Savage M1918 Aircraft Lewis at the Range (With Rare Tripod Mount!)

Yesterday we looked at the Savage M1918 aircraft version of the Lewis gun, used by American aviators during World War One. Today, we are taking it out to the range along with a very scarce original tripod mounting adapter.

I was not expecting all that much from the gun, but it is really tremendously enjoyable to shoot. The swiveling mount really makes one feel like a vintage aviator, dueling Fokkers over the trenches. Interestingly, the rate of fire was almost identical to that of a standard ground Lewis we had out the same day, despite the muzzle brake intended to increase the rate of fire. Whether that is due to ammunition or some other factor, I do not know.


  1. Is the tripod adaptor British? It would make sense, since the tripod is for a Vickers gun. Given that many air service Lewis guns made their way to the Home Guard in WWII, an adaptor which only fit air service guns would also make sense. This would have provided an excellent piece of firepower for a Home Guard platoon.

    • There would have been need for some sort of ground mount for testing the gun after repair or maintenance, and also for training gunners. It is possible that this mount was meant for that purpose.

      As for the origin of the mount, when the US adopted the Lewis Gun as their aircraft weapon they may have also adopted all of the accessories which went with it, including this ground mount and tripod. There would have been little point in re-inventing the wheel for a small number of mounts.

    • That would have made sense. Photos I have seen of Savage Lewis guns issued to the Home Guard had fixed sights high enough to use over the 97 round magazine, as well as a rudimentary skeleton stock attached to the spade grip, and a simple bipod attached on a bracket similar to the one used on this example.

  2. 5:02 – where the gun would normally have the water jacket mounted…
    The WHAT? On a Lewis Gun? Hmmm 😛

  3. Now let’s see how they mounted it on PT Boats in WWII — Mr. M. noted yesterday that this was a US Navy gun, perhaps originally intended for naval aircraft?

    • The USN did use Lewis guns early in WWII on PT boats and the like, but I think they had barrel jackets. The Japanese did use Lewis guns in aircraft though, and these would not have had barrel jackets.

      • “(…)Japanese(…)”
        According to Type 92 was widely used as defensive armament of aeroplanes used by IJN up to August 1945. They did acknowledged it was obsolete, so they adopted Type 1 (Japanese version of German M.G.15) but did not resigned from using older Type 92, as witnessed by Nakajima B6N Tenzan.

        • Well, of course the Type 92 Lewis was obsolete, but I would still not like to get bullets in the face. One Wildcat pilot got a bit greedy after shooting down a bunch of D3A dive bombers, went after the last one at spitting distance. The American forgot about the Japanese plane’s gunner, who now had a CLEAR SHOT AT THE WILDCAT’S COCKPIT. Okay, the Wildcat did kill the dive bomber’s gunner, but the gunner somehow shot out the Wildcat’s oil tank and scarred the Wildcat’s pilot badly (I mean, an entire earlobe gone is not unnoticeable). I could be wrong.

    • Seaman First Class Douglas A Monro is the only Coast Guardsman ever awarded the Medal of Honor. He commanded a group of landing craft (Due to the CG’s heritage with surf boats, they wee a natural choice for amphibious duty) sent to evacuate marines at Guadalcanal

      “The U.S. Marine Corps landing force came under attack in a Japanese counteroffensive and quickly found itself encircled on a hill. With the Marines in danger of being overrun, Monssen opened fire on the Japanese positions with her 5-inch (127 mm) caliber guns, managing to clear a narrow corridor to the beach. Using Monssen’s signal lamp, Puller ordered the Marines to fight their way to the shore.[24]

      At Lunga Point, the landing craft were instructed to return and extract the besieged Marines.[23] Commander Dexter asked Munro and Evans if they would take charge of the mission, to which Munro answered, “Hell yes!”[4]:4[23] As the boats under Munro’s charge approached the recovery points, they came under heavy fire from the Japanese at a ridge abandoned by the Marines. Munro used a .30 caliber machine gun aboard his landing craft to direct suppressing fire against the enemy positions as the other boats recovered the Marines. With Japanese troops moving against the beach, Munro piloted his boat closer to shore to act as a shield. Though the initial extraction was successful, one of the LCTs became grounded on a sandbar. Munro directed the other LCT to help extricate the grounded vessel as he maneuvered his own boat to shield the Marines from Japanese fire from the shore. Munro was shot in the base of his skull and lost consciousness.[4]:4

      The LCT was ultimately freed and the boats resumed their withdrawal. When out of range of Japanese forces, Munro briefly regained consciousness before succumbing to his wounds. According to Evans, his dying words were, “Did they get off?”[4]:4–5[9] Evans said later that “… seeing my affirmative nod, he smiled with that smile I knew and liked so well, and then he was gone”.

      As can be seen in this painting, the guns mounted on his landing craft were Lewis guns
      with barrel jackets and what appear to be spade grips – a hybrid!

      The Coast Guard has honored his memory by naming a cutter for him

  4. I would enjoy seeing more aircraft machine guns myself. I toured Aluminum Overcast when it was at a local airport and got to see my father’s duty station in the radio compartment, which would have had a Browning .50 mounted in it facing up and rearward. Would love to see Ian and perhaps the Chieftain trying a AC dual turret or quad .50 AA mount.

  5. For clarification; whoever has a better knowledge, please come up with it.

    As my knowledge of WWI military flying goes I believe the Lewis gun was used typically over the top wing right from the start of the war by British and French.
    Since the U.S. entered the war no earlier than in spring of 1917 they could not have been the first, leave alone the only users of it.

  6. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Lewis guns similar to this mounted on jeeps used by the SAS in North Africa. They are usually mounted in pairs on the front passenger side of the jeep, just as this one appears–with no jacket and the round muzzle break. In fact, I’m pretty sure that 50 years ago I had a GI Joe jeep (the 12″ figure, not the later figures they came out with in the 80’s) set up with a .50 cal M2 between the two front seats, and two Lewis guns mounted up front. We didn’t have the video games, but you could learn a lot from those old GI Joes!

    • It is quite likely that what you thought were Lewis guns were in fact Vickers K guns, which the LRDG favoured because of their very high rate of fire. They do look quite similar to an air Lewis from a distance.

      • “which the LRDG favoured because of their very high rate of fire”(C)

        Nobody asked their preferences.
        This is not a supermarket.
        They received what was in the unused property warehouse.

      • “(…)what you thought were Lewis guns were in fact Vickers K guns, which the LRDG favoured because of their very high rate of fire. They do look quite similar to an air Lewis from a distance.”
        According to LRDG used Lewis machine guns too
        According to more than one source, The Lewis Gun was used by the LRDG

        • Andy:

          Those are certainly Vickers K guns. When the RAF retired the aircraft which used them in various mountings, there were a lot of guns going spare, and the likes of the LRDG and SAS were more than happy to use them. As they were designed for air use, they had a very high rate of fire, so having a twin K gun mount on a jeep gave very high firepower, which was useful as they were lightly equipped and deep behind enemy lines. They may well have used Lewis guns as well, they pretty much had to use anything they could find or scrounge.

          • I did a little research, and it appears that you are absolutely correct. There are a few photos out there of LRDP jeeps with Lewis guns, but the vast majority seem to have the Vicker gun. Had you told me a week ago that Vickers made a circular drum-fed, apparently gas operated machine gun, I would have said you were nuts. Anyway, from what I have read, they were exceptionally reliable. I wonder why they weren’t more popular?

          • Andy:

            I think the Vickers K guns were only made for the RAF, and so production would have ended when the RAF did not want them any more. They had a very high rate of fire, so were not as useful to normal infantry as the Bren. However for the SAS they were ideal, and I believe they kept them for a long time after the war, at least as long as supplies of .303 were available.

          • Vickers K: for aircraft use the drum magazine of the Vickers K was outdated (note that the Germans also switched from a drum fed MG 15 to the belt fed MG 81), because you did not want to fumble with a magazine change when you were supposed to provide defensive fire.

            For ground and vehicular use the British had the Bren, and unlike American most British armored vehicles did not have an MG mounted on a pintle or ring mount on top of the turret or superstructure. The famous Bren carrier was of course on exception. Furthermore, for under-armour use they had the belt-fed Besa, which fired 8mm ammunition. The LRDG use was a special case, since they needed MGs for their mostly soft-skinned vehicles and the Vickers K was available.

    • “(…)We didn’t have the video games, but you could learn a lot from those old GI Joes!”
      If you want get miniature vehicle sporting Lewis machine gun, look for DRAGON 7439.

      • I tried real hard to get my son interested in the 40th anniversary GI Joe sets that came out around 2004–most of them were replicas of the ones I had in the 60’s. I couldn’t compete with the video games. I do, however, have a very cool collection of NIB GI Joe stuff…;-)

  7. On the early magazines there was a round counter on which for the last ten rounds the numbers changed colour. this was for the Lewis mounted above the wing. Has anyone ever seen a 30-06 47 rd magazine ?

  8. My dad was an ordinary seaman in the Canadian navy in 1944 protecting convoys from Halifax to Derry. He complained that the Lewis guns they had were inaccurate as they had to much recoil when shooting their favorite live target seagulls

  9. “Shit!! It IS Il Porco!!”

    My all-time favorite Miyazaki film. His love for aviation shines brighter than in any of his others, and his unique combination of technical expertise, artistic flair, and emotional depth are unbeatable. The spectacle of the poor inept Mama Aiuto gunner trying to get a track on Il Porco Rosso’s attack with one of these aircraft Lewises is comedy gold for a firearms/aviation nut. The underfoot school kids are the cherries on a very silly cake. I always wished they’d re-dub it with better firing noise to match the glorious roar of those Merlins and Folgores.

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