A pretty good way to assess the worth of a weapon is to ask those that faced it what they thought of it, and it seems just about every Allied soldier that came up against the MG42 in World War II both feared and respected it. Its high rate of fire made it both more lethal and gave it a distinctive sound, but it was also well-engineered and very adaptable to different situations. It could be carried and used just with its bipod, fulfilling the function of a light machine gun, but it could also be fitted to the Lafette 42 tripod and have an optical sight attached, in which case it was a medium machine gun, and for some authors this also entitles it to be termed a heavy machine gun, although the usual definition of 'heavy' says the calibre has to be 12.7mm or larger. The MG42 used a 7.92mm rifle bullet, so to many this is not technically a heavy machine gun, but this is the weapon we find in this set, manned by members of the Waffen-SS.
The weapon is modelled here very well, with good finer details and about the right size. The tripod has been set to the ‘prone’ position – the lowest of three possible configurations – but this has to a degree been simplified, as the real thing is a very complex shape. The front leg is at a much steeper angle than it should be, and the whole tripod seems to be rather higher than it should be. This seems to be borne out by the gunner, whose face is below the barrel. Photos suggest the weapon was only about 30cm off the ground when the tripod was arranged in this way, but here it is about 7mm off the ground, which to scale is about 50cm. Also the optical sight is too short – the top does not exceed the height of the barrel, yet the real thing is noticeably higher than the barrel, which forced the gunner to have his head higher than the weapon, and potentially exposing it to enemy fire.
Each gun has been given a crew of four in this set. The first two pictured are kneeling and both seem to be squad leaders. Both have a machine pistol slung, and hold binoculars as they give instructions to the gunner. Quite why there are two such poses for each gun is hard to fathom, although both are very nice poses. The remaining two poses are the second gunner feeding the ammunition and the gunner himself. As we have said, both are prone, and so are below the level of the weapon (let alone the sight), so don’t match the weapon properly. Also the gunners hands do not seem to hold the gun in any way, though this is admittedly a difficult thing to do properly. The man’s helmet means he cannot even touch the weapon, so we were not impressed with this pose. The ammo feeder is better, although again his hands and the ammunition belt are nowhere near the height of the weapon itself (although we did like the length of used belt apparent on the right side of it).
Perhaps the major problem with weapons such as this is their dramatic appetite for ammunition, so in reality there would be a whole team devoted to keeping it supplied. There is none of that here, although the gunner does have a case with two spare barrels by his side, which is good. The four poses wear standard German uniform of the late war period, with covers on their helmets and short boots, while their kit is also standard. The man feeding the ammunition has rifle ammunition pouches on his belt, but machine gun crews did not wear these, so he must be an ordinary rifleman drafted in as an emergency measure (and his rifle lies beside him).
These figures were originally made in metal, by Adler Miniatures, so the style is a little different from the usual plastic offerings. The style is a bit more bulky than usual, and the faces for some reason are really weird. However detail generally is very good indeed, and the use of a flexible mould means the poses are quite complex and natural without the need for any assembly apart from the head of the second gunner, which is a comfortable fit but would need gluing to stay put. Occasionally straps don’t quite reach where they should, or entrenching tools have bent handles, but mostly these are well done .Apart from the odd tab here and there, we found no flash on our examples.
In a general set of infantry you often find a machine gunner with little or no support, which is understandable given the limited number of poses. In the dedicated set like this we would have expected a bit more, and so wonder why each gun has two perfectly good squad leader figures, but no one bringing up ammunition. The extra height given to the weapon by its tripod is not ideal, and makes for a poor interaction between the weapon and the figures, and while it is a matter of personal taste, we were not keen on the style of the sculpting. Despite all that however, many will find them perfectly usable for their 1/72 scale forces, especially as there are few sets that offer the Lafette tripod.