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8 minutes ago, JasonC said:

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.  

I think this pretty much wraps it up.  

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40 minutes ago, panzersaurkrautwerfer said:

I think this pretty much wraps it up.  

Not really. 

For one, the reloading time of the drums is a mostly irrelevant issue, as it is completely silly to be reloading either magazines or drums under fire. Debating which is faster than the other in this situation is like debating the virtues of a tank that burns 10 degrees cooler when it explodes. Either way you are screwed. Also the Lewis could feed 97 round drums as well. Arguing that the Pans are more awkward to carry would be a valid argument also against bullet belts, and boxes of bullet belts etc. By that measure the Bren is some how better than the MG-42. 

The accuracy of the Bren I wont argue with, that is not disputed. Nor is its weight. Nor is its superiority over the BAR. The main problem with both weapons however is that they did not have enough ammo per magazine to be good lmg's. The additional 10 rounds in a Bren make it better than a BAR, but not much. Also the Lewis is significantly lighter than the M1919, considering that it weighs a half lb more than a 240B and only 3lbs more than a Mg42. One of the chief complaints regarding the 1919 was that it was too heavy to truly be a GPMG. The M1919 with the typical tripod is a 45lbs package. The Lewis would have been light enough to be used by each infantry squad, but much more capable than a BAR or Bren. Furthermore, there is no reason that the weapon could not have supplemented the BAR or BREN, rather than outright replacing them. If you want to argue the point from the standpoint of the A6 1919, I would thing were are still back to the same essential point: that there were in existing guns that could have been adapted much easier. Even then though, the A6 is still 32lbs. 

 

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So. Here's the thing.  Literally dozens, if not hundreds of people were involved in making the choice to not use the Lewis gun.  Could you point to some sources that show there was any desire to retain the Lewis, or in the case of the US Army, actually adopt it as standard?  Are you somehow smarter than they are?  

As far as reloading, it's actually really rather important, and equally important to practical rate of fire, again it doesn't matter if you're whapping out 400 RPM if you're losing suppressive effects for the 30 seconds it takes you to bring the weapon back into service.  We've discussed the 97 round pans were rubbish.

Also how many pan type magazines have you seen used since 1940?  This should be an indicator the pan was a suboptimal engineering solution.  Belts are not at all subject to the same restrictions of pans, in that they are easily linked, de-linked, unboxed and wrapped around things, etc, etc etc.  A pan is literally all of the weight, none of the flexibility etc.

Simple as this:

As a light weapon for the infantry squad, the Lewis was too heavy, too hard to reload quickly, and required more than one man to effectively operate.  The BAR/Bren did the job better.

As a light machine gun it was vastly inferior to belt fed designs.

This appears to the the historical conclusion made by plenty of fairly intelligent military professionals in the 1930-1940's.  While many memoirs and essays have questioned the utility of many weapons systems, this is the first time I've seen anyone arguing what the US infantry squad really needed was 30 lbs of World War One relic.  

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3 hours ago, Holdit said:

Stormtroopers-Lewisgun.jpg

 

'nuff said...

Oh, you've won the Internet for the day!!!

The Lewis Gun: good enough for galaxy conquering Imperial Stormtroopers. (Of course, that all happened Long Ago. ;) )

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4 hours ago, c3k said:

Oh, you've won the Internet for the day!!!

The Lewis Gun: good enough for galaxy conquering Imperial Stormtroopers. (Of course, that all happened Long Ago. ;) )

In all seriousness, as much as I like how the Lewis looked, I remember watching a video that showed it being loaded, and snapping the magazine into place (eventually) looked very awkward and time-consuming. Also, although I don't know if this was a factor in reality, those pan magazines look very flimsy when viewed from below, and I wonder how easy it would be to knock them out of shape during everyday use, to the detriment of smooth movement in the gun.

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6 hours ago, panzersaurkrautwerfer said:

So. Here's the thing.  Literally dozens, if not hundreds of people were involved in making the choice to not use the Lewis gun.  Could you point to some sources that show there was any desire to retain the Lewis, or in the case of the US Army, actually adopt it as standard?  Are you somehow smarter than they are?  

As far as reloading, it's actually really rather important, and equally important to practical rate of fire, again it doesn't matter if you're whapping out 400 RPM if you're losing suppressive effects for the 30 seconds it takes you to bring the weapon back into service.  We've discussed the 97 round pans were rubbish.

Also how many pan type magazines have you seen used since 1940?  This should be an indicator the pan was a suboptimal engineering solution.  Belts are not at all subject to the same restrictions of pans, in that they are easily linked, de-linked, unboxed and wrapped around things, etc, etc etc.  A pan is literally all of the weight, none of the flexibility etc.

Simple as this:

As a light weapon for the infantry squad, the Lewis was too heavy, too hard to reload quickly, and required more than one man to effectively operate.  The BAR/Bren did the job better.

As a light machine gun it was vastly inferior to belt fed designs.

This appears to the the historical conclusion made by plenty of fairly intelligent military professionals in the 1930-1940's.  While many memoirs and essays have questioned the utility of many weapons systems, this is the first time I've seen anyone arguing what the US infantry squad really needed was 30 lbs of World War One relic.  

Please refrain from appeal to authority fallacies. The governments in ww2 made tons and tons of mistakes during the war. It is hardly unreasonable to question their logic. Armies have been making stupid decisions since the beginning of time. 

Reloading is important. Reloading the magazines or drums in the middle of a firefight is not. The point made was about reloading the individual rounds into the magazines. If you are doing this in a firefight then we are beyond debating any real merit of the weapons. And speaking of reloading, its kind of hard to be a lmg when you are changing magazines every 20 or 30 rounds. This is not a new criticism. The BAR was not a good squad auto because it lacked barrel change and large enough magazine capacity, among other things. The Bren was better, but slapping on change in barrel is only part of the solution. 

 

Sorry but the Lewis is not too heavy, unless you somehow think the Mg42 or 240B are too heavy. 25-28lbs is pretty standard fair for the GPMG. Kind of the whole point actually, since it makes the MUCH lighter than mediums like the 1919.  Yes, belts are better than Pans. But the point made was about their awkwardness to carry. Belts can be plenty awkward on their own. Whatever the problems with the drum, it fed reliably and being somewhat more annoying to carry doesn't suddenly make a bunch of tiny box magazines a better idea. And as for its use after the war, Im not making an argument for the Drum as some kind of replacement for the belt. But I will point out that you dont see any LMG's these days using 30 round magazines except as a backup. 

 

And the BAR is a ww1 relic, one that is far too heavy for the firepower it delivers. And since were leaning on expert opinion, the Army clearly found the firepower of the BAR unsatisfactory. Hence why you see lmg versions of the 1919 very late in the war. Or doubling up on the BAR since 1 was not enough. And like I said, "experts" have been criticizing the BAR as inadequate for ages, it is hardly inconceivable to think the BAR was a mistake whatever approach you make at it. 

 

 

 

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Whether the BAR was a mistake is somewhat beside the point, since the BAR was better than the Lewis. Could the US Army have done better than the BAR? Sure, but not by going backwards to the Lewis.

Sorry but the Lewis is not too heavy, unless you somehow think the Mg42 or 240B are too heavy.

The vastly improved capabilities of the MG42 and the 240B make the weight penalty acceptable. The weight penalty of the Lewis doesn't come with any particular benefit.

MG34/42 > M1919 > Bren > BAR > Lewis

Edited by JonS

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Re: "Appeal to Authority"

What I find interesting is military affairs is the one place random people seem to think their opinion carries equal weight to professionals.  You wouldn't argue what sort of knife the your surgeon uses, you won't debate your truck really needs a V-16, but gosh darn it, people will line right up to argue the M113 is superior to the Abrams or something.

You're stating over and over again that the Lewis has a larger magazine.  The US Army/Marines were likely aware of this.  And yet, given this apparently massive advantage they still opted to go with the BAR.  This might be indicative that the specifications for a squad level automatic weapon did not value having a large pan style magazine over other factors.  Then when it became apparent some sort of light machine gun was needed, the Lewis wasn't even looked at, and instead the conversion of a medium machine gun into some sort of frankenLMG.  

No weapon is perfect.  All of them are a series of compromises to try to find a weapon that's strong where it matters, and weak where it matters less.  This sometimes turns out wrong as it turns out there compromises did not mesh well with reality.  Classifying weapons procurement missteps as "stupid" is simply not understanding the problem or solution set.    As the case was, a large number of people who knew guns, infantry tactics, and the like rather well did not seem particularly attached to the Lewis, and went with the BAR.  

Were they right?  Dunno.  There's certainly a debate to if the BAR was the right weapon.  But the Lewis certainly failed to make the sort of impression you'd think an obvious superior choice would, politics or no.

Re: Reloading

No.  I mean the reloading drill for the magazine on the BAR is superior.  There's a reason most weapons have their magazine located around that spot of the gun vs coming in through the top.  

Re: M240B

It was too heavy for a squad weapon full stop.  That's why the M240B is NOT a squad level weapon, it's used by machine gun teams.  Squad machine guns are M249s which mysteriously weights much closer to the weight of the BAR than the Lewis.  The most current model of the M240 went through significant weight reduction measures to make it more reasonable for squad level use.

Again.  Was the BAR the right too for the job?  That's an interesting debate.  I lean towards "mostly."  Was the Lewis a better choice?  Jury is pretty solidly on "nope."  

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37 minutes ago, panzersaurkrautwerfer said:

Re: "Appeal to Authority"

What I find interesting is military affairs is the one place random people seem to think their opinion carries equal weight to professionals.  You wouldn't argue what sort of knife the your surgeon uses, you won't debate your truck really needs a V-16, but gosh darn it, people will line right up to argue the M113 is superior to the Abrams or something.

You're stating over and over again that the Lewis has a larger magazine.  The US Army/Marines were likely aware of this.  And yet, given this apparently massive advantage they still opted to go with the BAR.  This might be indicative that the specifications for a squad level automatic weapon did not value having a large pan style magazine over other factors.  Then when it became apparent some sort of light machine gun was needed, the Lewis wasn't even looked at, and instead the conversion of a medium machine gun into some sort of frankenLMG.  

No weapon is perfect.  All of them are a series of compromises to try to find a weapon that's strong where it matters, and weak where it matters less.  This sometimes turns out wrong as it turns out there compromises did not mesh well with reality.  Classifying weapons procurement missteps as "stupid" is simply not understanding the problem or solution set.    As the case was, a large number of people who knew guns, infantry tactics, and the like rather well did not seem particularly attached to the Lewis, and went with the BAR.  

Were they right?  Dunno.  There's certainly a debate to if the BAR was the right weapon.  But the Lewis certainly failed to make the sort of impression you'd think an obvious superior choice would, politics or no.

Re: Reloading

No.  I mean the reloading drill for the magazine on the BAR is superior.  There's a reason most weapons have their magazine located around that spot of the gun vs coming in through the top.  

Re: M240B

It was too heavy for a squad weapon full stop.  That's why the M240B is NOT a squad level weapon, it's used by machine gun teams.  Squad machine guns are M249s which mysteriously weights much closer to the weight of the BAR than the Lewis.  The most current model of the M240 went through significant weight reduction measures to make it more reasonable for squad level use.

Again.  Was the BAR the right too for the job?  That's an interesting debate.  I lean towards "mostly."  Was the Lewis a better choice?  Jury is pretty solidly on "nope."  

For starters, I am in the military. As I understand it so are you. Although honestly I see both of these things as being irrelevant to who is right etc. Just letting you know. 

 

No, not everyone's opinion is equal. But an appeal to authority means very little for the purpose of debate. Many "experts" have pointed out before me that the BAR was not the greatest lmg, for the same reasons I stated. I have not seen anyone specifically mention why the Lewis was ignored. On top of this, history is full of accounts of "experts" who did very stupid things militarily. That doesnt meant I completely discount their opinion, on the contrary, my opinion on this matter derives much of its information from experts etc. This is an entirely moot conversation point, as it will eventually devolve into us finding experts with opposing views. Essentially meaningless. No one gets to ride their own coat tails. And I agree with you on the 113. The cult of Gavin is completely insane. However, there are plenty of myths that float around inside the military that are nonsense. I take peoples opinions on reason alone. I dont really care what credentials they have. By way of comparison, last time I checked, people who degrees in political science and years of time in congress does not necessarily make them good at their jobs. Being an expert is a largely unique characteristic in certain fields. Hence why we have been institutionally training officer corps since the 1800s but only produce handfuls of truly capable commanders. It is also why people who graduate at the top of military academy's are not always the best. 

 

Re Magazine: Objectively, it has a much larger magazine. The BAR was criticized by the Army and others for its deficiencies, the magazine size being one of them. If you want to make a appeal to experts, this is not a new opinion. The Army makes mistakes all the time. Need I point out the post WW2 insistence on 7.62 Nato? Or the decision to keep the P-40 in production throughout the war for absolutely no good reason? I mean come on. This isnt an argument. 

 

RE: perfect: Obviously. However that does not mean that someone who questions a procurement decision somehow misunderstands the decision making process. The BAR was found not to be adequate, regardless of the Lewis guns merit. Hence why the 1919A6 was made and the decision to double up on BARs later in the war because 1 was seen as insufficient. Also again there I am hearing an appeal to something that is not being back up with anything concrete. You are simply assuming that the decision makes decided right, and that they must have had some unknown reason to make their decision. The point of this thread was to dig up said reason, if it exists. You can justify any weapons system, not matter how bad, with the logic you are using. 

 

Re "were they right": Good, lets have this debate then, based on the actual merits of the guns. It would hardly be the first time someone cocked something up. The WW2 US Army was good, but it is not immune to criticism. 

 

Re 240: I am well aware of the US Armies squad structure. Couple of things there though. While the 249 is much closer to the BAR's weight, it is also alot more akin to a full GPMG in terms of capability. IE: belt fed, changeable barrel etc. IF you have such an ideal weapon, it makes sense to break it up as it has been. But if all you could choose between was a BAR and a 240, the 240 is the clear choice Full Stop. The WW2 US Army has neither of these things. For much of the war it has no GPMG, until the A6. And as you stated, franken gun. Instead it has a nearly 50 lbs medium, and a Auto Rifle that isnt really all that well suited to being either a lmg or a rifle. Clearly we have come a long way. A GPMG would have been a far better happy medium between the previously mentioned extremes. Hence MG-34 and 42. And that everyone copied this idea after the war. 

 

I am of the opinion that the BAR was a right idea but with bad implementation. Clearly there is need for a SAW type weapon. But the BAR wasn't really there. Having the right idea doesn't mean much if the tech you use doesn't do it right. 

 

 

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This debate is fascinating. Seriously. The US Army had a heavy weapon which could work as an LMG (Lewis Gun), but replaced it with the BAR. ("Replaced" is not the right term. I'm not sure if the Lewis Gun was ever considered to be distributed to every squad.) As mentioned, the M1919 weighed a little more and brought all the benefits of belt feed.

Right now, the USMC has taken out all the M249s from squads and replaced them the the M27. (The M249s are still "there", and supposedly available to commanders to use if they see fit. I'm not sure what level of command has that authority or where and how the "extra" M249s are stored so they would be available to the squads. I doubt they're kept immediately at hand.) So, the belt-fed squad automatic weapon is being replaced by the fixed-barrel, 30-round magazine fed, "BAR Light" M27.

The similarities are interesting.

Classifying a weapon as "Light Machinegun" or "Squad Automatic Weapon" seems to mean that weapon will be treated very differently. Naming matters. The question remains, why should the name matter? How should a squad be equipped?

 

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Uh unless the ANZACs and Brits suddenly became a non major WW2 combatant?

They were used early war in the Far East. Of course out of necessity and Im sure Brens would have been preferred.  Couldnt help myself doncha know

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After a little on-line research it appears the Army's decision to not adopt the Lewis was because of personal animosity between Colonel Lewis and the Army's Chief of Ordnance.  The Navy and Marine Corp did use it. By the time the Bren came along 20 years later the BAR was too well established.

Interestingly, the British did hold a direct competition between the BAR and the Lewis and recommend the BAR. The recommendation was never acted upon because of financial constraints.

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11 minutes ago, Sublime said:

They were used early war in the Far East.

ISTR that the LRDG and maybe the SAS on occasion used them too. In the early days of the desert war they were using whatever they could scrounge.

Michael

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1 hour ago, Sublime said:

Uh unless the ANZACs and Brits suddenly became a non major WW2 combatant?

They were used early war in the Far East. Of course out of necessity and Im sure Brens would have been preferred.  Couldnt help myself doncha know

It was used sparingly early in the war because the only other option was "use no squad level automatic weapons at all". As I said, no one actually chose to use them.

Edited by Anthony P.

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18 hours ago, shift8 said:

Hence why you see lmg versions of the 1919 very late in the war.

Umm, but the M1919A6 was even heavier than the Lewis. :mellow: Not exactly a great solution.

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Before just kinda letting this lay:

1. There's no doubt the BAR was an imperfect weapon.  However by many accounts and from its longevity it was an adequate solution most of the time.

I think the M16 is a good comparison.  It's not the finest weapon in the world, and there's some clear things about it that aren't great.  However there's nothing remarkably better out there to justify the expense of replacing it.  The BAR was as good, if not better than most magazine fed machine guns/automatic rifles of it's age.  The MG 42 demonstrated an actual machine gun was the better solution, and the M1919A6 was a poor attempt to replicate that with what was on hand.  Ultimately the "real" solution was the M60, which even with a significant weight penalty offered real machine gun performance in a mostly portable package.

It was however imperfect which is why BARs, or "Automatic Rifleman" M14/M16 kits lasted so long until a real true LMG in the M249 came about.  Heck even things like the PRK, IAR, and the fact it took decades for the Bren to really die out illustrate the difficulty in finding a machine gun that "fit" at the squad level.

I would contend the BAR's increasing number in squad sized formations had more to do with the trend in all Armies of world war two that MORE automatic weapons were always the right answer.  In a world in which the Lewis Gun was the squad weapon of the US Army, the only thing that might have kept it from following a BAR-like trajectory of 2-3 weapons in a squad would be the prohibitive weight of the weapon.

2. I don't think there's a good argument the Lewis Gun is realistically a better choice.  In one metric, a larger magazine it is superior...but it's like that's not the only defining feature of the weapon.  And the BAR was ultimately done in by things that looked like the MG 42 vs a large pan magazine fed weapon.  The Lewis does not offer some decisive advantage, and it comes with some other problems too.  Judging by the course of employment for the Lewis Gun with other countries, even if it had been employed in great number in World War One, and had been the machine gun of the US Army for the 1915-1935, it likely would have been replaced by something BAR or Bren-like going into World War Two.  

If we're talking about solving or augmenting the BAR, it really should have been a belt fed weapon that was lighter than the M1919.  The Lewis Gun just is not that weapon.  

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15 hours ago, shift8 said:

... an appeal to authority means very little for the purpose of debate. Many "experts" have pointed out before me that the BAR was not the greatest lmg, for the same reasons I stated. ... history is full of accounts of "experts" who did very stupid things militarily. ... I take peoples opinions on reason alone. I dont really care what credentials they have. ... my opinion on this matter derives much of its information from experts

Irony?

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9 hours ago, Michael Emrys said:

ISTR that the LRDG and maybe the SAS on occasion used them too. In the early days of the desert war they were using whatever they could scrounge.

Michael

They originally scrounged air cooled Lewis K's from downed Allied aircraft. It turned out to be a winner when mounted on jeeps and in this role was used right up until the end of the war in Europe.

The Lewis started off in WW1 as an LMG that required a team of 4-5 personnel - a gunner, loader and ammo bearers. It was not designed to be fired from the hip and forget about from the shoulder. It was essentially a weapon that needed to be mounted or fired prone and required a larger crew (than the Bren) to operate it - for what benefit? More weight and 17 more rounds of ammo than a Bren? The ammo pan was a b1tch to carry compared to Bren magazines too.

My guess is that it simply was superceded by the Bren gun which was lighter, more accurate, more mobile, could be fired from the hip or shoulder, easier to train on, and only required a two-person crew. Variants of the Bren were being used actively right up until the 1990s and it can still be found in some armouries around the world.

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6 hours ago, pogue said:

They originally scrounged air cooled Lewis K's from downed Allied aircraft.

I think you mean Vickers K. Yes, those were standard equipment paired on SAS jeeps for the shotgun rider and I think the LRDG soon followed suit. However, I could almost swear that earlier on in the war both outfits were home to the occasional Lewis gun. The books I had which would have addressed the question are gone now, so I am having to rely on a not-100%-reliable memory. So take it for what you will.

Michael

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Well once again the easiest source but not only source is wikipedia which haa CW armies in the PTO using them in the early war.

Yes Anthony no one said they wanted the damned things. But you did however say that NO major power used them in WW2 and thats simply untrue.

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14 hours ago, Michael Emrys said:

I think you mean Vickers K. Yes, those were standard equipment paired on SAS jeeps for the shotgun rider and I think the LRDG soon followed suit. However, I could almost swear that earlier on in the war both outfits were home to the occasional Lewis gun. The books I had which would have addressed the question are gone now, so I am having to rely on a not-100%-reliable memory. So take it for what you will.

Michael

You are right, of course, the Vickers K, stupid me.... I will go back to my sources because ISTR the same thing - I think they pintle mounted the Lewis on the rear.

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