Vickers Semiauto Conversion at RIA (Video)

The Vickers machine gun was an evolution of the Maxim, the world’s first successful machine gun. The Vickers was adopted by the British armed forces shortly before World War I and remained in active service until 1968. It is renowned as one of the most durable and reliable machine guns ever made, with one gun recorded to have fired more than 120,000 rounds in a single 12-hours period in combat. This Vickers has been rebuilt as a semiauto-only gun, and is this not regulated by the NFA and can be sold like any typical rifle or pistol (no tax stamp needed).

For more on the Vickers, see my Paean to the Vickers Gun.


  1. Cool guns Vickers, big like but effective. Great value piece that, in semi auto really… With it’s stable platform I bet you could still play around with indirect fire, might be fun.

    There’s a sight for sale to help with this:

    The director is an instrument for measuring angles in connection with the control of indirect gun fire. Angles are measured in both the vertical and horizontal planes. Horizontal angles are measured 180 degrees left or right of some arbitrary reference point; vertical angles are required to a limited extent, and are always measured from the horizontal. Errors are caused if the planes of measurement are not truly horizontal or vertical; means must therefore be provided to ensure this.

  2. If you fixed the barrel in it’s forward position via welding it to the recoil booster or something, would it function by just winding the handle thinking sort of “straight pull” operation, single shot? U.K law…
    I assume it would as that’s how you load it initially presumably, even that would perhaps still provide some degree of amusement by engaging targets at long distance via indirect fire.

    • Probably need some sort of forward observation “officer” a buddy or CCTV etc to bring your shots close enough to possibly hit a pumpkin after awhile, but it might be a lark… Kind of mini artillery, obviously your chum wants to be under sufficient cover down range.

      • I found a place reasonably close to where I live where it’s safe to shoot out to 3000 or 4000 yards, and it’s all scrub grassland with no trees. I am really looking forward to doing a video on indirect fire out there with my Vickers. 🙂

      • I’m digressing somewhat but I’ll try to be relatively succinct, does anyone reckon making modern crossbows that are edging towards Ballista sized devices. That are mounted on tripods which facilitate elevation/traverse in detailed increments, that fire clockwork “no hear me out” bolts, you wind up a mechanism inside them and they tick like a clock until at a certain point, which you set, it releases a pre-sprung adjustable spring which alters the position of the tail fins so as to change the bolts flight path in a manner you determine prior to firing. Firing at archery targets, but led on the ground over a hill at various ranges/positions. Would make a decent sport? You’d lay onto targets via map bearings and then using all your settings for trajectory etc on the bow/bolt try and hit the targets bullseye eventually, I think it would be fun personally. Sort of related to what I mentioned above, you could walk perhaps though to spot your first shot as it would be a big arrow stuck out the ground so you could see it from on top of the hill.

        • Well I say “modern” crossbows, but I do like brass bits. Suppose you could use electronic stuff these days kind of smart rounds I suppose, think they make them in .50Bmg cal not sure what they do if there not range initiated air burst things. I assume they give enhanced windage adjustments down range or something because the rounds might be operating more under gravity than the initial force from firing that’s what I thought anyway in relation to clockwork… Say you’ve aimed off like normal but it could really do with going more that way now, well you could perhaps time that point and set the alarm type thing. Unless it gets more range, suppose it could alter the drop to more of a glide maybe that’s what they do.

    • Yes, you could convert one of these to manual operation by doing something like that – although it would be more complicated than just welding in the barrel (which would prevent you from disassembling the gun, because the barrel, lock, and recoil plates are a single unit in the gun). In addition, the feed block is activated by the recoil motion of the barrel, so you would need to pull on the belt manually when cycling the action.

      • Hmmm, maybe a weaker return spring could be used in conjunction with a barrel that moves but while attached to the bolt… Via the winding handle, so you could pull it back then wind then push forward and unwind so to speak as one piece. A tray like, running inside the receiver which has the barrel at the front and the locking system as per but attached to it.

        • Well I’m not surprised at the law being something of an “a,s,s” here, in regards firearms MJ Mahoney. Actually it appears deactivated Vickers guns here aren’t that “cheap” as a base to make a straight pull model from it transpires, in relation to the estimated price equivalent price in dollars of this semi auto one in the U.S.

          Can’t find any straight pull ones though, so maybe there’s a gap in the market… Particularly for indirect fire use, given the appropriate “platform” and available accessories. Might not be as desirable for direct fire as a straight pull Mp44 for example which you can get for about £2,500 approx.

          Semi auto would be more fun, but a Vickers would look good and they were used as wee artillery… In full auto, but there’s a historic link like. Not sure if it wouldn’t cost more though trying to make one from scratch, can’t see them selling that much anyway so if they were cost prohibitive probably wouldn’t add up. Suppose you could make one for personal use if you can over here, not sure if you can probably restrictions… Possibly just involving giving the government cash for some sort of manufacturing license, but it would add to the overall cost and I am a wee bit skint.

    • Alas, I believe British gun laws state that if a functioning firearm once was a “Section 5”, it always will be, (unless deactivated). Ludicrously enough, you could build a Vickers from the ground up to be straight-pull, but you couldn’t “reactivate” an original to be straight-pull and legal.

      • A purposely designed straight pull bolt/action could probably be locked to the receiver relatively easily though, to prevent the tray idea aforesaid from recoiling which “they” probably wouldn’t like via it having a lug on it’s underside that engages a recess in the receiver through a hole in the tray untill you wind the redesigned handle a bit – lifting said lug clear – then pull it back “so the tray thus the barrel” then wind, then forward… Under spring pressure to speed up the unwind so to speak.

        Or something, anyway I’m sure a straight pull version could be made somehow.

        • I’m not actually sure if indirect fire in the U.K is legal actually, maybe it is but it’s not done much because of the hardware restrictions etc.

          There’s probably ranges big enough to facilitate it safely, something that’s probably easier to achieve in Arizona he he.

  3. While this is wonderful news, I will have to reiterate that it is still a sad fact of life that we are stuck with having to resort to semi-automatic versions of so many historic MG’s ( and other firearms ) due to the ridiculous and non-logical rules emanating from the BATF, et al. A lot of it is hardly the BATF’s fault — let’s face it, they have little choice but to respond to the self-serving political forces that drive this whole issue. The source of the problem is not the BATF, but those who determine what their agendas are.

    There really is nothing as “real” as a Vickers 0.303″ MMG in it’s original full-auto version — and, come to think of it — the same applies to any other automatic weapon.

    • Politicians are usually not the best engineers. And not that I can really throw blame around, but the half-rational fear of full-auto weapons floating around outside a government-watched armory is that they will usually end up in the wrong hands (sadly, too many are already in the wrong hands due to stupidity on the part of the bureaucrats and NO law can prevent that from happening). I do agree that a semi-auto Vickers is a bit of a shame. But last time I checked, most early 20th Century heavy machine guns were too heavy to use for any 21st Century crime sprees. What idiot would use a tripod-mounted water-cooled rifle-caliber gun for a stick-up anyway?


      • Well, almost a hundred years ago Joh Dillinger used a BAR, and the recent terrorists in Paris used assault rifles, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to imagine various kinds of evil-doers using a heavy machine-gun to cause great harm within a civil society setting. The same can be said for rockets, remotely piloted or drone aircraft, etc.

        The question of what kinds of potentially destructive power to allow individuals to have in civil society is a complex and difficult question. Everyone pretty much wants some kinds of limits (mental health, criminal record, age, demonstrated ability, etc.) but there are obviously enormous differences over what exactly the limits should be.

        I mean, obviously I should be allowed to have a machine gun, but you on the other hand, well I am not yet sure.

        • Oh I don’t know, if I was an American I’d probably be one of those saying no gun laws whatsoever because it’s a slippery slope to ending up like the U.K where there’s a constant decrease in guns/shooting via ever expanding gun laws.

          But not shootings due to illegal weapons, not that we have them for defence obviously anyway so it’s more annoying.

          Mind you I reckon guns probably should be fitted with safety catches personally, regardless of safe storage practices.

          • “For firearms having less of a trigger pull weight than a double action revolver say 12lb, as toddlers can clearly pull about 6lbs”

    • It is a shame, but without loads of surplus 303 available (and other vintage machine gun cartridges), it might not make as big a difference to some people. 303 is not known for reloading well, and firing off a belt at a time with $20 a box ammo would definitely become expensive quickly.

      Given the right President maybe a law could change things so that the registry would allow the importation of historically significant machine guns (like the one Ian showed). Right now, for example, a museum could not import a machine gun made by a Polish resistance group to fight the Nazi’s–how absurd is that? And surely we could all agree to go the way of Canada on short barreled rifles.

          • Happily, it’s pretty easy to convert a Vickers to use 7.62x54R, which is available cheap (at least in the US). That’s what I have done with mine. You can also get Turkish and American parts to convert the guns to 8mm Mauser and .30-06. The South Africans ran then in 7.62mm NATO, but those parts (especially their disintegrating links) are much harder and more expensive to find.

          • The main issues regarding classical machine guns made before the end of the Second World War is the availability of ammunition and the ammunition belts and magazines which are often very difficult to obtain. Although it is possible to come by ammunition components that can be reloaded etc., and feed devices, putting them together to make them function reliably can be an issue as the ammunition and the components have to be “tuned”.

    • I agree, which is why I find hatred for the BATF to be hollow and self-serving actually. Its as if nobody in our side can ever understand that they are simply following their orders and doing so to the best of their abilities. I admire them for doing so in the face of vitriol that spews from many of us.

      • I would suggest that “they’re only following orders”, given the history of that phrase, especially when rendered in German, is maybe not the best possible argument. Plus, its not actually true. Many, probably most, BATF officers are time severs, they put in a day of checking, investigating, and updating their files on the Jews (oops, gun owners), go home and have a beer. Others are scalphunters in hot pursuit of promotion and bonus money. These two types are found in any government agency and I’m sure have been around since Sumer changed over from bowls with colored rocks to the new High Tech of clay tablets. However, BATF also has a small, but real, minority of officers who are true believers, who are dedicated to cleansing the nation of the vermin Jews (oops again, gun owners). As FFL holders my wife and I encountered lots of the first type and, on one memorable occasion, one of the third. They do exist.

  4. U.S Ordnance who made this Vickers semi auto model made the now adapted by the Danes apparently over the Hk121, M60E6 which looks alright… Clearly Denmark thought so. So dropping this project i.e. This excellent semi auto commercial Vickers, worked.

    If that was the project…

    Anyway that “project” worked.

    • As did this rather splendid Vickers but I mean fiduciary, burp… Don’t know were that came from, financially etc.

      Ak107, Mg3 barrel moving back might be able to move a counter mass forward via a rack and pinion lark it’s already quite flat and it happens during recoil.

      • It could shove it, then blow it… Shove via direct rack to pinion lark, then “my gun analogies sound rude, I think… Internet porn probably” anyway, then “blow it” via gas, from the bolt. So, barrel – synchronized shove, then bolt open… In a sleeve yes, a wizards sleeve. Anyway night.

        Oh right, aye the barrel/bolt could be in a sleeve gas then is transferred “by some sort of calculus” whoosh! Like that, open opening possibly somewhat prematurely… Can’t see, out zzzzzzzz…

  5. Because of this page I decided I needed a Semi auto Vickers. I was prepared to pay well more than the high estimate of $2500.00 But the bidding ground me down and i quit. the gun sold for $6500.00 plus fees. Darn I was close. Ha

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