Many experts specializing in small arms weapons, consider German machine guns to be the best of those used in World War II. In this case, we are usually talking about MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns. But in addition to these models, the armed forces of Nazi Germany had other machine guns of 7,92 mm caliber.
Ammunition for German machine guns
For firing German machine guns, cartridges for the K98k rifle were used. The main cartridge was considered to be 7,92 × 57 mm sS Patrone, with a heavy pointed bullet weighing 12,8 g. In a barrel length of 600 mm, this bullet accelerated to 760 m / s.
For lightly armored and air targets, the Germans widely used when firing cartridges with SmK armor-piercing bullets. At a distance of 100 m, a bullet weighing 11,5 g with an initial speed of 785 m / s could penetrate 10-mm armor along the normal. The ammunition of infantry machine guns could also include cartridges with armor-piercing incendiary bullets PmK
German 7,92-mm armor-piercing tracer cartridge
Depending on the combat mission, a cartridge with an armor-piercing tracer bullet SmK L'spur was loaded into the machine-gun belt every 3-5 conventional or armor-piercing cartridges to adjust and issue target designation. An armor-piercing tracer bullet weighing 10 g accelerated in the rifle barrel to 800 m / s. Its tracer burned at a distance of up to 1000 m. In addition to adjusting and targeting, an armor-piercing tracer bullet could ignite fuel vapor when it broke through the wall of the gas tank.
Machine guns MG 08, MG 08/15 and MG 08/18
We will start the story about German rifle-caliber machine guns with MG 08 (German Maschinengewehr 08), which was put into service in 1908 and was the German version of the Hiram Maxim system.
Machine gun MG 08
During the First World War, on the basis of the MG 08, two lightweight light machine guns were created - MG 08/15 with a water-cooled barrel, which became quite massive, and made only in small quantities (due to the end of the war) MG 08/18 with an air-cooled barrel.
These machine guns differed from the basic version with a lightweight receiver, wooden stock and pistol grip. To increase the mobility of light machine guns, a special box was developed for them, containing a belt with a capacity of 100 rounds, attached to the weapon on the right. But at the same time, the possibility of using a standard tape for 250 rounds was preserved.
Light machine gun MG 08/15
The mass of the basic modification with the machine was 64 kg. MG 08/15 weighed 17,9 kg, and MG 08/18 weighed 14,5 kg. Length MG 08 - 1185 mm. MG 08/15 and MG 08/18 - 1448 mm. Rate of fire 500-600 rds / min.
The MG 08 machine guns were massively used by the Kaiser's army in the First World War and then were in service until the defeat of Germany in the Second World War. By the early 1930s, the MG 08 was already an obsolete weapon, its use was due to the lack of more modern machine guns.
In September 1939, the Wehrmacht had over 40 MG 000 machine guns of various modifications. The Germans also got several thousand 08 mm Maxim wz machine guns. 7,92 - Polish version of the easel MG 08.
At the first stage of World War II, MG 08 machine guns were mainly used in rear units. They were available in training, reserve and security units, as well as at fixed installations in fortified areas. But after 1943 (due to the acute shortage of new machine guns at the front), one could find outdated MG 08 and MG 08/18.
However, these machine guns had one indisputable advantage. The reliable (albeit somewhat heavy) water-cooled design allowed for intense fire without the risk of overheating the barrel, surpassing more modern models in this respect.
Light machine gun MG 13
Due to their heavy weight, the MG 08 machine guns did not meet modern requirements. And in the early 30s, several promising infantry machine guns were created in Germany, more in line with the military's ideas about the weapons of mobile warfare. The first model, which was put into service in 1931, was the MG 13 light machine gun, developed using the MG 08 automation scheme.
Rheinmetall-Borsig AG specialists tried to make the weapon as light as possible. At the same time, there was a refusal from water cooling of the barrel and from a tape supply. The barrel on the MG 13 is now removable.
The machine gun was powered from a 75-round drum or a 25-round box magazine. The mass of the unloaded weapon was 13,3 kg. Length - 1340 mm. Rate of fire - up to 600 rds / min. To reduce the size of the tubular butt with a folding shoulder rest folded to the right. Simultaneously with the sector sight on the MG 13, it was possible to install an anti-aircraft ring sight.
Light machine gun MG 13, stock folded.
Although the MG 13 was in many ways superior to the standard Reichswehr MG 08/15 light machine gun, it had many disadvantages: design complexity, lengthy barrel change and high production costs. In addition, the military was not satisfied with the store power supply system, which increased the weight of the carried ammunition and reduced the combat rate of fire, which made the machine gun ineffective when firing intensively from the machine.
In this regard, MG 13 machine guns were released relatively few, their mass production continued until the end of 1934. However, individual MG 13 machine guns were used in combat until the end of World War II. To combat air targets, the MG 13 was sometimes mounted on the MG 34 machine gun.
Light machine gun MG 13 in position for anti-aircraft firing on a tripod mount.
Like other obsolete machine guns, the MG 13 was mainly used in the second line units. But (as the situation at the front worsened and the lack of regular MG 34 and MG 42) they began to be used on the front line.
Single machine gun MG 34
In 1934, the MG 34 machine gun, which is often called
"The first one".
He quickly gained popularity in the Wehrmacht and strongly pushed other samples. The MG 34, created by Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, embodied the concept of a universal machine gun developed on the basis of the experience of the First World War, which could be used as a manual machine gun when firing from a bipod, as well as an easel from an infantry or anti-aircraft machine.
From the very beginning, it was envisaged that the new machine gun would also be installed on armored vehicles and Tanks, both in ball mounts and on various turrets. This unification simplified the supply and training of troops, and ensured high tactical flexibility. Automation MG 34 worked due to the recoil of the barrel with a short stroke, locking was carried out by a bolt with a rotating cylinder.
Machine guns MG 34 on the bipod and on the machine.
The MG 34, installed on the machine, was powered by ribbons from a box for 150 rounds (Patronenkasten 36) or 300 rounds (Patronenkasten 34 and Patronenkasten 41). In the manual version, compact cylindrical boxes for 50 rounds were used (Gurttrommel 34).
There was also a store-fed option: for machine guns, the cover of the box with a tape drive mechanism was replaced with a cover with a mount for a 75-cartridge paired drum magazine Patronentrommel 34, structurally similar to the magazines of the MG 13 light machine gun and the MG 15 aircraft. The magazine consisted of two connected drums, cartridges made of which are served in turn.
MG 34 machine gun with a Patronentrommel 34 magazine.
The advantage of the store with alternate supply of cartridges from each drum (except for a relatively large capacity) was considered to be the preservation of the balance of the machine gun as the cartridges were consumed.
Although the rate of fire when powered from a drum magazine was higher, this option did not take root in the troops. Most often used belt-fed machine guns from a cylindrical 50-cartridge box. Drum magazines were not popular due to their high sensitivity to pollution and the complexity of the equipment.
MG 34 in manual version without cartridges weighed a little over 12 kg and had a length of 1219 mm. Machine guns of the first series gave a rate of fire of 800-900 rds / min. However, based on combat experience, due to the use of a lighter shutter mass on the MG 34/41 modification, the rate was increased to 1200 rds / min.
In case of overheating, the barrel could be quickly replaced. The barrel was supposed to be changed every 250-300 shots. For this, the kit included two or three spare barrels and an asbestos mitten.
MG 34 machine-gun crew at a firing position.
Although the more advanced MG 1942 machine gun was adopted in 42, production of the MG 34 continued. According to American sources, more than 570 machine guns were fired prior to Germany's surrender.
Single machine gun MG 42
For all its merits, the MG 34 was difficult and expensive to manufacture. In addition, during the hostilities on the Eastern Front, it turned out that this machine gun is very sensitive to the wear of parts and the state of lubrication, and highly qualified machine gunners are required for competent maintenance.
Even before the launch of MG 34 into mass production, specialists from the Infantry Weapons Department of the Armaments Directorate pointed out its high cost and complex design.
In 1938, the company Metall-und Lackwarenfabrik Johannes Großfuß presented its own version of the machine gun, which, like the MG 34, had a short barrel stroke with locking the bolt by rollers with a spread to the sides. As in the MG 34 machine gun, the problem of barrel overheating during prolonged firing was solved by replacing it.
The new machine gun widely used stamping and spot welding, which reduced the cost of production. For the sake of simplicity, they abandoned the possibility of supplying the tape from either side of the weapon, store power supply and the fire mode switch. Compared to the MG 34, the cost of the MG 42 has dropped by about 30%. The MG 34 took approximately 49 kg of metal and 150 man-hours to manufacture. And on MG 42 - 27,5 kg and 75 man-hours.
Machine gun MG 42
Launching the new machine gun continued until 1941. After comparative tests with the improved MG 34/41, the new machine gun was adopted in 1942 under the designation MG 42.
MG 42 machine guns were produced until the end of April 1945, the total production at the enterprises of the Third Reich was more than 420 units.
The MG 42 machine gun had the same length as the MG 34 - 1200 mm, but was slightly lighter (without cartridges - 11,57 kg). Depending on the mass of the shutter, the rate of fire was 1000-1500 rds / min.
MG 34 and MG 42 are rightfully considered one of the best machine guns used during the Second World War. In the post-war period, these weapons have spread widely throughout the world and have been actively used in regional conflicts. Modifications of MG 42 for other cartridges and with bolts of different weights were mass-produced in different countries and are still used today.
Due to the fact that the arms industry of the Third Reich was not able to fully provide the active army MG 34 and MG 42, the troops used machine guns created in other countries. The greatest contribution to the provision of machine guns to the armed forces of Nazi Germany was made by the Czech Republic.
Light machine guns ZB-26 and ZB-30
After the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, the Germans got more than 7 ZB-000 and ZB-26 machine guns. Also, a significant number of ZB-30s were captured in Yugoslavia.
The ZB-26 light machine gun chambered for the German 7,92 × 57 mm cartridge was adopted by the Czechoslovak army in 1926. For that time, it was a very perfect weapon.
Automation ZB-26 functioned by removing part of the powder gases from the barrel. The barrel was locked by tilting the bolt in the vertical plane. The barrel is quick-change, a handle is attached to the barrel, which is designed to facilitate the process of replacing the barrel and carrying the machine gun. Shooting is carried out with support on a two-legged bipod. Or from a light machine, which also allows firing at air targets.
The trigger mechanism provides the ability to fire single shots and bursts. With a length of 1165 mm, the mass of the ZB-26 without cartridges was 8,9 kg. Food was carried out from a box magazine for 20 rounds, inserted from above.
The creators of the weapon believed that the location of the receiving neck from above accelerates loading and facilitates firing from a stop without clinging to the ground with the magazine body. The rate of fire was 600 rds / min. But (due to the use of a small-capacity store), the practical rate of fire did not exceed 100 rds / min. Bullet muzzle velocity - 760 m / s.
The ZB-30 light machine gun differed in the design of the eccentric that set the bolt in motion, and the system for actuating the striker. The weapon had a gas valve, which made it possible to regulate the amount and intensity of the flow of powder gases into the cylinder, and the tide for installing an anti-aircraft sight. The weight of the ZB-30 has increased to 9,1 kg, but it has become more reliable. The rate of fire was 500-550 rds / min.
Machine guns ZB-26 and ZB-30 have established themselves as a reliable and unpretentious weapon. Machine guns captured in Czechoslovakia in the armed forces of Nazi Germany were designated MG.26 (t) and MG.30 (t).
Production of the ZB-30 at the Zbrojovka Brno plant continued until 1942. After that, the production of MG 42 began there. In total, the German army received more than 31 Czech light machine guns, which were mainly used by the occupation, security and police units, as well as in the SS troops.
Machine gun ZB-53
Another Czech-made machine gun chambered for 7,92 × 57 mm, widely used on the Eastern Front, was the ZB-53 easel. This sample, which was adopted by the Czechoslovak army in 1937, had automation, operating by diverting part of the powder gases through a side hole in the barrel wall. The barrel bore was locked by tilting the bolt in the vertical plane. The barrel could be replaced if necessary.
When creating the ZB-53, a number of interesting technical solutions were implemented, which made it more versatile. A special switch made it possible to increase the rate of fire from 500 to 850 rds / min. A high rate of fire was essential when firing at aircraft.
ZB-53 heavy machine gun in anti-aircraft firing position.
For anti-aircraft fire, the machine gun was mounted on a swivel of a folding sliding rack of the machine. Anti-aircraft sights, consisting of a ring sight and a rear sight, were included in the accessory kit. The mass of the machine gun with the machine was 39,6 kg. Which is not bad even by today's standards.
In the German army, the ZB-53 received the designation MG 37 (t). In total, the Wehrmacht and SS units received more than 12 Czech-made heavy machine guns. Unlike other foreign-made machine guns, which were used mainly in the rear and police units, the MG 600 (t) machine guns were very actively used on the Eastern Front.
Quite often, Czech heavy machine guns were mounted on cars as anti-aircraft guns and provided air defense for transport convoys and small units in the front line.
During World War II, the ZB-53 was deservedly considered one of the best heavy machine guns. But its excessively high labor intensity of manufacture and high cost price forced the Germans in 1942 to abandon the continuation of its production and reorient the arms factory in Brno to produce MG 42.
The use of captured German machine guns in the USSR
It is currently impossible to establish how many German machine guns our troops managed to capture during the war years. According to rough estimates, regular units and partisans could seize about 300 thousand machine guns from the enemy.
According to official archival documents, the trophy teams of the Red Army in the period from 1943 to 1945 managed to collect more than 250 thousand machine guns.
It is clear that there were more machine guns repulsed from the enemy. And that they (especially in the initial period of the war) were often not officially taken into account. Captured German machine guns in most cases were considered as a supernumerary means of fire reinforcement of the company-battalion link.
As mentioned earlier, old German machine guns (produced in the First World War) on the Soviet-German front in the initial period of the war were mainly operated in parts of the second line.
However, as the Eastern Front grinded Germany's human and material resources, by the end of 1943, machine-gun hunger began to be felt in the Wehrmacht. And water-cooled machine guns began to be actively used on the front lines. Although the MG 08 and MG 08/15 were considered obsolete by that time and were too heavy to accompany the infantry in the offensive, they performed well in defense.
Structurally, the German MG 08 had a lot in common with the Soviet Maxim machine gun of the 1910/30 model. And, if necessary, it could easily be mastered by the Red Army.
It is reliably known that the German MG 08 and the Polish Maxim wz. 08 at the end of 1941 entered service with the divisions of the people's militia. Apparently, the German versions of the Maxim machine gun were captured by our troops throughout the war, but there is no reliable information about their use.
Since the MG 08 did not have any particular advantages over the Soviet Maxim, obsolete captured machine guns were not often used against their former owners.
Nevertheless, up to 1500 MG 08 machine guns captured from the enemy were sent for storage after performance checks, preventive maintenance and conservation. Subsequently, these machine guns were transferred to the Chinese communists, and they were used in the civil war against the troops of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, as well as during the hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.
Taking into account the fact that in China, under the designation Type 24, the licensed release of MG 08 was carried out, and the 7,92 × 57 mm cartridge was standard in the Chinese army, there were no difficulties with the development of the machine guns transferred to the USSR.
In the first half of the 1960s, China supplied North Vietnam with part of the former German machine guns in the form of gratuitous military aid.
The first MG 34s were captured by our troops in June 1941. But (due to the general confusion and ignorance of the material part of captured machine guns) at the initial stage of hostilities, they were rarely used and ineffective.
I must say that the attitude towards captured MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns in the Red Army was ambiguous.
On the one hand, the single belt-fed machine guns had good combat characteristics. With a relatively low mass, they had a high rate of fire and accuracy.
On the other hand, the most modern German machine guns had a rather complex device, requiring qualified maintenance and careful maintenance. These weapons fully revealed their potential in the hands of competent and well-trained fighters.
But given the fact that trophy machine guns were not listed anywhere, they often lacked ammunition, there were no additional barrels and spare parts. They were not taken care of and exploited until the first serious breakdown.
After our troops captured a significant number of German machine guns, the Soviet command took a number of measures to streamline their use.
In the second half of 1942, courses for the preparation of MG 34 crews were organized in the Red Army. And at the beginning of 1944, a printed manual on the use of captured MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns was published.
As in the case of captured 7,92-mm rifles, German machine guns entered service with rear units that were not directly involved in hostilities. Taking into account the high rate of fire, the presence of standard machines and sighting devices designed for anti-aircraft fire, MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns were operated in air defense units until the end of hostilities.
By the second half of 1943, Germany had lost its strategic initiative. By that time, Soviet troops were fully equipped with domestically produced small arms. And there was no particular need for captured machine guns.
After sorting, machine guns suitable for further use were sent to specialized enterprises, where they were repaired and preserved.
After the end of World War II in the USSR, there were tens of thousands of MG 34 and MG 42 machine guns in warehouses. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, a significant part of the captured weapons with ammunition was transferred to the Allies.
Along with the archaic MG 08, the MG 34 and MG 42, which were quite modern at that time, were actively used against the UN forces in Korea.
Until the mid-1960s, machine guns produced in the Third Reich were in service in Czechoslovakia and the GDR. Subsequently, these machine guns were transported to Arab countries. And they were used in hostilities against Israel.
There are many photos from the Vietnam War period on the web that show Vietcong fighters and North Vietnamese militias with MG 34 machine guns.
MG 34 was supplied with standard anti-aircraft sights and tripods. And they were very often used to fire at aerial targets. Rapid-fire machine guns, firing powerful 7,92-mm rifle cartridges, posed a real threat to helicopters and attack aircraft operating at low altitudes.
After the fall of Saigon in April 1975 and the unification of the country, the MG 34 machine guns in Vietnam were sent to warehouses, where they were until recently stored along with German rifles.
Apparently, Soviet troops first captured a significant number of Czechoslovak-made machine guns during the defense of Odessa. So, in the second half of September 1941, during the counterattacks, units of the Primorsky Army repulsed about 250 ZB-30 and ZB-53 machine guns belonging to the 13th and 15th Romanian infantry divisions.
During the battles of World War II, machine guns ZB-26, ZB-30 and ZB-53 quite often became trophies of regular units of the Red Army and partisans. Taking into account the fact that Czech light machine guns were lighter and simpler than MG 34, in the initial period of the war they enjoyed a certain popularity among our fighters.
Although a light machine gun with a 20-round magazine in terms of rate of fire could not compete with the MG 34, a machine gunner who personally carried 6-8 magazines was able to act independently and do without a second crew number.
Machine guns ZB-26, ZB-30 and ZB-53 were in service with the Czechoslovak army until the second half of the 1950s. Chinese People's Volunteers fought the ZB-26 in Korea, and they were in the PLA until the early 1970s.
Apparently, a number of Czech-made machine guns were in storage until the collapse of the USSR.
There is information that several light machine guns taken from warehouses in Donetsk and Luhansk regions were used by militias in 2014.
To be continued ...