FG-42 (Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, FjG42)
Type: Automatic assault rifle.
When the MP43 development began, the German Parachute Troops took an interest in it, since they felt that a selective-fire weapon would fill a void in their armoury, since airborne operations always demand the maximum firepower in the smallest package.
On further examination, however, they rejected the design on the grounds that the short cartridge, around which the new weapon was being developed, was insufficient for their particular needs, and they demanded a similar weapon taking the full-sized service round.
This demand arose from experience during the airborne invasion of Crete, where they had been the targets for long-range Lee-Enfield rifle fire by British troops, and also from the fact that they considered that the standard 7.92 mm round would be more easily available on any fighting front.
The Wehrmacht were not interested in such a weapon, so, since the Parachute troops were part of the Luftwaffe, they re-submitted their demand through Air Force channels and had it approved.
The weapon was designed by Rheinmetall-Borsig, who received the specification late in 1940 and had a prototype ready for testing in mid-1942. The specification had, in fact, been put out to eight companies, but only the Rheinmetall design was considered worth pursuing. Although it was eventually put into production there were numerous design changes and modifications, and the design was still not finalized when the war ended.
The FG42 was a sound design, based on well-tried principles. It was gas operated, and the bolt mechanism was so designed that when firing single shot the bolt closed on the cartridge, after which pressing the trigger fired the weapon, which then automatically re-loaded. On automatic fire, however, the bolt remained open when the trigger was released to allow the chamber and barrel to cool down between bursts. Much of the weapon was fabricated from cheap steel pressings, while the furniture was of laminated wood or plastic.
While it was an ingenious and effective weapon, it was difficult to shoot accurately due to the heavy recoil of the full-sized cartridge, and due to its lightness and flimsy bipod it was hard to control in the automatic mode.
|Type||Automatic assault rifle|
|Weight||9 lb 15 oz|
|Barrel||19.75 in long, 4 grooves, right hand twist|
|Feed system||20-round detachable box magazine|
|System of operation||Gas; turning bolt|
|Muzzle velocity||2,500 feet/sec|
|Cyclic rate of fire||750-800 rpm|
|Manufactures||Heinrich Krieghoff Waffenfabrik, Suhl|
|First combat use||September 1943|
|Price per unit||? (cheap steel pressings, laminated wood or plastic)|
References and literature
The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II (Ian V.Hogg)
Infanterie im 2. Weltkrieg (J.B.King, John Batchelor)
Illustriertes Lexikon der Waffen im 1. und 2. Weltkrieg (V. Dolinek, V. Francev, J. Sach)
Hitler’s Sky Warriors (Christopher Ailsby)
The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Chris Bishop)