Object Title

Schwarzlose Modell 1907/12 machine gun

Schwarzlose Modell 1907/12 machine gun


Like France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire opted to develop its own machine gun design rather than adopt a variant of the world-beating Maxim gun. In common with Maxim's more famous design, Andreas Schwarzlose's gun featured a large water cooling jacket around the barrel. It also used the 'toggle' style bolt that Maxim had borrowed from the Winchester and Henry rifles (also seen on the Luger pistol). It diverged wildly from its recoil or gas-operated contemporaries by operating on the 'delayed blowback' principle. Variations on this system were to become common in submachine guns and are still used today in some rifles. It was a very unusual choice for a full-sized machine gun. Schwarzlose dispensed with the usual complex system of locking barrel and bolt together to contain the pressure of firing and then reload the weapon. Rather, he made use of a heavy bolt and powerful spring matched against the power of the cartridge to be fired. The toggle bolt only delays the movement of these parts and does not lock. This has advantages but requires great care to prevent the bolt from opening too soon and causing a stoppage and perhaps damaging either weapon or operator. Schwarzlose was the first designer to solve these problems in a machine gun design. His gun was also unusual in using a rotating wheel to convey cartridges from belt to chamber. This was an idea similar to an early idea abandoned by Maxim. The finished design was built by the Austrian company Steyr to whom Schwarzlose had sold the patents in 1905. An improved stronger and more reliable version of the gun was introduced in 1912 in time for service in the First World War.

Use and effect

Schwarzlose's gamble on delayed blowback paid off resulting in a much simpler design than Maxim's. With fewer and less complicated moving parts it was easier, quicker and less costly to produce. These were vital attributes for a mass-produced weapon as global conflict loomed. This mechanical simplicity also made it easier for soldiers to learn how to operate and to maintain in the field. However, the gun as designed did feature one complexity not found in other guns. This was an integral oiling port and pump device that lubricated the next cartridge with each shot. Being blowback-operated, fired cases might otherwise get stuck in the chamber. Reliability was superb although the gun did require very consistent ammunition to operate. Where a slightly weak or overpowered cartridge might cause a recoil-operated gun like the Maxim to 'stutter', the Schwarzlose might stop firing entirely. Quality control in ammunition manufacture was therefore essential, but that was hard to ensure in time of war. The gun also had a relatively low rate of fire which can be a disadvantage in some situations. Where the design really suffered was in the gun having a short barrel. This was necessitated by the blowback mechanism but reduced velocity, range, and accuracy. It also increased muzzle flash. All of these factors became increasingly important as machine gun design and tactics evolved towards the offensive from around 1916 onwards. The Schwarzlose was therefore an excellent defensive weapon but did not have the flexibility and therefore longevity of the Maxim designs. By the time of the Second World War it was relegated to use away from the front line with reserve forces or installed in fortifications.


Action / Operating system Blowback
Barrel length 52.7 cm (20.7 in)
Calibre / Bore 6.5x55mm Swedish
Calibre / Bore 6.5×53mmR Dutch Mannlicher
Calibre / Bore 7.92×57mm Mauser
Calibre / Bore 8x50mmR Mannlicher (.31 in)
Calibre / Bore 8×50mmR Mannlicher
Calibre / Bore 8×56mmR Steyr (Hungarian)
Capacity (rounds) 250
Country of manufacture Austria-Hungary
Date entered service 1912
Effective range 1000 m (1094 yd)
Feed Belt
Manufacturer Steyr
Muzzle velocity 579 m/s (1900 fps)
Other operators Bulgaria
Other operators Czechoslovakia
Other operators Italy (captured)
Other operators Netherlands
Other operators Romania
Other operators Serbia
Other operators Sweden
Overall length 1.067 m (42 in)
Primary operator Ottoman Empire
Weight 50 kg (111 lb) (with mount)


Jonathan Ferguson