|The FG-42 (Fallschirmjägergewehr-42 or Paratrooper's rifle, Model 1942) is a light and powerful weapon, specifically designed for German airborne soldiers. The paratroopers were an elite unit of German armed forces and belonged to the Luftwaffe. Paratroopers usually operate far from home bases and had to have all their firepower at hand. The Luftwaffe issued the request for universal hand held weapon, intended to replace the bolt-action rifles, submachine guns and machine guns then in service. The design specifications were for a selective fire, lightweight rifle, firing the standard issue 7.92x57mm ammunition, and capable of controllable full automatic fire, as well as accurate single shot semi-automatic fire.|
The German Army was quite reluctant about feasibility of the selective-fire full power rifle and supported intermediate 7.92x33 Kurtz cartridge later used in the Stg.44 assault rifle. But the Luftwaffe insisted on the full-power weapon. The FG-42 design attempted to strike a balance between the weight limitations of the machine carbine and the power and pressure requirements of the rifle or light machine gun.
The FG-42 is air-cooled and gas-operated. In spite of the extensive use of stamping and the minimum use of metal to reduce weight, the weapon is sturdy. The FG-42 included an optional and unique spike bayonet. The ammunition feed is from a 20-round box magazine which fits into the left side of the gun. The magazine may be loaded separately or from standard 5-round Mauser clips from the right side of the gun.
In the original form, also known as FG-42 1st model or FG-42-1, no more than 2,000 rifles in 1st modification were delivered. It soon became apparent that the lightweight rifle lacked the necessary strength to handle powerful rifle ammunition in full automatic mode. Manufacturing cost was too expensive as well. By early 1944 a redesigned FG-42, the so called 2nd model attempted to address these shortcomings. Being heavier and slightly longer, the FG-42-2 was still too light to be effectively fired in full auto, even from integral bipod, and still too expensive, especially compared to the contemporary Stg.44 assault rifle. Before the end of war about 5,000 2nd model FG-42 rifles were produced. Both models are highly prized. The FG-42 served as a basis for the American M60 machine gun.