machine gun

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machine gun:

see small armssmall arms,
firearms designed primarily to be carried and fired by one person and, generally, held in the hands, as distinguished from heavy arms, or artillery. Early Small Arms

The first small arms came into general use at the end of the 14th cent.
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Machine Gun

 

an automatic firearm, designed to hit ground, air, and naval targets with bullets.

Machine guns have been adopted by motorized rifle (infantry or motorized infantry), antiaircraft machine gun, and other subunits, as well as tanks and other combat vehicles and airplanes, including helicopters. Depending on design and combat designation, machine guns are classified as light, heavy, and general-purpose. Those used to fire at aerial targets are called antiaircraft machine guns, and the machine guns with which airplanes and helicopters are armed are called aircraft machine guns. There are several variations, such as wing-mounted, synchronized, and turret machine guns. Machine guns mounted on tanks are called tank machine guns. They may be coaxial, antiaircraft, bow, or turret-mounted. Machine guns are divided into main-caliber guns (6.5–8.0 mm) and large-caliber guns (12.7–15 mm).

In most machine guns, automatic action is provided by the energy of escaping powder gases, although some use the energy of the recoil of the barrel. The basic parts and mechanisms of a machine gun usually include the barrel, receiver, breechblock, trigger mechanism, return spring (mechanism), sight, and magazine (ammunition tray). Light and general-purpose machine guns also have stocks, usually with a handle, and a bipod. Heavy and large-caliber guns also have stands. Ammunition is fed to the gun from a belt or magazine. Fire is usually waged by long bursts; fire from light machine guns may be by short bursts and, from some machine guns, by single shots. The performance characteristics of machine guns are given in Table 1.

The first machine gun was invented by H. S. Maxim, in 1883, and machine guns were first used in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902. Improved by Russian gunsmiths, the Maxim machine gun was adopted by the Russian Army and used in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05. In the early 20th century the infantry of several armies adopted light machine guns, including the Danish model of Madsen in 1902 and the French machine gun of Chauchat in 1907, in addition to heavy machine guns. Light machine guns were also first used in the Russo-Japanese War; at the time they were called rifle-machine guns. During World War I heavy and light machine guns were used extensively in all armies.

Table 1. Performance characteristics of machine guns
Name and year of adoptionWeight (kg1Sighting range(m)Bullet weight(g)Muzzle velocity (m/sec)Rate of fire(rounds/min)Capacity of magazine or belt
1General-purpose machine guns: bipod/with a mount box-type magazine 2 Capacity of magazine/capacity of belt 3 Capacity of drum-type magazine/capacity of box-type magazine
General-purpose      
Kalashnikov 7.62 mm (Soviet) .............9/16.71,5009.6825650250/1002
M-60 7.62 mm (1956, American) ......10.4/19.41,1009.3840600250
L7A1 7.62 mm (1961, British) .........10.2/28.41,8009.3843750100
Light      
Degtiarev 7.62 mm (Soviet) .............10.41,5009.684060047
Kalashnikov 7.62 mm (Soviet) .............5.61,0007.974560075/403
M 1919 7.62 mm Browning (1943, American) ......16.251,8309.85853150250
Heavy      
SG-437.62mm (Soviet) ............40.42,0009.6865700250
MK-1 Vickers 7.69 mm (1919, British) .........40.82,80011.3750250250
Large-caliber      
DShK12.7mm (Soviet) ............1573,5005285060050
KPVT 14.5 mm Tank (Soviet) ............52.52,0006494560050
M2HB12.7mm (1937, American) ......581,83046.2895600110

The heavy machine gun was operated by a squad, or crew, of six to eight soldiers. For movement it was broken down into several parts and carried by three or four soldiers. During the war, tanks and airplanes were armed with machine guns. The German Army adopted the 1918-model large-caliber (13.35 mm) machine gun. After the war, large-caliber machine guns were adopted in other armies, including the 8-mm Hotchkiss in the French Army, the 12.7-mm Vickers in the British Army, and the 12.7-mm Browning in the US Army. Large-scale adoption of machine guns led to changes in tactics and in troop organization. Many armies formed machine gun squads within platoons, machine gun platoons within rifle companies, and machine gun companies within battalions.

The Soviet Army adopted the V. A. Degtiarev light machine gun (called the DP) and the large-caliber machine gun of Degtiarev and G. S. Shpagin (called the DShK). In World War II all warring armies had sophisticated machine guns. The Soviet Army used a modernized version of the DP, which was called the DPM, and adopted the 1943 heavy machine gun designed by P. M. Goriunov, called the SG-43. The mount for the machine gun was developed by Degtiarev and permitted fire against both ground and aerial targets. After the war, the Soviet armed forces adopted the 1946 company machine gun (a variation of the light machine gun) designed by Degtiarev, the Degtiarev light machine gun, and the Kalashnikov light machine gun.

In the armed forces of most countries, light and heavy machine guns have been replaced by general-purpose machine guns, which are a lighter variation of the heavy machine gun. General-purpose machine guns provide greater maneuverability on the field of battle and may be used in both the hand-held (with a bipod) and mounted (on a tripod) variations. Mounted machine guns may have light (about 10–15 kg) or stable mounts.

G. M. SHINKAREV

machine gun

[mə′shēn ‚gən]
(ordnance)
A weapon that automatically fires small-arms ammunition, caliber .60 or 15.24 millimeters or under, and is capable of sustained rapid fire.
To riddle a target with machine gun fire.