1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How did water cooled machine guns avoid corrosion?

Discussion in 'NFA Firearms and Accessories' started by bushmaster1313, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. bushmaster1313

    bushmaster1313 Well-Known Member

    Just saw War Horse.
    Sappy but worthwhile.
    Someone involved in the movie really knew horses.

    I assume that some of the machine guns pictured were water cooled.

    How did water cooled machine guns avoid corrosion when not in actual operation?
  2. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    The machinegun crews spent more time cleaning & maintaining them then they did cleaning & maintaining themselves.

    Bottom line is, all solders throughout history probably have spent more time maintaining their weapons then they did themselves in combat.

    You can die if your weapon fails to work in combat.
    Not so much from Lice or BO.

  3. Sam Cade

    Sam Cade Member

    The water stays in the jacket, nothing is getting wet.
  4. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    You can bet, lots of things got wet.

    The best water jacket seals are imperfect with the recoiling barrel extension on a Browning .30 MG beating on them.

    Steam comes out and condenses on cold steel.
    Hoses leak.
    Water cans get spilled or shot full of holes and splattered all over the gun.
    Then, you got blood & guts in battle.

    Again, the MG crews made sure water or corrosion or rust didn't stop the gun.

    Even if the Platoon Sargent or Squad Leader didn't kick their azz?
    The Germans would have if the guns stopped working due to lack of maintenance.

  5. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

    Here's something I'm still not sure of.

    Were the barrels immersed in the water? Or was the water jacket essentially a "donut" where the barrel went through a tunnel and was surrounded by the jacket, but not actually in the jacket? In that case the jacket would be just a heat sink.

    I've always assumed the jacket was a tube and the barrel went through the middle of the tube so it was immersed in the water, but I don't know for sure.
  6. M-Cameron

    M-Cameron member

    from what i can tell ( and i suppose it depends on the gun).....the barrel is actually immersed in the water...

  7. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    Wasn't the inside of the water container and outside of the barrel copper plated to guard against this? I seem to remember they would use distilled water or somesuch to protect the plating.

    Someone must own one of these things.
  8. AlexanderA

    AlexanderA Well-Known Member

    I can speak about the Browning M1917, one of which I have. (I'm pretty sure other watercooleds are similar.) No, the inside of the jacket and the outside of the barrel are not plated. The barrel is in direct contact with the water. There are seals made of asbestos string on either end of the barrel (in a groove near the breech end, that bears against the inside of the trunnion, and around the muzzle end, held in place by the packing gland). The gun was supposed to be transported with the water drained out, and the water was carried separately in a large "canteen" designed for the purpose. There are two plugs in the jacket for filling and draining. There's also a steam tube that runs the length of the water jacket, in the inside top, that has a sliding sleeve that covers one of the two exit holes, depending on whether the gun is pointed up or down. The steam tube is connected to a fitting to which the external steam hose is attached. This steam hose is supposed to run to the condensing can, which is partly full of water and converts the steam back into liquid water.

    Rust is prevented by keeping the water drained out when the gun is not in use, and the inside of the jacket well oiled. Sometimes a rust-preventing antifreeze was added to the water (when available). The gun gets so hot that any excess water is boiled off when the water is drained.
  9. Ian

    Ian Well-Known Member

    Yep, the barrel is directly immersed in water. Some guns like early Maxims actually had water jackets made from cast brass, which I expect would inhibit corrosion.

    Today, you do it by using an antifreeze mixture in the jacket, and of course draining it between uses.
  10. Biffj

    Biffj Member

    Avoiding corrosion was pretty simple. You allowed a bit of the gun oil to leak into the water of the jacket. It didn't take a lot and you can try this for yourself at home. Put a little oil in some water and pour it on a hot piece of metal. You'll see an oily film form on the metal parts. Today we use soluble oil like the type machinists have in their lathes and mills for coolant but back then they just used gun oil. The interior of the receiver was well oiled and as others noted there was some leakage of water or steam into the receiver. Crews kept their guns cleaned and oiled as well because their lives depended on them working when needed. Distilled water wouldn't have been used as I'm sure it wasn't available. Peeing in the waterjacket was probably done when water was needed.....it wasn't always available. The barrel is indeed immersed in water and is at the bottom of the jacket. There is a groove in the outside of the barrel at the rear which is packed with asbestos string as a seal. In the front there is a nut that fits over the barrel and some more of the asbestos string is packed behind it around the barrel and against the front of the waterjacket. The string is the seal that keeps the water from leaking out. The heat from firing is absorbed by the water and it will boil off as the gun fires. It is vented out of the jacket through a steam port which is normally hooked up via a tube to a condenser. The condenser is normally a can or bucket with water in it. The hose is dropped into the water and as the steam is vented out the hose it hits the water, cools and is condensed into water. This allows the gunners to recover some of their water. When the jacket is low the water from the condensing can can be dumped into the jacket to refill. Most of the 08 Maxims used by the germans would run for about 2000rds on the water in the jacket. 500rds got it boiling. The Vickers guns used by the brits was similar.

    Hope that helps

    Frank (who has had a few maxims to play with)
  11. bds

    bds Well-Known Member

    Yup, no showers for days in the field, but our rifles sure got cleaned and lubed!

    BO? Some in my company were "weapons grade" ... :D
  12. Mp7

    Mp7 Well-Known Member

    "didnĀ“t they use distilled water"

    ... this made me laugh sooooo hard!!!:D

    Awesome logistics. In your head, Sir.
  13. mortablunt

    mortablunt Well-Known Member

    They used some additives in the water.

Share This Page