Machine-guns — do you know the difference between light, medium, and heavy? What is a ‘submachinegun’?
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Many people are hazy over the differences between the various types of machine-gun, and here I ramble on for ten whole minutes about the distinctions. It is a bit of a moving target, as terminology alters as technology does, but the terms used in World War Two are still reasonably current.

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Machine-guns: light, medium, heavy, or sub?


  1. if im right Subs are pistol calibre, Lights are Carbine calibre(5.56 now days like the M249), Mediums are Rifle calibre(something like the M240 in 7.62) and heavys with a heavy calibre(50 cal like on the M2)

  2. I remember something about Japanese quartermasters having trouble because every weapon had it's own round. Having all your side using the same or compatible rounds is smart, even if it makes compromises.

  3. Lindy, I just wanted to point out that in addition to the diameter of the projectile one must also the measure the other dimensions of the cartridge case. These measurements are things such as case length, overall length, and the rim of the cartridge to name a few.

  4. It was called thirty caliber because the caliber was thirty one-hundredths of an inch — not because we're Americans, but because it is logical and descriptive. Just like most other cartridges it had other designations, such as 30-06, meaning ".30 Gov't 1906", and 7.62x63mm. It was the most powerful standard issue rifle round used in WWI and WWII. However, Great War experience persuaded many U.S. officers that the cartridge was too powerful. Therefore beginning in the mid-1920's the Americans began the development of a new rifle cartridge and a new self-loading or "semi-automatic" infantry rifle. These were the .276 Pedersen (7x51mm), the Pedersen rifle, and the Garand rifle. The Army did not like the Pedersen rifle for a number of reasons, but they approved the Garand rifle and adopted it as the M1 rifle. Originally the M1 was designed to fire the .276 round in a 10-shot en-bloc clip. However, by the time the development and testing were complete, the Great Depression was in full flower. The U.S. Army did not have enough money to buy hundreds of thousands of new rifles and tens of millions of new cartridges. So they decided to re-design the Garand to fire eight shots of .30-06, ammunition the Army had in abundance.

    The British .303 was the dumbest round used by the Allies in WWII. It was dumb because it was rimmed. Rimmed ammo isn't much of a problem for a single-shot bolt-action rifle of the 1880s, but it is awkward for automatic and semi-automatic firearms of the 20th century, which is why no modern military cartridge is rimmed. The cartridge case was quite tapered, which makes the feed track pronouncedly curved. It was also comparatively weak. Out of sheer inertia, the British made no effort to adopt a more modern cartridge or a semi-automatic rifle between the wars. The only major change was the adoption of the BREN gun, an excellent Czech-designed light MG the British adapted to fire the stupid .303 round, thus introducing the only serious over-all design flaw — the tendency to rim-lock.

    The German, as usual, got it right. Their 7.92x57mm Mauser (also called 8mm Mauser) was rimless, only very slightly tapered, and right in the middle in terms of power — stronger than the .303, a bit weaker than the American 30-06. The 7.92x57mm was an excellent cartridge for a recoil-operated machine gun, and the Germans designed some very good ones for that round, such as the MG34 and the fearsome MG42. Being a bit shorter, a bit less powerful than the 30-06 made it possible to design lighter, faster-firing machine guns than the Americans had. They were thus able to eliminate the "light" and "medium" machine gun categories entirely, replacing two types with one, the general-purpose machine gun. Where the Germans fell down was their failure to adopt a semi-automatic rifle before WWII, which grew out of the Heer's reluctance to approve a rifle design with a gas port drilled into the barrel. What's not so well-known is the fact that the German began experimenting with "intermediate" cartridges in the 1930s, ammunition substantially less powerful than infantry rifle rounds, but stronger than pistol ammunition. The led to the 8mm Kurz, which in turn led to the Sturmgewehr '44, which in turn inspired every infantry rifle in use today.

  5. thats all a bit different in germany. submachinegun is called "Maschinenpistole" which means machinepistol, a lmg is a "leichtes Maschinengwehr", hmgs are are mounted machineguns, not mgs with a bigger bullet, and real hmg are "überschwere Maschinengewehre" which means something like "overly heavy machinegun". also is a lightmachinegun sometimes also a gun that fires rounds like 5.56mm. and if a leichtes mg is mounted on a tripod, it becomes a schweres mg. all mounted mgs are hmgs in germany

  6. Good Lesson for 10 min. You should explain the "Ak47" vs "Ak74", and the STG44's roll in their development, and the proliferation of post war soviet weapons. Help people to understand the AK a little better.

  7. +Lindybeige, 3:25 is actually a Czechoslovak made MG, not Czech (and on the photo it´s used by Slovak soldiers), good video though, keep up the good work 🙂