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Old March 8, 2000, 02:59 PM   #1
Oleg Volk
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Just curious as to what its main failing were? Seem it was a simpler and more reliable design than many others of 1914-18 vintage even...why wasn't it produced in 30-06 insead of heavier Vickers or less capable Lewis?

Oleg "cornered rat" Volk (JPFO,NRA)
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Old March 8, 2000, 04:01 PM   #2
Join Date: March 8, 2000
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They had a flapper on the barrel that was said to kick dirt into the firers face. This was a very early 1890's design that was better than nothing, but was clumsy and quirky/
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Old March 9, 2000, 02:13 AM   #3
Daniel Watters
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Actually, I believe the lever arm actuated by the flapper was the main culprit. The name Potato Digger was quite accurate if the weapon was mounted too close to ground cover.
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Old March 9, 2000, 11:33 PM   #4
John Hollister
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I just saw serial number 2 a couple of weeks ago. I understand the same guy owns number 1, but was unable to confirm that.

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Old March 10, 2000, 01:51 AM   #5
James K
Join Date: March 17, 1999
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Even if it didn't actually strike the ground, having a major piece of the operating mechanism flapping about outside the gun was not a really good idea. It was a pioneering effort, but later stuff was better. In fact, Marlin made an MG in WWI that was essentially the potato digger with a conventional gas piston; it served well, mostly in vehicles, but was retired after the war in favor of the Brownings.

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Old March 20, 2000, 06:28 PM   #6
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The 'tater digger was gas operated like most modern machineguns. It lost out in the early days to the recoil operated guns, which were considered much more reliable and less likely to foul with the dirty, corrosive ammo of the times. The Lewis suffered the same problems. Later, the gas operated Bren reached perfection, but only after the adoption of stainless steel in the parts subject to combustion gases. Note the stainless cylinder on the Garand. (One point favored on the Johnson rifle was it's recoil operation)

The real machineguns of WWI were the Vickers and Maxims, with the Brownings arriving at the very end. All known for reliability and firing 10's of thousands of rounds between stoppages; and all recoil operated.
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Old March 22, 2000, 02:41 PM   #7
James K
Join Date: March 17, 1999
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Hi, guys,

Corrosion in the gas system was certainly a factor for those who preferred recoil operated MGs. The Colt really didn't have much of a problem in that area, because its gas exited into the air, not into a cylinder. Nonetheless, the Hotchkiss and its derivative, the US Model 1909, the Marlin, the Lewis, and the BAR all preceded the BREN, and all were pretty good guns. The BREN would have been a better gun if it had not been changed to use the gawdawful .303.

In general, the idea was that heavy MGs would be belt fed and used in fixed positions, while "light" MGs (not even the BAR is light if you have to carry it a while) would be used in maneuver units.

The Johnson LMGs were OK (I like the side mounted magazine), but the M1 is far superior to the Johnson rifle in almost any category.

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