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Vintage Saturday: Maxim-Tokarev

Maxim-Tokarev machine gun in action at the Battle of Teruel

Maxim-Tokarev machine gun in action at the Battle of Teruel

Reader Ruy has sent us this great photo of a very unusual gun in action in the Spanish Civil War – a Maxim-Tokarev “light” machine gun.

19 comments to Vintage Saturday: Maxim-Tokarev

  • Joe

    Fun photo of a very interesting gun. Hopefully they actually loaded it before they went into action. It appears they draped the belt, backwards, over the front of the receiver instead of actually loading it into the feedblock.

    LOVE vintage Saturday. Thanks guys!
    Joe

  • Need more info on that weapon – first time I have seen that one.

    • Earl Liew

      The Maxim-Tokarev and Maxim-Kolesnikov “light” machine guns were interim designs intended to fill the fledgeling Soviet Army’s requirements in the decade that followed the Bolshevik Revolution and its chaotic aftermath until the country became more stable and could build a solid industrial manufacturing base. The Soviets had inherited a mixture of Maxim, Lewis, Chauchat, Madsen and Hotchkiss weapons from the Tsar’s Army and it was realized that something workable was needed until a new generation of machine guns could be designed and manufactured to properly re-equip the Armed Forces. Fortunately, they had a large number of Maxims available and it was decided that these guns would be converted to meet the need for a mobile, more portable MG that would fit the new doctrines of mobile ground warfare.

      The re-design was given to two engineers, Tokarev and Kolesnikov ; this followed the normal practice of fostering competition and also ensuring redundancy should one design fail to make the grade. Both designs used the original Maxim receiver, bolt, cocking handle and other internal components and were quite similar, the heavy water jacket being replaced with a light, slotted air-cooled barrel jacket, and a rifle stock and pistol grip were installed. The Kolesnikov version actually had a quick-release barrel, a very good feature to have for the sustained-fire role, but the Tokarev was judged to be superior overall by the testing commission and was formally approved in May 1925 for general service. Engineer Tokarev still received complaints that the gun was still too heavy for the LMG role, and had to resort to further modifications to try and address this issue. The barrel was shortened, and the receiver and bipod were lightened, but the weapon could never be considered a true LMG due to its origins. Mass production of the Maxim-Tokarev commenced at the world-famous Tula Arsenal in November 1926.

      The Maxim-Tokarev was eventually replaced by a properly-designed LMG, the DP ( Degtyarev Pulyemet ), in 1931. The history of the DP perfectly illustrates how long it takes to field a new design when one takes into consideration all phases of development, from design and prototyping through field trials, modifications and proof-testing to final approval, tooling up and finally, large-scale production. The DP was designed in 1926, so it took five full years before it was introduced into general front-line service.

      The Spanish Civil War provided many of the Spanish Republicans’ allies, the Soviet Union included, with the opportunity to unload surplus stocks of older weapons at a tidy profit, and all in the name of a just cause. The Maxim-Tokarev and the infamous CSRG ( Chauchat ) machine guns were among these.

      Many thanks to Ruy for a rare and interesting photograph, and to everyone for sharing such insightful viewpoints. Last but not least, many thanks to Ian for letting us be a part of a really great forum!

  • NavyShooter

    Staged photo perhaps?

    • R. Aballe

      Yes, I think so. It was quite probably taken during a temporary halt to the heavy fighting in and around the town of Teruel, during the fierce battle that took place there between December 1937 and February 1938.

      The whole production of the Maxim-Tokarev is believed by many to have been integrally shipped to Spain by the Soviets. Of the circa 2500 produced between 1925-1927, a few rare surviving specimens can be seen in Spanish and Portuguese museums.

      • not all M-T went to Spain. At least several hundreds were donated to Mao forces in China during their war with Japanese occupation forces.
        Few M-T also survived in Russian museums, in Moscow and St.Petersburg, though all are usually in storage rather than on display.

        • R. Aballe

          Max, thanks for the additional details. I didn’t meant that the entire output was shipped to Republican Spain, but several Spanish authors quote high numbers in relation to the total produced, 2000plus if I remember correctly (I am quoting from memory right now, but can check it later). I never doubted that some M-T must have survived in Russian museums, I just wanted to emphasize that Spain and Portugal (and in this case the guns are in storage too) are the only places outside Russia where one can find surviving examples of this rare machine gun.
          Do you know if the later prototypes, built by Tokarev in an attempt to improve handling and reliability, still exist in Russia? One of the changes mentioned by Bolotin is the addition of a pistol grip beneath the receiver.

          • Ruy,
            Personally I’ve seen only 2 M-T, both in standard configuration (as shown on photo), one in Moscow and one in St.Petersburg museums, plus one experimental water-cooled “Maxim-Tokarev” prototype, also in St.Petersburg.
            I think I still have some photos, though of marginal quality, that i could dig up and send to FW to be shared with everyone interested.

  • dansquad

    This Photo was taken by Agustí Centelles during the Battle of Belchite, in September 1937 (the battle of Teruel started in December). The remains of the destroyed Belchite were left intact by Nationalists as a record of such great fight.
    It seems that the comrade at the right is firing a Mosin that surely came in the same “package” of the Maxim-Tokarev.
    I Love Vintage Saturday. Greetings from Spain

    • R. Aballe

      Thanks for the details on the photo, dansquad. I always thought the picture had been taken in Teruel. I visited the pueblo viejo, at Belchite, many years ago. What an eerie place!
      You are right about the guy at right. He’s indeed aiming a Mosin. As for the three men to the left, on the other hand, seen wearing some kind of overalls or fatigue garment and reversed peaked caps, I suspect them to be members of the Guardía de Asalto, but cannot be sure.

      • R. Aballe

        Agustí Centelles surely was one of the great photographers of the SPW, maybe even greater than some of his famous foreign contemporaries (eg. Capa). He produced some iconic images, especially those taken in the early stages of the conflict, such as the two famous pictures of Guardía de Asalto men, taken within minutes of each other, in the streets of Barcelona on July 19, 1936.

        These guys managed to pin-point the exact locations where those famous shots were taken (as well as the not so famous but grim pile of dead horses, photographed the same day): http://blog.arqueologiadelpuntdevista.com/2009/12/los-caballos-de-centelles-la-fotografia.html

      • dansquad

        Yep, those three caps seem to be surely part of the uniform of Guardia de Asalto, the Republican Police Strike Force. I think the two guys reversed it to avoid the peak messing in the line of sight of the Maxim-Tokarev… or maybe they just were the “coolest guys” of the Brigade

  • Petrus

    Try googling it. You’ll find quite a few pictures and info.
    Piotr

  • Big Al

    The Maxim-Tokarev was a modification of the basic Maxim design for use in the light machine gun role. It essentially the same thing as the MG’08/’18, an air-cooled Maxim with a butt-stock and bi-pod for use in the light machine gun role.

    There was a competing design called the Maxim-Kolesnikov that featured a quick-change barrel system, unlike the Tokarev gun. It also featured a strangely-shaped padded butt-stock/pistol grip that rested on top of the shoulder while firing. Here is a link to a PDF scan detailing the 2 guns: http://www.gunpics.net/images/Bolt/Maxim1910.pdf
    Also in this scan is a rather dark picture of water-cooled Fedorovs. How cool is that?

    Both guns were a result of a Soviet program of the 1920′s to produce a family of machine guns all based on the Maxim mechanism (including the PV-1 aircraft machine gun). This did not work out and the guns were conveniently unloaded onto the unfortunate Republican Spanish forces when the war started.

    • Big Al

      I was mistaken. Both had quick-change barrels. Damn Ian V. Hogg and his laziness. I’m throwing away every book I have with his name on it. They are all rife with errors.

      • R. Aballe

        Republican Spanish troops actually liked the design and, despite what Russian sources tell us about several issues with the gun (excessive weight and bulk, jams and problems on the quick-change barrel system), they found it to be quite dependable. The Portuguese army also tested captured examples and considered the gun quite satisfactory, the only complaints being about… yes, easy to guess, weight and bulk.

  • Funny, the US did something broadly similar with the Model 1919A6, and continued to use it until circa 1960. It had the same downsides as the German and Russian attempts to shrink Maxims — weight (about 32 lb,) and and bulk. For comparison’s sake, the M60 weighs 23+ lb and the M240B almost 28. (Non US-ians divide by 2.2 to get kilos).

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