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Maschinengewehr 34
Mg 34.jpg
MG34
Type General Purpose Machine Gun
Place of origin  Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1935 - 1945 (officially, German military)
Used by  Nazi Germany
 Republic of China
 North Vietnam
Wars World War II
Chinese Civil War
Vietnam War
Production history
Designer Heinrich Vollmer
Designed 1934
Manufacturer Numerous, but mostly Mauser
Produced 1934 - 1945
Specifications
Weight
  • 12.1 kg (26.7 lb)
  • 19.2 kg (42.3 lb) (with tripod)
Length
  • 1,219 mm (48 in)
Barrel length
  • 627 mm (24.7 in)

Cartridge 7.92x57mm Mauser
Action Recoil operated
Rate of fire 800-900 rounds/min

Early versions: 600 - 1000 rounds/min selectable on pistol grip.

MG34"S" : 1,700 rounds/min.

MG34/41 : 1,200 rounds/min.

Muzzle velocity 755 m/s (2,477 ft/s)
Feed system 50/200-round belts or 75-round drum magazine
Sights Iron sights

The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, was a German machine gun that was first produced and accepted into service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It was an air-cooled machine gun firing the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge.

However, it was also designed to perform both as a light machine gun and in heavier roles, as an early example of a general purpose machine gun. In the light-machine gun role, it was intended to be equipped with a bipod and 50-round ammunition belt contained in a drum-shaped basket, which could be 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.

Contents

History

German soldiers with an MG34 in France, 1944.

The MG34 was used as the primary infantry machine gun during the 1930s, and remained as the primary tank and aircraft defensive weapon. It was to be replaced in infantry service by the related MG42, but there were never enough quantities of the new design to go around, and MG34s soldiered on in all roles until the end of World War II. The MG34 was intended to replace the MG13 and other older machine guns, but these were 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, and it was used to great effect by German soldiers assisting Nationalist Spain in the Spanish Civil War. At the time it was introduced, it had a number of advanced features and the general-purpose machine gun concept that it aspired to was an influential one. However, the MG34 was also expensive, both in terms of construction and the raw materials needed (49 kg (108 lb) of steel), and its manufacture was too time-consuming to be built in the numbers required for the ever-expanding German armed forces. It was the standard machine gun of the Kriegsmarine (German navy). It also proved to be rather temperamental, jamming easily when dirty.

Imported units of MG34s, as well as indigenous copies of the weapon were adopted by Chinese Nationalist forces during both World War II and the Chinese Civil War. Some models supplied by Soviets or French were used by the PAVN and the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War.

Characteristics

A dual MG34 anti-aircraft mount.

The MG34 could use both magazine-fed and belt-fed 7.92 mm ammunition. Belts were supplied in a fixed length of 50 rounds, but could be linked up to make longer belts for sustained firing. A 250 round belt was also issued to machine guns installed in fixed emplacements such as bunkers. Ammunition boxes contained 250 rounds in five belts that were linked to make one continuous 100 round belt and one 150 round belt. The assault drums held a 50-round belt, or a 75-round "double drum" magazine could be used by replacing the top cover with one made specially for that purpose. A gun configured to use the 75-round magazine could not be returned to belt-feed mode without changing the top cover again. All magazine-feed MG34s had been withdrawn from infantry use by 1941, with some remaining in use on armoured personnel carriers.

Like most machine guns, the MG34's barrel is designed to be easily replaced to avoid overheating during sustained fire. During a barrel change, the operator would disengage a latch which held the receiver to the barrel sleeve. The entire receiver then pivoted off to the right, allowing the operator to pull the barrel out the back of the sleeve. A new barrel would then be put in the back of the sleeve, and the receiver rotated back in line with the barrel sleeve and latched. The entire process took just a few seconds when performed by a well-trained operator, causing minimal downtime in battle.[1]

A unique feature of the MG34 was its double-crescent trigger, which provided select fire capability without the need for a fire mode selector switch. Pressing the upper segment of the trigger produced semi-automatic fire, while holding the lower segment of the trigger produced fully-automatic fire.[2] Though considered innovative at the time, the feature was eliminated due to its complexity on the MG34's successor, the MG42.

In the light-machine gun role, it was used with a bipod and weighed only 12.1 kg (26.7 lb). In the medium-machine gun role, it could be mounted on one of two tripods, a smaller one weighing 6.75 kg (14.9 lb), the larger 23.6 kg (52 lb). The larger tripod, the MG34 Laffette, included a number of features, such as a telescopic sight and special sighting equipment for indirect fire. The legs could be extended to allow it to be used in the anti-aircraft role, 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.

Variants

Soldiers of the German Großdeutschland regiment man a heavy MG34 on a stationary tripod mount.
MG34

MG34/41(MG34S)

The MG34/41 was requested as the first war experiences in the beginning of World War II proved that a higher fire rate generates more dispersion of the bullets. The MG34/41 could cope with a fire rate of 1200 rpm. The weight of the MG34/41 was 14 kg, slightly more than the original MG34 version. A limited number of MG34/41 were produced. The MG34/41 was beaten in trials by the MG39/41, later designated MG42.

MG34 Panzerlauf

Most German tanks used during WW2 used the MG34 Panzerlauf for secondary armament. The MG42 was ill-suited for internal/coaxial mounting due to the method of barrel change. The main difference of the MG34 Panzerlauf and the regular MG34 was the heavier almost solid armored barrel shroud, almost completely lacking the ventilation holes of the basic MG34. When mounted inside a tank, the MG34 also lacked a butt-stock. A kit for quick conversion to ground use was carried inside the tank containing a butt-stock and a combined bi-pod and front sight assembly.

MG81

The MG34 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 MG34 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, MG15s and MG81s, which were designed as flexibly-mounted aircraft machine guns, were modified and adapted for ground use by infantry, with varying degrees of success.

See also

References

External links








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