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From Norway to Brazil: Madsen Soldiers On

After a century, an automatic rifle that has long remained in the small-arms shadows has reemerged. The Madsen Light Machinegun, fielded in 1902, has battled from the tundra of winter Norway in the 20th century to the steamy ramshackles of Brazil.

 

A top loading, magazine fed weapon, the Madsen was one of the earliest magazine fed automatic rifles to enter military service. It's action, a camming-levering affair, operated so slowly that the Madsen's rate of fire was 450 rounds per minute.  Very controllable, it was the antithesis of the later German doctrine of high rates of fire per burst put more bullets on target.

 

The action also tended to expose weaknesses not in the gun, but in ammunition. Since the multi-facited method of operation was delicate, burst ammunition cases often led to damage to the breach. Which in turn led to fowling and stoppages. It's feeding, from 25 to 40 round box magazines, to its weight, around 20 pounds, made it popular with crews who knew how to keep the Madsen in tip-top operating shape.

 

Chambered in six different calibers, the Madsen was first used in combat during the Russo-Japanese War, followed by Imperial German forces of World War I. By the 1920s and 30s, the Madsen had made it to South America with service in countries like Paraguay and Brazil. The automatic weapon would eventually be re-chambered for 7.62mm NATO in the modern age. It is that version of the Madsen that continues to blast away in police battles with Brazilian drug cartels in fierce urban fighting.

 

Beyond World War I and II, the Madsen has also proven worthy of fights in places like Estonia, Belgian Congo and China

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