4d.Automatic Rifle and Machine Gun


7.1. Semi-automatic rifle was first developed by Hiram Maxim, an American in 1884. It had a locked-breech recoil operation. In this, bolt is locked to the barrel and provision is made in the gun body so that they can slide to the rear. The gun is fired with the bolt locked to the barrel, and these parts remain locked together as they are thrust back by the pressure resulting from the explosion of the powder gases. In some guns the energy derived from this motion is used to perform the entire cycle of operations; in others, the energy derived from recoil may only perform certain functions of the cycle. The recoil may be long, that is, the recoil movement may be greater than the length of a cartridge. In the short recoil the bolt remains locked to the barrel for only a portion of the recoil stroke.

7.2. In 1885, Von Mannlicher (Austrian) produced a short recoil rifle which could be fired either as semi- or full automatic. This rifle had the pivoted accelerator for speeding up breech block travel after the unlocking motion. Browning Machine Gun was also based on this system, perhaps, due to the fact that Browning did much of his design work in Belgium where Von Mannlicher’s efforts were carefully followed.

7.3. John M. Browing developed automatic rifle in the same period as Hiram Maxim. He utilized gas instead of recoil to operate a lever-action. It is known as muzzle cap design and
does not have gas hole in the barrel. Variations of this were tried at various times but the mechanical complications of the system offset its advantages.

7.4. Mauser produced a semi-automatic rifle in 1898 which had short-recoil and a box magazine. Later, in 1902 Mauser developed a long-recoil rifle.

7.5. In Russia a gas operated semi-automatic rifle developed by Simonov was issued in 1936. It had considerable effectiveness and was tried out in Spanish Civil War.

7.6. In Czechoslovakia, the Holek Rifle, known as ZH-29 was developed around 1936. It was a tilting breech block design on the gas piston system. It was a well manufactured rifle
but could not get popularity due to detailed hand-work.


Gays’ Memoires Pour L’Artillerie published in 1548 indicate that the short form of shoulder-fired gun acquired it’s name from the fact that it was extensively used in Spain by cavalry groups then called “Carabins”. It is also believed that the name carbine has been derived from the Arabic word “Karab” meaning a weapon. In the past the Carbine has been
a form of the rifle, having shorter barrel and modified stock. However, in Italy short rifles with 9 mm parabellum and in Spain with 9 mm Bayard or Parabellum ammunition were used. In United States, U.S. Carbine M1 was a light and short-rifled weapon having .30 Calibre, but it should not be mixed with U.S. Rifle .30 M1 because the Carbine had shorter, lighter and much less powerful cartridge. Britain lately changed their terminology of “Carbine” to designate as “submachine gun” in accordance with United States practice.


Among original designers of automatic weapons, especially, machine guns, three names are well-known; Dr.Richard Jordan Gatling, Hirem Maxim and John Moses Browning. Gatling Gun was the first successful mechanical operation machine gun produced in 1862. Maxim developed first machine gun in 1883. It was the first recoil-operated machine gun. Browning designed the first successful gas-operated machine gun. His “Browning Automatic Rifle” and water-cooled heavy Browning .30 Caliber machine gun were extensively used in World War-I. Early models of machine gun were generally treated as light artillery pieces. There was, therefore, no call in the early days for reduction in the weight. The early success
of the light machine gun largely stemmed from the Lewis, which was introduced to Europe by Colonel Isaac Lewis of the U. S. Army in 1913. The Lewis Gun could be carried and operated by one man. Some-how or other U.S Army chose unsuccessful French designs which influenced their thinking for the next quarter of the century. Then U. S. Authorities took up BAR which was replaced by the M-60 in the early 1950s. European countries, on the other hand, developed many designs of light machine guns which ultimately were replaced by a general purpose machine gun (GPMG).

9.1. The Skoda Machine Gun

Skoda is the world’s famous Czechoslovakian centre of all type weapons development. It also has no superior as a metal centre. A weapons factory was built in 1859 by the count of Waldstein which was acquired by Monsieur de Skoda in 1869. In this factory production of the machine gun, introduced by the Grand Duke Karl Salvator in conjunction with Colonel Von Dormus of the Austrian Army, was started. This first Skoda Gun was a delayed blowback system and was officially adopted in Austria in 1893. In 1909 this gun was
redesigned and its hopper feed mechanism was replaced with a belt feed.

9.2. The British Machine Guns

In 1909 the Beardmore Farquhar was submitted to the Royal Air Force but was not adopted. The Birmingham Small Arms Company developed the B.S.A Machine Gun in 1924. It was basically designed for use against aircraft but could not be used due to very low rate of fire which it had due to long locking stroke. It was not produced in quantity.

9.3. The Czech. Machine Guns

The Besa Machine Gun was a Czech. design which stemmed from the 1937 gun of Vaclav Holek. This gun was chambered for the very efficient German 7.92 mm rimless cartridge. The Bren Gun was a Czech. ZB design. The British Government was licensed by ZB to manufacture in 1935.

9.4. The Danish Madsen Machine Gun

It was introduced in 1902 and has been widely used all over the world because of its reasonably good design and relatively low cost. It is the only “non-ramming” action used in machine guns.

9.5. The Hotchkiss Machine Gun

Hotchkiss company was a capable organization for development and manufacture of weapons even in 1885 but they had a hard way to go. In 1914, the French called upon the
Hotchkiss Organization to supply machine guns. By 1916 they were really pouring guns out which proved to be very reliable.

9.6. The German Rheinmetall-Borsig Machine Guns

Rheinmetall-Borsig A.G. were one of the largest munitions industries in Germany during World War-II. However, before the start of World War-I, it was second only to Krupp in the production of munitions. After the World War-I the plant was dismantled by order of the victors. However, the Germans managed to get some 23,000 tons of tools, dies, patents and drawings out of Germany. In 1929 they obtained control of the Waffen Fabrik Solotharn A.G. in Switzerland. This plant was originally a watch manufacturing concern. Within a few months of the time Rheinmetall took it over weapons began appearing. The plant was used as assembly point and parts were manufactured in Austria and Hungry. Schmeisser, who was one of the great developers of automatic weapons systems was affiliated with Rheinmetall. The first Solothurn gun was short recoil operated, air cooled and weighed about 8 Kg. Being simpler to manufacture, this gun pointed the way to the first low-priced, high-production,
dependable automatic weapon.

Continued on page 4e

One thought on “4d.Automatic Rifle and Machine Gun

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s