Skoda MG (series)
The Skoda Model 1909 water-cooled machine gun failed to mach the reliability of the competing Schwarzlose Model 1907 design for the Austro-Hungarian Army.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Waffenwerke Skoda of Pilsen of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire developed what became a series of machine guns that appeared during the latter part of the 1800s and into the early part of the 1900s. The original design was attributed to Archduke Karl Salvator and George Ritter von Dormus - Austro-Hungarian royalty and an Austro-Hungarian Army major respectively - and their patent granted in 1888.
A year later, the Austro-Hungarian government procured some 160 of the famous Maxim Machine Gun (in 8x52mm chambering) which were to prove the standard of machine gun design for the period heading into World War 1 (1914-1918). This weapon was an exceedingly viable repeat-fire, water-cooled battlefield instrument that were either taken on - or copied to some degree - by many national powers of the world. However, nationalistic pride set in for the Austrian-Hungarians and their purchase of the guns were limited to just these for it was preferred that a local indigenous design be adopted for wide scale use if possible. This gave the Salvator-Dormus design the life it needed to see development produce the anticipate fruit - giving rise to the Model 1893 "Skoda Machine Gun" (also "M93") - Skoda being the principle manufacturer of the new weapon system.
The Model 1893 was the first in the series of guns following the original design - chambered for the 8x50mmR Mannlicher rifle cartridge. The system utilized a delayed-blowback system of operation relying on an internal arrangement of pivoting blocks and a large recoil spring set at the rear of the receiver. A pendant lever installed externally under the receiver acted as an adjustable rate regulator to vary the weapon's rate-of-fire between 180- and 250-rounds-per-minute - a rather unique feature of this weapon. The pendant lever swung openly during the action of the machine gun. Sighting was through a leaf sight arrangement. Model 1893 guns were very identifiable when compared to contemporaries - particularly in their profile which saw the barrel seated high and the receiver low.
By this time the original Maxim purchase has already been upgraded in 1891 to keep up with the times and went on to have a long service life. Acceptance of the Skoda Model 1893 was not so apparent for only the Austro-Hungarian Navy took any early interest in the product and the guns were typically affixed to pedestal mountings for local defense on land. These early forms fed from a box magazine case fitted to the right side of the receiver to which its cartridges fell into the awaiting feed mechanism by simple gravity. A shoulder support was added to the already extended rear receiver tubular section of the gun housing the recoil spring.
History shows that these guns saw little use as combat weapons during the period but they proved themselves simple to operate and repair and of a quality construction while generally reliable under ideal conditions. However, the top-mounted magazine case was prone to jamming and the powerful rifle cartridge never truly played well with the delayed-blowback action - a common failing with such weapon/cartridge pairings, particularly when compared to recoil-operated machine guns (the Maxim being one). To assist with feeding and extraction of the cartridges, each one was lubricated by way of an oil reservoir found along the side of the magazine case.
With the rise in use of water-cooled machine guns - which offered prolonged firing as long as a cool water supply was being made available to the hot barrel through a surrounding "water jacket" - the Skoda Model 1893 was revised in 1902 to become the "Model 1902". This was essentially a modernized version and its water-cooling feature now opened the line up to broader service within the Austro-Hungarian military. A large, rectangular armored shield was added ahead of the receiver to provide some limited protection for the operator. The large nature of the gun shield was necessitated by the fact that the pendant lever swung so low under the receiver that this exposed the operator to unnecessary danger by creating a tall firing profile. A tripod mounting introduced a hand-cranked facility for assisted movement of the gun in training the barrel onto targets/target areas. A new 30-round magazine was also brought along and intended to reduce the troubles encountered with the original gravity-fed boxes - though this only proved a limited success. In time, the switch was finally made to a belt-feed arrangement, the change proving too little too late for the Austrian-Hungarian Army was favoring the competing Schwarzlose machine gun design (adopted in 1905). As such, few Model 1902s were actually taken into service.
In 1909 a new initiative for the Skoda Machine Gun was enacted, this to compete directly with the Schwarzlose line. The Model 1909 was a nearly all-new weapon for much reworking was done to the original to help offset its standing deficiencies, producing a more simplified product as a result. The obtrusive pendant lever action (rate regulator) was removed and an all-new locking mechanism instituted. The oil reservoir was relocated to the top of the receiver and the water jacket enlarged, the latter change allowing the forced water pump to be dropped from the design. A 250-round fabric ammunition belt was standard though the feed mechanism accepted the belt, and extracted it, both from the same side (left) of the receiver which led to an all new set of issues. Other changes included a German-influenced optical sighting device replacing the original leaf sights and a relocated trigger group protruding from under the receiver. The tripod assembly was cleaned up for simplified function. Despite the changes, very few - as little as 30 or so - guns of this mark were ultimately realized - the end of the Skoda Machine Gun line beginning to dawn.
Prior to World War 1, one final attempt at revitalizing the Skoda Machine Gun was attempted through the Model 1913. The Salvator-Dormus system was still retained in these final guns and a new, more compact/low profile tripod assembly was coupled to the weapon. The feed mechanism was attended too one more time and the gun shield was optional. Regardless, the Austro-Hungarian military still heavily favored the Schwarzlose series leaving the Skoda Model 1913 to be issued to reserve units instead. Even then, the guns were ultimately replaced by their competitor into the last days of the war in November of 1918. The Schwarzlose line was itself progressively updated during its tenure as the standard Austrian-Hungarian Army machine gun.
The Skoda Machine Gun series joined the many other machine guns of the period that attempted to meet the quality and operating standards of the original Maxim weapon - falling short of these feats in many ways. Better, more successful, examples of the time became the British Vickers .303 and the American Browning Model 1917.