Burton 1917 LMR

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Burton 1917 LMR with "ground" barrel - .345 WSL

The Burton 1917 LMR (Light Machine Rifle), a.k.a the Winchester-Burton Machine Rifle, was a prototype WWI-era aircraft machine gun, designed to have a similar capacity to a Lewis Gun while being much lighter and easier to handle. The weapon was designed in 1916 and one firing model was made in 1917. This is the only example ever known to be made, and it was not used in combat. It now resides in the Cody Firearms Museum.

It was designed by Frank B. Burton of Winchester Repeating Arms, who had designed several of Winchester's earlier self-loading rifles. The Burton LMR was a blowback, select-fire, open bolt weapon. It fires the .345 WSL, a rimless, modified .351 WSL round designed primarily to use an incendiary spitzer projectile. This incendiary projectile was used because the weapon's principle purpose was to combat observation balloons, which were notoriously resilient against conventional ammunition.

Immediately visible are the weapon's dual top-mounted 20-round box magazines, entering the receiver at a 60 degree angle and forming a V-shape above the bolt. Each one has two locking catches, one holding the magazine in the feeding position and the other holding the magazine in a storage position slightly above, out of the way of the bolt. Only one can be inserted at any given time, and the user needs to pull one out and push the other in to manually switch between the two. This design was intended to make storing and reloading on a turbulent plane easier, as rather than having to handle a fairly hefty four-and-a-half pound pan magazine as on the Lewis, the operator only has to handle the light and easily-gripped stick mags. Another possible application of this feature was that the two magazines could be loaded with different types of ammunition (say, incendiary and non-incendiary) for shooting at different types of target. The St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 made firing small incendiary rounds at troops or other aircraft somewhat legally dubious: though the USA was not a signatory to it, it has always been treated as one of the customary rules of war.

The Burton LMR could be fixed to a Scarff ring mount for aerial use, and could be used as an infantry weapon if the aircraft was shot down. In this regard it was rather like the later MG34 Panzerlauf which was issued with a kit to convert it from a stockless mounted weapon to a standard GPMG if the crew were forced to abandon their tank. Burton's intent was for it to be issued with two barrels, one for each purpose. The "ground" barrel had a bayonet lug and a sling swivel.

Also rather like the MG34, the Burton LMR has twin triggers for its fire modes: the "normal" trigger is for semi-auto, while a second trigger underneath the trigger guard, pulled at the same time as the first, makes the weapon fire in full-auto. The safety is a lever near the rear sights, above the trigger. The cocking handle is underneath the receiver due to the magazine arrangement, and the weapon ejects downwards.

While it was designed as a light machine gun, it fits most of the features that define a modern assault rifle: a shoulder-fired, select-fire weapon firing what could certainly be described as an intermediate cartridge. Had it ever been issued, it may have gone the same route as the Villar Perosa in terms of having an infantry derivative and pioneered this concept decades earlier, but it was instead lost down the side of a cabinet at Winchester for most of the following century. One way in which it does not really match the assault rifle concept is in having a 25-inch barrel, as this means the weapon is rather too large to use at close quarters as if it is a submachine gun.

In spite all of its advanced features, the Burton LMR arrived at the wrong time. It was in 1917 that the British developed the Constantinesco-Colley hydraulic gun synchronization gear, allowing aircraft to mount forward-firing Vickers machine guns with incendiary ammunition (as German aircraft had been doing with the Maxim MG08 for several years already, a period known as the "Fokker Scourge"). Compared to the Vickers which was belt-fed and fired a full-power rifle round, the Burton gun was hopelessly limited.

Specifications

(One example made in 1917)

  • Type: Machine Gun / Automatic Rifle
  • Caliber: .345 WSL
  • Length: 45.5 inches (116 cm)
  • Barrel length: 25 inches
  • Weight: 10 lbs (4.5 kg)
  • Feed System: Dual 20-round detachable magazine
  • Fire Modes: Full-Auto/Semi-Auto

The Burton 1917 LMR and variants can be seen in the following films, television series, video games, and anime used by the following actors:

Video Games

Game Title Appears as Mods Notation Release Date
Battlefield 1 Burton LMR Added to game in June 2018 2016



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