The Swiss MG11 Maxim Machine Gun

The Swiss MG11 Maxim Machine Gun

Right side view the Swiss MG11 mounted on the DWM designed, but Swiss made, commercial Model 1909 tripod.

In the 1930s, the Swiss recognized the new threat of aerial warfare and developed their own anti-aircraft tripod for use with the MG11.  Simply designed yet sturdy, it features three connected folding legs that expand and contract in unison allowing the height to be adjustable.  A special anti-aircraft cradle was used to mount the MG11 to the tripod.  The cradle could also accept the Swiss Leichtes Maschinengewehr 1925 (LMG25) light machine gun.  A detachable, all metal, shoulder stock was manufactured to assist the anti-aircraft gunner in maintaining smooth target acquisition.  A clamping mechanism affixed the shoulder stock to the bottom of the grip frame.

The rear sight consists of a folding leaf sight ranging from 100 to 2,600 meters and is not adjustable for windage.  If the gun is firing to the left or right, adjustment can be made by drifting the front sight.  There were a number of optical sights used with the MG11 for both direct and indirect fire.  There was also a specialized long-range telescopic sight used in mountain fortresses.  The more common early style direct fire optical sight used with the MG11 was made in Germany by Carl Zeiss of Jena.  A later model of a different design was made by Wild of Heerbrugg around 1940.  There were also two styles (early and late) of indirect fire sights also made by Wild of Heerbrugg.

The Swiss MG11 Maxim operates on the same principles as all Maxims of that era.  To load, insert the tag end of the loaded belt into the feed block from the right to left until the first round is grasped by the feed pawls.  Using the right hand, grasp the cocking handle and swing it forward as far as it will go and hold it in that position.  With the cocking handle being held by the right hand in the forward position, grasp the tag end of the belt with the left hand and pull it to the left as far as it will go and then let the cocking handle return to battery under its own spring tension.  The gun is now in the “half loaded” condition.  Grasp the cocking handle again, swing it forward, and while holding it forward, pull on the belt tag again with your left hand and then release the cocking handle to return to battery.  The gun is now fully loaded and ready to fire.  The trigger is located between the two wood spade grips and is operated by pushing it in using the thumbs.  The automatic safety is located on each side of the trigger and is disengaged with the index finger by pulling it rearward before pushing the trigger forward with the thumbs.  The trigger releases the striker and the cartridge is fired.

Detail of the operating end of the MG11. Note the Carl Zeiss optical sight mounted on the left side of the receiver just above the Waffenfabrik + (Swiss Cross) Bern marked fusee cover. The spare lock box can be seen mounted horizontally under the cradle. The limit stops can be seen on the traversing bar and the metal range chart can be seen riveted to the top of the elevation handwheel control mechanism. Just seen along the top of the water jacket is the white aircraft acquisition aid stripe.

The barrel is mounted inside a water jacket with waterproof bearings at each end to facilitate the movement of the barrel of about 3/4 of an inch.  A sliding frame inside the receiver is attached to, and slides with, the barrel and the breechblock mechanism is mounted within the sliding frame.  When the gun is fired, the recoil pushes against the breechblock, and the barrel, frame and breechblock move to the rear locked together.  When the entire unit has moved to the rear approximately 3/4 of an inch, the toggle joint folds unlocking the breechblock, which then continues moving rearward away from the breach extracting the next cartridge from the belt and extracting the spent cartridge.  As the lock, and then the frame and barrel move forward under spring tension, a new round is chambered and the spent cartridge is pushed through the ejection port.  As long as the trigger is pressed, this cycle will continue until the trigger is released or the ammunition belt is expended.

Accessories for the MG11
The Swiss Maxim MG11 is a crew served weapons system requiring support for proper maintenance, operation, use and transport.  In typical Swiss fashion, the MG11 was supported by a variety of accessories that were not only necessary, but also focused as to their purpose without a lot of superfluous features and were, of course, extremely well made.

Some accessories, such as the armorer’s kit and the optical sight made by Carl Zeiss, are readily found in the collectors market.  Others, like the anti-aircraft ring sight with leather case, anti-aircraft shoulder stock, condensing hose and water can are extremely scarce.

Photograph of Swiss soldiers posing with their MG11. Note the steam condensing hose and the mounted Carl Zeiss optical sight.

A very small number of Swiss military utility carts were imported to the U.S. recently and were quickly snapped up.  Unfortunately, most are now attached to the back end of a John Deere lawn tractor and filled with gardening tools and potting soil.  Nevertheless, the one pictured here has been properly reunited with one of its originally intended rolls.  Manufactured in 1944, this utility cart served as a means of transporting a wide variety of material.  This could include ammunition, mortars, supplies, or whatever needed transportation.  Though not specifically designed for the MG11, the utility cart was used to transport the MG11, and its accessories.  The cart is 52 inches long and 27.5 inches wide.  The main body box is made of wood supported on a steel frame.  It has two pneumatic tires measuring 26 inches in diameter and is designed to be towed behind a vehicle.  A wooden towing pole is stored under the chassis and four tow ropes are supplied should the need arise to pull the cart by hand.  A singletree is also part of the cart’s equipment should the need arise for the cart to be drawn by horse or mule.  The cart has a hand brake system consisting of a hand crank that applies pressure directly to the tires by means of a steel brake pad.  A storage box is permanently affixed to the inside front of the cart to hold small accessories.  Pioneer tools are also included and consist of an axe that is mounted to the outside rear of the cart and a shovel and pickaxe that are stored in brackets underneath the chassis.  There are three sets of leather straps to secure the load.

The MG11 Maxim machine gun as made by the Swiss at Waffenfabrik Bern is rightly considered the finest Maxim ever made.  The quality of workmanship, fit and finish surpasses any other Maxim made and is worthy of the dependability inherent in all Maxim guns.  Because of its neutrality, Switzerland has a stringent policy concerning the export of its military weapons and thus Swiss Maxims are exceptionally rare outside of Switzerland.  There are only six Swiss MG11s in the United States making it one of the rarest types of its kind and a centerpiece of any classic machine gun collection.

Besides the gun transit case and tripod, the cart would also carry the following accessories: Ammunition boxes, water/steam condensing can, condensing hose, armorer’s kit, shoulder stock, spare barrel, anti-aircraft ring sight in fitted leather case, Carl Zeiss optical sight in fitted leather case, binoculars in fitted leather case and a belt-loading machine in fitted wooden chest.

Field Stripping
Be sure that there is no belt in the feed block and cycle the cocking handle at least two times to be sure there is no cartridge in the chamber.  Push the top cover latch, located at the rear of the top cover, and lift the top cover upwards.  The feed block may now be lifted straight up and removed.  With the right hand, push the cocking handle forward and grasp the toggle bolt assembly with the left hand pulling it up and out of the receiver.  Twist the lock assembly on its connecting rod and lift it off the connecting rod.  Remove the back plate pin at the rear of the gun and pull the back plate down.  Remove the fusee spring box and the fusee spring from the left side of the gun.  Remove the muzzle booster by unscrewing it.  The barrel extension plates, with crosshead, connecting rod, crank handle and barrel may now be pulled directly to the rear as one unit and separated.  This is the basic field stripping of the weapon.  Reassembly is in the reverse order.

Weight of gun w/o water: 41.23 lbs (18.7 kg)
Weight of gun with water: 50.05 lbs (22.7 kg)
Length of gun: 42.5 inches (1,079.5 mm)
Cooling method: Water
Length of barrel: 28.39 inches (721 mm)
Caliber: 7.5x55mm Swiss
Number of grooves: 4
Twist: Right
Type of operation: Short recoil, locked breech, muzzle boost
Type of fire: Full automatic only
Rate of fire: 450-550 rpm
Rear sight graduated to: 2,600 meters (2,843 yards)
Muzzle velocity: 2,608 fps (795 m/sec)
Type of feed: Fabric or metal belt
Belt capacity: 250 rounds
Weight of loaded ammunition box: 21.83 lbs (9.9 kg)
Weight of tripod: 55.16 lbs (25.0 kg)
Weight of anti-aircraft tripod: 27.56 lbs (12.5 kg)