People who aren’t familiar with firearms might be led to believe that automatic rifles are a fairly modern invention, when they are actually over a century old at the very least.
The limitations of weapons that could only discharge one round of ammunition upon activation were known almost as soon as firearms entered the battlefield. Entire warfare strategies were changed to adapt to the fact that firearms were limited in this way for hundreds of years.
There’s a reason why 18th century soldiers lined up in a row to fire their muskets, and it wasn’t to look pretty. Having individual ranks fire in turns rather than all at once was the only way to achieve continuous fire. This began to change in the century that followed, but the First World War truly revolutionized the role of firearms in armed conflict.
The Lewis Gun, which first saw production in the United States and later adopted by the British Empire during the First World War, was one of the first weapons to lay down suppressive fire. In many ways, it became a symbol of the war itself, and was later adapted for use on fighter planes. The weapon was so effective that it remained in service until the end of the Korean War.
However, the Lewis Gun was not the first weapon of its kind. Before this iconic weapon made its debut, the McClean Automatic Rifle had an impact of its own.
Here’s Forgotten Weapons with more about this revolutionary firearm.