An American .30-06 MG-42, and GPMGs after WWII

The perk for $100 Patrons is choosing a gun they would like me to find and film, and one such Patron (Mark) expressed a curiosity about US testing and lack of adoption of an MG-42 in .30-06 caliber. So, today we will discuss that (the trials gun was designated the T24) as well as why it took so long for the FN MAG to be developed and adopted.

Full T24 trials report and photos.

Resources for this video included:

MG34-MG42: German Universal Machine Guns” by Folke Myrvang
German Universal Machine Guns, Vol II: MG08-MG3” by Folke Myrvang
Rock in a Hard Place: The Browning Automatic Rifle” by James Ballou
The Browning Machine Gun, Vol I” by Dolf Goldsmith
Ars Mechanica” by Auguste Francotte, Claude Gaier, and Robert Karlshausen
The Machine Gun, Vol I” by Col. George China


  1. Maybe the Finns should dust off the old drawings, as they have received MG3 with the Leopard 2. OTOH building a handful machineguns for the handful of tanks is probably too expensive.

    For everything else: paging Kirk.

    • Kirk summed it up in previous articles. The US Army Ordnance Corps sucks at cost-effective small-arms development, and the M17 pistol disaster is one of the most recent examples of how not to adopt a service weapon. Where’s a real gunsmith academy when you need one?!

      • Chern, I don’t think it’s so much the engineering and gunsmithing that are the issues for the US. It’s more the fact that the majority of the people making decisions on these things are like that general who got all wet and excited at this “lethality” thing, and started the NGSW program.

        Firstly, they can’t even really define what they mean by these buzzwords–Go looking for the quantifiable things that should be there, in the background, to actually define this chimeric “lethality”, and all you’re going to find is more buzzword balderdash concealing the fact that these idiots don’t really understand the basic issues.

        The US is not “outgunned” in Afghanistan; what it is, I am afraid, is “outfought”. Not in terms of the troops, but in terms of the conditions that the idjit senior leaders and staff have allowed to be set. We win every time it comes down to a fight; where the problem lies is in the surrounding matrix of those engagements. If you leave the wire already having ceded the decision about where the fight is going to take place, who is going to be engaged, and when it’s going to be over…? That’s the friggin’ problem. Not the weapons. Not the men. It’s the whole way we’re fighting this war–The enemy has all the initiative. We’re purely reactive–The ROE ensures that. The demand for PID of the enemy ensures that.

        I’ve had first-hand reports of guys telling me about their movements being shadowed by unarmed Taliban on motorcycles that tracked their every move, reporting them over hand-held radios, essentially vectoring the enemy into prepared ambush positions for the US forces. Yet… Even knowing this, we’re not allowed to engage these ass-clowns. So, we get ambushed. The guys on those movements? They know who the enemy is, and what they’re doing, but their hands are tied, preventing them from doing anything pro-active, like killing the guys on motorcycles that are trailing them.

        This whole thing with “overmatch” and “lethality” is a mask over the real issues, which are that the idiots we have running our military do not know how to win wars. The weapons we have are perfectly adequate; the problem is that we refuse to use them in an effective manner.

        Every one of those Taliban lookouts should be dead as soon as they’re identified. You’re in view of a convoy, and seen to be using a radio? Airstrike. No questions asked, no quarter given. Kill them.

        If you ever get a chance to look over some of the AARs from Afghanistan, and actually start to analyze what the hell they’re doing, it’s an eye-opener. The problems are not with the weapons or the troops, it’s all above company-grade and with the field-grade officers and staff weenies. I guarantee you that if you just sat down and looked at the degradation of our purely military performance which stems from JAG interference alone…? Your mind would be blown.

        If you were in Congress, as well? You’d start to have some pointed questions for the idiot dolts behind this NGSW crap, because they’re using it mostly as camouflage to hide the other issues behind.

        “Lethality” my aching ass. The 5.56mm is probably about as close as we’re economically going to get to a “good enough” solution for individual weapons for quite some time. Same-same with the 7.62mm in the crew-served support space. The problem is that we’re simply not using them as effectively as we could, particularly the MG systems. Which, I am afraid, barely qualify as “systems” the way we issue and use them.

        • Spoken like a true arm chair warrior. NGSW has no relationship to Afghanistan. A deliberate analysis of future threats and targets, combined with some excellent analysis of small arms growth potential, led to informed decision making on NGSW requirements. We leveraged a lot of ongoing S&T work to get a new gun with much higher lethality (a precisely defined term) and room for effectiveness growth. But maybe you learned more on the topic from Guns & Ammo and Army Times than I did actually working the program…

          • Sweetie, I spent 25 years as one of your “end users”, and I’m here to tell you… We don’t buy your BS. Never have, never will.

            If you can define this glib “lethality” of yours, please do so. NGSW’s paperwork that I’ve been able to find doesn’t even have a good definition of what the hell a minimum amount of energy deposited in a target should be, for effective and reliable kills. Friends of mine who’ve seen the classified part of that RFP tell me it’s not in there, either. If you know, put up or shut up.

            It’s more of the same shit, different day. You pedantic asses wasted billions on SPIW, ACR, OICW, and the rest of this crap that’s never actually made it into the hands of soldiers. You’re doing it again, and I can see the light of the oncoming train already: Utter failure. Because the majority of you are more worried about post-retirement careers than you are effectively arming the soldiers.

          • Interesting. I didn’t think our hero here would be back, and he hasn’t been.

            The root problem with the whole NGSW program is that the feckless felching morons have mis-identified the issue that is at the root of it all–They think it’s a ballistic and a weapon problem, when the reality is that the actual issue is more training/accessory equipment/doctrine/ROE.

            I’ve talked to probably 20-25 actual MG gunners and gun team leaders since about 2004. Debriefed some of those guys officially, because my boss wanted to know what the “issue” was with Afghanistan, and how we could fix it.

            Out of that mass of people I’ve talked to? Exactly two of them had binoculars that they took out with them on patrol. One of them had no idea how to use them for correcting MG fire, or that that was even a technique–He had them with him for spotting the enemy, and artillery fire. The other guy was someone I personally trained, and who remembered what I taught him about controlling the guns.

            Most elements go out of the wire in Afghanistan with just an M240, maybe a spare barrel, and nothing else besides a bunch of ammo that they spray all over hell’s creation. To little or no effect. Then, everyone talks about how we can’t answer fire from enemy PKM systems past 800m…

            Basic fact is that the reliance on a bipod and a soldier’s shoulder has certain specific problems: One, that is not exactly a precision platform from whence to deliver full-auto fire. Two, it’s dreadfully inconsistent–You can’t tell the gunner to shift fire 20 mils left, right, up, down, or much of anything besides gross directions and landmarks, which he may not even see the same way. Three, the dispersion from the bipod/shoulder is horrendous, and a large reason why your effectiveness drops off past 800m. The human shoulder is simply not worth crap past that, for delivering the kind of fire you need to gain the full potential out to 1800m

            So, there’s that. The other issues with NGSW are myriad; one of them is that they’re either consciously or unconsciously reinventing the M14 wheel, recapping all the same things we did wrong with the 7.62mm NATO development. Inherent to their program is that they want “One cartridge to do it all”, and the reality is that the things that make for a good individual weapon cartridge cripple a support weapon-specific one. And, like the 7.62mm NATO, they’re tipping the scale in terms of making the new round an ideal one for the support weapon, which is going to lead to excess weight at the IW level, too-small magazines, and uncontrollable full-auto fire, which is important to have when you need it. Something they’re in denial about.

            My take on it is that they’re going to spend billions on this, determine a winner, and then they’re going to find that the actual soldiers in the field don’t want the damn things. It’s going to be just like the M16A2–That set of idiots designed a “product improved” M16 that ignored about every actual small arms AAR I ever saw from Vietnam (NOBODY was saying “Make this thing heavier, longer, and give it a more complicated sight that nobody will ever use effectively in combat…), and once the troops saw the M4, flawed as it was, they glommed onto it with an eagerness that should have told people that “Hey, we f**ked up with that A2 program…”.

            It shouldn’t escape notice, either, that the M4 was ballistically compromised from day one, with the issue ammo. It was an accidental hodge-podge of things, with barrel length determined more on bayonet and M203 grenade launcher fitment than anything else, let alone ballistic characteristics. See, the M4 was only ever supposed to go to the support weenies, and if it wasn’t optimal, no biggie–They wouldn’t need the range, anyway.

            Then, it turned into the basic individual weapon for the Infantry, and here we are. Took the stupid f**ks over 15 years to get off their dead asses, acknowledge the ballistic problems, and then issue ammo tailored to actually be effective in the M4…

            And, these are the geniuses running the NGSW program.

            It’s gonna augur into the ground like a post-hole digger, and mostly because the flim-flam artists got the ear of the generals, and nobody ever talked to anyone who knew sh*t about how to run an MG team properly. Which is a lost f**king art, lemme tell you what.

            Want to know how bad it is? I learned the art of machinegunnery from a bunch of knuckle-dragging Vietnam vets. They showed me techniques that I thought were laid out somewhere in a manual. Silly me–I went to start looking up stuff for an article I’m helping a friend write, and what do I find?

            Army machine gun manual doesn’t even discuss how to do fire control with a set of binoculars and a tripod. Marine Corps manual? It’s in there, kinda-sorta, but interestingly enough, the text talks about a bino reticle that hasn’t been used since the 1940s, and the accompanying illustration references that same reticle. Little more research (‘cos, I initially thought the Marines might have a different reticle in their binos, which they don’t…) shows that entire section is a mindless holdover from the M1919 manual… Word for f**king word.

            Contacted the Marines about that, and I still haven’t heard back from anyone interested in addressing the issue.

            Whole thing tells me that the idjit crew we have running this crap does not know what the f**k it is doing, and probably hasn’t since at least, oh… I dunno, about 19-f**king-18.

            And, I get some smarmy little pr*ck telling me I’m an “armchair warrior”. Dumbass incompetents, all the way down. Top to bottom–The whole NGSW thing is merely the latest stab at making bank by selling some new technology to the Army to overcome issues that are actually rooted in how we train the troops, and what accessory equipment we issue with the guns. There are no gun teams leaving the wire with binos, rangefinders, or tripods; no f**king wonder they’re unable to hit back at the enemy outside 800m. It’s programmed systematic failure. These young men don’t even know what the hell “right” looks like, and their senior leaders are focusing on spending money to get new gear that’s going to set them up for cushy post-military retirement jobs, rather than doing their duty and properly training them in their profession. Hell, most of the brass has no damn idea at all what the hell a good MG team looks like, let alone how to train or equip one.

            I despair, sometimes.

        • @Kirk Could it be the Vietnam legacy still at play? Officers who are terrified of winning every battle but losing the war?

          Some of it is of course warranted. Yes, US soldiers could start shooting at every Afghan they suspect of following them.

          But in the end, US soldiers are there on short rotations, in a country where the birth rate means that every family have at least a couple of sons to spare.

        • Kirk:

          I know what you mean about Afghanistan.

          A few years ago, when the British were heavily involved in Helmand, I watched a very good series on TV made by men embedded with the troops.

          One day, out on patrol, they saw a guy observing them on the other said of a canal. The term the British use for this is “dicking”, and the guy is a “dicker”. It is a term which dates back to Northern Ireland.

          Now your or my reaction to being observed by a dicker like this would be to shoot him dead. But of course rules of engagement forbade this. If an officer ordered his men to shoot the dicker, he would have been tried for murder, and convicted.

          The result was of course inevitable. A few minutes later the patrol was hit by an IED. Several men were wounded, luckily none killed.

          You cannot fight a counter-insurgency war against a vicious and determined enemy as if you are policing a small British or American city. You cannot let the enemy observe your movements with impunity. But this is what we do, and we lose men and we wonder why we do not win wars.

          I share your cynicism about the whole thing.

          • We want to be Mr. Nice Guy, and avoid the nasty things the media would say.

            Reality? We’re a bunch of patsies. The brass is so conditioned to being PR-correct that they don’t even care that these things are getting their men killed.

            Hell, I’ve sat in on situations in a divisional operations center where we had UAV assets observing an IED being put in place. Listened to the JAG assh*les tell the commander that we can’t be sure what the bastards are doing–After all, there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for why they were out digging under a road at two in the morning, carrying jugs of what could have “…been anything…”, and then burying them there, running a wire back to an observation position. Literally watched and heard that happen, and the JAG ruled out having the available Apache aviation asset fire the IED emplacers up, ‘cos we couldn’t PID them as actually emplacing an IED… So, the emplacement team made their escape, the following day saw nobody at the overwatch site (they liked to leave them fallow, to see if we’d spotted them…), and when EOD went in to deal with the IED, one of the techs got seriously wounded when the IED went off as he was trying to “interrogate” it…

            And, they tell me we want to win this thing. Suuuuuure we do. I believe it.

        • Kirk:

          I always appreciate your contributions. However, in future could you please get off the fence and tell us what you really think?

          • To be honest, this is “me, toned down for polite conversation”. What I’m actually thinking, and probably would say out loud to a peer or one of these idjits, in person…? LOL… Feelings would get hurt. Badly.

            I’ll usually keep my mouth shut, if I’m even slightly unsure of my facts. In the cases I’m usually willing to render an opinion on, here? I’m pretty sure of what I base my expressed opinion on. Someone wants to bring facts to the table, in order to refute any of my positions? Bring ’em on, and if they do refute what I’m saying, I’ll happily admit it.

            I doubt that anyone is going to, though.

    • The Finns have a different set of needs than most; I’ve spent some time with Finnish veterans of the Cold War era, and they’re bemused by the very concept of a heavy MG, mounted on a tripod. LMG? Yes. HMG, tripods? No use for them in the forests, limited uses for them in the Arctic. I don’t think the Finns necessarily think they need them, nor does their doctrine/operational mindset include using them all that much. They don’t want to get stuck in fixed fortifications ever again, and if they do, it’s all seen as going to be vehicle-mounted.

      Of course, from the guys I talked to, it could be that since they were almost all Jaakari sorts, maybe I got a biased view…?

      • I was specifically thinking of the armament of their Leopard tanks to standardize on acommon cartridge. For all other things they have PKMs and KvKK 62 machine guns.

        • Finns are happy with what they’ve got; for some unGodly reason, very little of the German MG doctrine carried over to the guys I was talking to. For them, the MG is used purely as an LMG; tripod-fire techniques? Nope; never heard of ’em, don’t need ’em.

          Even in the deep forest, a tripod can do you a lot of good; on the retreat, you can have pre-laid positions that you can fall in on with a tripod, and use a range card to hit things you can’t see at night. It’s really nice to have that ability, because rather than fire blindly back at the enemy, you can dial your guns into predetermined validated targets like road and trail intersections, and proceed to really mess up someone’s day. Can’t really do that off a bipod…

        • You’re missing the point, I believe… Bat’s referring to the belt links, not the web pages.

          Some of the T24 issues likely stemmed from using worn-out belts captured from the Germans, rather than purpose-made .30-06 ones.

          • @Kirk

            I wonder if the problems had anything to do with reducing the firing rate? An MG isn’t a bunch of parts in isolation from each other. Change one thing, like the firing rate, and all of a sudden you have to make the bolt heavier which down the line leads to an unforeseen problem like the ejection.

          • @victor:
            As Ian says in the video. Only two prototypes cobbled together from captured MG42. They were not really serious in researching adn developing this route. Also the demands put on the design that deviated from the original design like the very lowered rate of fire plays hell on how the parts interact.

            Well it looks like a half-arsed half-earnest attempt, but with so few investment in the üproject it was destined to fail. would have been a miracle if it had turned out a working gun.

          • Victor & Sommerbiwak:

            I am in agreement.

            If the US Army sincerely wanted an MG42 in 30-06, it would have built one from scratch.

            Trying to convert a captured 7.92mm gun, and at the same time reduce its legendary rate of fire to 350 rpm (similar to a hand cranked Gatling Gun) does not make any sense. Unless, of course, you want to be able to tell Congress that you had tried the MG42 in 30-06, and it did not work.

            So yes, I think this programme was designed to fail, and to give the Army the excuse to keep using the WW1 Browning designs they were comfortable with.

  2. Overall, I think that the root problem with US MG programs boils down to one issue: An incomplete and inadequate understanding of just what it is that the MG is supposed to be doing in combat, coupled with a dysfunctional bureaucracy. The whole thing was exacerbated by the post-WWII fantasy that we were never going to fight a conventional war with a real need for small arms ever again, and… Well, here we are.

    It’s interesting that everywhere you look in US literature of the period, what you mostly find is a complete and utter failure to understand what other people were doing. It’s like the US looked at things through the lens of “Well, this is how we think…”, and left it at that, making no attempt to really comprehend the reasoning behind what the Germans (as an example…) were doing.

    Key example that crops up everywhere: Everyone decries the “too high” rate of fire on German MGs, calling it “wasteful” and “excessive”. Nobody seems to have ever sat down and examined just why the Germans did what they did, and deliberately designed that rate of fire into their guns. It’s like the US looked at it, said “Wow, that’s unfortunate… Too bad those silly Germans did that. Good for us, though–They’re wasting ammo…”. It never seems to have occurred to anyone at all that the Germans were doing the high rate of fire that they were for a deliberate, carefully thought-out set of doctrinal reasons, or that they had a different framework than ours from which to work such things out. Everywhere you look, American sources say “too high, wastes ammo, hard to control…”, and nobody ever asks why the Germans put up with that. The fact that it was a deliberate design feature they wanted…? Whooosh… Right over their heads.

    Even if the T-24 had been successful, I seriously doubt that it would have ever made it into production, let alone adoption. It just didn’t fit in with the US understanding of what a machinegun was supposed to do, or how the US would use such a thing. The mindset was locked into the WWI mentality of the pre-WWII era, and nobody ever managed to break out of it. We’re still stuck there to this day–Witness the M122 tripod, which we’re still using under the M240. In US usage, there’s no need for a terrain-adaptable tripod like the Lafette, because the only place you use a tripod is in a fixed defensive position. The idea that your MG can be used out in the field, dynamically, with a real tripod escapes 99.9% of the leaders in the Army and Marines; their mentality is that the MG is either in the light role, with just a bipod, or it’s in the fixed defensive role in a prepared position. The idea that you can deliver accurate fire off a decent tripod while conducting patrols…? Lost. Don’t even get me started on the whole “We’re only going to issue telescopic sights that mount to top of the gun, and we’re never going to even look at periscopic sights, so as to get the gunners head below the plane of return fire…”.

    You want to sum up American MG “stuff”? The John Heywood quote is a good one: “There are none so blind as those who will not see…”. I’ve been on cross-training ranges with American officers and NCOs, watching the Germans work their MG3/Lafette systems, and none of them ever really comprehended what they were looking at, or what the advantages were for the system. They always focused on the weight and the complexity, as if those two factors trumped everything else. I’d be standing there looking at the fact that the gunner’s head was below the barrel line, and the ease with which the tripod adapted to widely varied terrain features, along with the adjustable command height… None of which seemed to make any impact on any of the other Americans participating. I could never figure that out–Was it that I’d actually been a damn gunner on the M60, or something…?

    Whatever it was, it maddened me then, and it maddens me now that we’re watching the same sort of purblind fool try to come up with the next-generation ACR failure with this NGSW BS.

    • Can we just dump the Ordnance guys and privatize the procurement system?! If this trend of stupidity continues another 50 years, small private military companies (or plainly, organizations of mercenaries) will outgun our actual national army as the latter will bankrupt itself just to select a new rifle, pistol, and uniform after rejecting hundreds of billion-dollar laboratory-use-only failures over and over again! I could be wrong.

      • The Ordance guys are just a part of the problem, TBH. The bigger component of it all is typified by this whole NGSW thing–The “end-user” has no idea what they want, and they can’t even properly articulate how the hell they’re going to use what they buy.

        Ordnance has its issues, but the majority of the problem is out with the guys in the organizations that tell Ordnance what they want and think they need. Ordnance fundamentally does not understand combat any better than the perfumed princes that are running the combat arms do, and because of that…? We get what we get.

    • “(…)You want to sum up American MG “stuff”? The John Heywood quote is a good one: “There are none so blind as those who will not see…”(…)”
      Combining mishaps during U.S. MG projects in second half of 20th century, it seems for me that people responsible for its development are Americans from following W.S.Churchill quote: You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.

    • @Kirk

      I too was struck by the arrogance of their attitude. “Firing rate is way too high! Silly Krauts!”

      Not stopping for a second to figure out WHY they had gone that route, and if perhaps the Germans were on to something. It’s the kind of attitude that leads to lost wars.

      • At the same time the soldier on the front line ducked for cover from incoming machine gun fire… funny that. It really is the disconnect between the frontline and those that make the procurement decisions. Case in point we get retired generals on TV lecturing about “full semi-automatic” fire. Last time that general had touched a firearm was probably in basic training. I was relieved he had not shot his foot.

  3. Regards royalties & Rheinmetal. I remember an mid 1960s NY Daily News story about a gold carrying German U-Boat discovered off the US coast. Allegedly the West German government tried to claim it but withdrew their claim when asked if that meant admittance to being legal heirs to the Third Reich.

  4. How much thought or effort ever went towards a workable barrel-change for the Browning 1919? This seems to have been a screaming need since the U.S. was committed to using a water-cooled design with no water.

    • M1917 was the water-cooled version. M1919 air-cooled, and the idea was that the barrels were not changed all that much for cooling–More for wear and other issues.

      We had working quick-change barrel systems for the M2HB available as far back as the 1960s. Nobody ever thought that there was a need for that until around the early 2000s.

      I think it was more a lack of vision/understanding of what the MG needs to do in combat, than anything else. The M1919 was always type-classified as a medium MG, which meant they weren’t supposed to be doing the sustained-fire thing at all.

  5. Regarding “high rate of fire of MG42”; may I offer this set of opinions in Quora?

    Some of them are from people who have good knowledge of small arms and some comments count millions of reads. Therefore I’d not discount them. All agree in that the high rate of fire is a default due to design’s inherent dynamics (who wants to know more look into one of Chinn’s books, I believe it is section V) and all agree it is undesirable state for reason of excessive wear.

    So, no magic doctrine is hiding there. For most applications the typical 600RPM would do as well in configuration as was MG42 or MG34. That is possible with gas operated gun, not with recoil while overall weight is kept as low.

    For this set of reasons, there was not real need for U.S. military to copy any of two mentioned weapons. As an exercise of verification and gaining academic knowledge, well why not. Companies made some money on it and that is the name of the game.

    • Denny, that thesis founders on the rocks of fact: The Germans had alternative designs with lower rates of fire that they could have chosen. They did not. They didn’t want lower rates of fire because those were not in keeping with their doctrine.

      Anyone who’s not spent time behind a gun trying to hit live targets out at around 1000m simply does not “get” this issue. You fire at a squad that’s moving to cover with a 600rpm MG, and the fact is, a bunch of those guys are going to get under your grazing fire as soon as they hear the first “crack” of a passing round. You want to nail them, you need something that’s going to be delivered within that tiny window of reaction, so that they’re still standing up when the entire burst hits their location.

      That’s why the German guns universally have the high rates of fire that they do. The Germans know what they wanted, they designed to get it, and they succeeded. There was no “accident” involved, and it’s only the density of the minds on our side that look at the issue that produce this idea that 1200-1400rpm is “excessive”. They’re also people who know jack about being an effective MG gunner, and killing the enemy efficiently.

      • All right… 10 shots per second, that sounds like something I can runaway from… with some luck, maybe. What is your reaction time?

        Lets get practical here: in A-stan and elsewhere where coalition troops came to contact with PK, what was their reaction time? Did it help, give or take couple more/less shots? They hated that damn thing as far as I know.

        Other than that, I appreciate your views and enjoy reading them. I can see wealth of experience there. We are just talking, right 🙂

        • You need to have actually fired a 600rpm gun, then one with 1200rpm, and then observed how quickly each saturates its beaten zone at long range. It’s not instantly apparent what the advantages are to the higher rate of fire, but believe me, the Germans knew and tested the whole thing out.

          Baffles me that people look at that and think “Wow, those guys were dummies…”, and just ignore the evidence. It is out there–I’ve seen (and, did not retain, much to my present dismay…) the translated documentation discussing this. The rates of fire were deliberately designed to be what they were, and there were reasons–The Germans conducted tests, and had real-world experience telling them the things that they theorized were correct. You want to put down a squad-size element at long range, you need to saturate your kill zone as quickly as possible, and the languid pace with which a 600rpm gun delivers its fire into that area enables the enemy to get down out of the line of fire.

          The Germans were not stupid people; they were excellent soldiers, at the least. It might be smart to ask yourself if what you see as “stupid and/or foolish” actually is. Just because you don’t understand something does not make it a mistake; the advantages you fail to see are an artifact of your own blinkered viewpoint, which from what I hear you say, is entirely influenced by the UK/American school of machinegunnery, such as it is.

          Your point about the PK is something you ought to think about, as well: The fact that there are surviving US troops who’ve been taken under fire by them at long range might, perhaps, be an indicator that they’re lousy guns for that mission. The guys who were taken under fire by MG42 teams in similar WWII circumstances may not have been around to make reports. And, to be quite honest, I’m thinking that I’d rather have my unit shot at by a Taliban with a PKM at 1200m than an MG42 handled by someone who knows what they’re doing with one and a Lafette…

          • To sum up the idea: high cyclic rate to put as many bullets into the beaten zone in the shortest time possible to increase probability to hit something and make it harder to dive for cover.

            Sadly the reasoning behind the MG42 seems to have been lost, when looking at the new MG5 slated to replace it in service. It has a similar rate of fire to an FN MAG. Reason being that a MG3 on bipod is really not that great. Funny, the Austrians had solved the problem of the high cyclic rate with issuing a much heavier bolt for bipod use with their MG74.

      • If high cyclic rate for LMG was German preWWII MG doctrine, then explain the selective fire MG-13 LMG with 600 RPM? And why would the MG-34 even have selective fire capability? Was there some change in LMG doctrine between adaption of the MG-34 and the MG-42?

        Considering the numerous roles of the GPMG, particularly as an aircraft or anti-aircraft gun, wouldn’t that explain the desire for high cyclic rate?

        • Anti-aircraft was part of it. The real concern, though, was that “saturate beaten zone as quickly as possible”.

          The MG13 is a red-herring in this discussion, because a specific reason that it was superseded was due to the low rate of fire.

          Trust me on this: The Germans knew what they wanted with the rates of fire. They did that deliberately, with malice aforethought, and they weighted the decision knowing the issues like ammunition expenditure. The advantages outweighed the disadvantages, to their minds.

          • The doctrine made on effective killing as opposed to scaring makes for massive casualties on the other team. Sure, the MG-42 won’t put up sustained hourly suppression fire, but it was designed to kill a group of targets within a short period of time and change barrels quickly if things get too heavy. You want to scare people into hiding behind rocks until flanker squads or artillery eliminates those people? Get a machine gun with a “low” rate of fire, like the M1919. If you prefer turning the entire enemy squad into honeycomb before they can even duck, get the MG-42 and then salvage useful stuff from what’s left of your enemy’s dead body. Did I get this right?

    • “(…)For most applications the typical 600RPM would do as well in configuration as was MG42 or MG34. That is possible with gas operated gun, not with recoil while overall weight is kept as low.(…)”
      Wait. If above holds true how DROR light machine gun can exist?

  6. This shouldn’t have been that difficult. The 8×57 & .30-06 are fairly similar. The 8×57 is .3″ shorter overall, but uses the same rim & case head as the .30-06. Chamber pressure & ballistics are pretty close, too. There would be some issues going from the 8mm to the ’06, but that could be solved by tinkering with the recoil booster, bolt carrier weight & recoil spring tension.
    The MG42 was a proven design with millions of rounds downrange. I think they made their mistake by trying to cram the .30-06 into the 42, instead of redesigning the receiver around the ’06. The feed mechanism should have been lengthened by .3″ & the receiver .6″ (to accommodate the extra length and extra travel). Then again, maybe one of the requirements was to retrofit captured MG42’s?

    • “(…)retrofit captured MG42’s(…)”
      In 1950s in Norway conversion of MG42 from 7,9×57 mm to 7,62×63 mm was done and caused order of 3,500 new barrels but when it actually commenced It was soon discovered that most of the stock of approximately 2,000 MG42s had been sold to another country, and this of course made the whole project moot. Conversion itself was simple, and only the feed tray and the camming piece had been slightly modified.
      See chapter MG42F1 in link.
      Above article suggest desire to reduce Rate-of-Fire to 350 rpm in U.S. version of MG42, as possible cause of problems.

      • A 350rpm “modern” MG?
        What is the doctrine behind that?

        -suppressive fire?
        -shooting immobile targets?
        -distance measuring for light artillery?
        -faster accurate shots than semi-auto sniper?

  7. The German preference of high cyclic rate started with the MG34, which originally could be switched from around 600 rpm (intended for infantry use) to 900 rpm for anti-aircraft use. The excellent book by Folke Myrvang shows a very rare photo of the mechanism.
    That was the moment the advantages of high cyclic rates for infantry, as described by Kirk above, were discovered. So the adopted MG34 only had the high rate. The single-shot trigger was for training use only.
    MG42 development, which began before WW2 (the bolt mechanism patent was applied for in September 1939) continued this by delivering 1500 rpm.
    A document from November 1944 in the German Military Archives requires “rate of fire at least as fast as MG42”.

    By the way, the requirement for the new MG5, due to the loss of competence within Bundeswehr after breakdown of communism, did not mention machine gun rate of fire at all. Consequently, Heckler & Koch chose the technologically much easier solution and designed a slow firing MG.

      • And after V-E day, it migrated to Switzerland and became first the MG51, and then the SiG 710 series;

        Note the 1,000 R/M RoF. The Swiss Army could have gone for a lower RoF, but basically kept it unchanged.

        Fighting the kind of war they anticipated, which would be mostly ambush, logically you’d want to kill as many enemies in the target area as possible right on the spot, before they could go for cover and call for either artillery or air support.

        So using the same doctrine as the Wehrmacht made perfect sense.



        • Except the Swiss Army did not adopt the SIG710. They use to this day the MG53 (and the MG87 coaxial machine gun). both derived from the MG42, but with substantial changes to the design.

          • MG53 is a later version of MG51. SiG 710 is the company designation for the same weapon family, except with a shorter barrel casing, mainly for looks to appeal to foreign buyers.



    • I thought it was one of the requirements to be better in dismounted use? Hence slower rate of fire Also the bolt and bolt carrier are rather big and heavy to slow down the MG5. Do you have some further links on the MG5 development?

      To not only dis the MG5. It makes many things right. Like being able to change the barrel anytime. Easy mounting of optics. A handle to handle the hot barrel. Overall better ergonomics. I found it quite comfortable fondling one at an open doors.

  8. Surely the WWII experience had much to do with the US Army approach to machine guns thereafter. WWII from their perspective had been one of landing on a beach somewhere and then fighting forward. Should WWIII have happened, the idea was that the reservists and national guard troops would have piled on ships and try to make it to a port on the mainland in time, and then fight forward to push the invaders out of Western Europe.

    Does that have any bearing on what makes the more useful machine gun? Right or wrong, it may have pointed to a shoulder-fired magazine-fed auto rifle (something just like the BAR!) for offense by infantrymen–easily used on the move to support tanks and such as they advance. On the back of a jeep or a tank, weight is no real issue, so go with something reliable and proven (the Browning 1919!). The German machine gun, they may have thought would have been really nice to have had in the trenches of WWI. Defensive use of tripod mounted guns may not have been a big issue until Korean human wave attacks. As to recent experiences in Afghanistan and such, they are fascinating, but not the sort of combat anyone in the military envisioned in the late 1940’s.

    Regarding Saginaw, I worked there in the late 1990’s, and one day at plant #2 they were tearing a wall out and found a couple of M1 Carbines that someone had stashed away during the war. The police took them, and I do not know what came of them. That plant made power steering pumps (others made gears, steering columns, half shafts, etc.) and had the most machine tools under one roof that I have ever seen.

  9. Second everything that Kirk says. Especially about more flexible use of machine guns by Infantry.

    There is a great piece of newsreel or propaganda footage I have seen of a German MG team advancing at the run, two guys carrying the gun STILL MOUNTED ON THE TRIPOD!

    When we finally adopted the FN MAG in the ground role, we also adopted the FN tripod, and the C2 dial sight to put on it. It is not as good as the German tripod and periscopic sights, but miles better than the M122!

    All this weird “Overmatch” bullsh*t makes no sense to me. If you read some of the powerpoint slides (powerpoint slides: clue right there), they show the PKM as some kind of magical beast. A PKM on a bipod fired by the Taliban somehow outranges an M240.

    The issue, as Kirk pointed out, is ROE. You are taking fire from a hidden position on the ridgeline, but can’t see and identify the individual source, you are not supposed to fire unless you can identify the exact position the fire is coming from, and ideally, identify the individual doing the firing. The better response, in my opinion, is to set up the tripod, and using the T&E mechanism, to systematically run a beaten zone along the suspected line of fire. Problem solved!

    There is a great example of this kind of thing in the book “Excursion to Hell”, which is a Falklnd’s war memoir written by a member of 3 Para’s Support Company. A night attack was bogged down by enemy bunkers and MG nests, and the attacking Infantry could not effectively engage them. The British solution was to deploy a battery of GPMGs. They would fire long bursts at long range (beyond the effective range of enemy Infantry return fire). They could not actually see their targets, but were given fire control orders by a senior NCO with a night site, using the tri-pod’s mechanism to adjust fire. Not quite indirect fire, but similar in concept.

  10. The Germans basically wrote the book on machine gun deployment.

    And that one word, “deployment” is key to many things. For starters, by WW1, they had developed the concepts on “inter-locking arcs” and “mutual defence”.

    MGs (Mg 08 at the time”) were NOT considered as just expensive, ultralight artillery” but a whole new, supplementary thing.

    The Battle of Fromelles, (actually there were two, but the 1916 “re-run” in particular is a case-study par excellence on the subject.

    Firstly, it was well understood that machine-guns, even on heavy tripods are AREA weapons, not “point’ weapons like rifles.

    Secondly, they work better in “teams”, controlled by observers.

    Thirdly, and especially in warfare of fronts and flanks, they work MUCH better firing FROM the flanks, enfilade into the lines of classic infantry advance.

    They also recognized that a well-sited Mg was not going to last long in a determined infantry assault on its own position; hence ‘Defensive fire tasks’ in which each gun has several “arcs of responsibility, one or more of which involves laying down a beaten zone on and around other friendly” machine gun positions (dug in and using periscope sights, for instance), when that position is threatened by enemy action.

    Such operations require detailed planning ad are typical of defensive operations. “Offensive” MG operations were a bit different, especially if trying it on using heavy, water-cooled guns with heavy tripods. Hence, lessons learned form the allied use of LIGHT MGs at platoon and section level. The Germans were enthusiastic users of the Lewis gun, turning them on their previous owners whenever possible. They were highly valued for mobile, close fire support on large-scale trench raids. The Mg 08-15 was cooked up in response demands for more “lightweight”, portable firepower for such applications. That the Germans did not knock off the Lewis gun in 7.92 is probably more tied to the fact that their industries were pretty stretched by 1916. If you could build reliable Lewis guns in .30-06, 7.92 would not have been a problem.

    But it was the battlefield deployment of such goodies that is also important. Mutual support between LMG operators and rifle-men / grenadiers (“Bombers”) led to the tactic of “Fire and Movement” in bounds. This was somewhat different to the BAR-drivers concept of “walking fire”..

    In parallel to this whole machine-gun theory and mechanical development was the rapid development of the hand-grenade and the mortar. Grenades went from nasty things that were often as dangerous to the “sender” as the “receiver”, to things like the classic “Mills” grenade (British) and the German “Potato-masher” in less than three years. Infantry needing to be able to heave explosive packages further than a few dozen yards, led to the re-invention of another Medieval weapon, the Mortar, with the Germans initially fielding medieval-looking trench catapults and then the “Minenwerfer” looking like a kid-sized siege-gun. The Brits pretty much nailing it with their “Stokes” 3″ mortar.

    Modern mortars can lay down a prodigious amount of unpleasantness from MUCH greater ranges that your trusty Maxim or Vickers. The ammo is heavier but if you ever get to see a mortar platoon deploy, get a lot of rounds in the air and be ready to move again as the last bomb is falling, it will give you cause to ponder.

  11. “If you could build reliable Lewis guns in .30-06, 7.92 would not have been a problem.”

    The belgians used the Lewis gun in 7,65 × 53,5 mm. Between the wars Poland and teh Netherlands (maybe a few others) had Lewis guns in 8 × 57 IS. So yes, perfetly viable, but as you say, German industry was already struggling to manufacture the supplies already in service. Also it is a rather complex and expensive gun to make.

  12. In WW2, the US army frequently used the belt fed M1919A4 on a lightweight, low, felxible tripod. This was considered a light MG. The same gun, water cooled, was considered a heavy MG.

    • The same gun…? No; the water-cooled Browning was the M1917. Air-cooled, M1919. The M1919 series were somewhat simplified from the M1917, but the basic overall design was similar.

      I’m not sure if the parts fully interchange; I vaguely remember hearing or reading somewhere that they don’t.

  13. Friends,
    Let me share some thoughts about the MG-34 and MG-42.
    I have fired both extensively.
    First, set up each on the Lafette 34 tripods with the periscope-type telescopic sight.

    Start with the MG-34.
    The fire rate increases over the standard WWI machine gun rate of about 600 rounds per second to 900 rounds per second.
    Even at this firing rate, the MG-34 accuracy sufficed, the Germans claimed, to be used as a sniper rifle.
    Let’s shoot the MG-34.
    Aim with the scope.
    Slide your trigger finger up to the semi-automatic portion of the trigger and fire.
    Adjust the aim and fire individual shots until exactly on target.
    Slide the finger down to the full auto trigger area.
    Send a burst of three to seven rounds with high accuracy on target.
    I think of this as equivalent to a full automatic sniper rifle, rather than a semiautomatic rifle.

    Now go to the MG-42.
    The fire rate increases over MG-42 rate of about 900 rounds per second to 1,200 rounds per second.
    You can only fire full automatic, with bursts of three to seven rounds recommended.
    A higher fire rate generates more dispersion of the bullets and Chinn’s data shows that the MG-42 accuracy now resembles a shotgun rather than a sniper rifle.
    Operating on memory, I recall a group of 5×5 in/13×13 cm. [This group may be too small. Please correct me. My Chinn is packed away.]
    At 100 meters, with a five round burst, you will hit the target with five 200 gr/13 g 7.92×57mm Mauser bullets in a quarter of a second.
    Each bullet, depending on the load, has about 3,000 ft⋅lbs/4,000 J of energy.
    Five rounds hit in 0.25 seconds is equivalent to15,000 ft-lbs/20,000 J in energy.
    To put this in perspective, a single .50 BMG M2 round of 1813 gr/122 g has 15,000 ft-lbs/20,000 J of energy.
    We now have a tripod or shoulder fired single barrel weapon that sends a shot-gun like burst of rounds with, say, a spread of five inches, in a quarter second.
    At combat distances between 300m and 500m, the dispersion of the MG-42 bullets might bracket a soldier.
    What’s not to like?

  14. Another often-overlooked factor is harmonics. Simply put, at certain rates of operation, any machine will vibrate more, or less, depending on its natural harmonics.

    Vibration is another word for “what rattles your teeth loose” if you’re holding said machine when it’s operating.

    French tests before WW2 showed that a typical MG like the Hotchkiss tended to have lower vibration effects when firing at 450 R/M than it did at 650, which you would sort of expect. But the vibration effects smoothed out again at 800 R/M. Other MGs, like the Chatellerault 29/34, had lower vibration at 500 R/M than at 600, but smoothed out above 700.

    The Germans were aware of this factor due to their use of 7.9mm MGs in fighter and bomber aircraft. Note that the MG15 used as flexible gun on such bombers as the Ju88 and He111 fired at 1,500 R/M. This was due to the naturally short engagement times of air combat (often measured in fractions of a second), but it was noted that the gun had less tendency to “walk away” from the gunner’s control at 1,500 than it had at the original prototype’s fire rate of 650.

    Dare I suggest that the 1,200 R/M RoF of the MG-42 may at least have been partially conceived to make the gun more controllable in auto fire?

    Note that the postwar MG1-MG3 family were issued with three buffers, giving 500 R/M RoF for use off a bipod, 750 for use off a tripod, and 1,200 for use bolted to a Leopard 1 MBT or Marder IFV as a light AA weapon.

    It would be interesting to take one out to a range, with a Lafette, and all three buffers (plus a decent load of ammunition), and fire it sequentially with each buffer. And measure the dispersion at each fire rate.



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