A machine gun is a weapon that is capable of rapidly shooting more than one shot without reloading. The machine gun forever changed the battlefield. This deadly invention changed how wars were fought and it became a vital weapon for military superiority.

Impact of the Machine Gun

There have been numerous advancements in weaponry throughout modern history, but few weapons have had such a staggering impact on the battlefield as the machine gun. Giving a soldier hundreds of shots per minute creates armies that can be deadlier and easier to train. The quality of accuracy became somewhat replaced by overall quantity of shots, which led to a completely new kind of war.

The concept of multi-shot weaponry has been around since 3rd century B.C.E. China with their inception of the Zhuge Nu, otherwise known as the repeating crossbow. It wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that the first successful machine gun was designed. The Gatling gun was implemented in 1862 and is seen as the first successful rapid-fire gun, which required a soldier to use a hand-crank while firing weapon.

The first automatic machine gun that did not require a hand crank was invented in 1881 by Hiram Maxim. The Maxim gun improved upon the recoil, reloading, accuracy, and size issues of the Gatling gun and was adopted by numerous countries during conflicts, such as the Chaco War, Mahdist War, the Russian Civil War, and parts of World War I.

During World War I, more efficient and powerful machine guns were invented throughout the world that improved upon the Gatling and Maxim gun designs. In 1911, U.S. Army Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis invented the “Lewis gun”, which was mass produced in the United Kingdom and used during both World Wars. The Lewis gun fired around 500-600 rounds per minute and weighed about half the amount of prior used guns. During World War I, John T. Thompson came up with a groundbreaking invention which became known as the Thompson gun or the submachine gun. The submachine gun became an essential weapon during World War II as the ammunition was cheaper. Prior machine guns relied on costly rifle ammunition, while this new submachine gun used pistol ammunition. The submachine gun allowed for greater mobility and damage, at the cost of less range and accuracy.

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