Madsen machine gun

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Madsen machine gun
Madsen machine gun with magazine.jpg
A Madsen light machine gun with spare magazine.
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin Denmark
Service history
In service 1902–present
Used by See Users
Wars Russo-Japanese War,
World War I,
Chaco War,
World War II, various other worldwide conflicts
Production history
Designed 1896
Manufacturer Dansk Rekyl Riffel Syndikat A/S
Weight 9.07 kg (20.00 lb)
Length 1,143 mm (45.0 in)
Barrel length 584 mm (23.0 in)

Cartridge 7×57mm Mauser
7.92×57mm Mauser
7.65×53mm Argentine
7.62×51mm NATO
.303 British[1]
Action Long recoil-operated
Rate of fire 450 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 870 m/s (2,854 ft/s) (6.5x55mm)
Feed system 25, 30, 40-round detachable box magazine
Sights Rear V-notch and front post

The Madsen was a light machine gun developed by Julius A. Rasmussen and Theodor Schoubue and proposed for adoption by Captain Vilhelm Herman Oluf Madsen, the Danish Minister of War and adopted by the Danish Army in 1902. It was one of the first true light machine guns produced in quantity and sold to over 34 different countries worldwide in 12 different calibres, seeing extensive combat use in various conflicts around the globe for over 100 years.[2][3] The Madsen was produced by Compagnie Madsen A/S (later operating as Dansk Rekyl Riffel Syndikat A/S and then Dansk Industri Syndikat A/S).

Design details[edit]

Operating cycle of the Madsen

The Madsen has a rather sophisticated and uncommon operating cycle not used in any other crew-served weapon. The machine gun uses a mixed recoil-operated locking system with a hinged bolt that is patterned after the lever-action Peabody Martini breechblock.[2] The recoil operation is part short and part long recoil. After firing a round, the initial recoil impulse drives the barrel, barrel extension, and bolt to the rear. A pin on the right side of the bolt moves backward in grooves in an operating cam plate mounted to the right side of the receiver. After 12.7 mm (0.5 in) of travel, the bolt is cammed upward, away from the breech (the "short" portion of the recoil system). The barrel and barrel extension continue to move rearward to a point slightly exceeding the combined overall length of the cartridge case and projectile (the long portion of the recoil system, responsible for the weapon's low rate of fire).

After the breech is exposed, an odd lever-type extractor/ejector, mounted under the barrel, is pivoted to the rear, extracting the empty case and ejecting it through the bottom of the receiver. The bolt's operating cam then forces the bolt face to pivot downward, aligning a cartridge feed groove in the left side of the bolt with the chamber. While the bolt and barrel are returning forward, a cartridge-rammer lever, mounted on the barrel extension, is pivoted forward, loading a fresh cartridge.

Operational use[edit]

Up to and including World War I[edit]

It was used extensively by the Imperial Russian Army, which bought 1,250 examples and deployed them during the Russo-Japanese War, and was deployed (arming infantry companies, mountain troops and later storm troopers) in 1914 by the German Army in 7.92 mm calibre. It saw service during World War I. It was considered expensive to produce, but was known for its reliability. It was sold to 34 nations in a dozen different calibres[4] before and after World War I, seeing service in China during the Warlord era.

Norwegian soldiers in 1928, one carrying a Madsen machine gun.

The Imperial Russian Air Service used Madsens to equip their Morane-Saulnier G and Morane-Saulnier L monoplanes, mounting the gun to fire over the propeller.[5]

Among the fighting forces with the Madsen in their arsenals in the immediate aftermath of World War I were the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia, fighting the Bolsheviks in Siberia.[6]

Inter-war era[edit]

Paraguay bought the Madsen in the 1920s and early 1930s as that country quietly girded for war with Bolivia over mutual claims to the Gran Chaco region, and it served in the Paraguayan army in the Chaco War (1932–1935). Almost 400 were on hand when the war began, and the Paaraguayans bought more as the war progressed.[7] Bolivia also fielded Madsens of the same calibre as Paraguay (7.65x53 Mauser) during the conflict.[3] The Argentine Army detachment that protected neutrality along the border with Paraguay and Bolivia during the Chaco War used the Madsen in combat operations at least once in 1933 in the course of an engagement against members of the Maká tribe commanded by deserters who had looted a farm and killed some of its inhabitants.[8] When Brazil acquired some 23 CV-35 tankettes from Italy in the late 1930s, it armed a majority of the vehicles with twin-mounted 7 mm Madsens.[9] Ireland had a total of 24 Madsen machine guns all in .303 calibre. They were fitted to its Landsverk L60 light tanks, Leyland Armoured Cars, Landsverk L180 armoured cars, and Dodge Armoured Cars. In the 1950s .30 Browning machine guns replaced the Madsens still in Irish service.[1]

World War II[edit]

Madsen machine guns were still in use in April–June 1940 as the Norwegian Army's standard light machine gun in the Norwegian Campaign, 3,500 M/22s in 6.5x55 Krag being available for the defence of Norway. By 1940 each Norwegian infantry squad had one Madsen machine gun, the Norwegians having previously grouped their Madsens in separate machine gun squads.[10][11] Each Norwegian infantry battalion had a standard complement of 36 Madsens, in addition to nine M/29 heavy machine guns. However, Norwegian soldiers did not like the Madsen as it had a tendency to jam after only a few rounds in this calibre, leading to it gaining the nickname Jomfru Madsen (English: Virgin Madsen).[12] The Germans used captured Madsens for second line units throughout the war, and Danish production continued for the German armed forces in the 8x54 mm Jörgensen calibre until 1942. The Danish Army did not retire their last Madsens until 1955.

It was standard equipment (in 6.5 mm) with the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) during the inter-war period. The Imperial Japanese Army used some after capturing them during the fall of the East Indies.

Portuguese Colonial War[edit]

During the Portuguese Colonial War of the 1960s and 1970s the Portuguese Army used Madsen machine guns. Madsens served as temporary armament for Auto-Metralhadora-Daimler 4 × 4 Mod.F/64 armoured cars, which were Daimler Dingos modified with the addition of a turret-like structure.[13]

Continued use in Brazil[edit]

The Madsen continued to be used by the Brazilian Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State, into the 21st Century.[14] Although some of the Brazilian guns were captured from drug traffickers and pressed into service (mostly old weapons originating from the Argentine Army as well as some stolen from museums[15]), the majority of the Madsens used by the Brazilian police were donated by the Brazilian Army; these guns were originally .30 cal weapons re-chambered to fit 7.62 mm NATO. Official sources state that the Brazilian army retired the Madsen machine gun in 1996. The Brazilian police guns were, from 2008, being substituted by more modern guns with faster rates of fire.[16] It was reported that the last Madsen guns were finally retired in April 2008,[17] However, photos taken during clashes between Brazilian police and drug traffickers on October 19, 2009 clearly show the Madsen gun as being used by the Brazilian police.[18]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Karl Martin, Irish Army Vehicles, Transport & Armour Since 1922, Karl Martin 2002.
  2. ^ a b c Kokalis, Peter. Weapons Tests And Evaluations: The Best Of Soldier Of Fortune. Paladin Press. 2001. pp15–16.
  3. ^ a b c de Quesada, Alejandro (2011). The Chaco War 1932–35 South America's greatest modern conflict. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-84908-416-1. 
  4. ^ Madsen machine gun
  5. ^ a b Kulikov, Victor (2013). Russian Aces of World War 1. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. pp. 13, 82. ISBN 978-1-78096-060-9. 
  6. ^ a b Bullock, David (2009) [First published 2007]. The Czech Legion 1914–1920. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-84603-236-3. 
  7. ^ An Outline History of the Paraguayan Army
  8. ^ Golpe, Néstor (1970). Calvario y muerte: revisión histórica militar; narraciones fortineras, 1917-1938. Artes Gráficas "Armada Argentina", pp. 186-190 (Spanish)
  9. ^ Kirk Jr., William A. (2003-03-12). "Brazil". Tanks! Armoured Warfare Prior to 1946. Florida State University. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  10. ^ a b Holm, Terje H. (1987). 1940 – igjen? (in Norwegian). Oslo: Norwegian Armed Forces Museum. p. 26. ISBN 82-991167-2-4. 
  11. ^ View from the trenches ASL journal Issue 31 May-Jun 2000
  12. ^ Jaklin, Asbjørn (2006). Nordfronten - Hitlers skjebneområde (in Norwegian). Oslo: Gyldendal. p. 32. ISBN 978-82-05-34537-9. 
  13. ^ a b Abbott, Peter (2005). Modern African Wars (2): Angola and Mozambique 1961–1974. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-85045-843-5. 
  14. ^ Madsen Light Machine Gun website
  15. ^ News article about Argentine guns found with drug dealers (Portuguese)
  16. ^ Brazilian Air Force news about Madsen guns (Portuguese)
  17. ^ Strategy Page on Madsen guns.
  18. ^ Photo slideshow on clash between Brazilian police and drug traffickers.
  19. ^ a b Gander, Terry J.; Hogg, Ian V. Jane's Infantry Weapons 1995/1996. Jane's Information Group; 21 edition (May 1995). ISBN 978-0-7106-1241-0.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Lugosi, József (2008). "Gyalogsági fegyverek 1868–2008". In Lugosi, József; Markó, György. Hazánk dicsőségére: 160 éves a Magyar Honvédség. Budapest: Zrínyi Kiadó. p. 382. ISBN 978-963-327-461-3. 

Further reading[edit]

  • (Russian) Семён Федосеев, "Российская карьера ружья-пулемёта «Мадсен»", Мастерружьё, 2010 issue 2 pp. 48-57, issue 3 pp. 58-64, and issue 6 pp. 42-51 (No. 155, 156 & 159). HTML version of the article: part 1, part 2, part 3

External links[edit]