First Contingent CEF went to France originally equipped with American made Colt machine guns.
The Colt “Model 1914” Machine Gun was a gas-operated, first used by Canadians in the South African War (1899-1902). Canada purchased 932 Colts at the outbreak of the First World War, and issued four guns per infantry battalion in early 1915. Canadian machine-gunners identified a number of shortcomings with the Colt “Potato Digger” (nicknamed because it often kicked up dirt and debris as it fired), and modified many weapons in France and Flanders to better suit trench conditions. The tripod’s legs were often “sawed off” to reduce the gun’s overall height when in use, and a modified cocking lever allowed the gun to be loaded without exposing the crew to enemy fire. Canadians used the Colt until summer 1916, when it was replaced by the Vickers machine-gun.
Operated from the tripod, however, the weapon operated satisfactorily, though British ammunition was prone to jamming, as it was in the Ross rifle. The weapon’s genesis came in 1889 when John Moses Browning (the son of a gunsmith and prolific designer of small arms) observed the effect of effect of muzzle blast on nearby foliage whilst duck hunting, and rightly assumed that he could use this energy to operate an automatic weapon.
The gun was air-cooled and fired a .30 calibre round, belt fed, gas operated machine gun that fires from a closed bolt with a cyclic rate of 450 rounds per minute. They were phased out in 1916 and 1917 in favour of the Lewis Gun.
Country of Origin: United States
Entered Service: 1914
•Caliber: 0.306 in (6.5 mm)
•Weight: 35.49 lb (16.1 kg)
•Type: Gas Operated
•Cooling Systm: Air Cooled
•Ammunition Feed System: Belt fed
•Rate of fire: 450 rpm.
A soldier sights a Colt machine-gun on a firing range. The guns could fire 400 to 500 bullets a minute, but were prone to jamming. Canadians went to war with the American-made Colt, versions of which they had first used in the South African War (19899-1902), but had been issued the more reliable Vickers gun by the summer of 1916. Some infantry units used Colts long after their original replacement due to its light weight and ease of movement.
Machine Gun Section (2nd Battalion, Cdn. Expeditionary Force) at Scottish Lines near Poperinhge, not far from Ypres. This photo was taken by an Official War Photographer while the 2nd Bn. was out in Rest Billets after fighting at Sanctuary Woods, Maple Copse (Battles of the Somme). (2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion) Battalion was in divisional reserve when this photo was taken. Section is armed with a mixture of lewis guns on bipods and Colt-Browning M1895/14 machine guns July 16, 1916.