The Darne Machine Gun Could Be Used as Both a Ground and Aerial Weapon

Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-1832-04 / Schwarz / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de (Colorized by
Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-1832-04 / Schwarz / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 de (Colorized by

Of the many weapons created at the end of the First World War, the Darne machine gun is certainly one of the less popular. It saw little time in combat before the conflict ended, and by the time the Second World War began, there were many better options. The gun was created with a unique design in mind – not only did it have an unusual belt system, it could be used as both a ground and aerial weapon.

Development of the Darne machine gun

Drawing of the Darne machine gun with a belt of ammunition being fed through it
1918 model of the .303-caliber Darne machine gun. (Photo Credit: George M. Chinn / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

In 1916, the Darne Company, run by Régis and Pierre Darne, announced it was going to throw its hat into the ring and create its own machine gun. The primary goal was to ensure it could be manufactured very quickly and put out into the field just as rapidly.

The design presented a simple gun with none of the refined exteriors that many other weapons had. It might not have been pretty, but it certainly performed. A 1932 test determined it worked perfectly, even at high altitudes in cold temperatures. It also meant Darne could produce the gun at a much lower cost than other companies. while still making an efficient weapon.

The first units were sent to the French Army in 1917. This evidently went well, as the service placed an order for more in August 1918. Unfortunately for Darne, the war ended and the order was canceled.

The Darne machine gun featured a unique design

Soldier manning a Darne machine gun on a boat
Darne machine gun, 1941. (Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MW-1832-04 / Schwarz / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 de)

The feature that made the Darne machine gun so unique was its belt feeding system. Unlike most others, the feed was situated below the barrel and above the gas piston. It might seem like this choice would serve a purpose, but it really didn’t. This unique layout provided no advantage, but seemingly no disadvantage either. It used the two-stage system, with the cartridge withdrawn to the rear before being pushed into the barrel.

Parts of the design were adapted by other companies. The tilting bolt, for instance, was used on the experimental MAS 1928 rifle.

The earliest version of the Darne was designed to fire 8 mm Lebel and .303 British cartridges, but was updated soon after to chamber the standard French military 7.5 mm round. It could fire at a rate of 1,100-1,200 rounds per minute, with a maximum range of 500 meters, accurate to 200 meters.

Use on land and at sea

Drawing of a 7.5 mm Darne machine gun fixed to a dual mount
7.5 mm Darne machine gun fixed to a dual mount. (Photo Credit: George M. Chinn / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Just because Darne lost its government contract didn’t mean the company stopped work on the machine gun. Instead, in the 1920s and ’30s, it worked to make a variant that could be used while mounted to an aircraft. Another version was meant to be used while mounted to different infantry vehicles.

While the aircraft version saw some success in the interwar period, it was eventually replaced by the MAC 1934. Ultimately, the Darne’s downfall was that its bullets were just too lightweight for aerial combat. As for Army use, when the Second World War began, there were better options on the market, so it wasn’t widely equipped.

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That being said, the Darne was used by the Germans when taken from the enemy. They gave it the codename “leMG 106 (f),” and used it as part of their extensive fixed defenses around the Channel Islands and Normandy. Lithuanian, Italian, Spanish, Brazilian and Yugoslavian troops also purchased the machine gun in small numbers.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.