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As I ask this I am certain I cannot be the first person to have thought this, but why on earth was the Lewis gun not used in ww2 instead of the BAR in Bren. Been doing some googling to try to find any obvious reasons, but I haven't found any so far. It is similar in weight to other GPMG's like the MG42 25-28 lbs. It weighs only half a pound more than a modern M240. Has at least twice to more than 4 times as much ammo per magazine as a BAR and significantly more than the Bren as well. Decent rate of fire etc. Both the Bren and the BAR seem like massive steps backwards compared to the Lewis. Compared those guns the Lewis seems to alleviate every flaw the BAR and Bren are criticized for, especially ammo capacity. Does anyone have any idea why it was phased out? It smells political. 

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Bren was lighter and less prone to overheating (mainly due to it's slower rate of fire and mag holding less ammo). The lewis gun was prone to overheating (sustained firing resulted in overheating until it stopped altogether) and you could not change the barrel in the field. My tuppence worth! :)

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The Lewis gun had a pretty cool phase-change cooling system. The lack of  barrel change, the weight, and the cost/complexity of manufacture all probably conspired to ensure a newer weapon would be fielded.

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47 minutes ago, c3k said:

The Lewis gun had a pretty cool phase-change cooling system. The lack of  barrel change, the weight, and the cost/complexity of manufacture all probably conspired to ensure a newer weapon would be fielded.

That it did. The weight of the gun though is comparable to other lmgs, so I dont see how that could have been a factor. Barrel change perhaps, but the BAR has none, and both the Bren and BAR have insufficient magazine capacity to be proper squad autos. The net advantages of the gun seem to outweigh anything else. 

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Hey, if someone offered me the chance to purchase any of those three, I'd buy the Lewis. It was a pretty interesting design and certainly did the job.

As far as Bren vs. BAR vs. Lewis, I think there are some very knowledgeable firearms folks who will see this thread and give some good information as to the whys and wherefores.

Ken

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According to wiki they were issued to Home Guard units due to the equipment crisis post fall of France and it saw combat service in front line ANZAC and Brit units in the PTO early war.

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The Lewis gun was used extensively by the Dutch Army in May 1940 during Fall Gelb. The gun kind of got a bad rep with Dutch veterans,
but this was mostly undeserved. I will adress some of the common complaints:

- Too heavy
It was just as heavy as a MG-34, though that gun looked sleeker. The Dutch soldiers simply didn't know their German adversaries were carrying around the same weight with their LMG.

- Prone too jamming
A large number of stoppages were due to the fact the Dutch used a custom made drum magazine that contained 97 rounds. This drum was particularly vulnerable when the gun was moved a lot with the drum attached.
In prepared positions this was not much of an issue. The original 47 round drum was much less vulnerable. During the Interbellum the guns were also stored too dry which caused problems with lubrication, and maintenance was sub optimal too.
The Germans were also better trained in how to quickly deal with jams and better supplied with spare parts. Too few Dutch conscripts were properly instructed how to handle the gun. 

- Poor build quality
The Dutch built quite a number of their Lewis guns under license. These were decidedly of lower quality than the original. Inferior steel was used for instance for the firing pin, which made it prone to breaking after heavy use.
Some also showed signs of metal fatigue in some parts. 

The Lewis gun was not hopelessly outdated compared to other guns used by the Allies. A well built specimen handled by a properly trained operator could hold its own quite well indeed.

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Was the sheer size of the drum magazines a factor? While it takes 3 Bren magazines to come near a full 97-round drum, they seem more compact and easily packed to me.

 

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I'm reminded of the US Vietnam-era M240 lmg. On paper it was the ideal lmg, When first issued troops loved it. But it didn't age well - literally. it would start to fall apart. Pieces had to be wired on so they wouldn't pop off while firing. The gun that troops loved in the late 60s they came to hate by the late 80s. So technical specs don't tell the whole story of a weapon.

Didn't someone on the chat board once describe having to assemble and fire an old Soviet PPS-43(?) smg during a test? He was the only person to get it to fire because he first plunged the assembled gun into a mud puddle and let the grime work into it. That corrected for the machine tolerances and the gun then operated.  ;) 

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The Lewis gun seems to have been carried on by the Soviets in the DP-28 design. (I'm sure there were differences...no references handy.) Of course, it could just be that the only similarity is their use of the dish magazine.

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It's less "Well the Lewis is a much better light machine gun than the BAR!" and more "The Lewis is a vastly inferior automatic rifle to the BAR."  

The Automatic Rifle was something that could lay down superior fires to the basic rifleman's weapon (which was especially relevant pre-Garand), while still something that could be operated by one soldier on the move, from the shoulder if required.  The Lewis gun was not able to accomplish the tasks the BAR was used for (it was heavier by 10-15 lbs depending on the model, was not a practical shoulder weapon) and as a result it was not employed as an automatic rifle.  I imagine the Bren was used over the Lewis gun for similar reasons.

It's worth noting the modern M240B is a crew served machine gun.  The M249 is much closer to the BAR in terms of both weight and role, and further down that line of discussion, the USMC has gone as far as to go back to a BAR-ish weapon in the M27 IAR over larger heavier weapons.  

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I too have been interested in this although I am more interested why the US did not develop a better automatic weapon for the rifle squad. As @panzersaurkrautwerfer said, it was designed to be an automatic rifle more than a machine gun, and the Marines have recently gone back to this model in the form of the M27 IAR.

What I really want to know is, after confronting the very common, and vastly superior (fire superiority by volume wise) MG-34/42, why did the US not attempt to design and implement something more similar to the MG-34/42s? The US came up against these weapons early enough in the war for a new weapon to be produced and fielded. Also, the MG-42 specifically gained a massive level of infamy throughout the US Army. There were many propaganda videos and training classes designed specifically around demystifying and countering the MG-42. Instead of trying to develop tactics and videos/pamphlets trying to get around the problem, why didn't they just develop their own weapon system to counter it? Seems like a better way to go about things in my opinion. 

The only real reason I can think of as to why the US never developed an MG-42 counter could be the Pacific theater. As far as I know, the Japanese never fielded anything comparable to the MG-42 in terms of firepower, thus the average US rifle squad possessed a great firepower advantage with their semi auto Garands. My guess is that, if this holds true we did not develop an MG-42 counter because only half the war needed it, and not the whole. Although the whole would have benefited from such a weapon, I suppose it would have been a logistical nightmare.

A quick point on the Marines and their switch to the M27 IAR. I think its hilariously stupid of them. Fire superiority is THE most important element of a firefight, and while the M27 can use large magazines, last I checked the standard loadout for the M27 gunner is to use regular 30 round mags. Even if you did use a bunch of higher capacity magazines, I'm not so sure it could maintain a high rate of fire for long without a barrel change, and I'm also not sure if changing the barrel of the M27 is possible/feasible during a firefight. To me, the adoption of the M27 is a massive step backwards. Any Marine Corps public relations specialists (aren't they all ;)) care to weigh in?

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Re: "Better BAR"

Look at what the US Army was generally doing in Europe.  While there were moments of semi-static defenses, smaller, more manageable weapons were more popular for the sort of offensive operations that were going on from June 44 to the end.  A squad LMG ala MG 42 doesn't suit that kind of fighting well at all, and the fact that when US Army (and Marines) could acquire more guns, it wasn't snapping up M1919, or the MG 42 like M19191A6, it was as many BARs as they could carry.  And even post World War Two, the BAR was still quite popular outside of having to lug the damn thing around.


The MG 42 was quite handy because the Germans were almost entirely defensively postured, which negated most of the disadvantages of saddling a squad with a machine gun.  That it was heavy, and gobbled ammo like no tomorrow was of less concerned from a prepared position. 

As far as killing MG 42s, that's what combined arms equated to.  Artillery suppresses the enemy, armor kills the heavy weapons, infantry assaults and finishes.  While the MG 42 was likely superior to the M1919, simply having an equal or better LMG especially at the squad level would not have equated to more offensive firepower.

Re: IAR

You ever carry a machine gun for a few miles?  I've lugged a few thanks to misguided Cadet/Officer training schools.  The M60/M240 is beastly, and even the M249 tries really hard to pull you into the ground with it.  If you're a light infantry force that fetishizes dismounted movement, that obsesses over high intensity violent raids, a light, portable weapon with greater firepower than a rifle, but more manageable than a LMG has a lot of attraction.

It's not something I would choose.  I like the M249 or even better, the M240Ls.  But if you're about to step off on a 10 mile foot movement, the IAR is a great choice to give you the ability to throw more lead than an M4, but without the weight and complexity of a true machine gun.

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RE: "Better BAR"

Those are all good points. I guess the answer to my question of why the US never developed an alternative to the BAR is because they never really felt the need to. Like what you said, a combination of combined arms and primarily offensive maneuvers likely negated the need for a whole new weapon. I've noticed a fair amount of BAR-bashing recently (not here on these forums, but from a variety of other military history/fire arm sources) I never bought into it, but I do understand the BARs limited ammo, and that tends to be the chief complaint used by those who decry it. I think it's likely a case of hindsight being 20/20, or something along those lines. "Wouldn't it be great if the Allies had the SAW during WWII?"

I'm not one of those people who hate the BAR, just curious. 

RE: "IAR"

I have never personally rucked a 240, and hope I never do. Same with mortars (either the 60 or 81) However it is worth noting that, generally the gunners/assistants (or in the case of the SAW just the gunner) carry only their guns and combat load of ammo. All the extra stuff is lumped onto the grunts. So while humping a 240/249 sucks, so does being saddled with the extra weight of 200 rounds of 7.62 on top of a regular rifleman's combat load. ("But sar'nt, it's heavy!") Not trying to start an argument over who has it worse or anything like that. Just pointing out that having to carry any kind of weight sucks. I imagine that's probably part of the reason you decided you wanted to ride ?

As far as the IAR goes, I can see the appeal. It's lighter and easier to manipulate. They tried to make the SAW lighter and easy to wield with the SAW Para upgrade, but you can only slim it down so much. I can maybe understand the IAR for light units like the Rangers (they do love their raids) but then again that assumes that nothing is going to go wrong. If they get stuck in a serious firefight, they're going to miss the SAW. Unfortunately, things do tend to go wrong. In Mogadishu they decided (against standing SOP) not to take NODs and extra ammo. A book, movie, and most importantly 18 (+1 three days later) men were killed. Ever since the Army, and Rangers specifically always insist to stick with standard SOP load outs. (By the way I do not mean this to sound patronizing at all, just mentioning it because this is generally the reason given as to why you have to take a full load despite the specific mission)

To me, the IAR goes against the supreme principle of fire superiority, or at the least assumes that everything is either going to go to plan, or that you're only fighting against terry taliban, and not a large force of anything packing more serious firepower. 

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IAR:

Kinda funny... The HK416 uses a piston system, similar to Adams Arms, POF, LWRCI and other AR builders. The benefit is the cooler/cleaner BCG and consequent ability for massive amounts of firing without overheating that part of the weapon. (The barrel is just as liable to overheat. Love cooking the oil out of the metal...on someone else's!) Yeah, I like the piston over the DI.

Reading the reasoning for adoption was the funny part. One aimed shot is the equivalent of 4 M249 rounds. Really??? By that reasoning, they should disable the full auto capability and get "better" results. The weapon looks just like the other squad weapons, so the gunner can "hide" in the squad. And, it's lighter. Oh...it also reduces collateral damage. Yeah, that's what a good combat platform is designed for in this day and age. :(

I'd love to hear some real AARs from units which have had experience with both M249 and the M27. It seems like a step back.

 

Lewis not an automatic rifle: Yes, good reasoning, but why keep going with the BAR after the Garand was adopted? Just for the full auto capability in a light weapon. (By "light" I mean in comparison to the Lewis...which weighed about he same as the MG-34.)

 

Ken

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9 hours ago, panzersaurkrautwerfer said:

It's less "Well the Lewis is a much better light machine gun than the BAR!" and more "The Lewis is a vastly inferior automatic rifle to the BAR."  

The Automatic Rifle was something that could lay down superior fires to the basic rifleman's weapon (which was especially relevant pre-Garand), while still something that could be operated by one soldier on the move, from the shoulder if required.  The Lewis gun was not able to accomplish the tasks the BAR was used for (it was heavier by 10-15 lbs depending on the model, was not a practical shoulder weapon) and as a result it was not employed as an automatic rifle.  I imagine the Bren was used over the Lewis gun for similar reasons.

It's worth noting the modern M240B is a crew served machine gun.  The M249 is much closer to the BAR in terms of both weight and role, and further down that line of discussion, the USMC has gone as far as to go back to a BAR-ish weapon in the M27 IAR over larger heavier weapons.  

I get what you are saying here, but the BAR was not really a adequate SAW type weapon. Later one, GPMG's would be supplemented by squad autos, but that did not happen for a very long time in a practical form. The bar was not all that useful in that intended role. It had a tiny 20 rd box magazine, a really crappy bipod setup, and extremely awkward reload with no change in barrel. As a rifle, it was insanely heavy and awkward to use. Essentially, it performed less than stellar in both roles.

The Germans being on the defense has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the GPMG. Virtually every army now has Mg 42 type weapons. They are useful in attack and defense etc. 

Also as a disclaimer Im not trying to crap all over the US infantry squad here. I am of the opinion that the US rifle squads had better overall firepower due to better distribution against German rifle units that are almost entirely dependent on their machine gun. The question remains however, why apparently superior designs were thrown aside. I mean, there is no reason you could not have had a squad with a Lewis AND a BAR. 

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9 hours ago, IICptMillerII said:

I too have been interested in this although I am more interested why the US did not develop a better automatic weapon for the rifle squad. As @panzersaurkrautwerfer said, it was designed to be an automatic rifle more than a machine gun, and the Marines have recently gone back to this model in the form of the M27 IAR.

What I really want to know is, after confronting the very common, and vastly superior (fire superiority by volume wise) MG-34/42, why did the US not attempt to design and implement something more similar to the MG-34/42s? The US came up against these weapons early enough in the war for a new weapon to be produced and fielded. Also, the MG-42 specifically gained a massive level of infamy throughout the US Army. There were many propaganda videos and training classes designed specifically around demystifying and countering the MG-42. Instead of trying to develop tactics and videos/pamphlets trying to get around the problem, why didn't they just develop their own weapon system to counter it? Seems like a better way to go about things in my opinion. 

The only real reason I can think of as to why the US never developed an MG-42 counter could be the Pacific theater. As far as I know, the Japanese never fielded anything comparable to the MG-42 in terms of firepower, thus the average US rifle squad possessed a great firepower advantage with their semi auto Garands. My guess is that, if this holds true we did not develop an MG-42 counter because only half the war needed it, and not the whole. Although the whole would have benefited from such a weapon, I suppose it would have been a logistical nightmare.

A quick point on the Marines and their switch to the M27 IAR. I think its hilariously stupid of them. Fire superiority is THE most important element of a firefight, and while the M27 can use large magazines, last I checked the standard loadout for the M27 gunner is to use regular 30 round mags. Even if you did use a bunch of higher capacity magazines, I'm not so sure it could maintain a high rate of fire for long without a barrel change, and I'm also not sure if changing the barrel of the M27 is possible/feasible during a firefight. To me, the adoption of the M27 is a massive step backwards. Any Marine Corps public relations specialists (aren't they all ;)) care to weigh in?

I probably got ninjaed by the subsequent posts but - yes the US absolutely could have copied or made a direct equivalent even mid war. The Nazis managed to do so with captured bazookas and made a better weapon.

Second i dont think it wasnt made because "only half the war" needed it. There was equipment only used in Europe and vice versa. Plus the US took a lot heavier casualties in Europe and Europe had absolute priority from the very start and from the very top. Good guesses but no I believe its probably something else or perhaps maybe it was considered our weapons were definitely " good enough ".

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What Ive always found interesting is the US defeats Germans in WW2. The US used a quantity approach in its armor. The Germans the quality. Post war the US goes for quality. ( though pf course we can do what the Heer couldnt - have uber tanks and lots of them or on essence eat our cake and have it too )

During the war the German squad was based around the squad mg. By Vietnam the US squad  is essentially based around the "pig" (m60)

Is this coincidence? Adoption of what were recognized as better tactics? German officer influence on the US military due to Op Paperclip and such things?

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I wouldn't necessarily agree. What, roughly half the German medium tanks even by the end of the war were Panzer 4s? A tank that was if anything was slightly, if not more, inferior to the Sherman. The other half being Panthers which, as we all know, on paper were great, but due to being so rushed often turned into not just better on paper, but effectively became paperweights when they broke down before even reaching the battle. Not sure I'd call that quality.

Edited by Anthony P.

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17 minutes ago, Anthony P. said:

I wouldn't necessarily agree. What, roughly half the German medium tanks even by the end of the war were Panzer 4s? A tank that was if anything was slightly, if not more, inferior to the Sherman. The other half being Panthers which, as we all know, on paper were great, but due to being so rushed often turned into not just better on paper, but effectively became paperweights when they broke down before even reaching the battle. Not sure I'd call that quality.

I agree with this. Although I do see what sublime is getting at. The USA did have its cake and eat it to post war. 

 

However, the Sherman was hardly quantity over quality. It had equivalent or superior armor and firepower to every contemporary medium tank at any point in the war with the exception of the Panther, a tank that spent 60% of its time being repaired.  When you consider that on top of this even the late war German armor was essentially 1/3 turret-less assault guns, Ill take Sherman's all day. 

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The Bren is a vastly better gun than the Lewis.  The BAR is admittedly much worse than the Bren as a GP LMG, but it is also 9 lbs lighter, 2/3rds the weight of the Lewis.  The Lewis is 5 lbs heavier than the Bren.  And pretty much worse in every respect.

The higher ammo capacity from 47 round pans vs 30 round box is not a great advantage, because the circular pans are much, much slower to reload (not putting a new pan onto the gun - putting the rounds into a pan), and are very awkward to carry especially in numbers.  The 47 round pans are reliable feeding, but those disadvantages are crippling in comparison to the simple 30 round box mag of the Bren.  Larger pans weren't reliable feeders and are even less practical to move about and refill.

The Bren was extremely accurate, 5 lbs lighter, more ammo could be carried by a team in box and loose, with loose actual useful in action given the ease of reloading the box mags, and had all the barrel change virtues of the Lewis as a GP LMG.  It was way better than the BAR. In the BAR vs Lewis comparison, something could be said for the Lewis, but at only a few lbs lighter than an M1919 it just didn't have a role in the US weapon mix.  If you are going to carry a nearly 30 lb MG into action to use as a GP MG, belt feed out of a 1919 is way better than pan fed out of a Lewis (the 1919 receiver is only 3 lbs heavier than a Lewis gun; 4 lbs with a buttstock in the A6 version).  The BAR was a single man weapon in contrast, at 19 vs 28 lbs.  

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