The concept of a single machine gun originated at the end of the First World War. The course of hostilities showed that it is quite justified to use the same design, with minimal changes, both as a light machine gun and for installation on armored vehicles, to use it in aviation, in twin anti-aircraft installations, and so on. Although the idea of a single machine gun had its drawbacks in individual situations, the advantages in the form of reducing the variety of designs in service were obvious.
Despite the fact that many designers positioned their work precisely as a single machine gun, they were in no hurry to abandon what was in service at that time. Obviously, after the First World War, no one expected that soon there would be another large-scale war, for which you need to prepare.
As already noted, the concept of a single machine gun was announced at the beginning of the twentieth century, but although it was recognized as sound and promising, movement in this direction was very slow. The Germans were the first to attend to the official adoption of a single machine gun. They were the first to adopt a machine gun, which took place not only in the hands of an infantryman, but also on armored vehicles.
Single machine gun MG-34
In 1934, a new weapon was adopted by the German army under the designation MG-34. The new machine gun was developed precisely taking into account the possibility of its use both as a machine gun with the ability to mount on armored vehicles, and as a light machine gun. Luis Stange led the project, but it is impossible to say that the MG-34 was completely his brainchild.
Even before that, the German army was armed with machine guns, the designs of which allowed them to be used as a single unit, but it was decided to create a new weapon, under specific stringent requirements. In the design of a single MG-34 machine gun, you can find individual points that were used in earlier models of German weapons, or even solutions altogether, albeit modified, found in foreign models of this class.
At the time of adoption, the MG-34 existed in two versions, for the infantry and for installation on MG-34T armored vehicles. The design of the last version differed slightly and, in fact, it was the same machine gun. In 1939, on the basis of the MG-34, another version of the machine gun was developed, this time an aviation one - the MG-81. From this development, subsequently, made the MG-81Z, which is two coaxial MG-81 machine guns with a common descent. Thus, the weapon began to be used both on the ground and in the air.
The design of the MG-34 machine gun is based on an automation system with a short barrel stroke, the barrel bore is locked when the combat larva is turned, on which there are stops in the form of thread segments. When locking, these stops interact with a clutch, which is located on the breech of the barrel. The very process of turning the combat larva is realized with the help of rollers entering the grooves of the receiver. Separately, it should be noted that the machine gun's flame arrester also plays a role in the trouble-free operation of the automation system, using powder gases for a confident rollback of the barrel back when firing. It is interesting to implement the possibility of choosing the mode of fire in the weapon, which is carried out using the trigger, which consists of two parts.
For the MG-34 machine gun, the following characteristics can be given. The mass of the weapon was 10, 5 kilograms. The total length was 1219 millimeters, the barrel was 627 millimeters. The machine gun was fed from belts with ammunition 7, 92x57. Interestingly, for the infantry, truncated cone-shaped boxes were used, in which a tape for 50 rounds was laid. More capacious boxes could also be used, where five tapes of 50 cartridges each were interconnected. In addition, a cover with a receiver for the MG-15 magazine was developed, which had a capacity of 75 rounds.
As you know, testing weapons at the proving ground and at the shooting range are very different in their results from the use in real combat conditions. Already from the first serious military clashes of the Second World War, the MG-34 machine gun showed not the highest reliability of operation in case of heavy pollution. In fairness, it should be noted that there were no special problems with weapons on armored vehicles and in aviation, but there machine guns were not bathed in swamp slurry, as in the infantry.
In addition to complaints about reliability, another interesting conclusion was made. It turned out that in the infantry version of the weapon, high accuracy is not particularly needed, on the contrary, it is necessary to increase the dispersion when firing, at the same time increasing the density of fire. So, in 1941, a new modification of the MG-34/41 machine gun appeared. For this version of the weapon, the rate of fire was increased by one and a half times, up to 1200 rounds per minute, which, although it led to an increase in the effectiveness of the use of weapons, especially when the enemy was advancing, but did not make the machine gun more reliable.
Due to frequent failures with heavy pollution, the MG-34 machine gun was actively looking for a replacement and found it in 1942, but MG-34 still participated in the war until its end.
Single machine gun MG-42
The new single machine gun became not just a suitable replacement for the MG-34, but the design that will subsequently be in service with the armies of Germany and other countries for more than a dozen years. The authors of this machine gun are the designers of the Metall-und Lackwarenfabrik Johannes Großfuß Werner Gruner and Kurt Horn. Taking the MG-34 as a basis, they reworked its weak point - the bolt group, making the weapon not only more reliable under adverse operating conditions, but also cheaper to manufacture.
The lower cost of the new weapon was explained not only by the change in the bolt group, the weapon was deprived of the opportunity to choose the side of the feed from the tapes, the use of stores, and the possibility of conducting single fire. A separate point should be noted the widespread use of stamping and spot welding. In other words, the designers made a weapon for war, with a reserve for subsequent modernization in peacetime.
As already mentioned, the designers reworked the bolt group of weapons, however, the general principle of operation of the machine gun's automation has been preserved. Automation was also based on the use of recoil energy with a short barrel stroke. Locking was now carried out using two rollers.
The new machine gun turned out to be somewhat heavier - 11, 5 kilograms, but all other parameters were completely identical to the previous version of the weapon.
To be completely honest, it would be a stretch to call the MG-42 a single machine gun. For use on armored vehicles and in aviation, the MG-34 was preferred, since it had the ability to choose the side of the supply, which was sometimes a decisive parameter. Nevertheless, the MG-42 became the starting point for the creation of uniform machine guns in Germany, which are now known under the common name MG-3.
Single machine gun MG-3
In 1958, the German armed forces adopted their old MG-42 machine gun, which was adapted for the use of 7, 62x51 ammunition. The new-old weapon received the designation MG-1. Subsequently, the weapon was refined, it became possible to feed from both loose and non-loose belts, the quality of the steel of individual units, the barrel of the weapon, and so on, improved. After 5 options, with the addition of prefixes from A1 to A5 to the name of the weapon, the final version of the single MG-2 machine gun appeared, as it seemed at that time. But there is no limit to perfection, and the weapon continued to develop without significant changes in design, but with an increase in overall performance, reliability and durability. This machine gun has already received the designation, known to us, MG-3.
Talking about the design of a single MG-3 machine gun is tantamount to talking about the design of the MG-42, no significant changes have been made. In fact, the weapon was brought up to modern indicators, the materials and methods of processing parts were changed to more advanced ones, but it is definitely necessary to talk about the distribution of this machine gun.
Probably, you need to start with an attempt to repeat the design of the MG-42 by the Americans. Having appreciated all the advantages of this weapon on the battlefield, the United States decided to make its own single machine gun of a similar design, but with blackjack and … under its own cartridge, namely.30-06. This project received the name T24, however, due to design flaws in conjunction with a longer ammunition, it was closed, which, in my opinion, was in vain.
Separately, mention should be made of the Zastava M53 machine gun. This weapon was adopted by the army of Yugoslavia, and was still the same MG-42, even with the preservation of the original ammunition.
In 1974, the MG-74 machine gun was adopted in Austria. With this weapon, not everything is so simple, it is generally accepted that the MG-42 was taken as the basis, however, a number of decisions similar to the MG1A2 indicate that the weapon was definitely made with an eye on the post-war work of German designers.
The MG-3 machine gun was and is being produced in Greece, Italy, Pakistan, Turkey, Mexico, Sudan, Iran. It is in service with the Estonian army, the Swedish army, the armed forces of Australia, Brazil, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Lithuania, Norway, Pakistan and others.
As is clear from the distribution of the MG-3 machine gun around the world, the weapon really turned out to be at least good. But even the best weapons become obsolete sooner or later. At the moment, the German army has adopted a new single machine gun under the designation MG-5, previously known as the HK 121.
Since the adoption of a new model is not a momentary process, the MG-3 was again modified and designated as MG-3KWS. The significant distinguishing points in this weapon are as follows. The machine gun received the ability to conduct single fire, the tape can be supplied to both sides of the weapon, a handle for carrying the weapon appeared. Up to a pile, the weapon was overgrown with additional mounting straps (on a machine gun), a shock absorber was added to the butt, an electronic weapon wear counter, the ability to install bipods along the entire length of the barrel casing.
Single machine gun MG-5
It goes without saying that the Germans exchanged the time-tested design for what, for surely the replacement should be at least a weapon with extraordinary parameters. But no, the design of the new machine gun is outrageously familiar and has already been repeatedly used in various versions.
The basis for the new weapon was an automation system based on the use of a part of the powder gases discharged from the bore with a long piston stroke rigidly connected to the bolt carrier. The barrel bore is locked by turning the combat larva by 2 stops. The weapon is fed from a loose belt, the ejection of spent cartridges is carried out downward. The main feature of the new machine gun is the ability to choose the rate of fire: 640, 720 and 800 rounds per minute, although the range is definitely small.
For the first time this weapon was shown in 2009. A new machine gun was made on the basis of a relatively "fresh" development of the company Heckler und Koch - the light machine gun HK43, chambered for 5, 56x45. At the moment, there are three options for machine guns that should satisfy all the needs of the German army. MG-5, is a standard version of the weapon with a barrel length of 550 millimeters. MG-5S easel version of MG-5, in which there are two handles instead of a stock. MG-5A1 - easel version with a barrel length of 663 mm. And finally, MG-5A2, which is a lightweight "infantry" version of the weapon with a barrel length of 460 millimeters.
It is not entirely clear what dictated the transition from one machine gun to another, it is obvious that the MG-42 design, although it had been in service for a fairly long period of time, clearly still had the opportunity to improve. The only significant advantage of the new weapon can be noted perhaps that the lower requirements for the quality of materials, in comparison with those imposed on the MG-3. This, in theory, will reduce production costs. If we talk about an increase in the effectiveness of weapons, then provided that the same ammunition is used, there are no significant advantages. There is no significant reduction in weight, there is no reduction in barrel replacement time, but there is a reduction in barrel length. However, the Bundeswehr command knows better.