By Robert G. Segel
The “Blackboard Jungle” was never like this! Long Mountain Outfitters offers a series of in-depth classes and forums for civilians, law enforcement, military, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other government personnel certification programs, that cover history, maintenance, repair and operation. These classes run from one to four days depending on the subject and are taught by the leading RKIs in their respective fields. Class sizes are specifically small (8-12 students) to allow for intense and personalized instruction. For anyone who truly wants to understand all aspects of their particular field of interest, these classes are a must!
On November 11-14, 2004, a four-day intensive class was held at Long Mountain Outfitters’ (LMO) modern and spacious classroom facilities in Henderson, Nevada, on the classic Maxim and Vickers water-cooled machineguns. The lead instructor was Dr. Ed Weitzman and ably assisted by Dolf Goldsmith, Bill Vallerand and Dan Shea. These four gentlemen truly represent a wealth of learned and practical knowledge and to have them all together in an intense and personal program on these historic machineguns was an opportunity that could not be missed. Students attending were Billy Conn, Tony Dee, Newell Graham, Howard Heeg, Robert Segel and Bill Stojack.
Students received classroom instruction and hands-on training on a wide array of classic Maxim and Vickers machineguns. Weapons specifically studied included:
- Brass 1909 Argentine Maxim (Model of 1898)
- German MG08 Maxim
- Chinese T-24 Maxim
- US Colt Maxim Model of 1904
- German MG08/15 Maxim
- British Vickers Mk. I
- US Colt Vickers Model of 1915
- Turkish Vickers Mk. I
- A modified shortened Vickers Mk. I
- Semiautomatic Vickers
Day one of the program began in the morning with classroom instruction on the history and development of the first Maxim prototypes and the 1887-1893 large-caliber, black powder Maxim machineguns. This was followed by discussions of the development of the first rifle caliber “World Standard” Maxims of 1895 and their subsequent licensing to DWM in 1898. Interim models of 1900 were discussed as were successive Models of 1904 (US – military), 1908 (German – military), 1909 (German – commercial and Argentina – military), 1910 (Russian – military), 1911 (Swiss – military) and 1915 (German – military). Following the Maxim discussion, the history and development of the Vickers (light Maxim), British Mk. I Vickers, US Vickers Model of 1915, tank Vickers, and aircraft Vickers commenced.
The afternoon session provided an initial overview discussion of Maxim function and operating principles followed by instructor disassembly demonstrations, and then student disassemblies, of the various Maxim models. This then led to a discussion of the Vickers function and operating principles, and how it differs from the Maxim, with instructor disassemblies and then student disassemblies of the range of Vickers models. Particular attention was given to the proper methods of packing the barrels at both the muzzle and breech ends to prevent water leakage yet provide adequate movement of the barrel and recoiling parts.
Day two began with lectures on the functioning, cycling and malfunctions of Maxims and Vickers as well as a discussion of the modifications needed for aircraft use: particularly synchronizing through the arc of the propeller of World War One aircraft. Great time was spent with each student disassembling, inspecting and reassembling the various different types of Maxim and Vickers locks. Each type of lock, though similar in appearance and function, is different and requires a thorough knowledge of each to assure proper maintenance and function. Students were required to disassemble and reassemble each of the different locks. Discussion further included what is necessary to change calibers with existing guns. For example, changing the US Colt M1904 Maxim from .30-06 to 7.62x54R Russian, or changing the Vickers from .303 to 8mm. Malfunctions were also covered from various broken side rail parts to feed block problems to broken lock parts and weak firing pins.
The afternoon focused on the various tripod designs and functions of each. This included the 1895 Ackland mount, sled mount, wheeled mount, VSM Mk. IV mount, Colt Maxim and Colt Vickers mounts, and various anti-aircraft mounts. The guns, mounts and ammunition were then packed up and ready for transport to the range the next day
Day three was spent at the range. The beautiful facilities of the Desert Sportsman Shooting Range, located about thirty minutes outside of Las Vegas, were made available to us. Weapons used were the MG08/15 Maxim (8mm), MG08 Maxim (8mm), M1904 Maxim (.30-06), M1898 Maxim (7.65mm Argentine), Chinese T-24 Maxim (7.62mm Russian), US Vickers M1915 (.30-06), Turkish Mk. I Vickers (7.62mm Russian), shortened water-jacket Vickers Mk, I (8mm) manufactured by Dr. Ed Weitzman and a semiautomatic Vickers (.303) as manufactured by Bill Stojack.
Each student was instructed on the proper set up of the appropriate mounts, gun safety, range safety, proper fusee spring tension settings, loading, firing and unloading including unloading while there was still a belt in the gun and a round in the chamber. Make no mistake; this wasn’t a day to just go out blasting. Naturally occurring and induced malfunctions were studied, as were their remedies. Problems encountered and addressed included a broken firing spring in a Maxim lock; a broken lifter on a Vickers lock; the barrel packing being too tight thus preventing proper movement of the barrel and recoiling parts; improper adjustment of muzzle gland; and a split-pin holding the lifter in a Chinese Maxim lock working loose caused by the shoulders being too smooth due to old damage from an improper drift being used to remove the split-pin. Weak feed pawl springs caused feeding problems resulting in belts falling out of the feedblock and cross-feed jams within the feedblock. Old, worn, torn and stretched belts caused feeding problems as well as rounds falling out of their loops during firing. One of the problems we encountered resulted in a new solution that excited everyone. It was found that old, stretched .30-06 Browning belts could be loaded with 8mm rounds and fed reliably though the MG08 and MG08/15 Maxims. With original useable German 8mm Maxim belts being very rare and expensive ($150-$250 each), the use of worn and stretched Browning belts ($5-$10 each) makes 8mm Maxim use that much more viable. Also shown was that .303 ammunition can be loaded into Russian DP belts (also commonly available and inexpensive) for use in the Vickers and aluminum 8mm Turkish belts will work with .303 in Vickers guns. Caliber conversions were also conducted in the field converting .303 to 8mm, .30-06 to 8mm, 8mm to 7.62mm and .303 to 7.62mm. Each student was able to fire each gun, in numerous calibers, and required to identify problems and malfunctions, and propose and initiate the proper remedies. This type of hands-on learning experience, supervised by well-known and respected RKIs, is an educational experience that is available nowhere else.
Day four recapped our experiences at the range analyzing all that occurred and what we had learned. All the weapons were disassembled, cleaned and reassembled. During this process, corrosive ammo and proper cleaning compounds were discussed. Following the clean up, various belt loading machines and alternative belt loading methods were covered as well as suggesting that ammo be “lubricated” lightly with a paste finishing wax and let dry a day before loading into belts to assist in loading and extraction. Also discussed were various methods of dewating machineguns pre 1968, post 1968, pre 1986 and post 1986 and how they could be reactivated both legally and physically. Finally, a discussion of how machinegun tactics in the early twentieth century evolved from direct fire to the intricacies of interlocking fire and indirect fire.
All too soon, this intense and in-depth Maxim/Vickers school came to an end. Ed Weitzman, Dolf Goldsmith and Bill Vallerand presented a well thought out and well-organized program of instruction with intensive personal attention. The value of the instruction and the lessons learned are hard to quantify. But the level of knowledge passed on to students who already had a firm working knowledge of these classic guns is priceless. If this particular class is offered again, it would be well worth your while to enroll. No matter the level of your current expertise – novice or RKI, you will come away with new and usable knowledge on these classic water-cooled machineguns. The price for this four day class initially appears somewhat intimidating at $2,995, but when you consider the hundreds of thousands of dollars in transferable machine guns that were assembled for the class, the cost of ammunition, and the quality of the instruction and experience, it was as close to a bargain that a devoted student of these guns will ever find.
This is not the first class of this type offered by LMO. Dan Shea is committed to offering an educational experience for the Class III world at all levels. LMO has sponsored or hosted M249 Minimi Operator/Maintenance classes for civilians, M240-MAG 58 Operator/Maintenance classes for civilians, M2HB .50 caliber MG Operator/Maintenance classes for civilians and an MP5, “The MP5 Experience” class with Tom Dresner for civilians. All of these classes are available for US Government and Law Enforcement armorer or user certification as well. Government and Law enforcement armorers or end users who need full certification can arrange with FN or other relevant company for the West Coast classes.
LMO has also sponsored classes for the HK69 grenade launcher for US DoE; M134D Gatling Gun armorer certification class for US DoD armorers with Dillon Aero; Colt M16 armorer certification for US DoE and Law Enforcement; Remington 870 and 700 armorer certification for Law Enforcement, as well as various LE classes on handguns and shotguns, but primarily machineguns and submachine guns.
Additionally, the following classes are planned for the future. Another Maxim/Vickers class (four day course) with Dr. Ed Weitzman as the lead instructor with Dolf Goldsmith, Bill Vallerand, Robert Segel and Dan Shea as assistants; a Browning machinegun class (four day course) with Bob Naess as the lead instructor with Dolf Goldsmith, Bill Vallerand and Dan Shea as assistants; a World War I machine gun class (four day course) featuring all of the machines guns of the Great War with Robert Segel as the lead instructor with Dolf Goldsmith, Bill Vallerand and Dan Shea as assistants.
There are other forums or classes of undetermined length currently under consideration depending on interest. These include the 1918 BAR; Thompson Submachine Gun; Development of the Submachine Gun; the Modern Assault Rifle; and Analysis of Pre 1986 Machineguns and Conversions Made for Private Ownership. Furthermore, there have been some requests for a class on the machineguns of World War II as well as a class on silencers with Dr. Philip Dater bringing his unique lecture series to the public.
For those who may have an interest in attending any of these classes, please check the Long Mountain Outfitters website at www.longmountain.com for listings and dates. Because these classes are small and personal, dates may change to better coincide with attendees’ schedules and a direct communication with Dan Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org is highly advised for concrete details. LMO is conveniently located in Henderson, Nevada, and students can fly into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and stay in Henderson or on the “Strip” if they so choose.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N6 (March 2005)|