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Remembered Today:

Musketeen automatic rifle


RammyLad1
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Whilst reading the accounts of the 62nd Division's participation in the battle of Bullecourt ( kindly supplied by forum member Havrincourt),it mentions that the German army used Musketeen automatic rifles.

Can anyone provide any details on what these rifles were or any photos of them?

Duncan.

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'Muskete' (plural 'Musketen') is the German generic term for automatic rifles of the period. I will leave it to the subject experts to say more, but Madsens were certainly used by some Musketen companies.

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'Muskete' (plural 'Musketen') is the German generic term for automatic rifles of the period. I will leave it to the subject experts to say more, but Madsens were certainly used by some Musketen companies.

And passed on to Alpine units who valued the lightness and imperviousness to cold temperature. Some authorities class the Madsen as an automatic rifle not an LMG Other automatic rifles of the period were

  • The Mondragón, a Mexican design being manufactured in Europe to avoid American displeasure at Mexico acquiring such weapons, in 1914 Germany diverted these to its own forces but they proved susceptible to the wet and dirt of the trenches. An air version was relatively popular in the early war years
  • The Chauchat a French weapon sometimes referred to as one of the worst ever made (there are some, but not me, who would dispute this). Made by cycle manufacturers whose adherence to tolerances seems to have been shaky, the magazine design encouraged the ingestion of dirt which did wonders for its performance. Numbers were captured by the Germans and used by special units. It appears that if you took an number, broke them down and reassembled a smaller number with the best manufactured parts, kept it away from mud and wet and hand picked the rounds when loading the magazine it wasn't bad.
  • The Light Lewis - not to be confused with the ordinary Lewis gun sometime confusingly referred to as a light Lewis - this had a perforated metal casing instead of the bulkier (and heavier) aluminium radiator on the normal Lewis. Trials showed it superior to the Chauchat and the BAR (see below) but very few made and AFAIK none fell into German hands
  • The Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) only released to American forces just before the end of the war. Post war Clyde Barrow's favourite weapon (Bonny and Clyde). Dillinger also took a shine to it. Used in many theatres in WW2

The Madsen, the Chauchat and the Mondragon all needed clean conditions and TLC which were not in plentiful supply in the trenches.

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The Madsen automatic rifle/ Light Machine Gun that the Germans used in their Musketeen units had been captured from the Russians at the start of the war and re-barrelled to German 7.92 x 57mm calibre.

Britain ordered Madsens in 1914 for both Land and Air service but it proved impossible to deliver them from Copenhagen, so they stayed there until the end of the war. There were various plans to manufacture them in the UK (by Rolls Royce) but these all fell through. The Madsen was at one time the preferred choice as a tank machine gun had we been able to actually get hold of any.

Eventually at the end of the war the "British" Madsen guns were delivered to Estonia along with other British military aid.

Pictures attached.

Regards

TonyE

PS I will stand and say that the French 8mm Chauchat was not nearly as bad as some would paint it. It was only when the attempt was made to build it in .30-06 calibre for the Americans that a truly dreadful gun resulted!

post-8515-0-94810300-1305842036.jpg

post-8515-0-06028900-1305842068.jpg

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The Madsen automatic rifle/ Light Machine Gun that the Germans used in their Musketeen units had been captured from the Russians at the start of the war and re-barrelled to German 7.92 x 57mm calibre.

Not all Madsens in German hands came directly from Russian captures. A ship load intended to be clandestinely shipped to the Allies ended up in German hands due to some skulduggery by German naval intelligence

The argument about the Chauchat has been done in other threads so I'll merely content myself with pointing at the failure of the French advance on the Aisne April 1917 where all gains were lost due to the failure of the Chauchat to stem German counter attacks.

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Regards

TonyE

PS I will stand and say that the French 8mm Chauchat was not nearly as bad as some would paint it. It was only when the attempt was made to build it in .30-06 calibre for the Americans that a truly dreadful gun resulted!

It must have took them ages to charge the batteries on them mobile phones they're carrying.

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Whilst reading the accounts of the 62nd Division's participation in the battle of Bullecourt ( kindly supplied by forum member Havrincourt),it mentions that the German army used Musketeen automatic rifles.

Can anyone provide any details on what these rifles were or any photos of them?

The two Musketen-Bataillone were issued the Danish Madsen. Here's a photo of Musketen-Schützen loading a Madsen with five-round clips. Seems time consuming, but maybe they felt the 25- to 40-round magazines were too cumbersome.

post-7020-0-08783400-1305846360.jpg

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Tom and Tony, Thanks for putting the photos up.

Duncan

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The Musketen units definitely served on the Somme. This thread relates to the fighting around Bullecourt. Duncan, I presume this relates to the 1917 fighting? Does anyone know if any of the Musketen units were involved there?

Robert

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Hi Robert,

Yes its for the 3rd may 1917, the information Havrincourt sent me was the 62nd Divisions history concerning the battle of Bullecourt,Having re read this it does mention in footnotes automatic rifles used by the Musketeen battalion.

Duncan

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The two Musketen-Bataillone were issued the Danish Madsen. Here's a photo of Musketen-Schützen loading a Madsen with five-round clips. Seems time consuming, but maybe they felt the 25- to 40-round magazines were too cumbersome.

Or heavy. Lightness was one of the attractions of the weapon. However as with some of the other automatic rifles the Madsen didn't have the weight of fire to stop sustained rushes of men (as well as being prone to failure in rough conditions and jamming in a sustained fire situation if the ammo and its feed was less than perfect) and as the Musketen-Bataillone were tasked as break through pluggers this was something of a draw back. Lightness was even more important to the Alpine troops in Northern Italy who, given the nature of the terrain on which they fought, were less likely to face waves of attackers hence the transfer of the guns to them. I wonder if the use of clips rather than the magazine had anything to do with the jamming problem.

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Yes its for the 3rd may 1917
Thanks Duncan. Do you have any information on the impact of the automatic rifle fire on the men of 62nd Division please? I don't have access to my books at present.

Robert

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Couple things that need to be pointed out here about the Madsen LMGs. These comments are from experience with Madsen LMGs that I have owned or still possess and are live LMGs.

The first is that the Madsen company had a policy that required every contract Madsen to have magazines spcifically fitted and designed to be used in that specific contract gun. This was to force purchasers to return to Madsen to acquire more magaziines rather than find them on a secondary market or from some source that did not contribute to Madsen's bottom line. Very few Madsen LMgs will use a magazine from a different contract even if in the same caliber.

If the Madsen LMGs acquired from Russian were orignally in 7.62X54R, which the Russian contract guns were, then there is no practical way to convert them to 7.92. The magazine well of a 7.92 Madsen is longer than that of a 7.62 caliber gun, and of course, a 7.62 caliber Madsen will have a magwell that will not accomodate the magazine for a 7.92 round.

Consequently, a Madsen manufactured for the 7.62X54 round, which has a very different length and case shape compared to a standard 8X57 round, will never be able to fire a 7.92 without completely remanufacturing the receiver. That would not have been likely.

I have had a number of Madsen LMGs and changing calibers can only be done if the correct magazine will fit and also feed the different caliber. A .30-06 Magazine will hand any round shorter that is a standard "mauser" shape. A 7mm will hande any round shorter with a "Mauser" shape. An 8mm Danish magazine will not fit and feed any other caliber that I have had access to, even the 54R. The magazine is a very narrow single feed device not readily adaptable to a wider rim or other odd shaped cartridges, especially if the curve of a stack of rounds is a different curve than for which the magazine was designed.

The two soldiers feeding their Madsen by hand are dropping single rounds into the magwell. There is no way a stripper of rounds will operate in a Madsen LMG as there is no provision to hold the stripper. Madsens are not select-fire so are fullatuo only. Since no semi-auto firing is possible, it is possible that these soldiers are creating semi fire for practice of some sort by dropping single rounds into the gun as needed. As the gun is fired, the bolt will return to battery wihtut a round to fire and then another round can be droppe dinto the magwell, the gun cocked and fired. when cocked with a round in the feedway a coouple more rounds can be laid on top of the feed shuttle which will create a two or three round burst.

The Madsen fires from an open bolt, meaning that the bolt is held back by the sear and released to fire when the bolt goes into battery. Feed occurs as the bolt is released from the sear. When the bolt is held back by the sear, the feedway is blocked by the feed mechanism. When the bolt is in full battery on firing the feed mechansim is open allowing another round to enter the feed shuttle. Rounds can be dropped into the magwell and some auto fire achieved if the loader is able to keep the round faling into the magwell at an appropriate rate. Not exactly the most efficient way use the LMG!

Bob Naess

Cavendish, VT

USA

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The two soldiers feeding their Madsen by hand are dropping single rounds into the magwell. There is no way a stripper of rounds will operate in a Madsen LMG as there is no provision to hold the stripper.

On closer inspection, you're exactly right.

post-7020-0-08089900-1305923777.jpg

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Couple things that need to be pointed out here about the Madsen LMGs

...

Rounds can be dropped into the magwell and some auto fire achieved if the loader is able to keep the round faling into the magwell at an appropriate rate. Not exactly the most efficient way use the LMG!

Bob Naess

Cavendish, VT

USA

Thanks very much for the informed description. As you say, a very inefficent way to use the gun. Any idea why they chose to use this method? A sporadic fire of bursts of three does not seem worth the effort. The two men armed with standard rifles could lay down heavier fire.

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Do you have any information on the impact of the automatic rifle fire on the men of 62nd Division please?

According to Hermann Cron (Imperial German Army 1914-18: Organisation, Structure, Orders of Battle, p. 120), the Madsens of the Musketen-Bataillone had been replaced with MG08 heavy machine guns by the spring of 1917.

That's not precise enough to determine if the 62nd Division was subjected to automatic rifles or heavy machine guns.

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According to Hermann Cron (Imperial German Army 1914-18: Organisation, Structure, Orders of Battle, p. 120), the Madsens of the Musketen-Bataillone had been replaced with MG08 heavy machine guns by the spring of 1917.

LeMG08/15 to be more precise and probably some time in 1916

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LeMG08/15 to be more precise and probably some time in 1916

Well, my sources say that the Musketen-Bataillone were transformed into Machine Gun Marksman Detachments (Maschinengewehr-Scharfschützen-Abteilungen), which were battalion-sized units armed with MG08 heavy machine guns. There were no light machine-gun battalions.

The 111 autonomous Light Machine Gun Detachments were established July 25, 1916, with infantrymen from the Döberitz Machine Gun School. They were initially armed with the Bergmann lMG15. The lMG08/15 didn't become readily available until early 1917, when it replaced the Bergmann; the Light Machine Gun Detachments were dissolved in June of 1917, after the War Ministry officially established a light machine-gun detachment in each infantry and Jäger company.

According to Cron, "the designation [Musketen-Bataillone] 1 and 2 persisted with great stubbornness, even when the battalions had long since [given up] automatic rifles."

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The 62nd Divisions history states ( about the Musketeen btn ) organization of the battalion was,three companies,each of three platoons.Strength per company four officers,fifteen NCO's and ninety men with thirty automatic rifles.Given that this action was known as the blood tub either the automatic rifles were very efficient or replaced with machine guns.Would I be correct in assuming that it took the same amount of men to operate a machinegun as an automatic rifle.

Duncan

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The 62nd Divisions history states ( about the Musketeen btn ) organization of the battalion was,three companies,each of three platoons.Strength per company four officers,fifteen NCO's and ninety men with thirty automatic rifles.Given that this action was known as the blood tub either the automatic rifles were very efficient or replaced with machine guns.Would I be correct in assuming that it took the same amount of men to operate a machinegun as an automatic rifle.

Each Madsen was operated by a squad of four. Each MG08 and lMG08/15s was officially operated by a squad of eight, but it would appear that four or five was much more common.

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Well, my sources say that the Musketen-Bataillone were transformed into Machine Gun Marksman Detachments (Maschinengewehr-Scharfschützen-Abteilungen), which were battalion-sized units armed with MG08 heavy machine guns. There were no light machine-gun battalions.

A number of specialist books on machine guns state that the leMG08/15 were used when when the Madsens were transferred to the Gebirgsjäger-Maschinengewehr-Abteilungen about Sept 1916. The leMG08/15 entered production around April/May 1916 and approximately 1,500 had been made by the end of the year. Whilst the big issues of this weapon were in 1917 small numbers were issued to specialist units from June 1916 onwards and some used at the Somme. If the Musketen-Bataillone were still acting as highly mobile breakthrough pluggers at this time (as I think they were) it would make sense for them to replace the Madsen with the light Maxim rather than the heavy Maxim and replace these in turn with the heavier gun (with the more stable mount) when they became Maschinengewehr-Scharfschützen-Abteilungen

The Madsen was first used by the German army in Champagne in Sept 1915. Interestingly the Gebirgsjäger were using the Madsen in Norway in 1940.

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Interesting discussion about the use of the Madsen versus the 08/15 for mobile fire. If one was to try to make sense of the field use of these two weapons, a comparison of the virtues of each would be in order. observatiokns below are from personal extensive experience with handling and firing of the weapons discussed.

The Madsen is aircooled, magazine fed, usually with 25, 30 or 40 round magazines of which at least five or more could be carried per case by the soldier. Excellent reliability, although rimmed cartridges presented the same problem with some unreliable function as occured with later LMGs in that caliber. Length and weight are comparable to later LMGs. Bipod is fixed to muzzle on the shroud, folds, easily deployed and function is very good to excellent. Accuracy is excellent. Madsen can be fielded by one soldier and would not necesssarily require a second for support, although support with more cases of magaiknes would mnprove volume of fire.

The Maxim 08/15 is watercooled, belt fed from 100 round belts and in static positions, a 250 round belt. Drums were employed with 100 round belts, and two of these loaded drums could be carried in a wooden case for support, but not by the gunner. with more gunner support soldiers, more cases of drums could be carried along with the LMG. Belts wound into the drums were not reliable and were prone to stopping feed for a variety of reasons. Fabric belts were difficult top use when wet, and time consuming to load.

Weight and length of gun are not comparable to later LMGs, makng the 08/15 quite clumsy and unweildy in use. Bipod is fixed in center of gun, does not fold, and is poor to fair for ease of use. Accuracy is adequate.

The ease of portability of the Madsen far exceeds that of the 08/15. Magazines in small should carriers are far more efficient than the wooden case with two 100 round loaded drums. Replacment of a magzine during firing in the Madsen is far quicker and more efficient than the replacement of the 100 round drum in the 08/15 under similar circumstances. Replacemnt of water in the 08/15 jacket clearly is inefficient, although the guns can sustain fire for a long time without water in the jacket, but accuracy deteriorates as the rifliling and throat deteriorate rapidly as heat increases.

Unless the drum is used with the 08/15, portability and use is severly hampered by the trailing empty belt on the off side with the loaded belt on the feed side also needing to be secured, which is not easy to do quickly and safely without losing rounds from the belt and tangling the belt. Removal of the belt from the 08/15 action is actually the only secure way to make it portable, but then it must be reloaded which is not efficient.

The length and weight of the 08/15 would be OK in open ground, but hell to pay in brush, wooded areas, enclosed areas in building, especially with a loose belt dragging on either side of the gun, etc.

The bipod on the 08/15 is very poor, does not fold, traverse is crude and the bottom center monuting also affects accuracy. folding bipod on the Madsen at the muzzle is excellent for quick deployment and for stable accurate prone firing. Madsen can be shoulder fired as well with good accuracy.

Much more can be said about the comparison between these two LMGs, but there can be no debate about the supremacy of the Madsen as a portable fullauto weapon. the Maxim is almost a non-starter in this regard except in very special cirsumstances where its faults owuld not compromise its use.

Personally, I cannot understand how the 08/15 would be chosen over the Madsen if efficiency and reliabilty were foremost, but the history of the acquisition and use of automatic weapons in WWI shows that all sorts of other consideratiions affected choices, often resulting in a far inferior weapons being issued and fielded.

Hope this is of interest.

Bob Naess

Cavendish, VT

USA

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...it does mention in footnotes automatic rifles used by the Musketeen battalion.
Duncan, thanks for the notes. The 1st Musketeen (sic) Battalion is described as being attached to the German 27th Infantry Division. The footnotes are describing the Madsen, despite the reference to 'Swedish':

"The automatic rifle used by the Musketeen (sic) Battalion was a Swedish model, 18 lbw. in weight, sighted up to 2,000 yards, having an arc of traverse of at least 90°. It was fed by magazines containing twenty-five rounds of 'K' ammunition. The rifle was fired from the shoulder, and was supported by two adjustable legs attached by a swivel to the barrel. It could be brought into action as quickly as a rifle, and for this reason was chiefly placed in the front line."

Robert

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Personally, I cannot understand how the 08/15 would be chosen over the Madsen if efficiency and reliabilty were foremost, but the history of the acquisition and use of automatic weapons in WWI shows that all sorts of other consideratiions affected choices, often resulting in a far inferior weapons being issued and fielded.

The Madsen was trialed by the German army pre 1914 and rejected, as was also the case with the US army. It was acquired in WW1 as spoils of war in the form of captured Russian cavalry guns and a diverted shipment from Denmark to the Allies. It was selected for the Musketen-Bataillone "simply because it was there". Issues with the gun were

  • It was not rugged enough, a problem the Russians complained of from operational experience (mind you they thought the Lewis wasn't rugged enough).
  • The mechanism was complex and difficult to maintain in trench warfare conditions
  • It suffered from dirt and damp
  • Sustained fire was limited by a] overheating b] magazine capacity c] a tendency to jam due to cartridges being slightly distorted causing feeding jams.

Whilst the type was used by more armies than any other similar gun it never became an operational frontline weapon used by the generality of troops. It was always a special units/special forces weapon. Reasons for this are obvious - such units rarely need sustained fire (actions tend to be short and sharp), between operations the guns can usually be kept in clean and dry conditions and maintained with TLC, portability, ammunition can be selected pre mission with great care, lightness and the ability to fire short but high cyclical rate bursts are very important.

The Gebirgsjäger in North Italy would find them suitable because of

  • The extreme portability
  • Operational conditions that rarely called for sustained fire
  • Air cooling so that freezing of cooling jackets not a problem
  • Cold temperature operational conditions so overheating less of a problem
  • They were operating alongside KuK alpine troops also equipped with the Madsen

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centurion writes:

(My comments below are certainly not directed at 'centurion', but are my own observations about the history that he notes)

>It was not rugged enough, a problem the Russians complained of from operational experience (mind you they thought the Lewis wasn't rugged enough).<

From the Russians, this makes sense as the Russian soldier can reduce any weapon into small pieces! I am a great fan of Russian MGs, own examples of all vintage issue Russian machine weapons, with a couple exceptions, and find them to be the most "practical" of all MGs, in every sense of the word. In any case, appears to me that no MG was rugged enough for post 1900 warfare........

>The mechanism was complex and difficult to maintain in trench warfar conditions.<

And others were not? Which MG was exempt form this?

>It suffered from dirt and damp.<

Yikes! And of course no other MGs did, right? This is laughable.....

>Sustained fire was limited by a] overheating b] magazine capacity c] a tendency to jam due to cartridges being slightly distorted causing feeding jams.<

Mostly from the lack of understanding of the role of an LMG and its potential, and it is not a sustained fire weapon, needless to say. Took the services long enought to figure out the role of the MMGs and HMGs, so it isn't surprising that LMGs suffered the same fate. the Madsens served a variety of functions for many, many types of military and police services, and actually continue in service today in the hands of the Argentine police!

Ammo uniformity and reliability was an issue in those days as well, so that's nothing new.

Availability would clearly restrict the use of these LMGs which is unfortunate as the above objections, or reasons for rejection are hardly very convincing. As for the lack of adoption by the US, the dismal and obstructive history of the adoption of the Lewis is illuminating, and it is very clear from the problems that Lewis had convincing Crozier that this gun was useful, serviceable and needed by the US forces, that reason for rejecting an MG can have nothng to do with its virtues, faults and other issues relevant to the harware and its employment. The US officials were certainly not alone in this sort of prejudiced judgement and personal agenda.

Having had many years of experience with live firing and maintainance of many vintage MGs, although not in dreadful combat conditions, but within the comfort and safety of the range, I have found that some of the written history on MGs is quite fanciful, incorrect and sometimes irrational, and often written by people who had no actual hands-on experience with the guns, and can be reporting second, third and fourth hand information. Add in the politics, the personal agendas, whether for achievement, recognition or grudge, influence on writers by others who mght have financial or career leverage of some sort, and the "facts" in some written histories take on a life of their own.

Anyway, this thread is quite interesting and I can only offer my personal experiences with handling, firing, maintaining and repairing vintage MGs, so that is the perspective from which I evaluate the written history of the use of MGs as I learn it and read the discussions on this site and others.

Bob Naess

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