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"German Views on Use of the MG 42" from Intelligence Bulletin, May 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following U.S. intelligence report on the German MG 42 machine gun was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 9, May 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



The cyclic rate of fire of the German MG 42 is 25 rounds per second. Most of the disadvantages, as well as the advantages, of the gun can be attributed to this single characteristic. As a result of the high rate of fire, the gun has a marked tendency to "throw off," so that its fire stays on the target for a much briefer time than does that of the MG 34, which can fire only 15 rounds per second.

This section summarizes the German Army views as to the length of bursts to be used against hostile forces when the MG 42 is employed as a light machine gun or as a heavy machine gun.


The Germans are instructed to fire bursts of from 5 to 7 rounds when they employ the MG 42 as a light machine gun, since an operator cannot hold his gun on the target for a longer period. The gun must be re-aimed after each burst. To enable the bursts to fall in as rapid a succession as possible, the Germans try to cut the aiming time to a minimum.

Under battle conditions the MG 42 can fire about 22 bursts per minute—that is, about 154 rounds. Under the same conditions, the MG 34 is capable only of about 15 bursts per minute, at a rate of 7 to 10 rounds per burst, totalling about 150 rounds. Thus the MG 42, used as a light machine gun, requires a slightly higher ammunition expenditure. Although the Germans believe that when the weapon is properly employed, the compactness and density of its fire pattern justify the higher expenditure, recent German Army orders have increasingly stressed the need of withholding machine-gun fire until the best possible effect is assured. Although the German defensive trick of "lying in wait" has been adopted partly to gain the tactical advantage of surprise, it also fits in with recent German efforts to conserve, not only ammunition, but all other matériel manufactured by the hard-pressed industries of the Reich and the occupied countries.


German soldiers are instructed that when the MG 42 is employed as a heavy machine gun, sustained fire must be avoided at all costs. The German Army has ruled that the results of sustained fire are disappointing and that the expenditure of ammunition involved is "intolerable."

This, and the following German observations, do not apply, however, to fire placed on large targets at short range.

The Germans believe that if the compact beaten zone of the MG 42 is on the target, a burst of 50 rounds should be effective. If the burst is not on the target, the Germans are instructed to re-aim the gun and, if necessary, to adjust the sights.

The enemy considers it wrong to fire long bursts before fire for adjustment has been undertaken and observed. At a range of 2,000 yards, for example, the time of flight is 4.7 seconds. This means that the point of impact cannot satisfactorily be observed under 6 seconds. Six seconds of sustained fire results in an expenditure of 150 rounds. The German Army tells its soldiers that if they will wait to observe the point of impact in firing for adjustment, a burst of 50 rounds should then prove adequate.

While U.S. soldiers have expressed a healthy respect for the MG 42's high rate of fire, they agree that the gun's dispersion is very small—so small in fact, that they have frequently been able to make successful dashes out of the field of fire.


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