Before the Winter War, the standard light machine gun adopted by the Finnish military was the Lahti-Saloranta LS-26. This was a complex and finely built weapon, using a short recoil action and tilting bolt, chambered for the same 7.62x54mm rimmed cartridge as used by Finland’s Mosin-Nagant infantry rifles. The LS-26 fed from 20-round box magazines which are a bit unusual in having a single-feed presentation (which made them difficult to load without a tool, but also prevented potential problems from rimrock).
In total, about 5,000 LS26 machine guns were made for Finland (and an additional 1,200 sold to China in 8mm Mauser). They were apparently quite accurate, but highly prone to malfunctioning in the cold and dirty field conditions of Finnish combat. When the Winter War broke out and Finns began capturing Russian equipment, the Russian DP-28 light machine gun became a very popular alternative to the LS-26.
The Degtyarev DP-28 may not have been as refined of a weapon, but it was much better suited to real combat. It was simple and reliable, and the 47-round magazine capacity was certainly appreciated as well. By the end of the Continuation War, Finland had some 15,000 Degtyarev light machine guns in its inventory, far outnumbering the LS-26s.
Today Karl and I had a chance to fire both weapons side by side (unfortunately, my trigger time on the LS-26 was quite limited, and I was not able to film a full disassembly of it). We both found the LS-26 to be quite a challenging weapon to use effectively, even without any malfunctions. The Degtyarev was a much more usable machine gun.
One other interesting takeaway for us was the remarkable effectiveness of the semiautomatics DP/DPM made by SMG Guns here in the US. It delivered probably 90% of the utility of the original fully automatic version, which is quite impressive. After this comparison, I would recommend it even more heartily than before.
Special thanks to Varusteleka for arranging this shoot!
All photos in this video are courtesy of the excellent Finnish Defense Forces’ Photo Archive.
Semiauto DP/DPM rifles from SMG Guns (don’t let the terrible web site fool you, the guns are excellent).