In 1938 the primary machine gun of the German military was the MG34. It was an excellent and innovative weapon, but it was temperamental and sensitive to dust. Orders were given to find an improvement or replacement. The winning design was the MG42. Designed by Ernst Grunow, who had no previous experience designing guns (the company he represented made sheet metal lanterns), but who was very experienced with mass production. He went through the machine gunners course, and spent time with machine gun units in combat, discussing with them what was needed.
His design, officially adopted in 1942, required half the time to produce, was 24% less expensive, more reliable, more rugged, and had a tremendous rate of fire at 1200 rounds per minute.
The MG42 remained in service until 1959, and slightly modified became the MG3 which is still in use today. The MG42 could be fired from a bipod, tripod or other improvised stances. On a tripod it used a three man crew. The tripod could fold up compactly for ease of transportation.
The subject of this kit in 1/6 scale from Dragon Models
is the MG42 with the collapsible tripod. The box art, by Ron Volstead, depicts the gun being deployed by its crew. Images on the side of the box show the completed gun and tripod.
Upon opening the box I was greeted by five plastic sprues in Dragon's grey styrene along with a zip bag containing small metal parts and two pieces of vinyl. There are a total of 153 plastic parts in the kit, with 8 shown not for use.
A couple of parts had been knocked off of the sprues and three parts were bent and slightly deformed.
There is a very nice ammo belt in Dragon Styrene, the flexible tan colored material that can be glued and painted. I wish this material had been used in the M2 .50 cal set I reviewed here
previously. Additionally there are 2 metal tube parts for the tripod leg assembly, one wire rod, three springs, one machine screw, three nuts, 6 spring hooks and metal rings, four D rings and two metal buckles. One of the two vinyl strips is to be cut in two parts for the carry straps on the tripod. There is one decal provided for the kit.
The parts layout and paint list is on one side of an included paper, with the instructions on the other side. The instructions show photos of the completed kit assemblies from different angles with detail areas enlarged. The gun and tripod are shown separately. Paints listed are GSI and Model Master paint colors in Silver, Gold, Steel, Red Brown and Dark Yellow.
Aside from the above listed damage to the three parts, the condition of the kit was good. Molding details are very good, although there is a heavy mold seam on all parts and on some parts this interferes with the details. Pin marks were kept to a minimum. My experience with Dragon kits is that the styrene is prone to tearing so be careful removing the parts from the sprues and trimming with a razor.
For a kit of this complexity the instructions are terrible. You will need to spend a lot of time studying them carefully before assembly. I started with the assembly of the MG42 itself. The receiver cover, part D5, was one of those that was bent partly out of shape. I tried gentle heat and pressure to flatten it again, and then sanded it smooth. The instructions show to use part 16 for the action but you should use part 15. The barrel is hollowed out on the end, but the nose cone is solid at the base. To show the muzzle you will have to drill this out. Assembly of this part was fairly straight forward and when completed, the action works, the receiver opens and the barrel can be removed.
The drum magazines were next. The hinges are delicate, but again assembly was straightforward after study of the images.
The tripod assembly was the most difficult and confusing portion of the build. I would recommend starting the assembly with the main tripod frame and then adding the various attachments. This will hopefully prevent parts from swinging around and getting broken.
There are some parts left out of the instructions here as well. The gun mount, part A3, attaches to the tripod on the fore end to part C6, which allows it to swivel and collapse. The instructions show parts C3, which are the securing pins, but don't indicate the two hinge parts, A6 and A7, which connect them to C6. This attaches to part A2, the center of the tripod. Part B18 attaches to this, and then part B31, not indicated in the instructions, attaches to B18. The metal tube portion of the front leg attaches to B18. Parts B21 (four of them) attach to the bottom of A2 as the sling attachment points.
When attaching the leather pads to the front leg, the collapsible support attaches to the back of the pad with a small pin, part C9, and not part C6. When attaching the pins into their respective hinges, the instructions say not to glue them. The fit of the pins is loose enough that you will lose them if they are not secured. I used old fashioned tube glue on the outside surface as it wouldn't seep into the assembly. This secured them nicely. The entire assembly works and collapses, but the attachments are fragile.
I went over the construction assembly repeatedly and after construction I still have some extra parts. I can't find where they go. The box art shows the gun being fed from what appears to be a standard ammo box and not a drum magazine, and also shows a case for the spare gun barrel. Including these parts would have greatly increased the appeal of this kit.
My impressions of the built model are that the MG42 with the bipod and drum magazine are very nice. For that alone I can highly recommend this kit. The tripod is a nice feature and as mentioned above it collapses, the gun angle and elevation can be changed and it makes an attractive display, but it is time consuming to interpret the instructions and with no ammo box or container for the spare barrel, it makes a sterile display. It will still be interesting with the appropriate figures or sitting on an office desk.
I give the MG42 and drum magazine 85%, the tripod 75%, molding 75% because of the heavy mold seam running over some nice details, and instructions 60%. Overall that comes out to about 75%. I'll add 5% because it is an interesting subject for a total of 80%.
I think the subject is not only interesting for 1/6 scale modelers but also for any fan of German armor in smaller scales. When finished the kit is about the same size as a 1/35 scale Panther tank.
Online prices were 14.99 to 19.99, in both US dollars and British Pounds. My LHS has the kit for $14.99.