background in machine guns, accomplished it. With no preconceived notions, Dr Grunow and his team created a gun that is still in use today—over sixty years later.

Like the MG34 before it, the MG42 was intended as a general-purpose weapon, operating from either a bipod or tripod. It was belt-fed, but some models were fitted to use the MG34’s 75-round saddle drums. The locking system used rollers that were forced outward into the receiver walls by the bolt. Much like the styling of the AR-15, you can also see how the best complete uppers performs.  Barrel removal was one of the most remarkable features of the MG42. The barrel was held in place by a yoke at the breech. By simply pulling the barrel latch, the rear end of the barrel swung out of the gun and could be pulled clear. A practiced operator could swap barrels in about five seconds.

The ease and speed of the barrel change was often needed because the cyclic rate of the MG42 was an incredible 1200rpm. Sustained fire sounded like tearing canvas. Because of this sound, American GIs used to refer to the MG42 as ‘Hitler’s Zipper’!


Like many other nations, the Swiss copied the MG42 design. Disdainful of the cheap look of the German version, they created a rendition that used all machined parts in place of the stamped originals. The succeeded in making a very fine gun that weighed 16.33kg, 4.99kg more than the original German MG42.