The Maxim gun was the first self-powered machine gun, invented by the American-born British inventor Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim in 1884. It has been called “the weapon most associated with [British] imperial conquest”
The mechanism of the Maxim gun employed one of the earliest recoil operated firing systems in history. The idea is that the energy from the recoil is used, in lieu of a locked bolt or a lever mechanism, to eject each spent cartridge and insert the next one. This made it vastly more efficient and less labour intensive than previous rapid-firing guns, such as the Gatling, Gardner, or Nordenfelt guns that relied on actual mechanical cranking.
During the Battle of the Shangani, 700 soldiers fought off 3,000 warriors with just four Maxim guns.
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