The maschinengewehr-34 was accepted for service in 1934, and first issued to units in 1935. It was an air-cooled machine gun firing 7.92 x 57mm Mauser
rounds and had similar performance to other medium machine guns.
However, it was also designed to perform both as a light machine gun and also in heavier roles, in an early example of a general purpose machine gun. In the
light role, it was intended to be equipped with a bipod and 50-round belt contained in a drum-shaped ammo basket, which attached to the receiver. In the
heavier role it was mounted on a larger tripod and was belt-fed. In practice the infantry usually just belt-fed the bipod version, resulting in it functioning as a
classic medium support weapon.
The MG34 was used as the primary infantry machine gun during the 1930s, and remained as the primary tank and aircraft defensive weapon. It was to be
replaced in infantry service by the related MG42, but there were never enough of the new design to go around, and MG34s soldiered on in all roles until the
end of World War II. The MG34 was intended to replace the MG13 and other older machine guns, but these were still being used in WWII as demand was
It was designed primarily by Heinrich Vollmer from the Mauser Werke, based on the recently introduced Rheinmetall-designed Solothurn 1930 (MG30) that
was starting to enter service in Switzerland. The principal changes were to move the feed mechanism to a more convenient location on the left of the breech,
and the addition of a shroud around the barrel. Changes to the operating mechanism improved the rate of fire to between 800 and 900 rpm.
The new gun was accepted for service almost immediately and was generally liked by the troops. It was used to great effect by German soldiers assisting
Nationalist Spain in the Spanish Civil War. At the time it was introduced it had a number of advanced features and the general purpose machine gun concept
that it aspired to was an influential one. However the MG34 was also expensive, both in terms of construction and the raw materials needed (49 kg (108 lb) of
steel and its manufacture was too time-consuming to be built in the numbers required for the ever expanding German army. It also proved to be rather
temperamental, jamming easily when dirty.
The MG34 could use both magazine-fed and belt-fed 7.92 mm ammunition. Belts were supplied in a fixed length of 50 rounds but could be linked up to make
longer belts for sustained firing. A 250 round belt was also issued to machine guns installed in fixed emplacements such as bunkers. Ammunition boxes
contained 250 rounds in five belts that were linked to make one continuous 100 round belt and one 150 round belt. The assault drums held a 50-round belt,
or a 75-round "double drum" magazine could be used by replacing the top cover with one made specially for that purpose. A gun configured to use the
75-round magazine could not be returned to belt-feed mode without changing the top cover again. All magazine-feed MG34s had been withdrawn from infantry
use by 1941 with some remaining in use on armoured personnel carriers.
Like most machine guns, the barrel is designed to be easily replaced to avoid overheating during sustained fire.
In the light machine gun role it was used with a bipod and weighed only 12.1 kg (26.7 lb). In the medium machine gun role it could be mounted on one of two
tripods, a smaller one weighing 6.75 kg (14.9 lb), the larger 23.6 kg (52 lb). The larger tripod, the MG34 Laffette, included a number of features such as a
telescopic sight and special sighting equipment for indirect fire. The legs could be extended to allow it to be used in the anti-aircraft role, and when lowered it
could be placed to allow the gun to be fired "remotely" while it swept an arc in front of the mounting with fire, or aimed through a periscope attached to the
The MG34/41 was requested as the first war experiences in the beginning of the World War II proved that a higher fire rate generates more dispersion of the
bullets. The MG34/41 could cope with a fire rate of 1200 rpm. The weight of the MG34/41 was 14 kg, slightly more than the original MG34 version. A limited
number of MG34/41 were produced. The MG34/41 was beaten in trials by the MG39/41, later designated MG42.
Tanks normally used the MG34-T model, whose main difference was that it had a different barrel sheath that was heavier and that it did not have the normal
ventilation holes like the MG34.