The Lewis gun is a classic 20th Century weapon, developed in 1911, which saw action in both the World Wars. Originally designed in the United States, the Lewis automatic machine gun was conceived of by Isaac Newton Lewis, a colonel in the American army. He was inspired by a previous design by Samuel McLean, and created an innovative and highly effective weapon. However, personal differences with General William Crozier, chief of the Ordnance Department, led to his gun being turned down.
Frustrated, Lewis retired from military service and moved to Europe, where he set up his own arms manufacturer. The Birmingham Small Arms company began producing the Lewis gun, making its owner a fortune, and before the outbreak of war in 1914 he moved his company to England, to avoid his goods being seized by German invaders.
As the First World War raged on, demand for the weapon increased. An American corporation, Savage Arms, began building Lewis guns as well, and they became a defining feature of the conflict. On the battlefield, mounted on vehicles and even in the sky, Isaac Newton Lewis’s automatic machine gun was immensely popular among Allied forces.
Although it cost more to manufacture than the Vickers machine gun – another widely used weapon – it was faster to build and far more portable. By 1918, when the war ended, more than 50,000 Lewis guns had been produced in Britain and America. Outnumbering the Vickers gun on the Western Front by a ratio of three to one, the weapon had cemented its place in history.
In this video, viewers can explore this iconic machine gun in full, from loading to firing – complete with slow-motion footage from multiple angles. The channel behind it, C&Rsenal, have produced a wide range of entertaining and informative weapon-rundowns, examining a variety of historical firearms. Whether your interested in the Lewis gun specifically or just in weapons in general, this video is worth a watch.