From the Vault: Early Belt-Fed Machine Guns
Brownells Gun Tech™ Keith Ford is in heaven.... well, as close as you can get while still having a pulse! He's at Rock Island Auction Company surrounded by early 20th century belt-fed machine guns, all of them designed by that American firearm genius, John Moses Browning. The Colt-Browning M1895 "Potato Digger" was the first successful gas-operated machine gun, and the first machine gun adopted by the U.S. military. Production was limited, so only small numbers of these served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I. Early M1895s were chambered in .30-40 Krag and 6mm Lee Navy; the Rock Island gun is a later example chambered in .30-06. Keith explains how the Potato Digger's gas system works (essentially a lever action machine gun!) and its tendency to overheat. Next, a Browning M1917 water-cooled machine gun; in an early demo for the military, an M1917 fired 23,000 rounds continuously without a stoppage! A few thousand M1917s saw service in WWI. The air-cooled M1919 dispenses with the water jacket and is much lighter and easier to tote around. The M1917 served until the Korean War, while the M1919 was a mainstay in WWII and made it to the early stages of the Vietnam Conflict before being supplanted by the M60.
WARNING: Never attempt to disassemble or reassemble a firearm unless you are absolutely certain that it is empty and unloaded. Visually inspect the chamber, the magazine and firing mechanism to be absolutely certain that no ammunition remains in the firearm. Disassembly and reassembly should follow the manufacturer’s instructions.