Lewis gun

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Lewis gun
Lewis Gun (derivated).jpg
TypeLight machine gun
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1914–1953
Used bySee Users
WarsFirst World War
Easter Rising
Pancho Villa Expedition[1]
Emu War
Banana Wars
Irish War of Independence
Irish Civil War
Russian Civil War
Latvian War of Independence
Polish–Soviet War
Chaco War
Spanish Civil War
Second World War
Korean War
Malayan Emergency
1948 Arab–Israeli War
Vietnam War
Algerian War
The Troubles
and other conflicts
Production history
DesignerSamuel McClean
Isaac Newton Lewis
The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited
Designed1911
ManufacturerThe Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited or BSA
Savage Arms Co.
Produced1913–1942
No. builtAt least 202,050 (50,000 in First World War and 152,050 in Second World War)
VariantsMks I–V
Aircraft Pattern
Anti-Aircraft configuration
Light Infantry Pattern
Savage M1917
Specifications
Mass28 pounds (13 kg)
Length50.5 inches (1,280 mm)
Barrel length26.5 inches (670 mm)
Width4.5 inches (110 mm)

Cartridge.303 British
.30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
7.62×54mmR
ActionGas-operated long stroke gas piston, rotating open bolt
Rate of fire500–600 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity2,440 feet per second (740 m/s)
Effective firing range880 yards (800 m)
Maximum firing range3,500 yards (3,200 m)
Feed system47- or 97-round pan magazine
SightsBlade and tangent leaf

The Lewis gun (or Lewis automatic machine gun or Lewis automatic rifle) is a First World War–era light machine gun.

History[change | change source]

The Lewis gun was invented by U.S. Army colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911, based on initial work by Samuel Maclean.[2]

The start of the First World War increased demand for the Lewis gun. BSA began production, under the name Model 1914. The design was officially approved for service on 15 October 1915 under the name "Gun, Lewis, .303-cal."[3] No Lewis guns were produced in Belgium during the war;[4] all manufacture was carried out by BSA in England and the Savage Arms Company in the US.[5]

Production[change | change source]

U.S. Marines field tested the Lewis machine gun in 1917.

The Lewis was produced by BSA and Savage Arms during the war. The two versions were very similar, but there were enough differences to stop them being completely interchangeable. This problem was fixed by the time of the Second World War.[6]

Design details[change | change source]

List of parts
A 97-round pan magazine, as used on a 7.92×57mm Lewis gun, Museum of Coastal Defence, Poland. Note the magazine is only partially filled.

The Lewis gun was gas operated. [7][8]

Recruits of the Singapore Volunteer Force training with a Lewis gun, 1941
A Lewis gun at the Elgin Military Museum Canada. The rear end of finned aluminium heat sink, that fits within the gun's cooling shroud, can be seen

The Lewis gun used a pan magazine holding 47 or 97 rounds.[9]

The gun fired about 500–600 rounds per minute. It weighed 28 lb (12.7 kg), only about half as much as a typical medium machine gun of the era, such as the Vickers machine gun. It could be carried and used by one soldier.[10]

Service[change | change source]

First World War[change | change source]

Men of the 28th Battalion of the 2nd Australian Division practising Lewis gun drill at Renescure.

During the first days of the war, the Belgian Army had put in service 20 prototypes (5 in 7.65×53mm and 15 in .303) for the defense of Namur.[11]

Australian soldiers firing at enemy aircraft during the First World War

Aircraft use[change | change source]

Captain Charles Chandler (with prototype Lewis Gun) and Lt Roy Kirtland in a Wright Model B Flyer after the first successful firing of a machine gun from an aeroplane in June 1912.
No. 87 Squadron Dolphin flown by Cecil Montgomery-Moore. A Lewis gun is mounted atop the lower right wing

The Lewis was the first machine gun fired from an airplane. On 7 June 1912, Captain Charles Chandler of the US Army fired a Lewis gun from the foot-bar of a Wright Model B Flyer.[12]

Lewis Guns mounted in the front cockpit of the pusher Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d
Albert Ball in an S.E.5a, showing the Foster mount's arc-shaped I-beam rail.
1918 Sopwith Dolphin with twin Lewis guns aimed upwards.


A New Zealand-crewed LRDG truck (equipped with a Lewis Gun) is dug out of the sand, c.1942.
A Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boat with dual twin Lewis guns, 1940.
Czech Vz 28/L, chambered for the 7.92×57mm Mauser ammunition.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. Canfield, Bruce (October 2016). "1916: Guns On The Border". American Rifleman. National Rifle Association.
  2. Skennerton (2001), p. 5
  3. Skennerton (2001), p. 6
  4. Skennerton (2001), p. 7
  5. Skennerton (2001), p. 41
  6. Skennerton (2001), pp. 15, 41–46.
  7. Ford (2005), pp. 68–70.
  8. Smith (1943), p. 31
  9. Smith (1943), pp. 28, 32.
  10. Hogg & Batchelor (1976), p. 27.
  11. Grant (2014), p. 11.
  12. Bruce, Robert (March 2000). "The Lewis Gun". Guns Magazine. Archived from the original on 7 August 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2009.

References[change | change source]

More reading[change | change source]

  • Easterly, William McCleave; Stevens, R. Blake (1998). The Belgian Rattlesnake: The Lewis Automatic Machine Gun: A Social and Technical Biography of the Gun and Its Inventors. Collector Grade. ISBN 978-0-88935-236-0.

Other websites[change | change source]