The WW1 Machine Gun

The WW1 machine gun was not a very good weapon at first. Although most people think of trench warfare in WW1 to be dominated by machine guns, it didn’t start that way at all.

The trenches of World War I eventually filled up with dead bodies from the power of machine weapons. But at first, these weapons of war were not well built or well designed. They broke down very often. At the start of WW1, the automatic gun was quite primitive and not impressive at all. They jammed up all the time and many soldiers did not even want to use them.

They were also very bulky and weighed a lot. This meant they were not easy to transport. The mobility of these guns was a serious issue for soldiers as you can imagine. They weighed between 30kg and 60kg, which wasn’t too bad for holding a position defensively. But, they were terrible for troops during an advance. They caused more death to the offense in these cases due to the slow movement and exposure.

Of course, these guns were made even more unmanageable due to their supplies. There was a requirement for mountings, packing, carriages and more. They were hardly good weapons at first. The WW1 machine gun was a real dog. Many people don’t know that the 1914 version of the gun was placed on a tripod or stand. It actually required large teams. In some cases, up to 6 men were required per weapon. Bullets were fed into the gun using metal strips and belts of fabric.

There were other problems too. For example, automatic gun engineers simply did not properly calculate the amount of heat given off. So, they would rapidly overheat and become useless metal slags in very little time, without cooler devices and mechanisms. They had to be used only to fire small bursts at first, versus continuous firing. As time went on, engineers learned to cool the barrels using water and air venting.

Another thing people don’t know is that machine gunners would group together in very defensive positions. This would allow gunner teams to protect each other, especially in hot conditions when the gun would more likely overheat.

Many people want to know the rate of fire of these weapons. A well trained group operating a well maintained automatic gun could be “worth” upwards of 60-80 rifles. However, keep in mind the requirements for teams to operate these guns so the actual body replacement was that world war one machine gun could replace about 10-15 soldiers with rifles.