The first mass-produced and then deployed light machine gun was not built by a Briton, German or American, but by a Danish engineer and captain Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen (1844-1917) in 1890. The weapon was then purchased by 34 armies in 13 modifications with cartridges in calibers from 6.5 to 8 mm. The successful weapon concept thus conquered, at least commercially, a large part of the world
The machine gun had a wooden stock, stabilizing bipod and barrel with perforated jacket. The manufacturer also supplied lightweight three-legged anti-aircraft bases. The heavy Madsen vz. 26 water-cooled machine gun was a curiosity and actually a blind developmental branch, but it was rather a failure with the soldiers.
But let’s go back to its lightweight variant, which despite the considerable number of parts used and thus more difficult cleaning was one of the popular, relatively light and reliable weapons. The automatic firing function worked on the principle of a short backward movement of the barrel, transmitted by a rod to the swinging bolt (Martini-Henry principle).
The design hit the bull’s-eye
The Madsens were marketed in a variety of designs until 1955. In addition to the infantry variants, the company also produced tank, aviation and anti-aircraft modifications, including a large-calibre machine gun in 11.35 mm calibre. The prototype was officially tested on 3 September 1903 in the USA at the Springfield Armory in Massachusetts.
Length 1 143 mm
Calibre to suit customer’s requirements
Weight 9,07 kg
Initial muzzle velocity 715-762 m/s
Sight adjustable up to 2,000 m
Theoretical rate of fire. 500 shots/min
Rate of fire practically.
Magazine capacity 20-50, according to customer’s request
The actual firing was conducted by Lieutenant Theodor Schouboe, a member of the Danish army and a representative of Dansk Rekylriffel Syndikat, who personally fired 7,163 rounds without the need to lubricate the ammunition and, above all, without a single jam! The first foreign buyer of the weapon was Imperial Russia, where 1,250 7.62 mm Mosin machine guns were sent in 1904.
When the Tsar’s army eventually plunged into the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), it did not deploy its „light machine gun weight“ into battle until March 1905. At the Battle of Nam Chen, the operators of the six Madsen were able to fire as many as 39,000 rounds without a single malfunction, according to the testimony of war reporters, while repelling a Japanese attack. However, the effectiveness of the weapons was reduced by their static deployment exclusively in the defensive line – often in bunkers, for which heavy machine guns were more suited.
The weapons were subsequently exported to Mexico (from British licence production), Sweden and Norway. During World War I, proven machine guns also found their way into the hands of the French, Italians, Austrians and Germans.
The latter deployed 300 Madsen purchased in Denmark (7.92 mm Mauser calibre) to arm the battalions of the so-called „Musketenbattalion“, which were formed from August 1915 with a strength of 500 men and 30 machine guns. The units then proved to be extremely combat capable. It remains to add that the weapon was also purchased by interwar Czechoslovakia in 160 pieces.