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Hitler’s Zipper: The MG-42 Universal Machine Gun

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The MG42 was developed to be a more reliable and easier to manufacture replacement for the MG34, although both would serve side by side until he end of World War Two. Designed by Grossfuss company engineer Werner Gruner with no previous military or small arms design experience, the MG42 used heavy stampings for its main assemblies, thus reducing German need for expensive and difficult to obtain alloyed steels.

As a practical matter, the MG42 had a much higher rate of fire than the 34, at 1500-1600 rounds per minute (more than 50% faster than the MG34). This was deemed desirable to improve the effectiveness of suppressing fire and the density of the cone of fire, but naturally resulted in much higher ammunition consumption than other machine gun models.

This example is a very early production Gustloff example, with the early horizontal charging handle, unreinforced wooden stock, and adjustable front sight. It was most likely captured in North Africa from Rommel’s forces, as they were a primarily user of the very early MG42s.

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