What is the Best Maxim Gun? (with John Keene)

Today, Ian is talking to John Keene, NFA specialist for Morphy Auctions. The question is, what is the best model of Maxim gun? Whether it’s for a recreation shooter or a historical enthusiast, there are some models that are better than others…


  1. What is the best Maxim gun?

    “The one we have got; and they have naught?”

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist…

    If heavy snow is a factor, then make mine the M1910 Maksim on a Sokolov wheeled mount… If not, why, a Vickers would be just fine I’d think.

  2. [OFF-TOPIC so ignore if you wish]
    Recently True Velocity sues Sig Sauer, alleging stolen trade secrets
    it states Sig Sauer used certain experience of True Velocity ex-employee working at Short Recoil Impulse Averaging (SRIA). I am surprised that there is not mention of any patent. Why is that? Was there any attempt to patent SRIA and if not then why? Will that conflict influence further development of U.S. machine guns?

    • Reading through everything about this deal, I’m rather reminded of the Blish Lock… Dunno why, but…

      My best guess on this is that there’s a damn good reason that GDLS magnanimously assigned all this IP to Lone Star, and that has to do with the fact that their “proprietary information” may not be “all that”. I can’t think of another reason that GDLS would have given up on the program’s potential.

      That said, who the hell knows? Without the requisite records, this is just like trying to make sense of the lawsuits surrounding the Cav Arms successors and Ian’s “What Would Stoner Do” projects… Ya can’t see the moving pieces, you don’t know what’s actually motivating the plaintiffs, and… Yeah. Wait for the court decision, and if it ain’t sealed, then maybe you’ll be able to get an idea of what the hell is actually really, truly going on.

      As to American machinegun development? LOL… Pardon my cynicism on that issue. There may be designers out there who know what they’re doing, like Reed Knight, but the odds of their handiwork ever getting into service are slim and none. They don’t know the right people, don’t kiss the right ass, and the people who make the decisions rarely get much of anything right.

      Which goes a long way towards explaining the lengthy history of “wrong” that we have going, all the way back to before the Lewis Gun got the Ordnance Department’s panties in a knot.

      • IMHO, we’ve reached another plateau like the one in 1857 or so. When Rollin White could twist the entire industry around his finger for fourteen years with a questionable patent.

        Or the one in the engine industry in 1899-1904 when George Selden tried to do the same thing with a bogus patent on the piston engine. He might have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t cramped John P. Holland’s efforts to build a working “submersible torpedo boat” for the U.S. Navy, thereby pissing off President Theodore Roosevelt.

        What we now have are multiple interests each trying to be “European” RE patent protections. Never mind that under U.S law, such patents are of questionable validity at best, rather like the European chemical patents of eight or nine decades ago, as John D. Clark relates RE the German liquid rocket propellant researchers who came to work in the U.S. after VE Day;

        As soon as one of the investigators found a mixture that he liked he
        applied for a patent on it. (Such an application would probably not
        even be considered under the much stricter U.S. patent laws.) Not
        surprisingly, everybody and Hemesath and Noeggerath in particular,
        was soon accusing everybody else of stealing his patent. In 1946, when
        Heinz Mueller came to this country, he met Noeggerath again, and
        found him still indignant, bursting out with “And BMW, especially
        Hemesath, did swipe a lot of patents from us!”

        -Clark, Dr. John D. Ignition!; An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants. Rutgers Univ. Press, 1971. p. 16.

        In the U.S. firearms industry, the nonsense continued until the Rollin White patent expired, or rather until its extension was vetoed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1871.

        More importantly, it continued until William Mason and C.B. Richards finalized the design of the Colt Model of 1873 revolver, aka the “Peacemaker”. Most people today (even firearms aficionados) do not realize what a quantum leap in design the “Model P” was, roughly comparable to the Henry/Winchester lever-action repeating rifle.

        It will probably require a similar “paradigm shift” to get the present day industry out of navel-gazing mode and cause them to cease engaging in what one author called “the ferocious quibble over a comma” in the KJV.

        clear ether


        • I’m going to continue to contend that the historical and current patent systems actually serve to discourage the improvement and spread of technologies.

          The Rollin White patents are clear precursors to the various and sundry “preventative patents” of the modern information age: Patent something, don’t bother to produce an actual product, and then sit there demanding what amounts to payoffs from those who do manage to produce something with the idea…

          I’d suggest a revamp of the laws such that all that a patent confers is the right to a percentage of the value of whatever is produced, commensurate with the percentage of contribution to the product. Anyone can use your patented idea, but they have to compensate you for your work, regardless.

          There are too many things locked up in proprietary patents that never get used, or have to be worked around. The result is technological gamesmanship that serves no one well.

  3. Best Maxim?

    In rifle calibres; the Vickers; a very refined Maxim.

    Moving up, the one and two-pounder Maxims on wheeled mounts are definite contenders. These guns were made in Britain, but the most notable users were the Boers in the really nasty war in Southern Africa, a hundred and twenty-something years ago.

    Serious “door-knockers”.

  4. My vote would go to the U.S. Colt-Vickers Model 1915. It was better built than the British version, was lighter than all but the Spandau-built aircraft version with that strange “split-level” receiver, and used the most powerful round among the rifle-caliber choices, the .30-06 aka 7.62 x 63mm.

    And yes, it soldiered on well into WW2.

    clear ether


  5. If ammunition expenditure and the costs-be-damned is an option, then how ’bout the Soviet quadruple water-cooled Maxim gun AA mount… And heck, throw in the armored train too!

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