Maxim gun

The Maxim gun, which was invented by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim in 1883, was the first recoil-operated machine gun. It has been called "the weapon most associated with British imperial conquest".

Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1886
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
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Germany View
Iran (Persia) View
Italy View
Japan View
Korea View
North Korea View
Philippines View
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Russia (USSR) View
Russia (USSR) View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1886 1959 View
Yugoslavia (Serbia) View

Russo-Japanese War

In 1895, the Imperial Japanese Army purchased a number of Maxims but later decided to standardize on the Hotchkiss machine gun. The Imperial Russian Army likewise purchased 58 Maxim machine guns in 1899, and contacted with Vickers in 1902 to manufacture the design in Russia, although manufacturing did not start until 1910. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1906, the Russian Army employed the Maxim in combat, and placed a rush order for another 450 units from overseas suppliers, which were mostly delivered to front-line troops before the end of the war. 

World War I (1914–1918)

By World War I, many armies had moved on to improved machine guns. The British Vickers machine gun was an improved and redesigned Maxim, introduced into the British Army in 1912 and remaining in service until 1968. Production took place at Erith in Kent and some models were fitted to early biplanes also fabricated there. The German Army's Maschinengewehr 08 and the Russian Pulemyot Maxim were both more or less direct copies of the Maxim.

It also saw use during the Russian Civil War, which followed the Revolution in 1917. A picture of the period depicts a Maxim gun mounted on a tachanka, a horse-drawn carriage, along with the gunner, firing backwards at a pursuing White Army regiment. Anarchists attribute this mobile setup to Nestor Makhno. Some socialist realist propaganda art features Vladimir Lenin manning the gun himself, but it is very unlikely that he ever did so.

American use

The American Army had shown interest in the Maxim machine gun since 1887. Model 1889 and Model 1900 Maxims were used for testing, which lasted for years but not continuously. The gun was finally adopted in 1904 as the Maxim Machine Gun, Caliber .30, Model of 1904 as the first rifle caliber heavy machine gun for standard service in the U.S. Army. The first 50 guns and tripods were made by Vickers, Sons & Maxim in the U.K. chambered for .30-03. Colt's Manufacturing Company was selected to produce it domestically, but challenges with schematics and specifications delayed its introduction. By the time Colt began production in 1908 (which was also the last year orders were placed for the guns), a total of 90 M1904s were made by Vickers. Colt made their machine guns for the new .30-06 caliber, and the ones made by Vickers were re-chambered for the new round. A total of 287 M1904 Maxims were manufactured. The U.S. procured other machine guns after M1904 production ended, including the M1909 Benét–Mercié, the Colt–Vickers M1905, and the Browning M1917. M1904 Maxims were issued to infantry companies and cavalry. Each company had four guns with associated tripods, ammunition, and 20 mules to transport the heavy guns. The M1904 was deployed in operations in the Philippines, Hawaii, Mexico, and Central and South America, but never saw much combat use. During World War I, it remained in the U.S. for training.

Type Heavy Machine Gun
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1886–1959
Used by British Empire
United States
German Empire
French Third Republic
Russian Empire
Qing Dynasty
Empire of Japan
Korean Empire
Ottoman Empire
Kingdom of Italy
First Philippine Republic
Dervish State
Kingdom of Serbia
Republic of China
Soviet China
Nazi Germany
Vichy France
North Korea
Albanian Kingdom
Wars Mahdist War
Dervish Resistance
First Sino-Japanese War
Second Boer War
Boxer Rebellion
Russo-Japanese War
Philippine Revolution
Finnish Civil War
Balkan Wars
World War I
Russian Civil War
Polish–Soviet War
Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II
Chinese Civil War
Korean War
Production history
Designer Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim
Variants Vickers machine gun
PM M1910
Weight 27.2 kg (60 lb)
Length 107.9 cm (42.5 in)
Barrel length 67.3 cm (26.5 in)
Crew 4
Cartridge .303 British
Action Recoil-operated
Rate of fire 500 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 744 m/s
Feed system 250-round canvas belt
Sights Iron sights

End notes