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Mg 34

Maschinengewehr 34
MG 34
Type General-purpose machine gun
Place of origin  Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1936–1945 (officially, German military) 1936–present (other armies)
Wars Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II
Chinese Civil War
1948 Arab-Israeli war
Korean War
Portuguese Colonial Wars
Algerian War
Vietnam War
Angolan civil war
Yugoslav Wars
Production history
Designer Heinrich Vollmer
Designed 1934
Manufacturer Mauserwerke AG, Stey-Daimler-Puch AG, Waffenwerke Brünn
Produced 1935–1945
Number built 577,120[1]
Weight 12.1 kg (26.7 lb)
19.2 kg (42.3 lb) (with tripod)
Length 1,219 mm (48.0 in)
Barrel length 627 mm (24.7 in)

Cartridge 7.92×57mm Mauser
Action Open bolt, Recoil-operated, Rotating bolt
Rate of fire 800–900 rounds/min
Early versions: 600–1000 rounds/min selectable on pistol grip
MG 34"S": 1,700 rounds/min.
MG 34/41: 1,200 rounds/min.
Muzzle velocity 765 m/s (2,510 ft/s)(s.S. Patrone)
Effective firing range 1200+ m
Feed system 50/250-round belts, 50-round drum, or 75-round drum magazine with modification
Sights Iron sights calibrated to 2000 meters in 100 meter increments.

The Maschinengewehr 34, or MG 34, is a German recoil-operated air-cooled machine gun, first tested in 1929, introduced in 1934, and issued to units in 1936. It accepts the 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge, and is generally considered the world's first general-purpose machine gun.[2]

The versatile MG 34 was arguably the most advanced machine gun in the world at the time of its deployment.[3] Its combination of exceptional mobility – being light enough to be carried by one man – and high rate of fire (of up to 900 rounds per minute) was unmatched.[3] It entered service in great numbers following Hitler's repudiation of the Versailles Treaty in 1936, and was first tested by German troops aiding Franco's Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War.


  • History 1
  • Use in Europe 2
  • Use in East Asia 3
  • Characteristics 4
  • Variants 5
    • MG 34/41(MG 34S) 5.1
    • MG 34 Panzerlauf 5.2
    • MG 81 5.3
  • Users 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The MG 34 was based on a 1930 Rheinmetall design, the MG 30. The Swiss and Austrian militaries had both licensed and produced the MG 30 from Rheinmetall shortly after patent. The MG 30 design was adapted and modified by Heinrich Vollmer of Mauser Industries. Vollmer modified the feed mechanism to accept either drum magazines or belt ammunition. He also increased the rate of fire.[3] The MG 34's double crescent trigger dictated either semiautomatic or fully automatic firing modes.

In the field, the weapon could operate in offensive or defensive applications. The offensive model, with a mobile soldier, used a drum magazine that could hold either 50 or 75 rounds of ammunition. In a stationary defensive role, the gun was mounted on a bipod or tripod and fed by an ammunition belt. Belts were carried in boxes of five. Each belt contained 50 rounds. Belt lengths could be linked for sustained fire. During sustained fire, barrels would have to be changed at intervals due to the heat generated by the rapid rate of fire. If the barrels were not changed properly, the weapon would misfire. Changing barrels was a rapid process for the trained operator and involved disengaging a latch and swinging the receiver to the right for the insertion of a new barrel. Accordingly, stationary defensive positions required more than one operator.[3]

The MG 34 was the mainstay of German Army support weapons[4] from the time of its first issue in 1935 until 1942, when it was supplanted by the next generation Maschinengewehr 42 or MG 42. Although the 34 was very reliable and dominant on the battlefield, its dissemination throughout the German forces was hampered due to its precision engineering, which resulted in high production costs and a relatively slower rate of production.[3] For its successor, the MG 42, the Germans instead used mass production techniques similar to those that created the MP 40 submachine gun.[4] However, the Germans nevertheless continued widespread production of MG 34s until the end of the war.[5]

Use in Europe

German soldiers with an MG 34 in France, 1944

The MG 34 was used as the primary infantry machine gun during the 1930s, and remained as the primary armored vehicle defensive weapon. It was to be replaced in infantry service by the related MG 42, but there were never enough quantities of the new design to go around, and MG 34s soldiered on in all roles until the end of World War II. The MG 34 was intended to replace the MG 13 and other older machine guns, but these were still being used in World War II as demand was never met.

It was designed primarily by Heinrich Vollmer from the Mauser Werke, based on the recently introduced Rheinmetall-designed Solothurn 1930 (MG 30) that was starting to enter service in Switzerland. Changes to the operating mechanism improved the rate of fire to between 800 and 900 rpm.

The new gun was accepted for service almost immediately and was generally liked by the troops, and it was used to great effect by German soldiers assisting Nationalist Spain in the Spanish Civil War. At the time it was introduced, it had a number of advanced features and the general-purpose machine gun concept that it aspired to was an influential one. However, the MG 34 was also expensive, both in terms of construction and the raw materials needed (49 kg (108.0 lb) of steel), and its manufacture was too time-consuming to be built in the numbers required for the ever-expanding German armed forces. It was the standard machine gun of the Kriegsmarine (German navy).

Use in East Asia

Imported units of MG 34s,[6] as well as indigenous copies of the weapon were adopted by Chinese Nationalist forces[7] during both World War II and the Chinese Civil War. Some models captured from the Germans by the Soviets or French were supplied to the People's Liberation Army/People's Volunteer Army, Korean People's Army, PAVN and the Viet Cong over the Cold War.

Today an MG 34 can be found in the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution which was captured from the Chinese Nationalist Army during the Chinese Civil War.


MG 34 on display in a museum

The MG 34 fires from an open bolt which improved the airflow through the barrel allowing it to cool faster. The firearm was designed with a rotating bolt operated by short recoil aided by a muzzle booster. When the firearm is ready to fire the bolt is pulled back to the rear and is held back by the sear. With the pull of the trigger the sear disengages sending the bolt forward under pressure from the recoil spring. A cartridge is stripped from the magazine or belt and the round is pushed into the chamber. As the bolt moves forward into battery the bolt rotates engaging the locking lugs and chamber locking the bolt to the barrel. The striker strikes and ignites the primer and the round is fired. The recoil causes the barrel and bolt to move backwards a short distance. The rearward movement of the barrel causes the rotating bolt to rotate back disengaging the locking lugs and unlocking the bolt from the barrel. The barrel returns to its forward position while the bolt recoils to its rear position. The empty casing is ejected and the cycle can begin anew.[8]

Machine gun squad with MG34 at the Eastern Front

The MG 34 came with a standard iron sight consisting of a notched 'V' sight mounted to a post in the rear and a single blade at the front. The sight came calibrated for ranges between 200 meter to 2000 meters in 100 meter increments. The MG 34 could accept a variety of different sighting systems, such as an antiaircraft sight or telescopic sights for use in specialty roles.[8]

The MG 34 could use both magazine-fed and belt-fed 7.92 mm ammunition. Belts were supplied in a fixed length of 50 rounds, but could be linked up to make longer belts for sustained firing. A 250 round belt was also issued to machine guns installed in fixed emplacements such as bunkers. Ammunition boxes contained 250 rounds in five belts that were linked to make one continuous 100 round belt and one 150 round belt. The assault drums held a 50-round belt, or a 75-round "double drum" magazine could be used by replacing the top cover with one made specially for that purpose. A gun configured to use the 75-round magazine could not be returned to belt-feed mode without changing the top cover again. All magazine-feed MG 34s had been withdrawn from infantry use by 1941, with some remaining in use on armoured personnel carriers.

Like most machine guns, the MG 34's barrel is designed to be easily replaced to avoid overheating during sustained fire. During a barrel change, the operator would disengage a latch on the left side of the receiver which held the receiver to the barrel sleeve. The entire receiver section could then pivot off to the right on its latitudinal axis, allowing the operator to pull the barrel out the back of the sleeve. A new barrel would then be put in the back of the sleeve, and the receiver rotated back in line with the barrel sleeve and latched. The entire process took just a few seconds when performed by a well-trained operator, causing minimal downtime in battle.[9]

MG 34 double-crescent trigger, E=semi-automatic fire, D=full automatic fire

A unique feature of the MG 34 was its double-crescent trigger, which provided select fire capability without the need for a fire mode selector switch. Pressing the upper segment of the trigger produced semi-automatic fire, while holding the lower segment of the trigger produced fully automatic fire.[10] Though considered innovative at the time, the feature was eliminated due to its complexity on the MG 34's successor, the MG 42.

In the light-machine gun role, it was used with a bipod and weighed only 12.1 kg (26.7 lb). In the medium-machine gun role, it could be mounted on one of two tripods, a smaller one weighing 6.75 kg (14.9 lb), the larger 23.6 kg (52.0 lb). The larger tripod, the MG 34 Lafette, included a number of features, such as a telescopic sight and special sighting equipment for indirect fire. The legs could be extended to allow it to be used in the anti-aircraft role, and when lowered, it could be placed to allow the gun to be fired "remotely" while it swept an arc in front of the mounting with fire, or aimed through a periscope attached to the tripod. Mounted to the Lafette the effective range of the MG 34 could be extended out to 3,500 meters when fired indirectly.[8]

Another unique feature of German World War II machine guns (which continued to be used by the German Bundeswehr after the war) was the Tiefenfeuerautomat. If selected, this feature walked the fire in wave like motions up and down the range in a predefined area. E.g., being unsure whether the real distance was 2000 meters or 2300 meters, the gunner could make the mount do an automatic sweep between the elevations for 1900 to 2400 meters and back. This sweeping of a given range (Tiefenfeuer) continued as long as the gun fired.


Soldiers of the German Großdeutschland regiment man a heavy MG 34 on a stationary tripod mount
MG 34 bipod and tripod mounts

MG 34/41(MG 34S)

The MG 34/41 was requested as the first war experiences in the beginning of World War II proved that a higher fire rate generates more dispersion of the bullets. The MG 34/41 could cope with a fire rate of 1200 rpm. The weight of the MG 34/41 was 14 kg, slightly more than the original MG 34 version. A limited number of MG 34/41 were produced. The MG 34/41 was beaten in trials by the MG 39/41, later designated MG 42.

MG 34 Panzerlauf

Most German tanks used during World War II used the MG 34 Panzerlauf for secondary armament. The MG 42 was ill-suited for internal/coaxial mounting due to the method of barrel change. The main difference of the MG 34 Panzerlauf and the regular MG 34 was the heavier almost solid armored barrel shroud, almost completely lacking the ventilation holes of the basic MG 34. When mounted inside a tank, the MG 34 also lacked a butt-stock. A kit for quick conversion to ground use was carried inside the tank containing a butt-stock and a combined bi-pod and front sight assembly.

MG 81

The MG 34 was also used as the basis of a new aircraft-mounted machine gun, the MG 81 machine gun. For this role, the breech was slightly modified to allow feeds from either side, and in one version, two guns were bolted together on a single trigger to form a weapon known as the MG 81Z (for Zwilling, German for "twin" as in twin-mounted). Production of the MG 34 was never enough to satisfy any of its users, and while the MG81 was a huge improvement over the earlier MG 30-based MG 15 and MG 17 guns, these guns were used until the end of the war. As the Luftwaffe lost the battle for air superiority and declined in priority in the German war effort, MG 15s and MG 81s, which were designed as flexibly mounted aircraft machine guns, were modified and adapted for ground use by infantry, with varying degrees of success.


See also


  1. ^ Folke Myrvang (2003), MG34-MG42: German Universal Machineguns, Collector Grade Publications Incorporated, ISBN 088935278X, 9780889352780
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. p. 246. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Haskew, Michael E (2012). Small Arms 1914-1945: The Essential Weapons Identification Guide. London: Amber Books. p. 92.  
  4. ^ a b Haskew 2012. pp. 146.
  5. ^ Haskew 2012. pp. 85.
  6. ^ "Work in process". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  7. ^ "WW2 Chinese Army". Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  8. ^ a b c McNab, Chris (2012). MG 34 and MG 42 Machine Guns. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing. p. 80.  
  9. ^ Info on the MG 34 from
  10. ^ information page on the MG 34
  11. ^ Rada, Tibor (2001). A Magyar Királyi Honvéd Ludovika Akadémia és a Testvérintézetek Összefoglalt Története (1830-1945) (in Hungarian) II. Budapest: Gálos Nyomdász Kft. p. 1114.  

External links

  • page with photos and information
  • 1943 U.S. Intelligence Report
  • US Army training video about the MG 34 from YouTube
  • The Pacific War 5: Chinese Infantry Weapons
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