Ukraine is still using unbelievably old Maxim machine guns. Why not, if it does its job? – Technology Org
Back in 1884, it was a completely different time. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the first production car with an internal combustion engine, was still a couple of years away, while the Wright brother’s first flight was almost 2 decades ahead. It was at that time that Hiram Stevens Maxim invented the first fully automatic machine gun in the world. And now, in 2023, the defenders of Ukraine are still using it.
Well, ok, Ukrainians are not using the 1884 Maxim gun – they are using the Russian PM M1910 Maxim, which is still similar to the original design. It was derived from Hiram Stevens Maxim’s invention, but had some upgrades to make it more suitable for the Russian climate and tactics.
The M1910 Maxim was used extensively in the First World War, the Russian Revolution, the Second World War, and other conflicts in the first half of the 20th century. Then it was mostly slowly phased out. But not everywhere.
The defenders of Ukraine are using WW2-era Maxim guns to stop the ongoing Russian invasion. On one hand, it shows the incredible longevity of the Maxim gun, but on the other hand, it shows that Ukraine still lacks small arms. Maxim guns are not very light and not very powerful. Of course, it still is a deadly weapon, but the M1910 Maxim is just not as good as more modern machine guns.
A standard PM M1910 Maxim uses 7.62×54 mm caliber ammunition. The good thing is that Ukraine has a lot of it and its allies can supply more. Standard Maxim machine gun is very heavy – it weighs around 63 kg. But it can be made lighter by removing the chassis and some other bits and pieces.
A bit of a different issue is cooling. Hiram Stevens Maxim designed the Maxim gun to be water-cooled – hence why it has a water tank surrounding its barrel. But on the battlefield, it’s a tricky procedure. And it does need cooling if it is being used at its full 600 rounds per minute speed.
Ukrainians have modified some of their M1910 Maxim guns to fit specific roles. Some were mounted on the beds of Western-donated pickup trucks. Some Maxim guns were mounted in pairs to use as air defense weapons against drone attacks.
Small kamikaze-style drones are difficult to take down using conventional means – machine gun fire is pretty much the most effective way to deal with them. And Maxim guns, after their hundred years of service, are still suitable for this.
Ukraine simply needs small arms. As the world is focused on tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, and other large heavy weapons, the US is looking for where to buy AK+74 rifles for Ukraine. There is plenty of ammunition for them, but Ukraine just needs arms. And the story with machine guns is similar, which is why the humble Maxim continues its service.
Sources: Defense-ua.com , Wikipedia