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Lewis gun
Lewis Gun (derivated).jpg
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1914–1953
Used by See Users
Wars First World War
Easter Rising
Pancho Villa Expedition
Emu War
Banana Wars
Irish War of Independence
Irish Civil War
Russian Civil War
Latvian War of Independence
Polish–Soviet War
Chaco War
Spanish Civil War
Second World War
Korean War
Malayan Emergency
1948 Arab–Israeli War
Vietnam War
Algerian War
The Troubles
and other conflicts
Production history
Designer Samuel McClean
Isaac Newton Lewis
The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited
Designed 1911
Manufacturer The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited or BSA
Savage Arms Co.
Produced 1913–1942
No. built At least 202,050 (50,000 in First World War and 152,050 in Second World War)
Variants Mks I–V
Aircraft Pattern
Anti-Aircraft configuration
Light Infantry Pattern
Savage M1917
Mass 28 pounds (13 kg)
Length 50.5 inches (1,280 mm)
Barrel length 26.5 inches (670 mm)
Width 4.5 inches (110 mm)

Cartridge .303 British
.30-06 Springfield
7.92×57mm Mauser
Action Gas-operated long stroke gas piston, rotating open bolt
Rate of fire 500–600 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 2,440 feet per second (740 m/s)
Effective firing range 880 yards (800 m)
Maximum firing range 3,500 yards (3,200 m)
Feed system 47- or 97-round pan magazine
Sights Blade and tangent leaf

The Lewis gun (or Lewis automatic machine gun or Lewis automatic rifle) is a First World War–era light machine gun.


The Lewis gun was invented by U.S. Army colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911, based on initial work by Samuel Maclean.

The start of the First World War increased demand for the Lewis gun. BSA began production, under the name Model 1914. The design was officially approved for service on 15 October 1915 under the name "Gun, Lewis, .303-cal." No Lewis guns were produced in Belgium during the war; all manufacture was carried out by BSA in England and the Savage Arms Company in the US.


Lewis Gun Training
U.S. Marines field tested the Lewis machine gun in 1917.

The Lewis was produced by BSA and Savage Arms during the war. The two versions were very similar, but there were enough differences to stop them being completely interchangeable. This problem was fixed by the time of the Second World War.

Design details

List of parts
Magazynek Lewisa z polska amunicja 792mm
A 97-round pan magazine, as used on a 7.92×57mm Lewis gun, Museum of Coastal Defence, Poland. Note the magazine is only partially filled.

The Lewis gun was gas operated.

Singapore Volunteer Force training November 1941
Recruits of the Singapore Volunteer Force training with a Lewis gun, 1941
Lewis gun St Thomas 3
A Lewis gun at the Elgin Military Museum Canada. The rear end of finned aluminium heat sink, that fits within the gun's cooling shroud, can be seen

The Lewis gun used a pan magazine holding 47 or 97 rounds.

The gun fired about 500–600 rounds per minute. It weighed 28 lb (12.7 kg), only about half as much as a typical medium machine gun of the era, such as the Vickers machine gun. It could be carried and used by one soldier.


First World War

Lewis gun drill
Men of the 28th Battalion of the 2nd Australian Division practising Lewis gun drill at Renescure.

During the first days of the war, the Belgian Army had put in service 20 prototypes (5 in 7.65×53mm and 15 in .303) for the defense of Namur.

Lewis gun world war I
Australian soldiers firing at enemy aircraft during the First World War

Aircraft use

Captain Charles Chandler (with prototype Lewis Gun) and Lt Roy Kirtland in a Wright Model B Flyer after the first successful firing of a machine gun from an aeroplane in June 1912.
No. 87 Squadron Dolphin flown by Cecil Montgomery-Moore. A Lewis gun is mounted atop the lower right wing

The Lewis was the first machine gun fired from an airplane. On 7 June 1912, Captain Charles Chandler of the US Army fired a Lewis gun from the foot-bar of a Wright Model B Flyer.

Royal Aircraft Factory FE2d gunner
Lewis Guns mounted in the front cockpit of the pusher Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2d
Albert Ball SE5a cockpit
Albert Ball in an S.E.5a, showing the Foster mount's arc-shaped I-beam rail.
1918 Sopwith Dolphin with twin Lewis guns aimed upwards.
A New Zealand-crewed LRDG truck (equipped with a Lewis Gun) is dug out of the sand, c.1942.
Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boats on patrol, 1940. A60
A Royal Navy Motor Torpedo Boat with dual twin Lewis guns, 1940.
Letecké muzeum Kbely (9)
Czech Vz 28/L, chambered for the 7.92×57mm Mauser ammunition.
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at Modern Firearms

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