Sunday, July 3, 2011

Light firepower

Light machine guns developed in the 1930s played a profound part in World War II, as well as in conflicts for years afterwards. The French Chatellerault was fielded by paratroops in the doomed battle of Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam in 1954, while numerous liberation armies in Africa and Asia used the Soviet-supplied DP LMG. The Czech ZB vz/26 was used by all the combatants in World War II and forms the model for the British Bren gun.

The Mitrailleuse de 7.5mm Mle 1924/29
Also known as the Chatellerault, this gas-operated light machine gun was first introduced in 1924 and modified in 1929. It was used by the French armed forces from 1930 until the mid-1950s, when it was replaced by the AAT-F1 light machine gun. Adjusting the gas regulator along with the buffer allowed the gunner to vary his cyclic rate. What set the Chatellerault apart, however, was the new 7.5mm round that it had been developed to fire - a round that was as good as the German 7.92mm. Many Chatelleraults were captured after the fall of France in 1940 and were used by the Germans in coastal defences and in improvised AA mountings.

The Ml924/29 had a top-loading 25-round box magazine and a cyclic rate of 500 rpm. It was easy to use in the roles of both LMG and SAW. It had two triggers: the rear one for fully automatic fire and the other for semi-automatic. The Model 31, which had a 150-round drum magazine, was a version of the Chatellerault built specifically for the Maginot Line fortifications.
The French Chatellerault LMG was an excellent weapon that served with French and colonial forces in the conflicts in Indo-China and Algeria as well as in World War II.

The ZB vz/26 LMG
Soon after World War I, at the newly formed Czech armaments firm of Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka at Brno, the talented small arms designer Vaclav Holek was charged by the Czechoslovakian Army to produce a new light machine gun. Holek was assisted by his brother Emmanuel, as well as other experts.

Work on what would become the 7.92mm ZB-vz.26 began in 1923. Within a year Holek's team had produced a prototype light machine gun. Following modifications, the Czechoslovakian Army quickly adopted the ZB as the vz.26, and many other countries later adopted the ZB or similar designs. The main users were China, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Romania, the Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Japan. After World War II, guns seized from the Nationalist Chinese by their Communist Chinese opponents entered the arsenal of North Vietnam and were used in the Vietnam War.

The ZB-vz/26 fired from a 20- or 30-round box magazine at 500-550 rpm. It had an effective range of 1,000m/1,095yd.
The Czech ZB vz/26 LMG fired from a 20- or 30-round box magazine. It was normally used in the ight role with the gunner using the bipod mounted near the muzzle. The gun illustrated has the less widely used tripod.

The Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyareva pekhotnyi -Degtyarev hand-held infantry machine gun, or simply the DP, was a gas-operated light machine gun adopted by the Red Army in 1928. It fired the powerful 7.62 x 54R round and was cheap and easy to manufacture: early models had fewer than 80 parts and could be built by unskilled labourers. The DP had only six working parts and was especially able to withstand dirt. Indeed, Soviet soldiers joked that the gun fired better if sand were thrown on it. However, the bipod was weak, the pan-shaped drum magazine (normally loaded with 47 rounds) took time to fit on to the gun, and each magazine was slow to load. Its positive points were an inherent lower rate of continuous fire (500-600 rpm), which reduced the risk of the barrel overheating and it had an effective range of 800m/875yd. An improved version of the gun, the DPM, was introduced in 1944, and the gun was not replaced in service until the 1960s, when the PK machine gun was introduced.
In the front line in the summer of 1942 a Soviet soldier spoons stew from his mess tin. His DP LMG rests on its bipod, ready to hand. His comrades are armed with the ubiquitous PPSh-41 SMG.

No comments:

Post a Comment