Finland’s standard light machine gun going into the Winter War was the LS-26, a gun which did not succeed in field use. It was complex and cumbersome, and Finnish troops quickly replaced it with captured Russian DP-27 LMGs. Part of the problem of the LS-26 was it’s recoil-operated design. Finnish military authorities specified a recoil-operated mechanism for their LMG in light of the success of the recoil-operated heavy Maxim guns in Finnish service. Gas operation was quickly recognized as a superior system for light machine guns, but too late to stop adoption of the LS-26.
In the early 1930s, Aimo Lahti did design a gas-operated LMG, heavily influenced by the Czech ZB-26 system. A handful of prototypes were made by VKT, looking for both Finnish military acceptance and international sales. The gun was made in several calibers, most notably 7.62x54R for Finland and 7.92x57mm Mauser for export. However, bureaucratic issues prevented its consideration by the Finnish Army, and the timing was too late for exports. The L-34 was significantly lighter and simpler than the LS-26, and it was performed quite well in Finnish trials – which did not happen until the 1950s. By that time, the Finnish military was looking for an intermediate-caliber belt-fed gun, and the L-34 was not suitable regardless of its performance.
Many thanks to Sako for providing me access to film this L-34 from their reference collection!