MG 131 machine gun

The MG 131 (shortened from German: Maschinengewehr 131, or "Machine gun 131") was a German 13 mm caliber machine gun developed in 1938 by Rheinmetall-Borsig and produced from 1940 to 1945. The MG 131 was designed for use at fixed, flexible or turreted, single or twin mountings in Luftwaffe aircraft during World War II.

MG 131
Maschinengewehr 131
TypeHeavy machine gun
Place of originNazi Germany
Service history
In service1940–1945
Used byGermany
WarsWorld War II
Production history
Mass16.6 kg (37 lb)
Length1,170 mm (46 in)
Barrel length550 mm (22 in)

Caliber13 mm (0.51 in)
ActionRecoil-operated; short recoil,
closed bolt
Rate of fire900 round/min
Muzzle velocity750 m/s (2,500 ft/s)
Effective firing range1,800 m (2,000 yd)
Feed systemBelt-fed

It was one of the smallest, if not the smallest among the heavy machine guns, the weight was less than 60% of the M2 Browning or the Breda-SAFAT machine gun. Despite this, the MG 131 was a rapid fire weapon with an elevated firepower for its mass. It was equipped with HEI ammunition. The nearer equivalent could have been the Japanese Ho-103, itself based on the earlier American M1921 Browning machine gun. The other Axis main machine gun, the Breda 12.7 mm, was around 13 kg heavier and bigger, while slower by at least 150 rpm. The small size of the MG 131 meant the possibility to replace the 7.92 mm machine guns even in the small nose of the Luftwaffe fighters, which was commonplace from 1943 onwards. This weapon was a marked improvement as the greater armour protection Allied aircraft received rendered smaller calibers almost useless. This was especially true when it came to heavy Allied bombers.

It was installed in the Messerschmitt Bf 109, Me 410 Hornisse, Fw 190, Ju 88, Junkers Ju 388, He 177 Greif bomber variants, and many other aircraft. The Fernbedienbare Drehlafette FDL 131Z remotely controlled gun turret system, used either a single, or more commonly a "twinned" pair of MG 131s for dorsal defense. The quadmount Hecklafette HL 131V weapons "system" for tail defense, placing two MG 131 guns apiece in a pair of rotating, side-mount exterior elevation carriages (the manned turret "core" provided the traverse function), was meant for standardization on many late-war prototype developments of German heavy bomber airframes, but never came to fruition beyond a small number of dimensional prototype mockups and kinetic test units.[1]

The MG 131 fired electrically primed ammunition in order to sustain a high rate of fire when shooting through the propeller disc of a single-engined fighter. A pair of MG 131 machine guns was used as cowl armament on later models of the Bf 109G (which originally required one blister or Beule on each side of the fuselage, flanking the upper rear end of the engine, to house the larger breech of the new gun) and the Fw 190.

Technical data

  • Weight : 16.6 kilograms (37 lb)
  • Length : 1.17 metres (3.8 ft)
  • Muzzle velocity : ~ 750 metres per second (2,500 ft/s)
  • Rate of fire : ~ 900 rounds per minute
  • 13 mm AP-T (Pzgr. L'Spur) - 710 m/s, projectile mass 38.5 grams (594 gr), muzzle energy 989 m/kg[2]
  • 13 mm HE-T (Sprgr. L'Spur) - 710 m/s, projectile mass 34 grams (520 gr)[3]
  • 13 mm HEI-T (Br. Sprgr. L'Spur) - 750 m/s, projectile mass 34 grams (520 gr) with 1.4 grams (22 gr) PETN + 0.3 grams (4.6 gr) thermite, muzzle energy 975 m/kg[4]

See also


  1. "Kurzbeschreibung Focke-Wulf Ta 400 Fernkampfflugzeug - Heckstand" (PDF). Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau, Bremen. October 13, 1943. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 24, 2015. Retrieved January 3, 2016.
  2. Handbuch der Flugzeug Bordwaffenmunition 1936 - 1945 p.6
  3. MG 131 Waffen-Handbuch, Sept. 1941 p. 17
  4. Handbuch der Flugzeug Bordwaffenmunition 1936 - 1945 p.7
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