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Weapons: Century Old LMGs Retire
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April 7, 2008: The world's first light machine-gun, the Danish Madsen [PHOTO], has finally been retired from service after over a century of use. The State Police of the Brazilian state of Rio De Janerio were the last users of the twenty pound weapon. The police got them from the Brazilian army about ten years ago. Some criminal gangs still use the Madsen, and many private collectors have them.  The Danish Army used the Madsen until the 1950s.


The Madsen required some precise machining, but it was not exceptionally costly to make. It was reliable, although it used an awkward top loaded magazine, carrying 25, 30 or 40 rounds. Over its long career, it was equipped to fire ammunition from 6.5mm to 8mm. The Brazilian Madsens fired NATO 7.62mm (.30 caliber) ammo.  It's rate of fire was 450 rounds per minute.


The Madsen entered service in the 1890s as the Madsen Recoilless Rifle. It was adopted by the Russian Army, and some were used in the 1905-6 Russo-Japanese War (the Russians lost, perhaps because they only bought 1,250 Madsens, and gave them to the cavalry.) The Madsen saw use by several nations during World War I, and was eventually used by over thirty nations. Most were retired by the 1970s, after several dozen variants were produced.


The original design dates to the 1880s, but this was before smokeless powder was widely available, and the Madsen quickly jammed when used with black powder ammo. But in the 1890s, the design was tried with 6.5mm smokeless powder rounds, and worked very well. The basic design was by Danish Army officer, Theodor Schouboe, who built the first working model in 1890 (and got the patent for it in 1901). But it took the efforts of a Danish artillery officer, Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen, and a weapons technician at the Danish Arsenal named Rasmussen, to perfect Schouboe's design. By 1896, the Madsen was available for sale. It wasn't until World War I that the value of a light machine-gun was discovered, and it wasn't until after World War I that light machine-guns became widely used. Many other designs were easier to use, or were preferred to some foreign weapon. But the Madsen was always good enough, until this year, to find users. Then again, production of the Madsen ceased about half a century ago.


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smitty237    A legend   4/7/2008 9:29:49 PM
The truly ironic thing about the Madsen LMG was that it was never officially adopted as the main machinegun of any major nation, although it saw use in every part of the globe.  The Madsen had a rather rough operating system and wasn't much to look at, but its longevity is a testament to its effectiveness.  The original design predates the Colt "Potato Digger" machinegun, but I've seen pictures of the Madsen serving with the Portuguese in the 1960's and the El Salvadorean army in the 1980's.  The Madsen preceded and outlived famed LMGs like the Chauchat, BAR, Bren, and Lewis.  The Madsen wasn't perfect, but it did its job and did it well for a century. 
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Horsesoldier       4/8/2008 12:28:13 AM
Doesn't the feed cycle somehow somewhat defy the laws of physics of something?  Seems like I read somewhere that feeding on the Madsden requires (at least on paper?) the cartridge to flex during the loading cycle or something like that which simply should not work, but it does.
Never had a chance to play with one, sadly.  Our foreign weapons set where I'm at doesn't go that far off the beaten path.
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Mafeking       5/4/2008 6:23:45 AM
Sorry to be picky, but it was actually called the Madsen Recoilless Rifle. It has a fascinating history, including the fact that the Danes sold the same consignment two or three times during WWI, getting paid each time but not delivering it. Eventually, by nefarious means, the Germans pinched it from under the noses of the Russians and issued it to their Musketen Batallions, a sort of mounted infantry. It was very highly thought of in Great Britain and was initially specified as the most suitable mg for the first Tanks but wasn't available in sufficient numbers.
If you're interested, there's an article on the Madsen before and during WWI on the Landships site:
and much discussion, with many illustrations, on the Landships Forum:
(enter Madsen in the search box).
A remarkable and surprisingly little-known weapon.
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