An Inside Look at the MG42 Super Quad
August 18, 2011
Welcome to GunsandAmmo.com's newest, and quite simply, most kick-ass blog ever. In the coming months you'll get an inside look at my shop, Red Jacket Firearms, the people and guns that have made "Sons of Guns" popular for the folks at Discovery Channel.
First up, a little behind-the-scenes story on the Super Quad MG42 featured on the show. This mean piece of machinery was our version of the original World War II "Meat Chopper," a configuration of four M2 .50 cal. anti-aircraft machine guns also known as the Quad .50.
For what the client, Mr. Fred, wanted to do with this project, the MG42 fit the bill much better than the .50 cal. It's relatively inexpensive to run in 8mm and while wealth's a relative thing, the difference between $60,000 and $5,000 in ammo for a day of fun at the range is pretty significant, and I don't care who you are. These guns are fun, they're robust and they bring a lot of intrigue to the table. They certainly served the Germans well for their time in use. In fact, the MG42, in different incarnations, stayed in service for decades after World War II.
For those of you who caught the episode, the timeline made it a tough project. It wasn't really 100 percent necessary that we had this thing done and on the vehicle for Mr. Fred on that date, but it was a significant investment for him, and we wanted to show off the rig prior to his month-long business trip overseas.
One MG42 normally takes a week or two to build, so to put three of those things together (we already had one working gun on hand) in that timeline was basically unreal. But once everything is in place and working perfectly with these guns, it's actually a fairly simple firearm. Getting it to that stage, well, it's real damn difficult. One of the biggest stumbling blocks with with the MG42 build was that we were dealing with just the front third of the original receiver, and you have to fabricate and weld in the rest of it — originally the receiver was all just one piece of steel and metal. You have to do a lot shaping and welding to get things absolutely perfect because, like I said, you are re-manufacturing what was originally one piece of steel out of three.
The biggest failing for us out in the field was our fire control mechanism for the outer guns. You saw on the show that we basically cut and sectioned a second dual mount in order to make the original versions into a quad. Well, the mount — the part of the cradle that the gun actually nestles in — was spring-loaded to a small degree. We found in our testing that these guns would recoil back about an inch and leave the trigger lever behind. You could pull the trigger on it, but after about five or six rounds they would recoil against the spring, push to the rear and the trigger lever was left in the dust. We had to make a trigger lever that followed the gun to the rear when effected by the recoil. That's an easy thing to do at the shop, but was absolutely impossible in the field.
After we got back to the shop, we got the issue fixed and gave Mr. Fred what he originally dreamed up. You just didn't see it on the show.
Aside from the initial build price and cost of the ammo, another big problem with a Quad .50 would be finding a place to shot the thing. The range on the .50 BMG is just tremendous which, in turn, limits the places you are able to cut loose with it. The 8mm still has a lot of range, but it is nothing when compared to the .50 cal., that's for sure. Those big guns are going to tear the heck out of any berm that gets in their way.
I definitely want a quad .50 cal. in my own inventory, so you can expect to see one as great project in the future. Stay tuned to Discovery and "Sons of Guns & Ammo" for weekly updates of what's going down inside the walls of Red Jacket Firearms.