The Vickers Mk. I was first used by the British Army in November 1912 and was its primary machine gun throughout the First World War. Based on the recoil-operated Maxim gun, the Vickers refined its design to produce a durable and hugely-reliable weapon that was also mounted on aircraft, tanks, armoured cars and motorcycle sidecar combinations between 1914 and 1918. The unparalleled success of the Vickers gun saw it remain in service for the next five decades.
Despite initial shortages, the Vickers soon earned a fearsome reputation on the battlefields of the Western Front and proved a formidable defensive weapon with the development of static trench warfare. With an effective range of more than 2000 metres, and a muzzle velocity of 2440 feet per second, the Vickers could fire up to 500 rounds per minute and was reliable in all conditions. Its water-cooled barrel was encased in a thin steel jacket that condensed steam into a can connected by rubber tubing, and could fire 10,000 rounds before it required replacing, relatively-quickly, by the gun team. The Vickers fired the standard British .303 cartridges and was fed by 250-round belts that weighed more than 20lbs when full.
For all its capabilities in defence, the Vickers was less effective as an offensive support weapon and the weight of the gun often proved problematic for a team that consisted of six soldiers when including two ammunition carriers, runner and range-finder. Despite undergoing a number adjustments during the war, the Vickers had a combined gun and tripod weight of 70-80lbs, in addition to its ammunition, and was 3 feet 8 inches long. The gun also required 4.5 litres of water to prevent it from overheating. This lack of mobility saw it removed from frontline infantry units following the introduction of the Lewis gun in October 1915, however, the Vickers remained an integral part of the British Army’s arsenal and subsequently became the standard-issue heavy machine gun of the newly-created Machine Gun Corps (MGC).
|Official Name||Gun, Machine, .303 inch, Mk 1||Rate of Fire||450-500 rounds per minute|
|Weight of Gun||30-40 lbs||Muzzle Velocity||2,400 feet per second|
|Weight of Tripod||40-50 lbs||Effective Range||2,000 metres|
|Length||3 feet 8 inches||Maximum Range||4,100 metres|
|Length of Barrel||28.4 inches||Feed System||250-round canvas belt|
|Cartridge||.303 inch British||Sights||Aperture and blade|
|Action||Recoil with gas boost|