Bergmann MG 15nA machine gun
|Place of origin||German Empire|
|Wars||World War I|
|Designer||Theodor Bergmann and Louis Schmeisser|
|Weight||12.9 kg (28 lb)|
|Length||1,120 mm (44 in)|
|Barrel length||726 mm (28.6 in)|
|Rate of fire||500 rpm|
|Muzzle velocity||890 m/s (2,900 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||>2,000 m (2,200 yd)|
|Feed system||250, 200, or 100 round metal link belt|
The Bergmann MG15 was the World War I production version of a prototype machine gun designed in 1910. It should not be confused with the similarly designated Rheinmetall MG-15, which was a completely different weapon, whose nomenclature is often confused with the Bergmann because of the naming conventions of the Weimar Republic. The two weapons are completely unrelated. The Bergmann MG-15 fired from 250, 200, or 100 round disintegrating metal-linked belts, a first for a light machine gun. The crank-loaded "Kurbel drum" that held a 100-round linked belt could be fitted to the side of the weapon's receiver with a mounting bracket.
Design and Development
The Bergmann gun used a lock system patented by Theodor Bergmann in 1901 along with the short recoil principle of operation. The locking system, in which a cam moves a lock vertically in the weapon was not dissimilar to the Browning machine gun designs. The original design, borrowing from the 1910 pattern, was a heavy ground-based weapon fitted with a water-cooling jacket. The weapon was then lightened for both infantry and aircraft use. For aircraft usage, the bolt was lightened and the mechanism sped up from 500 rounds per minute to 800. For ground use, this weapon was adopted as the Bergmann MG-15. The receiver to the weapon was machined down and lightened, featured a butt stock fitted to the end of the weapon. It was given a pistol grip and trigger grouping instead of spade-grips, the heavy cooling jacket was replaced with a thin perforated barrel-shroud and an affixed bipod halfway down the barrel.
The major development of the weapon came early in 1916 when the Bergmann MG-15 was converted into a second variation to mirror the development of the Maxim MG 08/15. The bolt was slowed back down as the original had stoppage issues when used in the ground role. The bipod was removed from the flimsy barrel-shroud and relocated to just forward of the pistol grip using a swivel-mount that accepted the bipod shared between the Bergmann and Maxim guns. A carry handle and new sights were also added. When this variation was adopted, it was called the Bergmann MG-15nA, the nA standing for neuer Art ("new Model"). The old pattern was then renamed the Bergmann MG-15aA from alter Art ("old Model"). The MG-15nA saw a much larger dispersion amongst the Imperial German forces than the MG-15aA.
Battlefield usage of the weapon was significant, but not to the extent of the Maxim weapons. The Bergmann MG-15nA was an important weapon in that it filled a gap in the German armory between the rifle and the heavy machine gun. The only other light machine gun the Imperial German Army fielded before the Bergmann was adopted were the various Madsen light machine guns used by the Musketen battalions. In the Battle of the Somme, the German Army found that they desperately needed a weapon to counter the British Army's Lewis Gun. The limited quantities of the Madsen gun (Germany did not produce any Madsens in the First World War and relied almost entirely on captured weaponry) only added to the need for a contemporary to the Lewis. The German Army, reeling from the Battle of the Somme, ordered some 6,000 MG-15nAs in November 1916. These weapons were distributed to Musketen and other infantry battalions before enough troops could be trained upon the new MG-08/15 in the winter/spring of 1917. The majority of MG-15nA weapons were actually delivered to the Eastern and Palestine fronts where the German Asia Korps made the most significant use of the gun. The German Leichtmaschinengewehr Truppen (referred to as LMGt for short) were formed specifically for the weapon. The MG15Na was a generally reliable gun which served until the manufacture of automatic weaponry was ceased in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles, but the dominance of the Maxim '08 during the war meant it never acquired much enthusiasm from military officials. The weapon had faded into obscurity by the time the Second World War came about.