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|MG 34 & 42 slings|
Welcome to a tour through the details and specifications of the leather sling for the Mg34 and MG42!
MG34 in the AA role on a Lafettenaufsatzstück mounted to the Lafette 34. The photo above is clearly staged, as there is no ammunition present! Note the early bipod with the clips open, and the correct way of un-buttoning the carrying strap from the handle when used on a Lafette in the ground role. This practice was not always followed when the MG was used on the AA tripod.
The overall view
The leather sling that was issued with the MG34 was constructed from two straps with a padded middle section, sewn together at each end. The sling served several purposes. It could be used to carry the MG in the traditional way, suspended over the shoulder, it could act as a carrying handle when split on each side of the gun and joined together at the top under advancement and it could be used as a support when firing the MG from the hip during advancement.
The German name for the sling was simply "Geteilte Trageriemen" (Divided carrying sling). The sling later issued for the MG42 was almost identical, except for the grip buckle. Production was either done by the same factories that made the gun or separate manufacturers. The BSW factory made a wide range of different MG34 items, like ammunition belts and starter tabs, buckles for the slings and even complete slings.
The front buckleThe front buckle came in three different models.
From left to right:
Second model with integrated spring. Always unmarked.
First model with separate spring. Unmarked or S↑C (Schmöle & Co, Menden/Sauerland) marked. Sometimes also found with cast numbers.
Third model. Simplified buckle. Found on "bla 1943" and "bla 1944" marked slings.
It appears that some sling makers used buckles from common sub-contractors while others either made their own or had their own sub-suppliers. The second model has only been observed on slings made by "gyb" and "erg". "gyb" appears to have been by far the largest manufacturer of the MG34/42 slings.
One of the big buckle sub-supplier was Schmöle & Co, Menden/Sauerland
This is a simplified first model with an improved spring.
The rear buckleThe rear buckle is the real difference between the Mg34 and MG34/42 sling. The first model of the buckle was too narrow to fit the MG42 handle, so a new sling buckle had to be designed. The MG42 sling will fit both grips, although a little loose on the MG34, while the MG34 buckle will not close on the MG42 grip, as the grip is too wide/buckle too narrow. Despite this the Mg42 buckle doesn't appear to have been accepted as the sole solution from the introduction. I have registered both a "gyb" MG34/42 sling from 1942 and a "gyb" 1943 MG34 sling!
The production appears to have been organized like this:
This picture clearly shows the difference between the MG34 buckle at left and the MG42 buckle at right. The extra spacer ring and the longer pin make the buckle wider so that it will fit the MG42 grip.
This picture clearly shows the difference in width.
Two buckles presumed to be from the same maker. The first is very early with the BSW logo (Berlin Suhler Waffenfabrik) and WaA4, while the other one is made later in the war and only carries a Eagle/4 marking. Later specimens did not get a WaA stamp at all. This is the normal position for buckle markings, but I have seen them marked to the ridge on the flat side as well.
A very special buckle with work-consuming machined surfaces, most probably very early production. Marked with the Rheinmetall Company Logo and WaA59.
Another very special buckle with a unknown makers mark, and the complete serial number of the gun added by the Waffenmeister!
The slingThe sling was made of smooth leather, normally dyed dark brown. Some slings manufactured by "bla" were dyed black. Almost all MG slings today appear to be black, but this is solely due to the fact that they soak up all the oil that is in excess from the gun! The length of the actual leather is 74 cm / 29 inches. The dual sling is constructed with one sling considerably longer than the other, folded over the ends of the shorter one and sewn together at each end, making them appear equally long.
Both ends have the flap sewn down on the INSIDE of the sling. Surprised?! Yes, the sling actually has a inside and an outside! See the next page about how to mount the sling correctly. The karabiner buckle will always point towards the outside of the sling. The reason for this is that it makes a stronger construction! Some slings will be found with a different construction, with both slings equal and a separate strip of leather sandwiching the ends together.
This is simply a repair, as one or both buckles has either been damaged or torn off.
The front and rear buckle was attached with two or three rows of stitches, depending on manufacturer.
The sling has a padded middle section for better gripping when using the divided sling as a carrying handle. Sandwiched between the sling and the leather strip is a padding of horsehair or a braided rope.
MarkingsThe markings on the buckles have been discussed in the text about the buckles. They seem to have followed the normal standard, with excessive markings early and pre-war, ending up with unmarked buckles in the end of the war, saving manufacturing time. The actual leather was always marked with maker and year, plus the inspector control stamp (The Waffenamt Abzeichen). The WaA seems to disappear from manufactured specimens around 1943-1944. The markings applied to the leather is almost always "lost in time", as the slings soaked up all the excessive oil from the gun. This combined with use rubbed out the markings quickly. Especially true for the early slings that was marked close to the middle section.
The picture above shows the different spots where the marking was applied to the leather. From the bottom to the top the markings have been placed just above each other, so that you can easily see how the position varies! The time-line runs from the top one (pre 1940) to the bottom one (1943).
I have never seen a MG sling with a company logo/name. My earliest specimen has the code "936" for BSW.
Typical sling markings. Note the "bla" 1943 has no WaA.
The MG34 sling in manualsThe name stated in the manuals is "Trageriemen" or "Geteilte Trageriemen". The following pictures are from the "MG34 u. 42, als leichtes M.G. und schweres M.G." by Oberst A. Butz from 1944.
Mounting the MG 34 on the Lafette 34. Note the correct way of un-buttoning the sling from the rear grip first.
Showing the gun worn over the shoulder and under the arm.
Lying down and getting ready to advance. Note the use of the split sling to make up a carrying handle.
Shooting from a soldiers shoulder. Note the use of the sling to counter the muzzle climb! And also the curiosity that the gunner appears to be wearing sunglasses!
The sling in use
WH troops advancing in a low threat area, with the Mg34 slung conveniently over the shoulder, suspended under the arm. A carrying position much favoured by the troops, but never found in any manual!
A early war photo from "Signal", showing German troops advancing during street fighting. Note the use of the sling for support, the soldier using his MG34 as a "heavy sub machinegun".
A PK photo of a FJ with a MG34 over his shoulder. Note that the sling has been detached from the grip and has been slung over the gun. Might be because the gun was removed from a Lafette 34 and is being repositioned?
A gunner from the 12th SS "Hitlerjugend" carrying his MG42 under the arm.
Another PK photo from Russia 1941. German forces shooting after retreating Russians. The picture appears real enough, despite the man in the background. There is a second Mg34 team visible in the lower right part of the picture, shooting in the same manner and in the same direction. Note the prescribed use of the sling to stabilize the gun and counter the muzzle climb. The loader has another 50 round drum ready at hand!
Post-war use and copiesAs with other German WW2 made weapons, both the MG34 and the MG42 saw extensive post-war use with several armies. Many of these armies made their own slings as replacements, and these slings can of course be found all over the place sold as genuine stuff today! Read page 2 of my article on the K98k sling for more details.
The MG42 continued to serve in several armies after the war, and still does! Austria, Yugoslavia and Denmark continued to use the MG42 in large numbers. The Yugos even made a copy and called it the M53, and the Germans made it under the names MG1, and MG2 and finally MG3. The surplus slings from the first years are the worst to detect. Slings manufactured straight after the war could be very hard to detect, as the hardware in some cases are identical.
This sling is currently offered on Ebay, but is clearly a surplus sling, although the seller has beefed it up with fantasy maker's markings both to leather and buckle! Easy way to tell this one out is that they never bothered to fill the grip handles with padding, leaving them flat!
This is a Spanish postwar MG42/MG3 sling. Good resemblance, but has a special front buckle with a washer. Rear buckle has no spacer ring but is wider all over. Grip handles have padding. Photo courtesy to my good friend in Barcelona, Carles!
Norwegian surplus MG34 sling. Could (or should!) fool absolutely no one. No padding to grips and hardware not even slightly resembling the real deal!
The M53 sling is of a quite different construction, and apart from the rear buckle doesn't resemble the German WW2 sling at all! Marstar of Canada has a lot of the M53 stuff for sale, but it appears that they have problems identifying it properly! Check out the picture in the link above. The slings are ALL M53 Yugo issue, and have nothing to do with WW2 German production!
Then we have the new made copies made to be a gap-filler, and not meant to trick anyone (in the first place...). IMA makes a decent copy!
Numrich makes a cool copy, but just too bad it is a copy of a non-existing item! ;-) The Germans never made a web-sling for their MG42. The web slings circulating today are ALL post-war surplus slings in web and leather, most of the time without markings if a seller hasn't been beefing them up!
If you haven't already been there, go to my Mauser sling page 2 and look under "Fantasy slings". The slings easiest to find today are web slings for the post-war used family members of the MG42. Leather went out of fashion and was replaced by web in the 1950's.
Last, but not least, my all time favourite copy sling! This is a home made copy of the M53 sling, presumably mistaken for a MG42 sling by the copier, and presented as a copy of the MG42 sling!
Is it possible to make a mistake when you mount the sling? Check out my "How to mount your MG34 & 42 sling for Dummies" page!
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