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November 25, 2003

Maximizing the Maxim, Part IV

Okay, boys and girls. Today's installment in "Maximizing the Maxim" concerns ammo cans and the things you stuff in them. Let's start with the older stuff.

Here is a WWII era Finn ammo can. As you can see, it has a cloth belt, essentially unchanged since WWI in design. There is an outside chance it started life in the Imperial Russian Army, but that's not likely. If it started life as a sovietski, then it was early - as we shall see later in the post.

The belt has a metal starter tab, to help you get it through the feedblock. The canvas belt has brass spacers that serve to keep the belt tight enough to hold cartridges (though a stretched belt could be rehabbed by getting it wet and letting it shrink (with bullets IN it). Every fourth brass spacer is extended. This is mainly to give the person doing the loading a visual cue about how far forward to push the rounds. The belt is thickened at the leading edge, so that the leading edge is roughly the same thickness as the rear with the cartridge in it. This improves feed reliability.

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Next (below) is a post-war Finn ammo can, marked with the now-familiar (if you've read all this series) SA mark.

Unlike the previous can, which has a canvas carrying strap, this can's strap is leather. Other than that, the cans are identical.

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The contents differ, however. This can has a post-war steel belt. For those of you familiar with more modern machineguns- the Maxim style guns, including the Vickers, didn't use disintegrating link belts. The way the action works, there is a tendency to jam. It wasn't like they didn't try! I haven't come across information as to which belting system was preferred operationally. I do know from experience, even with a belt-loading machine, the steel belts are easier to load and aren't as prone to having rounds fall out.

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Okay, coming up next down below is a Soviet can. You can tell because it's stamped with a star, and some stiffening ribs. There are differing accounts as to whether the Soviets discontinued this in WWII to speed up production. The records, if there, haven't been found (or translated into english, anyway).

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What makes this can unique is the contents. Not a belt, but tongs and cans. Fitted to the case, to make it easier to carry (if not much lighter, being filled with fluids) and to fit in pre-built racks, etc on vehicles.

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Most sources say the cans carried, in decreasing order of size, water, lubricant, and solvent. I'm frankly sceptical that the large can carried water - simply because it isn't enough to fill the water jacket. The argument goes that it functioned as a condenser and was used to refill the water jacket. That's possible, but the hose doesn't fit well in the cap opening and the can is very unstable with the hose in it. As you slew the gun left and right while firing, the can falls over pretty easily. But, who knows until some of that russian stuff gets out into english or german, which I can read! Solvent and oil makes perfect sense. The tongs are an extra pair to the ones in the gunners kit for retrieving brass casings that failed to eject and are jamming the recoil mechanism. Pretty clever, really, in terms of trying to make it easier to keep all the stuff you need to feed and care for Max with his crew.

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Here's one last shot showing the cans stacked on one another to show off the fitted nature of the cans (and to highlight the stability issue I talked about earlier.

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That's it for today, boys and girls. Tune in again for Maximizing the Maxim, Part VII - 1, the Sokolov mount.