Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A World War I relic sees action again in Ukraine


I was amazed to learn that Maxim machine guns - a technology invented in the late 19th century, decades before World War I - are still in use by Ukrainian forces, and apparently giving a good account of themselves.  Task & Purpose reports:

Although the Maxim machine gun was originally created way back in the 1880s, today’s war in Ukraine has surfaced a sometimes bizarre mix of weapons and tactics. There are modern drones and troops just as likely to carry tablets as rifles. Mid-century Cold War tanks and armored personnel carriers are taking the field alongside modern rocket systems. Satellite imagery is helping troops endure old-school trench warfare. And Ukrainian fighters have been busting out machine guns that are more than 100 years old.

Take for instance this recent video of a fighter using an old Maxim, fitted with decidedly modern add-ons such as optics and a suppressor.

And if one Maxim isn’t enough, why not rig up four into one large anti-drone system? That’s what Ukrainian fighters recently did, creating a four-gun turret specifically meant to shoot down Russian drones.

There's more at the link.

The Maxim model in question is the PM M1910, adopted prior to World War I for the Imperial Russian armed forces, and continuing in production in the Soviet Union until after World War II.  It's chambered for the 7.62x54mmR cartridge, older than but approximately equivalent to the US .30-06 Springfield.

Many Maxim-type machine guns all over the world soldiered on after the World Wars.  South Africa rechambered many of its Vickers machine guns (based on the Maxim design, and originally chambered in .303 British) to fire the modern 7.62x51mm NATO round.  I ran into a couple of them in the operational areas of South West Africa (today Namibia) and Angola during the 1980's.  South Africa's modernized Vickers were finally retired in the early 1990's, after combat use as late as 1988.  Other nations used similar weapons well into the 1960's.

Maxim recalled:

In 1882 I was in Vienna, where I met an American whom I had known in the States. He said: 'Hang your chemistry and electricity! If you want to make a pile of money, invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each others' throats with greater facility.'

More than a hundred and forty years later, Europeans are still using Maxim's machine gun to kill each other.  The weapon and its derivatives have probably slaughtered tens of millions by now.  That doesn't say much for humanity, does it?



TRX said...

The Maxim wasn't phased out because it was ineffective; it was phased out because newer designs were smaller, lighter, and cheaper to make.

The M2 .50-cal is a comparative newcomer, but it was designed in 1918, and it's still in service over a century later. Some elite military units still carry the Model 1911 pistol, which is even older.

For that matter, when the Soviet Army found out their shiny-new AK74s lacked the range to deal with Afghanis using 19th-century SMLEs, they dug thousands of Mosin rifles, some of them dating back to the Tsars, out of nasty brown Soviet cosmoline, cleaned them up, and sent them to Afghanistan with a new "designated marksman" doctrine. Normal squaddies carried AKs, but there was always someone nearby with a Mosin, ready to communicate by long distance. (the SVD autoloaders got most of the interest and PR, but there weren't enough for everyone)

tiredWeasel said...

I'm old enough to remember how the use of Maxims by pro-russian Separatists was a sign of the impending collapse of the Russian aggression.

That was roughly a year ago.

Ah, how times have changed...

Anonymous said...

If you think about it, it's not that surprising--we're still using the basic Gatling gun design, just electrically driven instead of hand-cranked, and the Browning .50 cal has been around since the end of WWI. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Anonymous said...

Scratching my chin as any true enterprising 'Yank' I find myself contemplating the necessary plumbing to convert some of that water jacket energy to...moonshine!
Sometimes one's survival in the forward areas rested on things not openly spoken about. Shhh! And don't let anything happen to that good fellow over there. Wink wink nod nod.

Orvan Taurus said...

Ancient doesn't mean incapable. Sometimes it means "the dang thing works, even when..."

MNW said...

The Maxim is a very robust gun. I reccommed the C&rsenal series on youtube on them. They are a great channel if you want to know about them.

For static positions a water cooled MG is hard to beat.

Eaton Rapids Joe said...

Many things about the Russian-Ukraine war are like WWI.

MNW said...

I just noticed the scope and the supressor in the video.

I wonder if the can is attached to the booster or replaces it.

Peter said...


For static positions a water cooled MG is hard to beat.

That's why South Africa kept them in service for so many decades. Far too bulky and heavy to lug around the African bush, but outstanding to defend a fixed position.

Old NFO said...

It works. They have ammo. Enough said.

PeterW. said...

“Man is born to trouble, as sparks fly upwards”.

Without firearms in their various designs and capacities, the weak would be even more at the mercy of the strong. The “Mongol Hordes” would ever be just over the horizon and the Danes would still be raiding, pillaging and enslaving.

The numbers killed in wars are probably more a reflection on population growth, than any innate increase in violence. We have gotten better at keeping disease and starvation at bay. Should we regret plumbing, the plough and refrigeration as much as the machinegun?
Untimely death is a tragedy, by whatever means. said...

Water-cooled means you get to wear it out instead of burning it up... ive seen a couple vids
Where trained Brit gunners used the T&E mechanism to cut BIG trees down with a .303 Vickers gun, well bedded....

Anonymous said...

Thats why I bought a Mosin (and spam can...). For a buck a round, rifle was free. Pretty good deal for 30-cal. that can reach 500 yds. My AR can't touch that.

Winterborn said...

I remembered reading about a test done on a Maxim (turned out it was a Vickers water-cooled instead). They fired one continuously for 200 hours. HOURS. 1937, approximately 1 million rounds. No major malfunctions, 450-500 rounds per minute.

A later test in the 1960s after they'd stopped using entirely, 5 MILLION rounds 250rds at a time... no major malfunctions, was within spec.


June J said...

Well, there's no big money to be made for the MIC in producing weapons that just work and work and work.