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August 26, 2004

A change of Pace

Too much politics, not enough ordnance.

Here's a picture of the British No 9 Director (aiming circle in US milspeak) used with the Vickers machine gun.

The Brits routinely massed the fires of Vickers machineguns, taking advantage of their reliability, and used them as artillery against unseen targets, to suppress and disrupt. As long as you can meet the ammo requirements and have a reliable gun that can just keep on firing (that's where the water-cooling comes in useful) you can be really annoying. Air-cooled guns have to back off on the rate of fire, or go through a lot of barrel changes.

Think about it, there you are, route-stepping your way to the front-line trenches, or your jumping-off point, or repositioning the reserve to respond to an attack - and suddenly it just starts raining bullets. Lots and lots of bullets.

Just another reason it sucks to be an infantryman.

It's all about trade-offs and your tactical environment. If you are in a highly mobile situation, you want those lighter, faster-firing (generally) air-cooled gus. If you are in a moderately static environment... that sustained fire capability starts looking pretty good.

Of course, over time, the air-cooled gun has won completely. Cheaper, lighter and faster to make, and advances in materials making them more robust and able to sustain higher rates of fire - and, the more mobile nature of warfare has placed a premium on getting the most firepower from the fewest people (smaller crews). And small mortars, the rifle-mounted grenade launcher, or the belt-fed grenade machine guns like the MK19 have completely supplanted the water-cooled gun.

But I still like 'em from an aesthetic perspective.