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.
2. AS A LIGHT 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.
3. AS A HEAVY MACHINE GUN
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
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.