The FG 42 (Fallschirmjägergewehr 42) was a German automatic rifle produced by Rheinmetall. Developed as a lightweight machine gun for paratroopers, the FG 42 is sometimes considered a precursor to the modern assault rifle.
In the Battle for Crete, the German paratroopers took heavy casualties due to their equipment being scattered when they dropped out of their planes. It was realized that they needed a rifle that could be carried by the soldier and that could replace both roles of a standard unit. As such, the Luftwaffe developments branch was contacted to work on a rifle that would suit both of those roles, be as light as the Karabiner 98k, have a fire selector, be an open bolt design when the gun was fired in automatic and a closed bolt when it was set to semi-auto. It would also need to have a bayonet and a fixed bipod. Thus, 3 manufacturers responded with prototypes as such. The Rheinmetall model, the FG 42, was trialled against the Knorr-Bremse and the Krieghoff design, but the FG 42 won out.
The early FG 42 prototypes were pure sheet metal designs, but they were quickly updated to the Ausf. "E", done by Louis Stange himself at Rheimetall. Later on the design was again updated by Krieghoff to the Ausf. "G", which is the most common model of FG 42 found today. The Americans later copied the FG 42 design, not only on practice, as the M14 was made to suit both the roles of the infantrymen, as literal as well, with the M60.
The FG 42 uses a rotating bolt mechanism, chambered in 7.92×57mm Mauser, with a selector switch and with a spike bayonet and an integral bipod to the gun. Cooling was a concern to the development team so they requested that the gun would fire from an open bolt when fired fully automatically to prevent cook offs from happening. They could also be fitted with ZF4 and ZFG42 scopes for special operations.
The FG 42 had two variants.
- Ausführung "E"
This was the earlier version of the FG 42. It can be distinguished by its oddly-angled pistol grip.
- Ausführung "G"
This was the Krieghoff refinement of the FG 42. It can be distinguished by its conventionally-angled pistol grip.