Early beginnings

The first heavy machine guns were designed for naval use. The main tactical problem at that time (the late nineteenth century) was the introduction of the self-propelled torpedo, which had led to the development of small, fast craft to carry them. These vessels were too large to be damaged by rifle-calibre machine gun fire and too agile to be hit by slow-firing, manually-loaded naval cannon, so an intermediate weapon was sought.

The first response was simply to scale up the existing rifle-calibre, manually driven machine guns such as the Gatling and the Nordenfelt to larger calibres of between .65" and 1" (16.5mm to

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