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"Firing Data, German MG-42" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. intelligence report on the German MG-42 was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 42, January 13, 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


A German source states that the MG-42 has a close and dense cone of fire which results in greatly improved observation. The cone of fire has a slight "creep" hence this machine gun can be held on the target for only a short time compared with the slower firing machine guns. This German source states that as a result of the increase in the rate of fire from 420 rpm with the MG-08, to 900 rpm with the MG-34 and to 1,500* rpm with the MG-42, an increase in the percentage of hits in proportion to the length of burst should be obtained. However, preliminary trials in this country have not produced a rate of fire above 1,200 rpm. It would appear, in any case, that a high degree of skill and training are required to obtain the best results from the MG-42. Previous references to this gun will be found in Tactical and Technical Trends No. 32, p. 37; No. 31, p. 37; No. 21, p. 25; No. 20, p. 28. The following points to be observed when firing the MG-42 are taken from the German source referred to above:

*          *          *

a. When Used As a Light Machine Gun

Trials under battle conditions have shown that the best results are obtained from bursts of 5 to 7 rounds, as it is not possible to keep the gun on the target for a longer period.

The destruction of the target is therefore accomplished with bursts of 5 to 7 rounds, the point of aim being continually checked. It is of course important that re-aiming should be carried out rapidly, so that the bursts follow one another in quick succession.

Under battle conditions the firer can get off approximately 22 bursts in a minute, or approximately 154 rounds.

Comparative trials under the same conditions with the MG-34 showed that the best results in this case were obtained with 15 bursts in the minute, each of 7 to 10 rounds, i.e. approximately 150 rounds.

It will be seen from this that the ammunition expenditure of the MG-42 is a little higher than with the MG-34, but to balance this, the results on the target with the MG-42 are increased up to approximately 40%.

b. When Used As a Medium Machine Gun

Long periods of sustained fire must definitely be avoided, as they do not produce the best results and lead to an unwarranted expenditure of ammunition. The reasons for this being, first, if the extraordinarily dense cone of fire of the MG-42 is on the target, then this should be destroyed in approximately 50 rounds; secondly, if the cone of fire is not on the target then the gun must be re-aimed, if necessary with adjustments to the sight. In order to assess the position of the cone of fire, fire must not be opened until an observation has been obtained.

For instance, if with a range of 2,000 yards the time of flight is 4.7 seconds, then a useful observation cannot be obtained in less than six seconds. Sustained fire for a period of six seconds, however, is the equivalent of an ammunition expenditure of 150 rounds, whereas an observation of the position of the cone of fire or of the effects on the target, could have been obtained with 50 rounds.

Trials under battle conditions on the same lines as those carried out in action with the MG-34 have shown that, in general, when using the MG-42 as a medium machine gun, bursts of 50 rounds with repeated checking of the point of aim give the best results.

In this way, not only will the best results on the target be achieved, but the expenditure of ammunition will be kept within limits which will be very little in excess of expenditure with the earlier MGs.

*There have been a number of conflicting reports as to the rate of fire of the MG-42. An article in the January 1944 issue of the Infantry Journal gives the rate of fire as "about 1,250 rounds per minute."


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