Hiram Maxim's “World Standard” Machine Gun
By Dr. Ed Weitzman

The first production guns made under Hiram Maxim’s patents were not called the “Brass Maxim,” as it is commonly referred to today; Maxim dubbed it the “World Standard.” This gun, with its melding of brass, wood, blued steel, and old world craftsmanship, is one of the finest and most aesthetically pleasing examples of this type of weapon known today. The first Maxim guns were a series of primarily hand fashioned prototypes produced in a small shop at Hatton House, 57D Hatton Garden, London. From 1884 until 1887, Maxim spent his time demonstrating his gun to various governments, promoting sales and improving his invention. By 1888, his gun had proven so successful that the need for expanded production facilities necessitated a merger with the Nordenfelt Gun Company, whose gun making factory greatly outstripped Maxim’s small shop. In 1888, Maxim sold the first 100 of the World Standard machine guns, starting with serial number 166, to the Austrian government. Production of this model continued until 1900, as many of the worlds great powers strove to arm themselves with the newly discovered automatically operated gun. By 1900, it was superseded by a lighter, less costly arm. By the First World War practically all of the warring nations were armed with Maxim guns of one type or another.

Fortunately for the collector of today, several examples of this gun are in private hands. In 1960, Samuel Cummings of Interarmco, Alexandria, Virginia, imported a number of these surplus World Standard guns from Argentina. They were originally part of three separate contracts between Argentina and the Maxim’s manufacturers. The first contract was for the purchase of 50 guns, between Argentina’s Navy Purchasing Commission, based in London, and the Maxim Nordenfelt Gun and Ammunition Company Limited (MNG&ACL). These were numbered 1 thru 50 and they were dated 1895 for the year of manufacture. Some of these also bear the factory serial numbers beginning at 5037. The second contract was between the Argentine Army Purchasing Commission, based in Berlin, and the Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken (DWM). This contract was for 130 guns. These bear the numbers 51 thru 180 and are dated 1898, by which time DWM had been granted a license to produce the Maxim gun in Germany. The third contract was signed on June 7, 1900, by which Argentina agreed to an exchange of rifles and carbines it had sold to Bolivia, thru DWM, for an additional 20 Maxim machine guns. These were Maxims that had steel water jackets and fusee spring covers instead of brass. They were the last of Argentina’s purchases of Maxim’s World Standard machine guns.

The many countries that purchased the Maxim had the guns manufactured to their specifications and Argentina was no exception. The guns were originally in the 7.65x54 Belgian Mauser caliber. They were returned to DWM in 1909 for adaptation to the newly adopted 7.65x54 type S cartridge. This had a lighter, pointed bullet and a heavier powder charge. The shorter cartridge length required a front spacer be added to the belt feed block. A new shorter rear sight was added to adjust for the much flatter trajectory of the new cartridge. A data plate was affixed, designating the spring tension setting for the new pointed bullet, and the spring tension for a blank cartridge. To finish the upgrade, an optical sight was mounted to the left side of the receiver, which was supplied by the Carl Zeiss optical firm. With typical German thoroughness, DWM added their cartouche and numbered all the replaced parts to match the original gun number. When DWM finished the modifications the guns were returned to Argentina and placed back into service.

In addition to the Argentine military number and maker’s name, a number of smaller markings appear on various parts of the gun. These markings were stamped by the representatives of the Argentine Purchasing Commission, who followed all stages of production. Their mark signified that the part met the specifications stipulated in the contract. Curiously (or not so curiously, I suppose) these are the same markings found on the Argentine Mauser rifles of the same vintage.

The World Standard Maxim remained in the Argentine military arsenal until 1929, at which time they were turned over to the police, who kept the guns in their inventory until they were disbursed as obsolete in 1959.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review SAW (August 2012)
and was posted online on June 29, 2012


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