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Weapons

Schwarzlose machine gun

The Schwarzlose M. 7 was a belt-fed machine gun, usually mounted on a tripod. It was designed by the German firearms designer Andreas Schwarzlose. While its water-cooled barrel gave it an appearance broadly resembling the family of Maxim-derived machine-guns, internally the Schwarzlose was of a much simpler design. This made the weapon comparatively inexpensive to manufacture. Its unusual delayed blowback mechanism contained only a single spring. The initial variants had a cyclic rate of about 400 rounds/minute. During World War I this was increased to 580 rounds/minute by using a stronger mainspring.

For infantry use, the Schwarzlose was usually employed as a traditional, tripod mounted, heavy machine gun. It was served by a crew of at least three soldiers. One of them was the commander, usually an NCO. The gunner, who also carried the weapon, and a third soldier who served as an ammunition carrier and loader. He would presumably also carry the tripod although in practice a fourth soldier might be added to the team to carry the tripod. This is also evidenced in most photos. Another less commonly seen method of deployment mainly used by the Sturmtruppe was the more compact ‘backpack mount’. In this configuration the gun was fitted with a backwards folding shorter bipod.

The Schwarzlose would also have seen service as a fortress weapon in which case it would have been deployed on a variety of heavy and specialized fixed mountings. It also saw some use as a naval weapon aboard ship. During World War I the Schwarzlose was also pressed into service as an anti-aircraft gun and as such it was deployed using a variety of often improvised mountings.

In the infantry, each battalion had a machine gun platoon, which usually operated four machine guns. The weapon was the most effective tool of the infantry, especially in defense. The expectations attached to it are well shown by the inscription of the second Kappenabzeichen: “Gut ziel, vernichte viel!”, i.e. “Aim well, destroy a lot!”

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