Original FG42: A Detailed Comparison of the 1st and 2nd Patterns

Today we are looking at examples of the 1st pattern (Type E) and second pattern (Type G) FG42, comparing their construction and disassembling both to get a close look at the internal differences. Despite sharing the basic mechanism, these two models share zero parts in common, not even the bayonets or magazines. We will also discuss the developmental path of the FG-42, and why the majority of production was the 2nd pattern but the vast majority of combat use was the 1st pattern…


    • The Fallschirmjager (paratroops) wanted it after Crete. They’d been mauled pretty thoroughly there, mainly by British rifle and Bren gun fire. The MP38/40 SMG wasn’t the gun you wanted to bring to what was basically a rifle fight. They didn’t think the MKb42 in 7.9 x 33 Kurz had enough range; they wanted something that could match the Bren.

      Since the paratroops were “owned” by the Luftwaffe (which essentially had its own army much like the SS did), Goering regarded them as his private army. So what they wanted, they got through the RLM as opposed to the army procurement system.

      One more example of how Nazi Germany was about a dozen times more complex than any rational military or government should be, with multiple competing “ministries”. No wonder the British intelligence establishment referred to it as “Twelveland”.

      clear ether


      • All of which I know – still don’t understand why it is so revered – is it the crypto-Nazis of Wehraboo Land, where any German weapon made between 1933 and 1945 is perfect and magical?

        • I suspect that it is due to how FG42 was portrayed in video games. Quick search reveals such thing as
          The FG42 is the best gun in the game, so naturally I had to make a montage. Enjoy! w.r.t. Enlisted
          FG-42 Is The Best Gun Already!? w.r.t. Call of Duty: WW2
          ROAD TO 100-0! FG42 (BEST GUN) w.r.t. Call of Duty: Black Ops
          this would be similar to reason why MP40 is deemed more popular than it actually was.

        • Because it accomplished what all the other armies then found was impossible: it fired a full-power cartridge full-auto with some semblance of controllability for under 10 pounds.

          But if it’s too hard to make in mass quantities, then it’s still impossible. The Wehraboos never get this.

          • Most of the “Wehraboo” types are suffering from what looks an awful lot like adult attachment disorder. They’ve latched on to this imaginary concept they’ve formed about the “cool stuff” that the various parties back in history had or did, and… Well, they’re entirely delusional about the realities. With weapons, the usual deal is that they focus on the extraneous BS like how they look, not necessarily how they perform or integrate into the military reality of the time period. This is why people look at things like Sparta, and go “Oh, wow… Cool!!!” and then call themselves Spartans, making believe that said Spartans only did good things. The fact that they were basically a bunch of sociopaths that taught their sons to kill helots? That they were slave-owning sons of bitches whose behavior would have horrified all right-thinking people of today? Never registers.

            It’s a minor psychological disorder, I think. When you identify with and defend groups like the Nazi Wehrmacht and SS? There is something wrong with you at a fairly substantive level. Maybe you got beaten up a lot as a kid, and want the Nazis to come in and slaughter your oppressors…? I dunno; there’s something slightly off with all these characters, and I’ve rarely run into one who didn’t eventually blow their lives up doing something weird.

          • Kirk:

            Thanks to Hugo Boss, the Nazis at least had the coolest uniforms. British and American uniforms were more practical, but did not look as good. The German stuff did get more practical as the war progressed, and ended up looking a bit like Battle Dress.

    • Very compact, and some of the concept provided the basis for the M-60 machine gun.

      The full size mag hanging off the left side is unique and fascinating. The Fallschirmjäger were elite Nazi troops at the beginning of the war, and so are interesting in their own right, and thus especially a weapon designed for and used exclusively by them.

      • There isn’t too much “unique” or even particularly original about the FG42.

        When it was first noticed, several Allied weapon experts immediately noticed its amazing resemblance to the American Johnson M1941 light machine gun;


        Including the whole thing about firing from a closed bolt on semi-auto and an open bolt on full-automatic.

        Other than gas operation (FG42) vs recoil (M1941), the major distinction between the two is that FG42 is a machine rifle like the BAR, while M1941 is a true LMG like the Bren. Why? Because M1941 has a quick-change barrel; FG42’s barrel is fixed.

        This also meant that M1941 could be carried broken down in a scabbard on a para’s harness. Thus, he could simply take it out, stick the barrel on, and go to work. Like the M1A1 carbine, as Edwin Tunis said, it let the gunner land shooting instead of waiting for the gun to come down on the next elevator.

        As to what bits of FG42 the Ordnance crowd copied in creating M60, I’ll leave that to Kirk. I’ll just say that what they did and didn’t do shows rather clearly that while they noticed a lot of the features on FG42, MG42, and etc., they apparently did not understand why those features were present to begin with.

        clear ether


        • I generally find little to disagree on with eon’s posts, but with this one, I fear I must quibble, at least on a couple of points:

          One, I agree that there is a lot of congruence between the FG42 and the Johnson, I don’t know how much of that stemmed from Johnson’s design influencing the Germans versus simple convergent evolution due to the design criteria set out by the people who wanted the damn thing built.

          I don’t think there was much respect for US weapons designers on the part of the Germans, nor was there much attention paid to what the US was doing. I’ve seen some truly scathing German reports on the Garand and the rest of the US small arms suite, most of which did express respect for the ability of the US to produce the things in mass production lots. The actual designs, however? They weren’t things the Germans really thought all that worthy of respect.

          Granted, those opinions were just that: Opinions. Other German sources may have had different ones, but the guys I read were discussing the US weapons in the context of the MG, and its inherent primacy in the context of mid-century combat.

          I don’t think they’d have been copying the Johnson, in other words. I’ve never seen anything from the Germans talking about the Johnson LMG, either, which isn’t to say that such things don’t exist, just that I never saw any. It was a niche weapon, not something that they’d have had a lot of contact with. If I remember rightly, only the 1st SSF had them in Europe, and even those got supplanted by the BAR after the initial Italian campaigns…

          The other thing I’d quibble on is the inclusion of the Johnson LMG as an LMG… Yeah, that doesn’t make sense of it all, but if I were the guy laying out the categories of small arms, a true LMG would be like the BREN, and have the capability to deliver repeatable and consistent bursts out to the full range of its ammunition, which further implies the capability of said LMG to be mounted on a tripod like the BREN was. I’d put the BAR, the FG42, and the Johnson LMG into the same category of “Automatic Rifle”, just like the Chauchat. A true LMG has to be able to do what the BREN does, and deliver precision repeatable fires off of something. No can do? Not an LMG, no matter what the designer may be fantasizing.

          I’m kind of ambivalent about something like the Johnson or the various European BAR variants that might have had an adjustable rear monopod that you could half-ass into a configuration wherein you could deliver repeatable fires from a field-improvised position using that rear monopod with the bipod and some creative use of local terrain, but… All in all, if you can’t get it onto a tripod with a full-on traverse and elevation mechanism, it ain’t an LMG.

          Just sayin’…

          • Kirk:

            I believe the M1919A4 was described as an LMG in the American order of battle. Well they were lighter than an M1917. Would you agree with that? I would normally think of an LMG as something with a shoulder stock and a bipod, so I’d call an M1919A6 an LMG, albeit an awkward and heavy one. The Bren could indeed be fired from a tripod, but I wonder if that happened much? In the British order of battle the guns on tripods were Vickers, not light at all.

          • John, the language being as opaque as it is on the issue of what sort of MG an MG actually is would be a clear sign that we haven’t conceptualized this whole issue very rigorously at all.

            I don’t go by weight of the weapon, which I fear that the guys who called the M1919A6 an LMG did. I go by what sort of fires it can deliver, and the supporting crew features it possesses.

            To me, and as I understand the most general worldwide use of the word, an LMG implies that the gun is capable of providing limited sustained fire, but not actual full-on sustained fire. It is also more portable than an MMG (or, HMG…), and it can be operated and carried by a one-man crew in exigency.

            Thus, the M1919A6 is an LMG while the Johnson is really not; the Johnson lacks the ability to be mounted on a tripod in order to deliver consistent and repeatable fires. The BREN is an LMG, while the BAR is not, for many of the same reasons. Same-same with the crew-operation features; the M1919A6 can be reloaded by a loader, allowing the gunner to focus solely on maintaining situational awareness and observation of the target; the BAR cannot be reloaded by anyone other than the gunner, and to do so, he has to break his focus on the target in order to serve his weapon.

            The BREN guns did have tripods; seen here in a Wikipedia image:


            They’re not thought of as a tripod-mount MG because the Brits didn’t emphasize their use for that sort of sustained fire; it is, however, capable of it.

            The point that people keep missing about the tripod isn’t that the weapon can be fired without the involvement of a human shoulder; the real capacity of the tripod is in the T&E mechanism, which enables consistent and repeatable fires that can be easily controlled by the leadership. There is a world of difference between “Yeah, a little more to the left and up some” and “Shift fire 40 mils left and 15 mils up”.

            You can increase your lethality with a MG team using a T&E properly way, way more than most would imagine. The fact that a full-auto weapon doesn’t have the ability to mount on such a tripod is what separates the Automatic Rifle category from the LMG…

          • Kirk:

            I have wondered about the Bren gun tripod. I don’t think it was used much. When the Bren was adopted, could there have been a plan for it to be a GPMG? It is a lot simpler and cheaper than a Vickers, though it could never deliver the same weight of fire.

          • Here’s the deal: You want to deliver long-range, accurate and easily corrected fires? You have to have a tripod. Period. Pte Stevens and his shoulder don’t cut it; you have to be able to tell him the actual mil-based corrections in order to be effective, which is even more critical considering that the BREN is not a belt-fed; those magazines have to be used as efficiently as possible, and that means directed fire that’s easily controlled.

            The tripod is a tactical tool that a lot of people simply do not appreciate. You tell me you never use your tripod? That’s how you tell me you don’t know what you’re doing as a machinegunner or leader of an MG team.

            Even in heavy jungle, on a retreat, the tripod can be highly effective. You register the tripod in at your pre-planned points for providing cover on a retreat, and then when you get to them, you just set the tripod where you staked it, use your pre-set T&E settings, and you’re easily able to drop rounds right on the spots you need to. Properly handled, the tripod makes a deadly weapon out of what could just be a really pointless noisemaker.

            Of course, in today’s sadly diminished era, ain’t nobody really training on that stuff. “It isn’t on our Mission Essential Task List, Sergeant…”

            As if you really know what the f*ck is going to prove to be “mission-essential” when you go off to war…

          • Kirk:

            Maybe that was what the Bren designers had in mind? I’d like to know. I am not sure if the tripod came from CZ or was a British design.

            However, under the pressure of war, I don’t think the Bren tripod saw much production or use. In photographs you only ever see the Bren on a bipod.

          • RE: The actual use of the BREN/tripod combination.

            Bear in mind, the BREN as a “big honking gun to carry and shoot like Rambo” is pretty damn photogenic; everybody wants an action shot. The BREN on a tripod, however? Only of interest to the cognoscenti who understand machineguns. Not sexy, not photogenic, and not likely to have been the subject of much in the way of interest for the newsreels or still photographers.

            Rest assured, however, they were there. I can’t remember if it was a one-for-one issue, and they were kept on the BREN gun carriers, or if it was slightly lower, but they did procure and issue them. Much the same way we issued the tripod for “the M249 in the LMG role”… There for a bit, and perhaps still, the US Army issued the M249 on two different (plural of basis, whateverthehellthatis… Basii? Basises?) such that you had the M249 in the Automatic Rifle role, sans tripod and other accoutrements, and the M249 in the LMG role, which included the tripod, spare barrel, and some other gear. Ain’t nobody really knows about that “LMG role” thing, ‘cos the tripods generally didn’t leave the Arms Room, and I think they only ever mounted the guns on them for display purposes… For all intents, the M249 was an Automatic Rifle with ambitions, and not much else.

    • As Ian has demonstrated with live fire of the replicas, it’s actually not a bad weapon. I’d rate it as superior to the Johnson, in its role as fire support for elite light forces like the First Special Service Force and the various Marine Raider and parachute outfits.

      Whether the juice was worth the squeeze, comparing the Johnson and FG42 to a real LMG like the BREN? I’m unsure; I think I’d have preferred a lightened BREN in either role. It was certainly superior to the BAR as a support weapon…

      I’m not sure that anyone was really thinking too clearly back in the day. That we went into WWII with the BAR remaining in the as-issued state that it was for “marching fires” in WWI? Nuts; they should have taken Browning’s admittedly genius action design, turned it upside-down and added the faculty for either a top-loading magazine like the BREN or a belt feed; ideally, both as interchangeable options like left-hand/right-hand feed. That would have been a very good weapon, I think; it’s basically what Vervier did with the MAG-58, absent the magazine option…

      I know that people love the BAR, but… That it served as long as it did is a testament to the US Army’s failure to comprehend the machinegun or it’s tactical use. Same-same with the M60; that abortion should have never left the fielding stage, as designed. When you have to safety-wire key parts, to keep them on the weapon…? That’s a pretty clear sign that you’ve fundamentally screwed the pooch with your design. Never mind the rest of the silly crap they did to that poor gun. Only thing they got right were the Stellite barrels, which I believe remain the only general-issue standard MG barrel in the world made with Stellite in mass-production. Too bad the rest of the weapon isn’t equally inspired…

  1. I would love to see a “Gun Jesus” description of the U S Army MG-42/ FG-42 “frankengun” work.

    • It’d be nice, but there are no real references available to actually go over the M60, the design process that created it, or the approval/fielding of the design.

      I tried finding the material. Believe me, I tried… But, if it even exists any more, it’s well-buried in the archives.

      I was very interested in finding out what the initial criteria had been, because the features of the M60 aren’t even in remote compliance with what they should have been going for, in terms of “what the machinegunner needs”. Little things, like the zero for the sight being on the receiver/sight itself, with fixed sights on the flippin’ barrels… Which implies that if you’re going to zero the damn things, you have to change the zero on the rear sight itself, every time. And, since that zero includes moving a very fragile and fussy little aluminum leaf, using a screwdriver that ain’t even close to what they provide with the damn “kit” (which is another joke, in and of itself…) that goes with the weapon…

      I can’t believe that anyone who ever actually ran a gun was involved in the M60 design/fielding process at any stage of the process. There’s too much on that weapon that is inimical to “best practices” for the MG team; the only way you can say that the M60 is an improvement is by comparing it to the already-abysmal US MG that had been in that role, the M1919A6. Compare it to anything else on the market? Like the MAG-58 or the MG42/3? It was a sick joke.

      Again, note the mindless copying that went on between the FG42 and the M60: Do you see the little cuts at the end of the track on the bolt that are present on both of these weapons? Those cuts stop the peening of the bolt that takes such incessant time away from the armorers doing maintenance on the M60. They didn’t copy those, though… Meanwhile, the spring that assists closing the bolt and ensuring reliable primer hits for the firing pin in semi-auto? They included that, even though it’s totally unnecessary on the M60, it being full auto, all the time…

      I’d love to see someone who would do for the M60 what they’ve done for the MG34/42 family, or the Browning guns. I’d like to see a full listing of all the people who worked on it, from setting out the design parameters to final acceptance.

      If only so I can hire a witch doctor to make their afterlives at least as miserable as they made mine as a gunner and armorer.

      • Kirk:

        Brandon Herrera recently did a YouTube video on the M60. I was rather disappointed with it, as his analysis was rather superficial. What amazed me were the comments, most of which were along the lines that the Pig was awesome, or that dad used it in the Nam and thought it was awesome. Very strange. I think when your GPMG is nicknamed the Pig, history is trying to tell you something. It’s not normally a compliment. People are strange.

        • The reputation that the M60 has stems from its milieu; if a guy had only his Vietnam experience to go on, and he had no idea what was going on behind the scenes to keep those guns in service…? He’d have a positive outlook on the gun. If he was from my generation of soldiers, who had the M60 absent the lavish and amazing logistic support that the gun had in Vietnam? Yeah; he’d have a different opinion.

          Coming over from an Army that only had the M1919A6, the M60 looked pretty damn good. If you came onto it and had some perspective of other MG options, like the MG3 and the MAG58/L7 family? It looked like the mechanical nightmare it was.

          Hell, even the Vietnam guys had bad times with it. If you read “Bloods!” by Stan Goff, you will find his account of having exactly what happened to me happen to him towards the end of a firefight; his M60 basically disintegrated due to rivet failures. I had the same damn thing happen to me, on a range during the mid-1980s. The weapon was an utter POS on a scale that boggles the mind.

        • “I think when your GPMG is nicknamed the Pig, history is trying to tell you something. It’s not normally a compliment.”

          Oh, like nicknaming your A-10 Thunderbolt II The Warthog?

          • At least the A10 worked, and who would want to wrestle a warthog?

            Of course “the Pig” was an entirely unofficial name for the M60, and one which gives a clue as to its reputation among the troops.

          • I suspect that the nickname “Pig” came out of the cleaning process required by that freakin’ composite built-up receiver. You haven’t really experienced “filth” as a weapon operator until you’ve been forced to clean an M60 with just the standard cleaning kit, which really does nothing for all the nooks and crannies in that receiver.

            Also, if you’ve got a well-filthed older gun with a high round-count? Beware of a thorough cleaning in something like a motor pool parts cleaning tank… That filth may be the only thing keeping the receiver tightly riveted, and once you successfully remove it? Yeah; be prepared for a very wobbly receiver to result, which then implies a quick trip to Third Shop, and fairly likely coding-out of said gun.

            I had a commander come in, shortly after I arrived at a unit. We’d known each other somewhat on another assignment, he knew I knew my weapons and Arms Room procedures, so it was like “Hey, Sergeant K… Gotta task for ya…”

            We went through the Arms Room, looked at all the weapons. Lots of deferred maintenance, and the M60s were ‘effing-ay FILTHY. Commander said “Clean these…” I told him the quickest way would be that shiny new parts cleaner in the motor pool, but that we’d likely lose about half the guns once the gunk that was keeping them tight came out… He had me do it anyway. I was mostly right… We wound up turning in 7 of the 9 M60s assigned the unit.

            That receiver setup is why the gun is so light, but that lightness comes at a major price in terms of durability and longevity. Part of which goes bye-bye because rust will expand the joints that are riveted, and when you get the rust out chemically or otherwise, well… Yeah. Loose gun.

            I think I could do a master class on “How not to design a machine gun”, just using the M60 as my example.

      • On the subject of archive research, the designation of weapons at the time can sometimes be surprising. I am planning on doing some research on the arguments around the adoption and withdrawl of the EM2 (aka Rifle No.9) in 1951, going to the British National Archives at Kew in London. During the initial search of the records (which aren’t scanned, therefore requiring a visit), there were many more applicable results against the search term ‘.280 Rifle’ than ‘EM2 Rifle’.

        • Which is one reason I caveat the hell out of what I say about the records… I was searching DTIC and all the other available sources for this info back during the 1990s, from a military library system standpoint, not an academic one. The records may be out there; I just wasn’t able to locate them, and as far as I know, nobody else really has had the interest to go looking.

          Which ain’t exactly surprising: This isn’t a subject that a lot of people are interested in. I’m sure that there is a paper trail, somewhere, that existed at some point. One which would explain the lack of thought that went into things like that damn sight system, or which would at least make the issue a little more clear to the interested researcher.

          On the other hand, maybe the responsible parties really were that obtuse and stupid. I don’t know; can’t prove it one way or another. I am someone who likes to think that things like that are done for an actual reason, mistaken as it may have been. That is likely purest fantasy, on my part.

          I’m dead serious about saying that it looks as if they never consulted with an actual machinegunner or anyone who’d run an MG team in combat. That zero issue is significant; if you can’t use your damn sights effectively on your replacement barrels, how the hell are you supposed to deliver accurate sustained fire?

          That “minor” detail, along with a bunch of others, convinces me that the designers didn’t have a clue about what gun teams have to do, or how they were used in combat. Other things, like the lack of a carrying handle on the barrels, necessitating a thermal mitt being included (which was nearly always lost or unavailable in combat…) to change the barrels…?

          The paper trail may exist. It should; I just couldn’t tease it out of the system. And, nobody with better “archive fu” has apparently bothered to look for it, or possess the necessary acumen to know what the hell they’re looking for.

          In the United States, the military has a real problem with things like this; if there isn’t a significant civilian interest in things, then the supporting network of knowledge, manufacture, and technique simply isn’t developed. I would propose that if someone had done something like create a “National Machine Gun Association” at the end of WWI, the way the Civil War veterans created the NRA, then we’d likely have a bunch of enthusiasts who’d have forced better technique on the military through the same mechanisms that have done so much for the M16…

          Food for thought. Maybe the MG “culture”, for want of a better term, is the way it is because nobody on the civilian side is able to create enough of an ecosystem of knowledge and tools to improve it…?

          • Kirk:

            Since the M60 was designed by a committee, you would indeed think that there should be records of their decisions.

            It would be interesting to know their reasoning for decisions such as not to have an adjustable foresight, or to put the carrying handle on the gun body and the bipod on the barrel. There must have been reasons for these decisions, they cannot just have happened, and it would be good to know them. Sadly, it looks as if they are stored in the big government warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant.

          • I want there to have been a committee. A guy. Someone that was overseeing the whole thing, you know…?

            What I fear is that the actual design process went a lot like the scene describing the designing of the Bradley in “The Pentagon Wars”.

            There are so many weird little things about that weapon that you look at, get to know, and then it’s like “Why the hell did they do that…?”

            Which then leads you down the same rabbit hole I went down, trying to figure out the “why”. I never managed that feat. Maybe now, somebody could, but that won’t be me.

    • You’d think, but clarity of thought wasn’t a major feature of anything the Nazis did. I’m sure that there was some official or officer in the chain of authority overseeing the design of the FG42 who thought that being able to bayonet someone with an LMG was mandatory… Odds are, it was on a checklist some staff officer came up with, and stayed there because nobody who would ever use the damn things had a say in the whole deal.

      Me? I’d have demanded quick-change barrels and faculty for sticking the gun onto a tripod, if need be. That’s just me, though…

      • The bayonet on FG42 is pretty much a copy of the one on MAS36. It’s another case of multiple examples of an idea do not necessarily make it a good idea.



        • Y’know…

          I happen to think that the “multiple examples of an idea” not working would rather more likely be the flippin’ multi-purpose knife bayonets out there.

          The cruciform spike bayonet has the virtue of actually working as a bayonet, vice being a jack-of-all-trades thing that does a bunch of different things, but none of them at all well.

          I can’t speak as to the effectiveness of either the MAS-36 or the FG42 bayonets, but I do know for a fact that the copy of “Rosalie” that the Chinese affixed onto their SKS and AK copies works wonders as an actual thing to stick into something’s ribcage… Because, it mostly doesn’t bind or get stuck, unlike those benighted knife bayonets that they copied off of the Soviet AK-series rifles.

          You wanna bayonet? Make it a cruciform spike; you want a secondary purpose for it? Mine probe. You want a knife? Issue a friggin’ knife, and don’t try sticking it on a rifle, either. They just get hung up on the ribs, and when the corpse on the end of your rifle collapses ‘cos you just stuck a coupla’ inches of steel through its heart, you won’t have to worry about the way the ribcage is now locked around your now-twisted rifle…

          Color me in as “not a fan” of those toy multi-tool bayonets. They’re lousy at being knives and tools, and as bayonets? They just don’t answer the mail. Period.

          Could be the ones that they put on the MAS-36 and the FG42 didn’t work, but I’d wager it had a lot more to do with the attachment system than their virtues as a thing to stick in someone’s ribcage in order to modify their behavior.

          • The attachment system is what I’ve always had a problem with. Spike bayonet? If you want to stick somebody in the vital spots and make it count, that’s the way to go. The only “scar” it leaves is one going in the front and out the back. And like you said, it’s not going to get stuck.

            The problem with the spike on FG42 and MAS36 is that the attachment isn’t tough enough to let you do that. FG42 can lose the bayonet lug, MAS36 can let it literally be pulled off as you extract. Neither one is very smart.

            The folding spike on SKS? Probably the most no-BS bayonet ever. AK’s version suffers from the rifle really being too short in barrel length to make bayonet use practical.

            Silliest bayonet ever? The one on the SA80. Why bother?

            Any soldier should have both a sheath knife with a 6″ or so blade for camp chores, and a Boy Scout type pocketknife. The sheath knife can double as a killing blade if the need arises. I’ll go out on a limb and say the old U.S. M3 fighting knife was probably the best all-around design ever; sturdier than the British Sykes-Fairbairn but just as capable of sentry elimination. Making a bayonet out of it in the M4 and later versions was probably “pointless”, but at least it gave the infantryman a useful utility knife.



          • Kirk:

            What gets me is that they didn’t drop the bayonet for the second type FG42, they redesigned it. Didn’t they know they were losing by then?

          • I think there were Germans who were so invested in the idea of winning the war that they were still mostly certain of victory right up until their messiah committed suicide in Berlin. Some were still “true believers” enough that they thought they might still pull it out and win, from Argentina…

            There’s a lot of things about the Nazis that were culturally congruent with both gang behavior and religious cults. If you think about it from a certain angle, the whole Holocaust thing was essentially a mass “jumping in” deal, a thing that was so heinous that the participants couldn’t ever go back. Very similar to how “made men” have to have killed in the various criminal societies… It’s a psychological thing, a means of ensuring that the participants are fully committed and can’t “go back” to normal society.

            I don’t know that anyone really thought things through in that precise way, but that’s the social effect they created. Once you’ve committed to that course of action, and done things to support it? You really can’t go back from it; you can see similar things having happened in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Saddam’s Iraq, and just about anywhere a totalitarian takes over. It’s a necessary step in dehumanizing the opposition, and ensuring that your guys stay “on side”.

            Which goes a long ways towards understanding why so many Germans hung on until the bitter, undeniable end. They couldn’t admit to themselves that they’d committed acts of pointless inhumanity for a leader who didn’t deserve the slightest respect.

            There may be other explanations for all of it, but that’s the one that feels “right” to me; they’d taken to Nazism with the fervor of a newly-converted cultist in some religion, suppressing all rational thought. As such, irrationality ruled the day, everywhere in the Nazi demense. The small arms choices they made were merely the gravel on the sides of the iceberg of nuttiness…

  2. I realize disagreeing with the narrative about the M60 is simply not allowed, but after skipping through yet another pointless and tangental rant, let me ask here: if one person has had problems with every single M60 they’ve ever laid hands on, what would you say is the common denominator?

    • Knowing what I’m talking about, unlike 90% of the people calling themselves “combat arms” NCOs and officers.

      I spent a year and a half as a private carrying the M60. I spent another year and a half as the armorer maintaining them. Subsequent to my promotion to NCO rank, starting as a Corporal, I trained and led gun teams while generally being “the guy” everyone in the unit went to with maintenance issues. As I was promoted up the ranks, I kept a hand on the arms room simply out of self-interest: Unlike a lot of Infantry units that weren’t Rangers, that M60 was the bulk of our firepower in a wheeled Engineer unit. The guns mattered to me because I wanted to bring my guys home, and try to survive, myself.

      Throughout that career, I observed few people that either knew or cared about the guns; the Infantry units were all transitioning to Bradleys, and about the only people who relied on the M60 for fire support were in the Light divisions and Rangers. The Rangers and Marines were done with the M60 for all the reasons I have outlined; the majority of their civilian armorer’s time in each of the three battalions was spent maintaining those damn M60s and the 90mm Recoilless Rifles, just like in my unit’s experience. After they back-doored getting the M240 in as a ground-mount general-issue MG, life in terms of maintenance got a hell of a lot easier.

      Few of the average people who had stick time on the guns saw the whole picture the way I did; I had to train, I had to run ranges, I had to ensure the maintenance got done, and all of that. It was a time sink; you’d have to spend so much time emphasizing the correct way to assemble the gun in training that a lot of the finer points of marksmanship and MG operations became necessarily sidelined in favor of just keeping the damn things in operations.

      The biggest deficiencies of the M60 really weren’t visible to the average guy who just carried one for a few months as part of his journey through the ranks. He’d draw the gun from the arms room, go to a range, and never see the nightmares behind the scenes wherein you had to haul the guns over to the guys at Third Shop after every major use of the guns for something. Average NCO? Most of them were never properly trained on the guns in the first place, and had zero visibility on most of the maintenance issues. Most officers? LOL… They quit caring about the machineguns the day the Army took them off the readiness reports back in the late 1980s. You could observe a clear drop in support and emphasis for the guns with that move, and it wasn’t entirely unjustified: With the Bradley’s 25mm and the M249 taking the AR role up, the M60 lost its primacy as “the only MG”. Which wasn’t a bad thing, until some idiots decided to get us into a predominantly light infantry war in the hills of Afghanistan, where the issues about having lost the bubble on machinegunnery really showed themselves. If we had still been fielding the M60 for that campaign, I suspect that there’d have been a huge outcry over the many problems of the M60. As it was, they were able to paper over the whole thing because the M240 actually did what a machinegun is supposed to do… Just keep working.

      I went from having to worry about having only a couple of working guns in the arms room to never worrying about whether or not they worked; the transition was that enormous, in terms of readiness. The M240 just does not wear or break the way the M60 did; it can’t be put back together “wrong” in a half-a-dozen silly ways.

      So, yeah… It wasn’t a “me” issue. The guns were really that FUBAR, and if you’d spent the time I did with them, as opposed to playing with them in Call of Duty, you’d know that. I was behind an M60 nearly continuously from 1982 until we fielded the M240 in the late 1990s. Happiest day of my career was the one when we turned those POS guns in, and drew the new M240s. I never had to worry about whether the guns would be ready if we were to deploy, after that final turn-in of the excresence that was the M60. That gun should never have been procured in the form that it was, and the fact that it was the primary firepower of the infantry squad from about 1960 through to 1997 is nothing short of a crime. One that should have seen people imprisoned for committing. If we’d fought a war in the 1980s with those things still in the arms rooms, a lot of good men would have paid the price and died trying to do their jobs. That’s how bad it was, regardless of whatever fantasy you might have about Rambo and his wunnerful toys…

        • It’d be nice to say something dismissive, like “I have no words…”, but we all know that to be a lie.

          My loathing and contempt for the M60 is directly proportional to the number of sleepless nights I had while worried about the fact that we didn’t have any guns that were “mission-capable” if the balloon went up. Stateside, you could kinda-sorta ignore the issue, if you didn’t think too hard about it. The promise was, if we deployed, they’d pull new guns out of war reserve stock, and our weapons that were non-mission capable would be replaced on a one-for-one basis. The reality? Those weapons weren’t at our home station; if the things existed anywhere, we’d likely be getting them off of other units that would be stripped of them, and there’s no telling what shape those would be in, either.

          If you were in Korea? LOL… Yeah, baby: You’re in a “come as you are” situation, two miles from the DMZ. Working sh*t ain’t in the arms room? You’re going to go to war without it. Have fun; the M249 and your rifles are all you’re gonna get. Did we mention you don’t have access to fire support, as anything other than Infantry, and ohbytheway, you’re gonna be in front of them…?

          Spent a few too many sleepless nights due to things like that, while in Korea. I was never able to really sleep soundly unless I knew the stuff in the arms room was at least halfway functional, and the M60s were constantly in a state of “not”. You’d get the bastards back up, take them to the range for MG qualification, and then usually have a third of them develop “issues”. Cue trips to the maintenance shop, and the interminable paperwork you’d have to do for coding out the guns and getting new ones issued; that’d typically take up to a month or more to process, depending.

          See, nobody really cared once they took them off the books as reportable. You’d tell the boss “Hey, more M60s are down…”, and he’d just kinda wave it off. The fact that the squads were gonna be out working somewhere without fire support of any kind, besides the M249? Not considered a big deal.

          Most people who were in the Army during that period really had zero clue how bad things could get. Aviation guns were reportable; I lost track of the number of times where I’d go over to pick up parts and they’d have been diverted to keep their door guns up, or even have my weapons in Third Shop cannibalized for the same reason. For all intents and purposes, there were periods there where you really couldn’t say that we were equipped with 7.62mm machineguns, with all that implies.

          The thing that really rankles me, even now? Nobody cared; the brass couldn’t be bothered to pay attention or note all the extra work those POS guns cost us, out in the line units. There was precisely zero concern that we were coming up on end-of-life for most of the M60 fleet; the “responsible parties” up at the places where they should have been concerned about the issue paid no attention to the fact that there was no new 7.62mm MG program going, nor was there a solution waiting, ready in the wings, having been planned. The M240 happened because a bunch of concerned officers and senior enlisted in the Marines and Ranger Regiment made it happen; left to themselves, the small arms procurement types would have probably just kept blithely buying M60s until someone finally lost their sh*t out in the line units and went after them for the issue.

          I honestly can’t think of a more damning indictment of US small arms policies and procurement than simply pointing out the raw facts of the M60’s design and service history. Everything I rail about? Should have been caught and corrected before the damn thing ever left field trials; that they sent men off to war with it? Criminal negligence, nearly as bad as what they did with the M16.

  3. Kirk:

    I take it these M60s were old? Do you know how old? I imagine that since you were not infantry you did not get the new kit. Maybe your guns were Nam vets?

    The RAF has M60s as door guns for Chinooks. I have never read anything about their reliability, but I don’t expect they get a lot of use these days.

    As to the FG42, it is clear we have two entirely different weapons between the first and second patterns. Did the Germans make any distinction? It would have been a big logistical problem if not, since they share no parts in common.

    Really the second type should have been an FG44, but maybe there were political reasons to keep the changes on the down low. Maybe they didn’t want to alert Hitler to the changes to his favourite rifle?

    • There really weren’t any differences between the various vintages of M60, when it came to longevity. I personally unpacked a brand-new, never-fired gun directly out of war stocks. The foil vapor barrier wraps were still intact, aside from where the property book officer had opened them up to look at the serial number. Literally a brand-new gun. This was right after I arrived in Germany on my initial tour over there, and we almost immediately went to the field for what amounted to a “Let’s get everyone qualified on everything…” exercise. Due to the fact that we had the only competent armorer in the battalion, we wound up tasked with the M60 ranges, using our weapons to qualify all the gunners, assistant gunners, ammo-bearers, and whatever other people they could scrape up. Over the course of about three days of continuous range firing, my brand-new gun choked down about 10,000-12,000 rounds. At no point were the guns abused; indeed, they got way better care than they’d get in actual combat, being broken down for field cleaning about twice a day. Then, we did some night fires, and I have no idea how many rounds went through the guns for that, because a.) wasn’t there, and b.) by that point, we’d lost several to maintenance issues.

      We returned from that exercise, and all our guns went to Third Shop. Mine was coded out. From what the armorer told me, the guys at Third Shop didn’t even send it in for depot to rebuild; that’s how far gone the receiver was. It was a 1968 or so Vietnam-era gun that had been in storage in Europe until 1985 when it was released to us.

      The age of the guns wasn’t the thing; it was the round-count, and how well they’d been taken care of. If they’d ever been allowed to rust heavily? If they’d been abused by excessive rates of fire? Shorter lives.

      Part of the problem, as I’ve said before, was that the M60 really required a viscous lubricant like LSA; Break-Free worked great for the M16, but in the MG applications? It was shiite. No thick layer of heavy oil to act as cushion for the reciprocating parts that slammed into each other. That was why the peening I go on and on about was so bad during the last half of the gun’s service history.

      It was idiosyncratic as hell, too: I ran into a couple of M60s that were apparently unkillable; you could not break them or wear them out. They were few and far between, and I could not make out any correlating factors that might have explained it. One of the ones I’m thinking of was probably one of the first guns ever built or issued; it was still going strong circa 1985, and had been through depot rebuild about four times. The blind rivets on the receiver of that gun looked about like they’d been attacked by a flock of woodpeckers, but it kept right on meeting the annual gauging inspections. There was another one I ran into stateside, of much later vintage, and it just soldiered on through thick and thin. Aside from the gunner losing parts on it, like the trigger grip… For some damn reason, that gun liked to lose parts, no matter who carried it. I resorted to safety-wiring the pins on the trigger grip, and that stopped parts loss until the gunner managed to lose the entire forestock assembly over a swamp during an air-assault mission. Per his description, “It just fell the f*ck off, man…” I told him not to change barrels in flight, any more…

      The M60 was a gun that really, by rights, ought to have been issued about the way we did the LAW: As ammunition. You draw a weapon and a pallet of 10,000 rounds, and once you’re done shooting the ammo, the gun gets bent around a tree, and you draw another. You would typically get 10,000 rounds average, between depot-level work on the guns. That could vary, depending again on how well they were taken care of, and the rates of fire they were subjected to.

      By contrast? M240? LOL… I know for a fact that one of the first ones I personally unpacked, new from the factory, went through over 40-50,000 rounds doing things like ROTC Advanced Camp familiarization firing. That gun not only didn’t need to go back to the depot, you could barely find signs of finish wear on the interior surfaces… Exterior looked like crap, but the insides? Pristine.

      The M60 simply wasn’t a serious machinegun, not for the way they were used. It would have probably been fine, so long as it was looked at as an essentially disposable item that they planned on expending and then budgeted for accordingly, but after Vietnam, they went from “Spend whatever it takes to keep this thing going, ‘cos we can’t afford another Ichord Committee…” to “Well, the classic Browning guns only needed this level of budget support, we’ll go back to that…” If they’d kept on supporting the M60 the way they had in Vietnam, and kept using LSA rather than Break-Free? The weapon might have a better reputation among my generation. I mean, there were good things about it, namely the weight and some of the ergonomics, but those were of infinitesimal value when compared to the rest of the package that came with them.

      • Kirk:

        I can only think that when the M60 was designed, the expectation was that any future war would be atomic from day one, so the longevity of the GPMG would not be an issue. Then again, the M14 was made of steel and wood. No, nothing makes any sense.

        • It really wouldn’t surprise me if that was the rationale. Assuming they actually had one…

          The entire “Well, you’re only gonna live for an average of 30 minutes in combat, anyway…” mentality has always made me think of Henry Ford’s quip about his accountants knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. I can see the point that the bean counters think they’re making, but the effects on those who have to suck up the problems attendant to going the cheap route? And, what do you do if you’re trying to keep a professional army going in sort-of peacetime, like the US was? Did a disposable MG make sense, given all the other costs it created?

          Someone I knew about the time they were doing the M240 field testing swore up and down that they’d seen a program cost analysis for the M60 that basically said that if they’d purchased the MAG-58 back when, instead of the M60, then the entire lifetime cost of the MG program would have been about a third of what they actually wound up spending… I have no idea where they got their numbers, if they were valid, or if they were really comparing apples to apples with that, but it is what I was told. I can tell you for a fact, however, that the M240 was a much easier weapon to support, and that it did not require all the time, effort, and money that the M60 did. They just worked… The M240 was the IBM of machineguns; nobody ever got fired for procuring it.

  4. Mind you with this, Sig Spear; lark “The higher pressure cases thing, if ever needed… Probably would be needed against Commie Chinese terminators made from Russian materials.” The layout might come in handy, the side mag thing over the pistol grip… If one imagines a fg42 as being a sort of underbarrel gun, to a bullpup well it could have one barrel but two chambers the lower one you fire blanks out of to boost the upper… Or in a Ar suppose you could have a (Grenade launcher type attachment) reversed so it fire blanks towards you, yes into the chamber “Via a gas tap, aye a 360 port etc” to boost a conventional .556mm To “Spear things” Just saying, I doubt the Chinese version would be (Oh it could do the spear thing, oh yes… If we could afford it.) It likely just would, as they could… Especially with raw materials.

    Sooo… Like, just saying… Might be a need, for this “Spear” thing… An actual need. In future. You know against a well equipped, numerous, ecomonic, ideological power. No… Be ok? A few pictures, etc; to scare them. Ok…

    • If said “Spear” tech wears out barrels etc… If used; well we won’t want to be paying (Spear) prices, will we… For very long. So like… Might be worth thinking about, if this type of thing; is forced to be standard. One day, you know…

      • (Reckon they will have thought of that personally, and will make ten billion throw away models etc in 2hrs etc; but I may be wrong, we will pay and have the skills/capacity & will to do it properly.)


          • With the caveat of this: Touch screens and batteries etc, are nowadays “Throw away junk” in phones… Engines, these replace/augment mechanical systems, keypads or whatever, but in guns? Not yet. Yet. I bought a mobile phone (Cell phone to Americans) say 5 yrs ago cost 500 quid now one for a 100 bux does the same; throw away “I have phone case” but that is not the point; the point is it works, for abit. It stops working. Hey buy a new one.

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