The 20th Century is littered with articles covering a plethora of machine gun designs emerging during the pre-World War 1 and wartime period and eventually leave out - or forget - contributions from offerings such as the Danish-originated Madsen Machine Gun, a light machine gun weapon seeing considerable exposure in both World Wars. Design of the Madsen was patented in 1901 by Lieutenant Jens Schouboe who ascended to the position of manager at Dansk Riffel Syndikat (DRS). Design attribution belongs to both Schouboe and Julius A. Rasmussen.
This machine gun was finished with one of the more complex internal operating cycles of machine guns of the day - of "mixed" recoil operation involving a hinged bolt. The method was a version of the Peabody Martini breechblock used in a lever-action design and, as such, becoming both short and long in the recoil movement. The initial part of the action (after firing a cartridge), moved the barrel, barrel extension, and bolt rearwards. A separate rammer and extractor was used to move cartridges in and out of the action. A series of cams and lugs controlled the movement of the breechblock in the arrangement. Despite this seemingly complex internal system, and the cost-per-unit, the machine gun found many takers the world over - some 34 countries in all utilized some version of the gun in time.
In its original form, the Madsen Machine Gun fired black powder cartridges but these were found to jam the action consistently which resulted in a switch to the more reliable 6.5mm smokeless powder cartridge. The overall profile of the weapon was rather traditional with a boxy receiver unit, extended perforated barrel, and wooden shoulder stock. The weapon fed from a curved, top-loaded detachable box magazine which contained 25, 30, or 40 rounds depending in magazine length. Sighting was through a rear V-notch and front post iron configuration. A hinged, folding bipod was affixed under the barrel just aft of the muzzle and a carrying handle facilitated transport. The trigger unit was slung under the receiver, towards the rear, and protected by a thin, flat ring. The folding / collapsible cocking handle was set to the left side of the receiver.
The weapon weighed 20lb and had a length of45 inches with a barrel measuring 23 inches long.
Depending on gun model and global operator, the Madsen Machine Gun was eventually chambered for a slew of cartridges throughout its career: 6.5x55mm, 6.5x53mmR, 6.5x52mm Carcano, 7.92x57mm Mauser, 7.65x53mm Argentine, 7.62x54mmR, 8x50R Lebel, 8x50mmR Mannlicher, 8.58mmR Danish Krag, Patrone 88, .303 British, and - finally - 7.62x51mm NATO. Such was the machine gun's global reach and respect.
Beyond this, the type proved itself beyond just the light machine gun role for it was a fixture of various vehicle and aircraft designs as a primary or support weapon. Its exposure during World War 1 (1914-1918) gave designers and warplanners great insight into the future battlefield where an automatic firing weapon system could be man-portable, retaining chief characteristics of both service rifle and machine gun in one complete package. Use of the .303 British is somewhat notable for this entry as it proved prone to jamming the complex Madsen action - though the guns were still held in high regard as operated by British tanker crews for a time.
The design was also undertaken locally by British based Rexer Arms who produced it in quantity sans license beginning in 1905 - leading to some models carrying the "DDRS" designation or "Rexer" name. The gun also served in the Mexican Revolution prior to - and during - World War 1 and the Russian Empire purchased the machine gun in considerable numbers for service in its war against Japan - some ended up installed in Russia combat aircraft showing the design's great flexibility. Both sides of The Great War employed the weapon to good effect including Germany who fielded it in their native 7.92mm rifle chambering.
This reach in the pre-war and wartime period ensured a lengthy existence for the series and it remained in widespread circulation during the inter-war period where numbers were still employed by many Latin American and South American players while still remaining a fixture in Europe. As such, the gun was still available in number by the time of World War 2 (1939-1945) and, once again, used by both warring sides (including the Spanish Civil War). In the post-war years, usage began to dwindle but remained strong until more modern designs overtook it. Some examples can still be found in far-off parts of the world today (2020) - in both South America and Africa.
Production of the Madsen Machine Gun series lasted until 1955 before it was discarded for more modern incarnations. Amazingly, the latest designs changed very little from the pre-World War 1 form - such was the weapon's excellence in service.
The conflicts making up the Madsen Machine Gun's storied history beginning in 1902 include the Russo-Japanese War, World War 1, the Russian Civil War, the Mexican Revolution, the Rif War, the Chaco War, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and the Portuguese Colonial War among others.