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.