MACHINEGUNS PART 1:

7,62 mm Maxim machineguns

 

 

7,62 mm Maxim m/1905 and m/1910 (M/09-09):

(Pulemyot Maxima obr. 1905 g.)

(Pylemyot Maxima obr. 1910 g.)

PICTURE: Maxim m/1905 with early version of Sokolov mount with its legs folded open. Notice also water jacket and other parts made from bronze or brass. On the background left Colt-Browning m/1895 and right Maxim MG-08. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (194 KB).

Maxim m/1905:

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

111 cm

Barrel length:

72 cm

Weight:

28,25 kg (weapon only)

Fire-rate:

500 - 600/minute

Ammunition belt:

250 rounds (fabric)

Mounts:

- Large wheeled m/1905 mount:

about 170 kg

- Sokolov mount:

around 36 kg - 45 kg (*), typically 43.5 kg with shield

Country of origin:

Russia

Finnish use: Small amount used in Finland. Used by both sides in Finnish Civil War of 1918. Typically m/1905 were in secondary use between wars. During World War 2 they were mostly issued to roles, which didn't demand much mobility (fortifications, anti-aircraft weapons etc).

Maxim m/1910:

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

111 cm

Barrel length:

72 cm

Weight:

about 24 kg (weapon only)

Fire-rate:

520 - 580/minute

Ammunition belts:

250 rounds (fabric), weight 1,1 kg empty

200 round continuous metallic belt (most)

Mounts:

- Sokolov mount:

around 36 kg - 45 kg (*), typically 43.5 kg with shield

- Koleshnikov mount:

about 30.7 kg (with shield) / 22.5 kg (without shield)

- Universal mount:

about 39 kg

Country of origin:

Russia/Soviet Union

(*) Weight depending equipment (especially with shield or not), manufacturing materials and exact manufacturing version.

Finnish use: Used by both sides in large numbers during Finnish Civil War of 1918. Over 500 captured and acquired during Civil War. In addition several hundred bought from abroad in 1920's. Hundreds modified as M/09-21 and M/09-32. Large numbers captured from the Soviets during World War 2. During World War 2 these machineguns were issued to troops of Finnish Army in very large numbers for variety of roles.

First Maxim machinegun was designed by American Hiram Maxim around 1883 - 1884, the invention soon spread around and became very popular in most armies of that time. He also did introduction tour to Russia in 1887, the spectacle was impressive (Russian authorities had previously believed that reaching 600 shots/minute rare-of-fire to be technically impossible) but had very little results (only 12 machineguns were ordered for the Navy in 1889). It took quite many years before Russian Army decided to buy Maxim's invention by ordering them from British Maxim-Nordenfelt and German DWM (Deutche Waffen und Munionsfabrik) factories. Russian Navy got re-interested about Maxim-machineguns in year 1896 and this lead to large buy made for from Maxim-Nordenfelt year 1897 with 179 machineguns delivered at that time. The total number of Maxim machineguns delivered by Maxim-Nordenfelt to Russian Navy in 1897 - 1904 was almost 300 weapons. DMW delivered unknown number of Maxim-machineguns model 1899 in 7.62 x 54R caliber to Russian Army.

Early Maxim machineguns of Imperial Russia:

Often the true importance of new military hardware is only realised during a war. When it comes to Russia and Maxim-machinegun, that war was Russian-Japanese war of 1904 - 1905. Russian military entered that war with only the small number of foreign made Maxim-machineguns and found itself fighting Japanese military equipped with large number of locally manufactured HO-Shiki (Hotchkiss) machineguns. The traumatic experiences of Russian-Japanese war made Russian military to understand the necessity of having more machineguns. So, year 1905 Russian domestic production of was started in Tula arsenal, which was the sole manufacturer of Maxim m/1905 machineguns, as this first Russian-manufactured version of Maxim-machineguns is called. Early on Maxim m/1905 were equipped with gun-mounts which had large wheels (quite similar as used with field guns of that time) and often also had large steel shield. It was based to commercial Maxim-Vickers machinegun model introduced year 1901. Many of its parts had were made from bronze or brass, which effected both the weapons size and weight.

During war of 1904 - 1905 Russian military found Maxim m/1905 to be good weapon, but the large wheeled mount used with it proved difficult and heavy to use effectively. Year 1908 this resulted to introduction of new Sokolov mount. Sokolov machinegun mount was named after its designer, Colonel Alexander A. Sokolov and was based to Vickers-Maxim proposal that had never entered to mass-production. Sokolov mount had small wheels, which allowed machinegun-crew to pull the weapon and its mount after them and it weight some 36 - 45 kg (differences: version, manufacturing materials, shield and other items), while earlier large-wheeled mount weight about 170 kg. Sokolov mount was equipped with removable gun shield. Early version of Sokolov mount had also two legs that could be folded under the mount. While Sokolov mount became the standard issue Maxim machinegun mount in year 1914, also the older large wheeled mounts remained in use through World War 1 and Russian Civil War. Along them Russian military also used small number of Vickers-Maxim delivered experimental machinegun-mount designs, which were never produced in large numbers, but also seem to have remained in Russian use at least until end of Russian Civil War. Apparently before World War 1 Russian military also planned modernising existing Maxim m/1905 machineguns to m/1910 standard, but the war stopped this project soon, so only small number was converted in this way. Hence Maxim m/1905 remained in Russian use also during World War 1, but by that that time had commonly issued to troops serving in other areas than the actual frontline.

PICTURE: Maxim m/1910 with grooved water jacket and Sokolov mount. Notice the 250-round fabric ammunition belt. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (173 KB).

Maxim m/1910 of Imperial Russia:

Maxim m/1910 was improved version which replaced earlier m/1905 in production around 1910 - 1911. But identifying individual weapons manufactured in that period as m/1905 or m/1910 seems sometimes to be somewhat difficult. Changes often used to identify these two versions were not apparently implemented to production all at once, instead the transition seems to have been gradual. By end of year 1911 Tula arsenal has supposedly gone into manufacturing all-steel M/1910, but this was to change only few years later, when World War 1 changed plans. Like pretty much all major participants also Imperial Russia was inadequately prepared for World War 1 and could not completely equip its massive Armed Forces with modern weapons. With the need of rapidly expanding manufacturing of Maxim m/1910 machineguns to rate of 10,000 weapons per year, Tula arsenal had no other choice but cutting some corners.

Most consider the decisive changes between these two models (m/1905 and m/1910) used for them identifying them, to be introduction of muzzle brake and new lock mechanism. Generally speaking typical Maxim m/1910 machinegun is several kg's lighter as brass and bronze parts used in m/1905 were replaced with steel parts. Unlike claimed in old Russian and Soviet sources, Maxim M/1910 was not Russian-developed, but quite straightforward copy of "New light model" of Maxim-machinegun introduced by Vickers, Sons & Maxim in year 1906. Year 1910 Imperial Russia acquired manufacturing license for this version and Tula arsenal started mass-producing it as M/1910. Maxim m/1910 had sights, which had been modified suitable to new type of (7.62 mm x 54R) ammunition loaded with pointed spitzer-bullets (introduced in year 1908). Early Maxim m/1910 had grooved water jacket as in "New light model" of Maxim-machinegun, but year 1914 Tula started manufacturing these weapons also with smooth water jackets. Smooth water jacket was not as durable or effective as the grooved version, but it was notably easier and cheaper to manufacture. It's uncertain if manufacturing of grooved water jackets for M/1910 continued also after this. What can be said for certain, is that the smooth water jacket de-facto replaced it in manufacturing for duration of World War 1 and Russian Civil War. Another major change that happened in manufacturing of these machineguns during World War 1 was return in use of brass parts. At least receiver bottoms and water jacket components were again manufactured from brass - likely because there were not enough machinery available for quickly manufacturing enough parts from steel.

While Sokolov mount introduced in year 1908 was standard machinegun mount also for Maxim m/1910, there were also some other mount designs used with this weapon. Year 1915 Russians adopted Koleshnikov-mount, which with had wheels rather similar to Sokolov-mount, but instead of frame-like structure of its rear part it had axle. While Koleshnikov-mount was lighter than Sokolov-mount it was manufactured only in relatively small numbers and it didn't replace Sokolov-mount. Starting year 1931 Soviets issued Maxim machineguns also with m/1931 (Vladimirov) Universal machinegun-mount (which could be used also as antiaircraft machinegun mount for this machinegun). But ultimately also (Vladimirov) Universal mount (aka m/1931) was manufactured only in relatively small numbers, so also Sokolov-mounts remained in Soviet use with Maxim machineguns at least until end of World War 2. Several manufacturing versions of Sokolov mount existed. The oldest version of Sokolov mount had three wheels, two legs, padding and it was equipped with small oil container and even small builder's level. The second simplified version of Sokolov mount was introduced year 1915 and it lacked both padding, and third wheel, which had been located in end of the mount. Later on during the war produced version was further simplified by was leaving out also the folding legs. During World War 1 Sokolov mount was manufactured by several Russian factories, some of which started making base for this mount from brass instead of steel.

Soviet manufacturing and modifications:

As mentioned the Soviets continued both using and manufacturing Maxim machinegun m/1910. Following Bolshevik revolution Russia plunged into Civil War, which continued from 1917 to 1922. Tula being located close to Moscow, the Bolsheviks took it over early on. Production dropped from annual production of about 11,000 machineguns that had existed in 1916 - 1917 to about 4,700 for year 1918 and some 6,100 for year 1919. To expedite the production Maxim m/1910 manufactured at that time were equipped with easier to manufacture fuse spring housing shape of trapezium, which the original rounded model replaced again in early 1920's. Once Russian Civil War ended production of Maxim m/1910 started returning to pre World War 1 specifications. All post year 1924 manufactured machineguns were equipped with grooved water-jacket and in early 1920's brass parts introduced to production during World War 1 were again replaced with steel parts. The Soviets renamed Tula Arsenal as Tula Weapons Manufacturing Plant and until 1941 it continued as sole manufacturer of Maxim-machineguns in Soviet Union. Year 1929 manufacturing markings were transferred from fusee spring cover to top of the receiver.

Year 1930 the Soviets introduced set of improvements to modernise Maxim m/1910. These improvements included changes to firing mechanism, adding safety catch, simplified more practical rear sight, adding valve to drain hole of water jacket and introducing separate firing pin. Improved firing mechanism allowed firing the weapon with just one hand, while new modified fusee spring cover was more rounded and made from lighter material. Introduction of new simplified rear sight happened partially due to introduction of new machinegun ammunition loaded with heavier boat-tail bullets. At the same time they started removing brass parts from manufacturing of Sokolov mounts. Year 1932 optical sights were introduced, but apparently their production never reached anywhere the level of machinegun production, so during World War 2 most Soviet Maxim machinegun crews had to do without. For this optical sight already the previous year attachment point for it had been added to Sokolov mounts and small opening had been made to shield of the mount. While Koleshnikov mount was easier to manufacture and lighter, for some reason (possibly because main manufacturers were in wrong side of frontline?) its manufacturing ended around 1917 - 1918. The Soviets decided to stick with the Sokolov-mount, which they continued to manufacture to the end of manufacturing of Maxim-machineguns in Soviet Union.

Since Sokolov mount was not suited for anti-aircraft use, in 1920's and 1930's the Soviets developed some anti-aircraft mounts for Maxim M/1910. First of these was m/1928 developed by Kondrakov, it was a simple tripod of tubular structure and weight about 16-kg. While m/1928 was suitable for anti-aircraft use, it was poorly suited to normal ground use. This lead to development of M/1931 universal mount developed by Vladimirov. Again it had three tubular legs, which were used to form a high tripod, but when needed the tripod could be changed into ground combat role by adding removable wheels and axle and folding all three tubular legs back as a towing fork or sort. However, since m/1931 universal mount ended up weighting some 39-kg, it was never manufactured in large scale and didn't replace Sokolov-mount.

June of 1940 the Soviets ordered production of Maxim m/1910 in Tula to end. Reason for this was new Degtjarev-designed DS-39 medium machinegun, which was to replace Maxim in production. But since DS-39 proved to be reliability-wise a complete failure, manufacturing of it was ended and Maxim-machinegun production re-started in Tula in June of 1941. That was also the month in which Germany invaded Soviet Union and things changed drastically. During October - December 1941 Tula Weapons Manufacturing Plant was evacuated to Zlatoust and manufacturing in Tula wasn't re-started until April of 1942 and continued there until 1944. Until 1941 Tula had been only manufacturer of Maxim-machineguns in Soviet Union, but now this changed. Also Ishevsk Motorcycle Factory (Factory 524) and Leningrad printing machine factories started manufacturing Maxim-machineguns. Surprisingly Ishevsk became the largest wartime manufacturer with some 77,000 machineguns produced there by end of World War 2. Tula Weapons Manufacturing Plant succeeded manufacturing some 51,000 machineguns by April of 1945 and Leningrad printing factories manufacturing only 1,975 machineguns.

Several improvements were introduced during wartime production. Many of these improvements were developments introduced to make manufacturing it easier, cheaper and faster, but some were introduced to make the weapon more combat-worthy. One of these was adding snow filling cap on top of the water jacket (which the Finns had already introduced earlier with their Maxim M/32-33 machinegun). Also rear sight was simplified even further with the new version now introduced resembling Finnish rear sight used in Maxim M/09-21. Since the production of optical sights constantly failed to reach the required production numbers, the Soviets decided to put that capacity into better use, stopped production of optical sights for m/1910 and left out features needed for it in 1941. Year 1942 they decided to introduce feed block made from siluminium (aluminium-like metal). However also feed block made from steel remained in production along it. Maxim machinegun remained as most common medium machinegun of Soviet military through World War 2.

Finnish-issued Russian and Soviet Maxim machineguns:

Year 1918 Finnish Army end up with about 600 Maxim machineguns in calibre 7,62 mm x 54R, which made it the clearly most numerous machinegun in Finnish use at that time. However, these 600 Maxim-machineguns were quite a mix - grand majority of them was Maxim m/1910, but among them there were also dozens of m/1905 and even some DMW-manufactured weapons originating as far as from year 1899. During Civil War Finnish White Army had captured grand majority of them from Finnish Red Guards, Russian garrisons disarmed by force and volunteer units organised by Russian Bolsheviks, but not all. As part of its deliveries of weapons Germany had sold Finnish White Army 163 7.62 mm x 54R caliber Maxim-machineguns, which apparently often had some German modifications loaned from German Maxim MG-08. Most common machinegun mount used with them was Sokolov mount, but also small number of Koleshnikov mount, several dozen old large-wheeled m/1905 mounts and possibly even few old Vickers-Maxim experimental mounts existed in Finnish use during Civil War. Sokolov-type mounts with their small wheels and large weight were less than ideal to Finnish terrain and this later provided important starting point for Finnish development work. For some reason the captured Koleshnikov mounts don't seem to have seen much use after Finnish Civil War.

Finnish military had Maxim m/1910 in its use with four types of rear sights. These four rear sight types can be mostly separated according how large maximum range they have settings and for which bullet type the setting are:

Rear sight type:

Settings upto:

For cartridge type:

Old Russian type

2600 - 2700 arschen

M1891 with 13.7 g / 210 gr round-nose bullets

3100 - 3200 arschen

M1908 with 9.6 g / 148 gr spitzer bullets

Newer Russian type

2000 metres

M1908 with 9.6 g / 148 gr spitzer bullets

Simplified Soviet type

2700 metres

cartridges with 11.8 g / 182 gr D30 boat-tail bullets

Finnish modified type

2000 metres

cartridges with 9.6 g / 148 gr spitzer bullets

Notice: Arschen (arsina, steps) was old Russian measurement, about 0.71-meters in metric scale.

Early 1920's Finnish Army ordnance administration renamed m/1910 Maxim as M/09 (likely because Maxim machinegun of same model had been manufactured in Germany and when sold commercially had been called M/09). In this renaming effort m/1905 got also included in classification M/09, which one could expect to be less than ideal just considering the spare parts supply. But this was not a large error as there was quite a bit of differences also among m/1910 Maxim machineguns and even individual m/1910 were not spare parts compatible among themselves. In this same hassle also Sokolov-mount got renamed as machinegun-mount M/09. So as a result the combination of m/1905 or m/1910 Maxim and Sokolov mount got named M/09-09 (First 09 came from model of machinegun and second 09 from model of mount used). Finnish military applied this same basic naming method also with later Maxim machinegun models.

7.62 mm x 54 R calibre Maxim machineguns in inventory of Finnish Army 1st of January 1919:

Large wheeled m/1905

47

Foreign (British & German) made

55

m/1905 & m/1910 with Sokolov mount

439

Total

541

Not all Maxim M/09-09 used by Finnish Army were captured. Finland also bought Russian 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns from abroad. The largest purchases were 405 machineguns from Poland in year 1924 and 100 machineguns from Italy in year 1926, but in addition there were several smaller deals. However, the total number of Maxim M/09-09 machineguns in Finnish use was actually decreasing before World War 2, because ever increasing number was modified as M/09-21. Year 1926 already 900 out of 1,920 Maxim machineguns in inventory of Finnish military were M/09-21.

Soon after Civil War of 1918 the Finns found out that some parts of Maxim machineguns in use of their military were in poor shape (specially bolts and barrels), so Lindelöf metal workshop started making spare parts and spare barrels for them in early 1920's. Finnish military also decided solve the spare parts compatibility problem in these weapons (parts of Maxim m/1910 machineguns were not interchangeable between individual weapons) with standardisation program that started in year 1927. As standardisation program also reached Maxim machineguns bought from abroad and the ones belonging to Suojeluskunta (Civil Guard) it and this standardisation problem continued well to 1930's. Early on Tikkakoski factory made standardisation work for Army, but in 1932 work was moved to Weapons Depot 1 (AV1). Suojeluskunta Maxim's were naturally standardised by Civil-Guard owned Sako factory. As part of standardisation program old Russian type non-metric rear sight was replaced with Finnish M/22 rear sight and their water jacket and machinegun-mount were repainted with Finnish Army standard issue field grey. Some of the Finnish improvements added to these machineguns along standardisation work in 1920's and 1930's were based to modifications, which the Germans had commonly made to captured Russian Maxim machineguns during World War 1. Finnish M/22 rear sight was almost identical to one used in German Maxim MG-08 and at least some equipped with similar spring power indicator as Maxim MG-08. In 1930's Maxim M/09-09 were typically also modified suitable to use new Finnish continuous metallic ammunition belt type (the old 250-round fabric ammunition belts also remained in use along the new 200-round continuous Finnish steel belts). Since Finnish military found the gun shield used with Sokolov mount too heavy for its limited use, apparently Finnish military stopped using them soon after Civil War.

PICTURE: Soviet Maxim M1910 with Sokolov mount installed to sledge. Also this weapon has some temporary whitewash winter camouflage. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (146 KB).

As mentioned Sokolov mount became the standard mount for Maxim M/09-09, but shield was discarded and also these mounts saw some minor changes. For example installation points for optical sights were removed, since Finnish military lacked these optical sights. Large wheeled m/1905 mounts were discarded and replaced with Sokolov mounts while Koleshnikov mounts remained in storage for some reason, but were not used anymore. Hence Sokolov mount became standard machinegun mount for Maxim M/09-09 in Finnish use already in 1920's. Also simple add-on sights designed for antiaircraft-use were developed (extra part installed to Sokolov mount allowed it to be modified to antiaircraft use) and also produced, but only in small numbers.

During World War 2 Finnish troops captured large number of Soviet Maxim machineguns. Usually they were Soviet newer version developed from m/1910, but also old versions were captured in smaller numbers. Due to Russian Maxim machineguns the Finns had bought abroad and large number of captured Maxim machineguns the number of Maxim M/09-09 increased to 1,998 machineguns by June of 1940 and doubled (to about 4,000) by 1st of June 1944. Also several dozen Soviet antiaircraft machineguns M/31 (which were basically multiple Maxim M/1910 machineguns on antiaircraft mount) were captured and taken to Finnish use. Maxim M/09-09 served Finnish military in very large variety of roles, besides the typical infantry use they were also used for example in armoured trains and ships of Finnish Navy. Early 1942 about 100 of the captured Maxim machineguns were modified from water-cooled to air-cooled by punching holes through their water jackets, after which these weapons had been equipped with light Finnish Maxim-mounts (like M/Salakari) and they were issued to Finnish infantry units to be used for mobile operations. Year 1943 Finnish Army typically issued either 20 250-round fabric belts or 25 200-round steel belts for each Maxim M/09-09 machinegun. Each ammunition belt was issued with a belt can, which came in variety of Russian, Soviet and Finnish designs made from plywood and tin. Each weapon was also normally issued with spare barrels and variety of tools including water cans. Typically Finnish Army issued Maxim m/1905 machineguns mostly to units to whom mobility was lesser issue (fortifications units, home-front air defence etc). Generally speaking for the Finnish Army Maxim M/09-09 had been issued mostly as reserve weapon already during 1930's, but during World War 2 they again made a new coming as weapon of front-line infantry. After World War 2 the remaining Maxim M/09-09 machineguns were kept warehoused until the last ones were sold or scrapped in mid 1990's.

Writer's personal (limited) experiences concerning shooting with transitional Maxim m/1910 medium machinegun placed on Sokolov mount: First observation - the height of machinegun mount did not work for me while shooting from sitting or prone position, since in either position using sights was not easy. During this shooting the machinegun was on even surface. Admitted Sokolov mount might probably work better if the shooter was in the trench and weapon on side of the trench. In addition it was obviously was designed to soldiers of much smaller stature. The weapon worked worker otherwise rather well, but the elevation setting screw of the mount kept rotating because of vibration caused by shooting. Slowly but certainly this made the weapon shoot higher and higher until it was shooting too high to hit the targets. I don't know how common real-world problem this was with Sokolov mount, but I remember reading from books written by Finnish veterans often noting how Soviet machinegun were shooting too high - and this might be one of the reasons for it. As to be expected when the elevation kept changing and sights were difficult to watch through, in this case the machinegun proved much a weapon targeting the certain area with hail of bullets - shooting any small targets in that area proved notably more difficult than with Maxim M/32-33.

 

7,62 mm Maxim M/09-21:

PICTURE: Finnish Maxim M/09-21. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo) CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (141 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

111 cm

Barrel length:

72 cm

Weight:

26,5 kg

Fire-rate:

600/minute

Ammunition belts:

250 rounds (fabric), weight 1,1 kg empty

also 200 round continuous metallic belt usable in some

Mount:

Finnish M/21 tripod: 27,6 kg

Production:

Bit over 1,000 made between 1924 - 1933

Country of origin:

Russia/Finland

Finnish use: Issued mostly to Finnish frontline troops during World War 2.

Like mentioned higher in this page Finnish military was unhappy with Sokolov mount that it found heavy, complicated and its small wheels proving poor in typical Finnish terrain. The solution for this problem was quite simple - introduction of a new tripod-like mount with tubular steel legs, which could be folded when needed for the transport. Around 1919 - 1920 designing of this new Finnish tripod started. Tripod of German Maxim MG-09 designed for export just before World War 1 was used as starting point of Finnish design work. Unlike the German tripod, the Finnish design based to it had grips in front legs of the tripod and the longer third leg had telescopic structure, which allowed adjusting its lenght. Storage box for spare bolt was located below the tripod's cradle. The tripod also had attachment points for gun shield, but these proved unnecessary, since Finnish military never acquired gun shields for Maxim-machineguns. This tripod could also be equipped with anti-aircraft adapter, which made the weapon suitable to be used as anti-aircraft machinegun. The new tripod was introduced in year 1921 and accordingly named as M/21. New steel band tightened around the weapon's water jacket was needed to modify M/09 Maxim machinegun to work with new tripod. However this proved to somewhat problematic as captured Russian Maxim machineguns had three kind of water jackets. Maxim m/1910 machineguns had both smooth and grooved water jackets made from steel while m/1905 had cone-shaped water jacket made from bronze. The steel band fit well to smooth water jackets and somewhat worked also with grooved water jackets as well, but it simply did not function at all with the bronze water jackets used in m/1905. Because of this M/09 machineguns modified to use M/21 tripod were typically m/1910 type with smooth water jackets. During this modification M/09 machineguns also went through the same standardisation project as M/09 machineguns existing in Finnish Army inventory.

Finnish military realised its shortage of machineguns already in early 1920's, so April 1922 it ordered 200 Maxim machineguns were from Tikkakoski factory. But argument between Tikkakoski designers and Ordnance Department of Army about tolerances used delayed this first production run. These 200 machineguns were not manufactured until between 1924 - 1928, and proved to be the only purely domestic production series of totally new M/09-21 machineguns made in Finland (mainly due to Russian Maxim M/1910 machineguns bought from Poland and Italy around that time). All other M/09-21 while assembled in Finland, had at least some foreign-made parts. Maxim M/09-21 were was equipped with new Finnish M/22 rear sight, which loaned its design from German Maxim machineguns and had metric settings up to 2,000 metres for cartridges with 9.6 g / 148 gr spitzer-bullets.

Tripod M/21 was first manufactured by Crichton-Vulcan (in city of Turku) and later by Weapons Depot 1 (AV1, in Helsinki) of Finnish Army. Finnish Army Weapons Depots took care of assembling actual weapons from the parts. Production of Maxim M/09-21 continued until 1932 - 1933, around which time Maxim M/32-33 replaced M/09-21 in production. Over 1,000 Maxim machineguns M/09-21 were assembled during this period. Starting year 1932 M/09-21 machinegun feed systems were little by little getting modified for Finnish 200-round steel belt.

During World War 2 Maxim M/09-21 were mainly issued to Finnish front-line infantry and saw very hard combat use. Year 1943 Finnish Army normally issued each M/09-21 machinegun with either 20 200-round fabric belts or 25 200-round steel belts. As normal with Maxim-machineguns, they were also issued with spare barrels, tools and other equipment. June of 1940 still 1,065 machineguns existed, but by 1st of June 1944 their number had dropped to 964. Plenty of tough use with frontline infantry resulted heavy losses and lots of worn-out guns. Losses in battles of summer 1944, weapons modified to M/32-33, weapons under repair and the ones disassembled to spare parts decreased the total number of remaining M/09-21 to mere 261 weapons by year 1951. Extensive repairs and maintenance program started in 1950's soon increased the number of M/09-21 again in 1980's their number was about 400, these remained warehoused until being sold off or scrapped in mid 1990's.

 

7,62 mm Maxim M/32-33:

PICTURE: Finnish Maxim M/32-33 medium machinegun with Finnish 200-round ammunition belt made from steel. Note snow filling cap on top of the water jacket and muzzle booster. Also notice 4th leg strapped under the tripod - it was needed when the tripod was folded into anti-aircraft position. Finnish military units could partly paint their heavy weapons with (removable) whitewash to improve their camouflage in winter. Medium machineguns like Maxim were typically the smallest weapons to be painted in this way. (Photo taken in Jalkaväkimuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (169 KB).

Calibre:

7,62 mm x 54 R

Length:

118 cm

Barrel length:

72 cm

Weight:

24,0 kg

Fire-rate:

600 or 850/minute

Ammunition belts:

200 round continious metallic belt

Mount:

Finnish M/33 tripod: 30 kg

Production:

About 1,200(?) made between 1933 - 1944

Country of origin:

Finland

Finnish use: Issued mostly to Finnish frontline troops during World War 2.

This weapon was brainchild of Aimo Lahti and quite possibly the best variation of water-cooled Maxim medium machinegun ever made. He got the mission of developing Maxim machinegun using metallic ammunition belt in April of 1931. The reasons for this are quite well known - the original 250-round fabric ammunition belts limited both the maximum rate of fire and had proved problematic in certain (wet & cold) weather conditions. In worst weather situations the fabric belt could first get wet and then freeze solid. New ammunition belt made from steel was finished first and next was the machinegun, but as new tripod was introduced also the machinegun's attachments needed some redesigning to fit into it.

New M/32 Maxim was capable to fire-rate of 850 rounds/minute, while old M/09 Maxim was capable only for 600 rounds/minute. This resulted not only because of new ammunition belt design but also due to other improvements. Especially accelerator mechanism (in rear end of receiver) and muzzle booster (in tip of barrel) which Lahti had added to the design played key role in increasing rate of fire. However, these were not the only improvements introduced with M/32 - whole handle part (grips, rear sight etc) were redesigned and installation point for optical sight was added.

Unlike other Maxim-machineguns that Finnish military issued to infantry, M/32-33 was intended and designed with AA-machinegun use in mind. Tripod M/32 was designed and issued with extra 4th leg allowing it to be easily modified as antiaircraft-machinegun mount in minutes and other accessories needed for being used as anti-aircraft machinegun were also included. Last improvement, which only introduced to the design until year 1937, was adding snow filling cap to water jacket. This filling cap allowed snow to be used instead of water during winter-time and made water cans unnecessary when snow was available. Considering that each water can weight 3 kg (full) and keeping its content from freezing was problematic in typical Finnish winter weather, it was considerable improvement. Later during World War 2 the Soviets copied the snow filling cap to late version of their own Maxim m/1910 machinegun.

PICTURE: Piece of Finnish continuous metallic ammunition belt for Maxim machineguns. This ammunition belt based to disintegrating metallic belts Lahti had earlier designed for aircraft machineguns and 7.62 ItKk/31 VKT antiaircraft machineguns was vital piece of development for Maxim M/32-33 machinegun. Lahti modified also captured Soviet DS-39 machineguns to use this ammunition belt type. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (48 KB).

Between 1933 - 1935 Weapons Depot 1 converted few hundred M/09 Maxims to Maxim M/32. These converted machineguns were especially early on known as M/09-32 and marked as such. This early manufacturing series of M/32 Maxim was also equipped with M/21 tripods, which resulted the whole weapon being listed as M/32-21. Manufacturing of totally new M/32-33 machineguns started in year 1936. Both Weapons Depot 1 (Asevarikko 1) and Tikkakoski factory manufactured these weapons in 1936 - 1942 and succeeded making almost 900 of them (the ones supplied to Civil Guard not included). Maxim M/32-33 was mainly issued to machinegun companies of infantry (there was one machinegun company of 12 machineguns in each infantry battalion) as they were the best medium machineguns in Finnish use. Year 1943 Finnish Army typically issued each M/32-33 with 25 200-round steel belts. 1st of January 1944 their number peaked in highest total number (1,176), but summer of 1944 proved very costly with heavy losses. Year 1951 only 563 machineguns remained. Maxim M/32-33 remained among weapons warehoused by Finnish Defence Forces for possible wartime use until late 1990's.

Writer's personal (limited) experiences concerning shooting with Maxim M/32-33 medium machinegun: Historically these were the real killing machines of Finnish infantry while in defence. The lethal nature of M/32-33 becomes very obvious once the elevation setting had been adjusted and the shooting starts - just aim the weapon in lateral direction to get the target into sights and use the safety and trigger with your thumbs. Ideally this is the weapon designed for mowing down masses of infantry - and it obviously suits very well for that. While aiming is fast and accurate it has maybe been better designed for spraying hails of bullets to groups of men instead of targeting individual soldiers. Maintenance and getting the adjustments just right demands more knowledge than with light machineguns or submachineguns, but once they are set the weapon works flawlessly and just keeps going and going... In our shooting session the poor falling plate targets never had a chance - when on receiving end of Maxim M/32-33 they could barely get back up before getting hit again. By end of the shooting the falling plate targets had been cut almost in half - the elevation setting of the bipod had showed its effectiveness keeping the fire in check. Ammunition belts (Finnish M/32 steel belts) worked flawlessly. Arming the weapon requires pulling the cocking handle back twice and releasing it each time - during the first time bolt takes a cartridge from the belt and during the second time it pushes the first cartridge to barrel. When trigger is released the safety goes on automatically, so starting fire again always requires first putting safety off.

PICTURE: Finnish loading tool for loading metal ammunition belts for Maxim machineguns. CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (80 KB).

Additional equipment for M/32-33 machinegun:

Wide array of sights was designed and issued for Maxim M/32-33 machinegun in 1930's and during World War 2. This machinegun had been designed to be used also for indirect fire (7.62 x 53R ammunition with 13-gram/200-grain D-166 boat-tail bullet had also been selected as standard issue cartridge due to its suitability for indirect fire) and in 1930's a special sight for designed for this purpose. But ultimately only 244 sights for indirect fire were ever manufactured and during the war indirect machinegun fire failed to play role of any real significance in Finnish military tactics. Early on German old optical sights (originally manufactured for MG-08 were used (in small numbers) were issued with M/32-33 machineguns. Finnish-designed Physica optical sight named after its manufacturer was tested in 1936 - 1937. The tests proved successful and resulted 250 Physica sights being ordered in year 1937. Most of these sights were not delivered until year 1940. Due to shortage of suitable optical sights for sniper rifles 150 out of the 250 Physica sights were issued with sniper rifles, even though the sight proved rather poor for this purpose. The 100 remaining sights remained in depot, until they were also issued with sniper rifles during Continuation War. Hence while intended for Maxim M/32-33 Physica-sights were not never really issued with this machinegun. Finnish-designed illuminated night sight set for M/32-33 was introduced year 1941 mass-produced in very large numbers (total production 1,150 sets), but proved too unpractical and fragile for combat use. Those night sight sets that survived the war were soon scrapped.

PICTURE: 7.62-mm Maxim-machinegun equipped with light machinegun-mount - possibly a locally-designed version. Photo taken in Rukajärvi region in May of 1942. (SA-kuva archive, photo number 86609). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (150 KB).

 

Finnish light mounts for 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns:

Finnish military was not happy either to mounts used in M/09-09 nor M/09-21. From late 1920's to early 1930's several mounts suitable for anti-aircraft machinegun use were tested. Probably the most interesting of these was Mansner M/30, which was based to German schitten 08 machinegun-mount used with MG-08. This design developed by engineer Harry Mansner (who worked for Civil Guard ordnance administration) sparked interest of both Finnish Armed Forces and Civil Guard. Mansner M/30 had its good points (like being able to be dragged on ground level like its German predecessor) but also proved too heavy and impractical, so the design never got beyond small-scale field test production series level.

During World War 2 war experiences emphasised need for lighter and more practical mounts for Maxim machineguns. These experiences proved that Maxim-machineguns with their tripods or Sokolov-mounts often had hard time keeping up with advancing infantry. At the same there was also need for secondary light secondary machinegun-mount, which would allow temporary use of machineguns installed to fortifications outside their bunkers. Several light mount versions were tested for the purpose and some were even manufactured in reasonable numbers during Continuation War. Finnish light mount designs for Maxim machinegun with at least some significance included:

PICTURE: Maxim M/09 with light M/43 Salakari mount. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (110 KB).

In the end none of the lighter machine-gun mounts was manufactured in numbers large enough to challenge old Sokolov-mount or Finnish-designed tripod mounts. Compared to the thousands of 7.62-mm Maxim machineguns in Finnish use the total number of these lighter mounts was minuscule. So, were they useless, since they were uncommon? I would not say so. They were not as good as the earlier heavier and more robust mount designs when Maxim-machineguns were used as static weapons in defensive role. But when more mobility was needed, they still provided some, which made moving Maxim-machineguns notably easier to those units, that had been fortunate enough to have some issued for them. Also when compared to amount of equipment issued with each Maxim machinegun, these light mounts added little weight and bulk to it. After the war Finnish Army got rid of these lighter mounts long before Finnish tripod mounts M/21 and M/33. The last Maxim-machinegun in Finnish use was M/32-33, which remained warehoused for possible wartime use until late 1990's. Until declared obsolete the Maxim M/32-33 machineguns that remained in depots of Finnish Army were to be equipped with the old but trusted M/33 tripod.


SOURCES:

Markku Palokangas: Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918 - 1988, osat 1 - 3 (= Military Small Arms in Finland 1918 - 1988, parts 1 - 3)

Timo Hyytinen: Arma Fennica 2, sotilasaseet (Arma Fennica 2, military weapons)

Markku Palokangas and Maire Vaajakallio: Aimo Lahti, asesuunnittelun suuri suomalainen (Aimo Lahti, the great Finn of weapons designing)

D.N. Bolotin: Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition.

The Devil's Paintbrush by Dolf L. Goldsmith.

Roger Ford: The World's Great Machineguns.

Terry Gander: The Machine Gun - A Modern Survey

Mika Pitkänen and Timo Simpanen: Suomalaiset sotilaspatruunat 1918-1945 / The Finnish military cartridges 1918-1945.

Article: M1910 Maxim-konekivääri Suomen asehistoriassa, osa 1 by Janne Vähätalo in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 6/2010.

Article: M1910 Maxim-konekivääri Suomen asehistoriassa, osa 2 by Janne Vähätalo in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 4/2011.

Military manual: Konekivääri 09 (jalustalla 21 ja 09). Rakenne, hoito ja käsittely by Puolustusministeriö (1927).

Military manual: Konekiääri 09 (jalustalla 21 ja 09). Rakenne, hoito ja käsittely by Puolustusministeriö (1942).

Military manual: Jalkaväen pikatuliaseiden käyttöopas (1941).

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki

Special thanks to Jalkaväkimuseo (Finnish Infantry Museum), Mikkeli


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