Sunday, July 3, 2011

Machine guns of World War I

Prior to World War I, Austria-Hungary had an established small arms industry in what is now the Czech Republic as well as in Austria, where it produced the Schwarzlose MG07/12 In France, Hotchkiss, a firm established by an American, produced two reliable machine guns, while the German Maschinengewehr 08 was used to great effect against British and French forces on the Western Front.

The Schwarzlose MG07/12
Designed by Andreas Wilhelm Schwarzlose in 1902, the MG07/12 would be the standard MMG (Medium Machine Gun) with Austro-Hungarian forces during World War I. It was widely sold or delivered as war reparations after 1918. Many were used by the Italians in World War II. The water-cooled machine gun had a distinctive cone-shaped flame damper and pistol grip. It had a cyclic rate of fire of 400-500 rpm and fired from a 250-round fabric belt.
The Austrian Schwarzlose MG07, produced by Steyr, was so rugged that guns that were nearly forty years old were still in service in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Holland, Romania, Hungary, Italy and Greece as well as Austria at the outbreak of World War II.

This weapon had a fixed barrel, few moving parts and rugged construction. The breech was at no time truly locked. When the gun fired, the rearward thrust of the exploding gases actually started the action opening at the same instant as it caused the bullet to move down the barrel. However, by using a very short barrel and a combination of extremely heavy recoil parts and springs, Schwarzlose produced a machine gun that permitted the use of powerful military rifle cartridges without an impossibly heavy breech mechanism to absorb the recoil energy from these rounds.

The Maschinengewehr 08
The German Maschinengewehr 08, or MG08, was virtually a direct copy of the 1884 Maxim, and was the German Army's standard machine gun in World War I. At the start of the war, about 12,000 MG08s were available. The British assumed that the Germans had large numbers of guns; in fact they had learned that machine guns proved more effective when concentrated together. The Maschinengewehr 08 remained in service in static positions even after the outbreak of World War II, until it was replaced by the MG34 in about 1942.
A German MG08 machine gun crew in the latter years of World War I. The gun was rugged and reliable, but heavy, which meant that it was not suitable for infantry actions involving the tactics of fire and manoeuvre.

The 7.92mm MG08, based on the 1901 model but named after 1908, its year of adoption, was water cooled by about 4.5 litres/1 gallon of water in a jacket around the barrel. It fired from a 250-round fabric belt and had a cyclic rate of 400 rpm, although sustained firing would lead to overheating. The MG08 had a range of about 2,010m/2,200yd up to a maximum of 3,660m/4,000yd. It was moved on a cart, or dismantied and carried by the crew on their shoulders to a new position.

The Benet-Mercie 1909
The Benet-Mercie Machine Rifle, Calibre .30 US Model of 1909 was a .30 machine gun, adopted by the US Army in 1909 and used throughout World War I. The same basic pattern was also used by the French and British: with the French as the Hotchkiss Ml909 chambered for 8mm Lebel ammunition and with the British as the Hotchkiss Mark I. The French and British designs proved longer lived; used in tanks and aircraft, they served on into World War II. The US design was fed from 30-round strips, as were other types, although there were also belt-fed versions and others with enhanced barrel cooling. The US types had a bipod, while some others used a small tripod.
During a visit by a politician to France in World War I, a Canadian officer explains the workings of the Hotchkiss Mark 1 .The gun would remain in service into World War II in light armoured vehicles.

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