Pre-Production FG-42 (Type C)

Thanks to the generosity of a collector in the Association of Maltese Arms Collectors and Shooters, we have a chance today to take a look at a pre-production FG-42, serial number 015. This is one of the guns manufactured by Rheinmetall (the series production would be handed over to Krieghoff) in between the Type A and B prototypes and the Type D troops trials guns. Its provenance is well documented, being previously owned by noted Dutch collector Henk Visser, who received it as a gift form the Rheinmetall factory museum, where it had been since the end of the war.

The gun shows a few minor variations from the standard “first pattern” (aka Type E) FG-42, including a split pin to attach the trigger group and more notably, a completely different type of rear sight. It also, exhibits a modified French MAS-36 bayonet, proving the lineage in that design element (not that there was really any doubt…). In our video, we will discuss the early development of the FG42, and where this rifle is situated in that story!

29 Comments

  1. Again with the grip angle, one wonders if the thing is raked to mimic the wrist angle of the usual bolt-action rifle semi-pistol grip wood stock. Plenty of people can also agree that the cruciform spike bayonet is next to useless unless it has sharp edges to prevent the action movie gun struggle scenario. Where’s the magazine loading kit when you need it?

    • Oh yes, I have same thought on the grip. What they could have done better is to make it round/ elliptical in profile. Anyway, this all was changed in follow-up model. This is indeed inspiring rifle (and I may have said it before) not surpassed as yet.

      • That grip angle seems as a must to match with the lateral magazine to get more secure firing in prone position. One completes the other.

        • One might also think that with the vertical grip there is more leverage to handle preponderance for rotation about longitudinal axis (due to offset magazine weight). It is perhaps the best compromise you can get.

          • Daewoo, I would *love* to see the actual documentation that the steeply angled grip had a whole lot to do with shooting from the parachute.

            A. That’s a really dumb idea, even with the German rig (which sucked, but did leave both arms free, since you couldn’t do anything with the risers anyway), and would be immensle unlikely to occur… especially since German paratroopers DIDN’T JUMP WITH THEIR LONG ARMS — they were dropped in cargo canisters. The exit from a JU-52 – their primary jump platform – would make trying to jump with a rifle literally suicidal – you WILL NOT get a clean exit, and in all likelihood will have a complete bag lock (meaning you WILL NOT have a parachute deploying, jumper, even if the JM cuts you free) around your rifle barrel after being beaten against the side of the aircraft at 100 kts. The landing method necessitated by the ridiculous single point suspension would make trying to land with ANYTHING longer that the width of the shoulders merely *probably* suicidal. I’m a static line jumpmaster, and I’ve at least examined a JU-52, run exit drills out the door, and studied the German WWII exit and parachute gear. I’m hoping to do some JU-52 jumps in the next year or so… but I’ll be wearing a modern US military static line rig, not a German RZ-16 or RZ-20 deathrig.)

            B. Even if the Germans somehow managed to figure out how to safely jump with an FG-42 they could unstow in the air (without dropping it), ready it for action, fire, and then clear, safe, RESTOW IT BEFORE THEY LAND, all in the 20 seconds or so between leaping out of the aircraft and smacking into the Earth (German jump altitude was *400 feet*, because they could not do even the tiny bit of steering that US and British parachutes allowed via riser slips; they HAD to drop at that altitude to be able to use drop zones much smaller than, say, the Ukraine).

            C. The steeply angled grip of the first models would actually be WORSE for trying to point straight down while spraying bullets wildly for a second and a half (before you run out of ammo – you aren’t going to be aiming, so you might as well do a gloriously useless mag dump, because maybe the noise will scare someone and at least you’ll have managed to empty the gun before you crash into the earth).

            No,. I think the most reasonable explanation of the steeply angled grip in the first model is the one that I’ve always seen in EVERY OTHER EXPLANATION of why they chose it — pure and simple, to assist recoil control in full auto while in firing standing offhand. And they went to a more conventional grip with the second issued pattern because they realized it didn’t make that much of a difference in controllability, and a more conventional grip was preferred by troops, more comfortable, and easier to use while firing from the bipod.

          • Given that the SVU-AS is a sniper rifle and the full auto function is purely for a glorious “GET AWAY FROM ME!!!” blast of wild fire (like a hand held Claymore or MON-50 mine) while the sniper ducks and runs away, I don;t see any real connection.

            Heck, the AVT-40, FN-49, M14, FAL, CETM/G3, BM59, etc., *all* are pretty much what the FG-42 was supposed to do. But, the FG-42, which predated all of those except the AVT-40 (and arguably the FN-49, based on it’s pre-war development), is the one that came closest to achieving what all the “battle rifles” were aiming at. (Maybe the AR10, since in some variations it is actually controllable in full auto, would be a fair match for the FG-42 performance… note the AR-10 shows *concept* (not so much design) inspiration from the FG-42 in the straight line layout, high sights, and even the design of the rear sight mechanism.)

        • Primarily in versatility and power. You can shoot full power cartridge out of it while you are at full auto mode. And it is stable enough to hit something ahead of you.

          None of western or Russian (not to mention Chinese) rifle can do that.

          • “You can shoot full power cartridge out of it while you are at full auto mode. And it is stable enough to hit something ahead of you.”
            BAR 1918?

          • Mle 1915 CSRG a.k.a. Chauchat? But both the BAR and the Chauchat were significantly heavier weapons than the FG 42, so they could not realistically be issued to every soldier as was originally intended with the FG 42.

          • “None of(…)Russian(…)rifle can do that.”
            Well, but notice that VDV have never big need to have such kind of weapon. Folding version of AK namely 56-А-212М was adopted yet back in 1949. Later with adopted of improved variants of AK, folding variants were adopted. That mean VDV parachutists have greater weapon of greater effective range that sub-machine gun, so this was less of issue that for Germans MP40-armed parachutists.
            It is worth noting that VDV recognized need of weapon of greater range, which resulted in self-loading rifle with folding stock firing 7,62x54R cartridge, but it was relatively late, see:
            http://gunrf.ru/rg_vintovki_svd-s_eng.html

    • I don’t see any other explanation but its part of the reason
      that makes this rifle so damn cool looking. If one can consider
      “Cool” as a worthwhile attribute for a rifle. Which ultimately one cannot, in practical terms.

      • In WW2 the bayonet was already a very marginal weapon, but it was still the only secondary weapon most enlisted men had, unless they brought their own pistol or managed to keep a captured pistol. Keeping a captured pistol for own use was technically illegal in most armies, but sometimes even enlisted men managed to do it if their officers and NCOs looked the other way. Officers of course did it all the time.

        Back to bayonets; the Soviets and Japanese probably got a little more bayonet kills than other countries, since their doctrine said that attacks should be made with bayonets fixed. In addition the Japanese favored night combat, which was more likely to put the soldiers within bayonet range. Japanese soldiers were also given fairly extensive bayonet training.

      • If things go even vaguely according to plan, there are probably very few people who get threatened with or stuck with a bayonet.

        When things go Snafu, like they did with the british state’s war to re capture the Falkland Islands in 1982

        Supply ships sunk, helicopters, troop transport and ammunition supplies lost, and everything to be carried in back packs for a battle that was to be fought at the end of a long forced march…

        The additional weight of a bayonet and a gun capable of surviving being used as a pike, could be well worth it.

        Then there’s the use of a mounted bayonet for persuading crowds not to get too close.

        It may be that the cleaning Rod bayonet that Theodore Roosevelt personally vetoed for the 1903 Springfield,could serve those purposeseeking with much less weight and complication

        But, either way;

        “They don’t like it up ’em, Captain Mainwering!”

        • Purportedly, Theodore actually bent a rod bayonet in half with his bare hands. The fact that rod bayonets are inherently useless for everything except terrifying angry civilian mobs into submission says much, especially if one of the people in the mob challenges the bayonets with an ax. An oversized knitting needle will NOT withstand the impact of a felling-ax head.

          • The problem with the US M1903 rod bayonet was the round cross section. A triangular or cruciform “blade” is much stronger and stiffer for the same weight and length.

          • Since the combat purpose of a fixed bayonet is primarily to *be seen* in the hands of troops who appear willing, eager, and qualified to use them to go full medieval on the enemy, and troops *always* need a decent field knife capable of routine field chores, from opening rations to cutting saplings when digging in, might as well specify a good camp knife, large enough to be useful for 90% of field cutting, sturdy enough to be wrenched around while stuck on the end of a rifle, and attach a bayonet mounting system.

            Protip – while you don’t want to go full chrome because of the reflections that can be seen for (literally) miles, you also don’t want the enemy to not be able to see the bayonet when you are trying to intimidate them, don’t go full low-vis coating either. A nice matte “white” finish (IOW, something like bead blasted stainless) it the trick. (If PVT Snuffy is going to be going all Full Ninja in the dark, cutting sentry throats , well, camo sticks exist, will stick long enough, and are easily cleaned off the blade afterwards…)

      • Bayonets aren’t really *intended* to get large numbers of kills. Even as far back as the 18th century, their primary purpose was psychological — to hold back mobs, deter charges, and force less disciplined forces to break… making it easier to occupy their former positions or go into “pursue and annihilate” mode.

  2. The Luftwaffe were very clear that this was a semi-auto full power rifle with emergency full-auto use.

    In other words, if you replaced, in an 8-man squad, one MP40, six Kar98ks, and one MG34 with eight FGs, you would get a better result. It was not designed as an LMG or SMG. It was an attempt at a full power battle rifle with niche capability.

    The irony is that that these were never used in paratroop roles, and were instead issued piecemeal to Fallschirmjager used as infantry, at the time that the MP43/44/SG44 was already a better weapon.

  3. Kindred placing of the magazine on the left side:
    Germany: Dreyse MG-13 LMG 7,92x57mm
    Knorr Brense M35/36 LMG 7,92x57mm
    Sweden: Kg m/1940 SAV LMG 6.5x55mm select fire.
    Switzerland: Bern prototype StGw50 7.5mm kurz select fire.
    USA: TRW low maintenance rifle 5.56x45mm full-auto only.

    Anything else? Apart from numerous SMG designs?

    • The TRW Light Machine Gun represents an early attempt to make an AR-15 LMG but the FG-1942-style sideways placement of the magazine made it hard to handle in tight quarters.

    • “Anything else? Apart from numerous SMG designs?”
      Haganah: Dror early pattern
      Hungary: Solothurn 31.M Golyószóró
      USA: Johnson 1941 LMG

      • Ah, yes. So LMG use fairly or at least reasonably common… Rifles not so much.
        I seem to recall that Ian’s actual hands-on use of the Johnson 1941 turned up some surprising issues with it that were not noticed at first glance…

  4. Is it known, why the rear sight was changed to aperture sight? As far as I know, there were no other WW2 (and WW1) German small arms with aperture sights.

    By the way: is it known, why seems relatively unpopular the aperture sights in the WW1&2 European armies? According to this article [http://dougkerr.net/Pumpkin/articles/Aperture_Sight.pdf], the use of aperture sight is easier and more accurate due to parallax suppression. I hardly believe that, this phenomenon was really unknown to 2007.

    • I would say that the reason was simply tradition and the fact that a large number of people were already trained in the use of open sights. Most European armies had conscript armies at the time, after all. Nevertheless, aperture sights became much more common during the interwar years already with the introduction of the British No. 4 Mk.1 Lee-Enfield and the French MAS 36. The British had of course adopted the aperture sight already with the Pattern 13, although its production development, the Pattern 14 never became the standard rifle of the British Army.

      You could also ask why the V-notch rear sight with a barleycorn inverted-V front sight remained popular so long in military rifles. Many believed it to be the most accurate of open sights, and that may very well be, but as a combat sight it is probably the worst of all common open sights.

  5. The left side magazine does tend to make it unbalanced. The raked pistol grip only makes sense when firing from the prone. I would like to see the doctrine on full automatic fire since I’ve always wondered if it was similar to the BAR. Firing full auto from the hip while advancing to suppress. I’ve always guessed that the only reason to even equip an FG-42 with a bayonet was that some bureaucrat required it do do everything a K98 could do but better.

    I never heard that the FG-42 was supposed to equip every paratrooper or that it was designed to be fired while descending on a shoot (given the lack of control in German military parachutes since they were uncontrollable with a single attachment point , I am extremely skeptical). Instead I though the FG-42 was specifically developed in response to shortcomings from the assault on Crete. Specifically, heavier weapons were dropped in separate canisters. Only sidearms and SMG’s were carried during the descent.

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