Friday, August 26, 2011

M1895 Colt-Browning Machine Gun

  • Also known as: Rapid-Fire Machine Gun, Colt Automatic Gun, Potato Digger
  • Weight: 36 lbs (69 lbs w/ Tripod)
  • Barrel length: 28"
  • Overall Length: 41 3/8"
  • Cartridge Caliber: 6mm Lee Navy, .30-40 Krag, .30.06 Springfield, .303 British, 7.62x54mm
  • Range: 2000 yards
  • Operating system: Gas Operated Swing Lever
  • Feeding system: Belt Fed
  • Rate fire: 400-450 rounds per minute
  • Service: US Military 1895 - 1917

The M1895 Colt Machine Gun was the brainchild of legendary firearms designer John M. Browning. It would be one of the first true fully automatic guns ever invented and the first true machine gun to be adopted by the US Army and US Navy. It was referred to many service men as the Potato Digger due its unique operating system located underneath the weapon, known as the gas operated swinging lever, which resembled the farming equipment used as a potato digger. These early models would be gas operated, in that the gas energy from the blast of a spent cartridge would be used to operate a swinging lever located underneath the barrel. This swinging lever action would then load the next cartridge. The swinging lever design is very much similar to that of the lever action rifles of the time. This unique gas operating system should not be confused as a recoil operating system, which would be later used in the M1917 and later Colt Browning Machine Guns.

The Potato Digger would be used extensively during the Spanish-American War in Cuba and during the Philippine-American War(1899-1902) and the Philippine Campaign(1902-1914). The early models issued to the US military were chambered in 6mm Lee Navy.

Internal mechanics of the weapon.

Chief of Artillery Major Richard Young reports on the Malolos Campaign(March 1899). Listed are the field pieces used on the assault; including one Colt's automatic gun in caliber 6mm Lee Navy.

Model 1895 Colt-Browning Machine Gun with creator John Moses Browning.

Model 1895 Potato Digger featured in History Channels Mail Call:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Model 1877 Bulldog Gatling Gun

    Model 1877 Bulldog Gatling Gun used in Manila during the Philippine-American War (1899-1902).
  • Weight: 135 lbs(270 lbs w/ tripod)
  • Number of Barrels: 5-10
  • Barrel length: 18 1/4"
  • Overall Length: 34"
  • Cartridge Caliber: 45-70 Government
  • Range: +1000 yards
  • Rate fire: 1000 per minute
  • Cartridge magazine block: 40 rds
  • Service: US Military 1877 -

Similar to the 1895 Gatling Gun, the Model 1877 would be the improved and improvised version of the original model. The Bulldog model differed in many ways to the original design. The smaller compact size allowed the weapon to be much lighter, which allowed for easier deployment. The barrels, as well as the breech operating section, were fully encased in bronze for better heat dissipation. For loading, the Bruce Feed Device was developed and used. Rather than the use of spring loaded box magazines, cartridges were filed in to wood blocks or cartons and attached directly to the top of the gun. Once firing began, cartridges would feed in to the weapon by gravity alone. Later model gatling guns would also use the Bruce feed device. The crank system also differed, in that it was rear-mounted, rather than the original side mount. By being rear-mounted the barrel units were driven and revolved directly to the crank, versus the gearing system of the older side mounted design which reduced the turn ratio on the revolution of the barrel unit. This direct driven rear crank would allow for a much higher rate of fire.

These lighter gatling guns were also cheaper to produce and were initially to be assigned to Cavalry units. The US Army would purchase 17 Bulldogs, and later the US Navy would also purchase several of these mini gatling guns. A few examples would later make their way to the Philippines and be used during the Spanish-American War as well as the Philippine Campaigns(1899-1914).

Photo courtesy of
US Armament Corp currently produces working replicas of the M1877 Bulldog Gatling Gun.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

US Army Colt M1909 DA .45 Revolver

Barrel Length: 5½"
Action: Double Action
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Cartridge Caliber: .45 Long Colt (255 grain) Smokeless
Muzzle Velocity: 830 fps
Service: 1909–1913

Due to the slow going and drawn out Service Pistol Trials(1906-1910) by the Ordnance Board, the War Department would place an order with Colt for 6,000 revolvers in caliber .45 on December 17, 1908. These revolvers were to be an intermediate solution to the requests for more .45 pistols in the Philippine islands from the results of insufficient stopping power of the issued Colt .38 revolvers, as well as replacement to the dated and aged 1873 SAA Colt .45 revolvers that were put back in to service during the Philippine campaigns(1899-1913). These newer issued revolvers were adopted and issued as Model 1909[M1909] US Army .45 Revolvers. They would be marked with serial numbers 30001 to 49503; a grand total of 19,502 pistols. Springfield Armory would receive the other 350 remaining pistols. All-in-all 19,152 revolvers were received at the Manila Ordnance Depot[MOD] located in Intrumurous Manila, Philippines, and would be issued out to all service men through out the islands.

By the adoption of the M1911 auto pistol in March 1911, the Model 1909 .45 revolver would be retired.

Heal marked US Army Model 1909. Serial Number 38021.

Monday, July 25, 2011

1873 Maxim Nordenfelt Multi-Barrel Machine Gun

Original Maxim-Nordenfelt gun salvaged from the Spanish battle-cruiser Almirante Oquendo after the battle of Santiago Harbor during the Spanish-American War.

  • Barrel Length: 36"
  • Overall Length: 36"
  • Weight: 290 lbs
  • Dimensions: 26" Height, 16.5" Width, 52.4" Length
  • Effective Range: 400m
  • Number of barrels: 4 - 12
  • Action: Hand Cranked Gatling Gun Action
  • Mechanical Operation:
  • Caliber: 11mm and 25mm
  • Countries served: Austraila, Brazil, France, Spain, and England.
Not to be confused with the Maxim-Nordenfelt Mountain Gun(Single Barrel) or Maxim Machine Gun(Single Barrel). The Multi-Barrel Nordenfelt gun was engineered and designed by Helge Palmcrantz of Sweden. Palmcrantz would patent his invention in 1873. The machine gun would be produced by Thorsten Nordenfelt in England, with the gun taking upon the name of the manufacture rather then the designer. The Nordenfelt gun used 4 to 12 barrels and operated in similar fashion to the hand crank of the gatling gun. But rather in cylindrical fashion, the Nordenfelt barrels were aligned horizontally in-line.

The gun looked very promising at first, during trials it was capable of firing off 3,000 rounds in 3 minutes with zero stoppage and no failures. The Nordenfelt gun were later built and assembled in Spain. In 1888 Nordenfelt and Maxim merged to become Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company. Due to the Maxim machine guns, the Nordenfelt multi-barrel gun quickly became obsolete. However, the Nordenfelt Machine gun would still be produced and would also become known as the Maxim-Nordenfelt gun after the merger. The Spanish Navy as well as Spanish artillery units would use the Nordenfelt machine gun in the Philippines and during the Spanish-American War. Several examples of these "Maxim-Nordenfelt" machine guns were reported as captured by the US troops during the Span-Am War in Cuba and the Philippines. The Philippine forces as well would capture and/or receive these guns from the Spanish and used them during the Philippine American War(1899-1902). In the book "Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna", author Viencio Jose accounts the Maxim-Nordenfelt gun being used in the defense at the Battle for Malolos(March 29-31, 1899). These guns are now extremely rare, very few examples exist today.

Artillery captured from Philippines forces on display. 

Maxim-Nordenfelt machine gun found in the middle of display. Note the crudely made cart.