The Forgotten MG 39 Rh

    Over at Forgotten Weapons, Leszek Erenfeicht and Jan Skramoušský write about a forgotten German machine gun designed by the prolific gun designer Louis Stange.

    It was fascinating to learn that the German military in the 1920s and 30s had an irrational fear of gas operated guns …

    The German military of the 1920s and 1930s was irrationally prejudiced against drilling bores – gas-operated automatic firearms were a major no-no. Up until the time of introduction of the G.43 rifle, German military scientists and technicians held that drilling bore would obligatory and unfavorably influence the internal ballistics of the gun, ruining accuracy and service life through erosion and corrosion.

    It took a major generation change in the Germany’s firearm’s industry’s main client, the re-born German Wehrmacht, to tumble down the walls of prejudice. The older generals, dyed-in-the-wool theoreticians, were now phased out by young practitioners, who all-too-well remembered from their own first-hand experience on the wrong side of the muzzle, that the French gas-operated air-cooled Hotchkiss machine guns were every bit as deadly, accurate and dependable as the German recoil-operated water-cooled Maxims.

    It was not earlier that Hitler gained power and renounced Versailles Treaty in March 1935, that the Wehrmacht was re-born and these young lions could seize power in the rapidly growing organization. It was only then, and still with great deal of trouble, that the gas-operated automatics started to compete for the major military contracts. There still was a long and bouncy way ahead of them – as attested by the ordeal of the G.41. It was the first ever gas-operated gun to enter Wehrmacht armament – but alas the military forced upon the Mauser company that even though it was gas-operated, there dared not be any openings drilled in the bore, and the gases were vented from the muzzle, using the Bang principle which unreasonably complicated the already not entirely straight forward mechanism.

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!