Madsen Light machine gun

The Madsen was the first successful light machine gun, entering production in 1902. It saw much use, but was an unusual design – basically a fully automatic falling block action. It used a top mounted magazine offset to the left side of the receiver, allowing the sights to remain on the centerline of the gun. The Madsen was available in a wide variety of calibers (up to 20mm), configurations (LMG, AT rifle, AA gun, etc), and barrel lengths.

Madsen guns in the field
Two Madsen LMGs and a 20mm Madsen

The Madsen was very much a commercial gun, eagerly offered to anyone interested in buying arms. To quote one of their advertising booklets:

[The] Model 1920, is invented designed and manufactured by the Danish Recoil Rifle Syndicate, of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is an automatic weapon of rifle calibre – firing 400 rounds per minute, – which combines the minimum of weight – 16 lbs. – with a firing efficiency and endurance almost equal to that of the most efficient heavy machine-guns. The Madsen gun is in every respect superior to the Lewis, Hotchkiss, Lyon-Hotchkiss, Chauchat, Browning, Berthier and Beardmore-Farquhar Guns. It is recoil-operated, not gas-operated like the other guns, it is lighter, stronger and more efficient; its barrel can be changed in 12 seconds; it can keep up continuous rapid fire for an unlimited time, it is very much simpler and better constructed and breakages never occur, its aut10matic working is much more reliable than that of any other gun under Service conditions and it will stand rough handling which no other gun can withstand.

Yeah, it’ll never malfunction or break, and it makes coffee for you in the morning! The Madsen might not have quite lived up to these rather optimistic claims, but it was a very successful design, seeing use for nearly 60 years in many different countries. We have a whole slew of manuals and a set of color plates showing the operating mechanism on the Madsen LMG page in the Vault.


  1. More than 60 years – the Brazilian police are still using them, albeit in 7.62 and with vertical foregrips..

      • Yes indeed. No reason not to use an effective design just because it’s older, haha. It’s probably not a matter of desperation either, the Brazilian police tend to be fairly well equipped.

        Excellent article!

    • I was going to post the same thing. Here in Brazil they are still commonly seen in current combat down in Rio in the hands of the police. They have been converted to 7.62×51.

  2. Really ! Old Madsen still does some job ! 🙂
    Thanks for information in the Vault !!!

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