World War I
Machine Guns

Machine Guns
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.72

     challenging words:    adapter, hand-cranked, rapid-firing, reloaded, propeller, initiate, military, production, ammunition, effective, destruction, weapon, dealt, operator, planes, recoil
     content words:    World War, American Civil War, Hiram Maxim, Great Britain, World War I.

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Machine Guns
By Jane Runyon

1     The most effective weapon used in World War I was the machine gun. It was not exactly a new weapon, but this war forced the further development of the weapon. The first fast firing gun was invented in 1862 by a man named Gatling. This rapid-firing weapon was known as the Gatling gun. The first Gatling guns were used in the American Civil War. These guns were rapid-firing, but they depended on the arm of the operator to crank out the bullets.
2     In 1884, Hiram Maxim invented the first machine gun. This weapon used the recoil from one bullet to initiate the firing of the next bullet. A chain reaction of many shots followed. This process eliminated the need for an operator to crank out the ammunition. Hiram Maxim took his invention to military leaders in Great Britain. Unfortunately for the English, the military powers saw no need for such a weapon. They didn't think this weapon even had a place in war. They dismissed Maxim, so he took his weapon to a country he thought would be willing to buy his product. He took it to Germany. The German army quickly saw the future of this weapon. By the beginning of World War I, they had produced 12,000 machine guns. By the end of the war, they had produced 100,000.
3     The machine gun used in 1914 had some good points and some bad points. The most celebrated point was that the machine gun could fire 400 to 600 rounds of ammunition in just one minute. Compare this to the normal rifle which would produce perhaps two shots per minute. Then it had to be reloaded and aimed again. Historians have estimated that a machine gun could produce the fire power equal to somewhere between sixty and one hundred regular guns. Machine guns caused large numbers of casualties. At the battle of Sommes, the British lost 60,000 men in one day. Most of these casualties were caused by machine gun fire.

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