01 September 2011
Michael Heidler with new information on the rare blank firing German training machine gun Additional pictures to those in the printed magazine are shown here. ...
Since the article about the Zielfeuergerät in issue No. 81 (May 2007) many new facts have been discovered. Some information was given in a letter to the editor in Issue No. 82 (July 2007), based on my article for the German gun magazine VISIER but for English speaking readers here is more information on this rare piece of history.
When the Allies examined the weapons discovered in the German Reich after the war, they came across a device which was classified as a “spring gun”, or “trip wire activated static defence machine gun”. In fact it was a practice device with the name "Zielfeuergerät 38” (short “Zf.Ger.38”).
To provide realistic exercises on the training areas, it was necessary to create a well-armed enemy. For this purpose the company C.G. Haenel from Suhl developed a blank-firing device in the German standard calibre 7.92 x 57mm which could fire at the attacking soldiers.
The simple construction was sturdily made and reduced to the most essential working parts. The device functions as a blowback operated weapon with unlocked bolt in full automatic mode only. A fire selector for single shot is missing. Like on most early submachine guns the safety is made from a cut-out in the housing, where the cocking-handle can be hooked in. It holds the retracted bolt in the rear position. The housing (receiver) is a 30" long iron tube with 0.2" wall thickness. After unscrewing the rear endcap the spring and bolt can be taken out. The 28.7" long spring is well protected against mud and dirt by a telescoping two-piece metal tube, in the front end of which the 6" long firing pin is screwed. This unusually long firing pin reaches through the entire bolt.
Since the device was only made for shooting blank rounds, a light unlocked bolt was sufficient. It weighs only 0.8 lbs. The total weight of a complete Zielfeuergerät (without magazine) is approximate 22 lbs.
Most of the barrels were made of heavy metal tubes without any rifling. However some examples are known with shot-out and reworked MG-barrels. Probably these rifled barrels tempted the Allies to the theory that they had found a spring trap. The barrel can be removed by unscrewing the large nut at the front of the housing.
The German blank round “Platzpatrone 33” had hollowed wooden bullets that were usually destroyed by the pressure of the powder gases. An attachment bearing four longitudinal spikes inside was screwed onto the muzzle to shred larger wooden parts. Safety was important during exercises before the war.
The trigger mechanism is located on the top side of the housing. It can be released either by a tug from behind or pressure from the front. Since the cocking handle is moving back and forth with the bolt, its way is guarded by a robust metal bracket.
On the left side of the housing the well for a curved 70-round magazine is located. It has a very strong similarity with the 25-round magazine of the German light machine gun MG13, whereby the impression is created that two MG13-magazines have been welded together. This is a fallacy, even though it’s possible to use the ZfG38-magazines in the MG13, but not vice versa. There are dug ups known from front line positions, which show the use of ZfG38-magazines in combat.
• The rest of the article can be found in the Sept/Oct issue of the Armourer Magazine which can be ordered on this site.
Additional pictures to those in the printed magazine are shown here.
Zfg muzzle rounds
Training group with MG13