The Gun Science Says Can’t Work: Madsen LMG Mechanics

The Madsen LMG is generally considered an extremely complex and confusing system – but is it really? Today we are taking one apart to see just how it actually works. Because in fact, it’s a very unusual system, but not really any more complicated than any other easy self-loading action.


  1. A good friend of our family was a Madsen gunner in the Danish Army. From what I understood from him, the Madsen was well-liked, and had a reputation for being robust and reliable (despite its “weird” mechanism).

    And, among Danish soldiers at the time, “having a date with the virgin Madsen” meant going to the firing range 🙂


  2. According to W.H.B. Smith, the cam device shown on the patch was known to the Madsen factory people as the “switch plate”, which is probably a good name for it.

    The use of the Madsen as an aircraft observer gun in WW1 makes good sense. Its ejection system made it very easy to fit with a shell collector bag to avoid ejected cases from being thrown out and possibly damaging part of the aircraft’s structure.

    The one drawback to the Madsen as an infantry LMG is its lack of a quick-change barrel. This plus its box magazine feed system puts it in the category of a true machine rifle, as with the American BAR.

    clear ether


  3. The Madsen LMG is an industrial tool. Like a lightbulb assembly tool, or a barbed wire assembly tool.
    The kind of complete control it has over the cartridge (“the piece to be worked”), with one element (and sometimes two, see the lever-actuated recoil spring) performing one action (the rammer pushes the cartridge into the chamber, the tilting bolt locks it, the hammer/striker fires it, the tilting bolt unlocks it, the tilting extractor extracts it…), is typical of that kind of tools.
    In that kind of tools, where there is a single machine in the factory to work a million pieces a week, simplification doesn’t matter.
    That’s why it works. Because that kind of tools work.
    The downside is the cost, and the work of who has to service it.

      • Two main reasons.
        The field of self-loading firearm was still very new, so there wasn’t a clear pattern to follow. It’s like for the early semiauto pistols designs. The designers did what they were more used to, and they were more used to industrial tools designing.
        The need to circumvent patents that were less than 20 years old, and so still valid.

  4. While not a true quick change, it is pretty simple to remove the barrel+extension+bolt assembly and drop in another. I’d argue that’s actually a more elegant manual of arms since there’s no separable bolt, carrier, or recoil spring to lose.

  5. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the Madsen machine gun — its design, historical usage, and characteristics. Developed in Denmark at the end of the 19th century, the Madsen machine gun became a key weapon, playing a significant role in wars. Its history underscores the importance of controlling the proliferation of firearms and the need for a sensible approach to regulating them. Recently, I also stumbled upon an intriguing analysis of gun control on the website, which highlights the importance of regulating access to firearms for public safety. Examining the historical role of firearms in wars and conflicts emphasizes the need for a balanced approach to public safety.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.