Armament of Polish armoured vehicles 1918-39

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  © Michał Derela, 2003

Part I
Part II
Machine guns Tank cannons
- 7.92mm wz. 08 (Maxim)
- 8mm wz. 14 (Hotchkiss)
- 7.92mm wz. 25 (Hotchkiss)
- 7.92mm wz. 30

- other machine guns
- machine guns' data
- ammunition 7.92x57mm
- 20mm wz. 38 FK-A
- 37mm wz. 18 (SA-18) Puteaux
- 37mm wz. 36, wz. 37 Bofors
- 47mm Vickers QF
- 47mm wz. 25 Pocisk
Armoured trains' artillery

Machine guns

7.92 mm wz. 08 (Maxim MG-08)

The German model of a popular Maxim-system machine gun was the basic German machine gun ("Maschinengewehr") of the World War I, and also the most widespread model of Maxim MG in the world. It was primarily used as an infantryheavy machine gun, on a heavy four-leg "sledge" mount. In the Polish Army, the wz.08 MG's were used since 1918, mostly in HMG variant - there were at least 5964 of this model (in 1936). In the thirties, they were withdrawn from the Polish regular infantry units, in 1938 the cavalry started their withdrawal as well. In September 1939, wz.08 MG's were used mostly in reserve infantry divisions and anti-aircraft machine gun (AAMG) units.

Just since 1918, MG's wz.08 were used in several Polish armoured trains, especially those built during the 1921 Silesian Uprising. In the beginning of the thirties, they were chosen as the standard machine guns for armoured trains and they replaced all the other machine guns in all 10 regular armoured trains. They were mounted in vertical drum mountings in walls of all armoured wagons. In artillery wagons, they were also used in special turrets as anti-aircaft machine guns, with an elavation of 90°. In some artillery wagons, they were mounted in wagons' ends or in artillery turrets as well. The machine guns in armoured trains had no special sights, but they were fitted with metal butts for easier aiming.

The machine gun Maxim wz. 08 (MG-08) was fully automatic, recoil operated, short recoil, closed bolt. Barrel: 4 grooves, right hand twist, water-cooled (radiator capacity - 4 l). Maxim MG was very complicated weapon, with many parts (236), causing numerous possible jams. However, with a well trained and careful crew MG-08 was a reliable weapon, with a good accuracy and a high practical rate of fire. (specs).

Machine gun wz.08 in a drum mounting, used in Polish armoured trains - and mounted in a casemate door of artillery wagon of the armoured train "Smialy" or "Pilsudczyk" (on the right). [source 3]

8 mm wz. 14 (Hotchkiss Mle 1914)

The basic French heavy machine gun of both World Wars. It was used on a tripod mounting, but also as a standard tank machine gun of the French armoured vehicles of the WWI. In the Polish Army, they appeared in 1919, mostly in HMG variant - about 2600 were used. Until 1936, they were withdrawn from the regular units. In 1939 not many were used, mostly in some of the National Defence (ON) battalions.

Machine guns wz.14 were used in Polish armoured vehicles of the French origin: tanks Renault FT-17 and armoured cars Peugeot. In the late twenties they were replaced with wz.25 MG's (below).

The machine gun Hotchkiss wz. 14 (Mle 1914) was automatic only, gas operated, air-cooled. Barrel: 4 grooves, left hand twist. The barrel was heavy and partially rimmed to improve cooling. Hotchkiss MG had a simple construction - only 78 parts. It was quite reliable weapon, and, when belt-fed, its practical rate of fire was not worse, than of water-cooled MG's. Initially, in the beginning of the WWI, the machine gun was fed from a 24-round or 30-round metal tray. Later, 249-251-round metal belt was introduced. In Polish armoured vehicles, also a shortened 128-round belt was used. (- data).

7.92mm wz. 25 (Hotchkiss)

It was an export version of 8mm Mle 1914 (wz.14) Hotchkiss machine gun, fit to fire 7.92 x 57mm Mauser ammunition. At least 1249 were bought in France, and used in the Polish Army since 1926. It was not a succesfull design, though. Due to a higher velocity of a stronger ammunition, the barrel was warming up quickly, which caused too much barrel wear and, as a result, deterioration of accuracy. MG wz.25 had a tendency to jam, and damages of some parts were more frequent, than in MG wz.14, especially it was firing pin. For these reasons, they weren't bought in any greater number, and a heavy machine gun variant on a tripod was used only until 1934.

Despite its faults, the machine gun wz. 25 remained the basic weapon of Polish armoured vehicles until 1939. These machine guns replaced Hotchkiss wz.14 in tanks FT-17 and armoured cars Peugeot. Then, machine guns wz.25 became an armament of about 60 MG-armed armoured cars wz. 28, later rebuild into armoured cars wz. 34, and of 10 armoured cars wz. 29 Ursus. These machine guns became also an armament of about 570 tankettes TK (TK3) and TKS. Between 1932 and 1937, also twin-turret light tanks Vickers E were armed in MG's wz. 25.
 In tanks FT-17 and cars wz.28, the machine guns were mounted in rectangular Cardan mountings. In armoured cars wz.34, wz.29, tankettes TKS and Vickers tanks, they were mounted in Polish universal round mountings wz.34 and wz.35, designed by J. Napiorkowski. They were aimed with a telescopic sight (without magnification). A construction of MG wz.25 was similar to MG wz.14 (see above) (- data).

Tank machine gun wz.25 with a telescopic sight, in an universal round mounting.

7.92 mm wz. 30

Interesting photo of an insurgent HMG wz.30 in Powisle district, during Warsaw Uprising 1944 [photo: Tadeusz Bukowski, source: "Z kamera w powstańczej Warszawie - 1944", ZPAF, Warsaw 1994] (click to enlarge)

The machine gun wz. 30 was the Polish copy of the machine gun Colt-Browning M1917A1, modified and converted to 7.92mm Mauser ammunition and produced in Poland in 1931-1939. On a tripod mounting, it became a standard HMG of the Polish Army. In 1939 there were at least 7861 of wz.30 MG's.

In armoured forces, the machine gun wz.30 was adapted as a final armament of twin-turret light tanks Vickers E and 7TP, until 1939. The MG wz.30 was also fitted as a coaxial machine gun in single-turret tanks Vickers E and 7TP. In single-turret tanks 7TP, the MG was mounted in gun's shield, and its water radiator was protected with armoured cylinder (in single-turret 7TP the MG was fired by a pedal). In other tanks, radiators of MG's wz.30 were also lightly armoured - in twin-turret tanks their armour might be dismounted. Apart from these, it was the armament of prototypes of the tankette TKS and prototypes of tanks: TKW, 4TP (PZInż.140) (co-axial with a 20mm gun) and 10TP (co-axial with a 37mm gun, and the second hull-mounted).
 Despite wz.30 MG was a very good weapon, an adaptation of a water-cooled machine gun for armoured vehicles was not succesfull much because of a big radiator, which needed to be armoured. It was increasing weight and making a proper weapon balance difficult. Another drawback was a length of a MG inside the turret.

MG wz.30 cross-section

Machine gun wz. 30 was automatic only, recoil operated, short recoil, water-cooled (radiator capacity - 4 l). It was quite a simple weapon, without many parts. MG wz.30 was very reliable, little sensitive to dirt, and had a high practical rate of fire

Tank machine gun wz.30 with an armoured radiator and a telescopic sight, in an universal round mounting.

See more photos of wz.30 TMG in a section of 37mm wz.37 gun.

Machine guns' data:

The data differ in some sorces.

Typical machine guns
modelcal.x case
length, mm
length, mm
length, mm
gun weight/
/with water, kg
weight, kg
rate of fire
feed (in armoured
wz. 08 (Maxim) 7.92 x 571200 720 23.0 / 27 1.8 845 m/s 500 rds/min fabric belt
wz. 14 (Hotchkiss) 8 x 50R 1390 800 24.3 10.4 701 m/s 600 rds/min metal belt
128 or 251
wz. 25 (Hotchkiss) 7.92 x 571289 775 23.8 10.4 800 m/s - metal belt
128 or 251
wz. 30 7.92 x 571200 720 21.0 / 25 - 845 m/s - fabric belt
Other machine guns:
wz. 08/15 (Maxim) 7.92 x 571410 720 16.8 /about 19.8 1.8 845 m/s - fabric belt
wz. 05 (Maxim) 7.62 x 54R1067 721 20.3 /about 24 2 800 m/s - fabric belt
wz. 31 (MAC Mle 31) 7.5 x 541030 600 11.8 - 805 m/s 600 rds/min drum magazine
wz. 30 (Hotchkiss) 13.2 x 961490 1000 32 - 800 m/s - box magazine 30


Other machine guns

Other, non-typical or less widespread types of machine guns, used in Polish armoured vehicles:

7.92 mm wz. 08/15 (Maxim MG-08/15)

German light machine gun, developed from heavy Maxim MG-08. Its construction was similar to MG-08, but it had a pistol grip and wooden butt. A radiator capacity was decreased, and the weapon was mounted on a light bipod. In the Polish Army, light machine guns wz.08/15 were used since 1918, and there were up to 7775 of them. In the thirties, they were withdrawn from Polish regular infantry. In 1939 they were used mostly in artillery, engineers and some of the National Defence (ON) battalions. It was a weapon as complicated and demanging a careful maintenance, as MG-08. It was much heavier, than infantry light machine guns, but it had a higher rate of fire and accuracy.

A small quantity of machine guns wz. 08/15 were used in armoured vehicles. They were used in sparse German armoured cars of the WWI, among others 3 to 5 machine guns were used in German heavy armoured car Ehrhardt M.17. One car of this type was captured by the Poles during Wielkopolskie Uprising in 1918, and then it was used in the Polish Army in the twenties with a name "Pułkownik Grudzielski". In 1920, part of Polish 16 armoured cars Ford FT-B (Tf-c) were armed with MG wz.08/15 (the rest had MG wz.05/S - see below). Probably machine guns wz.08/15 were also used in some of Polish improvised armoured cars and armoured trains of 1918-21 (- data).

Armoured car Ford FT-B (Tf-c) armed with MG wz.08/15 - a cross-section.

7.62 mm wz. 05, wz. 10 (Maxim M.1905, M.1910)

Russian models of Maxim MG, basic machine guns of Russian and Soviet Army during both world wars. The machine gun M.1910 was an improved variant, with lowered weight. Their construction was similar to Maxim MG-08. Apart from well-known heavy machine guns on wheeled Sokolow mount, they were also a standard armament of Russian and Soviet armoured cars and armoured trains of the WWI. Great number of captured HMG's were also used in the twenties in the Polish Army. In 1928, at least 1835 of Polish MG's wz.10 were converted to 7.92mm Mauser ammunition, and used until 1937, designated as: wz. 10/28.

In Polish armoured weapons, machine guns wz.05 and wz.10 were used in numerous captured Soviet armoured trains and armoured cars (Austin, Garford, Peerles, Fiat, Jeffery-Poplavko), until the end of the twenties. Part of Polish 16 armoured cars Ford FT-B (Tf-c) were armed with machine gun wz.05/S (MG wz.05 converted by the Germans during the WWI to fire 7.92mm Mauser ammunition) (- data).

7.5 mm wz. 31 (Châtellerault Mle 31)

The French standard tank machine gun (Mitrailleuse de 7,5 Modele 31), known as Châtellerault (MAC) or Reibel. It was developed from a light machine gun FM 24/29. It was gas operated, air-cooled, fed from a drum magazine. It was used in the Polish Army only in 50 tanks Renault R-35 and 3 tanks Hotchkiss H-39, bought in France in 1939. In both tank types it was mounted in a turret APX-R type, co-axial with 37mm SA-18 Puteaux gun, with an armoured barrel. In 1940 Polish tankers met machine guns Mle 31 again in tanks R-35, R-40 and FT-17. (- data).

Tank machine gun Châtellerault Mle 31 - and in a turret of R-35 tank (on the left, a 37mm gun SA-18 Puteaux and a telescopic sight are visible).

13.2 mm wz. 30 (Hotchkiss)

The French heavy machine gun ("nkm" - the heaviest machine gun, according to Polish pre-war nomenclature). A small number (29) was bought by the Polish Army in 1932 for testing. In 1939, they were used in the Coastal Defence units as anti-aircraft machine guns, on a tripod or a wheeled mount. In armoured weapons, it was used only experimetally for a short time, in twin-turret light tanks Vickers E (in one turret). However, it wasn't finally approved as a tank armament, due to low armour penetration and big dispersion (60cm of a horizontal dispersion at 100m distance). In 1939 none of Polish vehicles were armed in this weapon.

Construction - similar to machine gun 8mm Hotchkiss wz.14 (Mle 1914), gas operated, air-cooled. It was fed from 15-round metal tray, or, in armoured vehicles, from 30-round box magazine, attached to the top of the weapon - that is why turrets of Polish twin-turret Vickers and 7TP tanks had significant covers for these magazines, sticking above the roof.
Armour penetration - 11mm (angle 30°) at 200 m. (- data).

The heaviest machine gun Hotchkiss wz.30 with a telescopic sight, in an universal mounting.

Ammunition 7.92 x 57mm (Mauser)

Polish typical weapons were shooting 7.92 x 57mm Mauser ammunition (57mm = case length). Main manufacturers were Ammunition Works "Pocisk" (The Bullet) in Warsaw (Zakłady Amunicyjne "Pocisk") and Ammunition Factory (Fabryka Amunicji) in Skarżysko-Kamienna.

The rounds used were:

bullet typedesignation |cartridge weight, g |bullet weight, g |case bottom color |velocity from LMG wz.28
(barrel length 611mm)
normalS24.010.0black860 m/s
heavySC26.812.8green760 m/s
armour-piercingP25.3?red800 m/s
ignitingZ23.8?yellow820 m/s
- igniting
PS24.8?blue820 m/s


Go to Part II

1. Andrzej Konstankiewicz: "Broń strzelecka Wojska Polskiego 1918-39"; Warsaw 1986
2. Rajmund Szubański, "Polska broń pancerna 1939"; Warsaw 1989
3. Janusz Magnuski, "Pociag pancerny 'Smialy' w trzech wojnach"; Pelta; Warsaw 1996

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Text copyright to Michal Derela.