By Daniel Bartha
The original MG34 general purpose machine gun was designed by order of the German Military at the Reinmetall factory. Major Von Weber was in charge of the production and Louis Strange was the principal designer. The MG34 is a ‘product-improved’ version of the MG30 (also by Strange), produced by Solothurn, in Switzerland during the late 1920’s and manufactured by Steyr in Austria. Some sources believe this was done to evade the treaty of Versailles, but in fact the allied control commissions had long since left Germany. At one point, five different German manufacturers were producing six different models, although the differences between these models were minor.
Firing from an open bolt, this 7.92x57mm metallic link, belt-fed gun was the first Einheitsmachinengewehr, or universal machine gun fielded by a major power. Gas-assisted, recoil-operated, and featuring a quick-change barrel the MG34 ran at 800-900 rpm. Mounted on a Layfette tripod, with a Zieleinrichtung 3-power telescopic sight, it became the German’s foremost defensive machine gun. It is interesting to note that during its original production, 1934-1945, the tripods cost more to produce than the guns because of the expensive optics and high production standards employed by the German ordnance manufacturers.
Its only defect was that it fouled easily because of adverse field conditions. These repeated malfunctions were caused because the MG34 was machined to a high tolerance. The use of predominantly machined parts was not cost-effective. The MG-34 was too well made, which led the Germans to design the MG42. The MG42 performed better under difficult field environments, cost less, and was easier to produce.
In the spring of 2000, Tim Bero of Technetwork Inc. (TNW) was granted approval by the BATF’s technology branch to produce a semiautomatic-only version of the MG34. Using Tim’s “Trip Disconnect” method incorporated into the bolts of his firm’s 1919A4 and M2HB semi-autos, this new offering was much anticipated. Because the TNW remanufactured version of the MG34 fires from a closed bolt, modifications were required to the bolt, sear, and trigger assemblies.
The effort to fix the extraction and misfire problems encountered in the initial prototype proved to be challenging. TNW solved this problem by utilizing a heaver than normal firing pin spring. The use of this spring resulted in an exceptionally heavy trigger pull. Interestingly enough, the Germans had the same problem when trying to implement a closed-bolt version of the MG34. Their two-year effort was never successful. The Germans apparently rejected or never attempted to utilize a high K, ribbon coil spring on the firing pin. They did use this type of spring on many of their guns, and given their engineering standards it seems to be a logical solution.
My long awaited packages arrived in early March and two days later; I received a follow-up call from TNW, which is a company policy. The company representative went over proper loading and lubricant methods. This personal touch and desire to educate the customer is rare in the industry.
Field-testing of the remanufactured MG34 took place on March 24th at a very cold western New York private range. Careful attention was given to proper lubrication. The lubricant used was TW-25B Lubricant/Protectant manufactured by Mil-Comm. This lubricant is described as micro-Teflon within a synthetic oil carrier. TW-25B is recommended by TNW for use on the MG34.
Cartridges were easily hand-loaded into the 50 round continuous link metallic belt supplied with the firearm. The loading procedure recommended by TNW is different from the fully automatic version. For the semiautomatic-only MG34, place an empty link against the cartridge stop in the feed tray, close the cover and pull back on the charging handle twice. This loading procedure assures accurate first round feeding in this version of the gun. Once loaded, flip the safety on the left of the receiver ahead of the pistol grip to reveal “F” and you are ready to fire.
The ammunition used was Ecuadorian surplus, circa 1955. Approximately 250 rounds were expended at a distance of 100 yards and no malfunctions of any kind were experienced. The heavy trigger pull previously mentioned will lessen to 50% of new after approximately a 1,000-round break-in period is achieved. Accurate aimed fire was hampered by the heavy trigger pull at first, but as I became accustomed to the gun, accuracy improved with groups of 2 inches or less.
A second chance to run the MG34 occurred at the Spring 2002 Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. Again, no malfunctions occurred with 500 rounds expended, and the trigger pull did seem to decrease some. I did try loading the gun conventionally (first round against the stop in the feed tray) and this did not produce the expected first round jam, but this is still not recommended by TNW.
Disassembly for routine cleaning is easy due to the lack of tools required in the original German design. A copy of TME9-206A (U.S. War Department 1943, copy by Firing Pin Enterprises) is included with each gun. This technical manual describes the operation, disassembly/reassembly procedure and maintenance for the MG34. Other excellent sources on disassembly/reassembly include Small Arms of the World (W.H.B. Smith, Military Service Publishing Co., 1955 Edition) and the excellent full color German Automatic Weapons of World War II (Bruce, Windrow, and Greene, 1996). It is important to note that other than Federal commercial 7.92x57mm ammunition, all surplus 7.92x57mm ammunition is corrosive. The use of ammonia-based solvent or hot, soapy water is required to properly clean your weapon after shooting surplus ammunition. During reassembly, use TW25B lubricant on the barrel lugs, bolt and receiver channels. A film of lubricant on the inside of the booster cone will hold gas erosion in check and makes subsequent cleaning easier.
A number of accessories are available from various sources. A quick look through Shotgun News, Gun List, and various Internet sites and message boards revealed a surprising selection of accouterments and prices. Parts and parts kits are available from Ohio Ordnance, Inter-Ordnance, Allegany Arsenal, and others. Accessories such as gunner’s pouches, aerial “Spider” sights, belts, drums and, drum carriers can be purchased through IMA and OMEGA weapons. Original tripods range in price from $450.00 – $1,900.00 depending upon the condition and completeness of the tripod and if the optics are included. FAC has an inexpensive adapter, which allows the lesser-priced MG42 tripod to be used with the MG34. The MG42 tripod can be purchased for as little as $200.00. One accessory for the semi-automatic version that should be avoided is the reproduction “Doppel Trommell” top cover, which accepts the 75-round spring-loaded saddle magazines. According to the BATF, this combination installed on the gun will result in the creation of a dreaded “Assault Weapon”. Pre-ban drums are legal in your AR-15’s and AK47’s but the same basic system installed on your vintage MG34 semiautomatic-only replica will be in violation of 922r.
Although pricey at $3,595, the semiautomatic-only MG34 is considerably less than a fully-automatic version. Transferable, fully-automatic MG-34s now fetch more than $13,000. The parts kits upon which these guns are based upon are disappearing, which is a sure sign that production will be limited. Further more, for those of us not residing in “Free” states, which are Class 3 friendly, it is the only way a weapon of this type can be added to a World War II militaria collection.
P.O. Box 31 Vernonia,
OR 97064 Phone: 503-429-5001 www.tnwfirearms.com
P.O. Box 687
Chardon, OH 44024
Phone: 440-285-3481 www.ohioordnanceworks.com
3305 Westwood Industrial Drive
Monroe, NC 28110
Phone: 704-225-8843 www.interordnance.com
International Military Antiques (IMA)
P.O. Box 256
Dept. SAR v Millington, NY 07946
Federal Arms Corporation (FAC)
8035 Ranchers Road
Fridley, MN 55432
Firing Pin Enterprises
P.O. Box 8066
Phoenix, AZ 85060-0696
Phone: 602-275-1623 www.firingpin.com
Mil-Comm Products Co., Inc
2 Carlton Avenue
East Rutherford, NY 07073
2918 East Ginter
Tucson, Arizona 85706
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N6 (March 2003)|