"Whatever happens,
we have got,
the Maxim gun,
and they have not"

- Hilaire Belloc

The Maxim Gun was a revolutionary machine gun, designed and developed by American inventor Hiram Maxim (although he later became a British citizen). Supposedly, whilst visiting an exhibition in Paris in 1881, a friend of his told him that the easiest way to make money was to 'invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other's throats with greater facility'. Maxim set to work and, by 1885, he had developed his famous gun; it was belt-fed, chambered initially for .45 Long Colt and later for .303 British, and was cycled by recoil; a step up from the hand-cranked Gatling gun. By the 1890s it was the standard machine-gun of European armies, with the newly-powerful Germany eventually developed a clone of their own. The Maxim was man-portable rather than horse-drawn, albeit that it required a team of four to carry the gun, its ammunition, and its tripod.

Although the Maxim Gun saw some use in World War One, it was most famous as a colonial weapon of the British Empire. Firing at roughly 500 rounds per minute at a time when a trained rifleman with a Martini-Henry could manage twenty, it was more than a match for the shields and shamags of tribesmen in more than a dozen countries.

So effective was the gun that Maxim himself recieved a knighthood for services rendered. He went on to design an unsuccessful heavier-than-air flying machine, and an effective bronchial inhaler. The Maxim itself was eventually replaced in British service in 1912 with the smaller, lighter Vickers and Lewis guns, both of which were used to great defensive effect in World War One, despite the skepticism of General Haig and his senior staff, who were not interested in defensive weapons, as their philosophy was one of speed and aggression and sweeping cavalry charges. Their grand sweeps were all cut down in droves by the German army, whose own machineguns were modified version of the Maxim produced by Krupps.

Hiram Maxim died in 1916, as the war raged on, thousands having been killed by his invention. Whilst his bronchial inhaler is forgotten by the world, the Maxim gun is not.

Max"im gun` (?).

A kind of machine gun; -- named after its inventor, Hiram S. Maxim.


© Webster 1913

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