Hitler’s Buzz Saw: The MG42


MG42 Photo Album

A screenshot photo of the WWII German Army (Wehrmacht) MG42 heavy machine gun as it appears in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

The German MG42 as it appears in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault.

Firing at up to 1,500 rounds per minute, the German MG42 produced a sound unlike anything previously heard on the battlefield – a sound some likened to tearing cloth or a saw blade ripping through wood. Accustomed to the comparatively slow firing rate of their own machine guns (about 600 rounds per minute), Allied soldiers nicknamed the weapon “Hitler’s buzz saw.”

“Listen to that. Fast. That thing sprays a lot of lead,” says the narrator of a WWII-era training film produced by the War Department. “You’re scared, because the German gun fires faster than anything you’ve run into before.”

The Maschinengewehr 42 (machine gun 42) was developed in Nazi Germany and first appeared on the field during 1942. A descendant of the MG34, the weapon addressed its predecessor’s main issues – sensitivity to dust and somewhat expensive production costs. Of the three companies asked to submit designs for an MG34 replacement, the best one came from Metall und Lackwarenfabrik Johannes Großfuß, in Döbeln, a company that had previously only made items like bird cages and kitchen appliances.

The MG42 (bottom) was developed to replace the MG34 (top).

The MG42 (bottom) was developed to replace the MG34 (top).

Werner Gruner, a designer for Großfuß, is credited with inventing the MG42 despite knowing nothing about machine guns prior to his involvement in the project. Gruner was, however, experienced in mass production. His new design took half the time to build and cost about 25 percent less than the MG34. More than 400,000 guns were produced by a number of companies between 1942 and 1945, with peak production coming in 1944.

The MG42 could easily pin down large numbers of Allied soldiers, but its high rate of fire meant that it consumed ammunition quickly and its barrel would often overheat. According to the War Department’s Company Officer’s Handbook of the German Army the MG42 was typically fired in 5-to-7-round bursts if mounted on a bipod, but 50-round bursts if the weapon was mounted on a tripod.

To minimize the effects of an overheated barrel, the weapon had a quick-change lever on the right side, which, when used, dislocated the barrel so it could be pulled out and replaced with a new one. In the hands of an experienced gunner, this could take only a few seconds, but Allied soldiers often used this brief window to assault the gun’s position.

Lt. Mike Powell uses an MG42 to kill German soldiers inside the Trondheim naval base.

Lt. Mike Powell uses an MG42 to kill German soldiers inside the Trondheim naval base.

The MG42 in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault fires far slower than its real-life counterpart (about 600 rounds per minute), but, when used by Powell, it never overheats or runs out of ammunition. Conversely, the German AI appear to reload after firing for a few seconds. If Powell is spotted by an enemy manning an MG42, death is usually almost instant, but if he avoids getting hit, the gunner is vulnerable during this brief pause.

They’re found in every mission (including basic training, which makes no sense because the U.S. Army would’ve been trained on the M1919 Browning, not the MG42), and since the first mission of the game takes place in November 1942, this fits with the MG42’s production timeline.

MG42’s are always found mounted on bipods and are used as a defensive weapon, whether they’re positioned on top of sandbags, inside bunkers, in guard towers, or anywhere else.

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~ by John on September 8, 2014.

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