Trials With Rifle Grenade Launchers For The German Paratrooper Rifle FG42

By Michael Heidler

The success of the rifle grenade device for the Karabiner 98k during the first years of World War II resulted in a series of launcher developments for other German weapons. For most new weapon designs the launching of rifle grenades was provided – therefore also for the full automatic paratrooper rifle Fallschirmjägergewehr 42 of the Luftwaffe (Air Force).

To avoid a completely new development, the tried and tested Schießbecher (cup launcher) of the Wehrmacht was chosen. However, the clamp mount of the launcher could not be used because it did not fit the shape of the FG 42’s muzzle so the clamp mount was eliminated and instead an internal thread was cut into the rear end of the launcher. That way it could be screwed onto the muzzle-thread of the barrel. The solution was not perfect, because in combat it would have been unfavorable to remove (and stow somewhere) the flash-hider before screwing on the launcher.

The following section is an excerpt of the preliminary trial report No. 2 Testing of the paratrooper rifle FG 42 (B.Nr. E6/1776/43 geh) of the Luftwaffe proving ground at Tarnewitz from July 2, 1943:

Cup launcher for rifle grenades:

The proving ground Tarnewitz has received two types of launchers for rifle grenades:

Launcher sight 235 m and cup launcher 171 mm length (fig.34)

Launcher sight 250 m and cup launcher 176 mm length (fig.35).

To 1.) The 235 m sight is significantly weaker in its design than the 250 m sight. The sight body can be bent sideways easily, thus making a constant adjustment of the weapon questionable. Due to its short thread the launcher cannot be screwed onto the muzzle far enough for a solid fix (fig.36).

To 2.) The 250 m sight is deemed suitable because of its greater strength. After reworking its mount (model Tarnewitz), the sight can be fixed directly behind the handguard in the same way as the 235 m sight, so that the magazine well is not blocked (fig.37 old model and fig.38 new model). The launcher can be screwed onto the muzzle until it gets hold by the spring-loaded catch of the flash-hider.

a) Function:

Trial shooting with the large AT rifle grenade (grosse Gewehr-Panzergranate) did not lead to any objections. The empty propelling cartridge cases were not ejected because the bolt does not move backwards far enough. A comparison shooting with moveable and locked bolts did not show any differences in Vo (velocity) and precision. Slow-motion pictures clearly show that the bolt opens only after the grenade has left the launcher cup. Therefore a locking of the bolt is not necessary. For feeding the cartridges the standard magazine is suitable.

The recoil when launching rifle grenades is quite heavy, so the face of the shooter is in jeopardy by the magazine during flat angle shooting when the butt is placed on his shoulder. For this kind of shooting it is necessary to remove the magazine.

The sight misaligns after every shot because of the weak catch spring. A stronger catch spring is necessary.

About 70% of the propelling cartridge cases ruptured, making a quick reloading of the weapon difficult. The tolerance of the stems of the AT rifle grenades is very different. 10% of the grenades could not be inserted into the launcher cup, while other grenades fit excessively loose.

With messages E6/1369/43 geh. II A1e v. 12.6.43 Wa Prw.1 and GL/C-E6 the complaints concerning sight and ammunition were reported to the Waffenamt.

b) Durability:

One weapon was tested with 1,385 shots of the large AT training rifle grenade. After 70-80 shots the butt of the weapon moved onto the rear of the receiver, so that the metal lining of the butt’s front edge got bent. After 165 shots a small part of the bolt broke away. Other fractures did not occur.

When launching rifle grenades the launcher cup tightens itself very strongly on the muzzle thread of the rifle. The existing light metal spanner contained in the carrying pouch of the rifle grenade launcher set proves too weak for detaching the launcher cup. For use with the FG 42 a sturdier spanner of the same design is necessary.

c) Precision:

The determination of the precision of flat and high angle shots is not yet completed. Due to the different tolerances of the training grenades available on site, no evaluable results could be yet achieved. The precision shots carried out so far with large AT rifle grenades generally performed satisfactorily.

When launching HE rifle grenades in high angle the average point of impact partially exceeds the range adjusted at the sight up to three times. The investigation of this case is being continued in connection with Wa Prw.1.

At the time of the trials, an improved model of the buttstock was in development by Rheinmetall because the trials have shown that the first model made of sheet metal was way too weak for launching rifle grenades. Later weapons got buttstocks made of plywood.

In this context also the bipod attached to the front of the FG 42 was cause for some criticism:

Following a laterally moving target is difficult: the shooter has either to lift the weapon or to change his position. The vertical pivoting range is about 15% smaller as with the middle support, thus making aiming with the rifle grenade sight more difficult

Because of the folding-direction of the bipod, the weapon’s muzzle easily falls into the dirt when getting into position, when shooting and when changing the magazine.

Pressing the shoulder against the buttstock during full automatic fire for achieving a better hit density is impossible. This is also necessary when launching rifle grenades due to the heavy recoil.

Most of these points of criticisms lapsed after a modification of the bipod when its mounting point was moved towards the center section of the rifle.

For close combat fight the FG 42 was equipped with a spike bayonet, stored under the barrel when not in use. It could not be used while the launcher is attached to the muzzle.

Although the proving ground at Tarnewitz came to the conclusion use of the cup launcher is readily possible, and also other trials were carried out, the rifle grenade launcher for the FG 42 has neither been officially introduced nor issued to the troops.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V19N3 (April 2015)
and was posted online on February 20, 2015


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