6 Important Machine Guns from World War One

Alex Browne

2 mins

02 Aug 2018

As the first truly modern war, the First World War exposed antiquated fighting techniques to modern technologies. Perhaps the most iconic of these is the machine gun.

Tank legend David Fletcher MBE, historian of armoured warfare, and David Willey, curator of the Tank Museum, Bovington, discuss the First World War development of the tank. Why and how was the tank designed? How did it evolve over the course of the war? And what attributes were required of a Tank Man?Watch Now

It gave the defending force an overwhelming advantage, and significantly reduced the mobility of the war. It meant that many lives had to be sacrificed for small gains to made.

Below is listed six of the more important models.

French HOTCHKISS (1914 model)

1914hotchkiss

Features: 

  • Calibre: 8mm
  • Weight: 55lbs plus 60 lbs tripod
  • Rate of Fire: 600 RPM.

The Hotchkiss replaced the less reliable Saint-Etienne machine gun in the French infantry in 1916. Although it was very heavy at 115lbs altogether, it became far and away the most popular machine gun in the French forces, and found use in anti-balloon  fighting.

German MAXIM 08/15

Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson sits down with Dan to discuss his stunning new film They Shall Not Grow Old. Watch Now

Features:

  • 7.92mm
  • 31 lbs,
  • 600 RPM.

Another development by Spandau, which appeared in 1916. It was often fitted on aircraft, synchronized with the spinning propeller blades, and featured several minor improvements on the original MAXIM.

German MAXIM 08

maxim-2

Features:

  • 7.92mm,
  • 40.5 lbs plus 83 lbs sled mount
  •  600 RPM.

An effective weapon in the war’s early phase, the Maxim 08 required a four-man team to operate, such was its weight.

American-designed LEWIS

Lewis_Gun_Training

Features: 

  • .303 inch
  • 25 lbs
  • 500-600 RPM

By the time of the American intervention the Lewis system was well established and tested.

As well as proving a reliable machine gun in the conventional sense, the Lewis Gun made for a good aerial weapon, and was fitted to many Allied aircraft at the rear-cockpit (the Vickers remained the primary forward mounted/firing weapon.)

Russian MAXIM ‘Sokolov’ (1910 model)

russian-maxim

Features:

  • 7.62 mm
  • 52.5 lbs plus 38 lbs mount
  • 500-600 RPM.

A heavy machine gun adopted in 1910. It was mounted on a wheeled-mount a design that characterized subsequent Soviet weapons.

British VICKERS

Features:

  • .303 inch
  • 33 lbs plus 40 lbs tripod
  • 500 RPM

The Vickers had a reputation for great solidity and reliability.

In the words of Ian V Hogg ‘It was the absolute foolproof reliability which endeared the Vickers to every British soldier who ever fired one.’ It was adopted as the standard machine gun of the British army in 1912 in both aircraft and on the ground.

Historian of archaeology Dr Amara Thornton explores a network of archaeologist-spies, codebreaking, mapping and running agents, and with expert contributors delves into the extraordinary double lives led by the critical players in the international theatres of World War One.Watch Now