Above is a cutaway diagram showing the internals of the first model FG-42 designed by Louis Stange at Rheinmetall. The FG-42 was developed in response to a request from the Luftwaffe for a versatile paratroop rifle.
The rifle’s design is striking, it had an in-line stock profile and internal buffer system (see the butt in image #1) that made the weapon controllable in automatic fire, its unusual sharply angled grip and flip-up sights made the rifle more compact and minimised entanglements with the paratroops’ equipment. The side mounted magazine meant that the length of the gun could be minimised as it sat above rather than in front of the trigger group.
The FG-42’s operation was also innovative using a closed bolt when firing semi-automatically and from an open bolt in fully-automatic fire. This made it accurate in semi-automatic fire and cooled the rifle during automatic fire. The rifle used a long-stroke gas piston, similar to that of the Lewis light machine gun, to cycle the action with a rotating bolt locking mechanism. The early model weapons were extremely compact for their calibre (7.92x57mm). Weighing 4.2 kgs, much less than the contemporary StG-44which weighted 4.62 kg (just over 10 lbs). It was also only 37-inches in length, much shorter even than the K98k which measured almost 44-inches.
Relatively few FG-42s were manufactured with only 10,000 or so seeing action during the last two years of World War Two.
The rifle above is believed to be a prototype from the German manufacturing company Knorr-Bremse, although it has no visible markings. Tendered for the paratroop rifle trials which eventually selected the FG-42. Knorr-Bremse had previously worked to refine the Swedish Kulspruta LH33 Maschinengewehr later the Kulsprutegevär m/1940 design to create the MG35/36A light machine gun.
The rifle pictured is sadly incomplete with its butt piece, bolt assembly and operating rod missing. Like the FG-42 the Knorr-Bremse rifle had a side loading magazine which was positioned just to the rear of the pistol grip. The rifle’s overall length measures 83cm or 33 inches - minus the weapons missing buttstock. This is significantly shorter than the FG-42. The Knorr-Bremse rifle’s receiver appears to be almost entirely stamped and pressed rather than milled and the size of the magazine well indicates it was chambered in 7.92x57mm. The pistol grip with wooden panels is very similar to that found on Mauser's StG 45(M). It is probable that the rifle was designed to the Reich Air Ministry’s LC-6 specification - which the FG-42 was designed to, although this does not mean the weapon was not designed later.
In response to the Luftwaffe’s request for a versatile automatic rifle for its Paratroopers/Fallschirmjagers a number of companies offered designs. These included Krieghoff, Gustloff, Haenel, Großfuss, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Mauser. It was Rheinmetall’s design, the FG-42, which was selected. The Knorr-Bremse rifle differs greatly from the other rifles entered Krieghoff and Mauser’s rifles were re-workings of their aircraft light machine guns while Rheinmetall’s rifle was a relatively complex design.
It is difficult to tell how the Knorr-Bremse operated from the limited photographs available and with most of its working parts lost. However, the Springfield Armory notes that it is gas-operated and roller locking. The weapon’s muzzle device is ported and the top is cut open in an attempt to compensate for the recoil produced by the the 7.92mm round. On top of the receiver is what looks like the remains of an optic or sight mount with a dovetail visible.
The only known example of the the rifle is held by the Springfield Armory Museum.
Action: Semi / Fully-Automatic, Recoil operated, Air Cooled
Rate of Fire: 900rpm early model / 600 rpm
Weight: 4,2 kg early model / 5 kg late model
The FG-42 (Fallschirmjägergewehr-42 or Paratrooper’s rifle, Model 1942) is a light and powerful weapon, specifically designed for German airborne soldiers. The paratroopers were an elite unit of German armed forces and belonged to the Luftwaffe. Paratroopers usually operate far from home bases and had to have all their firepower at hand. The Luftwaffe issued the request for universal hand held weapon, intended to replace the bolt-action rifles, submachine guns and machine guns then in service. The design specifications were for a selective fire, lightweight rifle, firing the standard issue 7.92x57mm ammunition, and capable of controllable full automatic fire, as well as accurate single shot semi-automatic fire.
The last month or so has been pretty hectic and I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d have liked. I managed to post something almost every day and there have been posts on everything from the FG-42 to the Browning SA-22. I wrote a piece about the weapons I handled during a recent visit to the UK’s National Firearms Centre and there have also been posts on the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Muslim to win the Victoria Cross.
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