LIGHT MACHINEGUNS PART 2:

Other Light Machineguns

 

6,5 mm light machinegun M/21:

(6,5 mm Kulsprutegevär m/21) aka (Kg m/21)

PICTURE: 6.5 mm light machinegun M/21 with its bipod folded below barrel. (Photo taken in Uudenmaa/Nyland Brigade). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (68 KB).

Calibre:

6,55 mm x 55

Length:

1110 mm

Barrel length:

612 mm

Weight:

8,7 kg

Fire-rate:

500/minute

Magazine:

arch-shaped box: 20

Official abbreviations:

"6,50 pk/21" and "650 PK 21"

Country of origin:

Sweden

Prototype:

Further development from B.A.R. m/1918

Finnish use: During Winter War these light machineguns were used by Finnish troops and Finnish Lapland and Brigade-size Swedish-Norwegian SFK volunteer unit. During Continuation War their main user was Coastal Troops.

Swedish M/21 light machinegun had its roots in US Browning Automatic Rifle M1918 (B.A.R.) developed by John Moses Browning issued to US troops during World War 1. But as Swedish Armed Forces standard rifle calibre was 6.5 mm x 55, this naturally came the calibre of M/21 light machinegun instead of American .30-06 used in original B.A.R. Soon After World War 1 United States introduced improved B.A.R. version called M1918A1. The US M1918A1 was the B.A.R. version to which the Swedish M/21 was based, but M/21 had been developed bit further and proved to be reliable weapon of good quality. Like the name suggests M/21 was accepted to use of Swedish Armed forces at year 1921. Another Swedish further improved version called M/37 was introduced in late 1930's, but did not see any use in Finland. Both of these Swedish light machinegun models remained in use of Swedish military long after 2nd World War. Like all weapons of Browning Automatic Rifle family also M/21 was gas-action automatic with gas-piston. Unfortunately this Swedish weapon inherited most of the capability limiting design features of original B.A.R. design. As the name suggest Browning had originally intended B.A.R. as automatic rifle, not really as a light machinegun, although the weapon got routinely pushed into that role. So it lacked quick change barrel (important feature for light machineguns to avoid overheating), magazine capacity of 20 rounds was quite small and diassebly/reassembly process was quite complicated for military weapon. The amount of gas going to gas-piston could be adjusted with gas-regulator, which had three settings (from these settings "S" was reserved for live ammunition and "L" to blank ammunition). Selector switch of the weapon has also three settings: "P" for semi-automatic fire, "A" for full-automatic fire and "S" for safe. The front sight was typical blade-type inside protective ring, while the rear sight was diopter-type with settings for 200 - 1,200 meters. While the barrel could not be quickly replaced in the field, equipment issued with this weapon containing besides multitude of tools, spareparts and loading tool included also spare barrel. Finnish Army issued typically ten 20-round magazines with each of these weapons. While Swedish Army used leather magazine pouches made for magazines of light machinegun M/21, Finnish Army does not seemed to have had them and issued just magazine bags for carrying of their magazines. Early on Colt manufactured some 700 light machinegun M/21 for Swedish military, but grand majority (some 7,500) were manufactured by Carl Gustafs Stadts Gevärsfaktori in Sweden. Also Browning machinerifle introduced in year 1922 and 7.92-mm calibre Polish M1928 light machinegun were based to M1918A1.

PICTURE: Light machinegun crew with their light machinegun M/21 photographed practicing in archipeligo near Turku in July of 1941. This troops belong to coastal infantry, which Finnish military had to create in a hurry in beginning of Continuation War. The machinegunner is wearing rare German m/18 helmet. Photo taken by (TK-mies?) Gustafsson. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 24582). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (178 KB).

Finnish military equipment shortages during Winter War (11/2939 - 3/1940) included also shortage of light machineguns. So Finland bought 130 light machineguns M/21 from Sweden in January - February of 1940. During Winter War some Finnish units stationed in northern Finland were issued with this light machinegun. It was also the standard issue light machinegun for Svenska Frivilligk&oring;ren (SFK), Swedish - Norwegian volunteer unit, which took part in Winter War. When SFK returned to Sweden after Winter War, it left behind 204 light machineguns M/21, which got transferred to Finnish Army inventory. So after Winter War Finnish military had about 330 of these light machineguns. Germany occupied Denmark and Norway in spring of 1940, which made Sweden to realise just how dangerous the situation was for them. So the Swedes asked some of the weapons delivered to Finland during Winter War to be returned. 105 light machineguns M/21 were included to the weapons which Finland returned to Sweden in year 1940. Hence during Continuation War (6/1941 - 9/1944) Finnish military still had bit over 220 light machinegun M/21, these were soon issued to Coastal Troops (part of Navy), which used them till end of Continuation War. Finnish military routinely issued light machinegun M/21 with 10 magazines and two tool pouches. The remaining weapons were sold to Interarmco in year 1958 and exported.

PICTURE: Two tool pouches were routinely issued with each M/21 light machinegun. This is the second pouch and next to it are its contents. (Photo provided by Lemmy). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (167 KB).

 

7,62 mm light machinegun M/20 Madsen:

(Let maskingevaer Madsen m/20)

PICTURE: Madsen M/20 light machinegun. Notice bipod folded under the barrel, large cone-shaped flash hider, crank-like loading handle and attachment point for monopod under the weapon's butt. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (79 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

1240 mm

Barrel length:

587 mm

Weight:

9,4 kg

Fire-rate:

500/minute (cyclic) / 200 - 300/minute (practical) (*)

Magazine:

arch-shaped box: 25 (**)

Official abbreviations:

"7,62 pk/20" and "762 PK 20"

Country of origin:

Denmark

(*) In full-auto mode the cyclic rate of fire was about 500 rounds/minute and practical rate of fire with magazine changes taken into consideration about 200 - 300 rounds/minute. In semiautomatic mode the maximum rate of fire was about 20 - 25 aimed shots per minute.

(**) Curved single row magazine. Some sources claim that magazine capacity of 7.62 mm x 54R Madsen used in Finland was 30 rounds, but period documents such as year 1922 manual suggest that the magazine capacity was actually only 25 rounds. It is possible that the theoretical magazine may have had capacity of 30 rounds, but in reality the maximum number of rounds routinely loaded per magazine was 25 rounds.

Finnish use: What is known small number of Madsen light machineguns saw use in Finnish Civil War. But their main use in Finland was with Finnish Army in 1921 - 1936. They were first issued to cavalry and bicycle units, but later also to infantry. Year 1937 Finnish military sold almost all remaining Madsens to Estonia.

Danish Madsen designed was one of the first successful light machinegun designs. The first version had originally been patented by Julius Rasmussen already in year 1899. The improved version, which saw production was however patented by Jens Schouboe three years later. The weapon worked with barrel-recoil principle and started looking quite outdated already even before World War 2 even if its manufacturer Dansk Rekylriffel Syndikat / Dansk Industri Syndikat tried to develop it to keep up. Structure of this weapon's moving parts is quite unusual: Instead of really having anything that could be considered as a bolt in traditional sense it has falling block type bolt, rammer and extractor, which did most of work. In fact the idea of this kind of action might have been based to old Peabody-Martini hinged-block action. The design was also somewhat unusual in that sense that while it was a recoil-action open bolt firing design, it only started working that way once the first round had been chambered and fired. Magazines used with the weapon are curved single-row box magazines, for which some sources give magazine capacity of 30 rounds, while period documents such as Finnish Army manual for this light machinegun suggest that magazine capacity was in fact only 25 rounds. Reliability-wise it is quite common for magazines to work more reliably if loaded with somewhat smaller number of cartridges. Hence it is possible that the magazine capacity as in theory 30 rounds, but routinely may have not been loaded with more than 25 rounds in attempt to make the weapon work more reliably. The magazine is inserted from the top on left side of the weapon's receiver and the weapon extracts cartridge cased downwards. Madsen light machinegun was a select-fire weapon capable of semi-automatic and automatic fire, but the way this this is arranged is somewhat unusual. Early production (apparently World War 1 era and earlier) versions had progressive trigger, with light press of trigger for single fire and pressing trigger heavier making the gun go full-auto. Finnish-acquired m/20 does have a fire selector on left side of the receiver, but apparently the fire selected is linked to trigger mechanism in such way that its setting either removed option of semi-automatic fire or select-fire from trigger mechanism. All Madsen m/20 light machineguns delivered to Finland were in 7.62 mm x 54R caliber and had rear sight with settings for 200 - 1,900 meters.

PICTURE: Closer look of receiver area of Madsen M/20 light machinegun. Notice how magazine is attached to left side of receiver and crank-like loading handle. Rear sight seems to be elevated to maximum elevation. (Photo taken in Museum of Reserve Officer School in Hamina). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (79 KB).

Russia had first acquired Madsen light machineguns already in year 1904 and those machineguns saw some use in Russian - Japanese War of 1904 - 1905. During World War 1 both the Germans and the Russians used Madsen light machineguns in some extent. It is also known that the Russians were building factory in Kovrov, which was intended to start domestic manufacturing of Madsen light machineguns. However the factory never started their production. Even if the weapon proved huge export success between world wars with more than 30 countries adopting it, no major power ever issued in large scale. These machineguns became outdated quite fast - Denmark was one of the very few countries that used Madsen light machinegun also some time after World War 2. Most if not all the medium and small size countries, which had issued Madsen light machineguns to their troops either replaced them with some other light machinegun already before World War 2 or during it.

Few Madsen light machineguns had apparently been used already in Finnish Civil War. As a new weapon type light machinegun had proved its value in World War 1, so when established in year 1918 Finnish Army was in need of modern light machinegun. Year 1919 it ordered seven Madsens for testing and tested them against other light machinegun designs of that time in April of 1920. In these tests Madsen apparently did quite well, since its 7.62 mm x 54R caliber version was chosen as standard issue light machinegun for Finnish Army and order for 162 light machineguns M/20 was made in spring of that year. Those 162 guns were apparently delivered in year 1921. Around 1921 - 1922 Finnish Army was building prototypes of tripods for Madsen LMG and even license production of Madsen M/20 was being considered. But neither of these ideas led to anything real in Finland (Danish Army took tripod-equipped version later in their own use, but it is unknown if Finnish Madsen tripod project had any connection to it). Futher orders followed and by late 1923 about 600 light machineguns M/20 had been delivered to Finnish military and their total number peaked at 729 weapons in late 1928. Finnish military had in its use several variations of Madsen light machineguns with two barrel lenghts, with also couple of of 6.5 mm x 55 caliber weapons among them - these couple of guns in 6.5 mm x 55 were presumably simlar to Swedish or Norwegian guns and likely early versions at least two of which had seen use in Finnish Civil War and the few others may have been weapons acquired for testing. Early on Finnish Army issued Madsens to cavalry and bicycle troops, but as more and more guns became available they were issued also to infantry units in wider scale. Early on Finnish documents still refer the weapon as ratsuväen konekivääri = cavalry machine gun.

PICTURE: Madsen M/20 light machinegun in use of Finnish bicyle infantry. Photo detail from period photo, which was photographed sometime in 1920's. Notice opened magazine bag next to the gun and second magazine bag behind it. Rifles seen the photo seem to be likely cavalry rifles M/91 (with bayonet attached) and infantry rifles m/27 (without bayonets). Soldier's uniforms are military uniforms m/22. (Photo part of Jaeger Platoon Website photograph collection). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (187 KB).

In use of Finnish Army Madsen M/20 proved to be expensive and complicated weapon, that also suffered from reliability issues, which became particularly apparent while in when in use of infantry. According Finnish Army cartridge chamber needed to be greased lightly and weapon always placed properly against shoulder for it to work properly. After domestic Lahti-Saloranta M/26 wen entered production, it started replacing light machinegun M/20 in use of Finnish Army. Also Finnish Civil Guard acquired small number of light machineguns M/20, but it was never a common weapon in Civil Guard use. October of 1936 Civil Guard had total 14 weapons and no less than 851 magazines for them in its inventory. It seems quite possible that the large number of Madsen magazines in Civil Guard inventory at the time may have been explained by them being magazines that Army no longer needed, since Lahti-Saloranta M/26 had already de facto replaced it. Finland sold practically all (612 guns total) of the remaining Madsen M/20 in year 1937 to Estonia, where Arsenal presumably modified them to .303 British cartridge. The small number of weapons that remained in Finnish inventory after that did not see any real use during World War 2. The last 60 or so Madsen light machineguns were sold to Interarmco between 1959 - 1960.

Finnish Army issued quite a lot of equipment with its Madsen light machineguns. There were numerous types of magazine pouches and bags for carrying to Madsen magazines. These included:

  • Magazine pouch for 2 magazines.
  • Magazine bag for 8 magazines - infantry model.
  • Magazine bag for 8 magazines - cavalry model.
  • Magazine carrying saddle.
  • From these pouches and bags the infantry model of magazine bag was the most common design (year 1936 there were over 5,900 in inventory), while magazine pouches were the least common variation. Other equipment normally issued with the weapon included carrying sling, cleaning rod and three tool pouches. In addition to these manual lists as equipment of each weapon also spare barrel and water bag. The spare barrel was equipped with parts normally attached to it to allow quicker change of barrel, although light machinegun m/20 lacked rapid barrel change capability. Hence while machinegunner was able to replace the barrel in the field, it required the weapon to be disassembled, which was not particularly fast. The water bag was rubber bag coated with canvas and equipped with hose, capable to store 1.5 liters of water and presumably intended for situation in which the overheated gun needed to be cooled down fast. Additional equipment available for the gun included unrifled blank fire barrel that was only to be used for blank fire ammunition. Spare barrel and cleaning rod were carried in spare barrel holder.

     

    7,62 mm and 7,71mm light machineguns M/Lewis:

    (Gun, Machine, Lewis)

    PICTURE: Lewis light machinegun without its bipod, the weapon in this photo is in 7.71-mm (.303 British) caliber. Photo taken by Military Official Nousiainen. (SA-kuva.fi photo archive, photo number 113127). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (42 KB).

    Calibre:

    7,62 mm x 54 R / 7.70 mm x 56 R (.303 British)

    Length:

    1280 mm

    Barrel length:

    660 mm

    Weight:

    13.5 kg

    Fire-rate:

    550/minute

    Magazine:

    pan magazine: 47

    Official abbreviations:

    "7,62 pk/Lewis" and "7,70 pk/Lewis"

    Country of origin:

    Great Britain

    Finnish use: Small number got used in Finnish Civil War in year 1918. About 60 weapons saw use as training weapons with Finnish Civil in 1920's. Lahti-Saloranta M/26 replaced them in that role in 1930's, hence most were sold off and exported in late 1930's. During World War 2 small number of Lewis guns saw use with Finnish military as aircraft weapons and anti-aircraft machine guns.

    Like the name tells this weapon was namely designed by American Colonel Isaac Lewis, however its structure was at least partly based to earlier ideas of Samuel Neal McClean. Even if the weapon with its drum magazines and gas action mechanism was clearly ahead of its time US Army never adopted it (likely due to Lewis's disputes with William Crozier, who was head of US Board of Ordnance). When Lewis failed getting orders from US Army he moved to Europe (Great Britain to be exact) and started co-operation with Birminghman Small Arms (BSA). The first country to introduce Lewis machinegun to military use was Belgium in year 1914. The timing could not have been more favorable with World War 1 starting that year. The British orders for their military and commonwealth troops soon reached massive scale. Lewis gathered huge fortune after British started mass-manufacturing of his light machinegun in year 1915. Lewis machinegun was remarkable weapon by World War 1 standards, being quite likely the best of early light machineguns used in that war. It had gas-action mechanism with gas-piston and rotating lock, both features commonly used nowadays. It also fired from open bolt, which improved the weapon's cooling. In fact only problems concerning this weapon seem to have been related to its realibility and tendency to overheat if fired too rapidly too long. Tendency to overheat was related to lacking quick change barrel feature and unique cooling jacket containing aluminium heat sink, which with air-flow cooled the barrel upto a point, after which the weapon could overheat. The cooling jacket and aluminum heat sink inside it weight about 1.6 kg. The main benefactors for the reliability-probelems seem to have been in its two-plane drum magazines, which are open bottom design and the weapon's recoil-spring which is clock spring type arrangement. Not surpringly considering Lewis was one of the first light machineguns, field disassembly and putting back together are quite complicated. Besides light machinegun use the weapon saw plenty of use as aircraft weaponry, in armoured vehicles and as antiaircraft machineguns. When it came to infantry use, there is some debate if the weapon would have been better off without the cooling jacket containing aluminum heat sink considering its weight. During World War 1 Lewis seems to have been rather popular among British troops and also their German opponents seem to have highly valued captured Lewish light machineguns and even converted considerable number (possibly about 10,000) to their standard 7.92 mm x 57 IS caliber. However Lewis machinegun was also rather complicated and very expensive weapon to manufacture even by World War 1 standards. During World War 1 Great Britain it was manufactured by BSA (Birmingham Small Arms), while in United States by Savage and Rockwell-Marlin manufactured it for the British. US Marine Corps almost went to World War with Lewis guns, but at the last moment got them replaced with Chauchat. During World War 1 unknown number of Lewis guns in .303 British and 7.62 x 54R were delivered to Russia, at least some of them with armored cars that Russia acquired from Great Britain at that time. In between world wars the commercial success continued as these machineguns were manufactured for large number of countries. Lewis machinegun remained in use of British military also for duration of World War 2, but manufacturing effectiness-wise it was obviously outdated by that time. So the British declared Lewis machinegun obsolete in year 1946.

    PICTURE: Photograph of Kuopio Civil Guard with Lewis light machineguns from circa 1921 - 1923. In 1920's Finnish Civil Guard had about 60 Lewis light machineguns in its inventory. Just before Civil War Civil Guards had succeeded re-routing shipment of 24 Lewis light machineguns belonging to Russian military to Kuopio, where dozen of them played role in January - February 1918 in securing part of Finnish gold deposit. Photo source Finna.fi - original photo owned by Museovirasto Musketti, CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons license. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (71 KB).

    Small number of mixed versions of this weapon had cumulated to Finland during Civil War in year 1918 and saw some use during it. Likely most if not all of these weapons were captured from Russian military. They were a terribly mixed bunch with individual weapons containing even parts from several manufacturers and equipped with mixed equipment. Lewis machineguns that had ended up to Finland were also in two different calibres: 7.62 mm x 54R version manufactured for Russian military and original British 7.70 mm x 56R (.303 British) caliber version. From these two versions the 7.62 mm x 54R calibre guns were much more common in Finnish inventory at that time. April of 1920 Finnish military tested various light machinegun designs and Lewis light machinegun was among the tested weapons, but Madsen won the tests and was chosen as standard light machinegun for the Finnish military. Year 1921 Finnish Ministry of Defense transferred all non-aircraft Lewis guns and their magazines (bit over 60 guns and about 800 magazines total) to Suojeluskunta (Finnish Civil Guard), which then used them for training purposes. At least three of these 60 machine guns were apparently in .303 British. Apparently Civil Guard heavily concentrated Lewis-guns to its Viipuri District, which received no less than 32 guns. Once Lahti-Saloranta M/26 light machineguns got in mass-production and started replacing Madsen light machinegun in use of Finnish Army, also Civil Guard wanted a its share of new Lahti-Saloranta machinegun. It was normal that when it came to heavy weapons, Civil Guard very much relied on loaning equipment from Finnish Army instead of trying to buy them with its own limited financial resources.

    PICTURE: Dual Lewis anti-aircraft machinegun installed in a railway boxcar. Photo taken by Private Niilo Helander in Tokari in April of 1942. (SA-kuva.fi archive, photo number 82662). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (172 KB).

    Starting year 1931 Finnish Army started loaning Lahti-Saloranta light machineguns from its own inventory to Civil Guard. By end of year 1933 Civil Guard had had total 280 Lahti-Saloranta loaned from the Army and had also bought 40 new Lahti-Saloranta light machineguns, hence it had much less need for old Lewis light machineguns. So it returned its Lewis guns to Ministry of Defense, who sold them to company Ab Transbaltic Oy around 1936 - 1938. At the time Ministry of Defence used the oppertunity of sell also about 70 Lewis .303 caliber machineguns, that had ended up to its inventory from other sources. It is likely that those 70 guns may have originated from Finnish Air Force, which had previously been using Lewis guns in numerous aircraft. However small number of aircraft version of Lewis gun remained in Finland even during World War 2. Finnish Air Force used in small scale in its aircraft and as dual barrel antiaircraft-installations during Winter War. During Continuation War the 40 or so dual barrel Lewis antiaircraft-machineguns saw use mainly with home front troops. The last remaining weapons were sold to USA in year 1957.

     

    7,92 mm light machinegun FN D:

    (Fusil automatique Browning type D)

    (FN Modele D)

    PICTURE: FN D light machinegun. For all practical purposes this weapon was the last and most advanced version of FN BAR light machinegun. Photo taken by Military Official Nousiainen. (SA-kuva.fi photo archive, photo number 113129). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (63 KB).

    Calibre:

    7,92 mm x 57 JS

    Length:

    1060 mm

    Barrel length:

    550 mm

    Weight:

    9,5 kg

    Fire-rate:

    350 or 600/minute

    Magazine:

    box: 20

    Official abbreviations:

    "7,92 pk/FN" and "792 PK FN"

    Country of origin:

    Belgium

    Prototype:

    Further development from B.A.R. m/1918

    Production:

    At 1939 and again after WW2.

    Finnish use: Finland bought 700 of these light machineguns from Belgium in February of 1940. They were not issued during Winter War (1939 - 1940). During Continuation War (1941 - 1944) they were first issued to fortification troops and later to coastal troops.

    Originally Colt had the manufacturer of B.A.R. (Browning Automatic Rifle) developed by John Moses Browning. Belgian weapons manufacturer FN (Fabrique National) had been selling B.A.R. versions in 1920's, until also it started its own development and manufacturing of them. The first weapon of this type it manufactured was Polish order for 10,000 7.92-mm light machinegun wz.28, contract for which was signed in December of 1927. This version delivered to Poland was based to "R 75" commercial version, which Colt had introduced in year 1925. Year 1930 FN introduced Mle 30 light machinegun, to which D.J. Saive had developed capability for automatic fire with two separate rates of fire - slower and faster. FN manufactured Mle 30 light machinegun in 7.65-mm and 7.92-mm calibers until year 1940. The main customer for Mle 30 light machinegun was Belgian Army, but by the time its production ended several thousand weapons had also been sold to China, Chile and Ethiopia. Soon after introduction of Mle 30 Saive developed further improved version, which was named FN Modele D. The letter D in this name from French term Demontable - meaning removable. This indicated that the barrel of this version was capable to be quickly removed and replaced with another one - a new feature among weapons belonging to B.A.R. family. Saive also redesigned the whole receiver for FN Modele D making disassembling and reassembling the weapon much easier. Another notable improvements introduced with FN Modele D were carrying handle (earlier versions has none) and new rear sight, which was tangent sight with aperture. With these features FN Modele D without doubt was the most advanced version of B.A.R. family that existed during World War 2. However it had failed attracting orders and pre-war production numbers were quite small. Also, when German Army invaded Belgium in year 1940 even all these improvements were not enough to convince the Germans to keep it in production for their own use - so they stopped its production. Compared to German MG-34, the standard issue machinegun of German Army at the time, FN Modele D had one very serious disadvantage - it was not belt-fed and its magazine capacity was very small. Like earlier B.A.R. versions also FN Modele D used box magazines of only 20 rounds. After World War 2 this by then best version of Browning Automatic Rifle was already too old-fashioned for success. The production of this weapon did continue after World War 2, but failed gaining large-scale commercial success. The post-war main customers for FN Modele D were again Belgian Army (who chose .30-06 calibre version) and Egyptian Army (which bought its guns in 7.92 x 57 JS caliber), but smaller number was also sold South-America. The largest difference between pre World War 2 FN Modele D and its post-war version is gas-regulator, which was redesigned. After 7.62 mm x 51 cartridge had been selected as standard cartridge of NATO in year 1954, it made this weapon designed mostly for .30-06 and 7.92 mm x 57 JS cartridges obsolete over night. In that situation FN still redesigned FN Modele D to thiscalibre and named the version FN Modele DA1. But as the basic magazine-fed B.A.R. design was already so old-fashioned when compared to new belt-fed light machineguns, this new version proved even less of a commercial successful than its predecessor. Most of FN Modele DA1 had been manufactured by modifying earlier FN Modele D of Belgian Army, the actual production numbers of DA1 were very small. Only known users of this weapon were Belgian Army and Israeli military. FN Modele DA1 proved to be the last light machinegun belonging to B.A.R. family manufactured anywhere. Since FN ended its production in year 1967 only commercial semi-auto hunting rifle versions (which have developed very far from original Browning M1918) based to original B.A.R. have remained in production to this day.

    During World War 2 Finland seems to have been quite likely the only country, which used FN Modele D light machineguns in any real numbers. And even in its case the decision for acquiring them was not based to long-term plan, but to immediate need of automatic weapons. During Winter War Finnish shortage of military equipment included also having far too few light machineguns, so Finland bought from Belgium 700 brand new FN Modele D light machineguns that were delivered in February of 1940. They were not yet issued during Winter War, but during Continuation War they were first issued to fortification troops and later mainly to coastal troops. The likelyreason for this was their calibre - unlike frontline infantry (armed mainly with weapons chambered 7.62 mm x 54R) these troops used also German MG-08 medium machineguns chambered to 7.92 mm x 57 JS cartridge. These weapons were the most numerous light machinegun model in use of coastal troops, who used them until end of the war. Finnish Army issued these weapons usually with bandolier containing slots for 12 magazines, but apparently usually only six magazines were issued per weapon. Other equipment issued with them included variety of tools and spare-parts, which included also spare barrel. Although by year 1943 spare barrel seems to have disappeared from list of equipment issued with each FN D light machinegun. After World War 2 these weapons were kept mothballed until practically all of the remaining guns (576 total) were sold to Interarms and exported in year 1960.

     

    8 mm light machinegun M/15 Chauchat:

    (Fusil mitrailleur mle 1915)

    PICTURE: 8-mm light machinegun M/15 Chauchat. Photo taken by Military Official Nousiainen. (SA-kuva.fi photo archive, photo number 113132).CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (39 KB).

    Calibre:

    8 mm x 50 R

    Length:

    1143 mm

    Barrel length:

    469 mm

    Weight:

    9,1 kg

    Fire-rate:

    250/minute

    Magazine:

    half-moon shaped box: 18 (*)

    Official abbreviations:

    "8,00 pk/15" and "800 PK 15"

    Country of origin:

    France

    (*) While all available documents seem to claim that magazine capacity is 20 rounds, tests done by original Chauchat magazines suggest that is impossible to physically cram more than 19 rounds in one and apparently 18 rounds was the normal maximum number of rounds loaded per magazine.

    Finnish use: France "donated" 5,000 during Winter War. They were not issued during Winter War (arrived in January-February of 1940), but during Continuation War some unfortunate Finnish units used them. Mostly used by Finnish home front and field artillery units, but also some unlucky infantry units used them shortly during early Continuation War.

    French Chauchat m/1915 aka C.S.R.G. was one of the very first light machineguns. While it was cheaper to manufacture than its competitors Madsen and Lewis unfortunately the inexperience of its manufacturer showed in its quality. French gentlemen Chauchat, Sutter and Ribeyrolles developed Chauchat light machinegun, in fact the three first letters of the abbreviation (C.S.R.G.) that the French used for this weapon came from first surname letters of these three gentlemen. Lieutenant Colonel Louis Chauchat was the main designer and Charles Sutter his assistant. Paul Ribeyrolles was engineer in Gladiator bicycle factory, manufacturer, from which the last letter "G" C.S.R.G. originated. While the idea of giving the task to manufacture the new weapon to bicycle factory instead of further burdening the existing armaments industry with it may have looked good early on, in this case the level of success is somewhat controversial. In fact the outcome suggests that using established armament production facilities for manufacturing might be more sensible choice, when a totally new type of weapon is introduced. However when this happened French armaments industry was already buried in work trying to supply French military, so there were hard pressed to find manufacturer outside the circle of existing firearm manufacturers.

    While French were able to issue Chauchat in large number during World War 1 and it was certainly better than no light machinegun at all, it also proved to be quite poor military weapon and the inexperience of manufacturer was not the only reason for this. It used long barrel-recoil with rotating bolt-head. With hindsight one can note that long-barrel recoil can be considered maybe the most difficult option as operating principle for self-loading weapon that needs to work reliably. In addition certain elements of the design of this gun proved problematic. One of these elements is magazine, which is a key component for reliability of any magazine-fed automatic weapon. In case of Chauchat the magazine design proved to be quite poor, although it seems that at least for some part it was not really by choice. Not only was Chauchat magazine quite flimsy design, which can easily get deformed out shape and having single-line of cartridges fed in semi-circle is difficult due, but having large holes in sides of the magazine was not exactly well thought feature for muddy trenches. But there is reason for those holes. The magazine used in Chauchat was actually designed for APX C17 automatic designed by Chauchat and Sutter before they even started designing light machinegun version. As far as military rifle ammunition of the period are concerned 8 mm x 50R Lebel is very tapered and rimmed cartridge with unusual shoulder angle - which all make it exceptionally poorly suited for box magazine of any sort. Apparently the large holes on sides of magazine are necessary to be actually able to get cartridges into the magazine. Another major problem point of Chauchat light machinegun are ergonomics, or lack of thereof - and this includes that that getting sight picture is challenging, bipod with its unlocked stick-like legs is difficult to use and as a whole the weapon is notably front-heavy due to front grip location, which probably could not be placed further front due to magazine design taking so much space. Shortly noted not only was this weapon poorly suitable for war in trenches of Western Front, but it was also unreliable and parts not really interchangeable. Manufacturing of Chauchat continued from year 1915 to year 1924 with Gladiator being the main manufacturer with total production of about 227,000 guns. Another manufacturer of this weapon was SIDARME, which started manufacturing them in year 1917 with total production of about 20,000 guns. Hence during World War 1 more Chauchat light machineguns were manufactured than all other light machineguns combined. To sum it up - it was not a perfect weapon, but unlike its competitors it was one that was available in real large numbers.

    What were the reasons behind these production numbers? When it came to better qualities of Chauchat light machinegun, what set it apart of other light machineguns of World War 1 era was how fast, easy and cheap it was to manufacture. Not only is the basic design of the weapon quite simple, but its lower receiver assembly is two stamped steel parts with parts other parts sandwiched between them and attached with screws, while upper receiver and barrel housing are tubular sheet steel parts. It is also noteworthy that Chauchat was lighter than its World War 1 era competitors, making it more mobile on battlefield. Gladiator manufactured most parts of the weapon, with only certain parts being out-sourced to other manufacturers and numerous manufacturers making magazines for it. Due to scale of production France was also able during World War 1 to provide these guns as military aid to many of its allies, which included US troops sent to Europe, Greece, Romania, Russia and Serbia.

    Yet despite its production numbers, Chauchat did not really achieve much popularity after World War 2. While also other early light machineguns had their own share of issues Chauchat was the one, which once the better light machineguns were introduced became obsolete practically in record time. By World War 2 practically every country had better light machineguns. Still it was used by France, Greece, Belgium and shortly also by USA (US used model 1917 version, that was chambered for .30-06 and used different magazine design). The weapon had flash hider in end of the barrel and tangent-type rear sight with settings 2 - 20 (for 200 - 2,000 meters). Chauchat light machinegun is select fire weapon with selector switch that located on left side of the lower receiver just above pistol grip and has three settings: C for semiautomatic-fire, M for full-automatic fire and S for safe. Equipment delivered to Finland with the guns seems to have contained also antiaircraft-sights. However it seems likely lack of tracer-rounds was not the most serious ammunition-related issue of Chauchat guns in Finnish use - what is known suggests that the ammunition that France delivered with the guns were m/1932N variety - with which these guns apparently were not able to really work reliably. The rather unique 180-degree arch shaped 18-round (nominally 20-round) magazine weight fully loaded 910 grams, while the empty one weight only 360 grams.

    PICTURE: 8-mm light machinegun M/15 Chauchat (Photo courtesy of private collector). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (233 KB).

    Small number (total number was apparently about 15 or so) of Chauchat light machineguns had cumulated to hands of Finnish Armed Forces by end of Finnish Civil War in 1918. Certain photograph suggests that they may have been captured from the Russian military, which had received about 3,800 guns from France during World War 1, but it is also possible that the Finns may have received some from the Germans, who had re-issued captured guns to their own troops. As with other mixed weapons circa 1919 - 1920 Finnish Army transferred also Chauchat light machineguns to Civil Guard (Suojeluskunta). October of 1936 Civil Guard had in its inventory 13 Chauchat light machineguns and 141 magazines for them. Neither Finnish Civil Guard or Finnish Armed Forces has much interest for such a small number of machineguns that used non-standard ammunition, hence year 1937 they were sold and exported. During Winter War (11/1939 - 3/1940) Finnish military equipment shortage led to second coming of this light machinegun, as France "generously donated" some 5,000 Chauchat light machineguns and 10 million rounds of 8 mm x 50R Lebel ammunition to Finland. The weapons were delivered to Finland in February - March of 1940. For Winter War this was so late that Chauchat were not issued to Finnish troops during that war besides about 100 guns being issued to coastal artillery. But during early part of Continuation War even some unfortunate front-line units got these issued as their light machineguns. The guns were not well received and apparently at earliest possible moment they were typically replaced with captured Soviet light machineguns. After that Chauchat saw only use with only home-front units and some field artillery units. Even with all their limitations they were presumably put in good use as rudimentary anti-aircraft weapons, since they had been delivered with anti-aircraft sights and even with their slow rate of fire were more effective against strafing enemy aircraft than bolt action rifles or throwing stones. Although not having tracer-ammunition available must have been a major handicap for anti-aircraft use. Year 1943 Finnish Army routinely issued 10 magazines per Chauchat light machinegun. For transporting these magazines the weapons were equipped with French magazine boxes of two and ten magazines, tool box, anti-aircraft sight and tarpaulin. After World War 2 Chauchat light machineguns that were still in Finnish inventory remained mothballed until year 1955, at which time a first batch of was exported. The last weapons remaining in Finnish inventory were sold to Interarmco circa 1959 - 1960.

     

    OTHER LIGHT MACHINEGUNS USED BY FINNISH MILITARY:

    - 7,5 mm light machinegun M/24-29 Chatellerault (Fusil Mitrailleur mle 1924/29): This light machinegun was the weapon that the French introduced to replace Chauchat M/15. It was chambered for new French standard 7,5 mm x 54 MAS mod. 1929 military cartridge. This light machinegun was manufactured in 1925 - 1957 with total production being around 190,400 weapons. Early production guns were made in 7.5 mm x 57 MAS caliber, but after the French found out in a hard way that guns chambered in that caliber could accidentally chamber and fire (with catastrophic results) 7.92 mm x 57 IS ammunition commonly used with captured German firearms, the French developed and shifted into 7.5 mm x 54 caliber circa year 1929. This light machinegun was a gas-action weapon with removable 25-round box magazines placed on top of the weapon and off-set sights on left side of the gun. Maybe the most uncommon part of the design is that the weapon has two separate triggers, with front trigger being used for semi-auto and rear trigger being used for full-auto fire. Apparently the design proved quite successful and did a very long career in French use. During Winter War France donated 100 M/24-29 light machineguns, which arrived too late to actually see any action in that war. Not that they would have seen any real combat use with the Finnish military later either - for Continuation War they were issued to home front troops, who used them as training weapons. Some 60 weapons out of the original 100 were scrapped in year 1944, while the remaining ones were sold to Interarmco in year 1960 and exported.


    SOURCES:

    Markku Palokangas: Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918 - 1988 osat 1 - 3 (= Military Small Arms in Finland 1918 - 1988 parts 1 - 3)

    Timo Hyytinen: Arma Fennica 2, sotilasaseet (Arma Fennica 2, military weapons).

    Bruno Bogdnovic and Ivan Valencak: Das Groze Buch der klassischen feuerwaffen.

    John Walter: Allied Small Arms of World War One.

    Jan Kronlund: Suomen Puolustuslaitos 1918 - 1939 (= Finnish Defence Department 1918 - 1939).

    Article: Myöhäsyntyinen Pikakivääri FN D by Mika Vuolle in Ase-lehti vol. 6/95.

    Article: Tuntematon lahden takaa, Arsenal Tallinn by Toe Nömm in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 1/92.

    Article: FN "DA1", Viimeinen Browning-pikakivääri by Mika Pitkänen in Kaliberi magazine vol. 6/2005.

    C&Rsenal episodes about Lewis and Chauchat guns in youtube.com.

    Military manual: Pikakivääri 20. Rakenne, huolto ja käsittely by Sotaministeriö (1922).

    Military manual: Aseopas 2, Ruotsalaisia aseita by Päämaja (1940).

    Military manual: Ranskalainen pikakivääri malli 1915.

    Special thanks to Rannikkotykistömuseo (Finnish Coastal Artillery Museum), Suomenlinna.

    Special thanks to Jalkaväkimuseo (Finnish Infantry Museum), Mikkeli.


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