However, it was also designed to perform both as a light machine gun and in heavier roles, as an early example of a general purpose machine gun. In the light-machine gun role, it was intended to be equipped with a bipod and 50-round ammunition belt contained in a drum-shaped basket, which could be attached to the receiver. In the heavier role, it was mounted on a larger tripod and was belt-fed. In practice, the infantry usually just belt-fed the bipod version, resulting in it functioning as a classic medium support weapon.
The MG 34 was used as the primary infantry machine gun during the 1930s, and remained as the primary tank and aircraft defensive weapon. It was to be replaced in infantry service by the related MG42, 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 MG13 and other older machine guns, but these were still being used in WWII 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 (MG30) that was starting to enter service in Switzerland. The principal changes were to move the feed mechanism to a more convenient location on the left of the breech, and the addition of a shroud around the barrel. 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 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). It also proved to be rather temperamental, jamming easily when dirty.
Imported units of MG 34s, as well as indigenous copies of the weapon were adopted by Chinese Nationalist forces during both World War II and the Chinese Civil War. Some models supplied by Soviets or French were used by the PAVN and the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War.
CharacteristicsEditThe 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 armored 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 which held the receiver to the barrel sleeve. The entire receiver then pivoted off to the right, 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.
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. Though considered innovative at the time, the feature was eliminated due to its complexity on the MG 34's successor, the MG42.
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 lb). The larger tripod, the MG 34 Laffette, 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.
MG 34/41(MG 34S)EditThe 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 PanzerlaufEdit
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 MG34 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.
Type General Purpose Machine Gun
Place of origin Nazi Germany
In service 1935 - 1945 (officially, German military)
Used by Nazi Germany, Republic of China, North Vietnam
Wars World War II, Chinese Civil War, Vietnam War
Designer Heinrich Vollmer
Manufacturer Numerous, but mostly Mauser
Produced 1934 - 1945
Weight 12.1 kg (26.7 lb) 19.2 kg (42.3 lb) (with tripod)
Length 1,219 mm (48 in)
Barrel length 627 mm (24.7 in)
Cartridge 7.92x57mm Mauser
Action Recoil operated
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 755 m/s (2,477 ft/s)
Feed system 50/200-round belts, 50-round drum, or 75-round drum magazine with modification
Sights Iron sights