Mg-08/18 mg-15 mg-08 tuf

German Machine Gun Nomenclature

January 8, 2014 Ian McCollum Aircraft MGs, General Purpose MGs, Heavy MGs, Light MGs 27

One would think that Germany, of all places, would have a logical and consistent system for identifying service machine guns. Any yet we see things like the WWI MG08/15 and the WWII MG15. What gives?

The answer is that Germany didn’t have one logical naming system – they had several in sequence. So in order to know what a machine gun’s name indicates, you need to know a little bit about it to begin with. Let’s start at the beginning…

When Germany first started to adopt machine guns (initially the Maxim), the designation used was “MG” and a two-digit number for the year of adoption. The applied to the short-lived early guns like the MG99 and MG01, and the best-known example is the German WWI mainstay, the MG08. The “MG” of course stands for maschinengewehr, or machine gun. When a standardized gun was modified to a new configuration, it was given a designation showing the original adoption date and the date of the new configuration. The most common example of this is the MG08/15 – an MG08 Maxim gun lightened for use as a mobile infantry gun. Another example would be the MG08/18, an MG08 modified to be air-cooled to reduce weight.

German MG08/18 machine gun

German MG08/18 machine gun (photo from

Another designation that is seen is “LMG” – or “lMG” in place of “MG”. In English, we think of LMG as meaning “light machine gun” for mobile infantry use, but in German this indicated guns lightened for aircraft mounting. Typically, this meant perforating the water jacket of a heavy infantry gun, since the rushing cold air at altitude would fully adequate for the cooling needs of a fighter’s guns. As far as I can tell, the early aerial guns were designated “LMG” with a upper-case “L”, and this stood for Luft maschinengewehr, or aircraft machine gun. Before long, the “l” went to lower-case, and stood for leicht, or light. Same application, but a different designating word. The LMG08/15 is a good example of this, the Model 1908 gun, redesigned in 1915, and then lightened for aircraft use. Note that the MG08/15 and MG08/18 were both lightened guns intended for infantry use, and thus both retained the “MG” designation.

While reasonably simple to use, this naming system became a problem in the aftermath of World War One. Germany was now strictly limited by the Versailles Treaty in what arms production it could undertake, but the nation’s leadership wanted to continue developing newer and better weaponry. The result (as it applied to machine guns) was a change in nomenclature to a system that did not reflect the year of development. Instead, gun designs would be given sequential numbers starting with the MG13. This was hoped to throw off the casual observer, who might assume (given the previous naming system) that the new guns had been developed during the war. The guns falling into this time period include the MG13, 14, 15, 16, and 17. The Flak 18 is another example from this period, named arbitrarily. Of course, this did overlap with some guns that actually were designed during WWI, like the Bergmann MG-15 and the Parabellum MG-14.

Bergmann MG15 (new model)

MG15 (ironically called the New Model) made by Bergmann during WWI (photo by

Rheinmetall MG15 aircraft MG

MG15 aircraft MG, developed during the 1920s by Rheinmetall

Starting around 1930 when Germany became more open about its rearmament efforts, new machine guns reverted back to the original dating system use the year of adoption. The MG34 was the first mass-produced example from the re-adoption of this system, and the guns developed through the end of WW2 all used this system (MG31/41, MG39, MG42, MG45, etc).

The major exception was for aircraft guns used by the Luftwaffe, which went to a wholly different system. Instead of using date-based numbers, they were given designations based on caliber. New guns would have their first one or two digits based on caliber, followed by a digit indication how many guns in that caliber had been adopted. So the first 8mm gun adopted by the Luftwaffe under this system was called the MG81. The first 13mm gun was the MG131, and the first 15mm one was the MG151. For these guns, a slash and secondary number was used to indicate a modification to change caliber. So the MG151 converted to 20mm became the MG151/20.

A few additional suffixes that are encountered are z and v. These stand for zwilling (twin) and vierling (quadruple) and indicated multiple guns housed in a single mount. In the case of the MG81Z, the guns were set up as mirror images of each other, with one feeding from the left and one form the right.


you made a post out of it nice job now we just need our own magical World War 1 weapon to compete with the Fedorov.


Alright, I’ve thought it before and I’ll say it now

Thank God for the USA military designation system. So much simpler and easier to understand

M1 or M1?


correct way to say it would be:
M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1 or M1?

maybe i forgot to add couple of M1s… you never know with US equipment…




Love shooting krouts with my m1…


Ah but you see, each category of equipment has its own designation

M1 Garand (rifle)
M2 Rifle (rifle)
(There’s also M4-M9, M12, and M13 Rifles but no one knows about those)
M14 Rifle (rifle)
M1 Carbine (carbine)
M2 Carbine (carbine)
M3 Carbine (carbine)
M4 Carbine (carbine)
M1 Thompson (SMG)
M2 Hyde (SMG)
M3 Grease Gun (SMG)
M1 Combat Car (light tank/combat car)
M2 Combat Car (combat car)
M2 Light Tank (light tank)
M3 Light Tank (light tank)
M5 Light Tank (light tank)
M2 Medium Tank (medium tank)
M3 Lee (medium tank)
M4 Sherman (medium tank)
Oddly enough M1-M5 Heavy Tank doesn’t seem to exist
M6 Heavy Tank (heavy tank)
M1 Mortar (mortar)
M2 60mm Mortar (60mm mortar)
M2 107mm Mortar (107mm mortar)

It makes sense

Just…don’t make me go into American MC’s. I have the list, and it’s what gave me the motivation to fully understand our designation system and why it is the way it is. I love our self propelled vehicles. There are so many of them

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Germany did use some WW1 era Machine Guns, I’ve seen some photos. Just like how the Americans did use some Maxim guns here and there

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and the Germans name stuff based on years it was made which is pretty simple
mg42: made 1942
mg34: made 1934
mp40: made 1940
Kar98: made 1898 (edit: the Mauser platform was created in 1898)
m16 stahlhelm: made 1916
m17 stahlhelm: made 1917
m19 stahlhelm: made 1919
m35 stahlhelm: made 1935
m42 stahlhelm: made 1942
m44 stahlhelm: made 1944
m24 Stielhandgranate: made in 1924

just to name a few thing

it is basically like this for everything including the uniforms, so it is pretty simple and is constant as well

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its a karabiner version of the m98 hence why it has the 98 as a legacy and was not made in 1898

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We did that before our current (and technically the one before that since at some point we hit the big ol reset button on the system) system hence guns like the M1903 and M1918 and 75mm Gun 1897

But, we changed and I personally believe it to be for the better. Also our calibers also were designated by year. 30-06 Springfield is caliber .30 adopted in 06, invented by Springfield. We then changed to just caliber and a name, such as .50 BMG and .30 Carbine. Then we made rounds their own designation as well. Such as .50 M1 Ball Round

Let everyone have World War One weapons as their campaign unlocks equality for all

yeah you are right the platform was made in 1898

are you daft
the "kar"98k was made in 1934
the M98 was made in 1898
the whole reason its call the kar98 is to circumvention of the treaty of versailles and hence was called a carbine version of the 1898 even thought it was not and in all cases the frist design of a kar rifle was in 1902

hence why I corrected my self

and I thank you for correcting me I would hate to be spreading false information because I hastily put it together