The MG13 was the result of the reworking of a heavy watercooled WW1 weapon, the ‘Dreyse MG1912’.
The weapon was aircooled
and recoil operated. It could not use linked belts and instead utilised a 25
round box magazine. It was equipped with a bipod and an archaic sustained fire
This was really a short
term ‘stopgap’ weapon which was introduced into the Reichswehr in 1930. The MG13
was officially withdrawn from service in 1934 with the introduction of the MG34
that made it obsolete. However it
remained in storage and they were brought back into service on the outbreak of
Rate of fire: 550 rpm
MG34 with 50 round trommel and carrying straps fitted
MG34 on Lafette 34 with linked belt from 300 round container
The MG34, which came into service in 1934, was the first modern
general purpose machine gun. It was superseded by the MG42 but saw
service with the German army until the end of the war and.
The MG34 is a versatile belt fed machine gun with an air-cooled
barrel and folding bipod. It utilised the same cartridge as the Mauser K98k.
Being air-cooled the barrel can overheat very quickly and under sustained
fire has to be changed every 300 rounds fired. This can be done in a matter of
seconds (using the protection of the gunner’s asbestos pad) by a trained gun
crew and they carried a number of spare barrels with them.
The MG34 had a twin trigger for single or fully auto firing. It
used 50 round belts that were often clipped together to form longer ones.
Gunners also used the 50 round belt drum or Gurtrommel.
Each infantry squad had an MG34. This was an integral part of the
squad and formed a major portion of their firepower as all except the squad
leader normally carried K98k rifles. The MG34 team normally gave
covering fire from the flanks as the riflemen closed on their objective.
A tripod called the Lafette 34 was also made for MG34. This transformed the weapon into a highly effective heavy machine gun to which optical sights could be attached. These Lafette 34s were normally used by heavy machine gun companies and were lethal in the support role or when firing from fixed defensive positions.
The MG34 could also be utilised as an anti-aircraft weapon using the Dreibein
34 tripod and ring sights. It was mounted in all types of vehicles and a
heavier barrelled version was used in AFVs.
Weight: 12.1kg or 35.7kg with Lafette 34
Rate of fire: 900 rpm
Effective range: 1500m or 3500m using optical sights mounted on the Lafette
The MG42 was
developed as a successor to the MG34. The MG34, whilst being a
highly capable multi-purpose machine gun, was too expensive and time consuming
to produce during wartime.
The new machine gun would
have many new pressed and stamped metal parts and after prototypes and tests the
MG42 was born. Simplifying the production resulted in a considerable
saving in the cost and the halving of production time per weapon.
The MG42 utilised the same bipod as the MG34. It had no single shot facility and the cyclic rate of fire was greatly increased. A new heavy tripod, the Lafette 42 (almost indiscernible from the Lafette 34) was designed for the weapon.
Unlike the MG34
which could be temperamental the new weapon proved to be reliable and rugged,
even under the most extreme conditions. The only draw back was the
extraordinarily high rate of fire which meant that it used vast quantities of
ammunition which all had to be carried by the troops.
Weight: 11.6kg (32.1kg with
Rate of fire: 1200-1500 rpm
Quantity produced: 415,000
MG37(t) or ZB37
This was a heavy machine
gun of Czech origin that was also produced by the British as the BESA. When
Czechoslovakia fell into German hands in 1939 the Germans took over the
factories of their famous armaments industry and continued producing many of the
weapons from small arms to tanks and artillery.
The MG37 was an air-cooled gas recoil operated weapon that was belt fed. It used the standard German cartridge and had an adjustable rate of fire. There was a light and heavy barrel available – the heavy one was distinguished by its cooling fins.
Production of this weapon
continued on a limited basis until 1942. It saw service during the early part of
the war particularly with rear echelon units (ie Police) and the SS.
Weight: 36.5kg (with
Rate of fire: 500-700 rpm
MG26(t) or ZB26
In the 1920s the Czech
military was looking for a light machine gun in the same class as the Browning
Automatic rifle. Eventually the Praga 1924 was approved. This was
originally designed as a belt-fed gun but was only accepted after being
re-designed to accept magazines.
For a number of reasons production was delayed and it was finally introduced in 1926, hence the designation. This weapon was highly successful with almost 40,000 being exported to other countries.
When the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia a
large number of these weapons fell into their hands. It was a reliable weapon
that saw service early in the war particularly amongst Police and SS units.
The MG26 is an
air-cooled and gas recoil operated machine gun that can also fire single shots.
Its major flaw is that the magazine only contains 20 rounds. It is often seen as
the predecessor to the British Bren Gun.
Rate of fire: 520 rpm
Madsen light machine gun
This weapon is
seen as the first light machine gun. It saw service in numerous armies from the
end of the 19th Century until 1955.
The mechanism is
an automated version of the Martini breech-block which means that the
rounds travel along a curve during loading. It was made in a variety of calibres
and utilised a 25, 30 or 40 round box magazine.
This weapon was
in Danish service and so small number fell into German hands in April 1940. It
was never used as a frontline weapon by the Germans.
The Madsen ‘softmount’ tripod was used as the inspiration for the MG34 Lafette.
Rate of fire: