Argentina’s Maxim Model 1895

Left and right-side views of Argentine Model 1895 on Ackland mount.

Argentina was an early user of the Maxim and began by ordering 50 Maxims from the Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company Limited in England in 1895.  These first 50 guns were given Argentine Army serial numbers 1-50 and chambered in the 7.65×53 Belgium Mauser caliber.  In 1898, a second order of the Model 1895 was placed with Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM), a licensed Maxim manufacturer in Germany, for another 150 guns still chambered for the Belgium Mauser 7.65×53 caliber.  These guns were serially numbered 51-200.  All of these guns had brass water jackets except for the last twenty DWM guns, numbers 181-200, which were fitted with steel water jackets.  Even though most South American countries adopted the French Hotchkiss machine gun, by 1902, Argentina had 200 of these early Maxims in their inventory.

Beautifully made with its water jacket, feed block, fusee spring cover, receiver floor plate and rear grip plate made of brass, the Model 1895 was a stunning, and lethal, piece of the firearm maker’s craft.  This model had the early straight style of crank handle, an 1889 style lock and wooden roller belt assist located within the brass feed block.  The gun also has provisions for attaching a commercially made 2×12 optical sight made by Carl Zeiss of Jena, Germany that also fit the Swiss Maxim MG11, and a shoulder brace made of steel and wood.  The gun is mounted on an Ackland tripod that was manufactured by VSM (Vickers, Sons & Maxim) in England.

Detail view of right side of the Maxim Model 1895. Note the early style of straight crank handle, wood roller for feed assist on the feed block and the simple traverse and elevation mechanism of the Acland mount.

The Maxim operating system used in the Model 1895 is the basic operating principle employed on all Maxim guns.  The gunner inserts the tab of a loaded cartridge belt into the feed block from the right, pulling it to the left, until it is secured by the belt holding feed pawls.  The gunner then manually pushes the crank handle forward and holds it there while pulling on the protruding end of the belt, then releases the crank handle to return to the rear under spring tension.  This allows the extractor on the T-slot to grip the first round in the belt.  The gun is now in the “half load” position.  Rotating the crank handle forward again, pull the cartridge belt tab once more to the left and let the crank handle fly back under its spring tension.  The gun in now loaded with a cartridge in the chamber and is ready to fire.

Upon pressing the trigger that actuates the trigger bar releasing the sear, the firing pin is released and goes forward igniting the cartridge driving the bullet down the barrel.  The barrel and the bolt are securely locked at this point.  After recoiling three-quarters of an inch, the bolt is unlocked and the crank engages the unlocking cam, breaking the toggle joint and freeing the bolt.  The recoiling forces are now able to accelerate the bolt assembly to the rear and rotate the crank.  This winds the actuating chain, loading the extension-type driving spring while the recoiling mechanism completes its rearward stroke.

Left side of the Maxim Model 1895 as used by Argentina. Note the 2x12 optical sight made by Carl Zeiss of Jena, Germany and the wood and steel shoulder brace.

After unlocking of the bolt from the barrel, the sliding boltface (T-slot) begins simultaneous extraction of the empty case from the chamber and withdrawal of a loaded round from the belt.  Continued rearward movement engages cams in the receiver to force the sliding boltface downward, bringing the loaded round in line with the chamber and the empty case in position for the ejection tube.

Also during recoil, a cam lever action moves the entire feed block slide to the right.  The top feed pawls move over to engage the incoming round in the belt, at the same time compressing the barrel return spring.  After completing its full recoil stroke, the forward action of the barrel and barrel extension returns the feed block slide to the left, bringing the next live round in the belt into position against the cartridge stops for engagement by the sliding T-slot.

The top cover of the Argentine Maxim Model 1895 showing the brass plate that originally read “Cartucho Mauser Argentino 1891” for the round nose, high trajectory Belgium Mauser 7.62x53 round. In 1909, the Spitzer round was adopted, and its much flatter trajectory necessitated the much shorter rear sight as shown here. The old ‘1891’ was milled out on all the converted guns and ‘1909’ stamped in its place. Also notice the original rear sight holding slot (in front of the word ‘Argentino’) that was used for the much longer sight bar when using the old Belgian Mauser round. The difference in length between the two sights shows how dramatic the improvement of trajectory was with the newer pointed-nose Spitzer round. (Photo courtesy of Dolf Goldsmith)

The complete force of recoil having expended itself, the extended driving spring starts the movement of counter recoil.  As the bolt moves forward, the cartridge to be fired is positioned for chambering.  When this happens, the T-slot rises, “wipes” itself clear of the spent case and slips over the rim of the incoming round in the belt.

When the bolt has reached its extreme travel forward, the toggle joint is forced slightly below the horizontal by the connecting rod.  At this securely locked position the sear is depressed and disengaged from the firing pin, removing the safety feature, so that continued pressure on the trigger permits full automatic fire.

Action of recoiling parts in a Maxim gun. 1) Gun in loaded and locked position. 2) Pressing the trigger draws the trigger bar to the rear, pivoting the lock trigger and disengaging the tumbler allowing the firing pin to snap forward. At the moment of ignition, the connecting rod and the sidelevers shank of the lock are locked together in a straight line. Recoil starts as soon as the bullet starts to move. 3) The barrel extension plates of the short-recoil Maxim abut against the recoil slot closure plates at the rear of the receiver after about three-quarters of an inch movement. The lock continues rearward rotating the crank shaft, which winds up the fusee chain that stores the energy needed for the return movement of the operating parts. At the same time, the extractor has drawn the next cartridge out of its belt pocket and as the lock moves rearward the extractor begins to fall. At the rear of the stroke, the extractor drops sharply down aligning the fresh cartridge with the bore, and the spent case with the ejection tube. 4) The fusee is now fully wound up against the fully stretched recoil spring and now starts the counter-recoil movement. The lock is thrust forward with the extractor at its lowest position. The fresh cartridge held by the extractor is chambered and the spent case is thrust into the ejection tube. 5) As the knee straightens to close the lock, the extractor is cammed sharply upwards. This wipes the extractor clear of the spent case in the ejection tube, and positions the upper portion of its T-slot around the rim of the new cartridge in the feed slot. 6) The gun is now in battery as in number 5 above, but with the trigger bar at rest and the lock trigger engaged in the tumbler notch. The gun is now loaded, locked and cocked, ready to fire. (Illustrations courtesy Verlag Stocker-Schmid)

All 200 of Argentina’s Maxims were originally chambered in the 7.65x53mm 1891 Belgium Mauser caliber and the long sight bar affixed to the upper receiver was calibrated for this round-nosed, high trajectory bullet.  Each gun was fitted with a brass data plate on the top cover over the feed block reading, “Cartucho Mauser Argentino 1891” indicating the use of the 1891 Mauser cartridge.  In 1909, Argentina adopted the new 7.65x53mm Spitzer round with the pointed bullet and flatter trajectory.  All of Argentina’s Maxims were then rebarreled for the new cartridge and the long sight bar was shortened for the high-speed, flatter trajectory of the new cartridge.  The brass cartridge data plate had the “1891” milled out and “1909” engraved in its place to reflect the change.  Because of the restamped “1909”, the gun is often mistakenly identified as a Model 1909.

Though well equipped, Argentina did not participate in any major conflicts during the period that the Maxim was in their inventory.  In the late 1950s, Argentina decided to sell some of their now obsolete weaponry and 91 Model 1895 Maxims were exported to the United States.  Those that remained in Argentina were used to decorate various officers’ clubs, donated to museums or sold to Argentine collectors.  Of the 91 guns imported into the U.S., 8 were exported, 28 ended up in government custody for museums, storage or destruction, and the remaining 55 are now mostly owned by collectors.