While WWI did not consist of soldiers running about with 900 round-per-minute submachine guns, the guns of the video game Battlefield 1 did exist in some form at the time. It is hard to imagine that WWI troops had rocket guns or submachine guns, but they did. Most of the troops were issued with one reliable bolt action rifle, but as the war progressed so did the weapons.
Military technology advances in giant leaps during wars and WWI was no exception. Many of the most unbelievable weapons were produced in the last years of the war. Some were badly designed and malfunctioned while others were prototypes that never saw action. Battlefield 1 has a few weapons that were far from the standard issue, but it was not unheard of for men to bring their own favorite handgun to war with them.
The following are some of the most unique weapons in Battlefield 1 and their history.
Villar-Perosa M15/Automatico M1918
In the game, during the Italian campaign, a soldier wields the two-guns-in-one Villar-Perosa. The dual submachine guns fire an insane amount of 9mm rounds; the two 25-round magazines are empty in about a second. The Automatico is produced by separating the Villar-Perosa, making it easier to use.
The Villar-Perosa had an amazing rate of fire;Too good to be true? Not at all, both the Villar-Perosa and its variant saw plenty of action on the Italian front. It was intended for use on vehicles, specifically on planes where the quick burst of lead would shred the enemy aircraft to pieces. Troops also used the Perosa on the ground, and it was quite reliable. The rate of fire was ideal for single targets, but ammo and constant reloading was a problem. Often one soldier was the designated reloader while the shooter alternated which barrel he fired from.
The Automatico was much easier to use, looking more like a carbine than the unwieldy Perosa. Late in the war, it had become successful enough to become the first general-issue submachine gun for infantry forces.
The Kolibri: Still the Smallest Commercially-Available Semi-Auto Handgun
With a bullet less than half-an-inch long and a 1.25-inch smoothbore barrel, it had to be a watchmaker, Franz Pfannl, who crafted the smallest semi-auto handgun ever. It was designed for self-defense.
The Kolibri was spectacularly small. The cartridge is about a third of the size of a .22 long rifle round, and the gun itself almost needs to be held between the thumb and pointer finger for the best results. Its aim was quite awful due to the short smoothbore barrel. Thick winter clothes might have been enough to stop the bullet, but it could still kill with well-placed shots. It was likely a very effective, but rarely lethal weapon.
The gun is appropriately powered in the game, being unlocked after full upgrades in the sniper class.
The Vickers-Crayford Rocket Gun
This gun fired shells, not rockets. It gained its name from the fire trail caused by the incendiary rounds as they left the gun. It was intended to be a practical single operator artillery piece. It could be used against tanks, but also against infantry charges and fortified positions, and was an option for aircraft to use against a variety of targets.
Although it fired an artillery-type shell, the gun was just light enough for the average soldier to carry;In the game, the weapon is quite effective. Like a very powerful sniper rifle, it gives close-range focused assault. The gun understandably takes out infantry with a direct shot and tears through walls. It is seen quite often in an average match. The gun does realistically look as if it could be carried around by a single person and the game does force players to go prone or use a wall for support before firing.
The rocket gun reloading. It did not take out that plane, but it sure could.In reality, the gun had very little use. It had a whole host of problems with reliability, specifically misfires. It was surpassed by standard, small infantry mortars. The rocket gun needed line of sight to fire and the visible flame trail exposed the shooter’s position. Mortars required a map or an observer and could fire larger shells from cover.
The Mars Automatic
The Webley-Mars, or Mars automatic, is available to the sniper/scout class. It is a semi-auto pistol that packs a hell of a punch. It is often used to give snipers the chance to take out one or more attackers who sneak up on their position and can out-damage some rifles at close range. It looks good and is one of the better handguns in the game.
This powerful handgun is not very well known today, and for a good reason; it was terrible. It used a variety of calibers, but the model in the video game is a .45. It had a unique bottlenecked cartridge which made it the most powerful handgun in the world at the time. It also used a special action that pulled rounds backward out of the magazine and then up into the chamber. It was incredibly complex with lots of moving parts which unnerved the testers for the British military.
The Mars Automatic is a powerful handgun in the game;The gun received multiple trials with the military and passed every time. It was unreliable and was much too powerful for the average shooter. Less than 100 were manufactured.
The guns deployed in Battlefield 1 are pretty accurate and are based on unique historical weapons. The real ones might have been incredibly rare or so unreliable they were hardly used, but they did exist.
All Gameplay screenshots by the author.
By William McLaughlin for War History online