The SG-43 used a tilting breechblock, moving sideways and locking into the side of the receiver. The feed is not straightforward, as the gun fires the 7.62×54mmR round, and this has to be withdrawn rearwards from the belt before ramming into the breech. The reciprocating motion is achieved by using two claws to pull the round from the belt, and then an arm pushes the round into the cartridge guide ready for the bolt to carry it to the breech. Despite this complication, the SG-43 was remarkably reliable and feed jams were apparently few.
The barrel is air-cooled and massively dense, contributing to a fairly high overall weight. The bore is chromium-plated and able to withstand continuous fire for long periods. The barrel can also be easily changed by releasing a simple lock, and the carrying handle allows a hot barrel to be lifted clear without difficulty. The WWII version of the gun had a smooth outline to the barrel, and the cocking handle was under the receiver, with no dust covers to the feed and ejection ports.