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Maschinengewehr 34 (MG 34)


General

Already during World War I, the idea on a lightweight, simple and firepower machine gun “Einhetismaschinengewehr” awoke. At that time, the used MG 08/15 was heavy and difficult to handle. In 1932, Reichsministerium asked several gun factories to develop a new machine gun in accordance with the Einheitsmaschinengewehr concept. A professional body was needed to guide the project, so Waffenamt was instructed to guide the development of the project.

The MG 34 machine gun was designed in the early 1930s. The design was based on previous weapon constructs MG 1912 in Dreyse, Solothurn MG 30 and l.MG 32. Officially, MG 34 is designed by Louis Stange, Chief Engineer at Rheinmetall-Borsig AG, although most of the work was done by Heinrich Vollmer in Oberndorf, Mauser-Werke.

MG 34Maschinengewehr 34 (MG 34) Zoom

Prototype

In 1935, the first variation of the MG 34 machine gun was completed, with about 300 pieces manufactured. However, this was not accepted by the military and, therefore, the improved so-called another variation. It was already made in about 2 000 pieces, but it was not yet fully appreciated by the military. Wehrmacht finally accepted the third variation developed, 24.1.1939. The new MG 34 machine gun had to replace as soon as possible all the old MG 08/15 and MG 13 machine guns. Of course, this did not happen in a moment, and the old machine guns were only replaced with MG 34 machine guns until 1941.

When released in 1934, this weapon started a new infantry weapon class; light machine guns. In Germany, these weapons were called Leichte Maschinengewehr – l.MG.

MG 34 machinegun in the Eastern front. Photo: CC BY SA 4.0

Construction

MG 34 machine gun is a relatively complex weapon for structural solutions. The mechanical action of this air-cooled machine gun is based on the so-called short recoil with aided by a muzzle booster. A cone-shaped combined flash hider and recoil booster, attached to the mouth of the barrel, which reverts part of the gunpowder gas, giving further momentum to the retreating barrel. The short barrel recoil concept comes from the fact that the barrel movement is short, just enough that the bolt can be cycled by locking. The recoil spring is positioned inside the weapon's stock and its function is to return the lock to the front. At the same time the protruding bolt pushes the next cartridge into the cartridge casing.

The weapon has very high theoretical rate of fire, up to 1 000 rounds/min. due to the rate of fire, the 7.92 x57 – caliber gun barrel becomes hot. To prevent the barrel from being damaged, it must be replaced as early as 250 shot after the continuous fires. Due to the continuous burst fire, the barrel may warm up to 600 °C, which may cause the cartridge to cook-off in the chamber.

MG 34 barrel and spare barrel

The experienced machine gun crew changed the barrel in about 10 – 15 seconds. When the hot barrel was exchanged, it was recommended to use an asbestos glove. The lifespan of the barrel could be made to last around 5 000 – 6 000 shots with correct barrel change.

The cartridge feed is either 50 /100/150 round belts or alternatively a 50 round drum clip (“Gurtrommel 34”) or a 75 round saddle type double drum clip ("Dopppeltrommel", or alternatively Patronentrommel 34). The gun can be fired in a single- and full automatic fire. The fire selector is placed in the gun trigger. The trigger has the markings E = single shot (Einzelfeuer) and D = full auto (Dauerfeuer). The safety lever is placed above the trigger.

If necessary, this weapon could be placed on a tripod for a long distance support fire. There were two models of tripods; Light (6.75 kg) and heavy (Lafette 34, 23.6 kg). When on a tripod mount (“Lafette 34”) the weapon was called Schwere Maschinengewehr 34 (s.MG 34), a heavy machine gun 34. When using the guns own front bipod and drum clip gun worked as a group light machine gun (l.MG 34). The weapon was also designed for air-defense role with special anti-air sight and light weight tripod, which it was suitable for shooting the low flying air crafts.

MG 34 preparing for shooting. Photo: CC BY SA 2.0.

The weapon was an excellent improvement on the machine guns of the First World War, which were expensive and slow to manufacture. The only downside of the gun was simply too good work quality. Tightly made parts were sensitive to disturbances caused by dirt and gunpowder residues. In field conditions the weapon was unfortunately often jammed and demanded constant care. The cold weather in winter also caused problems with freezing.

MG 34 machine gun two drum (Gurtrommel 34) magazine portable rack. Photo: SA-kuva

The MG 34 machine guns were also extensively used in secondary to the main armaments for armored vehicles. The armored vehicle weapon MG 34 definition was MG 34 Panzerlauf. Because the replacement of the MG 34 machine gun barrel was different from that of the MG 42 machine gun. The MG 42 machine gun barrel is replaced by opening the barrel heat cover on the side, while the MG 34 machine gun barrel is changed by turning the weapon's frame away from the barrel, allowing the barrel to be pulled straight back. Installation of the armored vehicle gun mount for the MG 34 machine gun easier and simpler. The MG 34 Panzerlauf was equipped with a thicker barrel compared to the normal MG 34 machine gun, which allows for a more continuous firing.

The MG 34 machine gun was used in the development of a newer machine gun, model MG 81 for the airplanes to replace the older MG 15 and MG 17 machine guns. The main difference between the MG 81 and the MG 15/17 machine guns was that the MG 81 was a belt fed while MG 15/17 were fed by drum clips.

Fire power

Due to its high rate of fire (600 – 1000 rounds/min) and its portability, the weapon became a very important support weapon for the infantry. Thanks to its great firepower, the weapon's influence on the living force of the enemy was remarkable and brought with it a great increase in firepower of the infantry squad. Especially since the infantry of the German Army (Wehrmacht) were armed with the mostly bolt-action Mauser K98k rifles. The MG 34 armor penetrating bullet (S.m.H.K.) penetrated 13 mm armored plate at the distance of 100 m and at the 500 m, 8 mm strong plate.

MG 34 machine gun 50 cartridge belt

Production

MG 34 is a relatively complex weapon in the structure. The production of the gun lasted 150 hours and it took 49.1 kg of raw materials. Due to this, the weapon was slow and expensive to manufacture. Its price comprised of 327 RM a piece. It was manufactured between 1934 and 1945, with a total of 354 020 pieces (up to 450 000 in the second source). The weapon included a Bipod (weight 1 kg), which cost was 15 RM. The heavy tripod (Lafette 34) weighed 23.6 kg and its production cost was staggering 727 RM.

MG 34 machine guns were first produced at the Simson & Co – Weapons Factory, near Erfurt, because it was the only weapon factory in Germany which was allowed to produce weapons. This arrangement was because of the ownership. In reality, the Rheinmetall AG produced these weapons quietly at the same time in Sömmerda's factory. The Simson & Co -weapons factory was shut down in 1934 and its machines were divided between several different weapons factories. Apparently the MG 34 production equipment went to Gustloff-Werke.

Manufactures

Factory District Codes
Mauser-Werke A.G. Berlin S/243, ar (WaA 26)
Großfuß Dobeln bpr (WaA 479)
Maget (ALKETT) Berlin-Tegel cra (WaA 11)
Steyr-Daimler-Puch A.G. Steyr bnz (WaA 623)
Gustloff-Werke Suhl dfd, 936 (WaA 4)
Rheinmetall A.G. Sömmerda A (WaA 11, 39)
       
       
  Subcontractors    
Hydrometer - atb
Erma Erfurt ayf (WaA 280)
Herder - clc
Eickhorn - cof
Waffenwerke Brünn Brünn dot
Berlin-Suhler Waffenwerke Suhl bsw, G (WaA 4)
Eugen jsing Bergneustadt dqc (WaA 195)
MG 34
MG 34 on the shoulder of a machine gunner, in the eastern front. Photo: TH-photo collection

References

  • Weapons and Fighting Tactics of the Waffen-SS, Dr. S. Hart & Dr. R. Hart, 1999
  • Das Handbuch der deutschen Infanterie 1939–1945, Alex Buchner
  • Arma Fennica 2 - Sotilasaseet, Timo Hyytinen, 1987
  • MG 34, Pohjois-Kymenlaakson asehistoriallinen yhdistys, www.pkymasehist.fi, 7.8.2011
  • Milsurps.com, url: http://www.milsurps.com, 10.8.2011
  • Datenblätter für Heeres-Waffen, -Fahrzeuge und -Gerät, W127, Karl Pawlas

★ August 7, 2010 (✪ April 27, 2019)

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