Lewis Light Machine Gun
|Lewis LMG (Click to Enlarge)|
|Magazine Capacity||47 rounds|
|Cyclic Rate||550 rounds/minute|
|Country of Origin||Britain|
Developed by American Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis, the Lewis Light Machine Gun was the first light machine gun ever to be adopted in quantity during the time of war. The air-cooled Lewis gun had a cyclic rate of 550 rounds/minute and was fed by a distinctive horizontal drum magazine.
Developed in 1911, the Lewis Gun was adopted by the Belgian Army in 1913 and the British Army shortly after that. The Lewis Gun operated using combustion gases, which were bled off through a small port in the underside of the barrel, driving back a piston that operated the bolt.
Because of its relatively light weight and lower cost of manufacture, the Lewis gun supplanted the Vickers-Maxim as the primary machine gun of the British Army. Unlike the tripod mounted Vickers-Maxim, the Lewis Gun could be carried by one man, an important consideration in infantry warfare.
The lightweight, air-cooling, and self-contained feed of the Lewis also made it highly suitable for aircraft use. In fact, its first aerial in June 1912, in a write pusher-type biplane, constituted the first aerial use of any machine gun. Later, in August 1914, two innovative British airmen decided to take a Lewis Gun aloft with them without authorization. At an altitude of 5000 feet, they emptied a full drum magazine at a German plane. Although they missed their target, the stage was set for further development of the machine gun for aerial warfare.
The Lewis Gun is credited with defeating Germany’s attempted Zeppelin airship attacks on London. Firing incendiary-tipped bullets, the Lewis Guns were able to ignite the hydrogen-filled gas bags of the Zeppelins, causing them to explode in midair!
Although some U.S. Marine units were equipped with the Lewis Guns prior to landing in France during World War I, they were required to trade them in for French Chauchat Light Machine Guns. The performance of the Chauchat was so bad that more than half of them were abandoned on the battlefield.