MG42 file photo [5430]

MG 42 Machine Gun

Country of OriginGermany
TypeMachine Gun
Caliber7.920 mm
Capacity50 rounds
Length1.220 m
Weight11.570 kg
Rate of Fire1200 rounds/min
Range1.000 km
Muzzle Velocity755 m/s


ww2dbaseThe Maschinengewehr 42 machine guns, or MG42 for short, were developed by the German firm Metall und Lackierwarenfabrik Johannes GroƟfuƟ AG after seeing need for machine guns with greater rate of fire than the MG34 machine guns. In 1941, a limited production for MG39/41 machine guns provided 1,500 guns for combat trials; they were accepted for service in 1942 under the designation of MG42. GroƟfuƟ, Mauser-Werke, Gustloff-Werke, and several other armament manufacturers were given contracts. The design of the MG42 machine guns were purposely similar to that of MG34 so that soldiers assigned these new machine guns would require minimum amount of training before taking the new weapons to battle.

In addition to producing a machine gun that had a greater rate of fire than the already-in-service MG34 machine guns, the MG42 design further improved from the MG34 in that each MG42 machine gun required 75 man-hours to build, compared to MG34 machine gun's 150 hours. Among the many reasons for the improved production rate was the employment of "hammer rifling" for the rifling of these weapons' barrels, in which a machine forges them using a pattern; this significantly shortens the production time at the expense of lesser accuracy when compared to barrels created using "cut" or "button" rifling methods. Coupled with needing less metal during the production process, the cost of each MG42 machine gun decreased to 250 Reichsmark, compared to MG34 machine gun's 327 Reichsmark. Nevertheless, since the war demands for machine gun were so great, MG34 machine guns continued to be in production despite the arrival of the new MG42 design.

The rate of fire of 1,200 rounds-per-minute was unmatched by any contemporary machine gun of the period. Taking the British Vickers and American Browning M2 machine guns as examples, MG42 machine guns enjoyed twice the rate of fire. The high rate of fire gave MG42 machine guns a very distinct and nearly continuous noise, caused by humans' inability to distinguish the sound of each individual bullet; this led to the nick names of "Hitler's buzz saw" or "Hitler's zipper" for MG42 machine guns. Similar nick names existed on the German side as well, such as HitlersƤge ("Hitler's saw") or "Bonesaw".

There were also other nick names for the MG42 machine gun. British soldiers often referred to them as Spandau as they found plates with that name mounted on captured MG42 machine guns; the word Spandau actually referred to the place of production, which was a district of Berlin, Germany.

The high rate of fire was as much a blessing as it was a curse, as it led to more overheating troubles. The fast rate also led to the problem of ammunition being exhausted quicker than usual; this problem was partially resolved by having all troops nearby carry extra ammunition for the machine gun as backup supply. A smaller problem for the MG42 machine guns was the high recoil which disturbed aiming for less-experienced gunners.

MG42 machine guns had an optimum operating crew of six: one officer, one non-commissioned officer, one gunner, and three ammunition carriers/loaders. For defense, the first two usually carried pistols, while the latter three were armed with rifles. As the war became more demanding on bodies, MG42 machine guns were often manned by as few as three. Ideally, multiple crews were deployed at once so that each machine gun position was covered by another, thus cover one another especially during the time that one of the machine guns needed reloading.

At the end of the war, 408,323 MG42 machine guns were built; 17,915 were built in 1942, 116,725 in 1943, 211,806 in 1944, and 61,877 in 1945. Many of them remained in service until today, most notably in the Serbian Army. The design has heavy influence on other modern machine gun designs as well.


Robert Stirling, Special Forces Sniper Skills


Last Major Revision: Jan 2008

MG 42 Machine Gun Interactive Map


German soldier posing with a vehicle-mounted MG42 machine gun, Southern France, 1942Troops of the German German paratrooper with MG42 machine gun, Rome, Italy, Sep 1943German airborne troops at Gran Sasso, Italy, 12 Sep 1943
See all 28 photographs of MG 42 Machine Gun

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
15 Feb 2009 03:27:17 PM

the mg42 was a real brass eater. the rate of fire was 1200 rpm! so many rounds being fired at one time. you could not hear individual shots. how the german's managed to supply armies in the field is amazing lots, and lots of ammo
2. Anonymous says:
30 Sep 2009 04:17:52 PM

the mg42 must have bin the allis biggest fear it sounds like some one ripping a towel it was a murderous wepon
3. johnathan says:
19 Nov 2009 06:06:50 AM

the mg 42 was used in ww2
4. Anonymous says:
6 May 2010 07:24:22 AM

i saw two of my best friends get mowed down by this tremeeendous gun
5. Roby says:
6 Nov 2013 12:17:40 PM

MG 42/59 model is in the Italian army still
6. Anonymous41 says:
13 Jun 2016 12:13:07 PM

The rate of fire of the MG42 could actually go up to 2,000 rounds/min. 1200 rounds/min was the MINIMUM. But depending on the pins and bolts used, the most common rates of fire were between 1200-1600 rounds/min
7. Anonymous says:
4 Jan 2017 07:06:54 AM

this gun is still used today by iraq soldgers
8. Anonymous says:
24 Mar 2017 03:52:46 PM

Hi there.
I am examining the functions of the MG42.
I inserted the bolt from the rear. The cocking lever was not inserted at the time. The bolt moved all the way forward and locked with the barrel.
I inserted the cocking lever, mainspring and buttstock and attempted to loosen the bolt to no avail.
Is there a trick to releasing the bolt?
Thanks in advance.

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MG 42 Machine Gun Photo Gallery
German soldier posing with a vehicle-mounted MG42 machine gun, Southern France, 1942
See all 28 photographs of MG 42 Machine Gun

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