Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Maker/Manufacturer:BROWNING, JOHN M.
Date of Manufacture:1898
Eminent Figure:ANEY, CAPTAIN J.L.
Catalog Number:SPAR 1103
Measurements:OL:105CM 41 3/8" BL: 71.1CM 28" 35 lbs.

Object Description:

Manufactured by Colt, Hartford, Ct. in 1898 - Standard, air-cooled, gas-operating swinging lever, M1895 machine gun. Fires from closed bolt position. Propped breech. Feed system 250-shot fabric belt. Blade front, leaf rear sight. Muzzle velocity of 2800 fps. Effective range of 2000 yards, and maximum range of 4000 yards. Full auto fire only with a cyclic rate of 400-450 rpm. Weapon is made up of 94 working parts, including 13 springs and 14 screws. Weapon has an overall length of 41 3/8" and a barrel length of 28" and weighs approximately 36 lbs. This weapon originally in 6mm was converted to .30-40 Krag in 1902. AKA: "Potato Digger."

Receiver: U.S.N./J.N.J. - Anchor - CAL. .30/MARK I/NO. 266-40 LBS/1898/CONVERTED/1902 -J.A.B.
Bolt: 226.
Triggerguard: 208.

This is one of a number of items the Springfield Armory Museum received in 1920 from Captain J.L. Aney. Captain Aney was stationed in Europe with the Ordnance Department and assigned to the "Captured Material Section" in WWI. Aney was ordered to secure items for the Springfield Armory Museum. This weapon is listed on the Receiving Report as Item No. 215 and is described as: "American Colt machine gun found in museum of curiosities in Mehun, France." Weapon transferred to the Springfield Armory on 24 March 1920.

Army #1353 - "Found in Museum of Curiosities, Mehun, France - World War Relic."

Exhibit label: "Colt Model 1898 Mark I, 30 caliber. Another inventive genius, John M. Browning, expanded on Sir Hiram Maxim's developments of the 1880s with the first practical gas-operated machine gun. The cratering of the soil beneath the gun when it was fired gave it the nickname 'potato digger.' Although never adopted as standard by the United States, it saw considerable action in the Spanish-American War and was purchased by many countries."

1909 - 1JAN-30JUN - "The Colt automatic gun, cal..30, was also altered for model of 1906 ammunition, the principal changes being in the barrel, extraction, bolt, feed belts and belt-loading machine; new sights were also designed."

Notes: This was the first successful gas-operated firearm. The gas system on this gun employs an unusual swinging-lever method of operation rather than the gas piston arrangement which later became so widely used. A jet of powder gases through a gas port in the barrel forces the actuating lever to swing in a half arc beneath the barrel accounting for the nickname "Potato Digger" given to it by American soldiers.
The weapon is air-cooled and uses a heavy barrel to absorb heat. After 400-500 rounds of continuous fire, the heat of the barrel will cause a cartridge in the chamber to "cook-off" and fire. In tests, heat would cause a cartridge to fire after it had been in the chamber 17 seconds in a gun previously fired 500 rounds. The M1895 guns have a straight, permanently attached barrel. The weapon was never officially adopted by the U.S. Army.
First use of the M1895 in combat was by detachments of the United States Navy. They used guns chambered for the 6mm Lee cartridge on ship as well as with a Naval landing party, which went into action alongside Lt. J.H. Parker's Gatling Gun Unit in the battle of Santiago, Cuba. Only a small number were used.
British troops used a few M1895 guns against the Boers during the war in South Africa.
In the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, two M1895 Navy guns were used by the U.S. Marines and credited with saving the Foreign Legation in Peking during the siege by the Chinese.

Gas Operated - Although the recoil principle is most widely known, the gas operated guns are not far behind in popularity. This principle is based on the utilization of a portion of the powder gases to act on a pistol, driving it to the rear with sufficient force to unlock and open the breech. The gas may be taken from the barrel through The most famous of the gas operated automatic weapons are the Colt, the Hotchkiss, the Marlin, which was developed from the old Colt, the Browning Automatic Rifle, and the M1 Garand.
"Major General Elwell S. Otis, the commander in the Philippines in 1899, asked the navy for some Colt guns and a substantial amount of ammunition; the initial shipment consisted of twelve guns and 300,000 cartridges. The Army and Navy Journal commented caustically: 'Army officers are not altogether pleased that General Otis should have to apply to the Navy Department for rapid fire guns. The criticism about the Army Ordnance Department is that it spends too much time splitting hairs and in
experiments that lead to no final result. With all of his excellent qualities General Flager was slow to learn, and let us hope his successor will be less disposed to forget that Ordnance Department exists for the Army, and not the Army for Ordnance.'" - David A. Armstrong

"The Colt Machine Gun, Model 1895 (Mark I), designed by John Browning, was the first fully automatic machine gun purchased by the U.S. Government and was first used in combat by Colonel Huntington's Battalion of Marines at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1898. The Marine Corps Museum has on display the original prototype of this weapon marked Serial No. 1, donated by Mr. Val Browning, the inventor's son." - THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS MUSEUM, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia

"Browning started work on another, recoil-operated machine gun in 1900, maintaining that Europe's military had pursued machine gun design far more aggressively than had the U.S. armed services. 'The Colt 1895 will be obsolete before long,' he declared, 'and I want to have one ready to replace it.' In less than three months, he had a firing model ready, the first of many. In both world wars and Korea, every machine gun used by U.S. Forces - on land or sea or in the air - was of Browning design." - Wayne Van Zwoll

"GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE COLT AUTOMATIC GUN, CALIBER .30 - This arm consists of one barrel attached to a breech casing in which the mechanism for charging, firing and ejecting is contained.
The cartridges are automatically fed to the gun by means of belts which are coiled in boxes readily attached to the breech case and these boxes moving with the latter, the supply of cartridges not disturbed by the vertical or horizontal movement of the gun. The boxes contain one hundred or two hundred and fifty cartridges each, and are so constructed that they can be quickly attached or removed.
The automatic action of the gun is effected by means of the pressure of the powder gases in the barrel. This object is attained by a small radial vent in the barrel somewhat in rear of the muzzle, opening downward from the bore. This vent is closed by a piston which fits in the gas cylinder surrounding the outer edge of the vent. The piston is pivoted to the gas lever so that it adjusts itself to the gas cylinder, while the lever swings in a vertical plane.
In operation, the feed belt is inserted and the lever is thrown down and rearward (once by hand) so far as it will go; this opens the breech and feeds the first cartridge from the belt to the carrier; the lever is then released, and the spring causes it to swing forward, close the vent and transfer the cartridge from the carrier to the barrel, also cocking the hammer, and closing and locking the breech.
On pulling the trigger the shot is fired, and after the bullet has passed the vent and before its exit from the muzzle, the powder gases expand through the vent upon the piston and gas lever, which in turn set on the breech-mechanism, opening the breech, ejecting the shell and feeding to the carrier another cartridge. The gas lever returning, forces homes the cartridge in the barrel, closing and locking the breech. If, instead of releasing the trigger, it is held back, the same operation will be On pulling the trigger the shot is fired, and after the bullet has passed the vent and its exit from the muzzle, the powder gases expand through the vent upon the piston and gas lever, which in turn act on the breech-mechanism, opening the breech, ejecting the shell and feeding to the carrier another cartridge. The gas lever returning, forces home the cartridges in the barrel, closing and locking the breech. If, instead of releasing the trigger, it is held back, the same operation will be repeated as long as cartridges are supplied, producing a continuous fire at the rate of four hundred shots or more per minute.
A safety lock is provided which securely lock the hammer and prevents same from striking the firing pin. It is to be used only when a loaded cartridge is left in the chamber.
The hammer of this gun is also used as a piston for an air pump, which forces a blast of air into the chamber and through the barrel, with the object of removing the residue or unburnt powder after the empty shell is extracted.
The mainspring, firing pin, and extractor can be removed from the rear of the gun without displacing a screw. The barrel is made heavier than required by the powder pressures, for mechanical convenience in attaching the side plates and working parts and for reducing the heating and vibrations due to rapid fire....
ADVANTAGES OF COLT AUTOMATIC GUN - (a.) A continuous automatic fire, enabling a few men with this gun to produce for a reasonable number of rounds, the effect of a much larger number of men armed with rifles. (b.) Lightness and compactness, enabling gun, mount and ammunition to be easily packed in separate cases and boxes and transported by several men or on two or more mules, so as to easily move with infantry or cavalry. (c) Ease of manipulation. In case of miss-fires the cartridge is thrown out by operating the lever by hand with little loss of time. The gun may be rendered ineffective, if necessary to abandon it in action, by quickly detaching firing handle. (d) Easy control of the direction and elevation. (e.) No bad results from hand fires. (f.) Of especial advantage where number men is limited, as one man alone can operate the gun. (g.) Comparatively simple, strong and not especially liable to become unserviceable, but if so rendered by a broken firing pin or extractor, can be readily repaired without sensible loss of time.
COMPARISON WITH GATLING GUNS - No comparative firings were made with the Gatling Gun, Caliber .30 as the ballistic qualities of that gun are well known.
FINDING - The Board is of the opinion that the Colt Automatic Gun, Caliber .30, Model 1899, as shown by the prescribed tests made, is suitable for the service." - Report of the Board of Officers, November 1, 1899. (Full report in catalog folder.)

"...the Navy had purchased 400 of the Model 1895 guns in caliber 6mm Lee Navy, which after conversion to .30 caliber were designated the Mark I, Modification 1. Their next purchase had been 400 Benet Mercie guns, which were designated Mark II, Model 1.
Two contracts were placed with Colt on March 24 and April 6, 1917 for a total of 1,500 Model 1914 Colt Automatic Guns, which were designated the Mark III. All but 150 of these guns were still in service when World War I ended." - Goldsmith

"After the agreement to standardize all small arms and ammunition, the Navy ordered all its 6-mm guns rechambered for the caliber .30-40 Krag ammunition - making them practically identical with the gun in which the Army was interested. However, each service retained its own system of identification. The Navy continued to designate with Mark and Roman numeral; the Army with model and year. The Navy's 6-mm gun was known officially as the Colt machine gun, Mark I, and the modified weapon rechambered for the caliber .30-40 was called the Mark I Modification 1.
At a latter date, when the Krag caliber .30-40 was dropped from the service in favor of the Springfield cal
"Shooting Scripts: An American Appreciation of the top 10 firearms ever made" by Gary James. GUNS & AMMO, May 2006.
"'The Wind And The Lion' (1975) - Director/writer John Milius is one of the most outspoken gun advocates in Hollywood. He was on the board of the NRA and is a major shooter and collector. As well as coming up with some of the best .44 Magnum lines in 'Dirty Harry' (1971), he also made some great films including 'Dillinger (1973), 'Farewell to the King' (1989) and his masterpiece, 'The Wind and the Lion.' This enjoyable film is based on a true incident, circa 1904, involving a kidnapped American citizen, a Berber chieftain and President Theodore Roosevelt.
Opening up with a British official tying to hold off a brigade with his Bulldog revolver, through later scenes depicting Roosevelt's (Brain Keith) evaluation of his M1895 Winchester, the Krag-Jorgensen rifles and Colt M1895 'Potato Digger' machine gun used by the U.S. landing force, a Maxim gun displayed by a factory representative (played by Milius), the Broomhandle Mauser carried by a German officer and sundry Mauser rifles and other bits and pieces used by various extras, the film is a gun enthusiast's delight."

"1899 - 1902, Boer War - British troops used a few Model 1895 guns against the Boers during the war in South Africa.
1900, Chinese Boxer Rebellion - Two Colt Model 1895 Navy model guns, used by the United States Marines, are credited with saving the Foreign Legation in Peking during the siege by the Chinese." - Johnson & Lockhoven

Army #1353 - Loaned to Capt. L.R. Ryan, U.S. Marine Corps, from 12 March 1952 to 24 March 1952.

Armstrong, David A. BULLETS AND BUREAUCRATS. Greenwood Press. Westport, Ct. 1982.
Chinn, George M. THE MACHINE GUN. Vol. I. Department of the Navy. Washington, D.C. 1951.
Goldsmith, Dolf L. THE BROWNING MACHINE GUN: RIFLE CALIBER BROWNINGS IN U.S. SERVICE. Collector Grade Publications. Cobourg, Canada. 2005.
Johnson, George B. & Hans B. Lockhoven. INTERNATIONAL ARMAMENT. Vol. II. International Small Arms Publishers. Cologne, Germany. 1965.
Van Zwoll, Wayne. AMERICA'S GREAT GUNMAKERS. Stoeger Publishing Co. West Hackensack, N.J. 1992.

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