Maschinengewehr 42 & Shoei airsoft MG42
Maschinengewehr 42 (MG42) and Shoei MG42
History compiled from German Infantry Weapons 1939-1945 (Terry Gander) and German Automatic Weapons of World War II (Robert Bruce)
By M. Nakamura, WWIIguns.com
By the time Maschinengewehr 42 (MG42) was entering combat service on 1942 Hitler’s Germany had been sucked into brutal combat with Red Army at Eastern Front. MG42’s precessador Maschinengewehr 34 (MG34) was in full-scale production, but its production cost was up to 20% higher at 312 Reichsmarks (1) and it was painstaking to manufacture both in terms of manhours spend and valuable raw-resources consumed. Indeed MG34 was from firearm generation of the 1930’s where complicated designs and craftsmanship prevailed over mass production.
MG42 had its roots in MG39/41, an experimental machine gun produced at Johannus Grossfuss Metall –and Locierwarenfabrik for the Mauser-Werke company. Personnel behind the MG42 development include Doctor Grunow of Grossfuss, an industrial engineer who was specialised on mass production by metal stampings and Dipl-Ing Eckhardt of Heereswaffenamt (Army weapon department). It has been written that Doctor Grunow provided mass production expertise to the MG42 project. The project used MG39/41 as its platform to which features from Czechoslovak, Italian, and Polish weapon designs would be eventually assimilated. (2) First trials were done as early as 1938 and major alternation, which would prove critical, was done in late 1939 after new breech-locking system was discovered as spoil of war in aftermath of Polish campaign. (3)
Mauser-Werke was alerted to the new machine gun in development on 1941 and made minor revisions to it before it was approved for service as the 7.92mm MG42 after 1,500 guns were used for troop trials. (4) From 1942 to 1945 total of 421,605 were made of which from most went to Wehrmacht. It is to be noted that only 225 were ever officially delivered to the Waffen SS(!), but as many can see there is numerous wartime photos of Waffen SS soldiers with MG 42s. These were most likely ”organized” from various sources as military units and organizations tend to do. Thanks to the extensive use of sheet-steel stampings in MG42 design production was much faster and cost effective than what it was in case of MG34. The new design also improved the reliability of the weapon – a common issue with the existing MG34. Thanks to its simple construction and mechanism MG42 could function all the way from unforgiving winters of Russia to the dusty deserts of Northern Africa.
The core of the MG42 was its roller-locking bolt, which was more tolerant to the grit, moisture and carbon build-up. The receiver, barrel jacket and trigger housing have unique appearance that comes from the fact that they are crimped, spot welded, and pinned together in a way that makes the main body of the gun appear like clamshell. Because of the simple design overheated barrel (an frequent occurrance) could be removed and replaced in quick fashion through cutaway in the side of barrel jacket. The barrel-release catch works in Shoei’s version allowing simulated of barrel exchange.
The shape of the MG42 flash hider and recoil booster is unique and very recognizable. MG42 has been critized for its strong recoil, but this is feature that in the real gun was apparently necessarily to boost to achieve higher weapon reliability. The circumferences of recoil booster you see in the picture on right were done to make escaping gasses to stabilize the weapon. They also had role in permitting intermittent build-up of propellant gas to force the barrel and extension backward when the weapon was fired. This boosts the recoil which made sure that the extraction of spent cases was done in full force and that the rearward cycling of the bolt was complete. (5) The circumferences and muzzle hider are well replicated in Shoei’s version. Please see the images in this article for closer look of the details.
Operating handle is vertically mounted cylindrical grip as seen in photo on left and none of the Shoei MG42s come with horizontal grip that has finger custs. Shoei’s version includes replica dummy bullets and more importantly empty ammo belt that will beautifully rack against the receiver from the force of blowback recoil when the gun is being fired.
By all accounts MG42 proved to be successful and reliable machine gun that could lay devastating amount of fire thanks to its extremely high rate of fire. It was the MG42 that kept ordinary German infantry in near equal terms with their allied counterparts who had abundance of semiautomatic and automatic infantry small arms (In example Americans had M1 Garand rifle, Thompson and M3A1 submachine guns, BAR automatic support rifle, Browning .30cal and .50cal machine guns, etc.) while typical German infantry soldier was equipped with Kar 98k or other bolt-action rifle which had much slower rate of fire than most of the Allied standard service rifles.
As a result by the time MG42 entered service German infantry squads were built around the squad machinegun and its crew. Some squads had ”just” one MG 42 while some, like Panzergrenadiers and late-war Fallschimjägers, had two. The squad’s offensive movement and defensive posture revolved around the MG42s. Most of the squad members carried additional ammunition to the machine gun(s) that were indeed terrible ammunition hogs for their high rate of fire. Although criticized for its high rate of fire and resulting inaccuracy, tales from the history tell that MG42s suppressive value more than made for it. Red Army really never got rid of its ”human wave” assault tactics in which they attempted to close in for close quarters fighting and overrun the German positions with local superiority in men and automatic weapons. MG42 could deliver withering amount of fire to break such massed frontal assaults by infantry.
Eastern front and winter
Red Army machine guns used braided springs to improve their cold weather reliability (an important feature in often murderous winters of Russia) and this was copied to the MG42. The trigger guard is expanded from the MG34 to allow use of winter glows. Anyone who has handled weapon for extended period of time with plain hands in freezing temperatures knows that it is worse than it could be ever described in writing. From my experiences in winter warfare training I can relate to what it might have been to handle weapon like this in unforgiving winter deep in Russia. The weapon is there – and you have alarm situation that requires securing the weapon to firing position in matter of seconds. Gloves are useless since you don’t want to fumble in critical moment. Upon laying your hands to the weapon they will quickly start to get painful from the sheer coldness of the metal and the first alarming sign is when you start to lose sensitivity from your fingers – the first sign of frostbite. You can only try to secure your weapon as quickly as possible to avoid losing sense from your hands. Once situation is over you can stuck your hands inside your pants against warm thighs to regain some blood circulation. One can only imagine Eastern Front winter combat situation for battered German MG42 gunners who are facing masses of Red Army soldiers assaulting with submachine guns screaming ”Uraah!” while the rest of the unit is desperate for the MG42 to save the day. In short, Landsers in the frontlines must have appreciated the small design feature in trigger guard that allowed them to shoot the weapon without hassle with gloves.
Impressions of the Shoei MG42
Shoei’s replica MG42 is very impressive especially for airsoft gun. The sheer size of the machine gun is impressive as is the feeling seeing this classic historical piece in 1:1 size with many impeccable features straight from real MG42. Most impressive external features being the massive metal receiver and barrel jacket and wooden stock. Still heavy at 6,000g Shoei MG42 lacks the full weight of real MG42, but you have to understand that thanks to local regulations in Japan this gun has been made with more lightweight metals so that it cannot be modified to fire heavier projectiles like real bullets and that the inside components differ from real (because of this and the lightweight pellet Shoei MG42 doesn't require any license or permit in most countries). Generally 6,000g is as heavy as it can get in replica gun field.
While the firing sound of Shoei MG42 doesn't quite reach the level "Hitler's Buzz Saw" did it is impressive for airsoft gun. You can hear the automatic fire to the distances of up to 50 meters and it sounds like the rate of fire is less than 1,000 rounds per minute. I didn't have possibility to measure the rate of fire, but the mechanism cycling seems to be in level with other full automatic airsoft guns that can generally shoot 750-850rds per minute.
Apart from its impressive components and construction Shoei MG42 has second impressive characteristic. That is the gas blowback recoil system this particular airsoft production variant has. The gun actually recoils significantly even when mounted on Lafatte tripod. Normal gas blowback airsoft guns tend to lose their recoil effect already in 2,000g+ weight range. The gas blowback mechanism Shoei is using needs large amount of internal space to operate in, which MG42 can fortunately provide. Shoei has been able to reach the new level of simulated recoil (blowback) in their MG42.
(1-3) Germany's Infantry Weapons 1939-1945, Terry Gander, The Crowood Press, ISBN 1 86126 181 0
(4-5) German Automatic Weapons of World War II, Robert Bruce, The Crowood Press, ISBN 1 86126 2698
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