FG-42

 FG-42 rifle, first model.
 FG-42 rifle, first model.

 

FG-42 rifle, second model.
 FG-42 rifle, second model.

 

  FG-42-1 FG-42-2
Caliber 7.92x57mm
Overall length 937 mm 1060 mm
Barrel length 508 mm 525 mm
Weight, empty 4.38 kg 5.05 kg
Rate of fire 900 rounds per minute 600 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity 10 or 20 rounds

 

The FG-42 (Fallschirmjagergevehr 42, or Paratrooper's rifle, model 1942) is rather interesting, yet unsuccessful development in small arms of the Hitler's Germany. The paratroopers were among the elite units of German armed forces, and belonged to the Luftwaffe (Air Forces). Because of this, they have their own procurement plans and ideas, somewhat different from German Army. At the start of the WW2 Fallshirmjagers (paratroopers) were armed with standard issue small arms, most notably P.08 and P.38 pistols, Kar.98k bolt-action rifles, MP-38 and MP-40 submachine guns and MG.34 general-purpose machine guns. As paratroopers usually operate far from home bases, and had to have all the firepower handy, the RLM (Reich's Air Ministry) issued the request for universal hand held weapon, which can effectively replace the bolt-action rifles, submachine guns and machine guns then in service with paratroopers. Early in 1942 two companies, the Rheinmetall-Borsig and the Krieghoff began the development of the requested weapon. This had to be a selective fire, lightweight rifle, firing the standard issue 7.92x57mm ammunition, and capable of controllable full automatic fire, as well as accurate single shot semi-automatic fire. It must be noted that the HWaA (Army department of armaments) was quite reluctant about feasibility of the selective-fire full power rifle; at that time Army seriously suggested the intermediate 7.92×33 Kurtz cartridge and much more reasonable Mkb.42 automatic carbines, which later evolved into Stg.44 assault rifle. But the Luftwaffe insisted on the full-power weapon.
First prototypes from both companies were submitted for initial tests by mid-1942. After tests the Rheinmetall prototype, developed under the leadership of the Louis Stange, was selected as a winner. Since the Rheinmetall was already very busy delivering other weapons to the armed forces, the production contract was handled over to Krieghoff. In the original form, also known as FG-42 1st model or FG-42-1, this rifle was made in limited numbers – no more than 2 000 rifles in 1st modification were delivered to Luftwaffe. It soon became apparent that the lightweight rifle lacked the necessary strength to handle powerful rifle ammunition in full automatic mode; it also was too expensive to manufacture. Recognizing that, Krieghoff engineers by the early 1944 redesigned the FG-42 into so called 2nd model. Being heavier and slightly longer, the FG-42-2 was still too light to be effectively fired in full auto, even from integral bipod, and still too expensive, especially compared to the contemporary Stg.44 assault rifle. Before the end of war about 5 000 2nd model FG-42 rifles were produced by Krieghoff and several other minor manufacturers. The FG-42 made no direct impact on the postwar developments in small arms, except that it served as a basis for relatively unspectacular American M60 machine gun.

FG-42 is a gas operated, air-cooled, selective fire weapon. The long stroke gas piston is located under the barrel, and it operates the rotating bolt with two lugs. The gas system of the 2nd model of FG-42 featured a gas adjustment valve (manual gas regulator). The trigger unit was so designed that the rifle fired from closed bolt in single shots (for maximum accuracy), and from open bolt in full auto (for better barrel cooling). The magazine was inserted horizontally from the left, and contained either 10 or 20 rounds; the spent cases were ejected to the right. FG-42-2 also featured a spent case deflector just behind the ejection port (to deflect cases away from shooter's face), and spring-loaded dust covers on magazine port. Both variants were equipped with muzzle brakes, but of different design. First model of FG-42 had the pistol grip severely inclined to the rear, to facilitate shooting downward from descending parachute, but this proved unnecessary, and FG-42-2 featured a more straightened pistol grip. Early FG-42 rifles had the buttstocks made from stamped steel, while the 2nd model FG-42's had wooden buttstocks of different shape. On FG-42-1 the integral bipod was hinged to the front of the receiver, and folded forward; on the FG-42-2 the integral bipod was strengthened, and was mounted near to the muzzle, and hinged rearwards. The open sights were mounted on folding posts, as the straight "inline" layout of the weapon required them to be mounted relatively high above the barrel. All FG-42 rifles also had integral dovetail, which accepted mounts for ZF-41 optical scope.