Gun Wiki

The MG 08, often mistakenly called the Maxim MG 08, is a German derivative of the Maxim gun used during WW1.




The new, portable automatic weapon that emerged was christened the MG08/15. Developed under the direction of Colonel von Merkatz, the MG08/15 was an adaptation of the MG08. This design paradigm, by which the standard heavy machine gun was adapted so as to provide a portable version was in marked contrast to the path taken by the Allies. The Allied armies adopted a number of light automatic weapons that were not at all adaptations of their heavy types. In doing so they undoubtedly managed to adopt much more efficient designs, but at the cost of overall production efficiency. The German decision to stay with the Maxim design simplified both production and training. The MG08/15 had a number of key differences from the standard 08: The diameter of the MG08/15's water jacket was smaller by some 20mm than that of the MG08 (89mm vice 109mm). As a result the volume of cooling water inside the jacket was reduced from four to three liters. The thickness of the receiver walls was reduced from 4mm to 3mm. The ejector tube was eliminated. The sled mount was replaced by a bipod. The spade grips and thumb triggers were replaced by a wooden buttstock fixed to the rear of the receiver. A pistol grip with a conventional trigger was added under the receiver. The trigger acted directly on the trigger bar. A safety was fitted that, when applied, prevented the trigger from moving. The rear sight was completely revised, and a sling was fitted for carrying and for assault fire. Unloaded (but with a full water jacket) the MG08/15 weighed in at a healthy 19 kg (42 lbs). The gun was designed to use either the standard 250 round MG08 belt or a shorter 100 round belt. The short belt could be carried in a drum attached to the side of the receiver.



The MG08/18 appeared in the last year of the war, and was an air cooled version of the MG08/15. The actual weight of the gun was only reduced by about one kilogram (2.2lbs), but to this must be added the weight of the water and the steam condensation tube. However, the real impetus for the development of an air cooled variant was not the weight of the water so much as it was the fact that there were environments in which water was not readily available and others in which it might freeze. The MG08/18 was issued to cavalry, mountain and bicycle troops. Plans were in place for eventual issue to infantry formations, but the war ended before they could be realized. The MG08/18's perforated barrel jacket had an exterior diameter of 37mm, which required a high front sight to make up for the difference in diameter between it and the water jacket. A carry handle was affixed to the top of the barrel jacket a short distance forward of the receiver. Other details were identical to the MG08/15. The MG08/18 had the same cyclic rate as the MG08/18, but being air cooled, it was much less capable of fulfilling the sustained fire role, requiring a good deal of time for the barrel to cool. Further hampering the MG08/18's effective rate of fire was the lack of a quick change barrel. Like all Maxims, removal of the MG08/18's barrel required prior removal of the stock and interior parts, which was often inconvenient during combat.



The Army's failure to put light machine guns into general service was in part due to a high level dispute as to the nature of the weapon required by the troops. One part of the general staff contended that a compromise weapon, somewhere between the light and heavy machine gun should be developed as an all-purpose gun. The concept was known as the Einheitsmaschinengewehr, or universal machine gun. The MG16 was an experimental, universal version of the Maxim. A very few were manufactured, only enough for test purposes, and it is unlikely that any actually saw combat. It used the same type of mounting lug as the MG08/15 and could therefore use the same bipod. It was more commonly seen with a dual purpose tripod that could be used against both ground and aerial targets. A slightly modified version of the tripod was later issued as the dreifuss 16 (literally "three foot" or tripod), an alternate standard mount for the MG08. The MG08 had a slightly different mounting system than the MG16, and therefore required an adapter to be used on the tripod. In the event, Germany did not field a universal machine gun during the war. To do so would have meant lowering production rates of the tried and true MG08 and MG08/15 for an untested weapon, the idea of which was viewed with justifiable jaundice by the Army.


In early 1915, the German Air Service began to mount machine guns on reconnaissance and bombing aircraft. These were flexible mounts, and did not permit fire in the direction of flight save for certain multiengined aircraft. Ultimately it was the Parabellum and not the Maxim that was chosen for standardization as the Air Service's flexibly mounted gun. However, the Air Service wanted more than just reconnaissance and bombing aircraft. It wanted an armed single seat fighter with a fixed forward firing machine gun. A number of efforts were made, but the first practical result was obtained only after the invention of a synchronization mechanism by Anthony Fokker that permitted firing through the propeller arc without hitting the propeller blades. The first standard synchronized gun was the LMG08, which entered service in 1915. This was essentially a conversion of the MG08 to an air cooled configuration, which saved considerable weight. The gun tipped the scales at 15.5kg, or 34 pounds. The modification of the MG08 to LMG08 configuration was done by the Fokker works at Schwerin, where the synchronization gear was manufactured. Fokker also supplied the gearing mechanism to other aircraft manufacturers in Germany.

The original synchronization mechanism was of the push-rod variety, and was somewhat unreliable. There were a number of instances of loss of synchronization, resulting in damage to the aircraft's propeller. The problem was particularly acute at low engine speeds and during periods of extremely low temperature. To overcome this difficulty, a design team at the Fokker works consisting of Messrs. Lubbe, Heber, and Leimberger devised a system that operated via a flexible shaft. In December 1916 the synchronization project was handed off to a wholly owned subsidiary of the Fokker works called Flugzeug Waffenfabrik GmbH, located at Reinickendorf near Berlin. It was operated by Herr Lubbe, and became the primary source of synchronization equipment and aircraft armament accessories for the German Air Service.

The LMG08/15 came into service in mid-1916, and was a conversion of the MG08/15 to an air cooled aircraft machine gun. Care was taken to strip the gun of all parts not needed for a fixed aircraft machine gun, lowering the system weight to 27 pounds. The appearance of the LMG08/15 effectively obsoleted the LMG08. In addition to the fixed mount, an experimental flexible mount was also devised for the LMG08/15. When so mounted, the ground gun's pistol grip, as well as a modified stock were fitted. The only known manufacturer of the LMG08/15 was the Spandau Arsenal, and thus these guns are often referred to as "Spandaus." Early Spandaus were conversions of ground MG08/15's, while the later guns were purpose built as aircraft machine guns.

Type 24[]

Because of the Sino-German alliance, the Germans supplied the Chinese with MG 08s. In 1935, the Chinese began to produce the derivative Type 24 Heavy machine gun. The Type 24 Heavy machine gun, first introduced to the National Revolutionary Army in 1935, designed to replace the original MG 08. It was the standard heavy machine gun for all Nationalists, Communists, and Warlords from 1935. They were usually made in the Hanyang Arsenal. Like the original MG 08, because of transportation difficulties, the M1917 Browning machine gun and other machine guns slowly replaced the Type 24 for the NRA after the Chinese Civil War. The PM M1910, and the SG-43 Goryunov (or Type 53/57 Machine gun) slowly replaced the Type 24 Heavy machine gun after the Chinese Civil War, but it was kept in service with the PLA, KPA and the NVA until the 1960s during the Vietnam War. The Type 24 heavy machine gun's tripod resembles the tripod of the MG 08. This gun is not able to be mounted on sledge mounts. When aiming at enemy infantry, it usually comes with a muzzle disk. When used as an anti-aircraft gun, it uses a metal pole to make the tripod higher and usually does not come with a muzzle disk. The gun's receiver is similar to the MG 08's gun body. Like the original MG 08, it needs a crew of four. The Type 24 heavy machine gun is chambered with the 7.92×57mm Mauser round, the standard Chinese military rifle cartridge of Nationalist China. After the Chinese Civil War, People's Republic of China militia and reserve units converted a number of Type 24 HMG into the 7.62×54mmR Russian cartridge. They were used for training or as filming prop, and never entered service.


See Also[]