The MG 42 (shortened from German: Maschinengewehr 42, or "machine gun 42") is a 7.92mm universal machine gun that was developed in Nazi Germany and entered service with the Wehrmacht in 1942. It supplemented and in some instances, replaced the MG 34 general purpose machine gun in all branches of the German Armed Forces, though both weapons were manufactured and used until the end of the war.
The MG 42 has a proven record of reliability, durability, simplicity, and ease of operation, but is most notable for being able to produce a stunning volume of suppressive fire. The MG 42 has one of the highest average rates of fire of any single-barreled man-portable machine gun, between 1,200 and 1,500 rpm, resulting in a distinctive muzzle report. There were other automatic weapon designs with similar firepower, such as the French Darne, the Hungarian-Gebauer single-barreled tank MGs, the Russian 7.62mm ShKAS aircraft gun and the British Vickers K machine gun. However, the MG 42's belt-feed and quick-change barrel system allowed for more prolonged firing in comparison to these weapons.
The MG 42's lineage continued past Nazi Germany's defeat, forming the basis for the nearly identical MG1 (MG 42/59), and subsequently evolved into the MG1A3, which was in turn followed by the MG 3. It also spawned the Swiss MG 51, SIG MG 710-3, Austrian MG 74, and the Spanish 5.56mm Ameli light machine gun, and lent many design elements to the American M60 and Belgian MAG. The MG 42 was adopted by a number of armed organizations after the war, and was copied or license-built as well.