Fallschirmjäger Style: SMG’s Semiauto 1st Pattern FG-42

The early pattern (Type E, specifically) FG-42 is one of the most eye-catching military rifles ever made. Designed to be a universal paratrooper’s rifle capable of acting as sniper’s rifle, light machine gun, hand-to-hand weapon, and grenade launcher, only 2,000 of this early pattern were ever made. With its distinctive sherply swept-back grip, brass scope mount, and fishtail stamped buttstock, it is a svelte and elegant rifle. Originals are extremely rare and command the highest price of virtually any military small arms, and so it is not surprising that a reproduction has been made for those who would like to actually shoot them.

SMG began making the later pattern of semiauto-only FG-42 more than 8 years ago (not that this means they have spent more than twice as long perfecting their design than Rheinmetall and Krieghoff did on the originals). This second pattern is a significantly more accurate reproduction, as it uses a milled receiver like the early design originally did. The bayonet, bipod, stock, grip and markings are authentically reproduced to a magnificent degree, and the rifle is is nice to shoot as it is to look at. The reproduction scope that is paired with the rifle is based on a Russian PU – perfectly appropriate as the original ZFG42 optic made by Voigtländer was also heavily based on the PU.

The workmanship in this rifle and its scope are outstanding, and the attention to detail is as well. It is truly a treat to handle and shoot!

50 Comments

  1. This may not be of a substance, but I am pleased with Ian’s improvement in pronunciation of German words/ names. Would it be due to lectures by his friend Karl? It’s about respect after all and proper pronunciation is part of it.

    Now seriously; this is a commendable result of a long standing effort by an American manufacturing company. Great job and great presentation by Ian!

  2. Absolutely fantastic looking rifle and an incredible good job by SMG. I saw the video’s on their second pattern and this looks even better. A hell of a job to pull this one off. I really like the “stamped” buttstock, “welding” marks and all. Alas, way above my budget.

  3. OK… So, what the hell is up with SMG modifying the cam track on the semi-autos?

    As you can see here:

    https://i0.wp.com/www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/FG42-0015.jpg?ssl=1

    The original FG42 second pattern bolt has additional machining at the forward end of the cam track, which is there (I believe…) in order to prevent the peening of the op rod tower hitting the front end of the track–Which was one of the multitude of problems with the M-60’s piss-poor hack copy job of this mechanism. Those additional cuts are also present in the few Lewis guns I’ve seen, and I believe (after nearly two decades of trying to keep the excresence which was the M-60 running…) are necessary for the long-term survivability of this weapons mechanism.

    Why did SMG decide to leave those cuts out? This factor alone would cause me to have grave doubts about this rifle, because the absence of those cuts leads me to suspect that SMG may not really understand this mechanism as well as they think.

    • I suppose they’re going to learn the hard way. Once the gun kicks itself to pieces, they’ll have to redesign it.

      Stupid question for you, Kirk: Between the M60, a belt-fed AR-10, and a Belgian Army issue FN MAG, which would you have taken into battle?

      • And they had to change the shape of the control slot in the bolt.
        Because they changed the shape of the barrel chamber. This raised the pressure in the barrel, the bolt began to open too early.

        • I think this is no longer a copy.
          This is already drawing on real modernization.

          Which has the purpose (contrary to usual) to deteriorate performance. 😉

    • Hi Kirk
      I do not intend to be at disagreement with your view, based on your long term experience with M60 weapon system. However, let me ask you a question: how do you envision, given the mechanism of the SMG as shown in the pictures, to determine firing pin protrusion control?

      It appears to me that the physical contact of mentioned tower/ stud which controls location of firing pin, by way it stops on its way forward in mentioned cam, IS the only way to do it. Yes, there are wear marks as you mentioned. Personally, I do not see in this case (aka semi-auto only) an issue with it.

      To speak of M60 may be a different matter, especially considering amount of reciprocating mass at that particular system. I am not going to venture into its details at this moment and take your testimony as a given.

    • I took look into my depository of various images I keep for number of years. Among them I found longitudinal section (drawing) of pattern 1. FG42 rifle. As I concentrated on inner bolt cavity, I scaled relative distances between cavity’s front face and a relevant surface on firing pin. Then I looked at distance from front surface of stud relative to front end of cam and compared the two. It is evident to me that the former distance is greater. From that finding I can only guess that the stud IS intended to fall onto front lobe of the cam before anything else.

      This understanding of mine is enforced by existence of large transition radius at the foot of stud where is integrally connected to operating rod. I can imagine this is done on purpose – to alleviate the stress due to the impact and thus assure reliability and longevity of the mentioned part.

    • That cutout strikes me as being for giving crud caught there a chance to escape rather than jamming things up, as in Ian and Karl’s mud tests.

      Peening seems like a different problem: a materials or heat treatment problem. Ideally a part like that is surface hardened yet with a tough core: a file skates off its surface, yet it won’t shatter. This is a practical option for firearms, used for e.g. Garand receivers and Glock barrels.

      Ian generally doesn’t explore this dimension of design, because you can’t test hardness without doing damage, but it’s there. He’s obviously on good enough terms with the SMG people to ask them about it, though. (And hopefully get back an answer like “Yup, that’s case hardened 8620” rather than a lot of vague waffling.)

      • I swear I wrote that without taking a look at their website! But here’s what they say there:

        “We are now making the bolts from 9310 instead of 8620. The bolt body is left unfinished on the rifle and some have complained of light rust freckling if left unprotected (oiled) and so the 9310 will help with that – as well as having approximately 10x the impact resistance. And since we have had no problems with the 8620 bolts in that regard (over 15,000 rnds on the test rifle) the new ones should last, well, a long time.”

        No mention of heat treatment for that particular part, but they do mention it for other parts, and in general it sounds like they know what they’re doing in that regard.

        • Thats interesting

          It sounds like SMG are committed to producing a good gun, rather than a quick buck.

          I wasn’t familiar with SAE 9310, so I looked it up. It looks like it, and the similar ~1% Cr, ~3% to ~4% Ni, forging and case hardening steels are significantly more expensive than the lower alloyed 8620.

          It looks like there are even some vanadium bearing steels in that general group if you really want to have high surface hardness.

      • Peening seems like a different problem: a materials or heat treatment problem.
        ——————————-

        Exactly, that is my suspicion too. Correct application of metallurgy is a base of any successful design. And yet, materials do not have to be super fancy. I found that for instance many parts of AK rifle are out of medium carbon steel, hardened to 50-55 HRC. Surface treatment is plain zinc phosphate.

    • Observation of M60 Bolt in your picture.
      It appears the contact surface with op-rod lug had been widened (if indeed there is still a contact). That would make sense since the original (as we see on MG42 design) basically entails a line contact which leads to stress concentration.
      But again, I’d have to examine entire M60 action assembly (and to take parts measurements) to be sure. My past contact with M60 was short and cursory.

    • Kirk,

      I had a look through Ian’s other FG42 pictures in the vault.

      Does that FG42 bolt look like it has its locking surfaces on a shallow helix?

      Did the MG60 do that as well?

  4. It is a fabulous rifle . However wouldn’t it be easier to design a better parachute harness or copy an allied one ?

    • I’m no parachute expert, but the main reason the FJ used their weird parachute design was to allow for very, very low drops. Lots of injuries, can’t carry equipment — but you can put most of your jumpers on the ground alive from ridiculously low altitudes. The Luftwaffe used more conventional parachutes for rescue purposes — it’s not as if they would have to find some Allied parachutes.

      • Parachute expert here.
        The original RZ-1 Fallschirmjaeger harness hung the paratrooper leaning 45 degrees forward and was developed from a World War 1 pilot emergency parachute for observation balloon crews.Balloon crews’ primary job was correcting artillery fire onto enemy targets.
        It was invented by Unteroffizer Otto Heineke serving in a balloon unit. Like many early parachute harnesses, the primary component was a wide (3 or 4 inches) belt around the diaphram. Shoulder and leg straps just helped hold the belt in the correct position until loading/opening prevented it from sliding upwards or down wards. The belt had two large rings on the side. These held a pair of risers that met above the jumper’s shoulders. There the risers met at a swivel that was supposed to prevent line twists, a minor nuisance.
        Typically, balloon crews only wore harnesses while spotting, while the parachute canopy hung in a separate container above and beside the basket. If the hydrogen-filled balloon caught fire, the crew clipped their harnesses to the parachute and jumped overboard for a less than one minute parachute descent.
        During the last year of WW1, a few elite fighter squadrons were issued with Heineke parachutes. Fighter pilots only wore harnesses while seated in the cockpit while the bulky parachute canopy was stored in the aft fuselage.
        Immediately after WW1, Italy started training paratroopers using Salvatore harnesses that leaned jumpers forward. Since Hitler had decided that he wanted to become a fascist dictator – like his hero Benito Musillinni, they just copied Italian parachutes and tactics.
        Most of those early harnesses leaned the jumper forward at a 30 to 50 degree angle. The disadvantage of this configuration was that any weapons carried on the chest would bruise ribs on landing. That is why Fallschirmjeagers only carried pistols, hand grenades and knives during early battles in Belgium, Holland and Norway.
        Meanwhile, long guns were dropped separately in long, cylindrical panniers. Many too many Fallschirmjeagers died trying to retrieve their long guns (rifles, light machine guns and mortars) from panniers.
        Lessons learned early were employed during the invasion of Crete, with far more Fallschirmjeagers stuffing MP 38/40 submachine guns into their harnesses.
        It was not until 1944 that Fallschirmjeagers got a more modern “Irvin” harness that suspended they (similar to Luftwaffe pilot emergency parachutes). However these new vertical harnesses were only used during the Battle of the Bulge and only in small numbers.

        Master Corporal (retired) Robert Warner, CD, BA and a couple pairs of army jump wings.
        Private pilot
        A long list of skydiving instructor ratings
        CSPA Rigger Instructor Examiner

    • It’s been a long, long while, but from what I remember the German Falschirmjager parachute was what it was due to peculiarities of their airborne operations doctrine, which affected how it was used. Allied paratroopers exited the aircraft standing; German Falschirmjager leapt out as though they were diving head-first. The logic behind this had something to do with the original source for the parachutes which I think were ones originally designed for balloonists in WWI.

      Somewhere, there’s an entire book on the issue, or someone’s thesis that I read. I wish I could remember more details, but I don’t. The root of the issue though lies in the “installed base” problem–They started out using adapted balloon parachutes, and like the QWERTY keyboard, it just flowed from there. I vaguely remember, too, that they were doing that because the early JU-52 had them exiting not from side doors, but from a well in the aircraft’s fuselage, like a bomber. That detail is not something I’d want to vouch for, though…

      Assuming I remember correctly everything I read some twenty-thirty years ago.

  5. In what capacity? Vehicle mounted? MAG.

    Carrying an MG as a ground-pounder? None of the above–Ideally, if I got to pick out what I could carry, it would be something like an SS-77, a Negev, or a PKM in whatever caliber was on issue.

    M60 is an utter abomination of an MG, and unless you can guarantee me the lavish logistical support it had during Vietnam, it’s a non-starter. An AR-10 is not really even a real MG, in that there’s no capability for barrel change or tripod mount, while the MAG has proven time and time again to be Too Damn Heavy for foot-mobile infantry. If I’m pretty much guaranteed to stay on the trucks, no problem–I’d love the MAG. Gotta carry that bitch? LOL… Not me, if I get a choice.

    What kills me about a lot of this is that it’s right there, in front of you, when you look at the original FG-42 and Lewis Guns. You didn’t have the peening problems with the cam track and op rod tower that you have in the M60, precisely because they made damn sure that the op rod tower was unable to impact the interior of the cam track.

    Go take a look at the images in that thread Stiven posts; note all the places that you have peening and chipping from precisely what I’m talking about, and SMG was telling that poster that such things were to be expected… WTF? Not in my world–You have a design that essentially beats itself to death, then you’ve executed it improperly. SMG’s bolts and op rod towers show exactly the wear and damage that I’d expect on an M60, and for the same reason–Impact that shouldn’t be happening, and does not occur in the original, from what I’ve seen. Precisely NONE of the original FG-42 or Lewis guns that I’ve been able to examine in detail exhibit that kind of wear, and that’s due to the fact that the parts do not impact the way the M60 does.

    I’m sorry, but SMG has missed the boat on this in a number of ways. If your mechanism is doing that, chipping and peening, you’ve done fucked up–Which was something I have to repeat, I’ve never seen in any of the original Lewis or FG-42 implementations of this mechanism.

    • “…SMG has missed the boat on this in a number of ways…”(С)

      IMHO This is a commercial rifle and NOT a machine gun.
      Just a cool funny gun.
      All existing children’s flaws are easy to fix.
      It is all CNC-made.
      IMHO It should not be considered as a paratrooper’s weapon.

      I would recommend to them to return to the original shape of the barrel chamber.
      And reduce weight.

  6. Open bolt also, more importantly, helps in automatic fire, without it such light high caliber rifle would be (lot) less controllable.

  7. Dies anyone know how the Germans intended to fight with an all-FG section? Were they still intending on fielding MGs at platoon or company level?

    I ask because I rather tire of reading that the FG could be used as an SMG, rifle, LMG. It could. But it would be bad at the first and third. And an LMG – or light-role MG – is not just a type of weapon, it’s a tactical concept. Classically, the section would be split into a rifle group and an MG group. But it would make no sense, in, say, an 8-man section, to have a rifle group all firing their FGs as rifles, and a gun group of 2-3 using one identical FG as an LMG.

    I’m assuming, but have never seen historical evidence, that the concept was to have two equal fire teams, and that their firepower would be sufficient against opponents using more conventional tactics with the classic rifle/LMG mix.

    And that means that the FG, which was called and specified as a rifle, was not intended as a thing that could be a rifle, a sniper rifle, an LMG, but rather as a new class of rifle that either removed the need for an LMG, or – more likely -made up for its enforced absence in a German paratroop section.

    In short, sticking a bipod on a select-fire rifle no more makes it an LMG that adding an optic makes it a sniper rifle. It makes it a select-fire rifle that has a bipod.

    • Its possible at least at some stage, fantasy goal was that it would become standard rifle for whole Wehrmacht… Remember old story of Hitler not wanting Stg,
      but this, uses same caliber as MG, is logistically very sound.
      It brings me, and begs the question did they also at some point consider making mg42 in 7.92×33 – that would be uber cool, you could have carry more ammo and possibly make it lighter and scaled down, but still retain high rate of fire (and barrel swap) that they really liked

      • Hitler had little or nothing to do with FG42. The Fallschirmjaeger belonged to the Luftwaffe, not the Wehrmacht, and Goering considered them his “private army”. Therefore, if they wanted something they couldn’t get through the Wehrmacht, they’d just ask him and he’d make it a Luftwaffe priority.

        The genesis of FG42 was due to the airborne invasion of Crete in 1940. Paratroops armed mainly with MP38/40s and even earlier SMGs like MP28 came under fire from British defenders armed with rifles, and found themselves outranged. They wanted a selective-fire rifle that used the 7.9 x 57 round to avoid that happening in the future.

        Ironically, Crete was the last airborne operation the Fallschirmjaeger did during the war. Their casualties there were so heavy that after that, Hitler concluded that airborne ops were mainly suicidal. Other than Skorzeny’s “rescue” of Mussolini, which was a small-scale special operations affair, the German paratroops fought as semi-conventional ground forces for the rest of the war, notably at Monte Cassino.

        And for the most part, they ended up with the same equipment as everybody else, notably the MP40 and the MP43 assault rifle.

        BTW, it wasn’t Hitler who came up with the “Sturmgewehr” name. It was Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister. “Vergeltungswaffen” (“Vengeance Weapons”) for the A4/V2 rocket and Fi103/V1 “buzz bomb” were his idea, too.

        cheers

        eon

        • I think you unintentionally misinterpreted what I aimed for, it was not what Hitler or Goering wanted, but more of a broader scope,
          since Ian also talked (noted) in some random video few years before, that Hitler “although not being military genious (paraphrased Ian words)”, his “foreshadowing future” idea was of having soldiers being in more of a marksmanship type roles, with low powered optics sniping at longer distances than usual, just like many militaries have it today, and fg42 with this optic and caliber falls ideally into that scenario.

          Also, more important, Wehrmacht is a collective name for their armed forces (meaning something like wehr-arms,weapons; macht- power, force),
          consisting of
          Heer (army), Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine (Navy) – so now you see what Luftw. actually belonged to/was under, and ofc Hitler was its supreme commander.

      • A notion of the potent calibre rifle shot 8x57mm switch into relatively weak 8x33mm seem to me as ill founded. Just consider that 8mm Mauser shot is already 6mm shorter than the U.S.standard 30.06 shot with the same base diameter (which ironically is based on the 8mm Mauser). Every slightest cut in casing length means less powder charge, therefore lesser performance. The 8mm Mauser was about an optimum round for both rifles and machineguns in German inventory.

        Yes, the history record says that A.H. was against idea of Sturmgewehr with reduced power ammunition. But so he was against using jet-propelled Me-262 as a fighter plane. He had apparently a mind of his own 🙂

        • Went looking for that paper I mentioned earlier… No joy on finding the one I was thinking of, but…

          Notes on German Airborne Operations by von der Heydte

          https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/104-13/104-13.htm

          has this:

          “Section I. EQUIPMENT OF GERMAN PARACHUTE TROOPS

          During the war, the weapons and equipment of German parachute troops did not differ essentially from those of the infantry. The paratroop automatic rifle, which used standard ammunition, was the only special type of small arms developed. It was adopted because the automatic rifle of the infantry did not use standard ammunition. In any paratroop operation the most harassing problem was the method of carrying ammunition. Since the rifle was attached to the man while jumping, the weapons containers, most of which after 1942 were transportable, became available for carrying ammunition. In 1944 a so-called ammunition vest for each man was introduced in some parachute units and proved successful.”

          That passage would tend to indicate that the reason the Falschirmjager did not adopt the StG44 class of weapons boiled down to ammunition logistics, and that the reason they wanted the FG42 to be chambered in the standard 7.92X57mm round was that they wanted commonality across their weapons due to the expected issues with ammo resupply.

          Which makes sense–They were also very interested in just having 9mm pistols and submachineguns, rather than the usual hodgepodge of Buetewaffen that other non-Wehrmacht outfits had to make do with…

        • All shot potency wise,
          historical development went (correctly) primarily into assault rifles and its calibers, US m14, FN FAL and g3 episode (last 2 I also consider falling into assault rifles, as this battle rifle category is in my opinion, theoretical BS; what the heck is/is not a battle?)
          turned out being misled development and cul de sac (especially ofc m14).
          Only real dilemma is in logistics, is it better to have only 7.62 nato for both rifles and MGs,
          or also 5.56mm, or only 5.56mm (thus you have no MGs).

    • I don’t think that the Germans ever, in their wildest fantasies, foresaw being able to arm up entire units with the FG42. As such, doctrine was not developed with this in mind.

      If I remember rightly, the basis of issue was going to be about one FG42 to three or four MP40 SMGs, and the idea was that the provision of the FG42 would enable the units to fight to their drop containers, whereupon they’d be able to get “real” MGs into operation.

      The German Falschirmjager I got to talk with loved the gun; when he wasn’t carrying it, he was hauling around an MG34 or 42. He did say that as soon as possible, the idea was to get the belt-fed MGs into operation. Most of the time, however, the FG42 was used as a supplementary weapon to beef up elements normally armed with the Kar98k.

      Main issue with the damn things and doctrine to use them, however, was that there weren’t any more actual airborne operations after Crete where they might have been used. As it was, they were an answer to a question that was no longer being asked, and the Falschirmjager mostly just used them as firepower supplements where they could, about like how the First Special Service Force made use of their Johnson Light Machine Guns.

  8. I suppose grip intention was that it does not stick out and poke (just like collapsible sights), since its for paratrooper

    • Supposedly, the grip was designed to allow the para to fire down at ground targets while descending.

      Attempting suppressive fire while under the canopy in midair usually doesn’t work. It also means that you’ve chose the DZ very badly.

      Sainte-Mère-Église was one such example. There were others.

      clear ether

      eon

      • Uh, the grip wasn’t intended for descending fire. It was just held at the same angle as the grip on the Kar98K (familiarity of ergonomics?).

        • Thats what I “heard” too, but in my opinion ergonomics of less stickout are/were priority before “familiarity”.
          Descending fire theory sounds like BS, especially if they preferred low drops

          • Not wanting to turn into yet another self reply freak,
            I must mention scaled down vietnam era survival m16 (called car 15, colt 608), 10″ barrel,
            but its pistol grip being cut in half so that it can fit into combat pilot seat kits – it was only a prototype idea with 10 made.
            So with airborne operations, size and ergonomics does matter.

  9. The original idea was to use the FG-42 as a single sample instead of the SMG, LMG and rifle.
    Another quasi-brilliant idea from the geeks.
    Which was clearly demonstrated in comparative tests in 1943.
    As a universal tool, the MP43 turned out to be head and shoulders above.
    Just as for the role of the LMG, the Czech LMG, the K98 sniper rifle, and the commander’s self-defense weapon-MP40 correspond to the best.
    But, apparently, no one dared to say this to Goering in the eyes. Therefore, this freak was made in some quantities and distributed to units as a means of strengthening.
    This device does not at all correspond to its purpose, the idea of ​​an assault rifle for a machine-gun cartridge was initially stillborn.

    • Therefore, this freak was made in some quantities and distributed to units as a means of strengthening.
      ——————————

      I have to agree and commend you for saying the “truth” – is was and remains a “freak” – big time. As a proof may be the fact that no one attempted (save for Mr. Smith and his outfit) to resurrect it.

      But, thanks to its existence we have so much fun debating it today.

      • Technically, this rifle is a masterpiece of design thought. Even taking into account such a gross miscalculation with the choice of ammunition.
        Perhaps thanks to.
        If they were a little smarter and chose the 7.92×33 cartridge or similar, it would just be another SturmGewehr.

    • Yet we had after ww2, 7.62 nato and its big three (g3, fal, m14) …
      Its not a bad idea, but having/”discovering” mp44, it quickly becomes inferior, and you see what is correct guns development orientation (on which NATO stumbled after ww2)

  10. Fantastic video, Ian. We currently offer the Collector Grade book “Death From Above” on our website, abramsantiques.com, along with hundreds of other militaria and firearms reference books.

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