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Item:
ON8788

Original British WWI Lewis Automatic Display Machine Gun - The Lewis Gun

Regular price $9,995.00

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. With the exception of the German FG 42, this is one of the most difficult World War One or Two Display Machine Guns to find on the market today.

Developed in 1914 this example is clearly marked Lewis Auto Gun and shows the manufacturer The Birmingham Small Arms Co. Ltd., ENGLAND. It also bears the marking of Armes Automatique Lewis, BELGIUM.

The Lewis gun (or Lewis automatic machine gun or Lewis automatic rifle) is a World War I-era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War. It is visually distinctive because of its wide tubular cooling shroud around the barrel and its top-mounted drum-pan magazine. It was commonly used as an aircraft machine gun, almost always with the cooling shroud removed, during both world wars.

Rebuilt from a vintage complete WW1 parts set using all original parts on a never to be reactivated (non-firing BATF approved) display receiver using most 80% of an original torch cut steel Lewis MG receiver, only the front had to be reconstructed. Internally it is totally inert and welded with no internal operational parts.

History of the Lewis Gun:

The Lewis gun was invented by US Army Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis in 1911, based on initial work by Samuel Maclean. Despite its origins, the Lewis gun was not initially adopted by the American military—most likely because of political differences between Lewis and General William Crozier, the Chief of the Ordnance Department. Lewis became frustrated with trying to persuade the US Army to adopt his design and so ("slapped by rejections from ignorant hacks", as he said), retired from the army. He left the United States in 1913 and headed to Belgium, where he established the Armes Automatique Lewis company in Liège to facilitate commercial production of the gun. Lewis had been working closely with British arms manufacturer The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA) in an effort to overcome some of the production difficulties of the weapon. The Belgians bought a small number of Lewises in 1913, using the .303 British round, and in 1914, BSA purchased a licence to manufacture the Lewis machine gun in England, which resulted in Col. Lewis receiving significant royalty payments and becoming very wealthy. Lewis and his factory moved to England before 1914, away from possible seizure in the event of a German invasion. The Belgian Army acquired only a handful of his guns, probably only just in double figures. They were not on general issue in the Belgian Army. They were used only in a few forays by motor vehicles, south of Antwerp, against the flank of the invading German Army.

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

he first use of the Lewis in the War was by Belgium, in August and September 1914, when the small number available were fitted to a handful of touring and armoured cars and used in a few sorties against German patrols and troop columns. It is stated that as a consequence the Germans nicknamed the Lewis "The Belgian Rattlesnake," but contemporary German references have not been found. The Lewis was not in service with the regular Belgian Army.

Great Britain officially adopted the Lewis gun in .303 calibre for land and aircraft use in October 1915, with the weapon beginning to be generally issued to the British Army's infantry battalions on the Western Front in early 1916 as a replacement for the heavier and less mobile Vickers machine gun, the Vickers then being withdrawn from the infantry for use by specialist machine-gun companies. The US Navy and Marine Corps followed in early 1917, adopting the M1917 Lewis gun (produced by the Savage Arms Co.), in .30-06 caliber.

The US Army never officially adopted the weapon for infantry use and even went so far as to take Lewis guns away from US Marines arriving in France and replace them with the cheap, shoddy, and extremely unsatisfactory Chauchat LMG —a practice believed to be related to General Crozier's dislike of Lewis and his gun. The US Army eventually adopted the Browning Automatic Rifle in 1917 (although it was September 1918 before any of the new guns reached the front). The US Navy and Marine Corps continued to use the .30-06 caliber Lewis until the early part of World War II.

The Russian Empire purchased 10,000 Lewis guns in 1917 from the British government, and ordered another 10,000 weapons from Savage Arms in the US. The US government was unwilling to supply the Tsarist Russian government with the guns and there is some doubt as to whether they were actually delivered, although records indicate that 5,982 Savage weapons were delivered to Russia by 31 March 1917. The Lewis guns supplied by Britain were dispatched to Russia in May 1917, but it is not known for certain whether these were the Savage-made weapons being trans-shipped through the UK, or a separate batch of UK-produced units.

British Mark IV tanks used the Lewis, replacing the Vickers and Hotchkiss used in earlier tanks. The Lewis was chosen for its relatively compact magazines, but as soon as an improved magazine belt for the Hotchkiss was developed, the Lewis was replaced by them in later tank models.

The Germans also used captured Lewis guns in both World Wars, and included instruction in its operation and care as part of their machine-gun crew training.

Despite costing more than a Vickers gun to manufacture (the cost of a Lewis gun in 1915 was £165,[5] the Vickers cost about £100), Lewis machine guns were in high demand with the British military during World War I. The Lewis also had the advantage of being about 80% faster to build than the Vickers, and was a lot more portable; Accordingly, the British government placed orders for 3,052 guns between August 1914 and June 1915. By the end of World War I over 50,000 Lewis guns had been produced in the US and UK and they were nearly ubiquitous on the Western Front, outnumbering the Vickers by a ratio of about 3:1.

Deactivated magazine will be sent if not legal in destination location.

Shipping Restrictions

    This product is not available for international shipping.

Legal Information

  • This item is completely legal within the USA. International Military Antiques, Inc observes all Federal, State and Local laws. Everything for sale on ima-usa.com is completely legal to own, trade, transport and sell within the United States of America. Every display machinegun and machine gun parts set and gun sold by IMA, Inc is engineered to be inoperable according to guidelines provided by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF).

    Deactivated magazine will be sent if shipped to the following states due to high capacity magazine restrictions:
    California - 10 round maximum for all magazines.
    Colorado - 15 round maximum for all magazines.
    Connecticut - 10 round maximum for all magazines.
    Hawaii - 10 round maximum for all magazines.
    Maryland - 20 round maximum for all magazines.
    Massachusetts - 10 round maximum for all magazines
    New Jersey - 15 round maximum for all magazines.
    New York- 7 round maximum for all magazines.

Payment Options

    Not eligible for payment with Paypal or Amazon

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