Monday, July 4, 2011

SAS guns

The light .303 drum-fed Vickers-Berthier machine gun would prove an ideal weapon for the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) jeeps in World War II - armed with these machine guns they caused chaos behind German lines in North Africa and Europe. Sometimes the jeeps came under fire from German MG34s, their weapons firing almost twice as fast as the VB guns. In contrast, the Japanese Type 92 had a slow rate of fire.

The Type 92 machine gun
It is unusual for weapons to be given nicknames by the men who are their targets, but the Type 92 Shiki Kikanju Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) had such a low rate of fire at 450-500 rpm and curious stuttering effect that it was known as the "Woodpecker" by Allied soldiers. Allied troops under fire from the Type 92 always recognized it.
US Marines on Iwo Jima with a captured Japanese Type 92 machine gun. The 30-round stripper clip feed can be clearly seen.

In the 1930s, the Japanese had realized that the small 6.5mm round fired by their soldiers was not powerful enough, and a new 7.7mm round was produced. It was introduced into new weapons, including the Type 92, a variation on the Hotchkiss design. Unlike the Hotchkiss, however, the Type 92 was heavy (over 54.5kg/1201b with the tripod; the tripod legs had holes drilled through the "feet" to take poles so that two men could carry it more easily.) The new gun bore was similar to the Type 3, including the oil dispenser required to ensure a smooth feed for the ammunition that was fed from 30 round metal clips.

The Vickers-Berthier
The Vickers "K" or VGO or CO gun was a gas-operated machine gun based on a French Berthier design that Vickers had bought in 1925. It had a cyclic rate of fire of 950-1,000 rpm and a 100-round magazine, although it was normally loaded with 96 rounds to prevent over-compression on the spring. It had a muzzle velocity of 745m/s/2,444ft/s and weighed 1 l.lkg/24.4lb. The guns were mounted in RAF Hawker Hart aircraft, and when these aircraft became obsolete this was the source of armament for SAS jeeps in North Africa and Europe. K guns were mounted in pairs on the front and rear of SAS jeeps. Such a vehicle therefore had the potential firepower of nearly 4,000 rounds of tracer and ball ammunition per minute.
The Vickers-Berthier K gun had been designed for inter-war RAF fighters. The SAS took surplus weapons and mounted them on jeeps to produce fast, compact vehicles with an awesome firepower.

The MG34

To many Allied soldiers the German infantry appeared less as riflemen and more as ammunition carriers for the formidable 7.92mm MG34 machine gun, known by the Allies as the Spandau after its place of manufacture. This gun was l,220mm/48in long with a 625mm/24.6in barrel, weighed 11.9kg/26.2lb in the light role and 31.1 kg/68.5lb on the sustained fire mount. With a muzzle velocity of 755m/s/2,477ft/s, it had a maximum range of 2,000m/2,190yd and a cyclic rate of 800-900 rpm. It fired from a 75-round saddle-drum magazine or 50-round non-disintegrating belts. It was a remarkable design that drew on experience in World War I, during which heavy water-cooled weapons were difficult to handle.
A German grenadier with an MG34 scans the surroundings from a lookout post. The barrel of the gun was air cooled through the holes in the protective metal sleeve, but it could also be changed quickly.

One of the other spurs for the development of the revolutionary air-cooled weapon was accidental. According to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forbidden to construct water-cooled machine guns like the cumbersome MG08.

The MG34 was the world's first General-Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) that could be used in a light role in the attack and in defence as a medium machine gun. When used in defence, it was mounted on the MG-Lafatte 34, a lightweight folding tripod that could be set at two positions - high and low. The tripod could also be converted into an anti-aircraft mount.

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