German infantry equipped with MG34 (Poland, 1939)
|Type||General Purpose Machine Gun|
|Place of origin||Germany|
|Wars||World War II|
|Designer||Mauser Werke (Heinrich Vollmer)|
|Barrel length||627 mm|
|Cartridge||7.92 x 57 mm Mauser (8 mm Mauser)|
|Rate of fire||800-900round/min.
Early verions: 600 - 1000 round/min selectable on early versions pistol grip.
MG34"S" : 1,700 round/min.MG34/41 : 1,200 round/min.
|Muzzle velocity||755 m/s|
|Feed system||50/200-round belts or 75-round drum magazine|
The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, was a German machine gun that was first produced and accepted for service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It was an air-cooled machine gun firing 7.92 mm Mauser rounds and had similar performance to other medium machine guns.
However, it was also designed to perform both as a light squad machine gun and also in heavier roles, in an early example of a general-purpose machine gun. In the light role, it was intended to be equipped with a bipod and 50-round belt contained in a drum-shaped ammo basket, which attached to the receiver. In the heavier role it was mounted on a larger tripod and was belt-fed. In practice the infantry usually just belt-fed the bipod version, resulting in it functioning as a classic medium support weapon.
The MG 34 was used as the primary infantry machine gun during the 1930s, and remained as the primary tank and aircraft defensive weapon. It was intended that it would be replaced in infantry service by the related MG42, but there were never enough of the new design to go around, and MG 34s soldiered on in all roles until the end of World War II. It was intended that it would replace the MG-13 and other older machine guns, but these ended up still being used in WWII as demand was never met.
It was designed primarily by Heinrich Vollmer from the Mauser Werke, based on the recently introduced Rheinmetall-designed Solothurn 1930 (MG30) that was starting to enter service in Switzerland. The principal changes were to move the feed mechanism to a more convenient location on the left of the breech, and the addition of a shroud around the barrel. Changes to the operating mechanism improved the rate of fire to between 800 and 900 rpm.
The new gun was accepted for service almost immediately and was generally liked by the troops. It was used to great effect by German soldiers assisting the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. At the time it was introduced it had a number of advanced features and the GPMG concept that it aspired to was an influential one. However the MG 34 was also expensive, both in terms of construction and the raw materials needed (49 kg of steel) and its manufacture was too time-consuming to be built in the numbers required for the ever expanding German army. It also proved to be rather temperamental, jamming easily when dirty.
The MG 34 could use both magazine-fed and belt-fed 7.92 mm ammunition. Belts were supplied in 50-round single strips or 250-round boxes. The assault drums held a 50 rounds belt, or a 75-round "double drum" magazine could be fitted to the top of the receiver. A gun configured to use the 75-round magazine could not be returned to belt-feed mode without modification.
Like most machine guns, the barrel is designed to be easily replaced to avoid overheating during sustained fire.
In the light machine gun role it was used with a bipod and weighed only 12.1 kg. In the medium machine gun role it could be mounted on one of two tripods, a smaller one weighing 6.75 kg, the larger 23.6 kg. The larger tripod, the MG-34 Laffette, included a number of features such as a scope and special sighting equipment for indirect fire. The legs could be extended to allow it to be used in the anti-aircraft role (and many were), and when lowered it could be placed to allow the gun to be fired "remotely" while it swept an arc in front of the mounting with fire, or aimed through a periscope attached to the tripod.
The MG 34/41 was requested as the first war experiences in the beginning of the World War II proved that a higher fire rate generates more dispersion of the bullets. The MG 34/41 could cope with a fire rate of 1200 rpm (MG 34 could cope with 800-900 rpm). The weight of the MG 34/41 was 14 kg, slightly more than the original MG34 version (12,1 kg). A limited number of MG 34/41 was produced (300 pcs send to the Eastern Front). The MG34/41 was beaten in trials by the MG39/41 - what would later be designated the MG42.
Tanks normally use the MG 34-T model, whose main difference was that it had a different barrel sheath that was heavier and that it did not have the normal ventilation holes like the MG 34 has.
The MG 34 was also used as the basis of a new aircraft-mounted machine-gun the MG81. For this role the breech was slightly modified to allow feeds from either side, and in one version two guns were bolted together on a single trigger to form a weapon known as the MG81Z (for zwilling, German for "twin" as in twin-mounted). Production of the MG 34 was never enough to satisfy any of its users, and while the MG81 was a huge improvement over the earlier MG30-based MG15 and MG17 guns, these guns were used until the end of the war. It should be noted that as the Luftwaffe lost the battle for air superiority and declined in priority in the German war effort, MG 15s and MG 81s, which were designed as flexibly-mounted aircraft machine-guns, were modified and adapted for ground use by infantry, with varying degrees of success.
The MG 42 retained the dual-purpose tactical concept of the MG 34 and some of its outward appearance and design features; however it was mechanically different to all models of the MG 34. The MG42 was designed in the very late 1930s in an effort to eventually replace the expensively forged and machined MG 34 with a gun which was much easier and cheaper to manufacture with a view to keeping milled forgings to a minimum, and so replacing with stamped or pressed parts many of the larger parts or sections that had been forged and milled on the MG 34, most notably the receiver. The MG42's square-section barrel jacket, however, made it unsuitable to mount in cupolas in armored vehicles as secondary armament so the MG 34 remained in production until the end of the war in this role.
After WWII some MG42s were in turn rechambered for the new (at the time) 7.62 x 51 mm NATO cartridge and classified as MG2 while a slight redesign was called the MG1. The seventh and final design iteration of the MG1 was called the MG3 and it currently (as of 2006) still in service around the world.
- List of World War II firearms of Germany
- MG30, predecessor
- MG42, derivative successor
- MG 81 machine gun
- MG 710, Also known as MG55.
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