Lewis machine gun file photo [5493]

Lewis Machine Gun

Country of OriginUnited Kingdom
TypeMachine Gun
Caliber7.700 mm
Capacity47 rounds
Length965.000 mm
Barrel Length665.000 mm
Weight11.800 kg
Rate of Fire550 rounds/min
Muzzle Velocity747 m/s


ww2dbaseIn 1911, Colonel Isaac N. Lewis, U.S.Army, developed a gas-operated light machine gun which, when built for the Belgian Army, soon attracted the attention of the British War Office who at the start of the Great War (1914) were eagerly seeking a more mobile machine gun than the heavy Vickers-Maxim . Quicker and cheaper to be built than the Vickers-Maxim (six could be turned out for the same manufacturing effort as one Vickers) a license was soon obtained to build the Lewis-Gun at the Birmingham Small Arms Company's factory in Warwickshire.

Throughout the Great War the Lewis Gun, issued to Battalions of the expanding BEF, introduced a new concept in Machine Gun use. It was ideal for use in the trenches where, despite being susceptible to dirt and mud, it could be easily concealed, as well as having the ability to be operated by just one man. By 1918 each infantry squad had a Lewis, which substantially increased the battalion's firepower and made the British infantry far more formidable than the Germans, who had no comparable gun.

The Lewis-Gun did have its faults. It was rather notorious for stoppages and jams, and the circular 47-round magazine which took time to reload was another general well-known barrack-room moan. Nevertheless the troops had confidence in it, which was what mattered most.

The Lewis also performed well as an aircraft armament (with a 97-round ammunition pan) and was one of the few MGs that could be used for shooting forward by the pilot or, on a flexible mounting, by the rear Observer.

Surviving the Great War, the Lewis MG continued in infantry service until 1939 when it was finally replaced by the newer Bren LMG. However the threat of German invasion in the Summer of 1940 would bring about the hasty reintroduction from store of some 50,000 Lewis guns, mainly to equip the Home Guard and the Merchantile Marine Service. Thus the useful Lewis would once again provide good service for the many years of conflict to follow.

Source: MGs 1914-18 (John Weeks, Article in War Monthly) ww2dbase

Last Major Revision: Jan 2008


Huot automatic rifle (above) and Lewis gun (below), 1918, photo 1 of 2Huot automatic rifle (above) and Lewis gun (below), 1918, photo 2 of 2US machine gun crew firing a Lewis machine gun during WW1, circa 1918Japanese naval infantryman with Type 92 machine gun, date unknown
See all 10 photographs of Lewis Machine Gun

Lewis Timeline

2 Jun 1912 In tests completed at College Park, Maryland, United States, Captain Charles Chandler fired a new Lewis machine gun from an aircraft flown by Lieutenant Thomas D. Milling; the results were so encouraging that ten more Lewis guns were requested, but this order could not be met as the US Army Ordnance Department had not then ordered the weapon into production. During World War I the American-designed Lewis became a standard aircraft machine gun.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Raymond Metters says:
15 Apr 2010 02:42:49 PM

I would like to submit a request rather than a comment.
I am completing a study on the small Irish town of Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath, and its WW1 victims. One of these lost his life in Salonika using a Lewis gun.
I would be grateful to use the picture of the Lewis gun on your website if possible and would welcome your help.

Best wishes,

Ray Metters
2. will says:
23 Jun 2010 07:05:41 PM

pre sweet gun and looks like a great investment towards winning that specific war.

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Lewis Machine Gun Photo Gallery
Huot automatic rifle (above) and Lewis gun (below), 1918, photo 1 of 2
See all 10 photographs of Lewis Machine Gun

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