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Maxim gun

The Maxim gun was the first effective machine gun portable enough to be used in warfare.

Invented by American Hiram Maxim (1840 - 1916) in 1885, it used the energy of each bullet's recoil force to eject the spent cartridge and insert the next bullet. Trials showed it could fire 500 rounds per minute, equivalent to the firepower of about 100 rifles.

It was adopted by the British Army in 1889, and first used by Britain`s colonial forces in the Matabele war in 1893-1894. In one engagement, 50 soldiers fought off 5,000 warriors with just four Maxim guns. The gun's played a major role in the swift European colonization of Africa in the late 19th century. As it was put in a well-known jingle by Hillaire Belloc,

Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim gun, and they have not.

The Maxim gun was purchased the following year by several other European countries, setting off an arms and technology race. The German Army's Maschinengewehr and the Russian Pulemyot Maxima were both based on Maxim's invention. By World War I, many armies had moved on to lighter, more efficient machine guns.

Maxim also invented a pneumatic gun, the gun silencer (adapted for car exhausts), a smokeless gunpowder, a mousetrap, and carbon filaments for light bulbs.