Monday, July 4, 2011

Enduring designs

The German MG42 and Soviet DShk and SG43 are three machine guns that have enjoyed a remarkable operational life. The MG42 has been the basis for numerous automatic weapons and remains the touchstone for all general purpose machine guns.

The Degtyarev DShk 1938
The large Krupnokaliberny Pulemet Degtyareva-Shpagina, DShK or "Degtyarev-Shpagin, large calibre" 12.7mm/.50 entered service with the Red Army in 1939 and remained in production until 1980. Soviet soldiers nicknamed it the "Dushka". Although it has been compared to the .50 Browning HMG, it was not a recoil-operated gun but used a gas system developed by Georgiy Shpagin that has a three-positions gas regulator. The Dushka was used throughout World War II as an anti-aircraft weapon on tanks like the heavy IS-3, in twin and quad AA mounts and even on river craft. As a formidable heavy infantry support gun it was mounted on a modified version of the Maxim Sokolov mount.
The Soviet DshK 1938 127mm/.50 in service as an anti-aircraft gun aboard a Soviet naval craft. The gun had an effective range of 1,500m/1,641yd.

After the war, the modernized version DShK Modernized (DShK-M), also known as DShKM-38/46, was mounted on Soviet tanks such as the T-55 and T-62, and armoured reconnaissance vehicles and personnel carriers. The DShKM was also manufactured in China, Iran, Yugoslavia and Pakistan. It was widely used in numerous post-1945 conflicts including Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli wars, and more recently, the Soviet and NATO campaigns in Afghanistan. The DShKM was one of the most successful designs of its time.

The muzzle velocity is 850m/s/2,788ft/s, and the gun fires at 600 rpm from a 50-round belt. The AP rounds can pierce 15mm/0.6in of armour at 500m/547yd.

The MG42
The MG42 replaced the MG34 during World War II. Designed by Dr Grunow of Grossfuss-Werke, it used stamping and spot-welding to speed the manufacturing process. When the Allies captured their first MG42s in Tunisia, they thought that stamping and spot welding indicated a cheap and shoddy weapon. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The MG42 entered service in 1942 and by 1945 some 750,000 had been produced. The gun introduced the quick barrel change that was essential for fast firing air-cooled weapons.
The German Maschinengewehr MG42 machine gun had a practical rate of fire of 250 rounds per minute in the light role and 500 in medium.

The gun was 122cm/48in long with a 53.3cm/21in barrel and weighed 11.8kg/26lb in the light role and 29.7kg/65.3lb on the sustained fire mount. With a muzzle velocity of 755m/s/2,746ft/s, it fired 50- and 250-round metal-belted ammunition and had a maximum range of 2,000m/2,188yd and a cyclic rate of 1,550. A US Army Intelligence Bulletin identified the drawback of this high rate of fire: "the gun has a tendency to 'throw off, so that its fire stays on target for a much briefer time than does that of the slower firing MG34". German gunners were therefore instructed to fire bursts of between five to seven rounds when firing in the light role. The gunners also aimed low and the Intelligence Bulletin noted a comment from a GI who remarked, "German machine gun fire is usually so low - often about a foot and a half above the ground - that we call it 'grass cutting'. "
A Waffen SS soldier cleans his MG34. It has been said that many automatic weapons have been worn out not by constant firing but by constant cleaning; it is essential to keep weapons clean. Gas-operated weapons can foul up with hard carbon that builds up around narrow apertures such as the gas regulator, which can cause stoppages and jams.

The SG43 and SGM MMG
In the early 1940s the Red Army realized that the old PM1910 machine gun was being outclassed by the German MG34 and later MG42 machine guns. The need for a new weapon was addressed by the talented Goryunov brothers, who produced the Stankovii Pulemet Goryunova Obrazets 1943G, or simply the SG43. This gun combined in its mechanism features from Degtyarev, Browning and other weapons. It was a robust and reliable weapon that fired at 500-640 rpm to a maximum effective range of 1,000m/1,094yd from a 50-round metal-link belt. The gun was 40.7kg/89.5lb on its two-wheel mount, which compared favourably to the complete weight of a PM1910: a staggering 74kg/ 1631b.

Among the variants of the SG43 were the SGMT coaxial tank gun and the SGMB vehicle-mounted gun. As late as the mid-1990s the SG43 was still in service in Egypt, China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
The Soviet SGM machine gun developed during World War II could be fired from a wheeled ground mount by infantry or was mounted in armoured fighting vehicles both as a co-axial and an AA gun.

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