Machine guns were deployed in three ways in World War I: direct fire, indirect fire and firing from fixed points.
- In direct fire the gunner could clearly see his target and he pressed the trigger, firing bursts of fire in the direction of the enemy infantry.
- Indirect fire was rather like artillery fire with rounds being "dropped" over enemy territory at unseen targets, beyond the effective cone of fire for the weapon. The gunner would adjust the weapon to fire skywards and shoot across the battlefield with a long curving trajectory. Although random, like any harassing fire it could suppress the troops at the other end by killing, injuring or simply dispersing them.
- Firing from fixed points worked by providing a dense, compact cone of fire at the enemy, which could have an end result similar to that of indirect fire.