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Legendary Weapons of the World: Colt–Browning M1895, nicknamed the "potato digger"

15 January 2019
One of the first machine guns to use the principle of powder gas withdrawal

Guns with manual drive, also known as machine guns, were developed and used in the USA during the Civil War (the 1860s), but the first practical machine gun to use the energy of the previous shot to recharge only appeared in America in 1895 as the product of the legendary gunsmith John Browning. Browning began to experiment with weapons that use the powder gas energy to recharge back in 1890 when, as he was shooting while lying down, he noticed how powder gases escaping the barrel flattened the grass in front of the barrel onto the ground.

m1895 прототип 1891 года.jpg

The first experimental model of the machine gun created for .45-70 black powder cartridges was demonstrated by the inventor to Colt company; it successfully performed 1,800 shots in 3 minutes with small breaks to change the belt without a single delay and breakage, which was an undoubted achievement. Having seen the efficiency of the concept, the businessmen from Colt company agreed to finance further works in this area. In 1896 the US Navy adopted the Colt M1895 machine gun developed by Browning for the 6 mm Lee Navy cartridge, which was then in service in the fleet. During the same period, the US Army also purchased a small number of M1895 machine guns for .30-40 cartridges. М1895 guns underwent trial by fire in the conflict between the United States and Spain in Cuba in 1898. It is interesting that later, one of the most popular users of Browning M1895 machine guns was Russia, which purchased them in large quantities after the beginning of the First World War for the Russian three-line cartridge.

m1895 в национальной гвардии Колорадо 1914 год.png

The Colt Model 1895 machine gun (when it appeared, the designer was not yet famous) used gas automation with the piston located under the barrel, which made vertical rocking motions back and forth. In the position before the shot, the lever of the gas piston was located under the barrel parallel thereto; the piston head entered the transverse gas section in the barrel wall. After the shot, the gunpowder gases pushed the piston head down, causing the piston lever to turn down and back around the axis located under the barrel closer to the gun receiver. Through the system of pushers, the movement of the lever was transferred to the bolt; the distinctive feature of the system was that in the initial period when the bolt opened, the speed of its rollback was minimal and the opening force was maximum, which significantly increased the reliability of extraction. Locking the barrel bore was done by tilting the back of the bolt down. The massive lever swinging under the barrel with considerable speed required the presence of sufficient free space under the barrel of the machine gun; otherwise, the lever began to literally dig up the ground, which is why the machine gun was nicknamed in the army the "potato digger".

m1895 diagram.jpg

The barrel of the machine gun was air-cooled and featured a significant mass.

The machine gun fired from a closed bolt only with automatic fire. The cocking handle was located on the swinging lever of the gas piston. In order to simplify loading, a cord was sometimes attached thereto, with a jerk to recharge.

Cartridges were fed from linen belts. The belt feed mechanism had a simple design and used a gear shaft driven by a ratchet mechanism connected to the gas piston with the bolt pusher.

The fire controls included a single pistol grip on the rear of the receiver and a trigger, which later became traditional for Browning machine guns.

m1895 на раннем лафете.jpg

The machine gun was often used with a large tripod of a relatively simple design that had aiming mechanisms and a seat for the shooter. However, in the early period of service, large artillery type wheel carriages were used; in the early 20th century, M1895 machine guns were installed on platforms such as motorcycles, cars and even airplanes.


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