Four Finnish Maxim Type Machine Guns

The Finnish Weapons Series

Four Finnish Maxim Type Machine Guns

Re-enactors posing as Red Guard soldiers in the 1918 War of Independence fire a model
09-09 machine gun with metallic link belt from knee firing position. Picture provided by J. Haartikka.

This is my fourth version of the Finnish Maxim type machine guns, the sixth in my series of Finnish weapons. Additions and comments are welcome.


  • -:7,62mm:n konekiväärin m/32 yötähtäin TK-41. -,-.
  • -:Jalkaväen ohjesääntö I. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, Helsinki 1932.
  • -:Jalkaväen ohjesääntö II - Yksikköjen taistelu. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, Helsinki 1932.
  • -:Jalkaväen taisteluopas, IV osa, Konekivääriryhmä ja -joukkue. Puolustusvoimain Pääesikunta, Helsinki 1947.
  • -:KK. ampumataulukko ja lentoratakorjaustaulukot - Luoti D-166. -. -, -.
  • -:Konekivääri 09 (jalustalla 21 ja 09) - Rakenne, hoito ja käsittely. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, Helsinki 1942.
  • -:Konekivääriharjoitusohjesääntö (K.K.H.O.) I - Muodollinen harjoitus - Ehdotus. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, Helsinki 1924.
  • -:Konekivääriharjoitusohjesääntö (K.K.H.O.) II - Taistelu - Ehdotus. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, Helsinki 1925.
  • -:Kuularuiskulla ammunta - Suomennos. Suomalaisen Kommunistisen Puolueen Sotilasjärjestö, Pietari 1919.
  • Blom, Pehr M.: Kuularuisku - sen rakenne, toiminta ja hoito. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Fundament, Helsinki 1919.
  • Huhtala, P.: Reserviupseeri - Reserviupseerien ja -aliupseerien kertaus- ja jatko-opiskelukirja. Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Porvoo 1940.
  • Hyytinen, Timo: Arma Fennica 2 - Sotilasaseet. Gummerrus Oy, Jyvaskyla 1987.
  • Lampinen, O.: Konekivääriammunta suoralla suuntauksella - Konekivääri 09:n häiriöt ja niiden poistaminen. O. Lampinen, Forssa 1944.
  • Palokangas, Markku: Military Small Arms in Finland. Second Volume - Finnish Weapons. Vammalan kirjapaino, Vammala 1991.
  • Palokangas, Markku: Lecture at the Military Museum, April 4, 2000.
  • Roos, H and Ekman, T. and Susi, S.:Upseerin käsikirja. Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava, Helsinki 1936.


    Maxim type machine guns

    Russia, Finland
     Konekivääri m/09       
       Water (air) cooled, 4 liters 
       Magazine:    250 shot fabric belt or 200 shot metallic belt
       Rate of fire: 600 rpm
       Muzzle velocity: 2346 fps (715 mps) with D-166 bullet
         Gun length:             111 cm
         Barrel length:           72 cm
         Gun:                   24.0 kg
         Wheeled mount m/09:    36.0 kg
         Tripod m/21:           27.6 kg
         Empty fabric belt:      1.1 kg
         Loaded fabric belt:     6.1 kg
         Box for fabric belt:    2.0 kg
         Empty metallic belt:    2.6 kg
         Loaded metallic belt:   6.6 kg  
         Box for metallic belt:  1.9-2.3 kg metal
                                 1.4 kg wooden
         Loading apparatus:      8.0 kg estimated
         Spare barrel:           2.2 kg
         Spare bolt:             0.8 kg
         Water can:              3.0 kg
         Steam hose:             0.5 kg
     Konekivääri m/32
       Water cooled, 4 liters 
       Magazine: 200 shot metallic belt
       Rate of fire:  600-850 rpm
       Muzzle velocity: 2346 fps (715 mps) with D-166 bullet
         Gun length:             119 cm
         Barrel length:           72 cm
         Gun:                   25.0 kg
         Tripod m/21:           27.6 kg
         Tripod m/33:           31.1 kg
            AA tripod extension: 2.5 kg
            AA equipment:        4.6 kg
         Assault Mount m/43:     4.1 kg
         Indir. fire sight       1.5 kg
         Physica scope           0.8 kg
         Empty belt:             2.6 kg
         Loaded belt:            6.6 kg
         Box for MG belt:        1.9-2.3 kg metal
                                 1.4 kg wooden
         Loading apparatus:      8.0 kg estimated
         Spare barrel:           2.2 kg
         Spare bolt:             0.8 kg
         Water can:              3.0 kg
         Steam hose:             0.5 kg

    Maxim type machine guns
     7.62x53 mm 
     Russia, Finland
     RT:     12
     ROF:    *5 or *7 (m/32-33 with booster)
     Cap:    200 metallic non-disintegrating link belt or
             250 fabric belt (pre-war m/09-09 and 09-21 only)
     AW:     14.6 lbs (6.6 kg) metallic belt
             13.5 lbs (6.1 kg) fabric belt
     KD:     12
     SAB:    1
     Aim Time:           
        1      -40 
        2      -30
        3      -25
        4      -20
        5      -17
        6      -15
        7      -10
        8       -8
        9       -7
       10       -7
       11       -4
       12       -4
       13        1
     Ballistic Data (all models):
                 10   20   40   70  100   200   300   400
        m/30 PEN 25   25   24   22   20    16    13    10
              DC  8    8    8    8    8     7     7     7
        *JHP PEN 24   24   23   21   20    15    12   9.6
              DC 10   10   10    9    9     9     9     8
          AP PEN 36   35   33   31   29    23    18    14
              DC  8    8    8    8    8     7     7     6
              MA .2   .2   .2   .3   .5     1     1     2
              BA 63   56   48   41   36    27    21    17
             TOF  0    0    1    2    2     5     7    10
    Maxim type machine guns inherited from the Imperial Russian Army were used by both sides during Finland's War of Independence in 1918. After the war about 600 such guns - mainly of the PM 1905 and the PM 1910 types mostly mounted on the Sokolov wheeled carriage illustrated in the WW II Weapon Data Supplement - were inherited by the fledgling Finnish Army.

    The konekivääri m/09-09 (Machine Gun Model 09-09) was in fact a Russian PM 1905 or PM 1910 mounted on a Sokolov carriage. In Finnish heavy machine guns the first model number refers to the gun and the second to the mount. The model 09-09 was never manufactured in Finland but the Army tried to standardize the guns and converted the gun sights from arshins to the metric system, the sights now being graduated from 300 to 2000 meters (the original Russian guns were graduated to 3100 or 3200 arshins).

    The original Sokolov carriage had wheels but also adjustable front legs which with the limber could raise the gun so that the barrel was brought to a height of some seventy centimeters, easing placement in some situations. In practice the front legs and the limber formed a tripod. For anti-aircraft work, two members of the MG crew could hoist the gun on their shoulders using the front legs while a third acted as gunner and a fourth guided the belt. In actual field use the extra legs were found to be useless and often removed in order to save weight. For anti-aircraft work, an unofficial policy of placing guns on the wheels of ammunition carts turned onto their sides seems to have been adopted. The Red Army came to the same conclusion and later models of the PM 1910 machine guns no longer had legs.

    The original Sokolov carriage also included a gun shield which protected the gunner only but due to weight problems this too was removed in Finnish use. When retained, the instructions were to not tighten the shield too tightly in place as it deflected bullets somewhat better when slightly loose.

    Maxim machinegun on a German-looking tripod. Picture from Pehr Blom's 1919 book.

    The konekivääri m/09-21 (Machine Gun Model 09-21) was basically the same weapon as the 09-09 but equipped with a tripod. The wheeled Sokolov mount was heavy and unwieldy in typical Finnish terrain and therefore a German pre-World War I Maxim tripod was copied for use with this weapon. A total of more than 1000 model 09-21 machine guns were manufactured or converted in 1924-1933.

    Before the war the gun was used by both infantry and cavalry units. The cavalry originally transported the guns, the wheeled mounts and their equipment on special horse carriages, but the tripod model 21 enabled all the gear to be transported by pack horses. The weapon was used both by the regular Army and the Civil Guards, a rightist paramilitary organization. Over 150 special "pulkka" sleds were manufactured for transporting the gun and its mount in the winter. The pulkka could be drawn by men on foot or on skis.

    During the wars large numbers of Soviet machine guns were captured, 1768 in the Winter War alone, so many that domestic machine gun production was halted in 1942. Over 400 model 09-21 guns were still in storage in 1985, but the type was already slated for replacement in the Reserve by more modern types.

    The konekivääri m/32 was the final Finnish development of the Maxim machine gun. Designed by Aimo Lahti, the country's premier gun designer, the model 32 featured a new metallic link belt, enlarged hand grips, improved sights and a rethought safety mechanism. The filling cap on the water jacket was enlarged so that the gun crew could stuff snow into the water jacket, thus eliminating the need to carry the water can and also removing all problems associated with water freezing in the can when it was badly needed in the gun's jacket. The attachment of the barrel was rethought for faster replacement and a muzzle booster was added to the gun. The gunner could now switch from 600 to 850 rpm fire rate by turning the muzzle booster and setting a switch on the gun (9 CA).

    The first batch of model 32 machine guns were fitted with model 21 tripods. Only a few hundred of these model 32-21 weapons were made. The konekivääri m/32-33 (Machine Gun Model 32-33) was the basic model 32 MG fitted with a new tripod which could be fitted with special equipment for anti-aircraft work.

    The anti-aircraft equipment consisted of a larger WWI fighter type sight, a shoulder stock and a special extension to the tripod. On the original Maxim the gun belt box was on the ground beside the gun. For anti-aircraft work this was not a good solution because the gun had to swivel in order to cover a large section of the sky so the metal box with the loaded MG belt was attached to the side of the gun by means of a special frame. The wooden box could not be attached to the frame.

    A night sight model 1941 was available for the Model 32 machine gun. This was a primitive device which consisted of a small battery-powered light bulb in a special front sight and a rear diopter sight, the reticle of which was painted with light-reflective paint. When the battery was connected the light bulb lit up the front sight. It is not known to this author whether these devices were widely used.

    As the newest and most advanced of the Maxim type machine guns the type 32-33 was allocated to infantry machine gun companies only. More than 1200 Model 32 MGs were converted from older models or manufactured in 1933-1942. In the summer of 1944 the Army had 1200 type 32-33 MGs available and the type continued to serve as the primary machine gun of the Army until the 1970s. In 1988 the gun was still in reserve no plans for its removal existed.

    The Light Assault Mount m/43 "Salakari" was a bipod equipped with short ski-like supports which could be attached to any Maxim type machine gun. This bipod made the weapon and its mount transportable by one man (the Finnish Army term transportable refers to anything not bolted onto the floor; a model 32 machinegun with Salakari mount and ammunition belt weighed some 35 kg or 77 lbs). Since these light mounts reduced gun accuracy, triple the Minimum Arc and add +3 to SAB when using the m/43 Salakari mount.

    The gunner needed both hands when firing the model 09 machine guns: one thumb raised the safety while the other pressed the trigger. The model 32 gun was improved so that firing could in emergencies be accomplished using only one hand. Operating the weapon could be done from either prone or knee stances. Ranges of more than 1000 meters are frequently mentioned in machine gun literature and the sights of the guns were graduated up to 2000 meters. All Maxim type machine guns could be used to fire single shots but the belt had to be specially loaded for such use.

    The original Russian machine guns were fed by a 250-round fabric belt and the Finnish 09 model gun naturally used the same belt. The fabric belt was subsceptible to wear and tear and also had a tendency to shrink and crumple when it dried. When new, the fabric belt's links tended to be so tight that it was very difficult to insert cartridges into them unless the belt was first stretched. In the late Thirties a domestic 200-round metallic non-disintegrating link belt was produced for the model 32 machine gun and most model 09 guns were also converted to use this belt. A wooden box was available for the 200-round belt. This was not only lighter than the metal original but also more quiet to handle, but it could not be fitted onto the special frame for anti-aircraft use. While an assistant was required to guide the fabric belt into the gun the metallic belt was sturdy enough to feed without problems on its own.

    The belts could be loaded by hand or with the aid of a special loading apparatus which required at least two men to operate. The apparatus consisted of frame, cartridge guide, cartridge pusher and belt mover. The frame was screwed onto a table, the wheel of a cart or other suitable sturdy surface. The empty belt was put into place, a ratchet attached to the belt mover. The crew then inserted cartridges into the cartridge guide. By turning the ratchet the belt moved and the automatic cartridge pusher inserted the rounds into the belt. The first four cartridges had to be inserted slowly (16 CA total) but thereafter the belt could be filled at a rate of 60 rounds per minute (2 CA per cartridge) so that filling a 250 round belt could be accomplished in little over four minutes (516 CA). It was recommended to load the belts by hand whenever time permitted as the apparatus always caused some wear to the belt.

    Prewar books recommend that coolant be added into the water jacket after every 500 rounds. The fourth edition manual from 1942 recommends adding coolant after the first four belts have been fired and from then on after every two belts. The 1941 combat guide mentions that steam emitted by a machine gun is often a factor which draws enemy fire to the machine gun. The machine gun's jacket held four liters of liquid. In addition to water the coolant was in the winter composed of two liters of glycerine (freezing point -30 degrees Celsius), of one half liter glycerine and 1.25 liters of salt water (freezing point -27 degrees), or of 1.25 liters salt water (freezing point -20 degrees Celsius). Because salt water corroded the jacket it had to be drained and hosed with clean water as soon as possible. The 1942 manual actually recommends that the crew shoot the first fifty rounds with an empty jacket and then add coolant. Another substance the crews had to add in combat was gun oil. Various moving parts were to be lubricated during breaks in the firing.

    Accessories supplied with the machine guns included lots of spare parts (including a spare barrel and a spare bolt) and a pouchful of tools (a universal tool, cartridge remover, pliers, tongs), cleaning tools and oil cans.

    A Maxim type machinegun. Picture from Pehr Blom's 1919 book.

    Tactical Use

    The gunners were taught to fire point fire, width fire, depth fire, sowing fire and indirect fire. Point fire was used on small, immobile targets such as individual foxholes and involved aiming the whole burst on one target. Width fire was the spraying of bullets onto a wide target area so that the aiming point moved about four meters per second, causing about two bullets to strike every meter of target area (use an Arc of 1 hex).

    Depth fire was used to saturate a target. At great distances it was easy to miss using point fire because the machine gun was an accurate weapon - the burst remained so dense that there was little chance of a lucky hit if distance to the target was estimated incorrectly. To circumvent this problem the gun crew raised and lowered the gun using an adjustor wheel while the gun was firing, causing the bullets to strike the target area with slightly differing arcs, spreading the fire over a depth. The instructions called for a speed which would spread eight bullets to an area of 100 meters every second. A depth of 100 meters was used at ranges under 1000 meters, 100 or 200 meter depths were used at greater ranges. New rules will be needed to simulate depth fire using the PCCS system. For now, consider the target area of depth fire to extend to 27 hexes (12 hexes in front and 14 hexes beyond primary target) and use a MA of three range columns greater for every hex in the area regardless of the elevation of the targets.

    Sowing fire combined width fire and depth fire. It was used to saturate a 100 by 100 meter area, much like an artillery strike, with 200 rounds per gun being used in 25 seconds (12.5 Phases). The fire proceeded from the left, sowing the bullets back and forth until the other end of the target area was reached. Use an Arc of 5 hexes for this fire mode and modify the MA as with depth Fire.

    The most demanding machine gun fire mode was indirect fire. The MG platoon or company would fire a preset volley of fire, say 1000 rounds per gun, on a 100 by 100 meter area out of direct observation. On level terrain the Maxims could attain a range of 3500 meters and the range was increased to 4000 meters if the target was situated lower than the machine gun.
    Such fire was useful mainly for harrassment as the bullets would have lost some of their original velocity by the time they reached the target. The tables used to formulate fire plans, calculate hit probabilities and angles are extremely complex, rather like those used for mortars, and require a fair bit of mathematics to comprehend. Indirect fire was used in World War II and it is still mentioned in literature from 1941. Today, the Finnish Army uses similar techniques with the AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher.

    As is clear from the above, the use of Maxim type machine guns was nothing like the way a modern platoon uses its General Purpose Machine Guns. It was difficult and demanding enough to warrant specialist gun crews who did nothing but train with these weapons. Machine gun platoons and companies were formed in both infantry and cavalry arms.

    In 1924 a company consisted of three platoons, each with two or four machine guns. A 1932 machine gun company had the following OB:
      Company Commander with pistol and riding horse
      Command Group
             Forward Observer NCO with rifle
             Range Finders (1+2 men) with rifles
             Signals Patrol (1+3 men) with rifles 
             Measuring Patrol (1+4 men) with rifles
             3 Messengers with rifles and one riding horse
             Chemical Defence Patrol (1+3 men) with rifles
      3 Machinegun Platoons, each with
             Platoon Leader with pistol
             2 Half Platoon Leaders with rifles
             2 Messengers with rifles
             4 Machinegun Squads with rifles and one machine gun, each with 
                 Squad (Gun) Leader
                 Machinegunner's Assistant
                 Ammunition Bearer
             4 Machinegun Teamsters with rifles, horse and cart (sleigh)
      Supply platoon
             Company Quartermaster's office
                Company Quartermaster
             Medical Team
                Medic NCO
                2 Stretcher Bearers
             Ammunition Squad
                Ammunition NCO
                24 Ammunition Bearers
                3 Teamsters
              Supply Squad
                First Supply Half-Squad
                   Veterinary NCO
                   2 Cooks
                   2 Teamsters  
                Second Supply Half-Squad
                   2 Artisans
                   3 Teamsters 
    In 1941 a platoon was composed of only two squads. A Finnish machine gun squad of 1932-1941 consisted of at least six men: The gun commander, gunner, gunner's assistant, observer, ammunition bearer and teamster. Their equipment was:
                            Weapon      Tools and Equipment
    0. Gun Commander        Pistol      Binoculars, whistle, compass, flashlight, billhook
    1. Gunner                 "         Pick
    2. Gunner's Assistant     "         Entrenching tool
    3. Observer               "         Hatchet
    4. Ammunition Bearer      "         Entrenching tool
    5. Teamster             Rifle       Horse and cart
    The large number of men were required to haul the heavy equipment and considerable ammunition loads in forested terrain. The gun commander was responsible for observation and correction of firing, the gunner did the firing, the assistant loaded the belt into the gun and guided it during firing. It was also the assistant's task to keep track of ammunition expenditure and to signal - by putting his hand in front of the rear sight - to the gunner when the ordered number of rounds had been fired. The ammunition bearers carried the bulky belts and reloaded them.

    The teamster was to park the machine gun vehicle, usually horse and cart, under cover as ordered and to camouflage it. He would often stay with the vehicle, using any spare time he might have by filling empty belts with bullets or he could be ordered to do any other duty necessary. Every man in the machine gun squad was trained to perform all of the actions required to operate the gun, from loading and shooting to maintenance. This ensured that even after suffering a casualties the squad would be able to operate the gun at full efficiency.

    In the Winter War, the one-day ammunition load of a Finnish Maxim machine gun was 2000 rounds, that is eight belts. For assault support work etc. the squad might be issued additional ammunition. When the command to take up firing position was given, every ammo bearer and observer was to carry two loaded belts to the gun's firing position. The MG squad was to keep as many loaded belts in their firing position as the MG platoon leader had ordered. When only four loaded belts remained, the squad was to inform the MG platoon leader. The platoon leader would order the teamsters to get more belts from company stores. It seems that if the platoon leader ordered six belts to be kept in the position, the men would carry six belts there and after each would be shot empty, an ammo bearer would run to the cart to deposit it and get one more. If no ammunition replenishment was in sight and the squad was down to two loaded belts, the MG squad was to keep the empty belts and fill them with ammunition found on the battlefield.

    When the gun was in firing position the gunner was behind the gun, the commander immediately to his left and the loader on the right. The other members took suitable positions nearby. The guns could be fired from both prone and knee stances.

    The sophistication of the gun crews made possible a very formal use of machine guns. Indeed, contemporary manuals speak of these heavy machine guns almost as if they were artillery pieces. For instance, a machine gun platoon or company could be ordered fire a preparatory strike for a preset duration such as for fifteen minutes prior to an assault. To accomplish this, the company would write up firing plans and orchestrate the strike so that, for example, only one gun would be reloading at any one time. One would suspect such formal aspects were quickly shed in actual combat.

    Despite its numerous disadvantages - extreme bulk, high complexity and crew requirements - the Maxim machine gun remained an effective weapons system for the duration of World War II. The excellent reliability and durability of the Maxim along with the high sustained rate of fire more than made up for the disadvantages. Indeed, few weapons were so well suited for repulsing the massed infantry attacks of the Winter War.

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