What’s old is new again: the SMG Guns FG42 rifle.

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While I was teaching in California last week I got to handle (but, sadly, not shoot) a brand-new reproduction of a WWII German autoloading rifle!
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The FG42 was a select-fire rifle issued to German paratroopers during the Second World War. The concept was to supply the troops with a relatively compact rifle capable of firing both in semi- and fully-automatic modes, one which could be easily carried by a soldier intent upon jumping out of an otherwise perfectly good airplane.It was an intriguing design. The rifle fired from an open bolt in fully-auto mode, which increased reliability and aided cooling between rounds, but operated from closed bolt in semi-automatic mode — enhancing the precision capabilities of the arm. It was truly intended to be the most versatile rifle they could give to their best troops without sacrificing performance in any role.

The finished rifle was actually pretty trim by the standards of the day, tipping the scales at just over 9lbs. (The closest comparable American select fire rifle, the BAR, weighed in at a whopping 20 lbs!) Its detachable magazine snapped into a well on the side of the receiver, a design choice which served to reduce the overall length of the gun, and carried 20 rounds of full-power 7.92×57mm Mauser ammunition. The buttstock was a telescoping design with a spring inside, giving the rifle a recoil reduction system that was apparently quite effective.

The gun was produced in two versions: the original, seen at the top of the picture above, had a distinctively tilted pistol grip, one which is at a more severe angle than even an FAL rifle. Later rifles had a more conventional grip along with some other design changes to make the rifle more effective in its intended role.

The original guns were made in limited quantities and today are quite rare. They’re also technically interesting to arms enthusiasts, and so a company called SMG Guns decided to reproduce the FG42 as authentically as they could (less the full auto mode, of course.)

SMG elected to start with the second version of the gun (with the more vertical pistol grip.) Since the FG42 borrowed no parts from existing designs, SMG couldn’t just buy old parts and build new guns; they had to reverse engineer the gun and machine the parts from scratch. They did a superb job!

The example I saw was nicely finished and well fitted. There were a few machine marks here and there, but since the originals were military arms and no doubt had lots of machining artifacts I can’t fault SMG. The guns look original, which I gather was the whole idea!

The parts all move smoothly and precisely, the way you’d expect a German gun to behave, and the attention to detail was remarkable. The rifles aren’t cheap; I’m told they’re around $5,000, a price I actually consider reasonable given the amount of work in the things.

As I said I didn’t get to shoot it, but the proud owner has and waxes enthusiastically about its performance. As it happens, Ian over at Forgotten Weapons has one and shot it in a 2-gun match recently — against a Browning BAR! Check out the video (but if you’re a die-hard Browning fan you may not be happy with your gun’s performance!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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