Germany Skirted a Major Treaty to Produce the Modell 30 Machine Gun
In the late 1920s, there were limits on Germany’s right to manufacture weapons
by MATTHEW MOSS
In 1929, German firm Rheinmetall purchased the Swiss manufacturing company Waffenfabrik Solothurn with a specific goal in mind — to sidestep the restrictions the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control had, after World War I, placed on Germany’s production of firearms.
Production of German designs in Switzerland began almost immediately. Solothurn offered the S2-100 machine gun, designed by Louis Stange, on the commercial market under the designation Maschinengewehr Modell 29.
The Solothrun Modell 29 was not a runaway success — but it did lend design elements to much more popular German weapons that played a major role in World War II.
In 1930, Solothurn updated the Modell 29’s design and redesignated the improved weapon the S2-200/Modell 30.
Strange built the Modell 30 around a tubular receiver. The Modell 30 made use of a short-recoil-operated action that was locked by lugs inside of a locking ring. Cammed rollers inside the receiver rotated the locking ring to lock and unlock the action.
The Modell 30 was an air-cooled light machine gun. Unlike some light machine guns, however, it could be mounted on a tripod for sustained fire.
Solothurn offered the Modell 30 in 7.92-by-57-millimeter caliber as well as the Hungarian eight-by-56-millimeter cartridge. It fed from a curved 30-round magazine in the 7.92-by-57-millimeter version, and a 25-round magazine in the eight-by-56-millimeter version. The magazines loaded from the left side.
Strange developed a quick-change barrel system that allowed gunners to swap out the barrel by rotating the butt stock and pulling the barrel back through the cooling shroud and receiver.
Like later German machine guns, the Modell 30 had a rocking trigger that gave the gunner the option of firing single shots by pulling the top of the trigger. Pulling the lower part of the trigger activated fully-automatic fire. The weapon had a rate of fire of 500 to 800 rounds per minute.
The weapon weighed 17 pounds unloaded, five pounds less than what the contemporary Bren weighed. The Modell 30 boasted a folding bipod attached to the barrel shroud plus raised front and rear sights, offset slightly to the left to align with the gunner’s eye — and compensating for the weapon’s inline stock.
The Swiss and Austrian armies tested and adopted the Modell 30 in small numbers, while the Hungarian army adopted the weapon as the 31M Golyószóró. As many as 3,000 Hungarian 31Ms saw service during World War II.
The 31M is easily identifiable by the carrying handle attached to the trunion. Depending on the handle’s position, the gunner could use it as both a foregrip and a carrying handle.
In 1943, Hungary adopted Germany’s 7.82-by-57-millimeter round and converted many M31s to the new ammunition. Hungary manufactured a new version of the 31M specifically for the new round, redesignating it as the 43M.
The main Modell 30’s production run lasted from 1930 and 1935 at factories in Switzerland, Austria and Hungary.
While the Modell 30 didn’t quite live up to Germany’s new “universal machine gun” concept, it did serve as the starting point for two other, more important machine guns.
The MG15 aerial machine gun and the belt-fed MG34 — the first general-purpose machine gun, both took inspiration from the Modell 30. The MG34, also designed by Strange, borrowed the Modell 30’s trigger mechanism, pistol grip and general layout.