The Colt-Browning M1895, nicknamed potato digger due to its unusual operating mechanism, is an air cooled, belt fed, gas operated machine gun that fires from a closed bolt with a cyclic rate of 450 rounds per minute. Based on a John Moses Browning design dating to 1889, it was one of the first successful gas operated machine guns to enter service. Although it was considered obsolete by the time the United States entered the war; Italy purchased significant quantities of the Colt Model 1914 Browning in 6.5 mm caliber to supplement their machine gun supply.
The Mle 1914 Hotchkiss machine gun became the standard machine gun of the French Army during World War I. It was manufactured by the French arms company Hotchkiss et Cie.
The Hotchkiss was gas actuated and air cooled. The barrel featured five large annular ribs which retarded overheating. The gas cylinder under the barrel featured a regulator piston used to adjust the rate of fire. The Hotchkiss had only 32 parts, including four coil springs and no screws or pins. The simplicity of construction made it easy to take apart and maintain. All parts of the gun were constructed to make improper assembly impossible. The Hotchkiss fired from an open bolt, a common method in all modern machine guns. Several hundred Hotchkiss M1914 s were manufactored to fire the 11mm Gras incendiary round making it a good choice for anti balloon missions.
The Lewis Gun (or Lewis Automatic Machine Gun) is a World War I era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War. It is visually distinctive because of a wide tubular cooling shroud around the barrel and a top mounted drum-pan magazine. It was commonly used as an aircraft machine-gun, almost always with the cooling shroud removed, during both World Wars.
The Lewis Gun was invented by US Army Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911, based on initial work by Samuel Maclean. Despite its origins, the Lewis Gun was not initially adopted by the American militaryŚmost likely because of political differences between Lewis and General William Crozier, the Chief of the Ordnance Department. Lewis became frustrated with trying to persuade the US Army to adopt his design and so ("slapped by rejections from ignorant hacks", as he said), retired from the army. He left the United States in 1913 and headed to Belgium (and shortly afterwards, the UK). He established the Armes Automatique Lewis company in Liege to facilitate commercial production of the gun. Lewis had been working closely with British arms manufacturer the Birmingham Small Arms company (BSA) in an effort to overcome some of the production difficulties of the weapon. The Belgians quickly adopted the design in 1913, using the .303 British round, and in 1914, BSA purchased a license to manufacture the Lewis Machine Gun in the UK, which resulted in Col. Lewis receiving significant royalty payments and becoming very wealthy.
The onset of World War I increased demand for the Lewis Gun, and BSA began production (under the designation Model 1914). The design was officially approved for service on 15 October 1915 under the designation "Gun, Lewis, .303-cal." No Lewis Guns were produced in Belgium during World War I; all manufacture was carried out by BSA in the UK and the Savage Arms Company in the US. US Marines field test the Lewis machine gun in 1917.
The Belgian Army was the first military force to adopt the Lewis Gun; when the Germans first encountered it in 1914 (whilst in combat against the Belgians), they nicknamed it "The Belgian Rattlesnake".
The British officially adopted the Lewis Gun in .303 calibre for Land and Aircraft use in October 1915, with the US Navy and Marine Corps following in early 1917, adopting the M1917 Lewis Gun (produced by the Savage Arms Co.), in .30-06 caliber.
The Russian Empire purchased 10,000 Lewis Guns in 1917 from the British Government, and ordered another 10,000 weapons from Savage Arms in the US. The US Government was unwilling to supply the Tsarist Russian Government with the guns and there is some doubt as to whether they were actually delivered, although records indicate that 5,982 Savage weapons were delivered to Russia by March 31, 1917. The Lewis Guns supplied by Britain were dispatched to Russia in May 1917, but there is some confusion as to whether these were the Savage-made weapons being trans-shipped through the UK, or a separate batch of UK-produced units.
The Lewis was only produced by BSA and Savage Arms during World War I and although the two guns were largely similar there were enough differences to stop them being completely interchangeable. BSA-produced weapons were not completely interchangeable with other BSA-produced Lewis guns.
The major difference between the two designs was that the BSA weapons were chambered for .303 British ammunition and the Savage guns were chambered for .30-06 cartridges, which necessitated some difference in the magazine along with the feed mechanism, bolt, barrel, extractors, and gas operation system. Savage did make Lewis Guns in .303 British calibre; the Model 1916 and Model 1917 were exported to Canada and the United Kingdom and a few were also supplied to the US military, particularly the navy. The Savage Model 1917 was generally produced in .30-06 caliber
The Lewis Gun was gas operated. A portion of the expanding propellant gas was tapped off from the barrel, driving a piston to the rear against a spring. The piston was fitted with a vertical post at its rear which rode in a helical cam track in the bolt, rotating it at the end of its travel nearest the breech. This allowed the three locking lugs at the rear of the bolt to engage in recesses in the gun's body to lock it into place. The post also carried a fixed firing pin, which protruded through an aperture in the front of the bolt, firing the next round at the foremost part of the piston's travel.
The gun was designed with an aluminium barrel-casing which used the muzzle blast to draw air into the gun and cool down the internal mechanism. There is some discussion over whether the cooling tube was effective or even necessaryŚin the Second World War many old aircraft guns which did not have the tubing, were issued to anti-aircraft units of the British Home Guard and to British airfields. Other weapons were used on vehicle mounts in the Western Desert and did not suffer without the tube. They were found to function properly without it, leading to the suggestion that Lewis had insisted on the cooling arrangement largely to show that his design was different from Maclean's earlier prototypes. Only the Royal Navy retained the tube on their deck-mounted AA-configuration Lewis Guns.
The Lewis Gun utilised two different drum magazines, one holding 47 rounds, the other 97. Unlike other designs, the Lewis's drum was not wound against a spring but was mechanically driven by a cam on top of the bolt which operated a pawl mechanism via a lever.
The Lewis Gun has the distinction of being the first machine-gun fired from an airplane; on June 7, 1912 Captain Charles Chandler of the US Army fired a prototype Lewis Gun from the foot-bar of a Wright Model B Flyer.
The Lewis Gun was extensively used on British and French aircraft during World War I, either as an observer's or gunner's weapon or as an additional weapon to the more common Vickers. The Lewis' popularity as an aircraft machine-gun was partly due to its low weight, the fact that it was air-cooled and that it used self-contained 97-round drum magazines. Because of this, the Lewis was first fitted on two early production examples of the Bristol Scout D aircraft by Lanoe Hawker in the summer of 1915, mounted on the port side and firing forwards and outwards at a 30° angle to avoid the propeller arc and later on French Nieuport 11 and British S.E.5a aircraft, above the top wing on a Foster mount, which was also outside the propeller's arc. The gun could be swung down on a rail to allow the drum to be changed in flight.
The open bolt firing cycle of the Lewis prevented it from being synchonized to fire directly forward through the propeller arc of a single engined-fighter, only pusher fighters such as the British Airco D.H.2 and Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.8 could readily use the Lewis as direct forward-firing armament early in World War I. For the use of observers or rear gunners, the Lewis was mounted on a Scarff ring, which allowed the gun to be rotated and elevated whilst supporting the gun's weight. Lewis Guns were often employed in a balloon-busting role, loaded with incendiary ammunition designed to ignite the hydrogen inside the gasbags of German Zeppelins and dirigibles.
The Vickers machine gun or Vickers gun is a name primarily used to refer to the water-cooled .303 inch (7.7 mm) machine gun produced by Vickers Limited, originally for the British Army. The machine gun typically required a six- to eight-man team to operate: one to fire, one to feed the ammunition, and the rest to help carry the weapon, its ammunition and spare parts. It served from before the First World War until after the end of the Second World War.
The weapon had a reputation for great solidity and reliability. Ian V. Hogg, in Weapons & War Machines, describes an action that took place in August, 1916, during which the British Army's 100th Company of the Machine Gun Corps fired their ten Vickers guns continuously for twelve hours. They fired a million rounds between them, using 100 new barrels, without a single breakdown.
The Vickers gun became a standard weapon on British and French military aircraft, especially after 1916. Although heavier than the Lewis, and using a belt feed which proved problematic in the air, its closed bolt firing cycle made it much easier to synchronize it to allow it to fire through aircraft propellers. The famous Sopwith Camel and the SPAD XIII types used twin synchronised Vickers, as did most British and French fighters between 1918 and the mid 1930s. In the air, the heavy water cooling system was redundant, but because the weapon relied on barrel recoil, the (empty) water-holding barrel jacket or casing needed to be retained. Slots were cut into the barrel jacket to aid air cooling.