|Full text name||Haenel/Schmeisser MKb.42(H) Automatic Carbine|
|Caliber cartridge||7.92x33mm Kurz (7.9 PP Kurz, 8mm PP Kurz)|
|Overall length, mm||940|
|Barrel length, mm||364|
|Weight empty, kg||4,9|
|Magazine capacity, rounds||30|
|Cyclic rate of fire, rounds/min||500|
The ‘Maschinenkarabiner 1942‘ or MKb.42 (H) for short was the final result of a contract issued to HWaA (Hitler’s army Weapons command) in 1939. The formation of this weapon led to the creation of the successful Stg.44 ( MP 43/44), the world’s first ‘assault rifle’.
This contract was for the development of a ‘machine carbine’ chambered for the new 7.92×33 Kurz cartridge. Initial development took place under the designation of MKb.42 – Maschinenkarabiner, 1942. The new weapon was intended as a replacement for submachine guns, bolt action rifles and also to take part of the role of light machine guns for front line troops, with an effective range of 600 meters or so.
There were three versions initially developed, the MKb.42(H), MKb.42(W) and MKb.42(G). The letter in brackets represents the initial of the company responsible for that particular prototype.
The first two were the (H) and (W) designs, by Haenel and Walther respectively. These were both developed from 1940-41. The (G) design was the ‘Gustloff’ version developed from 1941-42. This version was restricted to the 8x57mm Mauser rifle round by Hitler, which more or less doomed it to failure from the start. It was cancelled in 1943. The Walther design was found to be too complex, and was also dropped. The final contract went to the C.G. Haenel Waffen und Fahrradfabrik company, of Suhl, Germany.
The famous weapons designer Hugo Schmeisser led the Haenel development team at the time, producing the first working prototypes of the new weapon by 1942. In accordance with the specifications, the new weapon inherited several features from the MP-40 submachine gun, such as a left-side charging handle with slot safety and magazine housing with button release.
The new weapon had to be made with the maximum utilisation of stamping and welding, in order to make it more affordable to manufacture and reduce the use of rapidly depleting resources. So Haenel was joined by the Metz-Werke company. This company had no knowledge of the manufacture of firearms but a great deal of experience in steel stamping and forming.
The first weapons were issued to front line units on the Eastern front by mid-1942, and low-rate mass production began in late 1942. A total of about 10,000 MKb.42(H)’s were produced for the German Army before its production was ceased in favour of an improved design, the MP-43 / Stg.44.
The MKb.42(H) is a gas operated, selective-fire weapon. It uses a long-stroke gas piston, located above the barrel in a long gas tube. Barrel locking is achieved by tipping the rear part of the bolt down into the locking recess, cut into the machined steel insert in the stamped steel receiver. The gun fires from an open bolt at all times, and was striker fired.
The only safety is the MP-40-type aperture, cut at the rear of the charging handle slot, in which the charging handle can be hooked when the bolt is open. The cross-bolt type fire mode selector is located above the trigger guard. The MKb.42(H) could be fitted with a standard bayonet, and has a wooden buttstock.
The MKb.42(W) differed to the MKb.42(H) both superficially (the obvious difference being the perforated handguard) and by using a closed bolt system with exposed hammer. MKb.42(G)‘s fired from the closed bolt also, with a bolt locking tab under the receiver that locks the bolt open at any stage and a 180 degree safety switch above the trigger.
The Gustloff design was more similar to a self-loading rifle in appearance than the typical ‘assault rifle’ style of the other two models. The MKb.42(G) had two designations: Model 206 (semi-auto only) or Model 208 (select fire).