German machinegun ammo

  • I have this book named “German Aircraft Guns WW1-WW2” by Edward J. Hoffschmidt. At page 11, I could read this: => “During the war (WW1) numerous model '08 Maxims were altered to take a Schwere cartridge having a slightly different shaped bullet, and these guns were marked with a large letter ‘S’ on top of the receiver to show modification. The Maxims so labeled were known in an unofficial way as the ‘S’ machine guns.” [end of quote] —> My question is: What is the difference between the ordinary bullet used by the 7.92X57 round and the “Schwere” projectile??? Any comparative photo(s) available??? Liviu 11/16/08

Here are a couple of “shots” :-) of an MG 08/15 in the field, as it were. And no, that dude ain’t me. Way too much hair. But he is the proud owner thereof. Anyway, the thing was prone to jamming, resulting in the “loader” having to pull the belt through as the “gunner” fired. Not sure if it was the ammo or that the nearly 100 year old mechanism wasn’t up to sputtering. As an aside, thinking about having to haul this thing, through No Man’s Land, to “sweep the trenches”, well, a large serving of Wheaties would have been mandatory that morning. With the magazine hung off the side, it was prone to tilting to port, leaving us ground bound when firing. And the pulling on the belt and constant jamming left this with but a small pile of priceless 8MM hulls, which barely added to the local stump hole filler.

Note the numerous unspent singles in the pile. Of all the toys we played with, this was probably the most jam prone. The 1919A4 was by far the most reliable of all. It was the Energizer Bunny of lot. Never missed a lick.

An mg08/15 properly maintained and fed is a very reliable weapon. The lock and parts are the same in operation as the “08” heavy and I don’t think anyone would question it’s history. The belt shown in the photos is a Turk type known for malfutions though it is better than no belt at all. We generaly convert these feed blocks (as did the Germans) to use the Gurt 34 or 41 ( Standard non-disintagrating belt for mg34/42) and most problems go away. A set of Russian 1910 barrel extensions with the adjustable headspace lock stud and fitting the 7.92 rimless extractor to a Russian lock and you have a very reliable gun indeed. No mods to the gun itself are required. Fusse spring adjustments and/or improper waterseal packing can result in the gun running out of steam and not advancing the belt. A great gun with a lot of history!! JH

Hey haak

Woulda been nice to have had you around that day. Assorted bits and pieces were swapped out, trying to get it to run, but to no avail. Our resident expert missed that days shoot, so we were left to our own, limited, resources. Luckily, we had numerous other machines available for the day’s events, so all was not lost.


Half the fun with these old guns and ammo is just getting them to run. Worn or tired parts and marginal ammo just add to the fun ! Whenever I can get Phil Butler to come up he brings his 7.9 “culls” and we send them downrange in a German MG of one type or the other. Bill Woodin has just sorted his Sme collection and when Phil & I are finished looking at the pile, it’s going into the hillside. I love German 7.9, but we can’t keep it all. If you are ever in AZ Rick, give me a shout. JH

Jim !!
Nice to see you

[quote=“JohnMoss”]Vlad - If the MGs you saw in the film you mentioned (British theatrical film) were being used by the British, then it would be more correct to call the “Maxim guns” than “Spandau.” I think the Brits would feel about “Spandau” as the Germans probably did about “Maxim” as far as name usage goes.

If they were used by portrayed German troops, than Spandau, as Liviu pointed out, is more correct.

Wish they would play that film. I would like to see it.[/quote]

The British eqivilent was the Vickers MG although that and the Maxim were close cousins. You have to be quite good on detail to tell them apart in a picture.
Coming back to my earlier post about so called contemporary footage if a German Maxim MG in action. Apart from the firer looking over the sights the other thing I noticed was the care with which the No2 person fed the belt into the gun. That might be of interest to Slick Rick.

Vince - thanks for the correction. I had completely forgotten that the Brits usually call the Maxim gun a “Vickers” for a major maker. The only Vikers items I have ever owned was a Dutch-contract Luger Pistol many years ago, when I collected auto pistols as well as the cartridges for them, and a Model 1907 S.M.L.E. bayonet, which I still own.

Actually Britain used both the original (toggle breaks downward) Maxims as well as the later (toggle breaks upward) Vickers guns, the latter supplanting the former during World War One. The German equivalent, broadly speaking, of the Vickers was the Parabellum, used mostly as a flexible gun in aircraft. Dolf Goldsmith goes into all this in commendable (and breathtaking) detail. JG

  • NOBODY knows the answer to my question [see it above to my last post from yesterday] about the “Schwere” cartridge and projectile ??? Liviu 11/17/08

Liviu - I don’t know what the book you have could have been referring to other than to type s.S. Ball (schwere Spitzgeschoss), which came along during WWI. I would have thought that the Maxim system was forgiving enough to function with a variety of bullet weights, and can’t imagine why this would be necessary, but then I have never examined closely any Maxim gun (Vickers or Sandau), am not a machinegun expert, nor a firearms designer or engineer.

The original .323" projectile adopted c.1905 by the German military was the Type S ball weighing about 154 grains. It was more or less replaced by the type s.S. ball weighing approximately 198 grains.

The only other reference I have seen to anything that could be interpreted simply as a “heavy” cartridge is in what I believe to be a flawed translation of an announcement in the December 1934 edition of the Allgemeine Heeresmitteilungen, from the Commander in Chief of the Army, dated 1 December 1934 AHA/In 2 III, announcing the adoption and availability of the then brand new Type s.S. Werkzeugpatrone. It reads as follows:

“The cartridge blank S, heavy (tool) is being discontinued. It is being replaced by the Werkzeugpatrone (tool cartridge) sS. The measurements and the weight of the tool cartridge are similar to the cartridge sS. It is chrome plated. The cartridge case has been drilled through crosswise once close to the bottom, the bullet has been drilled through once close to the cartridge case. Tool cartridges can be ordered…as of 1 April 1935. The cartridge blanks S (heavy tool) will be left with the toops to be set aside.”

Reference: Backbone of the Wermacht, the German K98k Rifle," by Richard Law, page 26. (When I said “flawed translation” I was referring direct to the cartridge terminology, especially the use of the word “blank”).

This is the only other time I have seen reference to a “heavy cartridge” as a designation, other than the type s.S. ball. The cartridge replaced by the s.S. Werzeugpatrone, the Type S Heavy, cannot possibly relate to what they are talking about regarding the Spandau MG, even though it is possible that the Type S tool cartridge existed contemporary to the change.

Further, if the “S” stamped on top of the 08/15s actually relates to the bore diameter - the “S” Bore of .323, and as being a conversion of the guns from the older Model 88 Cartridge and .318 bore diameter, the timing would seem to be very late for such a conversion. Once would think it would have been done shortly after 1905.

From anything I have learned about the 7.9 German cartridge, that leaves conversion to reliably feed and operate with the type s.S. ball round as the only option for what you described.

Perhaps one of our German 7.9 x 57 specialists knows differently. If so, the information would be appreciated.

I cannot now, but perhaps tomorrow, I will look through books I have that cover Maxim MGs, by any name, and see if I can find out something else.

Hey Vince

The “feeder” actually turned into the “puller”. The thing just didn’t want to feed or function. As haak said, it was probably an issue with the belt. Having never seen one until that day, I was a bit reluctant to offer advice to the owner. Knew very little about it. Was/am much more comfortable with the newer, simpler designs.