The Maschinengewehr 3, or MG3, is a modernized version of the Maschinengewehr 42 general-purpose machinegun. It was manufactured by Rheinmetall GmbH for the West German Bundeswehr after that nation's rearmament in the 1950's. The MG3 was used universally by the German federal armed forces and was widely exported and made under license by several nations. The MG3 is chambered for the NATO standard 7.62x51mm (.308) round. In contrast the MG42 used the 8x57mm IS (.320) cartridge in German service since 1905.
The MG3 is a recoil-operated, crew-served, air-cooled machinegun that can be fired from an integral bipod or, for fixed use, on the Feldlafette buffered tripod or a pintle. It fires only fully-automatic and is fed from the left by a disintegrating-link belt. It has been replaced in German service as the squad automatic weapon by the 5.56x45mm MG4 but retains its place as a section machinegun and vehicle-mounted weapon.
At first-glance it is commonly confused with the MG42 from which it was developed. Both weapons look alike and function identically, thus many parts are interchangeable. The MG3 retains the very fast cyclic rate-of-fire (1000+ rds/min) and quick barrel change feature of its predecessor and is, likewise, made almost entirely of sheet steel pressings and stampings.