1840: Machine Gun Inventor born today

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By Tony Long via Wired News

Maxim MG1840: Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, is born.

Although multi-shot weapons existed in one form or another for centuries, Maxim’s gun, which made its debut in 1881, is considered the first true machine gun.

The key to the Maxim gun was that it eliminated the need for hand power, relying instead on the recoil power of the previously fired bullet to reload the chamber. This increased the rate of fire exponentially over earlier weapons such as the Gatling gun. Maxim’s other innovation was the introduction of a water-cooling system to reduce barrel overheating during extended firing.

Sir Hiram MaximBy World War I, the Maxim gun had been adopted in one form or another by all the major combatants and put to use with deadly effect in the trenches. Variations of the Maxim gun also saw action in aerial combat, mounted on both Allied and German aircraft. It was ironic, perhaps, that Maxim died only a few days after the Battle of the Somme ended, where German machine-gunners mowed down thousands of British infantrymen attacking across no-man’s land.

MaximAlthough technology had advanced far beyond Maxim’s original gun by World War II, his basic innovations were still being incorporated into newer, even deadlier designs.

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