MG 42: The Buzzsaw of World War II

The MG 42, affectionately known as the "Buzzsaw" by Allied troops during World War II, is an iconic and formidable machine gun that played a significant role in the conflict. Renowned for its high rate of fire, reliability, and innovative design, the MG 42 has left an enduring legacy in the world of firearms.

Production and Service History

Origins and Development: The MG 42's development can be traced back to the early 1930s in Nazi Germany. It was designed as a replacement for the MG 34, which was an excellent machine gun but costly and time-consuming to manufacture. The MG 42's primary objective was to streamline production while maintaining or improving performance.

Production Efficiency: One of the MG 42's most remarkable achievements was its simplified production process. It featured stamped and pressed metal parts, which made it quicker and more cost-effective to manufacture compared to the MG 34, which relied more on precision machining. This efficiency allowed the German army to produce large quantities of MG 42s to equip its forces.

Service in World War II: The MG 42 saw extensive service during World War II, becoming the standard machine gun for German infantry units. Its high rate of fire, averaging around 1,200 rounds per minute, made it a fearsome weapon on the battlefield. Allied soldiers who encountered the MG 42 often described its sound as resembling a "Buzzsaw," a nickname that stuck.

Post-War Influence: After World War II, the MG 42's design and lessons learned from its production influenced the development of other machine guns, including the MG 1, MG 3, and the MG 74, which were adopted by various countries and are still in use today.


The MG 42's design is characterized by several key features that contributed to its effectiveness:

High Rate of Fire: The MG 42 was designed to deliver a rapid rate of fire, allowing it to suppress enemy positions effectively. This rate of fire was achieved through its recoil-operated action and the use of a roller-delayed blowback mechanism.

Quick Barrel Change: The MG 42 featured a quick-change barrel system that allowed soldiers to swap out hot barrels with fresh ones rapidly. This feature reduced the risk of overheating and ensured sustained fire.

Stamped Parts: The use of stamped and pressed metal parts significantly simplified the manufacturing process. This innovation made the MG 42 easier and cheaper to produce while maintaining reliability and durability.

Belt-Fed or Magazine-Fed: The MG 42 could be configured to accept ammunition belts or magazines, offering flexibility based on the operational requirements. Belt-fed versions were typically used in stationary or vehicle-mounted roles, while magazine-fed versions were more common in infantry use.


Several variants and adaptations of the MG 42 were developed to cater to different roles and needs:

MG 42/53: This variant, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO, was developed for use by various nations after World War II. It saw service with German, Spanish, and Yugoslavian forces, among others.

MG 42V: The MG 42V was a vehicle-mounted variant of the MG 42, used in armored vehicles and aircraft during World War II.

Yugoslav M53: The Yugoslav People's Army produced the M53, a nearly identical clone of the MG 42, which saw extensive use in the Yugoslav Wars and remained in service for many years.

Interesting Facts

Design Inspiration: The MG 42's design was partly inspired by the Czech ZB vz. 26 light machine gun. The Czech design featured a quick-change barrel system, which was adapted and improved upon in the MG 42.

Allied Impressions: Allied forces were so impressed with the MG 42's design that it influenced the development of several post-war machine guns, including the American M60 and the Belgian FN MAG.

Recoil Management: Despite its high rate of fire, the MG 42 was relatively controllable due to its well-designed recoil system and the inherent accuracy of its quick and precise bursts.

Legacy: The MG 42's legacy can be seen in its continued use and adaptations. Variants like the MG 1, MG 3, and MG 74 are still in service with various armed forces today, a testament to the longevity of its design.


The MG 42, with its distinctive high rate of fire, quick barrel change system, and streamlined production, is a legendary machine gun that left an indelible mark on the history of firearms. Its service during World War II and subsequent influence on post-war designs demonstrate its enduring impact on military technology. Whether feared as the "Buzzsaw" by Allied troops or appreciated for its innovative design by firearm enthusiasts, the MG 42 remains an iconic symbol of firepower and engineering excellence.


  • MG 42 - Name
  • general-purpose machine gun - Type
  • Grossfuss AG, Mauser Werke AG, Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung - Manufacturer
  • 42 - Model
  • 7.92x57mm - Caliber
  • recoil-operated - Action type
  • Werner Gruner - Designer
  • 1942 - Designed
  • 1942 - In service
  • 11.6 kg - Weight
  • 1220 mm - Length
  • 200-2000 m (3500 m) - Firing range

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