Ukraine uses World War I-era machine guns, sniper traps to fight Russia

A Maxim machine gun in position near Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Mykhaylo Palinchak

  • Ukraine has used a World War I-era machine gun on the front line to mow down the enemy.
  • “It only works when there is a massive attack going on,” a Ukrainian soldier told BBC News.
  • The brutal fighting in Ukraine, full of trenches and high casualties, has often been compared to the First World War.

Ukrainian forces have used the Maxim machine gun, a weapon often associated with World War I, to cut off frontal attacks by Russian forces in the battle for Bahmut.

“It only works when there’s a massive attack going on,” a Ukrainian soldier known only as Borys, 48, recently told BBC News about the Maxim weapon. “Then it really works.”

“We use it every week,” added Borys.

Ukrainian forces have found the Maxim M1910, first introduced in 1910 (the original version of the weapon was created in the 1880s) and used by the Imperial Russian Army during World War I, useful in the fight against the Russians. Ukrainian forces have modified the weapons with modern attachments such as optics and suppressors, according to a report by Task and Purpose.

Hiram Maxim, the key inventor of 19th century portable machine guns, used the recoil force of the bullet to fire the cartridge and feed the next shot from the ammunition belt.

The fighting in Ukraine has repeatedly drawn parallels to World War I, with both sides locked in a brutal war of attrition involving trenches, relentless artillery fire and heavy casualties. In this environment, even some of the weapons of that era have been useful when Ukrainian forces face human wave attacks on the front lines – a World War I tactic.

Ukraine also appears to have used a type of World War I sniper decoy that uses dummies to fool enemy snipers.

But while the fight in Ukraine may have parallels with the First World War, modern weaponry and surveillance on the battlefield – drones in particular – have also made it even more deadly by giving troops few places to hide.

The war in Ukraine has essentially become the “First World War with 21st Century ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance]” Mark Cancian, a retired US Marine Corps colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider in January.

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