Object Title

Bergmann MG 15nA light machine gun

Bergmann MG 15nA light machine gun


The MG 15, not to be confused with the 1930s weapon of the same designation, was a German answer to the American Lewis light machine gun. Like the similarly named but entirely different MG08/15 (based on the Maxim gun), it was a compromise redesign derived from a heavy machine gun, but unlike the 08/15, it did away with a heavy water cooling system in favour of a slotted barrel jacket. The weapon's designer was Louis Schmeisser, father of the famous Hugo Schmeisser, known for creating the first submachine gun ever issued (the MP 18,1), amongst other designs. Machine guns are almost always designed to fire with an open bolt, allowing cold air to cool the mechanism and prevent overheating. Unusually, the MG 15 was redesigned to fire when its mechanism was closed, creating the MG 15nA (neue Art - new Model). This change of approach was necessitated by the unreliability of the open bolt version. Both versions were also developed as aircraft machine guns, where cold air at altitude negated cooling problems. For air service, the rate of fire was boosted to 800 rounds per minute, increasing the probability of a hit on an enemy aircraft.

Use and effect

Though substantially (5 kg / 11 lbs) lighter than the MG 08/15, the MG 15 did not replace it in service, and saw relatively little German use on the ground, being more successful as an aircraft machine gun. However, a number were issued to the Asia Korps sent to assist the Ottoman army, and may also have been supplied directly. The closed bolt redesign solved inherent reliability problems with the design, but would have made for a less effective machine gun, requiring that it be periodically allowed to cool. The primary advantage of the Bergmann aside from low weight was that it could be fed from various standard lengths of belt. This included a 100-round belt inside a 'Kurbel' drum holder clipped to the side of the weapon. This was more convenient than a long dangling belt, but gave more than twice the capacity of the enemy Lewis gun. The weapon also pioneered the use of disintegrating metal links, which later replaced cloth belts and are now a standard feature. These are clipped together with rounds of ammunition, and break apart on firing, being ejected from the weapon along with the empty cases. When necessary, new lengths of belt can easily be created by collecting the used links and clipping them together with fresh rounds.


Action / Operating system Recoil
Barrel length 71.6 cm (28.2 in)
Calibre / Bore 7.92x57mm (.31 in)
Capacity (rounds) 100, 200, or 250
Country of manufacture Germany
Crew 1
Date entered service 1915
Effective range 400 m
Feed Belt
Manufacturer Bergmann Industriewerke
Muzzle velocity 892 m/s (2925 fps)
Other operators Austria-Hungary
Other operators Ottoman Empire
Overall length 1.12 m (44.1 in)
Primary operator Germany
Rate of fire (rounds per minute) 500
Weight 12.9 kg (28.4 lb) (with bipod)


Jonathan Ferguson