During the Second World War there was no weapon that was more feared than the MG-42 (Maschinengewehr 42). Just the sound of this weapon being fired, made even the most battle hardened veterans scramble for cover. With it’s incredibly high rate of fire of 1200 rounds per minute, it made most men hug the ground, because sticking your head up, would almost insure it being taken off by this killing machine. During the ladings at Normandy on D-day, more men lost their lives due to this fearsome weapon…THAT’S how effective it was!!
The Maschinengewehr 42 machine guns, or MG42 for short, were developed by the German firm Metall und Lackierwarenfabrik Johannes Großfuß AG after seeing need for machine guns with greater rate of fire than the MG34 machine guns. In 1941, a limited production for MG39/41 machine guns provided 1,500 guns for combat trials; they were accepted for service in 1942 under the designation of MG42. Großfuß, Mauser-Werke, Gustloff-Werke, and several other armament manufacturers were given contracts. The design of the MG42 machine guns were purposely similar to that of MG34 so that soldiers assigned these new machine guns would require minimum amount of training before taking the new weapons to battle.
In addition to producing a machine gun that had a greater rate of fire than the already-in-service MG34 machine guns, the MG42 design further improved from the MG34 in that each MG42 machine gun required 75 man-hours to build, compared to MG34 machine gun’s 150 hours. Among the many reasons for the improved production rate was the employment of “hammer rifling” for the rifling of these weapons’ barrels, in which a machine forges them using a pattern; this significantly shortens the production time at the expense of lesser accuracy when compared to barrels created using “cut” or “button” rifling methods. Coupled with needing less metal during the production process, the cost of each MG42 machine gun decreased to 250 Reichsmark, compared to MG34 machine gun’s 327 Reichsmark. Nevertheless, since the war demands for machine gun were so great, MG34 machine guns continued to be in production despite the arrival of the new MG42 design.
The rate of fire of 1,200 rounds-per-minute was unmatched by any contemporary machine gun of the period. Taking the British Vickers and American Browning M2 machine guns as examples, MG42 machine guns enjoyed twice the rate of fire. The high rate of fire gave MG42 machine guns a very distinct and nearly continuous noise, caused by humans’ inability to distinguish the sound of each individual bullet; this led to the nick names of “Hitler’s buzz saw” or “Hitler’s zipper” for MG42 machine guns. Similar nick names existed on the German side as well, such as Hitlersäge (“Hitler’s saw”) or “Bonesaw”.
H/T – World War II Database