The MG 42 (shortened from German: Maschinengewehr 42, or “machine gun 42”) is a 7.92×57mm Mauser general purpose machine gun designed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the second half of World War II. It was intended to replace the earlier MG 34, which was more expensive and took much longer to produce, but both weapons were produced until the end of the war.
Although designed to be low-cost and easy to build, the MG 42 proved to be highly reliable and easy to operate. It is most notable for its very high cyclic rate for a gun of this calibre, averaging about 1,200 RPM compared to around 850 for the MG 34, and perhaps 450 to 600 for other common weapons like the M1919 Browning or Bren. This rate of fire made it extremely effective in providing suppressive fire, and its unique sound led to it being nicknamed “Hitler’s buzzsaw”.
The MG 42’s lineage continued past Nazi Germany’s defeat, forming the basis for the nearly identical MG1 (MG 42/59), chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO, which subsequently evolved into the MG1A3, and later the Bundeswehr’s MG 3. It also spawned the Swiss MG 51, Zastava M53, SIG MG 710-3, Austrian MG 74, and the Spanish 5.56×45mm NATO Ameli light machine gun, and lent many design elements to the American M60 and Belgian MAG. The MG 42 was adopted by several armed organizations after the war, and was both copied and built under licence.